Tom Alcott

What social and cultural factors inform UK fan investment in the characters of professional wrestling?

Supervisors: Dr Kate Egan and Dr Sarah Thomas

For over a hundred years, professional wrestling has survived and flourished as a popular form of culture and entertainment. It has enjoyed a long-lasting TV presence in the United Kingdom through both its own national programming (most famously on ITV as part of World of Sport) and American imports (perhaps most recognizably in the shape of the World Wrestling Federation WWF now World Wrestling Entertainment WWE). For 50 years, wrestling programmes have provided its fan base with heroes to cheer and villains to boo. This research looks to ask why and how have the stars of wrestling endured for different fans?

Can different viewers have the same favourite character but for very different reasons? Could the appeal of favourite characters be informed by gender, ethnicity or age? Why do some characters have mass appeal at certain and specific times? Most importantly can the answers to these questions tell us something about the relations between investment in a sport such a professional wrestling, and wider political and cultural shifts within society and culture?

An online questionnaire was used to gather information from wrestling fans from forty different countries around the world, and will be analysed to see how and why different fans of these stars read and use their favourite wrestlers. My research draws on work from both stardom/celebrity studies and audience research, concentrating on work relating to both film and television and sport, as well as the previous academic work that has already been conducted on professional wrestling.

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