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Book Review: Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity, and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling by R. Tyson Smith

The phenomenon known as “pro wrestling” is dominated by the World Wrestling Entertainment Corporation (WWE). WWE is one of the most watched “sports” events on television (though pro wrestling is not technically a sport, given that its outcome is fixed). This is not the world of pro wrestling that Smith studies. Instead, his qualitative research examines “indie” wrestlers. Indie wrestling is essentially a semi-pro or minor league version of the WWE. While indie wrestlers often aspire to make it to the WWE, they operate in a more modest world, where they are effectively unpaid, untelevised, and unknown. This obscurity of the indie wrestler, then, begs the question—why subject oneself to the dangerous world of wrestling without reaping any of its rewards? The answer is, simply, because they love it. Why—and how—do they love it? Drawing on interviews and two years of ethnographic research at training practices and shows, Smith unpacks this question throughout his book. The wrestlers he studies are mostly working- to middle-class men in their early twenties, who grew up in the suburbs of New York (on page 19, Smith uses the outdated term “Caucasians” to describe his almost entirely white sample).