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Book Review: Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity, and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling

R. Tyson Smith’s Fighting for Recognition is the culmination of more than two years ethnographic research about professional wrestlers training at the Rage Professional Wrestling School (pseudonym) in New York. Through observation and interviews with male wrestlers, Smith explores issues surrounding masculinity, violence/pain, and identity specifically as it pertains to those who endeavour to be professional wrestlers. The book begins by painting a picture of a typical Rage show, including the backstage preparations. Frequently performing shows in elementary school gymnasiums, this is not the glitz and glamour of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Wrestlers from this school, whether rookies to veterans, help set up the ring, lighting, seating, and entrance area, including the ‘Gorilla position’ where wrestlers wait just behind the curtain to make their entrance (named after the late Gorilla Monsoon). Rookies tend to be the ones who collect tickets at the front door, while a ring announcer welcomes everyone to the festivities. Each wrestler enters to music, dimmed lighting, and some kind of crowd reaction based on their character (‘face’/good, ‘heel’/bad). Fans play an integral role through their reactions, chants, and sometimes involvement in matches, not to mention their loyalty to specific wrestlers.