Barrelhouse's newest online issue, focused on the theme of 1980s professional wrestling, was, to date, the most exciting and challenging online issue to edit. The process reminded me of just how surprisingly wide and vast professional wrestling fan-dom really is.
People have, for example, expressed surprise that I, an English professor, a mother of three, and a fiction writer, grew up watching professional wrestling.
Um, who didn't? Barrelhouse might lay the smackdown on anyone who claims otherwise.
Reading through the many wonderful submissions confirmed my belief that most Americans -- no matter their gender, ethnic/racial background, and/or socio-economic status -- have at some point been fans of professional wrestling. OK, at least they have felt compelled to tune in occasionally. They know there are alternate definitions in the American lexicon to "the chicken wing" and "the rock." They have been sucked in, at one point or another, into a world in which men wearing feathered capes and silvered top-hats is exciting and enraging, rather than just plain weird. They have not questioned, until perhaps years later, what was wrong with a man who paints his face with stripes, or wears a chain around his neck, or carries the flag of a different country around the ring, or who recites bad poetry to a crowd of thousands.
In the submissions I reviewed, I saw the evidence of how wide the fan base really is: writers recounted how their mothers shook fists at the TV screen, how their elderly uncles shouted warnings at unsuspecting wrestlers. Brothers who huddled together in front of the screen, whooping in anticipation when someone started to climb those ropes. I recall my own grandmother, an immigrant from Jordan, who spent her days cooking amazing meals for her large family, who spoke little English -- but on Saturdays, while my grandfather watched with her, she was 100% American. On those days, she enjoyed hours of WWF. She knew the wrestler's names, their stats, their moves. Like other fans, she found wrestling to be uplifting, enraging, exciting.
The collection of poems, essays, and stories here reflect wrestling's gaudiness and glamour, as well as its shadowy dark side. Macho Man Randy Savage passed away in 2011; the Ultimate Warrior died just a few weeks ago, both of cardiac issues. The 1999 film, Beyond the Mat, offered insights into the tragic post-career issues of stars like Jake the Snake Roberts and others. Owen Hart's death in the ring made people rethink the cliche question, "Is wrestling real?"
I hope you enjoy reading our latest issue.