Welcome to Close Reads! In this series, Leah Schnelbach and guest authors will dig into the tiny, weird moments of pop culture—from books to theme songs to viral internet hits—that have burrowed into our minds, found rent-stabilized apartments, started community gardens, and refused to be forced out by corporate interests. This time out, Hubert Vigilla contemplates the mysteries of the ring.
“Wrestling partakes of the nature of the great solar spectacles, Greek drama and bullfights: in both, a light without shadow generates an emotion without reserve.”
–Roland Barthes, “The World of Wrestling”
“The invisibility spell doesn’t prevent you or your gear from emitting light, yet that light makes you no less invisible. The light appears to be coming from the air. Spooky! #DnD”
–Jeremy Crawford offering sage advice on Twitter
Wrestling is art. Beautiful yet brutal, at times comic and tragic. It’s theater, comic books, stunt work, dance, martial arts, and kung-fu movies. Wrestling has the capacity, like any artform, to move people to tears. (I’m looking at you, Sasha Banks vs. Bayley at NXT TakeOver Brooklyn.)
Wrestling is not “soap operas for men,” like it used to be called. How patronizing—soap operas are for everyone—and how limiting. There are so many kinds of wrestling: the pathos of old school southern promotions, the branded sports entertainment at WWE, the blood-soaked hardcore associated with CZW, the hard-hitting Japanese style, high-flying lucha libre in Mexico (sometimes these wrestlers work at intersections, essentially busking for those stuck in traffic), the technical focus in the UK, the indie supergroup feel of AEW and golden era NXT.
There’s one match from 2019 I think about a lot because it is an absurd work of fantasy: two invisible brothers duke it out in front of an adoring crowd.