Dan Mathewson is Associate Professor of Religion at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina where he teaches a variety of courses on religion and spirituality in contemporary society. During his college’s January semester, he co-teaches a course on professional wrestling in partnership with American Pro Wrestling, a local indie promotion.
Dan received his Ph.D. from Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion, where, during his final year, he was a fellow at the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. His published work explores such topics as biblical texts and trauma theory; post-Holocaust theology; American Evangelicalism; religion and film; and the intersection of religion and professional wrestling. Over the last several years, he has given a variety conference presentations and invited talks on indie wrestling in the South, Christian professional wrestling, and wrestling and southern identity. He has also produced an online documentary short on the co-founder of Christian professional wrestling, “Mr. #1” George South.
Dan is from Toronto and grew up a huge fan of his local promotion, Maple Leaf Wrestling (acquired by the WWF in the 1980s). 1985 was a big wrestling year for Dan: he attended WrestleMania 1, broadcast live via the mind-blowing technology of closed-circuit TV, at the Toronto International Centre; and, for Christmas, his parents gave him a copy of “The Wrestling Album,” which he’d play over and over on his dad’s turntable. His favorite song was (and is) “Land of a Thousand Dances?!!?”
Dan’s favorite wrestlers are George “The Animal” Steele, “Iron” Mike Sharpe, the duo of Raisha Saeed and Awesome Kong, Colt Cabana, and The Iron Sheik, his favorite wrestler of all time. As a child, he was terrified of Baron von Raschke. As an adult, he remains terrified of Abdullah the Butcher.
In 2013, at the ripe young age of 39, Dan fulfilled a childhood dream and became professional wrestler. He grappled as Mr. Canada, a French-Canadian heel, but was forced into retirement after his first match – a condition stipulated by Mrs. Canada before she’d allow him to go to wrestling school. Mr. Canada plans to follow in the footsteps of Classy Freddie Blassie, Mr. Fuji, and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiasse, and transition to mastermind heel manager. Don’t tell Mrs. Canada.
“Religion and ‘Rasslin: A Documentary Short.’” Sacred Matters: Religious Currents in Culture. 3 June, 2014.
“Sacred Spinebusters, Transcendent Toe Holds: The Confluence of Religion and Professional Wrestling, Part Two.” Sacred Matters: Religious Currents in Culture. 29 May, 2014.
“Sacred Spinebusters, Transcendent Toe Holds: The Confluence of Religion and Professional Wrestling, Part One.” Sacred Matters: Religious Currents in Culture. 10 April, 2014.
“So You’ve Decided to Run for Senate Against a Pro Wrestling Mogul: Hittin’ ‘Em Where It Hurts: Linda McMahon, Religion, and the Professional Wrestling of Politics.” Religion Dispatches. 28 Sept, 2011
“Rasslin’ with Science and Religion.” Co-Authored with Byron McCane. Religion Dispatches. 28 Dec, 2009.
Presentations and Invited Talks:
“Watchin’ Rasslin’ on the TV with Grannie: The Southern Sport of Professional Wrestling,” Popular Culture Association National Meeting, Seattle, WA, March 2016.
“Rasslin’ with Religion and the Rebel Flag: Christian Professional Wrestling after Charleston,” Zaidee Creel Williams Lecture Series, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA, 2015.
“Scary, Foreign, Crazy, Stupid, Silly, Loathsome Killjoys: A Half-Century of Religious Gimmicks in Mainstream Professional Wrestling.” National Meeting of the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association, New Orleans, LA, 2015.
“Dropkickin’ the Devil in Dixie (with Durkheim): Professional Wrestling and the Celebration of Poor White Southern Culture.” Wofford College’s Faculty Talks, Spartanburg, SC, 2015.
“Atomic Elbows and Altar Calls: Christian Professional Wrestling in Poor White Southern Culture.” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, San Diego, CA, 2014.
“Dropkickin’ the Devil in Dixie: Professional Wrestling in Poor White Southern Culture.” National Meeting of the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association, Chicago, IL, 2014.
“Bodyslammed by Jesus: Christian Professional Wrestling in the South.” Wingate University, Wingate, NC, 2014.
“From Professor to Professional Wrestler: Studying Wrestling in the Classroom and in the Wrestling Ring.” National Meeting of the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association, Washington, DC, 2013.
“Spinebusters, Superkicks, and Salvation: The Hyperreality of Christian Professional Wrestling.” National Meeting of the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association, Boston, MA, 2012.
“Muscled, Mean, and Sometimes Moral: Professional Wrestling and the Embodiment of Cultural-Ethical Tensions.” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, San Francisco, CA, 2011.
“Smackdown for Jesus: Christian Professional Wrestling and the Play of the Real.” Wofford College’s Faculty Talks, Spartanburg SC, 2010.
“Smackdown for Jesus: Christian Professional Wrestling and the Play of the Real.” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Atlanta, GA, 2010.
“Entertaining Violence: Religion, Wrestling, and the Inter-Relation of Teaching and Research,” Poster Presentation, “Integrating Scholarship, Service and Teaching,” Faculty Development Workshop, Wofford College, Spartanburg SC, 2010
“Rasslin’ with Science and Religion,” Wofford College’s Faculty Talks, Spartanburg, SC 2009 (co-authored with Bryon McCane).
Works in Progress:
Dropkickin’ the Devil in Dixie: Professional Wrestling, Evangelicalism, and Southern Identity (monograph)
“Watchin’ Rasslin’ on the TV with Grannie: The Southern Sport of Professional Wrestling” (journal article)