Breaking the Fourth Wall in Reverse

Mr_CanadaWithout a doubt, one of the proudest moments of my life occurred on January 29, 2013, when I made my professional wrestling debut in a tag-team match in a show co-hosted by American Pro Wrestling, an upstate South Carolina based promotion, and Wofford College, the institution that made me a tenured professor the year before. I wrestled that night as Mr. Canada, a masked, French-Canadian heel; my partner was Ben Wright, whom APW had named its 2012 “Heel of the Year.” We lost our match in fantastic fashion: after I “accidentally” broke my hockey stick across my partner’s chest, he was then demolished through a ringside table, while I was shamefully de-masked – and then powerslammed, superfly splashed, and pinned.

Mr Canada1I was 39 when Mr. Canada made his debut – not exactly in the springtime of my youth – and I often get asked how in the world I ended up in the wrestling ring and why I thought it would be a good idea to do so. After all, the career trajectory of graduate school to tenure track job to tenure to professional wrestler is not exactly the most common one in the world of academia.

I’ll begin this blog entry answering these how and why questions, and then I’ll move to the questions I pondered for months after my 2013 wrestling debut: what new lessons about pro wrestling did I learn when I moved from careful observer of professional wrestling to actual professional wrestler – when I broke the fourth wall in reverse (so to speak)? Did this experience give me new insights into a cultural form that I previously appreciated only as a fan and a scholar?

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