Call for Papers | Book Proposal: Professional Wrestling in the Pandemic | Call ends August 31, 2022

Editors: Lowery Woodall, Jessica Fontaine, and CarrieLynn D. Reinhard
Lucha Libre wrestling in downtown Las Cruces. Photo by Jason Pofahl on Unsplash

On April 9, 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that declared professional wrestling, among other sports and entertainment industries with national audiences, to be an “essential service.” DeSantis’ order enabled the two largest American professional wrestling companies World Wrestling Entertainment and All Elite Wrestling to work out of their Florida production headquarters despite intermittent stay-at-home orders across the state.

While other national entertainment organizations like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association postponed or canceled 2020 season games, pro wrestling CEOs Vince McMahon and Tony Khan implemented procedures almost immediately that ensured the weekly television programming and special events (i.e., pay-per-views) on which their products were built would move ahead more or less unabated. While the on-air product underwent a significant overhaul and arguably suffered from the restrictions imposed by Covid, the pro wrestling industry stands as an intriguing microcosm of the anger, vitriol, and incredulity that surrounded cultural discourse of the virus.

As with many forms of live performance and entertainment, professional wrestling relies on the physical and the intimate: traditionally, wrestlers need close physical contact with one another to execute their moves and matches – thereby developing their characters and storylines – and engage their live audience in their performances. Yet, at many points during the pandemic, physical touch was discouraged and the live in-house audiences typical (some might dare say necessary) of pro wrestling events were banned.

Professional wrestling during the pandemic raised and continues to raise questions about essential labor, physical and social distance/proximity, risk, and “the need for entertainment” in times of crisis. Alongside these discussions, promoters like McMahon and some wrestlers through social media channels engaged in debates, both explicit and implied, regarding the very nature of the pandemic and whether Covid constituted a crisis at all. The pandemic represented a unique moment of collision between the spheres of social commentary, politics, and entertainment that have so often been exemplified in professional wrestling.

This anthology aims to examine pro wrestling in the pandemic to bring into relief issues and questions about art and entertainment, industry, communication, sociality, labor, precarity, bodies and physicality, and care under the uncertain conditions of late capitalism and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

We invite submissions from across disciplines on topics including but not limited to

      • Labor and industry during a pandemic
      • Safety and care of wrestlers, industry workers, and fans
      • Bodies and disability
      • COVID-19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy
      • Social movement (Speaking Out, Black Lives Matters)
      • Genre ruptures, shifts, and continuances (wrestling with no fans, cinematic matches)
      • Fans’ experiences
      • Digital commensality and social media
      • Political economy of major and indie pro wrestling promotions
      • Creative and platformed economies, including merchandise and ecommerce
      • Ethnographies of pandemic wrestling
      • Use of video games, livestreaming during pandemic by wrestlers and fans.

We are seeking 10–12 chapter proposals. Proposals should include 500 word descriptions of the chapter, with a 250-word abstract summation that could be submitted with the book proposal. Additionally, proposals should include the contributor’s 100-word bio.

If you have already written an essay on this topic and would allow us to submit it with the book proposal, then please let us know. While completed essays will be considered, the author will still be required to submit the documentation listed above. No previously published essays will be considered.

Final chapters would be 6500 words, including references (citation style to be determined based on conversations with potential publishers).

NO PAYMENT FROM CONTRIBUTORS WILL BE REQUESTED AT ANY TIME. Proposals are due August 31, 2022. Proposals and questions should be directed to Lowery Woodall:

Tentative timeline (dependent on publisher):

      • First drafts: December 31, 2022
      • Internal peer review process: February 28, 2023
      • Final drafts: April 30, 2023
      • Submit manuscript to publisher: June 30, 2023

CarrieLynn D. Reinhard

Professor, Dominican University
Department Chair, Communication Arts and Sciences
Social Media Minor Director
Film Studies Minor Director
Editor, Popular Culture Studies Journal
President, Professional Wrestling Studies Association
Co-Creator/Co-Host, The Pop Culture Lens
Twitter: @MediaOracle

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