Books Comic Book His­tory of Wrestling

A new comic book il­lus­trates the his­tory of pro­fes­sional wrestling, in­clud­ing its most pow­er­ful prac­ti­tioner: Pres­i­dent Trump

Newsweek International - - NEWSWEEK - BY MO MOZUCH @mo­mozuch

Dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race, Don­ald Trump in­sulted re­porters, taunted ri­vals and en­cour­aged vi­o­lence at his ral­lies. One Trump sup­porter even cre­ated a meme of the pres­i­dent beat­ing up CNN. It looked and sounded a lot like pro­fes­sional wrestling— and many vot­ers loved it.

Au­thor Aubrey Sit­ter­son and artist

Chris Moreno weren’t sur­prised. Their new graphic his­tory, The Comic Book Story

of Pro­fes­sional Wrestling, shows why we love a good fight. In scrupu­lous de­tail, the duo cover Amer­ica’s “one true sport” from its Colo­nial roots to the mod­ern-day WWE em­pire. Turns out, the na­tion has al­ways been a sucker for spec­ta­cle. The chore­ographed fight­ing and scripted re­sults, Sit­ter­son says, stir our emo­tions and tap our need for moral­ity plays; we like to see he­roes (called baby­faces) bat­tling vil­lains (heels).

Wrestlers, he says, also un­der­stand “the mal­leabil­ity of truth,” flip­ping well-es­tab­lished nar­ra­tives in shock­ing and sur­pris­ing ways. In this way, the book serves as a telling guide­book for un­der­stand­ing both the 45th pres­i­dent and our mod­ern po­lit­i­cal mo­ment. Trump, of course, has long been a wrestling fan. Early on, he was in­stru­men­tal in se­cur­ing venues for the WWE in New York, host­ing Wrestle­ma­nias at Trump Plaza and later ap­pear­ing as a guest wrestler him­self. (One clas­sic mo­ment is memo­ri­al­ized in the book: Trump shav­ing the head of WWE ex­ec­u­tive Vince Mcma­hon at Wrestle­ma­nia 23.)

Sit­ter­son says fans have al­ways loved the sport’s scripted char­ac­ters, which are beau­ti­fully ren­dered across 170 pages, telling tales like the ex­ploits of The Four Horse­man, a gang of heel wrestlers who lived their big money, cars-and-women per­sonas in­side and out­side the ring. But what’s changed in the dig­i­tal era is how com­fort­able the pub­lic has be­come with see­ing other peo­ple—from politi­cians to celebri­ties to our friends on Face­book— cre­at­ing care­fully con­trolled ver­sions of them­selves. “Every­one is clearly aware of how much of their lives is per­for­mance,” he says. And af­ter craft­ing and play­ing ver­sions of him­self for the WWE and on The Apprentice,

Trump has be­come a mas­ter of per­for­mance art. “He’s cer­tainly the apex of it so far,” says Sit­ter­son.

Sit­ter­son and Moreno wrote the book, in part, to tap into surg­ing pub­lic de­mand for wrestling. The WWE just ne­go­ti­ated a five-year, $1 bil­lion deal with Fox to broad­cast WWE Smack­down Live, start­ing in Oc­to­ber 2019, and an ar­ray of on­line stream­ing ser­vices of­fer non-wwe wrestling. In Au­gust, a Ring of Honor show at New York’s Madi­son Square Gar­den (the first non-wwe pro wrestling event held there) sold out in just 19 min­utes. “With so many new and lapsed fans flock­ing to pro­fes­sional wrestling,” Sit­ter­son tells Newsweek,

“it stands to rea­son that many of them would like to find out what they’ve missed, to be able to bet­ter con­tex­tu­al­ize what they’re watch­ing to­day.”

As for the wrestler in the White House, though, Moreno has some ad­vice: “What’s good for show­man­ship, what’s good for en­ter­tain­ment, is not nec­es­sar­ily good for ev­ery­thing else.”

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