Despite this week being perhaps the biggest week for professional wrestling in the UK since 1992, I’ve somehow resisted the urge to write about it every single day.
Why is it such a big week for wrestling here? Well, the UK’s first premium live event (aka pay-per-view) since Summerslam in 1992 is being held in Cardiff on September 3rd. Clash at the Castle is a really big deal; Scottish superstar Drew McIntyre will be challenging the current WWE champion, Roman Reigns, for the title in the main event – with Reigns having been champion for two years straight at this point – and there are plenty more cool matches besides that taking place too.
It can be quite difficult for people who didn’t grow up with wrestling to really get what’s going on, or – more likely – why it’s so appealing, when it has such a strong element of entertainment rather than unscripted, genuine violence.
As writer Aubrey Sitterson lays out right from the start of his genuinely absorbing comic book – The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling – it’s precisely because of this (for want of a better word) fakery that wrestling is such a hugely entertaining spectacle.
And boy is this tome comprehensive. It really does take in the full history of what’s called the One True Sport (and yes, even that moniker is immediately addressed here), from ancient disagreements, through the carnival origins of what we think of as contemporary wrestling, covering how it developed slightly differently in various countries and pretty much up to 2018, when it was written.
Considering just how much ground is covered and the excellent detail it goes into, it’s surprising just how riveting a read it is, as well as how not one panel feels superfluous; what’s always seemed to be the case with wrestling is that what’s gone on behind the scenes is generally just as interesting, if not more so, than the action that unfolds in front of our eyes.
That’s another reason why wrestling is so effective too, which Sitterson acknowledges – the blurring of fantasy and reality is often done to such an extent that it can be hard to see the distinction between what’s real and what isn’t.
Essentially, wrestling is magic with muscles – it’s about misdirection, sleight of hand and drawing on what the audience’s expectations are to deliver them stories of good vs evil, plucky underdogs vs big scary bullies and even rebellious employees vs tyrannical bosses.
Chris Moreno’s art is fantastic too, especially as he’s called on to cover so many different time periods, styles and a huge number of recognisable faces (and bodies!). Never once does the art side of things let down the brilliantly researched and clearly presented script.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of wrestling, The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling is a must. Sure, the likelihood of a non-wrestling fan’s interest being piqued by the book isn’t likely, but it’ll certainly give them an entirely new appreciation for the One True Sport.
And it’s unlikely that they’ll remain a non-fan after checking out wrestling’s incredibly dramatic history and the melting pot of personalities that have helped it survive countless calamities and catastrophes, many self-inflicted, over the years.
Since the book was published, promoter Tony Khan launched All Elite Wrestling (AEW), which has seen a stratospheric rise in popularity to become the number one competitor to the near-monopolistic force of WWE.
One of the best things to have come from this is that finally, people are willing to look beyond WWE and realise that there’s a whole host of promotions out there, at international, national and local, grassroots levels – there’s so much out there to discover. It’s opened up the minds of most casual fans and – having attended multiple local shows held by different promotions myself in recent years – it seems that the popularity of the One True Sport is on the rise again.
No matter what happens, as Sitterson and Moreno demonstrate in The Comic Book History of Professional Wrestling, it’ll always be with us in one form or another.
You can purchase The Comic Book History of Professional Wrestling from Amazon at this link.
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