Kayfabe: Working Theories
Kayfabe: Working Theories
A Special Section of the Professional Wrestling Studies Journal
In professional wrestling studies, kayfabe is a term both widely understood and often contested. While it originates in professional wrestling’s linguistic connections to carnival slang, kayfabe potentially describes and can be leveraged to analyze so much more--from politics to business to interpersonal communication to daily life. Quite simply kayfabe can be defined as “a con or a deception” (Mazer) and has also been described as the “Illusion of realness” (Smith), the “illusion of authenticity” (Pratt), and the “fictional world of professional wrestling” (Laine). Kayfabe can refer to “the practice of sustaining the in-diegesis performance into everyday life” (Litherland) and is “co-created and maintained” through “moment-to-moment engagement between wrestling fans and wrestlers” (Reinhard). Its use throughout pro wrestling history has shifted and changed and “as a verb ‘kayfabe’ can be used as an imperative; as a noun it describes a code of behavior; as an adjective it describes someone who is aware of the inner workings of the industry” (Wrenn). In addition to scholarly attention, kayfabe is contested and considered by fans and wrestlers themselves. On Wikipedia, for instance, the entry for kayfabe is regularly edited and updated and is currently construed as “the portrayal of staged events within the industry as ‘real’ or ‘true,’ specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not staged.”
This special section seeks to foster an ongoing conversation about kayfabe that extends its analysis within pro wrestling studies while also exceeding the boundaries of professional wrestling itself. The editors invite submissions that offer new analyses of kayfabe, its history, its functions, its limits, its practice, and its theory. The editors also invite submissions that use “kayfabe” as a theoretical category for analysis outside of professional wrestling. Where else are people keeping or breaking kayfabe?
The editors of this special section, invite three types of contributions:
- Full length articles (4000 to 8000 words)
- Interviews and dialogues, especially with professional voices
- Essays (1000 to 2500 words) that are not full-length articles but are generative engagements with the questions and theme of the section. For these essays, the editors will invite a response from another author (750 to 1000 words), which the original author can then answer (500 words).
All submissions (articles, interviews, and initial essays) are due October 29. See PWSJ submission guidelines: https://www.prowrestlingstudies.org/pwsj-submission-guidelines/
Early submissions are encouraged. Inquiries are welcome.
Please forward submissions and questions to the editors at:
Michael J. Altman: email@example.com
Jessica Fontaine: firstname.lastname@example.org
Eero Laine: email@example.com
Laine, Eero. “Kayfabe: Optimism, Cynicism, Critique.” Professional Wrestling: Politics and Populism, edited by Sharon Mazer, Heather Levi, Eero Laine, and Nell Haynes, Seagull Books/University of Chicago, pp. 192–206.
Litherland, Benjamin. “Breaking Kayfabe is Easy, Cheap and Never Entertaining: Twitter Rivalries in Professional Wrestling.” Celebrity Studies, vol. 5, no. 4, 2014, pp. 531–533.
Mazer, Sharon. Professional Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle. University Press of Mississippi, 1998.
Pratt, Jacqui. Delivering Rhetorical Entanglements. 2019. University of Washington, PhD Dissertation.
Reinhard, CarrieLynn D. “Kayfabe as Convergence: Content Interactivity and Prosumption in the Squared Circle.” Convergent Wrestling: Participatory Culture, Transmedia Storytelling, and Intertextuality in the Squared Circle, edited by Christopher J. Olson and CarrieLynn D. Reinhard. Routledge, 2019.
Smith, R. Tyson. Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling. Duke University Press, 2014.
Wrenn, Marion. “Managing Doubt: Professional Wrestling Jargon and the Making of “Smart Fans.” Practicing Culture , edited by Craig Calhoun and Richard Sennett. Routledge, 2007, pp. 149–170.