January 2008: The month that the strange and fascinating world of professional wrestling (or rasslin', as they say in these here parts...) officially came to Wofford College. No, the WWE did not make a stop in Spartanburg SC, nor did the Memorial Auditorium host a pro wrestling event. Pro wrestling came to Wofford, rather, in the form of an interim course taught by Professors Matt Cathey and Dan Mathewson (aka. GrrrAnimal Matt and GrrrAnimal Dan, pictured above). Who's the other good looking guy in the yellow tights, you ask? That's none other than Chief Jay Eagle, the renowned lifelong pro wrestler and owner of American Pro Wrestling (more on that in a minute).

What does one do in a pro wrestling class? Well, many of the same things one does in other classes: read academic studies of pro wrestling (mostly from a cultural studies perspective), have writing assignments about these studies, talk about the issues these studies raise, and train to become professional wrestlers at pro wrestling school.

Wait...I guess that last part is unique to our course. That last part, however, is what this website is all about. You see, all the students in this class have learned the trade of pro wrestling under the tutelage of Chief Jay Eagle and his expert trainers, Boomer Payne and Ken Magnum. All the students have also developed their own wrestling characters, and by the end of the course all the students will have wrestled in their very first wrestling show in front of a live audience. The class has also formed its very own wrestling league: The American Wrestling Federation of America.

A word of warning for the neophytes among us: the world of pro wrestling can be a little offensive. On the surface it appears quite violent, and it no doubt relies on -- and even celebrates -- racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes. Dig a little below the surface, however, and you find so much more. Roland Barthes has rightly called pro wrestling a "spectacle of excess." In his analysis, wrestling's characters and story-lines are infused with "the legendary themes of [culture's] mythology" (Barthes, "The World of Wrestling"). For North American pro wrestling this means (in part) that the wrestlers themselves embody all of our cultural stereotypes -- all the benign ones (the heroic fireman, the all-american golden boy), and all offensive ones (those that deal with race, class, gender, sexuality). Nothing is subtle at all. (See what I mean?)

What is interesting from an academic perspective is what professional wrestling does with these stereotypes. Wrestlers seem to enact in the wrestling ring all of the tensions, fissures, and conflicts that simmer slightly beneath the surface of civil society. Pro wrestling takes the best and worst of our cultural forms and through its productions of violent display it probes and prods, critiques and reflects, destabilizes and reifies, all at the exact same time.

Wrestling's "realer" than you'd think.

With that grand introduction, I now present to you, in all of their super-abundant "stereotypicality," the great and formidable wrestlers of the American Wrestling Federation of America.