Weavill, Kelsie (2020) Breaking Kayfabe – Professional Wrestling in the key of Erving Goffman. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

For several decades, professional wrestling audiences have been aware of the predetermined nature of the ‘sport’. Despite this, the theatrical genre of professional wrestling still relies on the insistence of its own legitimacy, a concept internally referred to as ‘kayfabe’. This thesis explores the phenomenon of kayfabe by identifying the various gimmicks that help define professional wrestling as a form of theatre instead of sport, and by tracking the implementation and understanding of kayfabe within the American professional wrestling industry from historical to postmodern context. This is achieved by analysis of professional wrestling through Erving Goffman’s understanding of ‘keying’: a device used to transform activity from one collective understanding to another. It becomes clear that the movement from legitimate sporting action to premeditated, melodramatically amplified combat stems from an insecurity surrounding the fiscal feasibility of wrestling remaining legitimate, and the emerging presence of ‘kayfabed’ behaviour to sustain the ‘legitimacy’ of the fabrication produces a simulation of sporting celebrity that can be controlled and manipulated at will, seeking the organic acceptance of the presented narrative from the willing consumer. Through further academic analysis of professional wrestling, and the interrogation of the spectacle through the work of Goffman, kayfabe within professional wrestling could potentially be defined as the keying of impression management into the theatrical framing of the kayfabe lamination, and continued analysis of kayfabe in this light may help us to further understand the consumerist nature of celebrity culture as a whole.

FINAL THESIS - Weavill.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (645kB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email