Since September 2017, I’ve been spending the vast majority of my free time on a website called Meatless Rib.
It’s a website about pro wrestling, vegetarianism, and (aspirationally) social justice in general.
What do any of those things have to do with each other?
I’d love to tell you! I have a lot to say about all of it, but the relatively short version is this:
For most of my life, I haven’t watched pro wrestling.
But there have been times at which I watched pro wrestling very passionately.
One of those times is the better part of the past two years. More on that in a moment.
Another of those times was when I was very young: I was a preteen during what were arguably some of the highest peaks of American pro wrestling: I watched WCW during the nWo/Crow-style Sting/Goldberg era, and I later tuned into WWF for what I’ve now learned was the “Chris Kreski era” of that company, in which Kreski oversaw what is reputed as one of the most creatively coherent periods of that company’s history.
But shortly after that time in WWF, I stopped watching. I can’t remember why. My best guesses are some combination of wrestling’s social unacceptability and my emerging interests in music and… competitive Counter-Strike, of all things: lo3, gl hf, and so on.
In the years after that, I’d sometimes peek into the pro wrestling world, but usually not for very long. Every once in a while, I’d see what the latest WWE videogame was like. CM Punk caught my attention for a little bit.
But after the WWE introduced their streaming service (the WWE Network), my flings with pro wrestling got longer and longer, for a variety of reasons.
Then, in May 2016, I posted this to my Facebook:
I’m in the middle of the latest of my occasional pro wrestling fascination periods, and I might just like it forever now.
I indeed immersed myself more and more in pro wrestling from that point forward. And I think there are a number of reasons for it.
For one, WWE’s product became way less regressive (though they did and do have a lot of room for improvement, still). In retrospect, I think WWE has ruined pro wrestling for a lot of people all over the world, because it’s just rarely been the best wrestling available and there have often been aggressively bad ideas included in their overall product (like their treatment of women, a lot of the time).
And that’s a shame, which brings me to the second big point: I think pro wrestling is secretly an incredibly progressive artform. Think about it: it’s fundamentally a cooperative, expressive sport. A lot of people identify pro wrestling by its most extreme instances of exploitation, gore, and misogyny, but that all sells it absurdly short. Its violent façade is misleading, and—however peculiar this interpretation may be—I find it to actually be an extremely inviting satire of real violence, once the craft of the genre is taken into account.
And so, once the basic non-violence of pro wrestling comes into focus, it becomes quite palatable for an anti-violent vegan like me! And apparently a lot of pro wrestlers feel similarly, because—after starting my website with the idea that there would be a handful of notable meat-free wrestlers who I could enthusiastically “champion”—the list of vegan and vegetarian wrestlers keeps growing.
There seems to be a meatless revolution happening in pro wrestling, and I’m excited to be witness to it.
And, for me, veganism is one part of a multifaceted approach to social justice (see: ecofeminism), so to see it exploding in pro wrestling feels very significant.
Even if the history of pro wrestling is plenty sketchy (and even if this history is stained with the misdeeds of some monstrous individuals), I think you’re seeing a new generation of pro wrestlers (and other people in/around the business) who generally tend to be friendly towards progressive ideas.
And, again, it’s fundamentally a cooperative, expressive sport. That in itself cultivates a certain political climate, especially once you remove the shadiest aspects of this business (many of which have simply not survived the evolution of pro wrestling).
For me, so many of this new generation’s qualities are encapsulated in a current pro wrestling star named Zack Sabre Jr. He’s an avowed socialist, a vegan, and a major figure in the current international wrestling scene. And the style of wrestling he does is both exciting and remarkably safe (the latter quality being fundamental to the craft, regardless of the risks that individuals might take in deathmatches and so on… the whole point of pro wrestling is to make it look like a fight without having it take the toll that a legitimate fight is likely to inflict on someone).
Add to that the (imperfect) feminist gains of the WWE over the past few years, and you’ve got a pro wrestling culture that—for me—feels a lot less frustrating politically than the games world (which was essentially my previous “sphere”, not that I’ve abandoned it entirely).
As a result: over the next couple of years, I hope to talk more and more about the increasingly progressive politics of pro wrestling.
And I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
A lot of this is going to happen on my Meatless Rib website, and the best ways to keep up with it are Facebook, Twitter, and Patreon (where I offer a monthly recap for free if you “Follow”, but there are also some ways to throw dollars at me).