Slaphappy: Pride, Prejudice, and Professional Wrestling is a book written by reporter Thomas Hackett that describes, with a deep sociological and philosophical bent, the industry of professional wrestling. Through numerous talks with fans and wrestlers in independent wrestling promotions, as well as a visit to the Hart family and The Rock, Hackett takes the approach of a reporter and an academic in describing professional wrestling. Through a well-researched bibliography, he also identifies many parallels between pornography, performance, theatre plays, and wrestling.
Self-identifying himself as a non-fan of the sport, Hackett gained many observations and important statements from people within the industry. Like a trained sociologist, he communicates his theories on the sport through writing, making sense of a very whimsical, unique sport that is often unpredictable and childish.
He proves this by investigating the demographic of hardcore fans; boys (usually 14-24 yrs old), many of them without strong ability to grow and mature socially, financially, or sexually, constitute the most commonly seen fans he met at wrestling events. He saw many were drawn-in to the sport by its masculine aspects, identifying with the anti-authoritative, non-conformist, and intensely aggressive personalities they saw in wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The reason, he states, with strong sociological-sound arguments, is that the purpose of wrestling is to serve vicariously for the inborn desires of manhood. Since the post-War period, many White males have found themselves living far weaker existences than any of their previous generations (a theme he draws from another book, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man). Men have lost the qualities that have made them "men" in previous centuries. Insecurities and anxieties about their masculinity, usually solved through fighting, acquiring girlfriends, becoming breadwinners in the family, and supporting themselves financially have been lost through the rise of feminism, the worsening economic conditions of the United States in the last few decades, and the change in social treatment of young males.
Men, who would normally have been capable of expressing themselves in other mediums, including violence or verbal communication, have lost this ability, instead revolting against negative social and cultural norms through wrestling. The "take no shit" and "fuck the world" attitudes of young males identify strongly with the popular personas of professional wrestlers. The fact that these are normally short, transient attitudes normally experienced only in the teen years now carried on by older generations gives proof to the theory that manhood in general is feeling the difficulties and anxieties from freedoms lost in the last few decades.
Examining the professional wrestlers trying to break-into the industry, Hackett saw that they all joined hoping for the simple pleasures of manhood: to be seen as tough, widely-respected, strong champions (alpha males), with the choice of girls offered to professional wrestlers.
By being an intense fan of wrestling, Hackett argues, a young male is trying to take in and understand masculinity, modeling himself after the strong alpha male characters he sees in the ring. The more intense the fan, he theorizes, the more enthralled a male is in the characteristics he wants to achieve as a "real man".
The language of professional wrestling matches pornography without a miss. For example, in a match, two men are performing an act that seems violent and appears to hurt each other (like the sex act). They become sweaty and physically fit through the activity, and during the match, they must perform, that is to say, they cannot "go limp" and lose activity, or else they will not be "real men". Their movements and activity are judged harshly, garnering respect only for the dominance the "real man" of the group has over the others.
The ideas of male domination that is believed to be a part of pornography is present in wrestling, where a stronger, abler male will make the other "his bitch", commanding the opponent's body into submission. In pornography, the male's domination over the female, he argues, is shown by the male's ability to ejaculate on the female with precision, on places like her face. Just as the male can control the female with his powerful muscles and abilities (the ability to degrade her and ejaculate on her face), in wrestling, male domination over other males is seen by a show of strength over a jobber.
Although seemingly far-fetched, the link between the two is clear when considering that they both espouse the natural male feelings of control and conquest, as well as the treatment of the male as a commodity that must "perform". In pornography, just as in wrestling, he discovers, it is the largest alpha-male that will garner the most pay and respect, but because so many men are eager to perform, few ever become big stars.
The largest, tallest wrestlers are often seen as the dominant champions, because in Freudian terms, people view large, thick-bodied wrestlers like Hulk Hogan as "large penises"; a recurring source of envy and admiration among pornography and wrestling fans alike, who look at size and think "I want to be like him".
The best example is Mick Foley, a wrestler who endured great pain through his career, being considered a "tough man" as a result, but he is (and always has been) a sensitive person who wanted to receive love and attention from others, accomplishing it through his autobiographies and cultlike fanbase. The hardcore wrestling craze, according to Hackett, would be best explained by the desire of young males, especially those in backyard wrestling, to be called "men" and receive love and respect from others, taking pain to do so.
The true competition of wrestling the Hart family focused on involved sound technical wrestling that had two bodies in motion, experiencing twists and turns in a story-like turn of events. However, the more recent style of wrestling has been more sexually and masculine-orientated, acquiring personas characteristic of the strong, dominant alpha male.
Hackett recognized the addiction of the "hardcore fanbase" to wrestling as a desire to see a story over and over again, as a child would want to hear a bedtime story that they find pertinent to this lives until they feel they can overcome their difficulties. The difficulties, in the minds of the fans, is that they are inadequate or unable to reach manhood in some way, and so they attend wrestling events and watch wrestling religiously until they can work out the concepts of manhood through the wrestlers.
The greater popularity of Vince's teen-oriented programming demonstrates how much more important the "rites of manhood" are to wrestling fans than the authentic, well-trained technical wrestling of the Hart family.
His story was an example of the psychological difficulties experienced by many wrestling fans in their struggles and his pivotal experience gives proof to transformation.