Illustration by Eli Neugeboren
It's hard to say, after nearly three years in existence and after a sporadic year of The Classical Magazine, what we're really about. Sudden gut-dropping moments of identity crisis notwithstanding, this is probably more a good thing than it is a bad thing. At this point, and in retrospect from a very early point in our existence, it became clear that whatever it was we would be would emerge through a process of accretion -- one bit of writing on another, over and over, and so onwards and upwards in whatever direction presented itself through the work that you contributed to us, and what we contributed to it. It's been long enough, now, that we can begin to say some things about what this all is, although that changes with every new layer that gets added.
And one of the things that The Classical has come to be about is the idea of sports as a way into, and something opening onto, an emotional experience broader than the ordinary partisan sport-feels. It feels both dorky and pedantic to explain this, mostly because you already know it. Everyone knows it. It's the thing you feel watching a movie or looking at a piece of art or listening to a song -- there isn't a generally agreed-upon word for it, and that is more or less because there is no need for an agreed-upon word for it. Everyone knows what it is. Everyone who feels things has felt it. You are pulled forward by the sternum, firmly but lovingly, pulled forward and up. The rest you fill in. The lift and the momentum is the thing.
And this is an authentic feeling. This is real and visceral, and close enough to the feeling of being in love that it's worth remarking upon. We do not necessarily fall in love with the things we ought to fall in love with, we are not always right to feel the things we feel, but this is also part of that other central Classical thing -- the feeling itself means something, and anyway this feeling is too scarce and too important to fuss too much about what has occasioned it. If you feel a true emotion about something dumb, the truth of the former matters more than the dumbness of the latter. Anyway, this issue of the magazine is about professional wrestling, and you can get it now through our app; you'll be able to get a non-iOS version at our Plasso store later today.
Professional wrestling is a topic that -- much like video games, the subject of an earlier magazine issue that I edited -- I have very little familiarity with or attachment to, and about which I otherwise do not feel much in the way of anything. And in this case, as in that previous one, I think that lack of familiarity was not a hindrance. Some of this was because our resident wrestling magus Nick Bond helped with the editing duties on this issue, as well as contributed a long conversation with ace wrestling writer David "The Masked Man" Shoemaker. But, in a more general sense, the distance afforded me a better vantage point, and helped me see the issue more clearly.
One story after another tells, in various ways, how and why wrestling came to mean what it means; each explains how this vicious and beautiful and exploitative and redemptive sport, which is also maybe mostly theater, came to offer these writers the thing that The Classical has, all along, been pursuing. It's fake, as you have no doubt heard; it's fake and scripted and ugly and extractive and dumb. But all that work also works. It delivers. That deliverance, as much as those specific ways of working, is what the issue is about.
And so here it is. There is a discussion of "heel heat" from Jules Bentley and an actual bit of heel heat from Chris Collision, who is not sold on what's for sale. There is a celebration of wrestling's history as a working class entertainment from Ian Williams, and a look back at its sordid and sold-out origins from Dan O'Sullivan; Ben Godar reports from his seat at a match held the night after the accidental (and televised) death of wrestler Owen Hart. Jeremy Gordon contributes a dispatch from the front lines of his own, unwitting, re-conversion to wrestling.
And, mixed in, are celebrations of the wrestlers who make this entertainment and the ways in which that work becomes real for those watching. There's Tom Breihan on the humble giant Paul "The Big Show" Wight and Thomas Golianopoulos on British working man Nigel McGuinness, both of which rank among the best pieces we've ever run on the website. There are new celebrations of lifers like Kane (by Mike Piellucci), Mick Foley (by Nate Patrin), and Buddy Rose (by Dan Malone). Alex Wong discusses how the polymorphous perversity of Goldust helped him figure himself out in a new country; Tom Keiser writes about how The Ultimate Warrior helped him figure out who he was, and later helped him figure out what that meant.
There's a ton of art in here, as always. Eli Neugeboren drew the cover, and Ben Passmore and JB Roe and Andrew Janik contribute illustrations throughout. But this issue, finally, is about artifice. Or, rather, how all these variously fake things make us feel these singular, secretly serious and undeniably real things. This issue is about that. So is every other one. But maybe this one especially.