Squared Circle comics continues its wrestling biography series with a look at Bruno Sammartino. The story begins in Italy, and the bulk of the first issue of the series is set in Italy and then Pittsburgh.
Taken together with the biography of Nicolai Volkoff, the first thing that this series of comic biographies teaches me is the number of immigrants who took on roles that filled the imagination through careers in the wrestling ring.
A lot of recent scholarship focusses on what Joy T. Taylor calls “racialized performances staged by World Wrestling Entertainment” [in “You Can’t See Me,” or Can You?: Unpacking John Cena’s Performance of Whiteness in World Wrestling Entertainment]. These broad stereotypes do work “facilitating the transformation of European immigrants into Americans” [Bond Benton, “Lamination as Slamination: Irwin R. Schyster and the Construction of Antisemitism in Professional Wrestling”]. This critical-cultural work is significant and powerful, but I think the immigrant stories of Sammartino and Volkoff offer us a window on the cultural work wrestling did for these immigrants and for their communities.
For Volkoff and for Sammartino, wrestling was social mobility, and mobility made visible for their communities. I wonder whether anything has been written about that?
Anyway. Part one of this series is available so far…