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Move Over, Drake and Kendrick: Pro Wrestling’s Newest Beef

Does professional wrestling have a hot new feud leading into the Summer? Should we prepare for strikes or baby oil?

Literary critic and philosopher Roland Barthes was one of the first notable figures to address professional wrestling’s status as a “work” — a mostly-scripted affair predicated upon cooperation, consumerism, and an unspoken willingness by observers to “suspend disbelief.”

The performance (and the story driving the performance), for decades, became more important than the quality or authenticity of the simulated combat or the legitimate credentials of the competitors. If the “tough guy” always won, we would likely be talking about Haku/Meng’s career as if he was Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan.

In the current culture of pro wrestling, however, there exists a unique set of dynamics that allow for the rugged, the attractive, the awkward, the cumbersome, the comedic, and the inspirational to all hold a meaningful place on the show. Bodies (and body types) that would not have been predominantly featured competitively during the 1980s or 90s comic book/action figure era now regularly hold championships and enviable billings in nationally televised promotions.

The “throwback,” brawler body of the 1970s has again become marketable – see Trevor Murdoch and Tyrus winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 2022, sandwiched between more physically defined champions Matt Cardona and EC3. On a larger scale, Eddie Kingston recently held All Elite Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and New Japan Pro Wrestling titles simultaneously despite a physique that misaligns with that of many high-level champions of the past two decades.

In 2024, for every Randy Orton or Wardlow, there’s a Danhausen, Dominik Mysterio, or Akira Tozawa. For every Tiffany Stratton, Jade Cargill, and Charlotte Flair, there’s a Willow Nightingale, Piper Niven, and Riho. The “Mick Foley physique” may still be an exception, but it is not nearly as rare. Contrast this with reality with mid-2000s WWE when nearly all male performers were tanned and muscular, and most female talent were platformed aesthetically rather than athletically.

The change largely reflects shifting sociocultural attitudes regarding body positivity, identity, inclusivity, expression, etc.

Last week, however, Kevin Nash — himself a vestige of the larger-than-life era of decades past — made comments about one contemporary performer that buoyed the line between progress and perception.

While critiquing an AEW contest between Orange Cassidy and Shane Taylor, Nash referred to the latter as being “pear shaped.” The comment led to mixed response online, ultimately leading Taylor to invite Nash for an extended Muay Thai sparring session in Texas.

Such callouts are certainly not new to professional wrestling. Legitimate martial artist Eric Bischoff challenged then-WWF owner Vince McMahon to a fight during an episode of Nitro. Randy Savage dropped an entire diss track on Hulk Hogan.

Consider Nash will turn 65 in June, the former multi-time world champion offered something akin to an apology during an episode of his Kliq This podcast. Nash then proposed an alternative to a physical training session: a bodybuilding competition. Oddly enough, this is also a familiar pro wrestling trope that Oliver Lee Bateman has reviewed well for Mel Magazine.

The banter continued on Twitter/X as Taylor responded:

Aight now

6 months from now you’ll see a different S.T 👊🏿

Following YOUR superb example, I’ll also put 💉 in my ass, 🍻 myself stupid, & let my EGO & greed destroy a company & cost my peers their jobs.

811 S Mason Rd Katy, TX


via @shane216taylor on May 14, 2024

Nash responded, stating:

I’d actually be happy if you had blood work done. Funny I got my push in the WWF because I was the biggest guy clean. Have never flunked a test for steroids and no longer drink. The “I’m a mark” Statement of shutting down a company……I also caused the sale of the Braves,Hawks and Thrashers? Obviously the most influential person in our industry

via @RealKevinNash on May 15, 2024

In an industry that has made billions of dollars off “the work,” will the tension between Taylor and Nash remain yet another helping of “Twitter beef,” or could this lead to something more interesting?

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