CFP: Kayfabe: Working Theories, A Special Section of the Professional Wrestling Studies Journal

Michael J. Altman's picture
Call for Papers
October 29, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Composition & Rhetoric, Cultural History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Sport History / Studies, Theatre & Performance History / Studies

The Professional Wresting Studies Association invites submissions for its upcoming issue of the Professional Wrestling Studies Journal. This issue will be split between a special themed section on the subject of kayfabe and an open section for work from any theoretical or methodological lens that is rigorous, insightful, and expands our audience’s understanding of professional wrestling past or present as a cultural, social, political, and/or economic institution.


Kayfabe: Working Theories 

A Special Section of the Professional Wrestling Studies Journal


In professional wrestling studies, kayfabe is a term both widely understood and often contested. While it originates in professional wrestling’s linguistic connections to carnival slang, kayfabe potentially describes and can be leveraged to analyze so much more—from politics to business to interpersonal communication to daily life. Quite simply kayfabe can be defined as “a con or a deception” (Mazer) and has also been described as the “Illusion of realness” (Smith), the “illusion of authenticity” (Pratt), and the “fictional world of professional wrestling” (Laine). Kayfabe can refer to “the practice of sustaining the in-diegesis performance into everyday life” (Litherland) and is “co-created and maintained” through “moment-to-moment engagement between wrestling fans and wrestlers” (Reinhard). Its use throughout pro wrestling history has shifted and changed and “as a verb ‘kayfabe’ can be used as an imperative; as a noun it describes a code of behavior; as an adjective it describes someone who is aware of the inner workings of the industry” (Wrenn). In addition to scholarly attention, kayfabe is contested and considered by fans and wrestlers themselves. On Wikipedia, for instance, the entry for kayfabe is regularly edited and updated and is currently construed as “the portrayal of staged events within the industry as ‘real’ or ‘true,’ specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not staged.”


This special section seeks to foster an ongoing conversation about kayfabe that extends its analysis within pro wrestling studies while also exceeding the boundaries of professional wrestling itself. The editors invite submissions that offer new analyses of kayfabe, its history, its functions, its limits, its practice, and its theory. The editors also invite submissions that use “kayfabe” as a theoretical category for analysis outside of professional wrestling. Where else are people keeping or breaking kayfabe?


The editors of this special section, invite three types of contributions:

  1. Full length articles (4000 to 8000 words)
  2. Interviews and dialogues, especially with professional voices
  3. Essays (1000 to 2500 words) that are not full-length articles but are generative engagements with the questions and theme of the section. For these essays, the editors will invite a response from another author (750 to 1000 words), which the original author can then answer (500 words).


All submissions (articles, interviews, and initial essays) are due October 29. See PWSJ submission guidelines: 

Early submissions are encouraged. Inquiries are welcome. 


Please forward submissions and questions to the editors at:

Michael J. Altman: 

Jessica Fontaine:

Eero Laine: 


Laine, Eero. “Kayfabe: Optimism, Cynicism, Critique.” Professional Wrestling: Politics and Populism, edited by Sharon Mazer, Heather Levi, Eero Laine, and Nell Haynes, Seagull Books/University of Chicago, pp. 192–206.

Litherland, Benjamin. “Breaking Kayfabe is Easy, Cheap and Never Entertaining: Twitter Rivalries in Professional Wrestling.” Celebrity Studies, vol. 5, no. 4, 2014, pp. 531–533.

Mazer, Sharon. Professional Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle. University Press of Mississippi, 1998. 

Pratt, Jacqui. Delivering Rhetorical Entanglements. 2019. University of Washington, PhD Dissertation.

Reinhard, CarrieLynn D. “Kayfabe as Convergence: Content Interactivity and Prosumption in the Squared Circle.” Convergent Wrestling: Participatory Culture, Transmedia Storytelling, and Intertextuality in the Squared Circle, edited by Christopher J. Olson and CarrieLynn D. Reinhard. Routledge, 2019.

Smith, R. Tyson. Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling. Duke University Press, 2014.

Wrenn, Marion. “Managing Doubt: Professional Wrestling Jargon and the Making of “Smart Fans.” Practicing Culture , edited by Craig Calhoun and Richard Sennett. Routledge, 2007, pp. 149–170.




All open submissions must be original scholarly work and free of identifying information for blind review. Written articles should be submitted as Word documents and no more than 8,000 words, inclusive of a 200-word abstract and a reference list. MLA citation style is required; submissions not formatted according to MLA style must be converted to MLA before acceptance for publication. Any images not belonging to the author require copyright clearance. Articles will be converted into PDFs for publication, so hyperlinks should be active. For multimedia productions and experimental scholarship, please contact chief journal editor Matt Foy ( to verify length and proper format in which to send the piece.


The deadline for submissions is October 29, 2021 for a scheduled April 2022 publication. Please email open submissions to For access to current and back issues of the Professional Wrestling Studies Journal, or for information about the Professional Wrestling Studies Association, please visit