American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations

Portrait of a Real American: Class, Masculinity, Race, and Ideology in American Professional Wrestling, 1983-1993

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies

First Advisor

Scott Martin (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Brooks Vostal (Other)

Third Advisor

Kristen Rudisill (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Member)


Fans and afficionados alike consider Hulk Hogan (Terry Eugene Bollea) to be the most successful professional wrestler of all time given his box-office drawing ability. Previous scholarship has looked at the relationship between professional wrestling and American culture largely through textual analysis and the symbolic interpretation of popular wrestling personas. This study argues that the success of Hulk Hogan and American professional wrestling in the 1980s and 1990s could have only been possible during the emergence of a variety of trends in American capitalism; specifically in production, technology, and other cultural trends while also exploring the dimensions of race, nationalism, gender, and class. By framing Marxist, film, and political economy-based theory into a cultural historical lens, this study looks at how characters such as Hogan were both literal and symbolic creations of neoliberalism.