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Biography & Abstract
Ian Jones

Ian G. Jones is a Career Development Fellow at the School for Business and Society at the University of York. He completed his thesis at the University of Liverpool which was titled Using the past: Authenticity, reliability, and the role of archives in Barclays plc’s use of the past strategies which won the 2022 Coleman Prize for best business history thesis in Britain or on a British topic. He has published in the Journal of Management History and Business History as well as co-editing 6 volumes of Routledge’s Focus on Industrial History series and co-authored Business History: A Research Overview (2022, Routledge). His research focuses on rhetorical history strategies, uses of the past, corporate ethics, organisational memory, corporate archives, corporate sponsorship, British banking history, and the history of the wrestling industry

Grappling with the past: The WWE's rhetorical history of the wrestling industry

The WWE is the largest professional wrestling organisation in the world by viewing figures, live attendance, and merchandise sales, with a net revenue of nearly $1.3 billion in 2022 and net profits of over $384 million (WWE 2023). Despite the WWE being able to trace its creation back to at least 1957 if not earlier (Hornbaker 2015), the WWE often cites its founder as Vincent K. McMahon, dating its creation to 1982 when he purchased the company from his father (WWE 2023). In the WWE’s history of the industry, McMahon is an entrepreneur that destroyed an industry cartel, revolutionising wrestling in the process; created the style of wrestling we know today calling it “sports entertainment;” and came to dominate the industry through risk taking and innovation. However, this narrative, and the power the WWE has over how the history of the wrestling industry has been understood, has curbed the entrepreneurial opportunities of the wrestlers within the industry. Using industry newspapers, oral histories, and secondary sources, this paper will examine how the WWE constructed this narrative, its veracity, and how it acts to control those working within, looking to enter, or who have previously worked in, the wrestling industry, curbing their ability to act entrepreneurially and disrupt the quasi-monopoly that the McMahon and the WWE have created.
Hornbaker, Tim. 2015. Capitol Revolution: The Rise of the McMahon Wrestling Empire. Toronto, Canada: ECW Press.
WWE. 2023. “WWE Annual Report 2022.”

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