I finished something I’ve been reading in the background that’s wrestling-related but isn’t a magazine - a pro-wrestling dictionary called, as you might expect, プロレス語辞典.
It’s a dictionary format, but it’s got an easy-going presentation with a lot of illustrations by Taiki Enomoto and DDT wrestler and president Sanshiro Takagi is listed as 監修. It was one of the first few books I bought, I think, a few years ago. I was barely reading still, and hungry to read more about wrestling from Japanese sources, so it seemed like it would be a perfect fit.
Unfortunately, in practice it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for and I wouldn’t really recommend it, except maybe to wrestling fans diehard enough to look past the drawbacks (so, @fallynleaf , maybe).
In my head when I heard “pro wrestling dictionary,” as a language learner I think I was expecting like - a genuinely jargon-focused dictionary. Like, “what’s the Japanese word for kayfabe? Do the terms ‘work’ and ‘shoot’ carry over?” stuff like that. In English there’s a lot of weird and sometimes over-used wrestling lingo that takes a lot of explanation originally, so I thought maybe this would be focused on that for Japanese.
In practice, there’s a little of that, but it’s kinda written in that same not-quite-kayfabe-but-not-really-talking-bluntly-about-it-either register I’m used to from shupro, so when say, it introduces the term マッチメイク, I’m still left wondering a bit if that directly correlates with “booking” or if it’s literally just setting matches.
Moreso than those are entries about particular moves, or say, a particular wrestler’s nickname, or catchphrase, or just a completely incidental thing to wrestling that has an entry so the author can talk about a wrestling anecdote it was involved in. So while some entries are definitely useful from a learner’s perspective - 花道, レガース, 逆エビ固め, ロメロスペシャル, etc., others are just sort of mildly interesting at best, like Led Zeppelin has an entry because Bruiser Brody used Immigrant Song as his entry music and I didn’t actually know Makabe got that from Brody too. Theoretically the entries like “this is X’s nickname” would help you understand commentary, but in practice I think it’s a lot easier to get a wrestler’s deal from watching them and hearing a little about them than it is from hearing what their nickname is with no other context.
The comparison I thought about a lot - is reading through it feels very much like watching a show with someone who’s been a fan for a lot longer, and he’s leaning over and whispering explanatory things to you throughout the show. Like, sometimes it’s interesting, other times you just don’t know what to do with the information, probably it’s more gratifying for him to provide it than the benefit it actually gives you, you know what I mean? I get that they want to tell me about comedians who once had a famous wrestling-related bit, but I don’t have the context to appreciate why it’s interesting.
So I think it would actually serve better as like, a sort of memory book for fans who are already of this guy’s age and are in the know, to enjoy and potentially share all the trivia.
Part of the problem too though, is that wrestling changes fast. This came out in 2016, which isn’t all that long ago in the grand scheme of things - but that’s right before I would have started watching Japanese wrestling, and so all of the information involved feels juuuuuust a little bit crusty and dated. Promotions mentioned as current now defunct, massive context changes haven’t happened yet, etc.
As an example entry, here’s the one on ヨシヒコ:
The line about “it might look like stage hands move Yoshihiko during matches, but this is an illusion” is really funny! But I suspect the confusion:humor ratio would be a bit off-balance if you hadn’t seen them in a match before…
And as an extreme example of how the briefness of the entries can leave out important context, this one about Chris Benoit leaves out, um, a pretty important detail about the circumstances at the end of his life:
I guess what I mean is that it’s just not enough space in the format to give a full picture of what’s being talked about, and not enough entries to feel like a truly comprehensive dictionary, so it felt unsatisfying sometimes, and I skimmed through it at off-hours.
That said, the presentation is very endearing! And I enjoyed inserts on special topics like (mostly out of print) novels involving pro-wrestling, and all the illustrations are fun. So I don’t dislike it, I’m just a bit disappointed based on the expectations I had coming in.
Honestly – the biggest revelation I had from the book was that Dump Matsumoto was called that because in Japanese ダンプ can mean a dumptruck. I always just assumed that she was such a heel she eschewed even remotely flattering names, but knowing it can mean a huge truck makes the logic for why a wrestler would want to be called that a lot clearer (though the heelishness and other connotations are obviously also a factor).
Somewhat generously since I skimmed it and there’s lots of illustrations, I counted that as prose in the lists for the thread, which means I’ve hit my listed goal of 12 for the year! Pretty gratifying considering that unless you count graded readers, my number in that category for years prior would have been 1 after a whole lot of 0s…