Book 44 – The Wrestling

Book – The Wrestling
Author – Simon Garfield
Year – 1996
Genre – Wrestling/History
Pages – 215

‘Kayfabe’ is a term that is used behind the scenes in wrestling.  Loosely, it is a term to describe the presentation that wrestling is completely real.  Until the early 80s, pretty much all wrestling was kayfabe, and it wasn’t until the Americans started to publicly suggest that wrestling was ‘sports entertainment’, that kayfabe was broken.

But for the dogged British wrestling scene, that admission didn’t change too much about how the wrestlers felt, and this book explores that.  With interviews from all of the main players in British wrestling throughout World of Sport, as well as before and after – including Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, Big Daddy, Robbie Brookside, Giant Haystacks and James Mason – this is as good an insight into the world of grappling in this country as you are ever likely to get.  And the main players still don’t break kayfabe all that much.

In 1985, Jackie Pallo ostrisised himself from many other wrestlers by publishing an autobioghraphy exposing the staged nature of professional wrestling.  As obvious as it sounds now that wrestling is ‘fake’, this wasn’t an altogether universal knowledge back then – with tabloids regularly running stories to debunk the myth of the sport of wrestling – and the damage was potentially huge.  Even eleven years later however, the likes of the people in this book tend to suggest that more was real than we know to be the case – and you have to have a certain amount of respect for that.

The amount of information in here is excellent, and just about all presented in the wrestlers own words.  Garlfield occasionally interjects in his own voice to clarify things, but generally everything is kept.  It is truly interesting for someone who was about ten years to late to see the impact of British wrestling, and has instead grown his fandom on the American product, to find out more about those who were just names before – be it Kendo Nagasaki’s genuine strangeness, or the overwhelming view that Les Kellett was a horrible person – and buil up a picture of those who started things out here.

The amount of people for whom this book would appeal is probably not that huge – proper harcore wrestling fans such as myself, and people of a generation above mine who have fond memories of Kent Walton and the like – but for those who are interested in this kind of thing, this book is a real treat.

And if it isn’t your cup of tea, then why not try one of Garfield’s other books.  He has one on Radio One?  Or one on the rise of AIDS in the UK?  Or – most strangely of all – perhaps the one on the invention of dye?  Weird as it may sound, I think you’d find them interesting.


For more Simon Garfield books, see the Authors page above, or for more wrestling books, see the Wrestling page.

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