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on 3 January 2010
This is a wonderful look back at the British world of wrestling, which was such a fixture on Saturday afternoons in the 1970s and 80s. The book manages to avoid both a dreary nostalgia and self-pity at the decline since the heyday of the sport. It is comprised mainly of a series of interviews with ex-wrestlers and promoters and the author was clearly accepted into the wrestling community during the writing of the book.
Simon Garfield covers all the famous characters known to the TV viewing public at the time: Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, Les Kellet, Adrian Street, Kendo Nagasaki, Giant Haystacks and the like. However, this is not tired, re-worked material. Rather, through the conversations, there are fascinating insights into the showmanship, physicality, poor pay, loyal and vocal fans, the varied venues and for a few, for a short time, the occasional glamour. The relationships between the stars and their promotors and managers provide an insightful angle on the business side of wrestling which now seems from another era.
Overall the atmosphere of the book was like walking through a fading holiday resort out of season. So many good memories of past fun (yes, it was a mixture of fake and real) but also more than a pang of emptiness at times forever left behind.
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When I think of the (few!) books I've read in the past 5 years, this one keeps coming back to me. Simon Garfields style of quotation over narration (as per his Radio One book - almost as great as this) works well here with an obviously (inadvertantly in some cases) hillarious cast of heros, daredevils and madmen who loved the sport and reaped very few benefits. It's a sad story of the decline of a great 'spectacle' I loved in my youth on World Of Sport. Listening to the stories of being paid 15 quid a fight and squashing the puss out of pig-bitten fingers pre-fight only makes you love this era more and wonder quite where it all went wrong with American Wrestling! Gloriously entertaining stuff.
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on 14 January 2000
Whilst wrestling thrives in the rest of the world its British cousin seems in terminal decline. This is the background against which Simon Garfield stirs the meomories of the "glory days" of wrestling in Britain. He tells the tale through the words of others and has produced not a definitive history but an entertaining parable of egotistical "characters" and rivalries that last to the present day. The book is never completely open about the realities of a professional wrestling match but instead allows the reader to feel like an outsider hearing careless wispers from behind the curtain. The vow of silence these men took seems to remain with most of them today. This is to some extent misguided, as anyone who is a fan of America's WWF knows. There the big names to not "insult" the fans intelligence by insisting it is real at all costs. In interviews and books outside the WWF's world (and sometimes in it) they make no secret of the way things are. And that is why so many people find it a form of entertainment that appeals to them. The wrestlers for the most part make up history to suit there own ends and thus presented together on the page form a hilarious patchwork of stories. Sometimes all the contributers are pulling in the same direction and a heart warming (or horrifying) story presents itself. Other times it desends into funny or meloncoly slanging matches about who "f***ed it all up". This is a slightly frustrating book if you already are aware of some of the behind the scenes bust ups and stories but to others it will delight at every turn. The last 2 chapters are the most depressing with two young(ish) talents from the current scene are quietly wallowing in the poverty of British wrestling as they compete with insulting rip-offs of WWF characters (usually the ones they ripped off were rubbish in their first incarnation). The underground scene has picked up slightly since the book was written with talented foreigners visiting occasionally and some "new-age" talent popping through. However the only thing that drives these youngsters on is getting out to America or Japan. At the base end of the market promoters are still presenting the outdated style of many mentioned in the book and the product is slowly dying. This book leaves us with lovely memories of a very British "sport" which is gone, best forgotten.
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VINE VOICEon 26 June 2007
It is all here in this lovely book by Simon Garfield. For those of us who remember "Good Afternoon Grappling Fans!" by Kent Walton, this book is a must. The information we get on Mick McManus and Steve Logan, Kendo, Jackie Pallo and the boys is well written and compulsive reading. Later on the book the WWF/WWE appears briefly, and the differences between the British and American scene are explained succinctly.

What a pity British wrestling has been allowed to decay. There was some real talent in the ring, and as the author points out, there were dozens of moves the Americans have not even heard of.

Sadly many of the contributors and chaps mentioned have passed to that great square circle in the sky.

Well done Mr Garfield.

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on 9 December 1998
What can I say about this book it is truly an outstanding piece of literature on the beloved spectacle that is known as Wrestling, it will make you laugh and cry and share the emotions of the giants of the ring. Find out more about the real workings of an industry which in the Uk is dying but yey so vibrant throughout the world. If being a wrestling fan is an embarrassment then you're in good company with the likes of the Royal Family former PMS and Paul Mc Cartney to name a few. If there is one book you must read on the greatest spectacle on earth read The Wrestling.
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on 31 March 2003
Simon Garfield gives a timely reminder of the days before the World Wrestling Federation,a time when World of Sport was supreme and Saturday afternoon was taken up with an old friend Big Daddy beating the shhhh out of the masked man Kendo.A totally different world to todays superstars but to those of us in the UK who remember the times a worthy publication.
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on 12 April 2013
The Wrestling: The Hilarious True Story of Britain's Last Great Superheroes.

By Simon Garfield.

Published by Faber and Faber.

Released November 1, 2007 (Originally published in 1996).

256 Pages, paperback.

Simon Garfield is a British author of non-fiction books such as; Expensive Habits: The Dark Side of the Industry, The End of Innocence: Britain in the time of AIDS, and Just my Type. Garfield is also a well versed journalist appearing in such newspapers as The Independent on Sunday, The Observer, and the Sun, a long with editing Time Out magazine. Simon would be named the Mind Journalist of the Year in 2005. As a small boy he would be fascinated by the All-In professional wrestling featured on the television, when meeting Mick McManus, one of the top stars, years later it would compel Simon Garfield to compose a book on the story of The Wrestling.

The Hilarious True Story of Britain's Last Great Superheroes isn't so much humorous as it is a unique look into the world of professional wrestling. The book is made up almost entirely of interview excerpts collated by Mr. Garfield. Whilst the chapters are put together in an order that is some what chronological the contents of the chapters is often hard to decipher the exact period of time is being spoken of, especially if you did not grow up watching the World of Sport TV show or seeing the live events that took place. After an introductory section to introduce some of the main characters of the era and to explain how the book came about, we naturally are treated to brief, selective history of British wrestling. A whole host of stars are featured including The Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy, Adrian Street, Jackie Pallo, Max Crabtree, and Kent Walton. The is also an on-going story that takes places involving Simon trying to make contact with one of the most talked about and notorious names in the locker room, yet known to a whole generation of people as a comedic wrestler, Les Kellett. The interviews themselves consist of comments on other wrestlers, promotions, promoters, memories they have of the business, and talk of how the business changed in Britain ultimately succumbing to the invasion of American style professional wrestling over the television channels. Backstage at a WWF (Now WWE) show in England he even managed to secure interviews with such stars as The British Bulldog, Shawn Michaels, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. For the most part the wrestlers are light-hearted and just reminiscent of yester-year and the tremendous success achieved during their time on top of the entertainment scene in the U.K. Others come across as slightly bitter at how it all ended and towards other stars who they feel attributed to it's almost sudden demise. Followed by only a recount of an interview of may-be the most famous and mysterious character from this era, Kendo Nagasaki.

The Wrestling is an enjoyable read if you are looking to just relive fond memories of your childhood in front of the fire during winter watching these larger than life personalities duke it out on T.V. It is also good if you want to get a loose feel for what that period of British wrestling once was and an idea of the sheer magnitude of success it saw. By no means is Simon Garfield's book an accurate representation of wrestling in the United Kingdom. Certain parts are glaringly mistaken or left out, may-be this is due to the wrestlers memories, but there are places where Mr. Garfield has added information, where as other segments are left uncorrected. It is an enjoyable read overall, but it can not be taken as a serious view on British professional wrestling.

3/5 Stars

By Jimmy Wheeler

Full list of people featured as per the book:

Bill Abbey (Promoter), Bobby Barnes (Wrestler), Roland Barthes (Semiologist), Big Daddy (Wrestler), Big Jim Harris, the Mississippi Mauler (Wrestler), Peter Blake (Artist & Fan), Dave Soulman (Wrestler), Don Branch (Wrestler), Wayne Bridges (Wrestler), Robbie Brookside (Wrestler), Frank Casey (Wrestler), CB Cochran (Promoter), Brian Crabtree (Announcer), Max Crabtree (Promoter), Dickie Davies (Commentator), Doc Dean (Wrestler), Alan Dannison (Wrestler), Brian Dixon (Promoter), Joe D'Orazio (Referee), Ian Dury (Singer & Painter), Greg Dyke (Television Executive), Brian Howard Finkel (Former WWE Announcer), Simon Garfield (Narrator), Giant Haystacks (Wrestler), Brian Glover (Wrestler & Actor), Steve Grey (Wrestler), Georg Hackenschmidt (Wrestler), Diana Hart (British Bulldogs Former Wife), Bobby Heenan (Former WWE Commentator), Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWE Wrestler), Hulk Hogan (Former WWE Wrestler), Les Kellett (Wrestler), Kendo Nagasaki (Wrestler), Mucky Mal Kirk (Wrestler), Ilona Kirk (Mucky Mal Kirk's Widow), Kondyke Kate (Wrestler), Johnny Kwango (Wrestler), Ken Livingstone (Politician), James Mason (Wrestler), Vince McMahon Jr (WWE Owner), Mick McManus (Wrestler), Paul Merton (Comedian), Shawn Michaels (Former WWE Wrestler), Miss Linda (Valet), Mitzi Mueller (Wrestler), Sir Atholl Oakeley (Promotoer), Jacki Pallo (Wrestler & Promoter), Jackie Pallo Jr. (Wrestler), Steve Prince (Wrestler), Pat Roach (Wrestler & Actor), Rollerball Rocco (Wrestler), Lloyd Ryan (Drummer & Manager), Mal Sanders (Wrestler), Jimmy Savile (Wrestler & Celebrity), The British Bulldog (Former WWE Wrestler), Adrian Street (Wrestler), Tony Banger Walsh (Wrestler), and last but not least Kent Walton (Commentator),
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on 26 January 2012
Finished it in a sitting. Very good. The format is a series of reminiscences and anecdotes but extremely entertaining and informative for all that -without really trying.

Reminded me of Saturday afternoons long ago, with my late father, watching World of Sport. He was indeed a Grapple Fan (in Kent Walton-speak).

Can also be read as a companion piece to Luke Haines' latest meisterwerk, 'Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early '80s`.
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The Wrestling is an old book - first published in 1995 - charting the history of professional wrestling in Britain. It was updated in 2005 with a short epilogue, mostly recording the deaths over the intervening 10 years of many of the household names who were interviewed for the original book. But make no mistake, British professional wrestling had died long before 1995.

Most of the book comprises statements and anecdotes spoken by key players in the British wrestling scene. We have contributions from wrestlers themselves - Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Davey Boy Smith, Pat Roach and all; from the promoters - Max Crabtree, Mick McManus; and the presentation team - Kent Walton. There are many, many more contributors besides.

What emerges is a story of regret; the heady days of the 1950s then led to the burgeoning success of televisation. Cash came rolling in, even if much of it was never passed on to the wrestlers. But then it went wrong as the televisation was withdrawn in 1988 and audiences found louder, better spectacle from across the Atlantic. There are stories of wrestlers packed like sardines in the back of minibuses, travelling for hours to and from shows, having to build their own rings, change in cupboards, play on through injuries, and cope with the loss if anything bad happened because the promoters were certainly not going to waste money on insurance. There are bitter recriminations, fond memories, insights into what really went on behind the scenes. And most of all, there was a great sense of good, almost-honest hard work. There were friendships and rivalries that were quite different to the staged feuds. There were tensions between sport and entertainment - and entertainment won.

There is blame cast aplenty, much directed at the Crabtree family. Max Crabtree owned Dale Martin promotions, who staged the shows. Brian Crabtree was a referee, an essential part of staging the bouts. And Shirley Crabtree was Big Daddy, a fat, elderly man who was allowed to become the star attraction. Others asked how spectators could still believe in the product when Big Daddy's bouts were so obviously staged. Yet this ignores the rising supremacy of WWF (now WWE) wrestling which is even more staged, even more story-boarded.

There are also some wonderful tales, such as the domestic life of Kendo Nagasaki and the philosophy of Giant Haystacks.

From the opening scene, a reunion of old, broken wrestlers at a bar in London - through to an image of post-TV wrestlers fighting in front of 80 bored spectators with new and feeble gimmicks (e.g. The Red Power Wreslin' Ranger) coming too late for anyone to care, it is a sorry tale. Nevertheless, it is one which captures the imagination. The Wrestling is an intelligent, readable and compelling vision of long gone part of British entertainment history. It is about people as much as it is about wrestling.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 September 2013
I grew up in the seventies and wrestling on the TV on Saturday afternoons was something of a tradition in our house. Now I am a little older and the mother of teenage boys, that TV wrestling tradition still continues with the rock and rolling soap opera extravaganza of WWE and TNA. We have taken the boys to Raw shows and the local amateur performances. Singing along to C M Punk's entrance track is one of my guilty pleasures and I maybe know more about John Cena than I really want to.

I didn't however know too much about the wrestlers I grew up watching; people like Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Kendo Nagasaki, Les Kellett and Mick McManus, so this turned out to be a very interesting trip down memory lane for me. The book is really a collection of very chatty reminiscences from a whole host of wrestlers, promoters and enthusiasts and builds up a picture of British wrestling throughout the 20th century. The author has let the wrestlers speak for themselves and once you get used to the style, which is just like sitting with them chatting, it is a pretty easy read. It was quite fascinating reading about such things as the working conditions, closed shop agreements, the money, the match fixing and what each wrestler really thought about the others. Because of the style of writing you maybe have to take some of it with a pinch of salt, because very often the wrestlers are contradicting each other, sometimes on the same page. There is a lot of gossiping about each other, bordering on bitchiness but with a lot of honesty and humour which just stops it going over the edge.

We also read about the decline of British wrestling and its removal from our TV screens, moving on to Vince McMahon and the WWF (WWE) and the whole read certainly leaves you with a question - just what would have happened if there had been a British Vince McMahon?
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