The past few years have proven tumultuous for the wrestling industry, with Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment as the centre of the maelstrom. Fraught with scandals relating to steroids and the murder/suicide of Chris Benoit, this form of “sports entertainment” often ignored by mainstream culture has suddenly found itself the focus of congressional hearings, media sharks and pundits-a-plenty.
An institution with a history comparable in impact to baseball, comic books and jazz on American culture, professional wrestlers are often derided and pigeonholed with little thought. But in the wake of the highly lauded Toronto International Film Festival release of The Wrestler it might be a good time for mainstream culture to take a hard look at the men & women that push this industry and the conditions they work under.
Hitman: My Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling
The Calgary-born and bred Bret “The Hitman” Hart is one of the most prominent and controversial icons in the history of pro wrestling. A storied career through different promotions led him to legendary status in the WWE until the "Montreal Screwjob," as it is known to wrestling fans, perpetrated by Vince McMahon drove him out. His autobiography is gripping and brutal, delivering an almost painful level of honesty.
A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex
Another Canadian-born wrestler, Chris Jericho grew up in Winnipeg and built an incredible career for himself. But while he may be on his way to achieving a level of status with the impact of Bret Hart’s the tone of his autobiography could not be more different. A Lion’s Tale is flat-out funny; he tells his story with same comedic talent he has brought to the ring for years. It is a refreshing read in the face of so many tales of the harsh realities hidden behind pro wrestling’s veneer.
Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling
The legacy of the Hart family in the world of professional rivals that of the McMahon’s. From his "Dungeon" in Calgary, Stu Hart trained innumerable pro wrestlers, including Bret Hart, Chris Jericho and the late Chris Benoit, and built a promotion called Stampede Wrestling. McCoy recounts in all of its bloody glory the history of one of pro wrestling’s royal families and the legacy they built.
Matthew Randazzo V
Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit & the Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry
Predominantly a crime writer, Randazzo offers a far different perspective on pro wrestling and its all-too-often glossed over horrors. Using the Chris Benoit tragedy as a focal point, he offers a thought provoking indictment of the entire industry. But the book tries to cover too much ground and occasionally comes across as a personal attack on Benoit, especially in the first chapter. Ring of Hell can be judgmental rather than informative but maybe that’s what pro wrestling needs.