When the index to a book takes up 25 pages, you know it’s going to be detailed. While it’s reputation may have been boosted a little by its irritating rarity, Gary Hart’s tale remains one of the top tier books on pro wrestling.
In its simplest terms, it’s an account of a wide-ranging career taking in wrestling, managing and booking in multiple territories, most notably in Florida and World Class. The breadth of Hart’s time in and around the ring would have made this worth investigating even if it were merely a dry chronological recollection of events such as Dusty Rhodes’s babyface turn or the Kerry Von Erich-Ric Flair cage match. The book feels comprehensive and you’ll struggle to find a significant moment in Hart’s career that isn’t addressed.
What makes the book stand out, however, is the depth. It almost serves as an educational guide into what works in the wrestling industry, with Hart clearly on a mission to share his knowledge and experiences. He doesn’t merely recall what happened with a particular match or angle, but also his reasoning at the time and, just as importantly, how that decision turned out and what lessons he learned.
He also manages to give honest, unvarnished opinions of those he dealt with, without verging into unnecessary abuse or score-settling (with the exception of a chapter devoted to condemning Wrestling Observer Newsletter Dave Meltzer on the basis of a single news item from two decades ago which Hart disputes.) It comes across as a clear recognition that everyone, Hart included, has both strengths and weaknesses.
Hart wrote the book during his final years and died before it could be published. His family self-published the book with two print runs selling out, but decided against the risk of financing a third run. Despite the immense interest in the book, there’s been no sign of an official e-book release.
Despite the cliche “buy, beg, borrow or steal”, this blog would not condone electronic book piracy. That said, while the book is fantastic, it’s a stretch to say it is worth the ridiculous prices it goes for on the second hand market — or at least the price at which it was offered.
With that in mind, it seems only fair to note that a PDF copy of the book is available without charge if you know where to look — but that even if you do acquire it by illicit means, you absolutely should buy this book the moment it comes back into print or gets an official e-book release.