Mention Montreal to a modern wrestling fan and the chances are the first thing they think of is “screwjob” – as in the 1997 Survivor Series. But not only was the Bret Hart-Shawn Michaels incident far from the only noteworthy moment in Quebec wrestling history, it wasn’t even the first Montreal screwjob.
Back in 1931, Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis was defending his version of the world title in the city against Henri DeGlane. Lewis lost the match and his title by disqualification after DeGlane revealed bitemarks. However, most accounts suggest the marks were actually inflicted in DeGlane’s locker room during a break between falls and were a deliberate scam to relieve Lewis of the belt, contrary to the planned finish.
As Mad Dogs… recounts, Montreal is arguably among the most undersung territories historically. Fifteen times the city has played host to the biggest wrestling crowd of the year across the entire planet. As late as 1985 the local promotion drew 21,500 for a show headlined by a heated feud pitting brothers Jacques & Raymond Rougeau against “brothers” Ronnie and Jimmy Garvin.
The book itself is more of an encyclopaedia format than a straight historical narrative. There are brief overviews of the various eras and a few key events, as diverse as an early 1970s promotional war, a 1995 incident when Jean Pierre-LaFitte scuffled for real with WWF champion Diesel, and a headline-making WCW house show in 1997 when Hulk Hogan dropped a clean pinfall to Jacques Rougeau.
For the most part, though, the book is made up of profiles of virtually every significant name that either hailed from Quebec or played a major role in the territory. Some of these in the earlier years are a little dry thanks to the understandable lack of first-hand accounts, but those in the later years are genuinely informative and engaging. Fans of the late 80s and early 90s WWF may be particularly interested to learn that Dino Bravo was not only a babyface in the territory, but arguably the last genuine big-drawing superstar.
The style of the book — which weighs in at well over 400 pages — means that it lacks some depth when dealing with individual characters and topics. However, it certainly cannot be faulted for its sheer depth. While it’s more likely to be a book you’ll dip into rather than consume in a single sitting, there’s certainly more than enough here to interest anyone with a curiosity for the territorial era of wrestling.
(This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.)