While by no means an infallible Bible, this is by far the most important book written about the fascinating period of wrestling between the wars.
It’s an era that saw the culmination of the process of wrestling changing from a fixed event designed to scam gamblers into one where match finishes were designed to build up future bouts for ticket-buying customers. It’s arguably the period when, while the style and pace may differ, professional wrestling as we’d recognise it today really came to the forefront.
Published in 1937, Fall Guys is an insider account which claims to tell the real story of the behind-the-scenes chaos of the 20s and 30s as promoters built and broke allegiances and tried to deal with the dilemma of performance and charisma becoming more important then real grappling skills at the box office, but a ‘shooter’ trying to snatch the world title against the script still a genuine concern.
These promotional battles on several occasions led to those left out in the cold seeking their revenge through the media or the legal system, both of which revealed secrets about what was really happening behind the scenes.
The book is by no means perfect: the sheer complexity of the timeline of double-crosses means you may need a couple of read-throughs to really take it in. There’s also some question over its objectivity, with wrestling historian Steve Yohe theorising that leading promoter Toots Mondt may have been a heavy influence on the content, to his own editorial advantage.
Despite these limitations, it’s still a must read for anyone with an interest in wrestling history and a world that, while almost unrecognisable today, helped shape the wrestling business forever.
(Since this review first ran, Crowbar Press has published “The Annotated Fall Guys” which includes additional notes, commentary and corrections from Yohe and Scott Teal.)