Sportsviewers Guide: Wrestling by Peter Bills

October 21, 2019

A 1983 British release, this is one of a series of 10 books on popular televised sports of the day, creating the always intriguing sight of pro wrestling being covered in the same format as “legitimate” sports.

It’s made up of sections including history, rules, promoters, stars (13 profiles), championship formats and venues. While the profiles are a fun read (albeit with a few minor errors such as perpetuating the myth that Giant Haystacks’s real name was Luke McMasters), it’s the parts where the unique nature of wrestling clashes with the format that are most noteworthy.

For example, the promotional section details Dale Martin and the Joint Promotions setup, but tries to portray the promoters as having made a deliberate attempt to limit the coverage of wrestling on TV to avoid overexposure. It’s possible that’s true, but if promoters really were getting £15,000 for each televised show with the only additional cost being to bump up the performers’ payoff to £40, it’s hard to imagine them turning down more airtime.

The book also notes confusion at the lack of formal structure in wrestling championships and, while not questioning the legitimacy of match finishes, does have Max Crabtree explaining that a wrestler might get a title shot because he would draw a big crowd, even if he’s not necessarily the “best” contender from a win-loss perspective.

The venues section has some surprising insights that show the book isn’t purely a puff piece. It talks about the decline of some venues, a dramatic fall in the number of shows being run (from around 4,000 to 1,200 a year for Joint), and the way promoters keep prices low to attract regular crowds. While there’s plenty of mention of it being related to an economic downturn, it’s certainly an unusually frank account given the book came out in what was billed as the Big Daddy boom period.

There’s not enough depth to the book to make it a must-read, but given it’s often available for a matter of pennies, it’s worth picking up if you have any interest in British wrestling history.

Buy on Amazon

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