Whatever Happened To Gorgeous George by Joe Jares

November 6, 2019

This 1974 book is one of the better titles by an “outsider”, albeit one with legitimate credentials. Author Joe Jares was a Sports Illustrated Associate Editor who, in the 1960s, wrote two articles on wrestling, one on how his father performed as “The Thing” and the other on the decline of Gorgeous George.

Jares later decided to expand the subject into a book, with the articles making up the first two chapters. He then explored the wrestlers of the day, with chapters on the wackiest characters, women wrestlers, leading villains, promoters, fans and the travel and injuries of life on the road.

He concludes with a series of appendices covering topics such as real names, a capsule history, the world title, wrestling footballers, and bouts featuring wrestlers against boxers.  Given his real sports background, Jares doesn’t buy in to kayfabe, but the book isn’t written in a mocking tone. Aside from a fun recap of some of the explanations wrestlers give for why their matches must be real, he largely asks carefully worded questions and gets intelligent answers that don’t insult anyone’s intelligence. Paul Boesch in particular is the source of many comments that protect the business while still giving an intelligent insight.

What really makes the book work, besides Jares’ professional writing, is the sheer range of performers quoted, including lengthy contributions from Mildred Burke and George ‘Zebra Kid’ Zaharias.  While the nature of interviewing wrestlers in the early 70s means this can’t be taken as an authoritative history, it’s a highly readable insight into the business at the time and well worth picking up when used copies appear at a reasonable price.

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