Certainly a unique concept for a book, this — perhaps unintentionally — provides a more rounded biography of Hart than some more conventional approaches.
King of Pranks was inspired by a offhand comment by Sean Waltman who suggested that somebody should put together a collection of Hart’s infamous pranks. James Romero took on that challenge, poring through books, interviews and newsletters to collect more than 150 anecdotes of Hart’s ribbing.
The entries are organised in chronological order, with each section introduced by a brief but detailed installment of a more traditional biography of Hart’s in-ring career. The book also includes several drawings that imagine the scene of some of the more outlandish incidents.
While the prank stories are well retold, the attempt to be comprehensive there’s an element of repetition and the level of context and impact certainly varies from tale to tale.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the book is that the sheer volume of stories gives a different impression of Hart’s humor than the naturally celebratory tone of accounts after his tragic death. Many of the incidents are genuinely amusing and creative, most notably the way he took advantage of his ability to impersonate other people’s voices on a telephone.
However, some stories feel more like bullying and a couple — pushing road agent George Steele down the steps of a bus or forcing a driver to lose control of a car at high speed — are plain malicious, raising the question of how many colleagues really appreciated his humour. It’s in this context where the biographical sections take on a new meaning, with a definite undertone that Hart’s japery was an attempt to keep himself distracted from the negatives of being on the road away from his family and dealing with wrestling politics.
It’s definitely one to dip into rather than read in a sitting, but it’s more than the sum of its parts and combines to give a depth to this aspect of Hart’s personality that’s not previously been explored.
[Disclaimer: The author provided a review copy.]