Bruiser: The Worlds Most Dangerous Wrestler by Richard Vicek

September 19, 2023

Proving you can tell a story based on research, this is something of an undersung title.

As we’ve covered in many reviews, historical wrestling books often fall in to a couple of traps. One is to conduct meticulous research and then be so afraid to let any of it go to waste that you bombard the reader with irrelevant detail, drowning out any narrative. The other is to concentrate on wrestling storylines or to rely on a wrestler’s recollection, which can be plagued by faulty memories or outright BS.

Vicek avoids these traps by drawing source material from as many angles as possible, including public records, interviews and relevant sections from other wrestling publications. Perhaps the most extreme example is when he dug out a newspaper article showing a young Dick the Bruiser lifting a child at ringside and then tracked down the child — now a retiree — to get his recollection of the incident.

The results is a book that is much about breadth as depth. It’s by no means a comprehensive career chronology, but rather aims to capture as many aspects as possible of a wrestling character and the man that portrayed him. In particular, the book extensively covers Bruiser’s promotional activities in Detroit and Indianapolis, ahead of his better known work in front of the camera in the AWA. This includes financial records presented to give context to how shows operated and the payscale, rather than simply throwing out numbers.

It also gives a rounded look at Bruiser’s performances and character, explaining why it worked, but not being afraid to share recollections of when the shine wore off, or his failings as a promoter.

The closest thing to a criticism would be that occasionally the book has too many short passages on a topic (for example, specific wrestlers who worked for Bruiser) where picking one and going into more detail with a story might have been more engaging. However, it’s a definite recommendation for Bruiser fans or anyone with an interest in his career, region and eras.

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