Falls, Brawls and Town Halls: The History of Professional Wrestling in Northern Ireland by Nick Campbell

April 27, 2021

Having researched wrestling in Northern Ireland myself for what turned out to be around a 1,000 word section of a longer article, I would never have imagined it was possible to write a 400-page book on the subject. Not only has local wrestler and promoter Nick Campbell pulled off the task, but it’s a superb piece of work.

Originally conceived as an oral history piece, Campbell gathered together enough material to produce a year-by-year account of wrestling in the area from 1932 to 2002. It draws on a combination of contemporary media reports and interviews with dozens of grapplers from the area including TV stars such as Fit Finlay and Eddie ‘Kung Fu’ Hammil and figures who are less well known on the international stage but were major influences on the local scene such as Noel ‘Darkie’ Arnott and Dave Finlay senior.

The result strikes the perfect balance between the big picture record of how local wrestling developed and the individual experiences and anecdotes of those involved. It’s particularly strong on the unique aspects of Northern Ireland’s wrestling from the arm’s length involvement of Joint Promotions and its TV superstars to the bare bones culture of training gyms and the oddity that the country’s amateur wrestling scene developed out of the pro business.

As well as covering wrestling in Northern Ireland, the book also extends where relevant to tours of the Republic of Ireland as well as documenting the careers of local wrestlers who made their name overseas trips, from Japan and Canada headliners such as Wild Angus to trivia footnotes such as Shillelagh O’Sullivan.

It should be noted that the book has a few persistent punctuation errors, though this is more of an annoyance than any barrier to comprehension.

Other than Pain and Passion on Stampede, there are few books about a wrestling territory that match this in combining comprehensive history with engaging stories. Campbell concludes with a semi-serious suggestion for following up in 2033 with a second volume documenting the rebirth of the independent scene in the 21st century and it may be only a slight exaggeration to suggest this will be worth the wait.

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