Modern Wrestling by Jack Curley and Nat Fleischer

August 23, 2019

Most definitely in the collectors category, this is a good example of wrestling in its era, albeit one that doesn’t lend any real insight into the business itself.

It’s the work of Jack Curley, a major boxing and wrestling promoter of the late 19th and early 20th century, responsible for several of the style and rule changes that made pro wrestling more entertaining, and a key part of the original “wrestling trust”, a forerunner to the NWA. Fliescher was editor and creator of Ring Magazine, which originally covered wrestling as well as boxing.

The book is an instructional manual with details of how to apply holds and training exercises. It’s written at a time where the only real difference between pro and amateur rules was the three count (the rules listed here don’t mention submissions), so in practice it’s an amateur wrestling manual. There’s also a suggested menu, which sounds good to me: bacon for breakfast, lamb chops for lunch and steak for the evening meal!

There are plenty of illustrations, both drawings and photos of stars of the day such as Ed Lewis, Ray Steele and Jim Londos performing holds, both in posed demonstrations and match action shots. It’s probably the deepest collection of pics I’ve seen of the wrestlers of the between-the-war era.

The book originally came out in 1931 with a green cover, which is the one I had. A revised edition in 1935 (pictured) added a chapter about Frank Gotch’s favourite holds. If anyone has it, I’d be interested to know if this version repeats the original’s assertion that George Hackenschmidt was regarded as the greatest wrestler of the modern era, something not really compatible with the American legend of Gotch.

Unfortunately, unless you are a seriously hardcore collector or, like me, snatch a bargain on eBay, this is something of a stretch at its current going rate of $60.

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