Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling by Heath McCoy

August 14, 2019

This is about as a close to a must-read wrestling book as is possible in something dealing with a niche topic.

Most wrestling histories fall into one of two traps: they have solid research delivered in a dry, academic manner; or they are full of engaging stories but don’t give a complete picture and context. McCoy is one of the rare authors who manages to pull off a book that tells a story in a comprehensive, authoritative and highly readable manner.

Based on more than sixty interviews in addition to secondary sources, the book sticks close to the narrative of the history of the Stampede promotion but doesn’t ignore its wider effects on wrestling history as a whole. It pulls off the right balance of dealing with the way the story of Stampede is so closely intertwined with the personal triumphs and tragedies of the Hart family, as well as addressing the final days of Chris Benoit in an appropriate level of detail.

Another impressive element is that McCoy’s writing style uses literary flourish to add flavor and humanity to the storytelling, keeping it from being a dry recollection of facts, but without losing the book’s sense of authority.

The book is packed with account of specific incidents, be they in-ring, behind the scenes or part of the territory’s gruelling road schedule, but they always exist to illustrate a wider point. Unlike many history books, it never feels as if McCoy has included a fact or anecdote simply to avoid a piece of research having been a”wasted” effort.

Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to Pain and Passion is that although the careers of Stu, Bret and Owen Hart and the Dynamite Kid have all been covered in excellent books, this title still feels fresh and never redundant.

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One Comment

  • AW September 15, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    I stumbled upon this book at a now-closed used book store last year in St. George, UT and I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. I was pleasantly surprised at how informative and comprehensive it was without ever being repetitive or laborious to read. It was book that I never went looking for, yet am glad that I found. I consider it to be among the best pro wrestling books ever written in general, and the best book about the history of a territory.