Pile Driver by Kenneth R Boness

October 23, 2019

It is truly wonderful that a book such as this could be written and published. But it would be unfair to say everyone needs to read it.

Pile Driver is a biography of 1920s and 30s wrestler Charles “Midget” Fischer, a grappler who stood 5’3″ and thus mainly competed in lower weight divisions, claiming versions of both the world light-heavyweight and middleweight titles. While not as widely known as the heavyweights of the era, he has a historical claim to fame by reportedly creating what we now know as the piledriver in a 1931 bout.

Author Kenneth R Boness, who hails from the same tiny Wisconsin village of Butternet as Fischer, clearly put an immense effort into researching the book. Running more than 700 pages, it’s largely based on newspaper reports of the time, many of which are reprinted in full.

This brings the benefit that the book is utterly comprehensive about Fischer’s in-ring career and elements of his personal life. The downside is that, by his own admission, Boness decided it was simplest to tell the “straight” story rather than address the issue of whether and (more realistically) how Fischer was involved in working finishes and programs.

The focus of the book is both its greatest strength and weakness depending on your viewpoint. If the idea of 700 pages on a lesser-known figure of the pre-war era appeals, you’ll find much to love in Pile Driver. But unless you have a hardcore interest in this aspect of wrestling history, you’re likely to find it hard going.

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One Comment

  • Jason Presley October 23, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    I loved this book. As I’ve been researching a lot of the middleweight wrestling activity as I researched Chris Jordan for my Alabama book, I would run across Midget Fischer’s name a bit in Jordan’s later years. There were effectively four (or more) different branches of the “middleweight championship” in the 1910s-1920s, the Joe Turner title as recognized by the Police Gazette, the Mike Yokel/Chris Jordan line based on a Yokel victory over Turner (Yokel was overweight for the match, so the Police Gazette didn’t recognize the change), Johnny Meyers’ title that was rarely defended outside of Chicago and the Fischer’s title that he claimed basically because the “recognized” champs wouldn’t face him and he had beaten everyone else.

    Fischer was by all accounts a formidable wrestler, but until the mid-1930s, he operated almost entirely independent of the various local trusts, so wasn’t really accepted in to the usual circuits. As a result, like Jordan and Ketonen, Fischer was a traveling champion, defending “his” title against anyone.

    When interviewing David Buresh, the son of Stanley Buresh, another prominent light heavyweight in the Great Lakes area, he mentioned Fischer as one of the only wrestlers his parents had no good words for. I asked why, but he didn’t have any details. From the book, and follow-up newspaper research, I couldn’t find where they had faced each other more than a few times, but David got the impression that maybe Fischer took his wrestling a bit more serious than most everyone else.