The Magnificent Scufflers by Charles Wilson

June 20, 2019

This is strictly one for the collector or for the more avid historian.

It’s a history of the early years of what would eventually become pro (rather than Olympic style) wrestling in the US, with most of the book covering the period from the civil war to late 19th century. The main focus is on collar and elbow wrestling, so named because of the mandatory start of each bout in such a grip.

Only the brief penultimate chapter covers what we’d recognise today as professional wrestling, specifically an activity where worked finishes and cooperation are the point rather than an aberration. There’s not much in the way of new information here, with alarm bells being set off by George Hackenschmidt’s most famous opponent referred to at one point as “Frank Goetz.” And even writing in 1959, Morrow seems baffled by the idea of how “faking” wrestling could even work, let along why one would do it.

If you need to have every wrestling book going, or you have a particular interest in the collar-and-elbow era, this is worth a read, but otherwise it’s very much the type of book that only really appealed back in the days when a wrestling title was so rare as to be a must-buy.

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