The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels by Greg Oliver & Steve Johnson

March 8, 2022

To misquote Donald Rumsfeld, most books of this type tell you things you didn’t know about wrestlers you know. This one tells you things you didn’t know about wrestlers you didn’t know.

In comparison to the first two volumes of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series, this is something of a mixed bag. The main limitation is that many wrestlers were either covered in depth their role as a Canadian or a tag team member, or were better suited to a book on babyfaces (which indeed followed this one.)

Such wrestlers are either left out of this book altogether or given only a brief coverage here. In particular, some of the profiles of wrestlers from the 21st century feel both too short and padded out with quotes reused from third-party interviews. While the publishers may have preferred more recognisable names, covering a narrower range of wrestlers in more depth would have improved the book overall.

It’s the older eras that make the book, however. The heels of the territorial era are covered with the familiar detail of this series, complete with insightful interviews with the wrestlers and their peers.

The highlight is certainly the sections on undersung villains of the pre-war and early TV eras, with little-known names like Ted “King King Cox”, Dick Daviscourt and K.O. Koverly brought to life. Telling these stories wasn’t without its challenges though: the source material is often newspaper reports that presented the villainy from a legitimate sports reporting perspective, rather than examining the performative role of working a crowd. However, in many cases the profiles include accounts from the wrestler’s descendants, sharing memories and family lore.

It all combines to make a collection that is less of a must-read than previous instalments in the series, but still worthy of your time if you have any interest in the pioneers of the business.

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