Theater in a Squared Circle by Jeff Archer

June 3, 2019

This is the type of book that would likely only have been made at a specific time (in this case, January 1999.) It’s far enough into boom period that the author was able to find a publisher for a 446 page wrestling book, but still early enough that it can keep a very general approach rather than having to cover a single particular niche.

There’s a curious theater-style Acts and Scenes structure to tie in with the title, but in effect this is a collection of interesting diversions into some elements of the wrestling industry that don’t get a lot of coverage.

The first section briefly covers the evolution of wrestling from ancient sport to modern entertainment, then explores why wrestling appeals as a form of theater, and the way only a proportion of the public “gets” its appeal.

Section two looks at some of the people involved in wrestling beyond the major stars. This breaks down into five chapters, each profiling and interviewing a range of individuals: “journeymen” (ie jobbers); newsletter writers; artists; professional journalists; and unsung heroes (mainly trainers.)

The final section has lengthy profiles of the Honky Tonk Man, “Genius” Lanny Poffo, Killer Kowalski, Bob Backlund and the then-recently deceased Louie Spicollo, the first three of whom are interviewed. The profiles are as much about their lives and experiences outside the ring as their pro wrestling work.

Altogether the book makes for an intriguing “selection box” of content, covering topics which wouldn’t necessarily make for a full book in themselves, but still justify their inclusion. It’s well worth a look given its low price, both in new and used form.

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