Western Boxing & World Wrestling by John F Gilbey

May 22, 2019

One of those few titles that would reliably show up in book catalogue searches for “wrestling” a couple of decades ago, this holds little interest for pro wrestling fans today.

The book splits roughly in two into boxing and wrestling. Much of the latter half is taken up by the legitimate combat styles of places such as Japan, India and Turkey. Despite being written in 1986, the US and UK history is almost entirely about pre-war wrestling.

There are brief mentions of familiar names from the pro scene, but these are limited. For example, Bert Assirati is the only British wrestler of any kind mentioned after 1906 and it’s as good as implied that he was the only pro who ever wrestled for real, something that would no doubt be a surprise to the Wigan set among many others.

The US section is also far from comprehensive, with some detail on Gotch, Hackenschmidt and Stanislaus Zbyszko. It’s also of dubious accuracy, repeating a supposed claim by Zbyszko that the first ever worked bout was Ed Lewis dropping the world title to Gus Sonnenberg in 1928, a timeline that’s likely several decades out.

About the only section of interest even to keen historians of the pro game’s roots is the author’s accounts of his own time learning to shoot in Omaha gyms and then acting as a hustler against unsuspecting crews on the carnival circuit. It’s only a few pages and there’s not enough detail to know how much of it to believe.

Even now it’s readily available for rock-bottom prices, this is really one for the completist collector only.

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