Wrestling at the Chase: The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling by Larry Matysik

May 10, 2019

Every wrestling fan should read at least one of Larry Matysik’s books about St Louis wrestling. If you’re only going to read one, this is probably the best bet.

As well as books on the 50 greatest wrestlers of all time (with a definite St Louis flavour) and Bruiser Brody, Matysik has written three books specifically on St Louis. At one extreme is From the Golden Era: The St Louis Wrestling Record Book, an e-book which is no longer available to buy but occasionally shows up through less official distribution channels. It’s literally a list of full show reports and crowd figures, with a running commentary by Matysik on what did and didn’t work at the box office.

At the other extreme is Drawing Heat the Hardway: How Wrestling Really Works, which is much more of a general look at the distinct St Louis booking philosophy and how it contrasted with the WWF approach.

Wrestling at the Chase falls between the two. It’s a historical account of St Louis during the Sam Muchnick era, but jumps about thematically rather than being a strict chronology. Rather than try to document every event, Matysik uses them as examples to illustrate wider points about how the territory operated and Muchnick’s approach both to booking (mainly clean wins, little interference, building up challengers in a sports-like way) and business (paying bills promptly, giving wrestlers a clear and honest breakdown of the gate and their payoffs.)

Those who prefer a clear focus may find the book a little too scattergun: it will go off-topic for a couple of pages to address, for example, the career of Bulldog Bob Brown. It may also frustrate some readers in the way Muchnick never questions whether the St Louis approach was always right, or if it would have worked in every territory for every audience.

Those quibbles aside, it’s still well worth a look, particularly for fans wanting an introduction to St Louis or to the territorial era in general.
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  • AW September 16, 2019 at 3:06 am

    Another I intended to get, though at the time, there were other books I wanted first, and I didn’t like some of the pricing options at the various online bookstores I shop through. Just checked it out again on Amazon and it looks like it’s become more available and the prices aren’t as steep (last year, most places wanted 25 dollars for a used copy, not including shipping). I’ll eventually check it out, because it looked like the type of wrestling book that’s right up my alley, and I’ve heard nothing but good things regarding Matysik’s books, though like you said, out of all his books, this one is the best bet, which is the conclusion I came to when it piqued my interest initially.

  • AW November 23, 2019 at 1:49 am

    I ordered this one, along with “Queen of the Ring” and “Mad Dogs, Midgets, and Screw Jobs”, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, although I will re-read certain chapters as opposed to the entire book. I did find it to be “scattergun” as you said in your review, but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment. I got the impression that this was more of a primer for casual fans unfamiliar with St. Louis wrestling, rather than an in-depth history of what was for four decades the holy land of pro wrestling; if you could make it there, you could make it anywhere.
    It is a book worth owning, especially if you’re a nut for NWA wrestling that isn’t focused solely on the Mid-Atlantic and deep south territories (Georgia, Florida, etc.) that could be beyond hokey. St. Louis fans expected a higher caliber of wrestling, and treated it with respect.
    I was disappointed to learn of Larry’s death last year after reading this book and going online to familiarize myself more with him. He was certainly a class act.