Wrestling’s 101 Strangest Matches by Oliver Hurley

April 30, 2019

This is along the lines of similar books on unusual incidents in sports like football, cricket or golf, but being the outlandish world of pro wrestling there’s a lot more barbed wire and hypnotism.

The book is divided into loose sections covering the likes of doublecrosses, unusual locations, crazy stipulations and unpredictable events. Many, from the Funk-Lawler empty arena match to New Jack and Eric Kulas will be familiar to long-time fans, but you’d have to be a pretty dedicated fan to already know about every match covered here.

The pioneers section in particular doesn’t just cover the ‘obvious’ choices like Stecher and Lewis going five hours, but has some lesser-known incidents such as Gorgeous George escaping a ring in a rowing boat.

Pedantic readers might take issue with the occasionally stretched definition of “strange” with entries include Sid Vicious vs Nightstalker (listed solely for being awful) and Tom Magee vs Bret Hart (listed solely for appearing to be good) but these are interesting nonetheless.

In describing each bout in some detail, Hurley achieves a couple of impressive balances: adding levity without descending into snarkiness, and explaining things in a way that would illuminate even a non-wrestling fan without patronising a hardcore devotee.

The book is particularly well produced with creative use of photographs and graphics to brighten up what could otherwise be a repetitive set of one or two-page chapters.

How much you’ll learn form this book may vary, but it should prove entertaining revisiting even those incidents with which you are already familiar.

Disclaimer: I have known the author since the heyday of the British fanzine scene in the mid 1990s.

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