Sunday, 2 December 2007

Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling - Book Review

It’s the story about a powerful family-run business, with sibling in-fighting, extra marital affairs, power struggles, double crossing and death. But this isn’t a soap opera, it’s real life. It’s not the story of the Ewing family, it’s the story of one of the most well known families in professional wrestling history.
Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling is brought to us by Calgary Herald writer Heath McCoy, and tells the story of the first family of Canadian wrestling, the Harts. From the childhood of Stu Hart right up to the present day, it’s a compelling tale, a story about childhood hardships and overcoming life’s struggles both in and out of the wrestling ring, and if we didn’t know it was true, we’d probably think it was a work of fiction.
The story of the Hart family and their Stampede Wrestling promotion is a truly remarkable one. McCoy takes us through over fifty years of history, telling us how a small promotion in the Canadian prairies rose to national and international prominence, turning the Hart family into stars, and costing them dearly in the process.
No stone is left unturned in this book. Everything is covered. Older fans will be interested in reading about the stars of yesteryear. People of my age will be interested in hearing how the likes of Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid made their way from merry old England to Calgary in search of stardom. Everyone will be interested in reading about the premature deaths that shook the wrestling world, taking the likes of Davey Boy, Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, and more recently, Chris Benoit, from their adoring fans.
To put it bluntly, this is a great book. As someone who enjoys hearing old (and new) wrestling stories, I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the road stories from as far back as the 1950’s, including the famed “Mable” rib that many entering the Stampede territory fell foul of. I’m not going to tell you exactly what that involved. I don’t want to spoil the fun.
But while this book made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions, that laughter is also tinged with a great deal of sadness. Reading about the deaths of some of my all-time favourites made me realise just how hard this business I’ve watched for years has been on some people, and even now, the events surrounding the death of Owen Hart, and the effect it had on every member of the Hart family was hard to read.
I really can’t recommend this book enough. It’s both an heroic and tragic tale, one that you’ll want to return to again and again.
Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling by Heath McCoy, is published by ECW Press, and is available to buy online from

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