Friday, 26 September 2008

Gorgeous George - Book Review

One of the things I love about the wrestling business is it’s history. I love reading stories from veterans of years gone by, and the re-visiting classic moments that I’ve viewed in my thirty years plus as a wrestling fan. However, I’ve always paid attention to the eras I remember, and never to those that came before I was born. Which means that I’ve never learned about the man who, with the aid of a little invention called television, became an American icon, and a man who has inspired countless others over the past sixty years.

John Capouya’s “Gorgeous George: The Outrageous Bad-Boy Wrestler Who Created American Pop Culture” allowed me to do this. For those of you who don’t know, George Wagner was the man who came from the proverbial humble beginnings, who made his professional wrestling debut in the 1930’s, and gradually morphed into the foppish, snobbish dandy Gorgeous George, a man made for television when that media was still in it’s infancy.

To say that this book is an interesting read would be a massive understatement. Bringing together stories from a vast range of sources, Capouya tells the story as if it happened yesterday, making you forget about the poverty of the Great Depression that the young Wagner boy grew up in. You forget that Wagner started his career at a time when professional wrestling was mainstream news, when the internet, television and DVDs didn’t exist to sooth the egos of those competing in the squared circle.

Every detail is here. Through the words we get to see how the normal good-looking baby face became the snobbish heel, a man in garish garb who looked down on everyone around him, and made people want to part with their money just so they could see the snot getting beaten out of him. There’s also numerous stories about his personal life, and the demons that ultimately caused his premature death.

But George’s influence spread even further than the professional wrestling business. The likes of Bob Dylan, James Brown, Muhammad Ali (one of my personal idols) and John Waters count the Gorgeous one as their inspiration, and it’s easy to see why, such was his effect.

In conclusion - if, like me, you have a keen interest in twentieth century history, and you’re a professional wrestling fan, then this is the book for you. It’s a hell of a read, and one of the best wrestling biographies I’ve ever read. And considering I’m a big fan of Mick Foley’s written word, that’s saying something.

For more information on the Gorgeous George book, visit

With thanks to Harper Collins for supplying a copy of this book.

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