I read this book when it first came out so the version I read did not have the expanded update covering Nattie making it to WWE or the added portion covering the Benoit tragedy. I have the updated version but I hadn’t actually read the new copy and to be honest didn’t even know it had been revised from the original print.
Living in Calgary like I do and being a product of the Calgary wrestling scene this book was pretty much mandatory reading in my mind. I went out and bought the book as soon as I heard about it and read it immediately. As I’ve stated many times I don’t read many wrestling books; I avoid them because like most things in wrestling there ends up being far more work than shoot when it comes to content, so I don’t see the point. The fact that Pain and Passion was written by an outside third party I had hopes that it would be the exact opposite, and thankfully it very much was.
I loved this book so much that after finishing it I immediately called Danny Davis (Owner of OVW) who had worked for Stampede, back in the day, and asked him if he’s had a chance to read it. Danny and I became good friends during my time in OVW and I knew he would love this book. The book wasn’t available in the US at the time so I sent Danny my copy to read, and bought another copy to keep. I later spoke to Chris Benoit, who also wanted the book so I once again shipped off my copy of the book. Some time after this I ended up in touch with Heath McCoy who I think had read on my site that I loved his book. He was in the process of getting the book reprinted and asked if I could offer a quote for the new cover. I did so, and he told me he would send me a copy of the new book once it was out, which is how I ended up with the new version that I’ve never actually read. I will have to make a point of going back and reading the revised edition.
Being a product of the Hart family training program and breaking into wrestling here in Calgary I have heard endless Stampede Wrestling stories. I was really hoping this book would be able to tie all those great stories together with the history and facts of the promotion to give me a true feel on what this infamous territory was really like. Stampede Wrestling shut down the December before I moved to Calgary to train with the Harts, so I missed the chance for true first hand knowledge of the territory so this was my chance to find out the facts and see if all these crazy stories were true.
I don’t think there was a single story I had heard over the years that Pain and Passion did not support. Based on all of my second hand knowledge and everyone I’ve worked with or talked to who was there, Pain and Passion is a completely honest and accurate account of the History of Stampede Wrestling. Heath did an amazing job of researching this book and presenting an amazingly unbiased version of the events. Getting to sit down and talk with Heath on a number of occasions since I’ve noticed he does has some strong biased personal opinions of a few people in the book yet he managed to hide them well and remain impartial for the book and I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.
The story itself, while very excellent, was a bit of a downer. The Story of the Hart family and Stampede Wrestling is a very tragic one. There is almost no one in the book that doesn’t either have a dark side or suffer a personal tragedy or two. I think in a lot of ways the original Stampede Wrestling territory was the most brutal and difficult territory in the businesses history. While Minnesota’s AWA would have had similar winters, the spread out geography of Canada made for much longer road trips which when combined with the harsh winters, made for a completely hellish schedule.
I remember Johnny Smith telling me a story once about how during a drive back from Edmonton to Calgary that the weather got so bad they could no longer see the road in the snow and they had to take turns walking in front of the van kicking the snow of the yellow center line of the highway so they could tell where they were going. When you combine that kind of travel stress with the constant mean spirited ribbing of guys like the Dynamite kid, and the more physical style of Stampede Wrestling, it’s no wonder so many people from that era ended up with drug problems. It’s actually quite frightening when you look at the “death lists” of wrestlers who have died young, how many of them worked in Stampede Wrestling.
I think the only family and territory that even holds a candle to the Harts and Stampede for hardships and tragedy was the Von Erick’s and World Class Championship Wrestling, but even with that, Fritz Von Erick was to some extent a product of Stampede Wrestling also.
We’ve all heard about the Passion and how Stampede Wrestling produced so many great workers; Bret and Owen Hart, The British Bulldogs, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, to name just a few. How it introduced fast pace highflying wrestling to North America and helped revolutionize the business in so many positive ways. What we hadn’t heard before was the cost of doing what it did; the Pain suffered to achieve what it did and the toll it took on so many people. Pain and Passion was the perfect title for the History of Stampede Wrestling, and I think Heath McCoy did an amazing job of showing both sides of Stampede Wrestling, it’s Pain and it’s Passion.