I bought this book as soon as it came out, because I was so glad to see that someone had written a history of Stampede Wrestling. I know Heath McCoy's work from when I get to see the Calgary Herald, and I really enjoy his writing.
Heath talks in his introduction about how important Stampede Wrestling was to kids who lived on the Prairies, like him. For myself, growing up on the West Coast, wrestling wasn't something that girls were interested in at all, but I remember how much the boys I went to school with liked the Stampede Wrestling and All-Star Wrestling TV shows. I agree with him that Stampede Wrestling was something special simply because it *didn't* come from Toronto or Montreal (or Vancouver), which was really a novelty in those days, and made people feel like their part of the world was important too.
Stampede Wrestling has a complicated history, and I thought that Heath did an excellent job of following it through without getting sidetracked or distracted. There are also parts of the story that are really sensitive and/or that have multiple perspectives, which don't always agree. I was very impressed that he was careful to be even-handed and to give equal time to everyone's version of events, even when those versions were wildly different from each other or even contradicted each other.
And it was great to see someone using the resource of the Hart family archives from the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. I had the opportunity to look through a very small part of this material a few years ago, when I was at the Glenbow Archives and was supposed to be working on something else! I'm guessing it's pretty rare for so much material about the history of a wrestling organization to be saved, much less to be saved in one place, and so I'm glad Heath was able to use the material, especially Bob Leonard's great photographs.
I really enjoyed this book, and it's good to see this piece of Canadian history has been recorded and preserved.
“There was a magic with Stampede especially when you are from here. Before I came to Calgary I never got Ed Whalen’s announcing. One I lived here and realized who he was and what he meant to this City it all just came together. Much like Joey Styles was the Voice of ECW, Ed Whalen was the voice of Stampede and Stampede Wrestling was the wrestling that mattered to Western Canadians.”Lance
I wasn't sure if I'd like this because I didn't know much about Stampede before hand. But, I enjoyed the book, the changing of the times, the changing of the wrestling business and how people coped with these changes was interesting. Some of the characters were interesting and some worrying. I found Stu's stretching of teenage boys disturbing; taking pleasure from hurting unsuspecting boys seemed like the actions of a bully or sadist. Dynamite Kid was a character that I didn't particularly like, the pranks were OTT, drugging someone’s beer or feeding them laxatives is not humorous to me.
Overall I found the book a bit 'dark' and ordinarily I would prefer a lighter read with a little humour (like Jericho's book) when reading a fact-based book, but it was still an interesting read. I suppose if I had been familiar with the subject matter before hand I may have found it more compelling.
“I think Stu likely was a bully and even a sadist on some level. I think that is why Heath included Stu’s history in the book. I think very hard times produce very hard men, and those men aren’t likable all the time. Thankfully I was exposed to the more dark side of the Dynamite Kid slowly, because I was a HUGE fan of his as a kid, and it likely would have been hard to find out what he was truly like all at once. Be it the drugs, or the small man’s complex, he has become one of the most unlikable people in the history of the business, and I think Stampede would have been a far more pleasant territory without him. Unfortunately it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful either.”Lance
I thank Heath McCoy for writing “Pain and Passion” and taking a Stampede wrestling fan behind the curtains of this legendary promotion. I only occasionally watched Stampede Wrestling in the late 70’s but got more into it in the early 80’s, the same time the WWF was all the rage. In Vancouver, Stampede aired right after WWF’s Maple Leaf wrestling, which allowed me to see the contrasts in production and style that McCoy wrote about. Although much lower in production value, I found Stampede offered much more compelling performances as even their “squash matches” were usually more competitive than their WWF counterparts. It was in Stampede where I saw my first “crimson mask”, ladder match, strap match, fire-ball to the face and regular use of weapons. I often wondered, did Paul Heyman ever have a chance to watch Stampede and did Stampede influence the future ECW?
I was mesmerized by the high-flying antics of Pillman, Owen Hart, Benoit and Dynamite Kid. At the time, it was rumored that the Blue Blazer was Owen. I found it hard to believe because the Owen I saw in the WWF was a neutered version of the one in Stampede. As a kid, it troubled me that a wrestler of his caliber would end up losing so much in the WWF. I began to suspect that the amount of talent that a wrestler had did not necessarily guarantee success in the WWF.... there must have been something holding him back... and thanks to McCoy, some of those reasons are now revealed. I think McCoy’s book serves as a cautionary tale that all aspiring pro-wrestlers should read prior to entering the industry. It warns against the excesses of wealth and fame and the hard-partying lifestyle. I was dismayed to learn that many of the stars I once idolized ended up broken and/or destitute. In particular, Olympian Bad News Allen, who had such a storied life ending up as a gas jockey demonstrates the importance of preparing for a life after wrestling.
I would like to ask McCoy some questions:
1. Did editors/publishers give you any direction on how to write this book (i.e. to portray Stampede Wrestling in a certain light) or did the book write itself based on the interviews?
2. I appreciate that you interviewed so many different people and your account of Stampede seems to corroborate with other people’s accounts of Stampede (i.e. Bret Hart’s autobiography). Has anyone challenged the accuracy of your book? If so, what aspects?
“When you mentioned watching Stampede in the 80’s it brought back a lot of memories. I was a wrestling fan later in life (my teens) and watched AWA or WWF, and really couldn’t’ stomach watching low end Indy shows. When I first got Stampede Wrestling on TSN it was the only Indy wrestling show I liked and it was largely based on the high level of athleticism that it featured. I think a lot of Paul’s influence for ECW was more FMW from Japan.”Lance
I found this book interesting but just not my kind of book. I am not a fan of biographical books (there seemed to be a lot of anecdotal stories that may or may not have been enhanced over time). I was interested in the Dynamite Kid stories as I always wondered what happened to him (he was one of my favorites). I remembered watching Bulldog matches in my teens and it seemed like all of a sudden he was not wrestling much in the tag matches and then a few months later the team was gone. The type of book that I do like just came in the mail today and I have read the first 50 pages already-Repairman Jack's "By The Sword" and it is already awesome (Lance, have you gotten your copy yet?).
“I’m just about finished By the Sword and it is awesome. If anyone else is interested the Repairman Jack series is written by F. Paul Wilson, and the first book in the series if ‘The Tomb’ (I believe It was also re-released under the name ‘The Rakoshi’) it’s awesome and Jack actually wears a WWE Lance Storm T-Shirt in book #7 ‘Gateways’”Lance
This was an awesome book! As someone who reads as many books about wrestling behind the scenes; I have never read a books so well researched with behind the scenes information; stories and the outcome of many of the major players of the time. I went into this reading not knowing anything of Calgary wrestling other than Stampede had been a big deal once - but this book gave me an insight that is beyond many things all the other books I have read have given me.
The main thing I took from this story (besides the many wrestlers that came into being from Stampede) was the stories of Stu growing up on the prairies sleeping in a tent! Not only was I wildly impressed of the toughness of yesteryear; I did not realize Canada was jut settled completely in the past millennium. It was a reality check to remember that there was a time when the worst thing that could happen to you in day to day living WASN'T just to be late to work. The many stories of the wrestlers tragedy over time (especially Dynamite; a key cog in the book) were heart wrenching but very common through every wrestling book I have ever read. I was very impressed with the level of honesty these tales were given with and it is nice to see both sides of the story given.
The other thing I kept thinking throughout this book were how similar alot of these stories were to ECW and the things I have read (and seen) from that Phoenix in it's time. From the checks that weren't always assured to the cult following to rise and eventual fall to the rebirth of the organization in a later form - the similarities were there.
The only thing I felt was mising was that Chris Benoit early year were left out but the ultimate demise was included. A small sacrifice when paired with everything else presented. I thank you for recommending this book and Heath for writing it. If Heath would consider a book on ECW; I would like to preorder now....
I jut bought Bret Hart's autobiography, so I guess it's all Calgary for me.....
“I doubt Heath would be interested in doing an ECW book. I think being a fan of Stampede gave him a good background base to write the book and obviously living here gave him access to most of the people he needed to interview.”Lance