The word “encyclopedia” isn’t mentioned anywhere in the title, but don’t let that fool you. Legends of Pro Wrestling is a wrestling encyclopedia, and a darn good one at that. There hasn’t been many attempts at a wrestling encyclopedia, and outside of the WWE produced one none have been a “must have” for anyone remotely interested in pro wrestling history. Legends of Pro Wrestling however is a must have book for hardcore wrestling fans that want to learn about the many wrestlers that have been around over the past 150 years.
The book starts off with the “pioneers, covering about 47 wrestlers from the period 1850 to 1920. Any true wrestling fan will already be familiar with a few of the wrestlers covered in this period: Frank Gotch, George Hackenschmidt, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Joe “Toots” Mondt, and Stanislaus Zbyszko. Not many of us would be familiar with a guy like Clarence Eklund though, despite the man winning 14 championships.
Legends of Pro Wrestling is that gateway into finding out about wrestlers that you either aren’t familiar with or didn’t know a lot about, plus all of your favorites of yesteryear and today. At over 550 pages, the book is jam packed with information making it a valuable reference tool for any fan.
There’s a photo for every wrestler profiled, and each has at least one paragraph written about their career (you’re not going to find any outside the ring stuff or gossip here). In addition, there’s a ton of information for every wrestler: birthday, weight, height, real name, parents (if second or more generation), different identities, wrestling family members, what branch of the military they were in, what years their career spanned, date of death, titles won, days as champion, movies appeared in, etc. The newer stars even have PPV records, WrestleMania records, and if in WWE their RAW and/or Smackdown record. Plus additional information depending on the wrestler.
Legends of Pro Wrestling breaks down the wrestlers into four sections: The Pioneers Blaze a Trail (1850-1920), Gimmicks and Ingenuity Rekindle Wrestling’s Popularity (1921-1950), Heroes and Villains Wage War in the Sacred Territories (1951-1975), and finally New Legends Are Born: From Hulking Up to the G.T.S. (1976 to present). There’s a lot of wrestlers covered in the 550 plus pages that span those time periods. Obviously not every wrestler has been included, which would be impossible to do, but I can’t see anyone digging through this and finding a relevant wrestler who wasn’t included.
What I appreciate most about Legends of Pro Wrestling is how it is a straight forward resource on the men and women who have competed inside the squared circle over the past 150 years. Tim Hornbaker doesn’t focus on promotions and doesn’t interject his opinion into anything (other than perhaps the inclusion of a “best opponents” for each wrestler profiled). It’s purely fact based and unbiased; Tim’s serving no agenda and has no promotional loyalty. On top of all that, the book is well organized and it’s easy to find who you’re looking for due to the list being in alphabetical order and by time period.
Having said that, I’m not quite sure why some wrestlers are listed under their real names while others are listed under their character names. For example, George Wagner is listed under Gorgeous George instead of Wagner, George. To more present times, Amy Dumas is listed under Lita, but Chyna is listed under Laurer, Joanie (even though she didn’t compete under that name and actually did have her name changed to Chyna). That’s nitpicking though; you’re not going to have any trouble quickly finding someone.
Visually, the book is nothing special, especially when compared to the WWE Encyclopedia (which isn’t a fair comparison at all). It’s paperback and everything is black and white, and for the most part it’s one wrestler per page. I hate to call such a massive and daunting undertaking “simple,” but visually the book is simple. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
The worst part of the book is the brief forward by Jimmy Snuka. But, when an essentially one page forward is the worst part of a book that’s over 550 pages you know you’ve done something right.
Legends of Pro Wrestling is an invaluable tool for every fan who is interested in the history of a wonderful industry and the men and women who have dedicated their lives to the industry and entertaining fans around the world. There have been many wrestling books put out over the years. Some are fantastic, some are okay, and some are horrible. This falls in the fantastic category for its value as a reference guide. It’s not a book you’re going to sit down and read from cover to cover and be done with it. It’s a book you’re going to skim and come back to time and time again.
Wrestling fans, this is definitely one book that belongs on your bookshelf. Do yourself a favor and pick it up today.
Legends of Pro Wrestling is currently available online and in book stores everywhere.
Legends of Pro Wrestling gets a four out of give: GREAT.
* A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.