One of pro wrestling’s biggest stars tells it like it was, with an obscene amount of detail.
Few are better qualified than Hart to relate the story of how a family-friendly, locally oriented sport run by curmudgeonly promoters was steamrollered by the Hulk Hogan–fueled WWF marketing machine. Likely the most popular wrestler to ever come from Canada, the author grew up in Calgary, one of many sons of wrestling promoter Stu Hart, whose televised bouts were staples for decades. The Hart family basement passed into legend as “the dungeon,” a place where Stu put top wrestlers through his grueling moves. The author’s loving depiction of his cranky, painfully honest, perpetually broke father is a high point of this bloated memoir. Hart also vividly depicts the threadbare but thrilling family business he grew up in, with its road trips in crowded vans, meager pay, clownish ring antics and solid sense of brotherhood. But in 1983, hungry New York promoter Vince McMahon Jr. started televising his matches in other promoters’ territories, necessitating a 1983 gathering in Las Vegas that Hart compares to “a meeting of Mafia dons protecting their turf.” With the coming of the louder, meaner WWF, he laments, “something uniquely vaudevillian was lost forever.” Nonetheless, it was only after Hart joined McMahon that he became an international star. McMahon’s steroid-pumped musclemen were often not even wrestlers, the author admits, but since it was the only game in town he soldiered on, reaping millions in the process. Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of the text focuses on Hart’s fights with the untrustworthy McMahon and squabbles with siblings, rendering much of the book a tiresome bore.
Excessive score settling smothers a pungent account of wrestling’s changing of the guard.