Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

National Wrestling Alliance by Tim Hornbaker

nwaThis is a great historical study that was sorely in need of an editor.

Covering the history of the Alliance — and by default the US wrestling business as a whole — from its origins in the 1940s  through to the 1970s, with some brief coverage of later events, what really stands out here is the detail. Hornbaker has clearly worked tirelessly to track down documentary evidence rather than rely on the opinions and memories of those involved.

Key to the book is the consent decree, a 1956 agreement between the NWA and the Department of Justice that was designed to settle allegations that the group acted as an unlawful cartel. The files relating to this agreement were made partially public following legal action by Jim Wilson for the book Chokehold, but Hornbaker was able to get access to thousands more pages through freedom of information laws. This allows him to cover the activities of the various promotion in extensive detail.

The downside is that the sheer level of detail is overwhelming and leads to a dry narrative at times. It appears Hornbaker has fallen into the trap (with which I can personally sympathise) of being reluctant to leave out any of the detail he has worked so hard to acquire and verify. The most striking example of this is in the initial references to some of the key players in the formation of the NWA where we often get the birth and death dates, names and even maiden names not just of the wrestling figures but of their parents and siblings.

This criticism is not meant to undermine what is otherwise an excellent book that is well worth reading for anyone with an interest in history; just be aware that it can be hard going at times. It’s also fair to point out that in his second book, looking at the history of the (W)WWF, Hornbaker greatly refines and focuses his approach. (We’ll have a full review of that in the next couple of weeks.)

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