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The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling Hardcover – October 31, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (October 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592407676
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592407675
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With the loyalty of a devoted Wrestlemania fan determined to keep the sport respectable, Shoemaker, a book designer at Henry Holt and longtime wrestling scribe, establishes the tie between the amateur grapplers in the old sideshows and carnivals to the muscled studs of the current professional contests performing for sell-out crowds. Shoemaker is at his best when telling comic anecdotes about the colorful characters of the sport: Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, Vince McMahon, Gorgeous George, Sylvester The Junkyard Dog Ritter, Ed The Sheik Furhat, The Funk Brothers, Kamala the Ugandan Giant, Abdullah the Butcher, the Von Erich clan, the Fabulous Moolah, and the Chiefs Wahoo McDaniels and Jay Strongbow. He explains how the Old School rules worked during the Jim Crow days when black wrestlers could not battle with whites. Fans will recognize some of the biggest names of the staged spectacles in this lively, informed survey: Captain Lou Albano, Macho Man Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, and the shapely Miss Elizabeth. (Nov.)

From Booklist

Professional wrestling is not a competition, at least not in the ring. The wrestlers know it, the promoters know it, and the fans absolutely know it. Everybody’s in on the joke, but the sport is no less a significant part of pop culture (and the competition outside the ring among promoters and cable networks is ferocious). Shoemaker navigates wrestling’s history from the turn of the late 1800s, when it was often a carnival sideshow. Later it became a regional endeavor, and still later it became a staple of the nascent television industry, where wrestling’s first stars were created. Shoemaker writes with a sly, understated wit, which is probably the best style with which to convey the “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” relationship the spectacle has with its fans. Adventurous readers, indifferent to wrestling though they may be, will find this a fun look inside an alternate universe. Fans, of course, will be whacking each other over the head with fake metal folding chairs to get their mitts on a copy. --Wes Lukowsky

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Customer Reviews

Great stories and history of stars that left the sport too soon.
Amazon Customer
I had some issues with the kindle version (example-sometimes the footnotes would not go back to original page), but dealt with it without much frustration.
Jason Eifling
I've been reading Shoemaker's pieces on Grantland and was excited to hear about this book.
Francois Jimenez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Mendelson on October 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I received a review copy of this book just before it hit shelves. I'm glad I did because this is the best book on professional wrestling that I've read that wasn't written by one of the wrestlers.

(As an aside: Chris Jericho and Mick Foley's books are required reading for fans of the sports entertainment spectacle.)

I've been following David's work on Deadspin, and now ESPN's Grantland, for many years. I don't always agree with him. In fact, when he mentions that the current era of the WWE product is in what he calls "The Reality Era", I get a little crazy because I don't agree at all. But regardless, he's a tremendous writer and that's something that's lacking on the Web when it comes to the folks who cover professional wrestling with any regularity. (There's one other exception: Brandon Stroud at UPROXX's With Leather. Everything else is garbage.) He's also honest, fair, and even if you or I don't agree with his points, they're well argued and credible.

So if you've been following David's work for a long time, some of the stuff in this book isn't exactly new territory. Not that you'll mind reading it again because it's wonderfully written, but if some of it sounds familiar, there's a reason. I suspect though, just from my own experience having a book published, that the vast majority of folks who pick up this book are not going to be familiar with David's excellent "Dead Wrestler of the Week" Deadspin column or the current Grantland column. So for a lot of you who are going to read this book, you'll be pleasantly surprised, entertained, and informed while discovering what many of us on the Internet have been saying about David's work for many years now.

This book will make an excellent Christmas and Holiday gift for fans of professional wrestling, and I hope to see a new book on this front in the future from David.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. Rushing on November 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fantastic book about the history of professional wrestling in the United States. Told in helpful timeline form, this book provided stories and information that I did not know before, and I'd always considered myself a bit of a nerd when it came to wrestling facts. A tremendous read. I found that I could not put it down. Well worth the purchase if you're a wrestling nerd or even a casual fan that wants to know more about how we got to where we are. Highly recommended!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Richard H. Thomas on November 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is an impressive book and worth buying. I would tell any wrestling fan it is worth reading. I am not talking about just current wrestling fans, anyone who has ever been a wrestling fan will enjoy it. Even if you have not watched a match since Wrestlmania V or the last Monday Night Nitro, part of this book will speak to you.

The book is an enjoyable read. I had an easy time getting into it. I read it on my kindle, mostly on my lunch break. The chapters are the right length where I could finish a chapter or start over if I needed to get back to work.

Each chapter is the story of a different wrestler. The roots of the book was Shoemakers Dead Wrestler of the Week column he started at Deadspin. He tells the story of pro-wrestling by framing the stories around the dead wrestlers. He does not focus on how wrestlers died, but how they lived. He frames many of the great stories of wrestling this way.

He starts the book with the History of Wrestling. He tries to figure out the point where wrestling went from a competitive sport to a "worked" sport that we have today. This gives him a way to introduce many of the tropes of wrestling. This was the least interesting part of the book to me, but I can see why he had to include it. You could tell he did research on this part of the book, but only about 10% of it was new to me.

The most interesting stories were about the wrestlers I watched first hand. Reading about Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, and Road Warrior Hawk put a smile on my face. It made me feel like I was celebrating their lives. It is odd to read about them now because I am older then they were when I started watching them wrestle.

It is the stories like Curt Hennig that make me sad.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. Veeraraghavan on November 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a wrestling fan, it can be difficult to find intelligent wrestling commentary. I became familiar with The Masked Man, aka David Shoemaker, mainly through his work at Grantland, and have always found him to be an interesting and thought provoking read on the subject.

There is a lot of interesting history and stories in the book. However, I think it suffers from the format. Chapters focus on a particular wrestler, similar to his Dead Wrestler of the Week columns, but as a result, there's a lot of repeated material as the histories of various wrestlers intersect. This is fine for columns that stand by themselves, but in a book, it becomes off-putting. Since it's all told from a third party perspective, there isn't much gained from hearing the same story in a different context.

I think, to some degree, the book would be improved if it cut the number of wrestlers it focused on, and went longer form on a small number. Andre the Giant may be the last person who is as much legend as reality. People spinning yarns about Andre the Giant is probably a very good book unto itself, but here he's just the guy between Junkyard Dog and Lou Albano (that's a little unfair: Andre is never "just the guy" to a wrestling fan and Shoemaker is no different. But it illustrates the point). I don't mean to say either in particular should have been cut, but I don't think thought was given to the fact including more wrestlers implicitly cut the attention given to any individual.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would be eager to have more by Shoemaker. I'm somewhat critical only because there is so little quality content on the subject, and I know what he's capable of delivering. Any wrestling fan should definitely pick this one up.
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