‘The Squared Circle’ Triumphantly Tells Touching Tales of Tragedy

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In the world of pantomime violence, buxom beauties, and smooth talking muscle heads, execution is paramount; not just in what you do, but in what you say also. The best wrestlers are the ones that make all they do seem effortless, but even that doesn’t guarantee success.

Several factors are at play in determining a wrestler’s destiny, not least of which is remarkability. The tried and true method of fully embodying the gimmick one plays inside the ring is nothing, if not dangerous – often times leading to a shortened career and an early demise. Over the past one hundred plus years, wrestling fans have seen this story play out repeatedly and now is their chance to get the nitty-gritty on the fallen heroes of yesterday thanks to David Shoemaker’s ‘The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling.’

From The Press Release:

“A dead wrestler is more than just a sports hero or TV character. He (or she) is a demi-god, a cultural icon. And these modern mythological characters have had a wider impact on our culture than one would imagine. Film, politics, and modern folk-lore stem from their bravado. …the fans of wrestling are numerous, culturally relevant, and profoundly interested in those iconic figures who have moved onto the big WrestleMania in the sky — and how they shaped the minds of generations.”

The Masked Man” waxes poetic (read: breaks kayfabe eloquently) about the history of the business and its causalities over 371 pages in ‘The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling.’ Thanks to him and my friends at Gotham Books, I received an advance copy for review. I laughed. I cried. I took notes.

Anyone who enjoys intelligent sports writing has visited DeadSpin.com and has more than likely stumbled across (if not sought for outright) the popular column Dead Wrestler of the Week. If you’ve been keeping up with it over the years, you’ll come across a few retreads (Crush, Miss Elizabeth, Yokozuna, and Macho Man to name a few), but you’ll also discover new stories (or at least have the rest of the story) about the Von Erich family, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, and Chris Benoit.

Yes, David Shoemaker dares to mention the legendary Chris “The Crippler” Benoit in a book about WWE and pro wrestling in general. How’s that for a swerve? And if you’re not down with that, I’ve got two words for ya’…

I was born in the WrestleMania Era, grew up during the Modern Era, and fell out of love with the spectacle in the Reality Era of professional wrestling. Truth be told, I’m a smark and proud of it. As the built-in audience the author had in mind when putting together this collection of essays about sports entertainment’s closetful of skeletons, I found it remarkable that someone could write so beautifully about something so seemingly, well… not. Shoemaker’s nostalgia and passion cover every page and deliver a powerful finisher when it’s “time to go home.”

Keep the Thesaurus app on your phone handy when you’re reading ‘The Squared Circle’ though. If you don’t, you might be left scratching your head if not skipping entire sentences altogether. Not to worry, though, you’ll get the gist of it and bounce right back off the ropes and into the next chapter in no time. “TSC” is filled with high-spots and will easily become a babyface in the Sports section of both brick-and-mortar bookstores as well as Amazon.com.

In writing, as in pantomime violence, execution is paramount. While there may only be one “Hitman,” Shoemaker is the “Excellence of Execution.” His enlightened, thoughtful, potato-ing (read: hard-hitting) approach to the tragic world of professional wrestling is a refreshing and welcome addition to any fan’s bookshelf.

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