Allowing your family members to believe you are apart of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang or an American-hating Russian was common before the 80’s in Minnesota’s professional wrestling scene.
Long before Vince McMahon Jr. revealed to the world that professional wrestling was just entertainment, wrestling was viewed as a legit sport—family and friends went to their graves believing what their loved ones did inside the squared circle was completely real.
In George Schire’s Minnesota’s Golden Age of Wrestling: from Verne Gagne to the Road Warriors, Schire relives how wrestling became a popular hotspot in Minneapolis, starting back in 1933 and ending in early 1990’s. The book starts off covering the local shows in the area and the ones involving the National Wrestling Alliance until Gagne started up the American Wrestling Association. The majority of the book is on the AWA and the superstars that wrestled in it full-time or once in a while.
With what seems to be a lifetime of research and collecting photos or posters, Schire has compiled an in-depth timeline of events in Minnesota. He clearly explains in the introduction how he plans to explain it. Each era feels like a series of episodes with Schire detailing each major feud or upcoming featured attractions, such as the Lou Thez-Verve Gagne title rematch that is constantly avoided. The use of old wrestling newsletter headlines, side notes on almost every page and photos from each era, helps give a little extra insight on some matters that can be easily lost in a extensive timeline.
Following the collapse of the AWA, Schire focuses on individual stars and some of the tag teams that were highly regarded in Minnesota. The book’s greatest strength over McMahon’s The Spectacular Legacy of the American Wrestling Association DVD is how Schire gives details on all the AWA stars instead of just selective ones that benefit World Wrestling Entertainment. Featuring Stan Mayslack, Hans Schmidt and Moose Evans are just a few examples of how much more AWA superstars are in the book compared to the WWE DVD.
It may seem hard to tell when Schire is going along with storylines or if a real-life situation occurred. However, when The Crusher was out with an injury in 1969 he does admit that was a work and he admits when angles were changed due to a random death. His style of writing adds to the mystery of some angles and grudges that wrestlers still have kept to this day.
The lack of a section for an overall conclusion was the main disappointment. One would believe that there is no future for pro wrestling in Minnesota besides WWE. Although the Road Warriors are mentioned in the title they are nowhere nearly as mentioned as Gagne is in the book. One could argue about other tag teams or individuals that could have been mentioned at the end of the book, but Schire wanted that so readers would get interested and think about the many superstars that came out of Minnesota.
This type of wrestling history is truly needed in an age where the Internet is seen as all knowing and yet incomplete. The view from someone that lived through a good portion of Minnesota’s Golden Age and took the time to research it through makes this book a must for wrestling historians and long-time fans of AWA.
Minnesota’s Golden Age of Wrestling: from Verne Gagne to the Road Warriors
Written by George Schire
Published by The Minnesota Historical Society Press
Released in May 2010