Crowbar Press

Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce


Paperback: 68 pages

Dimensions: 8 x 11

Publisher: Crowbar Press

Item #: rrp01

Price: $25.00

Rasslin' Reprints

TEMPORARILY OUT OF PRINT — To be reprinted in the future in a new format!

There are very few original copies of "Fall Guys" still in existence.  Original editions are highly sought after and prized by book collectors, so if you were lucky enough to stumble on one, it would cost upwards of $100.  We feel that books like this are a "must" for every wrestling fan's library, yet the scarcity of copies put them out of the reach of all but a few collectors.  With this in mind, this reprint of "Fall Guys" is just the first in a series of reprints of old, out-of-print wrestling books that will be made available to the public under the title off "Rasslin' Reprints."

"Fall Guys" is a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the wrestling business.  It includes explanations of finishes, programs, shooting versus working, as well as manipulations and double crosses between the promoters and wrestlers of that era.

Each copy is professionally tape-bound with a heavy cover.

by J Michael Kenyon

In 1937, when 'Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce' was being prepared for publication, a surprising amount of "inside" information about the professional wrestling business was being circulated in the mainstream press.  For instance, on July 19th of that year, Jack Cuddy of the United Press authored a piece from New York which ran in the Los Angeles Times under the headline: "Mondt Mentioned As New Pasha of Mat Pachyderms."

The gist of the article was that, since the recent death of long-time New York mat promoter Jack Curley, a group of pro wrestling bosses were preparing to select his replacement.  Remember, this was eleven years before the 1948 formation of the National Wrestling Alliance, the first openly publicized attempt by promoters to merge into a cohesive body designed to facilitate "block" booking and a single champion (as the NWA was primarily comprised of Midwest promoters, longtime area favorite Orville Brown was annointed the group's first champion).

Cuddy wrote of that impending, midsummer conference of 1937 that its purpose was threefold -- a) to appoint a head man who can organize and control a big-time national wrestling circuit; b) effect a strong combine for the somewhat disorganized mat game east of the Mississippi River; and c) arrange for installation of the head man in New York City so that he can conduct the national booking business out of the metropolis and, at the same time, co-operate in major promotions in Manhattan, the sport's show window.

According to the writer's unnamed sources, this man would be chosen from among a group of major promoters that included Joe (Toots) Mondt, already controller of many of the major heavyweight wrestlers; Rudy Dusek, like Mondt a former wrestler and active in New York promotions; Paul Bowser, longtime Boston mat impresario; Ray Fabiani, likewise, a big-city promoter (Philadelphia); Tom Packs, of St. Louis, and Tony Stecher, brother of former champion Joe Stecher and by then manager (and promoter) of Minneapolis-based box office draw Bronko Nagurski.  Cuddy pointed to Mondt as the likely choice.

He recounted some of Mondt's credentials -- his years as an active wrestler following early training from Farmer Burns, how he had hooked up with Ed (Strangler) Lewis and Billy Sandow to form the gold dust trio (a subject covered at length in "Fall Guys") and the fact that, for some years, Mondt had been handling most of the booking for the aging Curley. Cuddy added a paragraph which could have served as a preface to "Fall Guys":

"It is extremely difficult to get a true reflection of the national wrestling picture at any time.  Because it usually is split into various warring factions.  Because it is hard to put your finger on facts.  Because there is so much skullduggery, manipulating and double-crossing.  Because you do not know whom to believe.  And because most of your information must come via the grapevine, which sometimes proves poison ivy in camouflage."

It is into this confusing world that Marcus Griffin endeavored to take readers in the late '30s with his landmark book.  Much of what he wrote was based on supposition, hearsay and conflicting stories.  But, until "Fall Guys," no one had ever written of the wrestling business at so much length, or with as much credibility and apparent knowledge of the subject displayed by Griffin.

In this day of "smart" fans, where a variety of printed newsletters and Internet-based fan forums routinely swap "inside" info and speculate on the directions of the major promotions, it is hard to remember a time when "Kay Fabe" was a code of silence almost universally maintained by everyone in the business.  What Griffin did in "Fall Guys" was to begin laying open the secrets of the mat game, and to explain how a group of dedicated entrepeneurs had built it from a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't proposition popular only in isolated sections of the land to a big-bucks proposition that -- inspired by the imagination and skill of Ed Lewis, and supplemented by the entry of a horde of popular footballers like Gus Sonnenberg, Joe Savoldi and Nagurski into its upper echelons -- regularly began packing the largest arenas in North America with howling mobs of "rasslin'"-hungry customers.

Ironically, just as Griffin, Cuddy and others were starting to "spill the beans," the box office riches had begun to evaporate.  And they would continue to dwindle, though "freaks" like the French Angel and Primo Carnera, and the advent of widespread girl wrestling, would occasionally kindle hopes of a resurgence throughout the early and mid-'40s.  Not until television took full hold, and flashy new stars like Gorgeous George and Antonino Rocca began to captivate the public, did the boom times return.

Yet, despite the boom-or-bust cycles that have perennially plagued professional wrestling, it remains today essentially the same business that Griffin was tracking 60 years ago.  "Fall Guys" is must reading for any serious student of mat history.

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