Hooker by Lou Thesz

(Personal note: while this blog deals primarily with public policy, the book reviews on here will spotlight my personal interests.)

Mick Foley kick-started a genre of books nearly 11 years ago with his autobiography “Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks.”  It was the first in-depth autobiography on a modern-day professional wrestler (or “sports entertainer” if you prefer), and a damn good one.  Succeeding books have been written by the likes of Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Ric Flair, Chris Jericho, and Bret Hart (to name a few).

But wrestling has a long history.  For my money, professional wrestling during the first half of the 20th century has a much more intriguing story to tell than modern day wrestling.

There have been quite a few books published about that era of wrestling.  One is “Fall Guys,” the first book to expose pro wrestling for being “fake,” which was published in 1937.  However, only one of these books about early 20th century pro wrestling is an autobiography.  Out of print for years, “Hooker” by the legendary world champion Lou Thesz (who passed away in 2002) has recently been republished.

Lou tells of his childhood, growing up in St. Louis, which was one of the central wrestling territories in the US.  Thesz got involved in freestyle wrestling as a teenager, and it was through these competitions that he attracted the attention of some professionals.  The old pros took him under their wing, trained him to be a professional, and later trained him on the art of “hooking,” the ability to apply match-ending holds that could seriously cripple an opponent.

From there, it’s the story of Lou’s career.  He builds a name for himself, traveling around the country gaining experience, eventually becoming world champion, a recognizable star during the advent of television, and a worldwide attraction.  While pro wrestling was already a “work” when Thesz started, he is present for wrestling’s transition from the days of legitimate shooters being at the top of the card to the television era when “performers” like Gorgeous George and “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers become the main draws.

Thesz is very outspoken in the book.  It doesn’t take long to see Lou’s disdain for most wrestling promoters, which is understandable as Thesz talks about small payoffs, double-crosses, and outright lies he was fed by those he worked for.  Also a target for criticism are the performers without legitimate skills.  In this regard, Lou’s sharpest dagger is aimed at Antonio Rocca.  Thesz also goes into fascinating detail about the proposed ‘title-for-title’ match with Bruno Sammartino, which in the end never transpired.

For me, the book is at its best when Lou talks about having workouts with the hookers who trained him, along with legends like Ed Lewis and Joe Stecher.  Equally as entertaining are the stories Lou tells when his opponents aren’t cooperating, and the matches turn (temporarily) into legit contests.

There aren’t any glaring weaknesses in the book.  My only disappointment is that Thesz doesn’t give detailed blow-by-blow accounts of his matches like you find in the books written by Foley.  Considering that Thesz was going off of memory to recount his long involvement in wrestling (and didn’t have the luxury of an audio diary like Bret Hart did), the amount of detail in this book is actually quite extraordinary.

Each chapter includes end notes to help expand on certain facts (or in a few instances, to correct some inaccuracies).  The end of the book contains a collection of outtakes that did not fit into the original manuscript.

Probably a book more for serious wrestling fans than the casual Monday night viewer.  Nevertheless, for those diehard fans, and for anyone interested in a segment of historic American pop culture, this book gets my highest recommendation.

“Hooker” is available for purchase through Crowbar Press.

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2 Responses to “Hooker by Lou Thesz”

  1. hotshot bald cop Says:

    Well said & with wonderful timing

  2. hotshot bald cop Says:

    I agree 100%

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