Publisher: Crowbar Press
6x9 Perfect Bound
Photos: 170 b&w
Cover: Full color
Item #: cbp34-fg
"The Annotated Fall Guys" is available exclusively from Crowbar Press.
All books will be shipped via Media Mail (U.S.), Priority Mail, or International Priority Mail (Canada/overseas).
by Marcus Griffin, Annotated by Steve Yohe & Scott Teal
If you’re like most people, who think professional wrestling was strictly "kayfabe" in the days before it morphed into "sports entertainment," then think again. In 1937, a book titled Falls Guys: The Barnums of Bounce was published. In the 215 pages written by sportwriter Marcus Griffin, the sport was exposed to the general public and the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing by promoters and wrestlers alike were brought to light. It was the first credible book ever published on the subject.
Griffin wrote about double-crosses and rivalries between promoters, the manipulation of the wrestlers, the "synthetic buildup" promoters gave to grapplers to put them over in the minds of the ticket-buying public, and a history of some of the great characters of that era.
Fall Guys was, and still is, fascinating reading ... with one caveat. A great deal of the book was written by Griffin with an extreme bias for Toots Mondt … his boss … and against those whom Toots didn’t like. It is filled with inconsistencies, contradiction, and … yes, downright lies. Nevertheless, the book is the best resource of events that took place during that era, and wrestling scholars have used much of Griffin’s writing as a launchpad for their own research.
That being the case, why would anyone want to read this book?
This is the annotated version, in which Yohe & Teal challenge Griffin’s statements about events and correct errors that have been repeated through the years in other books and writings. They add additional detail to the stories and the lives of the book's personalities.
It all makes absorbing reading and a lively tale for those people afflicted with the disease which Griffin terms "wrestler-itis."
Since its publication by the Reilly and Lee Co. in 1937, Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce, has been a legendary book. It was the first "smart" pro wrestling book and one of the few that attempted to create a history of a performance sport. I don’t remember when I first learned of it, but by the early 1990s, it was the subject of many conversations I had with wrestling writer John Williams. For years, Williams had been going to the Los Angeles main library and had researched many of the important matches in wrestling history. He had read Fall Guys years before and found another copy of it in the library at Cal State Fullerton. At some point, he went back to the college and made photocopies of the book for a few of his friends, including me.
Reading the book was enlightening, and I saw its importance right away. I knew how hard it was for the common wrestling fan to find a copy of a 1937 wrestling book, and soon, I was making copies for my friends, many of whom were historians that had been researching pro wrestling for years. I got Dave Meltzer to put an ad in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and began selling crude photocopies of the book to "smart" fans. It became my first wrestling project in which I used the photocopy machine at my work. I sold a lot of them and gave even more away. The object was to make the book available to fans, rather than an idea to make money. One of my friends who received a copy was Scott Teal, who was impressed enough by the book to retype it and turn it into a professional-looking booklet. I was very happy when he began to sell the book because I no longer had to hover over the copy machine during lunch breaks and stand in line at the post office. In time, I forgot the Fall Guys project completely. The wrestling community has Scott Teal and John Williams to thank for making Fall Guys available to common wrestling fans, many of whom don’t have the more than $100 to buy one on the Internet or at a used bookstore.
At the beginning of my career as a wrestling historian, I was impressed with the book. It was a very important tool that familiarized the public with the characters and events in pro wrestling’s history. But, since the 1990s, a large group of wrestling fans have created a group of historians whose research has taken them far beyond what Marcus Griffin wrote in Fall Guys, and it has been easy to find fault with the book’s errors and prejudicial treatment of some people.
Griffin was a New York newspaper writer on the payroll of the Curley group during the wrestling war between that group and a Jim Londos group in 1933. In those days, sports reporters made extra money by taking sides and helping create the stars we think of today as legendary. Many sports writers owned percentages of the boxers, so they pushed them every day in newspapers. Griffin worked for the Curley group, which was dominated by Toots Mondt, a friend and former trainer for Ed (Strangler) Lewis. Another local promoter was Jack Pfefer, who, in an attempt to screw over other promoters as a form of revenge, supplied newspapers for years with inside information. The result is that Fall Guys is a biased book. The cynical treatment of pro wrestling was passed on to its readers and helped form the public’s opinion of the sport. The book also has outright errors that have been repeated over the years in other books that have used Fall Guys as a guide.
Consequently, for the first time, we are making an attempt to address and correct the errors and bring attention to the fabrications presented by Griffin, as well as add a bit of additional detail and historical perspective along the way.
I first stumbled across Fall Guys in 1970, shortly after I discovered a reference guide called The Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature in my high-school library. After I wrote down a list of all references in the book for "wrestling," I drove up to Tampa to see if the downtown public library had any of the old magazines available. After finding and copying all the old articles from the bound magazines they had, I thought it might be interesting to see if they had old newspapers. That was when I discovered the "modern technology" called microfilm … and the library had copies of the Tampa Tribune dating back to the early 1900s! I was like a kid in a candy store.
While there, I discovered a book called Fall Guys. I checked it out and took it home with me. I read it in one sitting. I wasn’t yet smart to the wrestling business, but I knew I was reading about things that very few people knew. Sure, the book had been around since 1937, but I doubt there were very many people who had read it. Those who did were likely casual fans, but for someone like me, who lived and breathed wrestling, it was a gold mine of information that made me aware of a world I never knew existed.
I believed every word that Griffin wrote, and for the next 28 years, I considered it to be the Bible of professional wrestling. In many ways, it still is, because it was the only book written until the modern era in which information from that era was compiled. By 1998, though, I was beginning to see chinks in Griffin’s armor, and the more I researched, the more I realized that the book was flawed in so many ways. It wasn’t until I began to communicate with Steve Yohe that I realized just how discombobulated (I always loved that word, but never had an opportunity to use it without sounding like an idiot, but it works here) Griffin’s narrative was.
In 2007, I had the idea to publish an annotated version of the book so we could set the record straight, and give people the facts as they happened, and not as Griffin presented them. My initial thought was to put together a team of historians to submit their thoughts, which I would then mold into a narrative much like you now hold in your hands. Unfortunately, I got very few submissions, so I put the project on the shelf. I started and stopped the project several times since then, but always with the intent to one day see it through to completion.
Steve Yohe has written countless articles, made many online posts, and sent a myriad of e-mails to people on the subject of Fall Guys. His relentless probing on the subject, more than anything else, motivated me to pick up the ball two years ago and run with it until I reached the goal. This time, I had decided that I wasn’t going to stop until it was finished. I had to convince Steve because he was "tired of writing about it" and thought people had already read everything he had to say on the subject. To the contrary, I think you’ll see that the information contained herein is concise and the annotations flow well to match Griffin’s thoughts.
Steve gets majority credit for the annotations. My contribution is adding to what he had already wrote, finding things that he missed (which weren’t many), editing, and researching every date, event, newspaper report, and story told by Griffin. Have we made any mistakes in this book? Possibly. No, make that probably. It’s almost impossible to be 100 percent accurate when you’re dealing with as many facts as this book contains.
However, the difference between this book and Griffin’s original is that we present our findings based on exhaustive research. We also have no reason to lie about a subject. You’ll understand what I mean as you read ahead, but to keep it short and simple, Griffin was highly biased and wrote much of the narrative to make his boss — Toots Mondt — look good. If at times we seem to be hostile towards Griffin, it’s simply our passion to correct the lies and errors that have been passed down through the years, many of which have, sadly, made their way into "factual" wrestling history.
If this book does nothing more than make other historians/writers aware of the fact that "wrestling history" as presented in books, newsletters, magazines, and on the internet is not always accurate, then the time and effort we have spent will be well worth it. The message we want to convey is, no matter what you read or what you think is true, when writing about pro wrestling history, always — I repeat, always — check every single fact before your writings go into post or print, no matter the source.
Yohe and Teal have done all of us a favour — and invested new life in Fall Guys itself — by producing this annotated edition, which does a lot of the heavy lifting required in terms of catching out Griffin at his own game. Two against one might not be a fair match — but it’s still a joy to watch.
Taking a Note, Taking a Dive, by Arthur
Copyright © 2019 by Scott Teal
Pages designed by Scott Teal