Crowbar Press

Drawing Heat
Drawing Heat

Paperback: 171 pages

Dimensions: 6x9

Publisher: Crowbar Press

Photos: 70 b&w

Cover: Full color

ISBN: 978-0-9844090-1-3

Item #: cbp10-dh

Price: $19.95



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Drawing Heat

Synopsis  |  Excerpts  |  Chapter Titles  |  Reviews  |  Media Appearances  |  Crowbar Press

"Drawing Heat" is available exclusively from Crowbar Press.
All books will be shipped via Media Mail (U.S.), Priority Mail, or International Priority Mail (Canada/overseas).

First published in 1988, Drawing Heat was one of the first books to really give the public a glimpse behind the scenes of the world of professional wrestling.  Jim Freedman, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario who also consults on international development for the United Nations, CIDA, and international NGOs, seems an unlikely candidate to write a book on such a subject, but he paints a captivating portrait of the sport.

Freedman's primary goal was to chronicle the drama of the sport from the viewpoint of a wrestling fan, but in the process, got much more than he ever expected.  During the course of interviewing several participants, he was invited to become a part of Big Bear Promotions, and the book become the story about the demise of a local wrestling promotion being swallowed up by multi-national business interests.

Welcomed into the inner circle by nearly everyone associated with the promotion, Jim presents an insiders look at what it took to promote a small, independent wrestling show ... putting the show together, setting up the ring, counting the money and balancing the books, ring announcing, dealing with sports commissioners who are in the pocket of the big wrestling companies, and what it is that lures wrestling fans into the arenas.

Filled with wonderful characters, the action in this book far outweighs anything seen in the ring today.  Dave "The Wildman" McKigney, the main character, is the owner of the Big Bear company, and the struggles and tragedies he faces become the focus of the narrative.  Known for traveling with his wrestling bears, one of the most heartbreaking stories in the entire book details the account of McKigney's girlfriend when she is mauled to death by one of them.

In addition to the original text, this reprinting features two additions:

An interview with the author: Jim Freedman
Conducted in 2009 bu Scott Teal, the interview takes readers behind the scenes of the writing of the book and brings them up to date with the events which followed the book's publication in 1988.

The Final, Fateful Bearman Tour by Greg Oliver
Told by his fellow wrestlers, this is the story about the final days and tragic death of the Wildman and several others wrestlers in July 1988.  The story includes interviews with several wrestlers who were in the territory at the time: Phil Watson (the son of Whipper Watson), Hartford Love, Willie "Wolfman" Farkuks, Rocky Della Serra, Ricky Johnson, Steve Ocean, and Sweet Daddy Siki.

You don't have to know, or even care, about wrestling to enjoy this book.  This is more than just a book about wrestling.  It is a glimpse into a secret world unknown to most people ... a world filled with larger-than-life characters and captivating events.

Excerpts from Drawing Heat

Excerpt from Chapter 3: The Wildman
Copyright © Jim Freedman
  Frank Tunney's face changed.  The two squared, upper edges of his countenance folded down into a three-cornered scorn.  Slowly, he blocked back his composure with a touch of condescension, and he said, "He's no professional."  He wanted to know what I knew about him.  I said nothing, which at that time was true.  He said he never used him on the card, just a couple of times he called him to put up his ring in smaller towns.  Tunney hadn't anymore to say.  He worked his face around to say he didn't care, and likewise to say, why should he, which locked him into meeting one more question: Where does he live?  What's there to hide about a man who doesn't matter?  Tunney had to say, or else give the lie to what he really wanted me to know about the man which was, why bother with the small-time.  "Call him if you want.  He's in the book,"  Tunney added to complete the ruse.  "King.  He lives in King.  Big Bear Sports Production."
  The next day, I called the Wildman, and met a booming voice on the telephone saying come on up, no hesitation whatsoever.  Who told me to call, he asked, and I said Tunney.  No comment.  "Makes no difference.  Wait," he said, as if an inspiration.  He had some shows that spring, so better call again before coming to the house.  Likely he'd be gone some.  Best thing would be, he said, to catch his show, he had a half-a-dozen in between Toronto and Detroit.  "Who's this?"  He asked my name and paused, but I knew it was to register, not to write it down, and he never asked me what I wanted.  The phone call made me smile.  It's funny how sometimes, someone only mentioned by the way as I naively dropped the Wildman's name in Tunney's presence fills a waiting space.  After that, everywhere I went, the Wildman occupied the conversation.  The fans all knew him and laughed at Tunney's scorn.

Excerpt from Chapter 3: The Wildman
Copyright © Jim Freedman
  He looked more sports writer than Commissioner to me.  Sports writers have to worship idols, elevate crass gags of inflated athletes to heroic proclamations, and talk eloquently about team spirit and the secret weapons of fourth-placed teams.  It's a boyhood religion that they believe, and to really believe it in the way they do, they need a positive exuberance that belongs to high school batboys in the springtime.  The Commissioner had it.  That made him much less of an official.  It made me like him, too.  It made him talk a streak about his friendship with the Tunneys, whom he hailed as fellow sportsmen, good men, and competitors.  The story trickled out, on the tail of his sales pitch on the Tunneys, about how Jack had made sure the Commissioner knew about the Wildman's Battle Royals, and how, friends are friends after all, he began to make life difficult for the Wildman.

Excerpt from Chapter 4: Night Bears
Copyright © Jim Freedman
  Wednesday after Monday's show in Wheatley, McKigney called about the promotion trip to Sudbury, Timmins and North Bay.  He had a show that night, Wednesday, and again on Saturday, which left two days in between, Thursday and Friday, free for the promotion trip.  Was I interested?  You being the professor, he said, you write the articles for the papers and he would take the bear through the streets of the towns, telling people how he would get in the ring with a live bear.
  I fumbled for a question about the bear.  What bear?  Whose bear?  "I got a bear for the trip," Dave said abruptly.  "He'll ride with us."

Excerpt from Chapter 4: Night Bears
Copyright © Jim Freedman
  July 2.  Canadians had just celebrated their patrimony with eyeball flashes of Roman candles.  Dave had gotten up on Sunday morning to prepare for the evening show.  Tony Parisi called and Lynn answered and passed the phone through the window to a patio where Dave could reach it outside.  He was cleaning bear cages.  Ted customarily climbed up a tree during the cleaning ritual and Smokey wandered around, but for some reason, this time, Smokey wandered into the house.  He went through the ever-open front door, up the stairs, and into Dave and Lynn's bedroom.  Was he in heat, or puberty, or jealous ... or is there not an explanation?  As Dave spoke on the phone, he saw the bear amble into the bedroom and attack his girlfriend, Lynn.  Instantly, he threw aside the phone and bolted inside.  He picked up a chesterfield and broke it over Smokey's head.  The bear turned on Dave, tearing into his hand and back, while Dave fought back in a fight for survival, with a bear he had ironically fought countless times for fun and profit.  The bear kept coming.  Smokey had been such a good bear that they had never bothered to remove the claws and teeth, even though some people who knew Dave said it ... if that bear ever got mad or crazy, he sure as hell would kill someone.  Lynn Orser died in the hospital that afternoon.  BLACK BEAR KILLS WOMAN.  OWNER SAYS BEAR IN HEAT AT TIME OF FATAL ATTACK.  For two days, the papers wrote sensational stories.  The police came and held Dave up against the side of his home, frisked him, talking about holding him for manslaughter.  Dave could hardly stand up for the injuries he himself had suffered.  Lawyers, hospitals, no sleep.  The omnipresent shameless press.

Excerpt from Chapter 5: Working Towns, Looking for a Pay Day
Copyright © Jim Freedman
  "Is that so?," observed the host as the Wolfman reached for his tie.  "Hey, wait a minute.  That's my tie."  But half of it by now was down the Wolfman's throat.  The camera man choked with glee as he got in closer.  The crowd in the studio tried in vain to muffle their amusement.  A soundman thrashed his arms about to keep everybody quiet.  The host reeled backwards and the Wolfman hung on, bringing the two of them to the floor with the tie still between his teeth.  The sound, the sight of the host's tie tearing in two, and the Wolfman with loose threads between his teeth it had a sizzling touch.  The Wolfman went for a loose wire attached to the microphone and put a foot of wire in his mouth, his eyes popping out, a steady stream of saliva trickling down his chin, before the young man thought to call a station break.  The boys cracked up.  Hey, this was fun.  Who's next?  Where's Watson?  Phil, you and Luis get on there.

Excerpt from Chapter 6: The Sheik's Dream
Copyright © Jim Freedman
  With Al around the Sheik and us, they'd have an inside man to tell them what McKigney did and how well he drew.  The Sheik cared less.  Dave knew Campbell was a spy.  We all knew the bastard phoned his boss in Montreal after every show, and for that, we called him the Weasel.  The Sheik drove the road to Cochrane: the two promoters up in front and "their boys," Al and I in back.  At one point, Dave turned around to Al to ask him how Montreal had done in Timmins the year before.  We had a show in Timmins the next day.
  "Hey Al, how'd the Giant do in Timmins last year?"  Andre the Giant, the gargantuan wrestler, owned a piece of Montreal and ran the northern towns.
  "Alright."  True to form, Al avoided sharing information.
  "I know how you did.  You drew seven hundred fans and your promotion wasn't worth a shit."  Dave had heard it from the arena manager in Timmins a month ago.
  No answer.  Al told Dave instead that the motel screwed us on our rates.  The atmosphere turned sour in the car.
  I repeated Dave's question.  Still no answer.
  The Sheik took his turn.  "You still didn't tell the Professor what you drew.  How can you run a town and not know what you drew, less you a shady cocksucker.  Hey, Professor.  Like the way I talk?"
  "Come right out and ask him, don't I.  That's what I do.  No hee haw."  He let go a hearty roll of laughter for his own enjoyment.
  "Hey Al," said the Sheik again.  "Ask me how Detroit is?"

Excerpt from Chapter 9: Postscript
Copyright © Jim Freedman
  In Toronto, a new athletic Commissioner took office. He was like his predecessor in the way he handled Dave, except he was even more intent on ending Dave's career.  In mid-season, 1985, he took Dave to court on the charge that the wrestling bear was a menace to the public.  Dave could not afford the litigation, and the Commissioner knew it.  Even the judge suggested to the Commissioner that since the charges were insubstantial, and the cost to McKigney for his own defense would be high, perhaps the Commissioner should drop the case.  It looked to me like the Commissioner was taking orders from Tunney.  He carried on with the case against McKigney and the bear.  The judge did not agree.  He said McKigney had been wrestling with the bear for thirty years, no reason to stop him now.  The Commissioner lost the case.

Chapter titles and contents

Secrets and Cigars
2  I-Ran Sucks
3  The Wildman
4  Night Bears
5  Working Towns, Looking for a Pay Day
6  The Sheik's Dream
7  What Fans Know
8  Receipts of a Season's Pain
9  Postscripot
10  Fixing the Ring (and the promoter
An Interview with the author: Jim Freedman
The Final, Fateful Bearman Tour



Drawing Heat is one of the best books ever written on pro wrestling.  If there was a battle royal for wrestling books, Drawing Heat would be the winner.
Adrian Adonis was booked to appear for Walter "Killer" Kowalski after his tour for Bearman's Promotions.  The tragic accident causing the death of Adrian was a shock to everyone.  Kowalski had no problem finding someone to take Adrian's place on the shows, however, he sent the payoff Adrian would have been paid for the three shows to Adrian's widow.

Tom Burke
Global Wrestling Newsletter


Media Appearances by the authors

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