By Joe Babinsack (
The billing of “the untold story” is quite ambitious, but Pat Laprade and Bertrand Hebert are very exhaustive in their efforts, and one thing that cannot be said about the book is that it lacks in details.
Maybe better said is that it has too many details, too many quotes and not quite enough analysis/explanation. However, it is definitively a compilation of all the imaginable facts surrounding the history of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and its professional wrestling industry tangents, full blow associations and native sons.
The great thing about this book is that provides nostalgia to those familiar, a historical archive for the hardcores and plenty of mainstream references.
The not-so-great is that the details seem to be told by one quote after another, and the apparent translation from the French does provide an undercurrent of subtle awkwardness. Having edited translations before, I got that vibe early on. It’s not a bad thing, but there’s a difference in sentence-to sentence transitions that takes a bit of time to get used to.
There is a lot of ground that is covered by others, but any book on any subject has been covered in varying degrees, and putting all the stories in one place is good. I really do like the focus on bios, the statistical data at the end, and the quick hits on various other stories, but (and there’s always a “but”) those quick hits often are a series of quotes without interpretation.
Sure, suggesting a 400+ page book be 600+ pages is a hard sell, but there’s irony in the “untold” story from my perspective.
In terms of pictures, quotes from important people, accounts of the various eras of Montreal w restling, it’s in there. The great families of Montreal (the Vachons, the Rougeaus, the Leducs, the Garvins) the great promotions (International Wrestling, All Star Wrestling, Grand Prix), the biggest of names (Carpentier, Kowalski and Sky Low Low), all these are in there and more.
Eddie Quinn is obviously a featured figure, and one of the infamous and “untold” histories behind the NWA belt with that late 1950s run of Eduoard Carpentier is detailed. That situation is a watershed of title lineage for the AWA and WWA promotions, and while all but buried by the NWA histories, there was a time when the NWA title was rather fully controlled by Quinn much to the dismay of many, which spurred the AWA, WWA and likely the WWWF movement to have their own World Champions.
Thus is the influence of Montreal.
But also in Carpentier’s story is a portrait of his athleticism and talent and high-flying ability, as well as the interesting story that he planned on staying in Montreal for a few weeks, but ended up quite a bit longer than that.
And of course, modern professional wrestling cannot be told without that certain incident at Survivor Series in 1997. Pages 311-319 have this story, which comes back to my bit of complaint as this key, crucial element of Montreal history that gets retold by a series of high profile names (Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels in all his duplicitous glory, and of course Dave Meltzer!) but the reader is left to sort out the pieces and come to conclusions. This isn’t a bad thing, but “untold” comes to mind.
Then again, the original Montreal Screwjob is told, which involves Ed Lewis and Henri Deglane in 1931. When it comes to the regional events and moments, it is all about nostalgia and that’s a good thing. And, again, this is one incredibly comprehensive book.
The bios alone are solid, short but paint a picture of Montreal as this island of professional wrestling that connects to France, St. Louis, New York and all points across the globe. It’s fascinating as a student of the game to read about the promotional wars and tactics, the booking, the angles and the vivid characters that populate the history of the region (most especially from 1936 to 1987).
The modern stories show Montreal’s association with both a burgeoning indy wrestling scene, as well as the growing domination of the WWE. The crossroads of the two have the brilliant El Generico as the example of a local guy gone global. And then there’s Kevin Steen, his hated rival/former tag team partner, as well as a slew of other names.
The Rougeaus, the Vachons and Garvins are a few of the many family names involved in the eras, and their histories are well documented. Yvon Robert, Dino Bravo and Bobby Managoff are names particularly tied to Montreal, and reading about their stories brings them to life. There are countless others who have strong ties or origins in Montreal, but have made their names on the mainstream, including Jean Ferre (yeah, you all know who that is!), Abdullah the Butcher, Red McNulty (Ivan Koloff!), Pat Patterson, Rene Goulet, Rick Martel and Yukon Eric.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few notables (notably the “little people” come to think of it) but I’m confident Pat Laprade and Bertrand Hebert did not.
This book is a must-have for an inclusive library of all the important regions of professional wrestling.
Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs By Pat Laprade and Bertrand Hebert (ECW Press) is available in print and Kindle at Amazon.com.