Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. Rev. ed.


352 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 978-1-55022-787-1
DDC 796.812






Reviewed by Matt Hartman

Matt Hartman is a freelance editor and cataloguer, running Hartman Cataloguing, Editing and Indexing Services.


Professional wrestling fans in general and Albertans in particular will welcome this thoroughly researched, colourful, and opinionated history, originally published in 2005 and now reissued in a revised and expanded edition.


Heath McCoy, a reporter for the Calgary Herald with a special affinity for pro wrestling, knows this circus inside and out. In particular, he knows and appreciates the over-the-top culture of this world, and has the writing skills to set it exuberantly down. Stampede wrestling began in Calgary in the early 50s as “Big Time Wrestling.” The name “Stampede Wrestling,” coined in 1967,” captures the promotion’s identity right down to its western roots,” McCoy says. “After all, since 1952, people had been flocking to Calgary’s Stampede grounds every week to see this insane soap opera play out.”


Pro wrestling exhibitions were staged by entrepreneurs controlling “territories.” Wrestlers were signed and contracted by these promoters, usually flamboyant in their own right, and inducted into a particular stable. The most famous and successful of the promoters was Stu Hart, patriarch of Calgary’s Hart Family. McCoy’s book is as much the story of this family as it is about the wrestling itself. More than a dozen of the Hart brothers, sisters, children, and even grandchildren were involved with Stampede Wrestling, either as performers, referees, booking agents, or in other capacities.

McCoy has updated the original edition of his book by describing the tragedy of wrestler Chris Benoit who, in June 2007, murdered his wife and son and then committed suicide. The update chapter also follows the members of the Hart family, as more and more of its members fall victim to the inevitable physical degradation resulting from the sport’s punishing regimen. There are many illustrations, as well as bibliographical endnotes. This is as good a book on professional wrestling, particularly one with so much Canadian content, as one is likely to see in many years.


McCoy, Heath., “Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. Rev. ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,