The Squared Circle grows out of David Shoemaker’s writing for Deadspin, where he started the column “Dead Wrestler of the Week” (which boasts more than 1 million page views)—a feature on the many wrestling superstars who died too young because of the abuse they subject their bodies to—and his writing for Grantland, where he covers the pro wrestling world, and its place in the pop culture mainstream. Shoemaker’s sportswriting has since struck a nerve with generations of wrestling fans who—like him—grew up worshipping a sport often derided as “fake” in the wider culture. To them, these professional wrestling superstars are not just heroes but an emotional outlet and the lens through which they learned to see the world.
Starting in the early 1900s and exploring the path of pro wrestling in America through the present day, The Squared Circle is the first book to acknowledge both the sport’s broader significance and wrestling fans’ keen intellect and sense of irony. Divided into eras, each section offers a snapshot of the wrestling world, profiles some of the period’s preeminent wrestlers, and the sport’s influence on our broader culture. Through the brawling, bombast, and bloodletting, Shoemaker argues that pro wrestling can teach us about the nature of performance, audience, and, yes, art.
Full of unknown history, humor, and self-deprecating reminiscence—but also offering a compelling look at the sport’s rightful place in pop culture—The Squared Circle is the book that legions of wrestling fans have been waiting for. In it, Shoemaker teaches us to look past the spandex and body slams to see an art form that can explain the world.
—The Wall Street Journal
“Acid, engaging prose…Shoemaker ensures that the most unsavory aspects of wrestling have their due and that the spectacle’s victims won’t be forgotten.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Wonderfully written…A thoughtful chronicle. . . . Whether you’re a wrestling fan or just a fan of good writing and stories, The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling delivers.”
—The Memphis Flyer
“The most erudite book that I have ever read about…the world of professional wrestling.”
—Good Times Magazine
“Adventurous readers, indifferent to wrestling though they may be, will find this a fun look inside an alternate universe. Fans, of course, will be whacking each other over the head with fake metal folding chairs to get their mitts on a copy.”
“Shoemaker is at his best when telling comic anecdotes about the colorful characters of the sport. . . . [a] lively, informed survey.”
“Few people write about anything as well as David Shoemaker writes about pro wrestling. And if you’re the type who dismisses it as a ‘fake’ sport, just know that this awesome book contains real characters, real betrayals, and very, very real death. That’s great reading.”
—Drew Magary, author of Someone Could Get Hurt and The Postmortal
“If you believe that pro wrestling is not a sport, then you’ve never read David Shoemaker. No one else so ably demonstrates the real-life drama and competition that takes place between the lines of the scripted action. No one else shows how true this fake world can become for the fans, promoters, and yes, pro wrestlers, who practice the trade. If you are a fan of sports and entertainment, or the murky world in between, you will devour this riveting book. And if you believe pro wrestling can’t produce top-shelf sports writing, then, yes, you’ve never read David Shoemaker. He’s the CM Punk of the genre, aka ‘The Best in the World’.”
—Dave Zirin, author of Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down
“This is the undoubtedly the best book about professional wrestling I’ve ever read. And I hate to admit this, but I’ve read many books about professional wrestling.”
—Mark Titus, author of Don’t Put Me In, Coach