The Life of Charles "Midget" Fischer
by Kenneth R. Boness
Description (From the back of the book): Spanning the "Roaring Twenties," Prohibition and The Great Depression, Pile Driver is set in one of the most colorful periods of United States history. The story of Charles Berthold Fischer reveals hardship, humility and honor. Wrestling honestly in a dishonest era, Fischer, standing but 5'3", simultaneously held Middleweight and Light Heavyweight world titles. Despite national sports figure status, Charlie was never ashamed to declare Butternut, Wisconsin, as his home. A man to whom many taller men looked up, Pile Driver is the untold story of an exceptional individual: Charles "Midget" Fischer.
Review: I have conquered my Everest. It's not often that I am completely overwhelmed by a wrestling book. When my copy of Pile Driver arrived at my door I gulped at the horror of beginning this 730-page epic novel with my mediocre reading skills. Despite my terror, I greatly anticipated the magnificent journey into the past I was about to take.
Pile Driver is a true underdog story set mainly in the first half of the 1900s and focuses on a wrestler named Charles "Midget" Fischer. Author Kenneth R. Boness went to great efforts in compiling this extraordinary story about a small man who made an immediate impact in a big man's world. Almost ALWAYS going into his matches as the expected "loser", Fischer made a habit out of beating bigger men with bigger egos. After solidifying a strong reputation, however, it became increasingly difficult to secure matches with the various title holders, who were often found figuratively running in the opposite direction with their tails between their legs.
With great detail, you will read about Charlie Fisher early years and tough upbringing, followed by taking on the cruel world head on. Perhaps the most entertaining story in this book is the one of Fischer taking down a carnival tough man and embarrassing him so badly that he left town in shame. Then you will read about the politics that kept Fischer from competing in the Olympics, leading to the decision of him turning to the professional ranks and starting one of the most impressive winning streaks in the history of wrestling. Politics seemed to follow Fischer around as he was forced to deal with crooked managers protecting their cowardly champions by keeping Fischer on the payroll as their official "Police Man." The "Midget" could not be ignored as he built up a series of impressive victories, and after breaking away from his corrupt manager, he began to push towards the World's Middleweight championship. Upon conquering the Middleweight division, Fischer moved on to the Light Heavyweight level with similar dominance and even courageously challenged many Heavyweights of the era.
While I worked my way through the pages of this book, I was continually troubled by the internal debate going on within my head over the blurred line between what was real and what was fake (and by fake, I mean "pre-determined" or "scripted"). You have to take into account that this was the early 1900s when professional wrestling was wildly believed to be a legitimate exhibition. I do know that at some point in this book, the switch was made from real to scripted, but I'm not exactly sure when. Midget's persistent attitude towards maintaining an honest legitimacy within the sport was one of the things that endeared him to fans and probably soured him with various promoters who were intent on embracing the new theory of evolving the industry. It sounds as though Fischer basically "kept it real" until the very end of his career, but there was several occurrences during high profile matches that suggested possible scripting. I guess we'll never know.
Upon retirement, Mr. Fischer became disenchanted by the changes going on within the sport that he loved, which is very ironic and funny to me, as this was the 1950s. It's "funny" to me because wrestlers from the 50s through the 70s are now complaining about the new direction of professional wrestling. It will never end.
The story of Charles "Midget" Fischer is a very important one for the history of professional wrestling and simply HAD to be told. He was a man who maintained his integrity from the day he was born until the day he died, despite the obstacles he was faced with. Very few wrestling books contain truly unique content and if you want to get a hardcore education in the ways of old style wrestling then I highly recommend picking up a copy of Pile Driver as soon as possible.
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[ Joe Babinsack reviews "Piledriver: The life of Charles Fischer" on WrestlingObserver.com ]
Questions can be sent to the author, Kenneth R. Boness, at firstname.lastname@example.org -- he would be delighted to hear from you.
Rating: 9 / 10 - I was blown away.
Reviewed by Brad Dykens on September 17, 2006.