The Queen of the Ring

Sex, Muscles, Diamonds, and the Making of an American Legend

Jeff Leen

Publishers Weekly review of
The Queen of the Ring

The Queen of the Ring: Sex, Muscles, Diamonds & the Making of an American Legend

Jeff Leen. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1882-0

In this intriguing biography, Leen (Kings of Cocaine) chronicles the life of “the queen of the mat,” Mildred Burke, women’s wrestling champion and pioneer of the sport. Burke (1915–1989), along with her husband and manager, Billy Wolfe, are credited with having invented professional women’s wrestling and bringing it to prominence: “Her muscles and his mind had made the industry of women’s professional wrestling in America.” Their rise, fall and resurrection is a story as bizarre and titillating as wrestling’s own carnival roots. The king and queen of “lady rassling” broke barriers despite a ban on women’s wrestling in many states. Leen, managing editor for the Washington Post’s investigations unit, deftly guides the reader through well-documented and researched accounts, which are culled from Burke’s unpublished autobiography, interviews and numerous newspaper records. Leen writes: “Her speed and skill made her wrestling a thing of beauty in the ring, full of careful shifts of balance and swift and surprising combinations that turned the straining of muscle and limb into a ballet of grace and power.” Flavored with authentic speech and dedicated to accuracy, this biography is the tale of an underdog who triumphed. B&w photos. (Aug.)

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