Subtitle: The Unbelievable Real-Life Story of Wrestling’s Original Sheik
Blood and Fire is the biography of Ed Farhat, better known as the former Detroit-based wrestler and promoter ‘The Sheik.’ I first became aware of the Sheik in the mid-70s when episodes of his Big Time Wrestling television show aired on KDNL – Channel 30 in St. Louis. I don’t recall seeing him attack any of his opponents with a pencil at that time, but definitely remember his throwing one of his patented fireballs at a particularly unlucky opponent (Pompero Firpo, I think). Then, about 20 years ago, I purchased a copy on eBay of I Like To Hurt People, the cult classic quasi-mockumentary film about The Sheik and the Detroit wrestling promotion that was filmed in the mid- to late-70s but not completed and made available to the public until 1985.
In Blood and Fire, author Solomon covers the Sheiks lengthy in-ring career as well as his career as a promoter that ended a little more than five years before Vince McMahon’s takeover of the wrestling industry put most other promotions out of business, the primary reasons being the struggles of Detroit’s auto industry at the time and the Sheik’s insistence on maintaining his status as the top performer in the territory. The Sheik continued to be a top draw after the promotion closed and was in demand in several other territories through the U.S. and overseas.
The Sheik began his wrestling career in 1949 and officially retired in 1998. During that time, he encountered many of wrestling’s biggest names, many of whom I was familiar with from working with Harley Race and Bob Geigel on a series of documentary videos in the late 90s. Solomon does a great job of filling in background on these personalities, and I learned a great deal about people I had only previous known of by name or sometimes by photograph as well. Personally, I’ve never really understood the appeal of the Sheik’s wrestling style (or lack thereof), but there is no denying his status as one of the biggest box office attractions of his era and as one of the most significant personalities in wrestling history. He not only lived his gimmick, he also was a pioneer in what is now known as ‘hardcore’ wrestling.
I gave Blood and Fire five stars on Goodreads. This was one of my most anticipated reads thus far in 2022, and it certainly met all of my expectations and more. Readers who are not fans of wrestling may not take as much from it as I did, but readers who would like to learn more about the history of the wrestling industry will not find a better resource.