Thrashing Seasons

Sporting Culture in Manitoba and the Genesis of Prairie Wrestling


Horseback wrestling, catch-as-catch-can, glima; long before the advent of today’s WWE, forms of wrestling were practised by virtually every cultural group. C. Nathan Hatton’s "Thrashing Seasons" tells the story of wrestling in Manitoba from its earliest documented origins in the eighteenth century, to the Great Depression.

Wrestling was never merely a sport: residents of Manitoba found meaning beyond the simple act of two people struggling for physical advantage on a mat, in a ring, or on a grassy field. Frequently controversial and often divisive, wrestling was nevertheless a popular and resilient cultural practice that proved adaptable to the rapidly changing social conditions in western Canada during its early boom period.

In addition to chronicling the colourful exploits of the many athletes who shaped wrestling’s early years, Hatton explores wrestling as a social phenomenon intimately bound up with debates around respectability, ethnicity, race, class, and idealized conceptions of masculinity. In doing so, "Thrashing Seasons" illuminates wrestling as a complex and socially significant cultural activity, one that has been virtually unexamined by Canadian historians looking at the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


“Wrestling serves as a foil for understanding the complex social, economic, and political milieu of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Manitoba, addressing issues of gender (masculinity), ethnicity, and class. This well-crafted and nuanced historical examination of the sport of wrestling in Manitoba represents an important contribution to the field of Canadian sport history, and will similarly resonate with Canadian historians with an interest in the west and popular culture. This is not merely an account of wrestling and wrestlers, but a study of how people in early Winnipeg and Manitoba lived.”

Robert Kossuth, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Lethbridge

“Hatton offers a fine example of the breadth a study of sport can achieve in the hands of a skillful historian. An overwhelmingly excellent monograph.”

Scott Beekman, Journal of Sport History

“Throughout Thrashing Seasons, Hatton’s exploration of combat culture and prairie wrestling in Manitoba in the 19th and 20th centuries, there is a kind of deep cognitive refrain: why do people do this to each other? Hatton’s research and writing moves in a series of wide circles around this idea, as he establishes the cultural context around the budding tradition of prairie wrestling. As he writes vivid accounts of the lives of several early wrestlers, he questions why they’re compelled to combat. As it explores the social and cultural constructs that draws in audiences, he worries at the notions: why are people drawn to this sport?”

Natalie Zina-Walschots, THIS Magazine

“Hatton’s work represents the finest study of Canadian wrestling to date and one of the better pieces of Canadian sport history to be published in recent years.”

MacIntosh Ross, Sport History Review

“Generations of Canadians have grown up with pro wrestling. Some followed Stu Hart’s Calgary-based Stampede Wrestling while others watched WWF (now WWE) matches, where legends like Hulk Hogan and ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper turned a pseudo-ballet into massively lucrative sports entertainment. But the sport’s roots in Canada go far back, and cast a longer shadow than we may realize. Thrashing Seasons takes an intriguing look at old-time professional wrestling in Manitoba, with a view to illuminating that history, and its broader meaning.”

Michael Taube, Maclean’s

“Scholarly historical analysis of professional wrestling has arrived—C. Nathan Hatton’s prodigious research and fine writing ground his account of sporting culture and wrestling in Manitoba from its inception among various Indigenous people to the 1930s.”

Christopher L. Stacey, Histoire sociale / Social History

“Nathan Hatton’s new labour of love, entitled Thrashing Seasons, is a substantive and enlightening publication which should be mandatory reading for anyone seeking an academic degree in Manitoba sports, history, or sociology. It is that important a work.”

Marty Goldstein, SLAM! Wrestling

“Thrashing Seasons is a great book. Hatton presents the history of wrestling in Manitoba in a readable, accessible style, but with all the footnotes and references that make the book a solid academic history.”

Jim Blanchard, Winnipeg Free Press


Manitoba Day Award, Association of Manitoba Archives (2017)
AUP Book, Jacket, and Journal Show (Jackets & Covers) (2017)

About the Author

C. Nathan Hatton grew up in the communities of Prairie River, Saskatchewan and White River, Ontario. He teaches history at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Table of Contents


Ch. 1 Before the Boom: Wrestling to 1896
Ch. 2 Manitoba’s Pros: Professional Wrestling during the Western Boom, 1896–1914
Ch. 3 Wrestling with Ethnicity, 1901–1914
Ch. 4 The “Simon Pures”: Amateur Wrestling to 1914
Ch. 5 Grappling with the Great War, 1914–1918
Ch. 6 Professional Wrestling’s “Golden Age,” 1919–1929
Ch. 7 Amateurism Expands: Amateur Wrestling in Manitoba, 1919–1929