Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

‘Unladylike: A Grrl’s Guide to Wrestling’ Fully Funded

Congratulations to Heather Bandenburg whose book Unladylike: A Grrl’s Guide to Wrestling has been fully funded on Unbound, a Kickstarter-like crowd funding site for books. Due out next year, it has the following blurb:

Most wrestling books are about the stars of the industry – this one isn’t. Unladylike offers an honest and comedic insight in to the world of independent wrestling from the perspective of one angry, overweight woman following a dream she didn’t know she had. Unladylike is structured around the last five years of my wrestling journey, using it as a backdrop to explore both the hidden and overblown world of wrestling. It also talks about women’s bodies; cabaret in Underground post-recession London; forming unlikely friendships; generational ennui; pushing boundaries and personal politics. It is written for both an existing and new wrestling audience in a way that hasn’t been attempted before – sitting squarely within the narrative non-fiction genre with influences of both sport writing and feminist thought.

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Release Schedule (17 October)

Good news for DDP fans as his book has been brought forward a month. But bad news for Gene Kiniski fans as his bio has been delayed. Meanwhile we have a new title, albeit very much at academic pricing, Convergent Wrestling: Participatory Culture, Transmedia Storytelling, and Intertextuality in the Squared Circle (The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture) by CarrieLynn D Reinhard and Christopher John Olson:

This book examines how the current era of “convergence” has affected the world of professional wrestling, which combines several different genres, including drama, action, comedy, horror, science fiction, and even romance. Professional wrestling’s business practices exist at the intersection of bottom-up fan-centric strategies and strict top-down corporate control. Meanwhile, the wrestlers themselves combine aspects of carnival hucksters, actors/actresses, comedians, superheroes, martial artists, or stuntmen, and the narratives consist of everything from social critique to geopolitical allegories, and from soap opera melodramas to stereotyped exploitation. Bringing together the latest scholarship in the field, Convergent Wrestling analyzes various texts, business practices, and fan activities to explore the commonalities that define professional wrestling and consider how it exists in today’s new media ecology. In addition, the book considers the professional wrestling industry from several different angles, from massive multinational conglomerate World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to local indie federations. As such, it will appeal to scholars with interests in popular culture, media and cultural studies, and fan practices.


Titles in bold are new additions. Titles in italics have changed release date in the past week.

30 October: WWE: Then, Now, Forever Vol. 2 by Dennis Hopeless

6 November: WWE Original Graphic Novel: Undertaker

9 November: The Elite Team: Young Bucks Stand Tall by Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson

18 December: WWE Vol. 4: Women’s Evolution by Dennis Hopeless

10 January 2019: Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier

15 January: Positively Unstoppable: The Art of Owning It by Diamond Dallas Page

5 March: WWE Greatest Rivalries

5 March: Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson

7 March: Convergent Wrestling: Participatory Culture, Transmedia Storytelling, and Intertextuality in the Squared Circle (The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture) by CarrieLynn D Reinhard and Christopher John Olson

19 March: WWE: The Official Cookbook by Allison Robicelli

19 March: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 3

7 May: WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting by DK

7 May: Self Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow by Al Snow and Ross Owen Williams

7 May: An Encyclopedia of Women’s Wrestling: 100 Profiles of the Strongest in the Sport by LaToya Ferguson

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Recent Release Roundup

Here are a few titles released in recent weeks that didn’t get advance listings and thus weren’t in the weekly release schedule. Note that I’ve decided not to include wrestling-related titles that are primarily erotica, of which you will find plenty in the self-published field.

 


On the Ropes: The Ultimate Wrestling Quizbook by Paul Meehan

Welcome to On the Ropes, a quizbook that covers a diverse range of topics across the wonderful world of professional wrestling. The book is aimed at both casual fans and hardcore grappling enthusiasts, with questions covering a huge range of promotions, eras and styles. Some quizzes will be straightforward, others offer more of a challenge and require a little specialist knowledge!In addition to more than 600 general knowledge questions, we’ve included a series of challenges and puzzles – match the wrestler to their hometown, identify grapplers from their real names, list the first 10 holders of a particular belt or achievement, identify tag teams from their members, and more. We’ll cover American, British, Japanese, Canadian and Mexican wrestling, take in the greatest stars of yesteryear and test your knowledge of the big names plying their trade in the ring right now. Whether you are a casual fan of the WWE or a diehard independent or Japanese wrestling fan, there’s something for everyone.Whatever your level of wrestling knowledge, On the Ropes is designed to entertain and educate – have fun!

 


Night Work by Greg F Gifune

In the secret worlds of organized crime and the independent professional wrestling circuit of the 1990s, no one is immune to the con, the violence, the hunger for power and respect, the lust and the darkness.

How far would you go for money and supremacy? Who would you betray? What could you tolerate? How much would you sacrifice?

Frank Ponte is about to find out…

Night Work, originally published in 2003, is Greg F. Gifune’s first published novel. Hailed as a strong debut from a promising author by both critics and readers alike, it offers a fictional glimpse behind the veil of secrecy that existed in the independent professional wrestling world at the time, and chronicles the descent of a young couple into the depths of darkness and depravity.

Part crime novel, part Greek tragedy, Night Work has been out of print for several years, but is once again available in an all-new author’s preferred edition, which includes a new introduction from author/artist Sandy DeLuca, and offers a unique look at the early work of Greg F. Gifune.

 


Before A Fall: A History of PRIDE Fighting Championships by Lee Daly

Before A Fall is the first book in English on the history of the PRIDE FC MMA promotion from beginning to end! Starting out with the story of how the first PRIDE came together, the book covers the history of the promotion in detail and includes: -Exclusive interviews with Bas Rutten, Stephen Quadros, Dan Severn, Frank Shamrock and many others. -Illustrations by professional illustrator John Sheehan. -A fully researched and cited text with quotes, facts and stories.

 


The Book on Pro Wrestling: Lessons from Rip Rogers by Caleb Hall

A compilation of the lessons and teachings from one of the all time great pro wrestling coaches, Rip Rogers. Head trainer at OVW (previously the WWE development center) for many years, Rip has guided some of the biggest stars in wrestling today through their early days including: Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and more. Being able to understand and implement these lessons will greatly expand your knowledge and help you further your career in pro wrestling.

 


Hottest Ticket in Town: History of Pro Wrestling in Lenor, NC (Volume One 1951 -1959) by Jason Freeman

Hottest Ticket in Town is a collection of newspaper clippings, results, phots and reproduced window posters from professional wrestling promoted in Lenoir, Hickory or surrounding town. Jim Crockett Promotions began running weekly events at the Dysart-Kendall American Legion Home in downtown Lenoir in October 1951. The Legion held weekly cards most Saturday night until March of 1955 when the weekly event moved to the Community Center in Hickory. This project is far from finished I hope that we can continue to gather more information about the history of professional wrestling in this area. Projects about the history from 1960 till present day are currently in the works. If you have clippings, posters, photos, old ticket stubs or just have stories about going to the events please contact me. Pro Wrestling has a rich history in this area and if still a part of the local culture.

 


The Joshi Dragon by Robert Lefrancois

Yumiko is the daughter of one of Japans top wrestling stars, when her mother dies she is raised by her uncle Takeshi, a brutal Yakuza crime lord. When Takeshi arranges for Yumiko to marry the leader of a rival yakuza family, she decides to run away. Yumiko enlists the help of her lesbian lover Devil Matsumoto and the two steal a large sum of money from her uncle, then flees Japan to start a few life in the United States. Once in America, Yumiko sets out to follow in her mothers footsteps. She and Devil join a small indie wrestling promotion, where she meets Mike Hilton, the charismatic champion of Union City Wrestling. Mike takes Yumiko under his wing and helps her and Devil get their start. It isn’t long before Yumiko and Mike fall in love—which doesn’t sit well with Devil. Yumiko is torn between her strong friendship and loyalty to Devil and her true love with Mike. Yumiko’s problems increased ten fold when she learns that news of her success has travelled back to her native Japan. It isn’t long before Takeshi and two of his top killers are on a plane bound for the United States. Takeshi is determined to force Yumiko to return to Okinawa with him, and will kill anyone that stands in his way.

 


Mid-Atlantic Wrestling 1976 Yearbook by Dick Bourne & David Chappell

The detailed, written history of one of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling’s most exciting years ever. Includes a huge collection of newspaper ads, event posters, memorabilia, and a massive collection of match listings and results for every city in the territory. Comprehensive rosters of all wrestlers, announcers, and managers for the entire year broken down by their position on the card. The book also includes reproductions of the four major event publications sold at the arenas throughout that year. Plus over a dozen special features focusing on 1976. It was year full of unforgettable action and major angles featuring The Anderson Brothers, Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones, the Masked Superstar, Paul Jones, “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods, Terry Funk, Prof. Boris Malenko and the Mongols, Andre the Giant, and many more. Special features include: – Photo feature on the year’s biggest feud: Flair vs. Wahoo! – TV Wrestling in 1976 – NWA Officers and Board Members – The Mulligan wing of the Gateway Museum – Dusty Rhodes’ Chase of the Championships – The Birth of the Masked Superstar – A close look at the United States Championship in 1976 – Truckin’ Tom Miller ..and more! The book features – – Written History Event Posters from Greensboro 30 pages of Newspaper Ads Memorabilia Rosters & Title Histories Reproductions of all four quarterly issues of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazines from 1975 50 pages of Match Listings and Results Special Features, including tournament brackets, exclusive photos, and more.

 


Anything Is Possible: The Eddie Edwards Story by Eric Maher

With as much impact as his signature move, the Boston Knee Party, Anything Is Possible: The Eddie Edwards Story takes fans of all ages inside the ring for an inspiring look into world champion wrestler Eric Maher, aka Impact Wrestling’s Eddie Edwards’ journey to the top of the independent wrestling scene. Maher teams up with co-writer and DC Comics artist Mark Poulton to deliver highlights from his incredible career. The only man in history to win the Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and GHC world heavyweight championships–professional wrestling’s triple crown, Maher recounts his days as a kid dreaming of a wrestling career, including training with the legendary Killer Kowalski and living and training in a Japanese dojo in the footsteps of his heroes.

The world is full of underdogs, but as “Die Hard” Eddie Edwards, Eric Maher proves that with hard work and determination his mantra of “Anything Is Possible” can be true for anyone.

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Release Schedule (10 October)

One new entry this week, An Encyclopedia of Women’s Wrestling: 100 Profiles of the Strongest in the Sport by LaToya Ferguson:

A comprehensive and fascinating illustrated look at women’s professional wrestling, including 100 profiles of superstars from around the world.

Women’s pro wrestling has existed in the USA since the 1930s, and this colorful encyclopedia references the fashion, fun, and drama of the sport through the years and around the world. Focusing on 100 competitors—from current faves Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair, to Germany’s Jazzy Gabert, Japan’s Io Shirai, and Canada’s LuFisto, to legends like The Fabulous Moolah, Sable, Ivory, and Lita—it includes relevant stats and each one’s compelling story. Written by noted authority LaToya Ferguson, this engaging history is great for anyone interested in powerful women, fantastic costumes, and pro wrestling itself.


Titles in bold are new additions. Titles in italics have changed release date in the past week.

30 October: WWE: Then, Now, Forever Vol. 2 by Dennis Hopeless

6 November: WWE Original Graphic Novel: Undertaker

9 November: The Elite Team: Young Bucks Stand Tall by Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson

18 December: WWE Vol. 4: Women’s Evolution by Dennis Hopeless

18 December: Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier

19 February 2019: Positively Unstoppable: The Art of Owning It by Diamond Dallas Page

5 March: WWE Greatest Rivalries

5 March: Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson

19 March: WWE: The Official Cookbook by Allison Robicelli

19 March: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 3

7 May: WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting by DK

7 May: Self Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow by Al Snow and Ross Owen Williams

7 May: An Encyclopedia of Women’s Wrestling: 100 Profiles of the Strongest in the Sport by LaToya Ferguson

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Release Schedule (26 September)

One new entry this week, Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier:

Few stones are left unturned in this account of the life of a champion professional wrestler old-time fans and wrestling historians remember well for his accomplishments in the ring, his run-’em-over approach to wrestling, his growly demeanor, and a razor-sharp wit he could unleash at will.
Numerous people who knew Gene Kiniski firsthand–including boyhood friends and acquaintances in the Canadian prairie, fellow wrestlers and promoters who worked with him or against him, and people who became Kiniski’s friends after he left the ring–recount touching stories and memories of an athlete and entertainer who was known internationally to a generation of wrestling fans and to Canadians everywhere as Canada’s Greatest Athlete. In these pages, those who knew Kiniski best remember a giant of a man who impacted people around him even more than he impacted wrestling audiences in major centers in the United States, Canada, and Japan over the course of an outstanding career spanning well over three decades.


Titles in bold are new additions. Titles in italics have changed release date in the past week.

30 September: Pro-Wrestling: A Comprehensive Reference Guide by Lew Freedman

2 October: WWE: The World of the Rock by Steven Pantaleo

2 October: The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling: A Hardcore, High-Flying, No-Holds-Barred History of the One True Sport by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno

30 October: WWE: Then, Now, Forever Vol. 2 by Dennis Hopeless

6 November: WWE Original Graphic Novel: Undertaker

9 November: The Elite Team: Young Bucks Stand Tall by Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson

18 December: WWE Vol. 4: Women’s Evolution by Dennis Hopeless

18 December: Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier

19 February 2019: Positively Unstoppable: The Art of Owning It by Diamond Dallas Page

5 March: WWE Greatest Rivalries

5 March: Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson

19 March: WWE: The Official Cookbook by Allison Robicelli

19 March: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 3

7 May: WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting by DK

7 May: Self Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow by Al Snow and Ross Owen Williams

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News Round-Up

Several bits of news to catch up on:

Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, who previously wrote a history of MTV, are working on an oral history of WWE. They plan on interviewing 300 people for the book, but the most intriguing news is that Vince McMahon has agreed to be interviewed at length. No word yet on a release date but this doesn’t appear to be a rush job.


The Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia graphic novel series will now continue through Starburns Industries Press, a new publishing wing of the animation studio that produces Rick & Morty. It will be a six-part series. We previously reviewed the initial instalment.


The Kendo Nagasaki autobiography is now available for pre-order with a UK release date of 1 November. It’s listed under Nagasaki’s real name and described as “honest and absorbing”, so still looks to have potential.


Sean Oliver, the man behind the Kayfabe Commentaries interview videos is releasing a book with an unusual angle. Fathers’ Blood is a series of narrative profiles about the children of wrestlers and the strains that the business can put on their relationships. You can read a sample passage online.

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Death of the Territories by Tim Hornbaker

After previous books exploring the history of the NWA and wrestling in the New York region, Tim Hornbaker covers the collision between the two. Death of the Territories covers the period between Vincent Kennedy McMahon taking control of the World Wrestling Federation in 1982 and the sale of Jim Crockett Promotions to Ted Turner in 1988.

At times, the book offers fascinating insights, either revealing incidents through Hornbaker’s characteristic research skills, or highlighting seemingly small nuggets of information that prove significant with hindsight. Unfortunately the book doesn’t keep up this momentum and instead loses focus.

While the basics of McMahon breaching traditional territorial boundaries and being first in an inevitable race as cable TV exposed stars nationwide are well known, Death of the Territories certainly covers angles usually left out of the story. For example, accounts often point to the way Georgia’s TBS going nationwide as the original ‘Superstation’ meant its stars had fans beyond its territorial border, but Hornbaker highlights that the New York-based WOR station – which carried McMahon’s flagship show – also went across the country as cable and satellite television grew.

Similarly the story of Georgia Championship Wrestling promoting in Ohio as an early expansion comes with some additional detail and context. There’s a great story about the promotion booking a disputed finish and openly inviting letters of protest simply as a market research exercise to find out where viewers lived. Hornbaker also notes how the surprising level of interest in Columbus, Ohio wasn’t so much that it was an inherently wrestling-friendly city, rather than structural issues meant it had a disproportionately high level of homes with cable television.

Indeed, perhaps the biggest strength of the book is how it stresses that McMahon was by no means the only promoter who tried to compete on a national scale – simply the one who did it most effectively.

In another example of joining the dots, it’s commonly recounted that WWF drew attention in the weeks before WrestleMania with mainstream appearances on shows such as Late Night with David Letterman, SportsWorld and Saturday Night Live. However, Hornbaker notes the likely lack of coincidence that all three shows – along with Mr T in The A-Team – all aired on NBC, the same network that would begin airing Saturday Night’s Main Event just a couple of months later, suggesting particularly strong relations.

The real shame of the book is that these early pieces of insight are later lost as the book descends into extended periods of summing up the in-ring events of the various territories with little context or narrative significance. For several paragraphs at a time, the book simply lists wrestlers who worked in a particular territory and who held the titles, with little relation to the bigger picture of McMahon’s expansion and each territory’s fate.

This feels a lot more of a problem as the book nears its conclusion, with one example being a short section on SuperClash III, arguably the last real attempt of the surviving regional promoters to work together. Readers are told the pay-per-view buyrate was “0.5” but given no indication what this means, how it compared to other shows of the era, or why it proved a financial failure. That’s particularly problematic in 2018 when the very concept of PPV revenue being a significant measure of business is now several years out of date.

Despite its flaws, the book certainly has something for everyone, and is more readable than both of Hornbaker’s previous titles. Fans who know the story of the 80s wars will enjoy many new tidbits, while those exploring the topic for the first time will find this a useful primer. But the best historical books combine fresh facts and insight with a strong and compelling storyline, and after a strong start, this sadly drifts away from both goals in the latter stages.

(This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com.uk)

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Release Schedule (19 September)

Two new entries this week:

The Elite Team: Young Bucks Stand Tall by Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson

The Young Bucks, Matt and Nick were inseparable. They went to school together, shared the same room, and even finished each other’s sentences. The Young Bucks thought they could take on anything, inside the wrestling ring and out, with their Elite Team friends by their sides. But when Matt and Nick are singled out, who will have the courage to stand up and speak out?

 

Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson

In her first standalone middle-grade novel, the beloved author of the Keena Ford chapter book series delivers a funny yet moving story about fathers, sons, and criminal justice.

Oliver “Spaghetti-O” Jones’s dad is about to be jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, and Oliver believes the only way to save him is with the help of his favorite lucha-libre wrestler turned action star, Tito the Bonecrusher. Together with his best friend, Brianna (a.k.a. “Brain”), and their new ally Paul “Popcorn” Robards, Oliver devises a madcap plan to spring his dad from a Florida correctional facility.

Heartwarming and hilarious, this book looks at what it takes to be a hero . . . and what happens when you realize that saving the day might not always be possible.


Titles in bold are new additions. Titles in italics have changed release date in the past week.

30 September: Pro-Wrestling: A Comprehensive Reference Guide by Lew Freedman

2 October: WWE: The World of the Rock by Steven Pantaleo

2 October: The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling: A Hardcore, High-Flying, No-Holds-Barred History of the One True Sport by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno

30 October: WWE: Then, Now, Forever Vol. 2 by Dennis Hopeless

6 November: WWE Original Graphic Novel: Undertaker

9 November: The Elite Team: Young Bucks Stand Tall by Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson

18 December: WWE Vol. 4: Women’s Evolution by Dennis Hopeless

19 February 2019: Own Your Life: How to Make Yourself Positively Unstoppable by Diamond Dallas Page

5 March: WWE Greatest Rivalries

5 March: Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson

19 March: WWE: The Official Cookbook by Allison Robicelli

19 March: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 3

7 May: WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting by DK

7 May: Self Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow by Al Snow and Ross Owen Williams

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I’m Sorry I Love You by Jim Smallman

Imagine a Scott Keith book. Now imagine it was funny. And then imagine it was largely accurate. It wouldn’t be a Scott Keith book any more, but it might be a bit like this.

PROGRESS promoter and stand-up comedian Smallman has put together what is carefully labeled as “a” rather than “the” history of professional wrestling, and in the big picture it does a good job of such a daunting task. It aims to cover all aspects and time periods, and while there’s a natural tendency towards the (comparatively) more recent times, the book is a third of the way through before getting to WrestleMania III.

It’s a general overview of the themes and events of the wrestling business over time, with the WWF expansion, the death of the territories and the Monday Night War era having a particularly coherent narrative. It’s told in a casual style with plenty of commentary and asides, largely as you might expect from a stand-up and wrestling promotion front man who is writing in his natural voice.

Whether it’s the subject matter or simply the writing process, the strengths and weaknesses of the book do seem to fall into three sections. In the earlier chapters, while the historical content is very good, the comic asides are relentless, at some points seeing virtually every paragraph end in a punchline. If you’re not a fan of this style it may seem overbearing and some tighter editing would have helped the stronger gags have more impact.

The sweet spot is the aforementioned middle section where the asides are more selective and are more about adding personality to the narrative. In several cases they enhance the story being told rather than simply being comedy for the sake of it, such as an apt footballing analogy for the match quality of Hogan and Andre.

The format does drop off a little in the last few chapters covering the post-WCW era. The quality of the writing and content isn’t diminished, but it’s not quite as tightly focused, jumping from topic to topic more often. There’s also a lot more of Smallman’s personal perspective on (and even involvement in) the events, which works better in some cases than others.

While the book does have several factual errors, they aren’t glaring (in many cases being a case of taking promotional claims of sellouts or big figures as accurate). There’s enough of them to be noticeable by more dedicated readers but they never affect the big picture narratives.

Judging the book as a whole depends on the audience. For long-term fans who’ve read a lot of wrestling history, there might not be enough new here to make it a must-read. For more casual fans or those who’ve got into wrestling in recent years, it’s an excellent starting point to learn the history of American wrestling, particularly given the lack of serious books out there tackling such a wide topic.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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