Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

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.


Asheville Wrestling 1930 – 1973 by Jason Freeman

Asheville Wrestling results and clippings. 1930 through 1973


The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era by Chad Matthews

What are the greatest matches and rivalries of the WrestleMania Era? It has never sat particularly well with long-time pro wrestling columnist and podcaster, “The Doc” Chad Matthews, the blanket statement that pro wrestling greatness is completely up to each individual, period, end of sentence. In fact, he strongly disagrees, having long posited that professional wrestling is reasonably objectifiable, like modern college football rankings in the Playoff Era. In America’s gridiron pastime, the college game relies on a select few, organized into a committee, to choose the best four teams worthy of competing for the championship each season. Though the decisions are also considered subjective, the Playoff committee rankings are reasonably objective too. It is not as if Alabama is picked because their crimson jerseys are pretty or USC is chosen because the President of the United States has an affinity for Los Angeles. There are basic criterion used to evaluate the resumes of each viable candidate. Breaking down wrestling’s greatest is no different. Utilizing something he calls “objective subjectivism” – a euphemism that acknowledges pro wrestling as obviously somewhat subjective but petitions for acknowledgment of pro wrestling also being inescapably capable of objectification (like Hollywood and College Football) – Matthews has mined the annals of WWE and NWA/WCW lore to discover the specific traits that define the greatest matches and rivalries and, having pinpointed these elements, has found a logical way to separate the truly great from the very good, to compare the totality of stories like Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority or Stone Cold vs. Vince McMahon to overall rivalries like Triple H vs. The Rock or Edge vs. Undertaker to iconic matches like Steamboat vs. Savage or Angle vs. Michaels in order to construct the ultimate historical countdown.


George South Record Book: Highway Run into the Midnight Sun by Jason Freeman & George South

The George South Record Book: Highway Run in Midnight Sun is a year by year break down of every match. Pro Wrestling legend George South has wrestled over 6,000 matches in his career. Starting in 1982 and he will be in a ring somewhere weekend. George has held every job in the wrestling business. Wrestler, ring crew, referee, promoter, popcorn salesman, trainer and more.


Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: The Life, Lessons & Rules for Success

If you’re looking to be inspired by someone who has truly made the most of life’s opportunities, then read this remarkable story of one of today’s most well-known celebrities. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is best known as a former professional wrestler that later came to dominate Hollywood with a series of blockbuster movies. His powerful on-screen presence and strong physique give the impression that he effortlessly reached global success, yet Dwayne faced a series of challenges and setbacks as he rose to the top. From being homeless as a child and later having little more than $7 in his pocket to facing the reality that his dream career in football was over, Dwayne’s life hasn’t always been a linear track of successes. However, rather than let this bring him down, he never gave up and pushed himself to be the best he could in everything he applied himself to. If you want to discover what’s the story behind Dwayne’s extraordinary success, this book takes you on a journey from his childhood to how he became one of Hollywood’s most well-known action figures. Strip away the glitz and the glamor and you find a remarkable story of persistence, commitment, and deeply ingrained work ethics that kept Dwayne moving forward to where he is today. If you want proof that success is rarely served on a silver platter and the majority of successful people have to sweat blood and tears to reach their goals, then Dwayne’s life story will give you exactly that. In this book of ‘Dwayne Johnson: The Life, Lessons & Rules of Success’, you will find:

  • The story of Dwayne’s childhood and how it shaped the strong core values he lives by today.

  • Why his football dreams came to an end and how he became one of WWE’s greatest wrestlers.

  • How he moved into Hollywood and became a successful A-list actor – even without any acting background, experience, or qualifications.

  • The main lessons he learned throughout his life.

  • Dwayne’s 10 rules of success and how you can apply them too.

(Note that this book is 59 pages.)


Unscripted: Fake Wrestling is Real by Anthony Campana

Professional wrestling resonates with millions of people around the world but is also greatly misunderstood by many others. Pro-wrestling has a strong parallel with the worlds of sports and entertainment. However, for every similarity drawn to an avenue of sports or entertainment, there is a key difference between the two. The biggest wrestling company, the WWE, is filled with complex and topical ideas that have highs and lows. From the contentious subjects of steroids, racism, sexism, death, and crime to the revolutionary ideas, unforgettable moments, and long-lasting pop-culture icons; this book not only takes you on the professional wrestling roller-coaster but also sharpens one’s mind in sports entertainment relationships.


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Release Schedule (28 November)

Two new entries this week, both of an academic nature.

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

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.

#wwe: Professional Wrestling in the Digital Age (Year’s Work) by Dru Jeffries (UK only release at the moment):

The millions of fans who watch World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) programs each year are well aware of their role in building the narrative of the sport. #WWE: Professional Wrestling in the Digital Age explores the intersections between media, technology, and fandom in WWEs contemporary programming and business practices. In the Reality Era of WWE (2011 to the present), wrestling narratives have increasingly drawn on real-life personalities and events that stretch beyond the story-world created and maintained by WWE. At the same time, the internet and fandom have a greater influence on the company than ever before. By examining various sites of struggle and negotiation between WWE executives and in-ring performers, between the product and its fans, and between the company and the rest of the wrestling industry, the contributors to this volume highlight the role of various media platforms in shaping and disseminating WWE narratives. Treating the company and its product not merely as sports entertainment, but also as a brand, an employer, a company, a content producer, and an object of fandom, #WWE conceptualizes the evolution of professional wrestlings most successful company.

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

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

7 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 Reinhard and Christopher John Olson (Editors)

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

16 July: 100 Things WWE Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Bryan Alvarez

6 August: Jim Cornette Presents: Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories by Jim Cornette, Brandon Easton & Denis Medri

1 December: #wwe: Professional Wrestling in the Digital Age (Year’s Work) by Dru Jeffries

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Wrestling Noir: Real In Memphis by Stevie Pearson

A bombastic, high-energy story, this novel’s writing doesn’t quite rise up to the level of its plot.

As with several pieces of wrestling fiction, most notably the Blood Red, Dollar Green series, this is based on the often shady underworld of the territorial era of wrestling. While it’s set in 1979 Memphis, it’s more of an archetype than a direct homage to its real-life equivalent promotion. For example, one common theme is the territory adjusting to the national expansion of a New York promotion with a more entertainment-based product and approach to kayfabe.

The story is certainly never dull, with all manner of outlandish characters double-crossing one another, the plot taking full advantage of the questionable ethics and reality of a world that straddles fiction and business. Some of the themes are explicitly adult and it’s certainly an example of a world that works for the benefit of an eventful plot, even if a promotion that had this level of extra-curricular activity among its roster would likely struggle to put together a line-up week after week.

Unfortunately the writing lets down the plot at times, with inconsistent punctuation and a particular problem of every sentence of dialogue being on a new line regardless of the speaker, making it hard to keep track of what’s happening in the many passages of extended conversation. More generally, there are several cases where ‘tell’ is preferred to ‘show’, with key plot developments and twists explicitly referenced in a way that takes the reader out of the immersion.

Hopefully this will be addressed in future instalments as there’s plenty of scope for finding out what happens next to this rogues’ gallery of characters — at least those who survive…

(Disclosure: The author provided a review copy.)

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Eggshells: Pro Wrestling In The Tokyo Dome by Chris Charlton

Writing a good wrestling book isn’t just about having a knowledgeable and skilled writer picking an engaging topic. That topic has to be of the right size and scope to neatly fit the format of a book, something that’s certainly the case for Chris Charlton’s latest project.

In a previous review of James Dixon’s All or Nothing, we noted that 1PW was one of the few promotions for which it would be possible (and interesting) to write a blow-by-blow account of every single show and backstage happening: a smaller, shorter-lived group would not justify the attention, while anything with more of a history would be impractical to cover in such a format.

Similarly, few buildings other than the Tokyo Dome would work for a book like Eggshells. Somewhere used less often would not have the heritage and prestige to be worthy of coverage, while venues such as Budokan Hall or Madison Square Garden have been used too often to allow coverage with this depth.

For each of the shows at the venue, Charlton provides the full results along with detailed reports on the most notable matches. It’s not merely a blow-by-blow however: instead, every match is put into context so we know why it mattered, where the relevant wrestlers were in their career, and what difference the outcome made to their story.

The book also provides context on the show itself and the state of the relevant promotion, meaning we learn how and why it came to be running the Tokyo Dome. The result is that as well as covering the shows in detail, the book provides an overview of the past 30 years of Japanese wrestling history.

That’s particularly the case with New Japan, which has ran at least one show a year in the Dome since 1989. This means the background sections taken together tell the complete story of the promotion’s glorious 90s, the debacles as Antonio Inoki’s obsessions with MMA crossovers almost brought the company to its knees, and the slow rebuilding in the eras of Tanahashi, Okada and now Omega that have brought it to arguably its highest point since losing strong network television exposure.

It’s not just New Japan however. The book covers shows from other promotions, some of which you may remember such as the series of All Japan events or the SWS shows with WWF talent, and others that are more obscure including cards from shoot group PWF-G and all-female promotion Jd’ Star. The trivia notes keep on coming with potential pub quiz answers including Kenta Kobashi tangling with Tito Santana, a post-WCW Curt Hennig working for All Japan, and Hiroshi Tanahashi facing Sean O’Haire.

The book is meticulously researched with pages of footnotes, while Charlton has interviewed numerous wrestlers, announcers and journalists with first-hand insights into the events covered in the book. While the occasional direct quotes don’t always sparkle, it’s clear that the information these talks uncovered was as useful if not more so than the specific words the subjects provided.

While those on a budget will no doubt gravitate to the e-book edition, the print version is certainly worth considering. The electronic version’s formatting is functional but occasionally throws the reader for a loop when it switches from Charlton’s writing to a direct quote, a transition that’s not always clear.

Meanwhile the print edition does far better justice to the excellent artwork from Shining Wizard Designs with dozens of ink drawings of the events and performers covered in the book.

Eggshells really does have something for everyone who has even the slightest interest in Japanese wrestling. The long-time or dedicated follower will learn behind-the-scenes details that put their memories in a fresh light as well as being reminded of some long-forgotten historical oddities. Meanwhile more recent converts to Puroresu will get an enjoyable introduction to the story of how wrestling in the company has developed in the modern era.

(This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.)

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Release Schedule (14 November)

One new entry this week, Jim Cornette Presents: Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories by Jim Cornette, Brandon Easton & Denis Medri:

Pro-Wrestling’s secrets and greatest moments are immortalized in this graphic novel from legendary wrestling personality Jim Cornette.

A true-story style anthology, these “insider” tales will show the lengths that wrestlers went to uphold “kayfabe” (the old carny term for the presentation of legitimate conflict) as well as the noteworthy cultural, racial, and economic effect these events and characters had on society. This is the graphic novel that old school wrestling fans have been waiting their entire lives for: a no-holds-barred graphic representation of the moments that wrestling insiders couldn’t talk about for years.

Featuring appearances by Ric Flair, Jerry Lawler, Andy Kaufman, Sputnik Monroe, The Sheik, Junkyard Dog, the Fabulous Freebirds, the Midnight Express, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels.

Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories present three chapters of tales, personally curated by Cornette and adapted by Brandon Easton (M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) and Denis Medri (Red Hood/Arsenal), the award-winning team behind Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven.

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

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

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

15 January 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

16 July: 100 Things WWE Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Bryan Alvarez

6 August: Jim Cornette Presents: Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories by Jim Cornette, Brandon Easton & Denis Medri

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Ken Shamrock Book In The Works

Jonathan Snowden, author of Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling, has written a new authorised biography of Ken Shamrock and is now seeking crowdfunding to publish it.

It follows on from Shamrock’s original MMA autobiography/how-to guide Inside The Lions Den. The blurb for the new book reads:

There is no shortage of material on Ken Shamrock. He’s written two books and done countless interviews and documentaries. But, despite millions of words and hours of video, any exploration of his life leads to more questions than answers.

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a superstar on the road with WWE, where the strip club VIP room is always open and drugs are just what you do to get from one day to the next? Or what happens behind the scenes when negotiating with UFC President Dana White or WWE legend Vince McMahon?

What drives a proud man to continue stepping into the ring long after he can do so with his head held high? Why did Ken’s adopted brother leave his teammates in the Lion’s Den behind? And just how real was Pancrase anyway?

You may think you know the Ken Shamrock story. You do not—because it’s never been told.

Until now.

Pardon our french but, simply put, it’s a wild f–king tale, the story of a man who came from nothing, conquered the world, then lost it all again. Now, with the strength of his faith to help power him, he’s finding his way once again.

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Inside the Lion’s Den by Ken Shamrock and Richard Hanner

Inside The Lion’s Den, released in 1998, is written in two sections. The first 123 pages are a look at Ken Shamrock’s life and no-holds barred career, while the remaining 78 sides give instruction in the Lion’s Den fighting techniques.

To the pro wrestling audience, it is the former section that will prove more interesting. In September 1993, Richard Hanner, a Stockton, California newspaper reporter, was sent to cover local submission fighter Ken Shamrock’s participation in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. He found the assignment so captivating that he went on to follow Shamrock from match to match, while researching his background. The result is the biographical portion of Inside The Lion’s Den.

The book describes Shamrock’s upbringing, including his days on the street, living in abandoned cars, spells in prison, and his adoption by Bob Shamrock It then follows his no-holds barred fighting, including the creation of Pancrase, and the success of UFC, along with its controversies. There’s even a brief account on Shamrock’s little known spell as a table-top dancer.

Of particular interest to pro wrestling fans will be the brief account of his days in the South Atlantic Pro Wrestling group as Vince Torelli, along with the infamous hotel room sneak attack by the Nasty Boys (who are not named).

The pace of the biography makes for entertaining and engrossing reading, following a chronological account, but breaking away for a chapter at a time to take a look at a particular aspect of Shamrock’s life, be it his relationship with his family, or a look at the no-prisoners-taken attitude in tryouts for the Lion’s Den.

The use of description is also extremely effective, making for a fascinating look at the development of the UFC.

Shamrock’s own contribution is perhaps of more practical use to the martial arts enthusiast, but does give a comprehensive insight into his training methods, nutrition and fighting techniques.

This section (as with the rest of the book) is illustrated in detail, and all but a couple of the manoeuvres shown can be easily followed. The training manual also demonstrates how submission fighting systems need to constantly develop, with Shamrock readily admitting that he has made mistakes in fights, pointing to the need to learn from his errors. The UFC I loss to Royce Gracie is one such case, with Shamrock later adjusting his fighting methods to account for opponents wearing a gi. Of course, looking back 18 years later, it’s clear how much the MMA game has changed in the meantime.

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