Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Kendo Nagasaki and the Man Behind The Mask

I would say this book was worth the wait, but frankly nobody ever expected to see it in the first place.

Nagasaki/Thornley had arguably protected his character more than any other wrestler in the English-speaking world with the possible exception of The Undertaker. He’s finally broken that silence and gone beyond the character, reasoning it was best to tell his story properly in a book designed as a fundraiser for a charity in the memory of British soldier Lee Rigby.

At just short of 500 pages, it’s a comprehensive autobiography covering both his career and personal life. It’s not merely offering Thornley’s thoughts on known career events, but covers subjects that were previously somewhere between uncertain and mystery such as his childhood, his time at the Snake Pit, and his few appearances under a different name and without the mask. (There’s still a few mysteries however: the precise details of how he lost his finger and the process of acquiring a tattoo on his skull are both glossed over.)

The book also includes extracts from an unpublished autobiography on manager George Gillette (including colourful accounts of the celebrities on the London gay scene of the 60s and 70s) and some first-hand passages from Nagasaki’s assistant Roz MacDonald.

One aspect of the book that’s easy to overlook is the balance. Plenty of non-wrestling topics such as Thornley’s music management career, his outside business interests, his sexuality, and his spiritual education and teachings are covered, giving a well-rounded account of his life, but none take up an excessive space. In particular, he talks about meditation and faith healing without it feeling ‘preachy’.

Either way, there’s plenty here for wrestling fans, with most of the major moments of Nagasaki’s career covered. The book is written with Thornley telling the story in the first person while referring to Kendo Nagasaki (in the ring) in the third person. This may feel a little jarring, but the book does convey how keeping this mental separation was clearly important to Thornley.

Given the protection of the Nagasaki character over the years, it’s understandable many may have been sceptical or wary about this book before publication, but the finished product is a strong recommendation for anyone with an interest in this period of British wrestling.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

(Disclaimer: The publishers provided a review copy.)

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Self Help by Al Snow

This isn’t quite as billed, but it’s all the better from it.

Both the title and blurb imply the focus here is on life lessons and philosphy, supported by events from Snow’s career. It’s a format that worked well with Bobby Heenan’s second books, Chairshots and Other Obstacles, but realistically this is a straight autobiography. It has the occasional “life lesson” but it’s usually just an unnecessary line reiterating the preceding story.

As an autobiography this is a winner, however, with a bit of everything. The early years have plenty of fun tales about struggling to break into the business, with Snow’s tryout with the Andersons a story that never gets less jawdropping even for those who’ve heard it before.

The WWF and ECW years are told in detail with lots of behind the scenes insight, including the relative lack of creative process for those lower on the card, with Tough Enough also getting a fair bit of attention.

The book then ends with some brief accounts of life as a trainer in OVW and TNA (the latter feeling somewhat abrupt) and some entertaining tales from returning to the independent scene incorporating tasers and midgets.

Written with Ross Owen Williams, who also worked on the Bob Holly autobiography, Self Help does a good job of telling Snow’s side of the story and reviewing his career with the perspective of hindsight.

One notable element is that although Snow makes a repeated point of not complaining or being overly critical, it does occasionally feel he goes over the top in stressing that a particular incident or unsuccessful storyline was not his fault.

For the most part all the subjects you’d expect to be covered are checked off. However, I’d have liked to have seen a little more detail on the Bob Holly-Matt Capotelli incident on Tough Enough. Snow has discussed in previous interviews how it should never have happened, but that he opted against intervening as a wrestler who really was assaulted in such a way during a match would have to figure out how to deal with it. It’s an interesting and nuanced stance that isn’t really conveyed in the book.

Overall it’s an easy and engaging read and certainly worth checking out.

Pre-order on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Pre-order on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

(Disclaimer: The publisher provided a review copy.)

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Release Schedule (20 December)

One new-ish entry this week, WWE 35 Years of Wrestlemania by Brian Shields and Dean Miller:

This new edition of the fan-favorite, best-selling title 30 Years of WrestleMania (pub. 2014) brings the story of the biggest event in the WWE calendar right up to date with 32 pages of brand new content.

Ever since the first-ever WrestleMania in March 1985, this annual, week-long, sold-out event has attracted hundreds of thousands of sports entertainment fans from all over the world. WrestleMania is where every WWE Superstar wants to make his or her name. WWE Champions such as John Cena, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, Sable, and Lita have all found WrestleMania the perfect showcase for their incredible talents.

35 Years of WrestleMania allows sports entertainment fans to relive, or discover, all the most exciting matches, celebrity appearances, and controversies in this premier event’s storied history. The key historic matches of every Wrestlemaniaare explored in depth. Spectacular full-color photographs from WWE’s own archive–many never seen before–superbly capture WrestleMania’s unrivaled glamour, and many of the most action-packed, unforgettable moments, both in the ring and behind the scenes. Get ready for the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment!


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

15 January 2019: Positively Unstoppable: The Art of Owning It by Diamond Dallas Page

27 January: Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier

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

29 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)

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

3 September: WWE 35 Years of Wrestlemania by Brian Shields and Dean Miller

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

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