Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

It’s True, It’s True by Kurt Angle

angleAs the alternatives to WWE become fewer and weaker, autobiographies by WWE performers are likely going to have less diverse background stories. Angle’s book is one of the rare examples of somebody having a story to tell from before pro wrestling, though it may prove disappointing for those coming to the book for the first time.

Of the 300 or so pages, just over half deal with his life before signing with WWE, concentrating on the premature death of his father, followed by Angle’s amateur career and the Olympic gold medal he won with, as is widely known, a broken neck. Co-writer John Harper has done a great job of recognising many readers of the book won’t be amateur grappling aficionados and thus avoiding too much technical detail or jargon about the sport. There’s also some good stuff about the tricky transition to “real life” after the Olympics and attempts to cash in with endorsements and media work.

The WWE part of the book runs up to the end of Angle’s first heavyweight title reign in 2002. While there’s not a great deal of insider scoops or scandal (the ECW crucifixion incident is addressed over a couple of pages), there’s some fascinating insight into the mental and physical transitions between amateur competition and professional performing.

In 2002 this was an autobiography with much to recommend it. That’s still partly true today, but the book does now feel incomplete with so much of Angle’s career not covered, nor any insight into his much-reported personal problems and recovery. Still, as long as you know what you are getting, this is still worth a look, particularly as it’s available at knock-down prices.

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Release schedule (28 May 2014)

The following titles are scheduled for release and available for pre-ordering at Amazon. As always, all dates are subject to change.

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

Rastlin: A Southern Survey by David McClister (photobook), originally scheduled for a 31 May release, is now listed on Amazon as “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” It’s still listed as 31 May on Amazon.ca and is available to order with 2-4 week delivery at Amazon.co.uk, though that has to be questionable at this point. It is listed on several non-Amazon book sites in the US.

17 June: WWE Superstars #1: Money In the Bank by Mick Foley (graphic novel)

23 June: Sister Like You by Jade Coles

29 July: El Chavo: Locos por la lucha libre / Crazy for Wrestling by Maria Dominguez and Juan Pablo Lombana 

1 July: The All-American Boy: Lessons and Stories on Life from Wrestling Legend Bob Backlund

1 August: Several WWE profile books by Blake Markegard

8 August: Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity, and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling R. Tyson Smith

15 September: 30 Years of WrestleMania by Brian Shields 

1 October: Time Heels: Cheating, Stealing, Spandex and the Most Villainous Moments in the History of Pro Wrestling by Jon Chattman, Rich Tarantino and Tommy Dreamer 

14 October: The Best in the World: At What I Have No Idea by Chris Jericho

14 October: The Death of WCW: 10th Anniversary Edition of the Bestselling Classic — Revised and Expanded by Bryan Alvarez & RD Reynolds. (This will also be available in hardback for the first time.)

4 November: The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker (Already available in hardback.)

11 November: The Dead Wrestler Elegies by W Todd Kaneko

16 December: Booker T: My Rise To Wrestling Royalty

1 January 2015: Tag-Teamed #2 (WWE) by Jeff Gottesfeld

20 January 2015: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella

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Inside Out by Ole Anderson

insideoutNot everyone who reads this book is going to like or agree with what it says, but you certainly can’t accuse it of being inauthentic.

A Crowbar Press publication, this is arguably the best example of Scott Teal’s prowess as a ghostwriter. He’s put together a book that’s engaging, focused and flows in a logical order, but still comes across as the genuine voice of Anderson.

It’s 382 pages in print and certainly won’t leave anyone disappointed by a lack of depth. As far as accuracy goes, while there are always limitations in perspective and memory, this is reminiscent of Bob Holly’s book in that reading it you get the impression this is Anderson’s honest belief and opinion and — for better or worse — he’s not varnished over anything for the sake of winning friends or boosting his own image.

Thanks to Anderson’s career this also serves as an excellent insightful guide into both the territorial era as a whole, and the relatively unusual position of “homesteading” in a particular territory (specifically Mid-Atlantic and later Georgia) for an extended period, both as a wrestler and booker, rather than travelling around the country.

Perhaps the only disappointment for some fans is that the book only briefly covers the Four Horsemen period. That’s not necessarily an editorial failing on Anderson’s part, simply a reflection that he didn’t consider it a major part of his career in the big picture.

You probably won’t come away from this book thinking Anderson is a charming guy you’d love to meet, but that’s clearly not the intention. Unless you have no interest whatsoever in wrestling in the 70s and 80s, this is an easy thumbs up and recommendation to read.

The book is available direct from or on Kindle at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

 

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A quick word on e-books

A few readers have asked about the site covering titles that are only available in electronic format.

For the moment, the site will be concentrating on titles that are available in print, or are e-books versions of out-of-print titles such as Hooker by Lou Thesz. This is partly because there are so many Kindle-only titles and partly because many are poor quality, very short and often little more than padded-out Wikipedia extracts. It would be impractical to try to catalog all of these titles, let alone review them.

That’s not to say there aren’t any good quality or worthwhile e-book only titles (I’ve heard Greetings Grapple Fans isn’t too bad!) , so if you’ve come across any please let me know and I’ll try to mention/feature them at some point.

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Three New Releases

Three new books have popped up in recent days without advance publicity. Here are the blurbs.

Until We’re Strangers Again by Sean Görman 

untilwerestrangersEach weekend, thousands of people across the country attend professional wrestling shows in their local city or town. Fans of this underground scene love the hard-hitting action and are hoping to catch a glimpse of the rising stars before they hit the big time. Known as “The Manager of Champions,” Sean Görman is one of the most hated wrestling personalities in New England. For the first time ever, Mr. Görman breaks his character’s silence and shows readers how a shy introverted kid from a small town became one of the loudest and most despised villains in all of wrestling. With brilliantly raw prose and a searing wit, Görman demonstrates how a world where the line between fantasy and reality are constantly blurred can turn one’s wrestling persona into one’s real-life persona (and vice versa). Until We’re Strangers Again is a complex character study about how the road to achieving one’s dreams is often beset by tragedy and triumph. It is also the true story of love and friendship in a world driven by blood, sweat, and tears.


Professional Wrestling by Ed Smith

This is a reprint of a 1912 book. There don’t seem to be many other details, though it appears to be taken from an online copy of text that’s now in the public domain.


Rise of the Luchador (Fight Card) by Jason Ridler

riseoftheluchadorSan Diego 2014 … Carlos may be the deadliest vale tudo street fighter in Brazil, but he’s no match for the drug lord on his tail. Haunted by the death of his best friend and on the run from a Mexican hit squad, Carlos is forced into hiding with a traveling carnival crawling its way from San Diego to LA. Within this world of freaks and con-men, Carlos has no choice but to become the one thing he hates – a masked luchador wrestler. However, once he has donned the mask, Carlos finds there is much more to being a luchador than fake wrestling moves and cheesy showmanship. There is a mystique and a responsibility carried by those who become true luchadors. But will being a fake hero, no matter how inspired or mystical, save him from the drug lord’s henchmen…Can it erase his tortured past…Or will he be forced to once again become the killing machine he has always been? Rise of the Luchador is the next installment of the acclaimed Fight Card Series.

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Release Schedule (22 May 2014)

The following titles are scheduled for release and available for pre-ordering at Amazon. As always, all dates are subject to change.

Titles in bold are new. Titles in italics have changed release date.

Rastlin: A Southern Survey by David McClister (photobook), originally scheduled for a 31 May release, is now listed on Amazon as “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” It’s still listed as 31 May on Amazon.ca and is available to order with 2-4 week delivery at Amazon.co.uk, though that has to be questionable at this point. It is listed on several non-Amazon book sites in the US.

17 June: WWE Superstars #1: Money In the Bank by Mick Foley (graphic novel)

23 June: Sister Like You by Jade Coles

29 July: El Chavo: Locos por la lucha libre / Crazy for Wrestling by Maria Dominguez and Juan Pablo Lombana 

1 July: The All-American Boy: Lessons and Stories on Life from Wrestling Legend Bob Backlund

1 August: Several WWE profile books by Blake Markegard

8 August: Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity, and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling R. Tyson Smith

15 September: 30 Years of WrestleMania by Brian Shields 

1 October: Time Heels: Cheating, Stealing, Spandex and the Most Villainous Moments in the History of Pro Wrestling by Jon Chattman, Rich Tarantino and Tommy Dreamer 

14 October: The Best in the World: At What I Have No Idea by Chris Jericho

14 October: The Death of WCW: 10th Anniversary Edition of the Bestselling Classic — Revised and Expanded by Bryan Alvarez & RD Reynolds. (This will also be available in hardback for the first time.)

4 November: The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker (Already available in hardback.)

11 November: The Dead Wrestler Elegies by W Todd Kaneko

16 December: Booker T: My Rise To Wrestling Royalty

1 January 2015: Tag-Teamed #2 (WWE) by Jeff Gottesfeld

20 January 2015: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella

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Arn Anderson 4 Ever by Arn Anderson

arnandersonThe subtitle of this book is “A Look Behind The Curtain” but that’s one thing you most definitely will not get from this book.

This autobiography was published in 2000 by the “Kayfabe Publishing Group”, an appropriate title given its nature. As those who’ve seen Anderson speak in interviews or in talking head segments on documentaries, Arn continues to maintain that wrestling was a legitimate contest and the on-screen product was 100 percent real. That may be admirable or endearing for some fans, but it made for a book that was disappointing upon its release and even more so in today’s context.

With Anderson repeatedly talking about how he won a match or how he planned a beatdown, what we’re left with is effectively a recap of his storyline career with little insight or new information. There are some anecdotes about life on the road and the stresses and strains and logistics of working shows in different times, but it’s nothing revelatory.

For those looking for details on the most notorious moment of Anderson’s career, the genuine fight with Sid Vicious in England in 1993, there’s virtually nothing said, with Anderson blaming the lack of detail on legal issues.

About the only real point of interest in the book is transcripts of some of his more famous promos. There are a few pieces by other wrestlers talking about Anderson’s career, though concentrating on his kayfabed role means they can’t really be as praiseworthy as if they were discussing his abilities to work a credible match or captivate an audience with a promo.

The book is also disappointingly short. It’s 160 pages of fairly large print, padded out further by frequent use of short one-sentence paragraphs. All in all, it’s very much a product of a time when a book by a name wrestler was still something of a novelty and expectations were much lower than today.

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New Release: It Takes All Kinds by Beau James

ittakesallkindsThis one’s snuck out without much hype. It’s a follow-up to the autobiography of a wrestler and promoter of the small Southern States Wrestling promotion, Do Ya Wanna Be A Wrestler, Kid?.

This one appears to be more of a mix of anecdotes than a chronological account:

A collection of stories from Beau James about The People, Places, and Events that make up Pro Wrestling. Beau has been involved with wrestling since he was 14 years old. He has seen just about everything you could imagine and somethings you could not in your wildest imagination. Take a trip through a quarter of a century of an ever changing yet never dull life as a pro wrestler.

Read on Kindle (US).

Read on Kindle (UK).

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The Sheik of Baghdad by Adnan Alkaissy

sheikhofbaghdadThis is a book filled with fascinating stories. Some of them may even be true.

Alkaissy is best known in the wrestling world as Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie or General Adnan from the WWF, though he also had a tag title run in the WWWF as native American star Billy White Wolf.

He grew up in Iraq and claims to have been a school classmate of Saddam Hussein. He took up an international football scholarship at the University of Houston and had an amateur background, later being introduced to the pro ranks by Canadian legend Yvon Robert. Although he returned to Iraq, he fled the country in 1963 after the rise of the Baath party.

According to the book, Alkaissy was invited back after the Baath party was driven from power and met up with old schoolfriend Hussein who invited him to wrestle Georges Gordienko in front of 200,000 people in a Baghdad stadium, with another 100,000 watching on TV screens outside. So popular was Alkaissy, the book recalls, that he once went shopping and caused a traffic jam so large that Hussein, caught up in it, feared a coup was underway.

It’s clearly very difficult to verify the claims given the lack of historical records. There’s certainly photographic evidence of Alkaissy and Hussein together (and not the doctored pictures used by the WWF during the Sgt Slaughter angle), while footage exists of Alkaissy in a stadium match with a large crowd, though clearly not at full capacity.

The problem is that the book contains numerous errors in the period covering his run with Slaughter, all of which would have been easy to verify and suggesting ghostwriter/editor Ross Bernstein largely took Alkaissy at his word. Naturally every show was a sellout and US flags were apparently flying off the merchandise stands at house shows, but we also learn that the act had been going on for a year while the Gulf War took place (more like six months), that Colonel Mustafa was added to the act shortly before Slaughter won the title (in fact it was just after he’d dropped the belt to Hogan), that WrestleMania was moved from the LA Coliseum to the Sports Arena because of security concerns (LOL), that the Hogan-Slaughter match was unusually long at 20 minutes, the show grossed $145 million (the true figure was likely well under $10 million) and that he split with Slaughter in the ring after the SummerSlam tag match (it took place on TV over the following weeks.)

With that in mind, the book — which is generally well written — can best be described as an entertaining recollection of a career, but one to be read with a healthy dose of scepticism.

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Release schedule (14 May 2014)

The following titles are scheduled for release and available for pre-ordering at Amazon. As always, all dates are subject to change.

Titles in bold are new. Titles in italics have changed release date.

Rastlin: A Southern Survey by David McClister (photobook), originally scheduled for a 31 May release, is now listed on Amazon as “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” It’s still listed as 31 May on Amazon.ca and is available to order with 2-4 week delivery at Amazon.co.uk, though that has to be questionable at this point. It is listed on several non-Amazon book sites in the US.

17 June: WWE Superstars #1: Money In the Bank by Mick Foley (graphic novel)

23 June: Sister Like You by Jade Coles

1 July: The All-American Boy: Lessons and Stories on Life from Wrestling Legend Bob Backlund

1 August: Several WWE profile books by Blake Markegard

8 August: Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity, and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling R. Tyson Smith

15 September: 30 Years of WrestleMania by Brian Shields 

1 October: Time Heels: Cheating, Stealing, Spandex and the Most Villainous Moments in the History of Pro Wrestling by Jon Chattman, Rich Tarantino and Tommy Dreamer 

14 October: The Best in the World: At What I Have No Idea by Chris Jericho

14 October: The Death of WCW: 10th Anniversary Edition of the Bestselling Classic — Revised and Expanded by Bryan Alvarez & RD Reynolds. (This will also be available in hardback for the first time.)

4 November: The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker (Already available in hardback.)

11 November: The Dead Wrestler Elegies by W Todd Kaneko

16 December: Booker T: My Rise To Wrestling Royalty

20 January 2015: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella

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