Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

New Release: Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville

bluegrass brawlersA new title this week by John Cosper with forewords and afterwords by Jim Cornette and John Cosper respectively:

As the Attitude Era drew to a close in the early 2000s, the WWE already had an eye to the future. The stars who would succeed the Rock, Stone Cold, and the Undertaker were already well on their way to the big time, and Louisville, Kentucky had a front row seat to the future. They were all here – Cena, Orton, Batista, Lesnar. They were all on display every Wednesday night for free at Ohio Valley Wrestling’s Davis Arena. Alongside established stars like the Big Show and Mark Henry, the Superstars of Tomorrow trained under the watchful eye of Jim Cornette and Danny Davis, waiting for their moment. More would follow in their footsteps. Some were already close by, like the brash young heel lighting it up every week for Southern Indiana’s IWA Mid-South promotion, CM Punk.

As stunning as that time in history now appears, it was only one of many golden wrestling eras for Louisville, Kentucky, a city that has always loved its fight sports. “Bluegrass Brawlers: The Story of Professional Wrestling in Louisville” covers them all, from the earliest days when wrestling was king to the vibrant independent scene of today. Beginning in 1880 with tales of circus stars and barn-storming grapplers, “Bluegrass Brawlers” chronicles the evolution of a sport and the city that embraced it. Louisville was one of many towns to play host to William Muldoon, the “solid man of sport” and the first true professional athlete in American history who proved to be the first true villain in Louisville wrestling history.

Louisville bore witness to the first golden age of the sport in the years leading up to World War I. Top stars like Joe Stecher, Charlie Cutler, and the Zbyszko brothers all wrestled on stage at the opera house, and the sport’s first true superstar gained the name that would make him famous here – Ed “Strangler” Lewis. Promoter Heywood Allen made weekly wrestling a local tradition in the late 1930s, playing host to world champions like Orville Brown, Cowboy Bill Longson, Lou Thesz, and Mildred Burke. Louisville also saw a number of masked men, freaks, and novelty acts pass through town as well as weddings, and alligator, and the legendary Ginger the Wrestling Bear. Allen was one of many promoters to bring African American stars to prominence, including Louisville’s own “Black Panther” Jim Mitchell.

In the 1960s Louisville saw the in-ring debut of the greatest manager of all time, teenage Bobby Heenan. Then in 1970 Louisville became the number two town for the hottest promotion in the country, Jerry Jarrett’s Memphis Wrestling. For more than two decades the city thrilled to the Tuesday night showcases starring Jerry Lawler, Dutch Mantell, Bill Dundee, and dozens more. Louisville also became part of the proving ground for future stars like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Sting, the Ultimate Warrior, the Undertaker, Kane, the Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the Louisville Slugger, Jim Cornette. “Bluegrass Brawlers” covers it all, from 1880 to 2014. Through newspaper accounts, biographies, documentaries, and personal interviews, author John Cosper compiled the story of a city, a sport, and the unique impact both had on one another. The book also includes an introduction from Jim Cornette, more than 60 photos, and a final word from John Cena’s former manager, Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin. “Bluegrass Brawlers” is a must read for wrestling fans, sports fans, fans of the great city of Louisville, and anyone who can appreciate a good tall tale.

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Release schedule (26 June 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 in the past week.

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

1 August: Several WWE profile books by Blake Markegard

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

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.)

28 October: The Rock by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Joe Layden 

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: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella

3 February 2015: Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar by Shawn Michaels

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Wrestling Is For Me by Art Thomas

Don’t buy this. When it arrives sight unseen from an online auction site you’ll discover it’s not by 60s pro wrestler Art Thomas but rather a high school amateur wrestling coach of the same name.

You’ll also discover it’s a children’s book, heavily illustrated with pictures of very young kids in singlets locking up and looking inexplicably happy.

You’ll also discover that even in the context of having a wrestling book collection, it’s the second worst book a woman visiting your house for the first time can pick off the shelf and idly flick through.

Second to Exquisite Mayhem that is.

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Head Games by Christopher Nowinski

headgamesAlthough officially a book about (US) football, this study of a concussion crisis is important reading for anyone involved in professional wrestling.

Nowinski is of course the former Tough Enough and WWE star Chris Harvard, who retired from the ring after a series of concussions. His account of these symptoms, the way the WWE officials reacted, and his decision to quit the business make up the first few chapters.

The rest details and collates research into concussions, most notably among high school football players. It represents an important medical breakthrough, albeit one misrepresented and even mocked by some in the wrestling world.

Nowinski’s research does not simply show that blows to the head that cause concussions can have long-term health implications, or that repeated chairshots to the head are a bad idea.

Instead, he illustrates a very different point: when a person who has recently suffered a concussion goes on to suffer a second concussion before being fully recovered, the medical effects are spectacularly magnified.

This is clearly an issue in sports such as US football where it had too often been the case that a concussed player is sent back on the field in the same game, let along missing a match the following week. But it’s also hugely relevant to pro wrestling where, with wrestlers often working with the same opponents and repeating a routine several nights in a row, there’s often a good chance that the circumstances causes a concussion may be repeated. Indeed, it was a series of table matches in which Nowinski’s head banged into a table for the finish almost every night, which made his problems a career-ender.

The medical research sections of the book are heavy-going at times, though certainly not impenetrable, but it is worth bearing in mind this is more of a scientific than a literary book.

Thankfully the book, originally published shortly before Chris Benoit’s infamous final days, is in some way dated. A multi-million dollar lawsuit has brought the issue to greater attention in the NFL, while WWE has taken several steps to minimize the risks of concussion, even to its own cost. Still, Head Games remains a valuable read to discover exactly why the issue is so important.

(Note: this review is based on the original 2007 release, subtitled “Football’s Concussion Crisis.” The current edition, released in 2012, is expanded to include Nowinski’s work in establishing the Sports Legacy Institute and the battles to have concussions taken seriously by sports groups such as the NFL.)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

 

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Rock 2nd autobiography confirmed

The mystery of “The Rock” book due out on October 28 appears to be solved, with an article on Dwayne Johnson in The Hollywood Report confirming it is indeed a second volume of autobiography:

He also is preparing a second autobiography, following his 2000 best-seller The Rock Says. The new, untitled volume is out in the fall, and in addition to his film career, it may go into his 2008 divorce, which plunged him into a third depression — though he doesn’t go into details of his breakup.

Pre-Order “The Rock”

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Release schedule (18 June 2014)

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

The biggest addition this week is a Shawn Michaels autobigraphy, though it looks to be only partly about his wrestling career:

In Wrestling for My Life, WWE superstar Shawn Michaels shares from his heart about the highs and lows of his life inside the WWE. Included are some never-before-shared stories and an intimate look into his career as well as stories of hunting, family, and faith.

With millions of fans, Michaels had adulation and all the attention he could ask for, but he discovered there was something more. When he became a committed Christian during his years in the WWE it had to affect everything. Michaels reveals what it is like to be a man of faith in this unusual world and shares insights for all of us.

The Rock book due in October now lists Joe Layden as a co-author. The pair worked together on Rock’s original autobiography in 2000, so it’s possible this could be a re-release, an expanded second edition, or a second volume. We’ll keep you posted.

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

23 June: Sister Like You by Jade Coles

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

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

1 August: Several WWE profile books by Blake Markegard

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

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.)

28 October: The Rock by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Joe Layden 

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: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella

3 February 2015: Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar by Shawn Michaels

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New releases include CM Punk book

A couple of new releases in recent days:

The Mighty LWF by CM Venom is an account of a Chicago backyard/indy group based heavily around the fact that it was the starting place for CM Punk.

On a similar note, albeit without the benefit of a star as a selling point, Decade of Elite promises the insider story of the indy group Texas Elite Wrestling.

(Check back tomorrow for news on pre-orders including updates on books by Shawn Michaels and The Rock.)

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Release schedule (11 June 2014)

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

The big news this week is a listing for a book apparently titled “The Rock” and by Dwayne Johnson. There are few clear details about this and it’s far from certain that this really is an authorised biography or an autobiography. If that is the case, it’s certainly very surprising that no word broke about Johnson writing a book before now.

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

23 June: Sister Like You by Jade Coles

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

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

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

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.)

28 October: The Rock by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Treat with caution as it’s unconfirmed this is indeed an autobiography)

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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Chokehold by Jim Wilson

chokeholdWhen Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer praises a book as “the best researched book on pro wrestling ever written”, it’s a safe bet it may be worth a read. But when an administrator on the historical-based Wrestling Classics site describes the book’s author as “a curtain jerker who made zero impression on anybody except for some people having vague memories of his being abysmally bad… his claims of how much money he was making and what he was ‘promised’ because of what a big football star he was have always seemed like the ravings of a lunatic to me”, it’s clear there is more to the book than meets the eye.

Chokehold is the work of former All-American college footballer and Georgia-based pro wrestler Jim Wilson. The 538 page book is a combination of autobiography, history of the business since the 1940s, and a campaigning piece to ‘clean up’ the wrestling business. At the heart of the book is a simple message: the way professional wrestling is treated as a joke by mainstream society has allowed it to escape the scrutiny faced by ‘legitimate’ industries.

The book starts with an account of a 1985 incident when ABC’s investigative news show 20-20 covered the pro wrestling business, a matter of weeks before the first WrestleMania. Guests Jim Wilson and Eddie Mansfield had spoken to reporters in the hope they would cover what they saw as an abusive industry; one where promoters held all the power and wrestlers followed orders or faced black-balling. Instead the show concentrated on the (shock horror) revelation that wrestling matches were fixed. Indeed, the broadcast was later remembered solely for the incident where WWF star David Schultz assaulted journalist John Stossel when he “dared to ask the tough question whether it was all fake”. It’s ironic that nearly 20 years on, Vince McMahon now uses ‘openness’ on this largely irrelevant issue to distract from his lies about issues that truly matter. Or as he calls it, WWE Confidential.

The book’s then covers four main topics. The first is Wilson‘s own experiences, leaving football to work as a wrestler and then move to Georgia. Eventually, according to his account, he turned down sexual advances from promoter Jim Barnett in Australia and found himself sent back to the United States and unable to get work in any NWA territory. Barnett’s counter-claim is that Wilson caused an embarrassing public incident with a married stewardess. Other wrestlers of the time claim Wilson‘s ‘black-balling’ was more to do with his refusal to lose matches. Wilson replies that he only refused to do the job when asked to do so in a deliberate attempt to damage his marketability. Whatever the truth (and in most cases it turns out to be a little of everything), Wilson‘s own story shows that a wrestler who got on the wrong side of the NWA cartel was looking at a far less successful career.

The second strand of the book is the infamous ‘Battle for Atlanta’ when NWA promoter Ray Gunkel’s widow Ann was edged out of control of the Georgia territory and began running opposition shows. The NWA’s response began with a conference call with NWA promoters Paul Jones and Lester Welch (Georgia), Eddie Graham (Florida), Sam Muchnick (St. Louis), Fritz Von Erich (Dallas), Mike LeBell (Los Angeles), LeRoy McGuirk (Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi) and Vince McMahon Sr (WWWF). It took in methods from the perfectly legal (running shows in opposition; bringing Gordon Solie in for commentary) to the ethically dubious (banning wrestlers in every NWA territory from working for Gunkel; persuading big stars to take bookings for Gunkel solely so they could cause an embarrassing no-show) to the flat-out illegal (vandalising the car of a local promoter who supported Gunkel; bribing arena staff to refuse to rent buildings to non-NWA promoters). And it ended with Gunkel defeated and the NWA monopoly restored.

From here the book expands to look at the long history of the NWA, from its formation, through the 1956 legal decree where the NWA members promised the U.S. Justice Department that they would cease all attempts to exercise monopoly power, through the countless times the organisation simply ignored this promise (and the countless government investigations of this abuse that mysteriously ran out of steam), right through to the NWA’s collapse when Vince McMahon beat them at their own game. This section of the book benefits from extensive research, including transcripts of several major legal cases between the NWA and ‘outlaw’ promoters that Wilson obtained under Freedom of Information regulations.

The final section of the book looks at more recent issues in the business, from the long list of drug-related deaths, to the steroid scandals of the mid-90s to the numerous sexual abuse allegations. It also looks at the ridiculous system by which wrestlers are considered ‘independent contractors’ by promoters, despite the fact that, for example, a WWE contract gives the company complete control over where a wrestler works, under what name, in what circumstances, on what dates, and even what they are paid. The simple fact is that if a WWE wrestler is not allowed to take independent bookings (which applies to virtually every contracted talent), they are an employee. But to admit this would leave the company liable for healthcare benefits, pension funds, sick pay during injury layoffs and, perhaps worst of all for the corporation, they would have to pay the United States equivalent of National Insurance taxes.

While the book as a whole is an absolute must-read, with some uncomfortable truths about the way the business has truly operated, it does have some weaknesses. Most notable is the gross disparity between Wilson‘s assessment of his own skills and potential, and that of those who saw him in action. Wilson believes he was a genuinely strong candidate for the NWA title, a view shared by virtually nobody else.  It’s particularly ironic that Wilson seems to have fallen victim to the very same pattern he so readily recognises in others: a wrestler stays within the system (or as Jack Brisco puts it in a conversation with Wilson, “goes with the program”) blinded by promises of fame and glory and a headliner slot; promises that a promoter is in fact making to everybody in sight. While it is perhaps little more than comical to read of WWF jobber Barry ‘O’ honestly believing he was a future world champion, how many modern-day interviews with disillusioned WWF departees tell of an initial meeting with Vince McMahon where they were ‘promised’ an eventual main event slot? This lack of perspective on Wilson‘s part is a particular shame as it gives ammunition to those who attack the messenger rather than take issue with the message.

The people responding in this way can also point to Wilson‘s recounting of a popular story that Tommy Rich  received an NWA title run after acceding to Jim Barnett’s sexual demands. Virtually nobody of note believes this to be true, but the title reign’s background remains unclear and Wilson may have unintentionally stumbled across a previously unspoken explanation. As the book explains, Barnett’s NWA colleagues were suspicious about his control of the Georgia group’s national cable TV slot on TBS and it was hardly the first time he had been suspected on plotting a national expansion. So it is certainly plausible that Barnett (who controlled the NWA title) booked the title changes from Harley Race to Rich, back to Race and on to Dusty Rhodes with the intention of boosting his local business at the expense of the other territories; for a title that changed hands rarely to suddenly see three title switches in two months, and all in the same state, does certainly raise questions

The more recent material is weaker than the NWA stories, partly because Wilson had largely stopped following the business and partly because the book was originally written in the 1980s but failed to find an audience. The major problem with this section is that it tends to simply list every allegation going without taking a truly objective look at their validity. While, for example, the list of early deaths is indisputable (and makes chilling reading), the outcome of the WWF steroid trial is grossly misrepresented. Wilson claims the jury was conned by Vince McMahon into dismissing the charges simply because wrestling was fake and thus irrelevant; in reality the trial demonstrated a strong culture within the company of encouraging steroid abuse, but the prosecution case was so inept that the specific charges laid before the court ranged from unproven to logically impossible.

The book similarly falls into an oversimplified ‘good guys vs the evil business’ trap when it deals with Owen Hart’s death, highlighting Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura’s call for a wrestlers union in the days after the tragedy, but failing to mention his sudden silence when, just three months later, he took a refereeing gig for the company. One of the striking points that becomes clear reading the book is that, ultimately, virtually every wrestler who goes against ‘the system’ winds up back on the inside. Indeed, one of the cases mentioned in the book has had such an outcome since its writing. Sable, who sued the WWF for $140 million in a sexual harassment case, is now back in the company playing a character who apparently sleeps with the chairman. Can you seriously picture this happening in any other business traded on Wall Street?

But despite its faults, the book makes a powerful case that the wrestling business falls far short of the basic standards that are commonplace in any ‘legitimate’ industry. Wilson makes three specific suggestions for changes he feels are needed to ‘clean up’ the business.

1) Basic health and safety standards. Because there is no national equivalent of our NHS, people in the United States generally have a health insurance policy. In virtually every industry, this policy is paid for by the employer as a standard benefit of working for the company. Yet in wrestling, where performers are ‘independent contractors’, there is a long-standing tradition of injuries and health being ‘your problem, not ours’. Not only do wrestlers have to pay their own hefty medical bills (NWA-TNA has just become the first major promotion to offer health insurance), but they face lost earnings if they miss matches, even though they suffered the injury at work. Of course, none of this matters in the real world, because we all know nobody gets hurt in these phony matches…

2) A union for wrestlers. Whatever the make-up of the wrestling industry, wrestlers have always been disposable if they are seen as troublemakers. In the territorial days, there were always new stars to bring in from other areas. Today, there are far more qualified wrestlers than there are slots available on the WWE roster. It has always been a case of ‘like it or lump it’. According to the book, the share of WWF/WWE revenue that has gone to wrestlers in salaries has constantly hovered around 12 to 15 per cent. To put this into perspective, Nationwide League football clubs in England were recently ordered to limit players’ salaries to 60 per cent of the club’s revenue. But in reality, a union will likely never happen. The hierarchy of wrestlers payoffs will always mean that the main event stars who would give a union true power in the event of a strike are the very people who make the most money and have the least personal interest in getting a fair deal for everybody.

3) A return to state athletic commission regulation of the business. Over the years, athletic commissions have played many roles in the wrestling business, from ‘those people you bribe to recognise your choice of champion after a double-cross in the ring’, to ‘those people you bribe to make sure nobody else can hire your favourite building’, to ‘the people who paid for a drug-dealing doctor to attend the shows’, to ‘those people we shouldn’t have to pay taxes to because we’re not a real sport’. The role of ‘those people who make sure the business operates in a decent and legitimate manner where everyone gets a fair shake’ is one that athletic commissions may never play. If nothing else, a credible commission system could end the problem of WWE stars being released when their personal problems get out of hand only to be snapped up by independent groups and continuing to wrestle rather than deal with their issues.

Writing on the Wrestling Classics site, Jody Hamilton (who wrestled as the Assassin, helped book in WCW and is the father of referee Nick Patrick), gave a particularly frank opinion on both sides to the book’s arguments:

“Some of the conditions described by Wilson really did exist, and had existed long before Jim Wilson ever attempted to become a pro wrestler.

“Everyone starting in the business knew up front there was no insurance, no pension plan, only a very select few had a money guarantee, and some of the equipment we had to work on sometimes was very poorly maintained. There were promoters that fell far short of an accurate accounting of the gate receipts. ‘If you didn’t like it don’t get in it’ was more or less the accepted attitude.

“Now I would be the last person in the world to condemn anyone for attempting to improve themselves or their working conditions. As a singles wrestler and as a tag team wrestler I had more than my share of run-ins with promoters about payoffs, finishes, poorly maintained equipment, and generally poor working conditions.

“Yet I was never ‘blackballed’ or ‘blacklisted.’ Why didn’t this happen? Because I had a reputation for drawing big money wherever I went. Promoters all over the country hated Buddy Rogers, but when they would find out he was available they all jumped at the chance to book him, because he always drew money.

“The real reason promoters quit booking Wilson is because he was an egotistical, glory happy, didn’t want to do business, never wanted to lose pain in the butt whose performance in the ring left a lot to be desired. However, if Wilson had ever proven himself as a bona fide attraction capable of drawing money, promoters would have used him regardless of what he did.”

Ultimately, the truth about Chokehold is that much of what it says about attitudes to professional wrestling will be demonstrated with cruel irony. The book will make no difference to the way the business operates.

Promoters will dismiss it by attacking the author, not his message, and they’ll continue to protect and abuse their powers.

Wrestlers will continue to chase illusory dreams and think they will be the exception to the grim rule that the book describes.

Fans will largely ignore the book, having been educated to a culture where all that matters is the next pay-per-view, with history not even an afterthought.

And the book won’t even register a blip on the radar screen of the ‘real world’.

Because wrestling is fake, don’t you know?

(This “critical analysis” originally appeared in the Pro Wrestling Press fanzine and is available in the book Slamthology.)

Read on Kindle from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle by Lillian Ellison

moolahA veteran wrestler refusing to break kayfabe does not necessarily mean an interview or book will be a bad thing. Unfortunately with the Fabulous Moolah, that’s very much the case.

In this autobiography Moolah’s real name and age are treated as major revelations in a world in which wrestling is a genuine sport and, while wrestlers might flap their gums to hype a show, no finish is ever predetermined.

It’s perhaps only to be expected from a woman who’s career was based around being a legend, in both the positive and negative senses of the word, but it makes for two separate problems in this case. First, it means that curiousity about many of the more interesting elements of Moolah’s career goes unsatisfied. The shoot between Mildred Burke and June Byers that led indirectly to Moolah’s own title reign is just another contest with no unusual elements in this account. Similarly Moolah’s infamous double-cross of Wendi Richter as the Spider Lady is just another hard-fought victory. We also get no insight into the building of the myth of the 28-year title reign (and how several title switches were left out of the story) or Moolah’s thoughts at being persuaded to drop the title at the Brawl to End it All, at the time the most viewed US match in decades.

Secondly, and in contrast to Arn Anderson’s style of writing in his own kayfabed book, the tone Moolah uses to give this semi-fictionalised account of her career makes it very difficult to trust how much of the book’s coverage of her life outside of the ring should be believed.

It’s reasonably well-written, so might be worth considering as a throwaway read if you see it at a low price, but consider it a work of an entertainment rather than something you’ll learn anything from.

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