Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Brisco by Jack Brisco & William Murdock

briscoWhile not everyone will find the entirety of this ghostwritten autobiography interesting, it’s a must for people with an interest in the territorial era.

It’s a worthwhile story from a wrestler who was once at the very top of the business and then walked away right as the WWF was beginning its national expansion, making him one of the few wrestlers to quit while still healthy and able to perform at a strong level. The manner of his departure — simply turning around while changing flights and heading on the first plane back to Florida — is addressed here.

The first 50 pages or so cover Brisco’s amateur career, culminating in the NCAA championship. This section is a little dry and may struggle to hold the interest of those who don’t follow amateur wrestling closely, but its well worth persevering.

What really makes the book is Brisco’s account of his time as NWA champion. Rather than merely recount dates and opponents, he goes into great detail about the pros and cons of working the schedule — making great money, but rarely being home. His recollections of the sharp contrast of leaving the ring after a main event only to be alone in the dressing room, or the confusion of waking up in an identikit motel and having to rifle through airline tickets to work out what city he was in are striking and really help bring a perspective that only the handful of wrestlers who had runs with the world title can share.

The book comes across as particularly honest, for example detailing Brisco’s decision to “sell” an unauthorized title reign to Giant Baba, including the fact that he secured a $25,000 payoff to do so — exactly the amount he had deposited as a bond with the NWA and risked losing if Baba didn’t live up to his word of dropping the title back.

There’s also plenty of detail about the decision of he and brother Jerry to sell their stock in Georgia Championship Wrestling to Vince McMahon, a cloak-and-dagger exercise that allowed the WWF to take over the prestigious TBS Saturday night timeslot.

With the book now in a second printing and available on Kindle, it’s definitely one for the hidden gem list and worth picking up.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

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Release schedule (27 August 2014)

The following titles are scheduled for release and available for pre-ordering at Amazon. As always, all dates are subject to change. The main news this week is delays for books by Bob Backlund, Booker T and The Rock.

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

15 September: 30 Years of WrestleMania by Brian Shields 

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

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 . (Already available on Kindle.)

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.)

24 October: Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Volume 3 by Paul O’Brien

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

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

6 January: The Rock by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Joe Layden 

20 January: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella

1 February: Outrageous Pro Wrestling Rivalries (Sports Rivalries) by Matt Chandler

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

17 March: Capitol Revolution: The Rise of the McMahon Wrestling Empire by Tim Hornbaker

17 March: Booker T: My Rise To Wrestling Royalty

1 April: Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan

5 May: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

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News: Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Volume 3 Coming

bloodred3Author Paul O’Brien has confirmed that the third and final volume of his Blood Red Turns Dollar Green series will be released on October 24:

It’s 1984. Twelve years after the New York territory was nearly burned to the ground. Twelve years since a bullet changed everything. Twelve years since Lenny Long saw his family. 

Twelve years is a long time to think. Twelve years is a long time to plan. Twelve years is just about the perfect amount of time for revenge. 

You can pre-order now on Kindle on Amazon.com
and Amazon.co.uk. Hard copy pre-orders will follow later.

I’d expect good things from this one; check out my reviews of volume 1 and volume 2 to see why.

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Release schedule (20 August 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.

26 August: WWE Slam City #1: Finished by Mathias Triton and Alitha Martinez 

15 September: 30 Years of WrestleMania by Brian Shields 

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

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 . (Already available on Kindle.)

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

1 February: Outrageous Pro Wrestling Rivalries (Sports Rivalries) by Matt Chandler

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

17 March: Capitol Revolution: The Rise of the McMahon Wrestling Empire by Tim Hornbaker

1 April: Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan

5 May: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

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Pile Drive by Kenneth R Boness

pile-driverIt is truly wonderful that a book such as this could be written and published. But it would be unfair to say everyone needs to read it.

Pile Driver is a biography of 1920s and 30s wrestler Charles “Midget” Fischer, a grappler who stood 5’3″ and thus mainly competed in lower weight divisions, claiming versions of both the world light-heavyweight and middleweight titles. While not as widely known as the heavyweights of the era, he has a historical claim to fame by reportedly creating what we now know as the piledriver in a 1931 bout.

Author Kenneth R Boness, who hails from the same tiny Wisconsin village of Butternet as Fischer, clearly put an immense effort into researching the book. Running more than 700 pages, it’s largely based on newspaper reports of the time, many of which are reprinted in full.

This brings the benefit that the book is utterly comprehensive about Fischer’s in-ring career and elements of his personal life. The downside is that, by his own admission, Boness decided it was simplest to tell the “straight” story rather than address the issue of whether and (more realistically) how Fischer was involved in working finishes and programs.

The focus of the book is both its greatest strength and weakness depending on your viewpoint. If the idea of 700 pages on a lesser-known figure of the pre-war era appeals, you’ll find much to love in Pile Driver. But unless you have a hardcore interest in this aspect of wrestling history, you’re likely to find it hard going.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Hey Boy! Where’d You Get Them Ears by Paul Boesch

51N037Z5WqL._SL500_SY344_BO1,204,203,200_This is one of the few out-of-print books that is worth tracking down. Boesch, the promoter in Houston for 20 years, was keen on sharing the lessons of wrestling history, in particular encouraging Wrestling Observer Newsletter editor Dave Meltzer to attend the Cauliflower Alley Club at a time when “outsiders” were rarely seen at the events.

He continues these efforts in a book that’s part history of the US business, part autobiography. The book itself has quite this history: Boesch circulated a first draft manuscript among a few trusted friends including Meltzer and Jim Cornette that was reportedly far more critical of some wrestling figures, notably Vince McMahon. The finished version, published 13 years after his death, was somewhat toned down. It was never available through mainstream book retailers, but Boesch’s widow sold copies at events such as Cauliflower Alley (where I picked up my copy.)

The book is a perfect example of how the kayfabe issue can be a red herring in wrestling books. At no point does Boesch question the legitimacy of match outcomes, but it’s an easy task to read between the lines when it comes to points he makes about booking and similar issues.

While the book is great purely as a factual record of events, it’s the lessons to be learned that make it a must-read. A key example is when he held a fan vote to decide the next main event, predictably leading to a bout with the area’s two leading babyfaces against one another, yet the crowd proved disappointing. It taught Boesch that what fans say they want to see is not always what they really want to see.

The book also repeatedly makes a point illustrated by Meltzer in his obituary in the Wrestling Observer:

I recall one time, after a fairly bad house, he called me up out of the blue. He told me about the house, and then started giving excuses one after another. The weather was bad. It was the end of the month and money was tight. The economy is bad of late. The TV show got moved back an hour the week before the card because the baseball game went into extra innings. We had to change one of the main events because a guy got hurt two weeks before the card. He had about 15 of them in a row. What I’ll remember most was his last comment. ‘I’m telling you all these things now so you’ll know every excuse I can give you for the fact that I put together a card nobody wanted to see.

It’s a real shame that with so much knowledge to share, the book is not more widely available. It was published and printed by Houston firm Minuteman Press, but to the best of my knowledge it is no longer on sale. If that is the case, this is worth setting up an eBay alert for.

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Release schedule (13 August 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.

19 August: Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity, and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling

26 August: WWE Slam City #1: Finished

15 September: 30 Years of WrestleMania by Brian Shields 

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

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 . (Already available on Kindle.)

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

1 January: Outrageous Pro Wrestling Rivalries (Sports Rivalries) by Matt Chandler

20 January: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella

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

17 March: Capitol Revolution: The Rise of the McMahon Wrestling Empire by Tim Hornbaker

1 April: Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan

5 May: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

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Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks by Fred Blassie

blassieThis is a great story, told well. It’s a particular treat for those used to official WWE material downplaying a wrestler’s career working elsewhere.

Other than Jerry Lawler’s book, this is one of the few WWE-published autobiographies to give the majority of the book over to pre-WWE content. Indeed, while the book runs 269 pages, it’s not until page 169 that Blassie even makes it to New York aged 53.

There’s plenty to tell beforehand though, from Blassie’s time on the carnival circuit (where he saw a performer with a slender neck biting the heads of animals, inspiring his “pencil neck geek” catchphrase), his work in the early days of wrestling on TV, his matches with Rikidozan, his involvement in the Muhammad Ali-Antonio Inoki bout and, most memorably, his bitter feud with John Tolos that culminated in a match at the LA Coliseum.

Ghosted by Keith Elliot Greenberg, the book no doubt includes some of Blassie’s more colourful recollections of reality, but for the most part it appears accurate, with Greenberg having verified dates and times with historians such as Steve Yohe. Unless you have no interest whatsoever in the territory era and vintage Japan, it’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying this.

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Release schedule (6 August 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.

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 

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

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 . (Already available on Kindle.)

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

1 January: Outrageous Pro Wrestling Rivalries (Sports Rivalries) by Matt Chandler

20 January: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella

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

17 March: Capitol Revolution: The Rise of the McMahon Wrestling Empire by Tim Hornbaker

1 April: Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan

5 May: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

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