Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

The Best In The World: At What I Have No Idea by Chris Jericho

jericho3This is definitely among the best third volumes of wrestling autobiography, alongside Adrian Street’s So Many Ways To Hurt You. Unfortunately that categorisation acts as faint praise for several perhaps-inevitable reasons.

Jericho’s new book, following on from the structural trick of his first two volumes, runs from his 2007 return to WWE until his surprise appearance at the 2013 Royal Rumble. It’s a period that covers some of his bigger wrestling successes, notably the Shawn Michaels feud in 2008 that earned him his spot in the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.

Two major problems limit the book’s potential. The first is simply the period it covers, one in which Jericho was firmly established in both wrestling and other entertainment activities. A Lion’s Tale had the story of a boyhood fan working his way around the world en route to achieving his dream job. Undisputed told the tale of a man struggling to overcome setbacks and disappointments with said dream job, as well as branching out into non-wrestling activities. This book has no such arc to speak of: while Jericho’s successes are great for him personally, there less cohesion or narrative here and it’s simply a set of anecdotes in which things are generally going well.

The second problem is that not only is so much of the period fresh in the reader’s mind, but so much of the behind-the-scenes stuff has already been revealed by Jericho in podcasts and interviews. The book has few major revelations and while, for example, it’s fun to be reminded of the Michaels feud or the silent promo on Jericho’s 2012 return, there’s not much to tell about the creative process. Even for those who haven’t heard the stories before, there’s no much said beyond, for example, the Michaels feud was meant to be a one-off match but they came up with ideas to extend it, and Jericho didn’t mean to punch Michaels’ wife for real, but it worked out for the best. The biggest insight is into the unique workings of Vince McMahon’s mind: it’s hard to imagine him even using e-mail or text messaging, so seeing such messages quoted is a genuine revelation.

That’s not to say there aren’t some fun stories here, be they the saga of trying to make it back to the US after the Icelandic volcano explosion, a backstage brawl between Big Show and Great Khali, or Batista’s failed attempts to disguise a banned bladejob as an accident. But most of these are over in a page or two, giving the book more the feel of a diary than a deeper autobiography.

It’s also important to stress that the book is an enjoyable read, written in Jericho’s established casual, engaging style. There are a few overdone devices (such as references to his first two volumes) but nothing that should put off anyone who was already considering picking up the book.

The Best In The World should by no means be considered a bad or even merely average book. It’s hard to imagine anyone who has enough interest to pick it up not enjoying the read or considering it a good use of their time. But the perhaps unavoidable shortcomings compared with the first two volumes mean that, unlike with those books, it’s neither something that’s an immediate must-read, nor something that you’ll be rushing to re-read later on.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Release Schedule (29 October 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.

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

18 November: The Dead Wrestler Elegies by W Todd Kaneko  (Pro Wrestling Books review already up)

1 January 2015: Tag-Teamed #2 (WWE) by Jeff Gottesfeld (This book is no longer listed)

20 January: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella (Pro Wrestling Books review already up)

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

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

17 February: Booker T: My Rise To Wrestling Royalty

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

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

5 May: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

24 June Pro Wrestling FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the World’s Most Entertaining Spectacle by Bryan Solomon

28 July: Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan

4 August: The Great and Mighty Nikko by Xavier Garza

(30 December 2020/Currently unavailable to pre-order):  The Rock by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Joe Layden 

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Missy Hyatt: First Lady of Wrestling by Missy Hyatt

missyfirstladyThis is an entertaining enough read, albeit on the short side and with much more emphasis on Missy’s romantic encounters than on her insight into the wrestling business.

However, Missy herself says she was unhappy with the book, which was ghostwritten, a process she believes means it’s not a full and accurate account of her life and career.

She’s working on a second book which she will have written entirely herself and based on her contributions to my articles for Fighting Spirit Magazine I suspect this will be one well worth looking out for, and surprisingly insightful and perceptive.

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Release Schedule (22 October)

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.

24 October: Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Volume 3 by Paul O’Brien (Brief review already up on Pro Wrestling Books.)

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

18 November: The Dead Wrestler Elegies by W Todd Kaneko  (Pro Wrestling Books review already up)

1 January 2015: Tag-Teamed #2 (WWE) by Jeff Gottesfeld (This book is no longer listed)

20 January: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella (Pro Wrestling Books review already up)

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

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

17 February: Booker T: My Rise To Wrestling Royalty

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

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

5 May: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

24 June Pro Wrestling FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the World’s Most Entertaining Spectacle by Bryan Solomon

28 July: Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan

4 August: The Great and Mighty Nikko by Xavier Garza

(30 December 2020/Currently unavailable to pre-order):  The Rock by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Joe Layden 

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Modern Wrestling by Jack Curley and Nat Fleischer

modernwrestling

Most definitely in the collectors category, this is a good example of wrestling in its era, albeit one that doesn’t lend any real insight into the business itself.

It’s the work of Jack Curley, a major boxing and wrestling promoter of the late 19th and early 20th century, responsible for several of the style and rule changes that made pro wrestling more entertaining, and a key part of the original “wrestling trust”, a forerunner to the NWA. Fliescher was editor and creator of Ring Magazine, which originally covered wrestling as well as boxing.

The book is an instructional manual with details of how to apply holds and training exercises. It’s written at a time where the only real difference between pro and amateur rules was the three count (the rules listed here don’t mention submissions), so in practice it’s an amateur wrestling manual. There’s also a suggested menu, which sounds good to me: bacon for breakfast, lamb chops for lunch and steak for the evening meal!

There are plenty of illustrations, both drawings and photos of stars of the day such as Ed Lewis, Ray Steele and Jim Londos performing holds, both in posed demonstrations and match action shots. It’s probably the deepest collection of pics I’ve seen of the wrestlers of the between-the-war era.

The book originally came out in 1931 with a green cover, which is the one I had. A revised edition in 1935 (pictured) added a chapter about Frank Gotch’s favourite holds. If anyone has it, I’d be interested to know if this version repeats the original’s assertion that George Hackenschmidt was regarded as the greatest wrestler of the modern era, something not really compatible with the American legend of Gotch.

Unfortunately, unless you are a seriously hardcore collector or, like me, snatch a bargain on eBay, this is something of a stretch at its current going rate of $120.

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The Midnight Express 25th Anniversary Scrapbook by Jim Cornette with Tim Ash

The_Midnight_Exp_4c377bf126522Unless you have zero interest in wrestling of the territorial and national expansion era, this is an absolute must.

It’s a perfect format, midway between a record book and an autobiography. The main feature is a complete listing of every match from both the Bobby Eaton/Dennis Condrey and Eaton/Stan Lane version of the team, covering Mid-South, World Class and Jim Crockett Promotions. As well as dates, venues and results, the live gate and attendances are listed wherever possible.

The results are broken up by numerous notes of varying length explaining the booking patterns, backstage antics, memorable crowd interactions and payoffs, fair and otherwise. You’ll also seen numerous original documents from Cornette’s collection, including payoff sheets, tickets, memos from management (including Bill Watts explaining how to sell a stipulation match in a promo) and even format sheets for television shows including Clash of the Champions IX, a notable contrast to the epic scripts that occasionally leak from RAW shows today. These are all placed in the relevant section of the book rather than arranged randomly, giving them a much clearer context.

Before and after the result section is around 70 pages of bonus content, a combination of photos and articles on more general subjects in the Midnights’ careers including lawsuits from battles with fans, details of comedy spots the team liked to perform on smaller shows, practical jokes, genuine hate mail from fans, and Jim Herd’s convoluted attempt to explain WCW’s payoff formula in court.

While this doesn’t have the narrative of an autobiography, it’s just as entertaining and the format guarantees it tells a complete story. The content makes the most of the format and it will surely remain one of my favourite books unless and until it’s topped by a similar volume on the history of Smoky Mountain, something all fans should continue to badger Cornette about until it arrives.

The book is available exclusively at the Cornette Collectibles website.

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Release Schedule (15 October)

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

Main news this week is the Rock’s second autobiography being put back to the somewhat unconvincing date of December 2020.

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

24 October: Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Volume 3 by Paul O’Brien (Brief review already up on Pro Wrestling Books.)

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  (Pro Wrestling Books review already up)

1 January 2015: Tag-Teamed #2 (WWE) by Jeff Gottesfeld (This book is no longer listed)

20 January: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella (Pro Wrestling Books review already up)

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

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

17 February: Booker T: My Rise To Wrestling Royalty

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

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

5 May: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

24 June Pro Wrestling FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the World’s Most Entertaining Spectacle by Bryan Solomon

28 July: Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan

4 August: The Great and Mighty Nikko by Xavier Garza

(30 December 2020):  The Rock by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Joe Layden 

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Thumbs Up by Joe Cornelius

corneliusThis is a hugely entertaining story of a British wrestler’s career and life, but it’s most definitely not for the easily offended.

Cornelius was a successful heavyweight in the 1950s and 60s, working across the UK as well as touring continental Europe and Japan. He went on to act in films and on stage, including being a regular entertainer at the London Palladium.

The book doesn’t explicitly break kayfabe, but it’s easy enough to read between the lines when he’s explaining how he would liven up a bout for the benefit of the crowd.

It’s the tales outside the ring that really stand out however. His activities in the world of not-entirely-legitimate goods trading are lively and entertaining, while his recollections of sexual antics are eye-raisingly explicit at times.

There’s not really enough here for anyone but an enthusiast for the period to go out of their way to read, but if you spot a second-hand copy at at a bargain price, it’s worth a buy.

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Adam Copeland on Edge

edgeThe fact that a book by a then-16-time WWF titleholder was released far too early in his career may say more about modern-day booking than it does the author, but this 2004 autobiography looks woefully incomplete today.

At the front end that’s the simple issue that Edge falls the wrongside of the “Jericho divide” regarding modern wrestlers route into the business. While the likes of Jericho and Mick Foley toured the world and had tales of working international and domestic territories, Edge is from the generation of a brief small-time independent career before going into the WWF developmental system.

As a result, while his account of growing up a fan with best friend Jay Reso (who’d one day be his WrestleMania-winning tag partner Christian) are charming, there’s little of interest on his pre-WWF days save some hair-raising tales of working the “death tours” in remote and frozen Canada.A

On the back end, the book ends during his enforced year-plus layoff with a neck injury. That leaves a WWF spell when Edge had plenty of matches, but there’s little gossip or backstage insight: you won’t learn much other than that Christian and he enjoyed doing comedy skits, and that they talked over some crazy spots before the TLC matches.

Unfortunately what happened in Edge’s life after the book would have been far more interesting: the affair with Amy Dumas, the resulting shoot-style angle with Matt Hardy, the first WWE title run, the hardcore battles with Mick Foley, the ascension to genuine main event status, headlining WrestleMania and finally having his career end in an instant in a doctor’s surgery and his adjustment to life outside of the business.

This is of course no criticism of the book as it stood at the time of publication, and it’s certainly well-written and readable enough. It’s also perfectly understandable why, at a time when WWE’s book division was doing well, a popular midcarder should be profiled. But reading the book in 2014, even given it’s available for a solitary cent, remains a frustratingly incomplete experience.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

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Release Schedule (8 October)

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

Main news is that the Daniel Bryan book is once again up for pre-order after being temporarily unavailable. The book will also be released on audio CD on the same day. Meanwhile the ever-elusive Bob Backlund book has been put back again, this time to March next year.

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

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. (Despite the official release date, this book is already shipping and is also available on the iBookstore for Apple devices.)

24 October: Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Volume 3 by Paul O’Brien (Brief review already up on Pro Wrestling Books.)

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  (Pro Wrestling Books review already up)

1 January 2015: Tag-Teamed #2 (WWE) by Jeff Gottesfeld (This book is no longer listed)

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

20 January: The Sweetheart: A Novel by Angelina Mirabella (Pro Wrestling Books review already up)

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

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

17 February: Booker T: My Rise To Wrestling Royalty

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

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

5 May: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

24 June Pro Wrestling FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the World’s Most Entertaining Spectacle by Bryan Solomon

28 July: Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan

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