Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Long Bomb by Brett Forrest

longbombThis isn’t strictly a wrestling book, but it does detail the biggest financial bloodbath any wrestling promoter has ever suffered.

It’s the story of the XFL (perhaps tellingly, the X stood for nothing at all), the joint venture by the WWF and NBC to run a springtime football league. As with so many other challengers to the NFL, it bit the dust, but did so quite spectacularly. Folding after just one season it lost a reported $70 million after taxes, split between the two sides. Indeed, it was such a disaster that Vince McMahon’s company managed to lose money during the financial year when its wrestling business was strongest, averaging a ridiculous 531,000 buys for every pay-per-view show.

Long Bomb is an unauthorized account of the XFL’s brief history: though receiving no assistance from WWF or NBC, author Bret Forrest interviewed numerous sources, most notably the players of the Las Vegas Outlaws team. He has an engaging and lively style, but still covers all the bases in telling the story.

In particular, the book makes clear that the league was by no means dead on arrival. It’s debut broadcast did a 9.5 rating, double what the league had targeted when selling advertising. The problem was that the audience dwindled at a rate only matched by the UK’s short-lived Celebrity Wrestling. Week two plummeted to a 4.6 rating and within a month the audiences had dwindled to levels that could only be described as disastrous, with one game tying the lowest ever rating recorded in prime time on a national network.

The problem was the it was never quite clear what the XFL was meant to be. The razzamatazz presentation and gimmickry wasn’t enough to keep wrestling fans interested in second-rate football, but it was enough to deter the more purist sports lover. In particular the much-targeted 18-34 male demographic had little interest, with advertisers running for the hills.

Long Bomb isn’t just worth reading because it deals with Vince McMahon; it’s worth reading because it deals with the realities of presenting sport and entertainment in the TV business, something that to this day remains the biggest factor in shaping the wrestling business.

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Recent Release Roundup

Here are a few books released in recent weeks that didn’t get advance listings and thus weren’t in our weekly release schedule.

 


Wrestling Revue #143

WRESTLING REVUE magazine is devoted to classic, Golden Age Professional Wrestling. This issue features a special on the greatest villain the sport has ever seen – The Sheik. Plus features on Art Thomas, Jesse Ventura, Mil Mascaras, Ray Stevens, The Canadian Widman, Rachel Dubois and a lot more! Writers include: Norman H. Kietzer, Mike Lano, L.A. promoter Mike LeBell, Allan Cooper, Greg Oliver and others. Packed with historical photos from the vast Wrestling Revue Archives. A MUST for any fan of old school pro wrestling.

 


2014 Missouri Wrestling Revival Yearbook

No blurb on this one, but it’s produced by a website covering the independent scene in the state.

 


A.W.A. Record Book: The 1970s Part 1 1970-1974 by Mark James & George Schire

A record book that covers the entire AWA wrestling territory from 1970 through 1974. This book features the cards and results for hundreds of wrestling cards that took place throughout the mid-west wrestling promotion during the first half of the 1970s. Besides cards and results, this book features programs and photos.

 


Big Arn’s Puroresu Adventure 2014: First Navigation by Arnold Furious

Fed up with being forced to cover endless WWF shows from the eighties and nineties, Arnold Furious decided to up sticks in 2014 and head to the Orient to cover his true passion: Japanese wrestling. 

In the first of his two part adventure, Big Arn travels the length and breadth of Japan to take in an eclectic wrestling scene that covers every possible genre imaginable. 

Covering all of the happenings in Japanese wrestling for promotions big and small between the months of January and June, Big Arn stumbles across some unseen classics, hidden gems and match of the year candidates. As ever, he also sees some pretty ropey stuff too. 

With handy guides to the promotions and a few history lessons sprinkled in to help out fans unfamiliar with Japanese wrestling, Big Arn’s Puroresu Adventure is suitable reading for all fans. Though be forewarned; he does tend to get a little excited when writing about Japanese wrestling! 

It’s all documented here in this 140,000 word tome!

 


The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment by Chad Matthews

Professional wrestling has never been as popular as it has been over the last thirty years. Beginning with Hulk Hogan’s rise to the top of the industry and the advent of WrestleMania, it found a place in the pop culture lexicon that made it a widely accepted, albeit still controversial, form of sports entertainment. The WWE has led the way, making the business as much about theatricality as it is about simulated combat and expanding their viewership in the process. Subsequently, a generation of fans has grown up with pro wrestling as one of their pastimes. Wrestling’s growth has paralleled the rise of the media’s obsession with sports. Fans enjoy greater access than ever before to their favorite teams and superstars through television and the internet. Increased coverage has brought more in-depth discussion, creating a network of enthusiasts who are as much critics as they are devotees. Sports analysis is no longer just water cooler talk. Be it as diehard supporters of respective sports enjoying educated conversations or be it as a team’s employed statistician, we have become a sports world obsessed with analytics. The WWE product is more globally visible than ever. They currently broadcast their weekly programming in 150 countries and in 30 languages. Websites that cover pro wrestling draw tens of millions of people every week from around the world. Much like ESPN, Fox Sports, and others, these sites provide news, results, and insider reports. The thirst for a constant stream of information is as strong amongst wrestling fans as it is for any sport or entertainment avenue. “The Doc” Chad Matthews knows that better than anyone. He started watching wrestling with his grandfather when he was two years old. In his early college years, he began writing television recaps of WWE shows for a popular website as a hobby, later writing full-fledged critical columns and reviews while going through professional schooling to become a doctor. During the same period, he took a strong interest in analytics. Matthews eventually followed the lead of his favorite basketball writer, Bill Simmons, in combining his interest for hyper analysis with the sport that he covered. Simmons proceeded to take his analytical approach and create a list of over ninety of the greatest to have ever played in the National Basketball Association. His amazing work, The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, was the ultimate fan account of pro basketball history. Inspired, “The Doc” set out to write the modern pro wrestling equivalent. He developed a methodical criterion to support his personal observations of nearly thirty years of fandom in order to definitively answer the question as to which wrestlers belong in the debate for the greatest of all-time. While analytically reviewing and celebrating the “WrestleMania Era” dating back to the early 1980s, he spent countless hours researching, formulating, and categorizing the matches, the interviews, the main-events, the pay-per-view buyrates, the television ratings, and the championships won. A five-tiered breakdown shaped the definitive list. Through a formula (to bridge the gap between eras) for championships won, a scale for main-events and headlining matches to account for longevity, a compilation of television ratings and pay-per-view buy rate data for financial success, a wrestler scoring system to reflect physical attributes and microphone skills, and a film critic-like star rating scale to account for performance, Matthews has named the “Greatest Wrestlers of the WrestleMania Era.”

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Release Schedule (18 March)

No new additions as such this week, though in an ongoing identity crisis the book ‘WWE Greatest Wrestlers’ which became ‘WWE World Records’ is now ‘The Official WWE Rulebook.’ It’s been put back to April 2016 and no longer has a blurb, so the chances are it’s a case of WWE’s publishers being too efficient and scheduling release dates before the book is even written.


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

31 March: WWE Ultimate Superstar Guide

9 June: WWE: The Attitude Era by Jon Robinson

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

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

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

4 August: The Great and Mighty Nikko by Xavier Garza

25 August: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

15 September: Ultimate Warrior: A Life Lived Forever: The Legend of a WWE Hero

13 October:Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken: From Photo Shoots and Sensational Stories to the WWE Network, Bill Apter’s Incredible Pro Wrestling Journey

13 October: Iron Sheik: Listen Jabroni! by Khosrow “The Iron Sheik” Vaziri and Keith Elliot Greenberg

5 April 2016: The Official WWE Rule Book: Every Rule (And How to Break Them)

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

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Tales From Wrescal Lane by Mick Foley & Jill Thompson

wrescalFor wrestling fans, this is the best of Foley’s range of childrens books, though that also means it may be somewhat dated for today’s kids.

The story, told in rhyme, takes the stars of the Attitude era and pictures them as children growing up on the same street and getting into scrapes. It’s amusing enough stuff and largely in exaggerated character, with the only real insider gags being Foley continuing the digs at Al Snow from his autobiographies.

The illustrations are great with Thompson doing an excellent job of taking the cartoonish caricatures of the actual wrestlers and turning them into plausible kids, rather than simply shrinking them down. The Dudley Boys throwing a tantrum is a particular highlight.

It’s enough of a novelty that it’s worth picking up if you spot it at a bargain price. Whether your kids will recognize the characters enough to find it of any interest may depend on whether you’ve let them loose on the WWE Network with the parental controls switched off.

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Release Schedule (11 March)

Main news this week is that the previously listed ‘WWE Greatest Wrestlers’ has been renamed as WWE World Records: Facts, Trivia and Photos of Your Favorite Superstars, though the promotional blurb remains the same.

In other news, the Attitude Era book has been put back a few weeks, and the cover of the Iron Sheik book has been released:

ironsheil


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

17 March: Capitol Revolution: The Rise of the McMahon Wrestling Empire by Tim Hornbaker (already available on Kindle)

31 March: WWE Ultimate Superstar Guide

9 June: WWE: The Attitude Era by Jon Robinson

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

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

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

4 August: The Great and Mighty Nikko by Xavier Garza

25 August: Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

8 September: WWE World Records: Facts, Trivia and Photos of Your Favorite Superstars 

15 September: Ultimate Warrior: A Life Lived Forever: The Legend of a WWE Hero

13 October:Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken: From Photo Shoots and Sensational Stories to the WWE Network, Bill Apter’s Incredible Pro Wrestling Journey

13 October: Iron Sheik: Listen Jabroni! by Khosrow “The Iron Sheik” Vaziri and Keith Elliot Greenberg

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

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Foley Is Good by Mick Foley

foleysgoodBy comparison to 99 percent of wrestling books, this is excellent. The problem is that Foley’s second volume inherently invites comparison to Have A Nice Day, something that perhaps unfairly highlights its shortcomings.

Foley is Good, while in the same style and tone (still largely warm and optimistic with little in the way of cynicism or bitterness) differs from its predecessor in a couple of ways. Firstly, despite being a similarly epic length, it covers a far shorter period, specifically the 20 months between his winning the WWF title for the first time and retiring for the second time in six weeks at WrestleMania 2000. As a result the hit-to-miss ratio is lower, with several less engaging stories making the cut, and often excessive detail on less significant events.

Secondly, the book has more of a specific focus beyond a straight chronology. Subtitled “the real world is faker than wrestling”, it includes numerous anecdotes about incidents outside of the traditional wrestling arena, something that naturally increased once Foley became a legitimate superstar. Examples include his appearance in a new feature about backyard wrestling, his work with a ghostwriter when starting his first book, and his testimony in a trial resulting from an incident where a fan was burned in the ECW Arena. It’s great for readers looking for more breadth, but may annoy those solely interested in the in-ring action and backstage antics.

Perhaps the biggest criticism along these lines comes from readers disgruntled by the inclusion of a lengthy epilogue that takes to task reports by the Parental Television Council (the inspiration for WWF’s Right To Censor characters) into WWF programming. Over the course of 77 pages, Foley addresses the PTC’s statistics and motivation in painstaking detail. While this certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste, and is arguably not what you could expect from an autobiography, it’s unfair to label it as padding given you get almost 400 pages of main story content first.

None of this is to say that Foley is Good is not a worthwhile use of your time or money. It’s still among the better books of its type, it’s just that you need to go into it understanding that Foley takes full advantage of his new-found platform to put as much emphasis on sharing his opinions as he does recalling events.

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