Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Release Schedule (29 April)

One new addition this week, which appears to be a llicensed book on The Undertaker. Don’t get too excited as it isn’t an autobiography and doesn’t appear to be about the man behind the character:

See The Deadman like you’ve never seen him before!

With stunning visuals and in-depth commentary, Undertaker: 25 Years of Destruction takes the reader deep into the darkness, where few dare to tread! Learn everything you need to know about sports-entertainment’s mysterious grim reaper of justice with this massive hardcover tome.

Coverage includes:

• Stunning Visuals
• In-depth Discussion of Undertaker’s rise within the WWE ranks
• Exclusive Interviews with Superstars, Announcers, and other WWE personalities
• Behind the Scenes Look at Undertaker’s Historic Streak

 

There’s also a new cover for the Daniel Bryan book which comes out in July:

bryan2


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

12 May: 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

3 November: Undertaker: 25 Years of Destruction

2 February 2016: Legends of Pro Wrestling: 150 Years of Headlocks, Body Slams, and Piledrivers by Tim Hornbaker

5 April: 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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Western Boxing & World Wrestling by John F Gilbey

gilbeyOne of those few titles that would reliably show up in book catalogue searches for “wrestling” a couple of decades ago, this holds little interest for pro wrestling fans today.

The book splits roughly in two into boxing and wrestling. Much of the latter half is taken up by the legitimate combat styles of places such as Japan, India and Turkey. Despite being written in 1986, the US and UK history is almost entirely about pre-war wrestling.

There are brief mentions of familiar names from the pro scene, but these are limited. For example, Bert Assirati is the only British wrestler of any kind mentioned after 1906 and it’s as good as implied that he was the only pro who ever wrestled for real, something that would no doubt be a surprise to the Wigan set among many others.

The US section is also far from comprehensive, with some detail on Gotch, Hackenschmidt and Stanislaus Zbyszko. It’s also of dubious accuracy, repeating a supposed claim by Zbyszko that the first ever worked bout was Ed Lewis dropping the world title to Gus Sonnenberg in 1928, a timeline that’s likely several decades out.

About the only section of interest even to keen historians of the pro game’s roots is the author’s accounts of his own time learning to shoot in Omaha gyms and then acting as a hustler against unsuspecting crews on the carnival circuit. It’s only a few pages and there’s not enough detail to know how much of it to believe.

Even now it’s readily available for rock-bottom prices, this is really one for the completist collector only.

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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.


Marks by Bob Miller

Professional Wrestling, Race Relations, and the 1960’s Counter-Culture Collide

Thom Kincannon has reached the final day of closing out the contents of his late father’s house. But an unexpected find of a trunk in the attic brings a previously unknown manuscript to light. Despite working against a deadline, Thom is drawn into the world created by the author of the writing – a world of physical and psychological conflict.

The year is 1969; the backdrop is the dramatic societal changes of the decade; and the stage is the professional wrestling arenas where men and women put on exhibitions of strength, athletic prowess, and acts of violence. Marks is the tale of the journeys of Clinton Long, Ivy League graduate and rebel who grapples by day with questions of philosophy and ethics, and by night with men in tights under stage lights. Burned out at the age of 30, he seeks one last hurrah, one last huge payday before he escapes the theatrical world of pretend violence forever. But an adversary has crossed the line into real violence while a deadly secret he keeps may have been discovered, and with it his life and those of others may be on the line unless he can find a way to escape while on the biggest stage of his career.

Marks bridges major cultural phenomena of the 1960’s – sex, drugs, racial unrest – with the arcane world behind the scenes of professional wrestling; a dimension kept hidden with a fanatic determination by its practitioners to maintain the veneer of realism. Through the eyes of the narrator in this “story-within-a-story”, readers take a journey behind the curtains and view the often rowdy, raucous and passionate lives of the men and women who entertained generations of true believers.


The Wrestler: The Pursuit of a Dream by Bill Vincent

Nicolaus Martin has always loved wrestling. Everyone called him Nicky. As a child, he and his brothers would wrestle around as they watched the WWF, WCW and NWA. No matter how poor their lives were wrestling would make it all better, even if it was for an hour. Nicky and his family were very poor. Every winter there was at least a month with no electricity at their home. Nicky was bullied starting at the age of thirteen. The more he got picked on the tougher he got. Nicky and his buddies had such an imagination. They made up their own wrestling in a little town in Illinois. They made their championship belts out of cardboard and aluminum foil. By age seventeen, his toughness got him noticed by a small wrestling organization. Before he knew it, he was wrestling in Japan for $50 a night. Now this was not entertainment. This stuff was real. Nicky broke his nose several times and was on the injured list more than not. He got to the place, that he would not let on that he was in pain. Nicky fought for a Championship 3 times and lost all three times. Two of those times were after he got sprayed in the eyes with a green mist by the Champion. Now Nicky was back in the States broke and broken. He heads back to the gym to see if he can resurrect those dreams of being in the big time on National Television and pay per view as a Professional Wrestler.


Kick Out At Nitro! – Volume 1 – September – December 1995: Reliving WCW one Nitro at a time.

A look back at WCW, starting with the first episode of Monday Nitro on September 4th, 1995 and going forward. This volume covers the first episode and goes through Starrcade in December of 1995.


Wrestling Record Book: Florida 1977-1985 by Mark James

Take a step back in time and look at the world of professional wrestling that took place in the state of Florida. The Florida territory was one of wrestling’s greatest promotions. This book has all the known cards and results for Eddie Graham’s Championship Wrestling of Florida. Along with the cards and results, this book includes dozens of photos from the mat wars.


 

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At Issue: Professional Wrestling

atissuePart of a series that covers everything from Anti-Semitism to UFOs, this is designed to be a research tool and study guide for social studies students.

It’s an anthology, which brings the benefit that you get a slightly wider range of viewpoints than usual in such books (including entertainment and sports writers alongside professors) but the drawback that some pieces are extremely short and have little substance.

Most of the topics here that aren’t part of the usual academic coverage of pro wrestling are both brief and blindingly obvious to any wrestling fan: in short, promoters have power over whether wrestlers are featured, wrestling at the turn of the century had some violent and sexual content, and backyard wrestling isn’t safe.

The more traditional topics don’t bring much to the table either. One essay is based around the idea of pro wrestling being an anti-sport and a terrible moral example for kids because rulebreakers prevail: while it’s true that wrestling is based on a very child-unfriendly premise (disputes should be settled by violence), heroic babyfaces overcoming the odds with skill and effort rather than shortcuts is still, in theory, the basis of the business.

Another essay tries to make the case that wrestling is a form of political protest against political correctness and authority; if you are impressed by phrases such as “narrative phantasmagoria” this is the one for you.

Overall this falls into an uninspiring middle ground. There’s not enough insightfulness and specialist knowledge to make it relevant or interesting to a wrestling devotee. On the other hand, there’s nowhere near enough depth, analysis or evidence for somebody who chooses to approach wrestling from a philosophical or academic standpoint.

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Release Schedule (15 April)

A new addition this week is another Tim Hornbaker book:

Legends of Pro Wrestling offers the first comprehensive look at the entire world of wrestling. With detailed biographies and never-before-seen statistics of some of the greatest athletes in the sport, you will be able to read about hundreds of wrestlers, dating back to the mid-1800s. As the first of its kind, this centralized reference book offers wrestling enthusiasts a range of information at their fingertips and stands alone as the ultimate wrestling resource.

This book offers readers a link between what happened a century ago to what is currently happening today. An older fan of Bruno Sammartino or “The Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers can enjoy this book as much as someone who follows John Cena or The Undertaker today. This collection is a never-ending source of facts, figures, and other entertaining data.

Professional wrestling is a world of accomplishment, legacy, and, most importantly, fate. Through injuries, sickness, and family tribulations, many wrestlers have given everything they have to give in the ring, and true fans of the sport love every single second of it. No matter your age, if you’re a fan of professional wrestling, Legends of Pro Wrestling is the book for you to own and cherish.

 

Meanwhile Pro Wrestling FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the World’s Most Entertaining Spectacle by Bryan Solomon is already available for ordering despite having a listed 24 June publication date.


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

12 May: 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

2 February 2016: Legends of Pro Wrestling: 150 Years of Headlocks, Body Slams, and Piledrivers by Tim Hornbaker

5 April: 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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More Than Just Hardcore by Terry Funk

Any serious wrestling fan would likely love a chance to spend a few hours to Terry Funk telling stories. This is the closest thing to doing so.

Ghost writer Scott Williams does a great job of capturing Funk’s distinctive tone of voice while still making for a clear flow of sentences. It comes across very much as a collection of anecdotes that have been shaped into a relatively logical order.

It most definitely is not a comprehensive chronological account of Funk’s entire career. It’s not quite as brief as the 242-page count might seem — the text is relatively small with no visual padding — but it could never begin to come close to a complete history. If you’re hoping to dip into it to find Funk’s recollections of a specific incident, you may be out of luck, but he covers most of the key moments.

Instead the real treats come when the story goes off track and Funk shares his insight into a particular wrestler, booking style or tricks of the trade. That gives it a very personable feel, helped by the fact that Funk is almost relentlessly positive and doesn’t give the impression of wanting to settle scores.

While this isn’t quite in the tier of must-have books, it’s a pleasurable read and the somewhat rambling style arguably makes it better than a more traditional, firmly focused chronology might have been.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Steve Rickard’s Life On The Mat by John Mancer

rickardThis biography of the New Zealand promoter and wrestler, who died on 5 April 2015, is an entertaining enough read but not worth going out of your way to track down.

Rickard wrestled briefly in North America but mainly divided his time between his native land and travelling the Pacific region. He was a regular NWA member and even spent a brief period as president in the 1990s, long after its heyday. He was best known for producing the show On The Mat which aired in New Zealand as well as being syndicated.

Author Mancer was a sportswriter, but was a friend and colleague of Rickard, so this is hardly an objective or critical book. It’s also not a strict chronological life story, but rather darts about from subject to subject, including a particularly entertaining chapter on New Zealand wrestler Lofty Bloomfield and his supposedly inescapable finishing hold.

The book doesn’t break kayfabe, but does frequently note that opponents are able to peacefully coexist out of the ring, so never comes across as insulting in a modern context.

There’s not a great deal for the historians as there’s little detail on matches and limited insight into Rickard’s tactics and philosophy in promoting and booking. It’s mainly stories about Rickard’s life, the highlights being some of the more hairraising incidents when travelling abroad.

Unless you’re a particular devotee of the New Zealand scene, this isn’t worth paying over the odds for, but is a fun enough read if you ever come across it at an affordable price.

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Drawing Heat by Jim Freedman

drawingheatBack when wrestling books were few and far between, this was one of the titles that was worth tracking down through bookshop ordering systems. Even today, it’s still a remarkable insight into a particular aspect and era of the business.

Freedman is an anthropologist who taught at the University of Western Ontario for 26 years, during which time he wrote Drawing Heat. It’s a study of wrestling in Ontario, partly of the main NWA territory operated by Frank Tunney, but mainly of the outlaw promotion run by Dave ‘The Bearman’ McKigney.

McKigney was not strictly an opposition promoter, but rather somebody who promoted the small towns where nobody else wanted to go. He allowed Freeman to accompany him on the road, including for an entire tour, allowing Freeman to document the bizarre world of pro wrestling from an outsider perspective. It’s a cast including midgets, the Sheik and a wrestling bear among others.

The book goes into immense detail about the practicalities of a smaller promoter trying to make ends meet, deal with an athletic commission, and and rouse up publicity through whatever means necessary. In some ways it’s very much of its time, capturing the tail end of the territory era in 1981: while many major promotions were still running, it was increasingly difficult for independent groups to run a full-time schedule. Yet many of the experiences are timeless and it’s striking how reminiscent the book is of Colt Cabana’s documentary Wrestling Road Diaries.

The original is long out of print and something of a collector’s item, but a 2014 reprint from Crowbar Press is well worth a purchase, particularly on Kindle. I’ve only read the original copy, but the reprint includes an interview with the author and a chapter dealing with McKigney’s death in a 1988 car crash.

Note that the print edition is cheaper bought directly from Crowbar Press. Note also that this shouldn’t be confused with Drawing Heat The Hard Way, a totally different book by Larry Matysik.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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