Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

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.

The Unmasked Tenor: The Life and Times of a Singing Wrestler by Sam Tenenbaum

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Battleground Baltimore: How One Arena Changed Wrestling History (The History of Professional Wrestling) by Graham Cawthon

In 1963, Baltimore was a city without pro wrestling. In the years that followed, it would grow to become one of the most sought after fanbases in America, with nearly every top promotion regularly running the Baltimore Arena. Here, for the first time ever, is a detailed look at more than 50 years of pro wrestling history at the venue. From Bruno Sammartino and the Great American Bash to McMahon vs. McMahon and the debut of the Wyatt Family, it’s all here. Plus, hear exclusive comments from the fans, talent and backstage officials that were there. Names like Jim Cornette, Jimmy Valiant, Gary Juster, Larry Zbyszko, Kevin Eck, Jeff Jones, PWInsider’s Mike Johnson, Nikolai Volkoff, Dennis Brent, Wrestling Observer Live’s Michael Sempervive, Maryland Championship Wrestling’s Dan McDevitt, Gary Michael Cappetta, and Terry Funk. And see the more than 1,000 images that captured Baltimore wrestling history as it happened.

The Wrestler: The Pursuit of a Dream (Volume 1) 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.

The Opening Bell (Three Seconds to Legend Book 1) by JB Garner

Leilana Ito knew her family had a long history in the wrestling world, but she never knew how much had been kept secret from her. When Leilana wanted to follow in the family footsteps, she was shocked when her father adamantly refused to let her proceed with no reason why.

Leilana couldn’t deny the fighting spirit in her heart. Refusing his prohibition, she had no idea what terrible events her defiance would set into motion!

Now a rookie wrestler in the heart of Oklahoma, Leilana faces ring rivalries, impossible odds, corporate machinations, and threats she could never imagine as she struggles to prove herself. As the truth behind her family’s history becomes clear, the stakes continue to rise. Will Leilana rise to the challenge and win it all or face a final, crushing defeat?

Opening Bell is the first of three books in Three Seconds to Legend.

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ECW Press Flash 50% Off Sale

ECW Press is currently running a 50% sale on all its titles for direct orders on its website. The offer looks set to run out at 9am EST today (Friday.) The range includes many wrestling titles, of which we’ve reviewed the following here:

Others we’d particularly recommend include Pain and Passion by Heath McCoy (about Stampede Wrestling), Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs by Pat Laprade and Bertrand Hebert (about Montreal Wrestling) and the various Hall of Fame title by Greg Oliver. The sale also includes Bill Apter’s forthcoming memoir as a pre-order.

Shipping is a flat rate per-order ($18 for international) so it may be best value to get several titles.

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Pro Wrestling Through The Power Slam Years: 1994-2014 by Findlay Martin

powerslam(I must, of course, include a disclaimer here — I wrote for Power Slam over the course of around 30 issues in 1996-1998 and 2006-7.)

For those readers who were aggrieved at Power Slam being restricted to 40 pages — a subject addressed in this book — this will be more than compensation. At approximately 240,000 words, it’s a perfect example of a title that would only be viable as an e-book as a printed copy would have been unmanageably bulky and prohibitively expensive. For the book’s intended audience, it represents excellent value.

The book is made up of two interspersed sections. The first, which makes up the bulk of the content, is exactly what the title suggests: a truly comprehensive account of both the in-ring and business sides of wrestling over a two decade period. It’s largely in year-by-year sections, though the past five years or so are lumped together (partly because so much of the business was repetitive in this era.)

For each year, Martin recaps the main happenings in each of the major US promotions, then Japan as a whole and, where appropriate, those British promotions aiming at a more hardcore, Internet or travelling crowd. The level of detail is impressively pitched given how easy it would have been to fall into the trap of either skimming over events too quickly or elaborating in such detail as to make even an e-book painfully long.

The style of recapping will be familiar to Power Slam readers: it is unmistakably in Martin’s voice but, while there is plenty of opinion on offer, the line between factual recounting and personal comment is always clear.

The second element of the book is an account of Martin’s time running the magazine, from his initial work experience days in a printing firm right through to his decision to close the magazine. It’s remarkably open, including both a host of financial details and some frank assessments of the decisions Martin made that did or did not work out.

These sections are scattered throughout the book to fit the chronological account, something that might have been disjointed but in fact works well in adding context. For example, we learn how the rise of WCW in 1997 helped Power Slam sales to the point that Martin reversed plans to close the magazine, while there’s an insightful explanation of why the start-stop pushes in WWE in recent years made it so difficult to run profiles of potential new stars.

The balance between the wrestling and magazine accounts is such that the book may not be good value for those who are solely interested in the publishing side. On the other hand, this content is brief enough that it shouldn’t deter those who are primarily reading for the wrestling content.

Those readers who’ve been following wrestling closely for most or all of the Power Slam years may find they are too familiar with much of the events described to benefit from the book, though the format certainly helps put some elements such as the decline of WCW in context. Meanwhile anyone who disliked the opinionated style of Power Slam may not find the book to their tastes.

However, for most of the magazine’s readers, particularly the many who will have not followed the business through the entire period covered, this is an engaging historical account, with the publishing insight a welcome bonus.

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

bryanIn the era of kayfabe-breaking shoot interviews and autobiographies, honesty as a selling point has become somewhat distorted. It’s often interpreted as somebody “shooting” in the form of spilling scandalous secrets and viciously attacking those who have crossed them. Daniel Bryan’s autobiography comes across as among the most honest WWE books ever published and yet it has none of these mudslinging characteristics.

Much of the honesty comes instead the form of self-deprecation, with Bryan readily admitting to his perceived weaknesses, whether they be a lack of athletic talent as a child, never having weighed more than 205 lbs regardless of billing, or believing he failed as a headline attraction during his run with Randy Orton.

The flipside of that is that his matter-of-fact approach brings far more credibility when he writes things that cast WWE in a less-than-glowing light, of which there are many. Bryan discussed the relatively low pay (given the associated costs) of working at the bottom of WWE cards, the way he was almost set up to fail in the initial NXT run, and the lack of long-term planning in many aspects of booking. Most notably he puts paid to any theory that his character’s treatment in late 2013 was a carefully-thought out plan to garner sympathy and turn him into a genuine headline star when he finally got his revenge.

Bryan dishes out both praise and criticism alike, but at no point does it feel like a measured approach. Instead it appears simply to be his genuine reflections, made without malice or pride. While the book has been ghostwritten by staffer Craig Tello, it doesn’t feel like it has been shaped either to promote WWE or fit its corporate message.

Tello’s main influence on the book appears to be the formatting, with each chapter beginning with a section from the’s daily coverage of Bryan’s public and personal events in the week of WrestleMania 30. It’s a neat stylistic trick and Tello even manages to tie some chapters to the theme of their intros, resisting the temptation to do so where it would be awkward or clunky.

Reading will be an odd experience for long-term hardcore fans as so much of Bryan’s career was chronicled on the tape trading circuit. Hindsight brings a strange perspective as you are reminded that when Bryan made his breakout performances at King of Indies and then the debut Ring of Honor show, he was still aged just 20 and had been wrestling barely two years.

However, while there are no shocking revelations, there is plenty of insight and detail that won’t be familiar to even the most dedicated of backstage gossip readers, such as descriptions of Vince McMahon personally leading promo classes for the NXT contestants.

The book feels comprehensive, giving fair weight to his childhood, training, independent career and WWE runs. One minor drawback is a lack of depth at times, with even his most famous matches usually getting a page or two at most.

British readers may find particular interest in Bryan’s description of his time working for All Star, including on the holiday camp circuit, where he notes that if the payoffs had been better he may never have left. The book is also filled with praise for the mentoring of William Regal, both in terms of ring action and navigating the politics of the business.

The irony of the book is that it perfectly fits Bryan’s on-screen character of a humble, relatable character whose skills and likable charisma overcame physical challenges. It reads smoothly and genuinely feels like having a conversation with a man who enjoys talking about his career and, while acknowledging his talents, feels genuinely surprised and humbled to have reached such heights, even if only for a brief period. It seems impossible somebody could read the book and not wind up rooting for Bryan the performer and the character, making it all the more frustrating that his career was at the very least curtailed before the book’s publication.

Read on Kindle (

Read on Kindle (

(This review originally appeared in issue 122 of Fighting Spirit Magazine.)

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Release Schedule (2 September)

Thanks to reader Kevin Dosresiers for letting us know he has had a note from Amazon to say the much-delayed Bob Backlund book should be with him today (two weeks before the latest ‘release date’.) As always, we shall wait and see!

There’s a new addition to the schedule with Performance and Pro Wrestling for next June. No official blurb yet, though one of the three authors is listed on his website as having recently worked on an “auto-ethnographic study of professional wrestling training.” At $47.95, this appears to be designed as an academic text.

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

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

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

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

27 October: Undertaker: 25 Years of Destruction

10 December: Andre The Giant: Closer To Heaven by Brandon Easton

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

15 March: Hustle, Loyalty & Respect: The World of John Cena by Steve Pantaleo

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

1 May: WWE: 100 Greatest Matches

24 June: Performance and Pro Wrestling

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

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