Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex by Chris Jericho

lionstaleBetween the subject matter and the style, there’ll be few books like this in the future, which is something of a shame.

Jericho was arguably the last wrestler to make it big in WWE having spent a serious amount of time working for both full-time US territories and international promotions. After leaving the Canadian independents, he spent time in CMLL, WAR, the German tournament scene, Smoky Mountain Wrestling, ECW and WCW, giving him one of the more diverse backgrounds of his generation.

This gives him a wealth of experience of very different styles and set-ups of pro wrestling which he describes here, whether it be being abandoned in the middle of nowhere in Mexico, the raucous nightlife of Hamburg (and the hellraising of the likes of Drew McDonalds), or the sheer confused disorganization of WCW.

It’s a striking contrast to his later volumes as there’s a real sense of the personal and professional journey he took to the point where he stood by the curtain for his WWE debut, which marks the book’s conclusion.

The style and tone is a difficult one to judge for anyone yet to read this book. As the first of Jericho’s books, it came across as refreshingly lighthearted. The same approach became a little repetitive in his later two volumes, but it’s hard to predict whether anyone who started with Undisputed or The Best in the World: At What I Have No Idea before tackling A Lion’s Tale.

Still, my experience was that I happily tore through this in one sitting on a transatlantic flight. The chances are that even people who’ve come to find Jericho overexposed in recent years will still enjoy this and, given the book is now available on the second-hand market for pennies, it’s a chance I’d certainly advise taking.

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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.

Occupy Wrestling by Garrison Kelly

Over a decade of hard work, sacrifices, and injuries have earned professional wrestler Mitch McLeod a chance at the KDW World Heavyweight Championship, at the time held by a 400 lb. monster named Jason Finnegan. Before their match begins, Jason assaults Mitch in the hallway, hoping for an easy victory later on in the ring. Despite the brutal beating, Mitch wins the match via pin fall after his finishing move, a variation of the superman punch, accidentally kills Jason. Legal issues aside, Mitch finds himself embroiled in a plot to have his newly won KDW World Title taken from him by science-fiction-like creatures hired by Keegan Day, the owner of KDW. A world title is a symbol of excellence for not only the wrestler holding it, but for the wrestling industry as a whole. Mitch will be damned if his oppressive corporate master is going to take it from him that easily.

Kick Out At Nitro! – Volume 1 – September – December 1995: Reliving WCW one Nitro at a time by Shane Dalton & Derick Body

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.

Memphis Wrestling History Vol. II: The Programs 1972 – 1976 by Mark James

After being off the shelf for over 6 years, it’s been re-released! Same book if you missed it before. Go back in time to look at the Memphis Wrestling territory from 1972-1976. Great behind the scenes info as well as comments and photos from it’s stars. Also included are tons of programs from each year.


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Titan Shattered by James Dixon

titanshattered1996 was a curious year for the World Wrestling Federation: while house show attendance began to rebound and the company returned to profitability, it’s seen as a year of failure thanks to WCW beginning its two-year dominance of Monday night TV ratings. Creatively it was a confusing period, with a move to a more adult, realistic product undermined by cartoonish gimmicks such as TL Hopper and the Goon.

These contradictions are covered in depth in Dixon’s sequel to Titan Sinking, his book on the WWF’s 1995. As with that volume, he combines a chronological and thematic approach to explore individual incidents in detail without losing sight of the big picture.

Several stylistic shortfalls from the first book have been addressed here. While Dixon has included material from original interviews with the likes of Jim Cornette, JJ Dillon and Tracey Smothers, these are used to illustrate relevant points rather than included solely because they were available. The Dillon comments are particularly interesting as they go further in addressing the steroid testing policy that bore his name than he was able to do in his own excellent autobiography.

Dixon also pulls off a better balance of concentrating on the WWF while adding enough detail of other industry events to add the necessary context. Material as diverse as the nWo’s formation and the history of interpromotional feuds in Japan are covered without losing focus or outstaying their welcome.

The use of footnotes is particularly effective, adding valuable detail without interrupting the flow of the narrative. For example, one such footnote takes task with a claim made by Tony ‘Ahmed Johnson’ Norris: correcting his factual error is necessary, but would be distracting in the main body of the story.

One element that may fall short for some readers is the use of an almost fiction-style of describing events, with the book telling us of somebody angrily punching in numbers on a telephone or letting out a sigh when they read a fax message. The extensive list of sources suggest many of these details may come from first-hand accounts, but without direct citation (which could be clunky) these often feel like literary license.

Whether you’re a newer fan or somebody who lived through the year in question, Titan Shattered has something to offer. FSM looks forward to the seemingly-inevitable 1997 edition (surely Titan Screwed?) in which Dixon will face the challenge of describing perhaps the most-documented incident in WWE history.

(This review originally appeared in issue 123 of Fighting Spirit Magazine.)

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Release Schedule (1 October)

One new addition this week, Maximilian and the Lucha Libre Club:

Max seems like any other nerdy kid until he’s asked to join the ranks of royalty, the Lucha Libre Club.

The fights still rage on in the third installation of Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures series. Max seems like any other nerdy kid until he’s asked to join the Lucha Libre Club. The super-secret club admits only the offspring of wrestling royalty. And Max is a prince, descended through his mother from royal blood, his uncle the very king of lucha libre: The Guardian Angel. Trouble is, the club is so secret that Max can’t tell his best friend or girlfriend what he is up. Just that vexing Paloma.

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

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

10 May: Maximilian and the Lucha Libre Club: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures) by Xavier Garza

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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