Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

The Wrestling Scene by Guy LeBow

lebowThis is one of several TV cash-ins from the “Golden Age” boom and probably the one that’s most worth reading rather than collecting.

Written in 1950 by the TV announcer from the DuMont network, this will no doubt sound familiar to those of you who read my recent review of Dick Lane’s Whoa Nellie! While this is similar in concept, it’s considerably more detailed.

It’s a full-fledged book, albeit only 98 pages, and has considerably more details and articles alongside the pictures of the stars. For example, there’s an article on why wrestling boomed, with the obvious explanations of new stars and TV exposure accompanied by the suggestion that a generation of teenagers had never seen wrestling before thanks to the interruption of the war, and even a theory that wartime action stories had created an interest in hand-to-hand combat.

As well as the expected profiles of wrestlers, the book features articles on specific territories, the longest matches, wrestlers from the pre-war period and even the dangers of trachoma from dirty mats.

It should be noted that two sections, one on wrestling holds and the other a “Wrestling IQ” list of common questions are almost identical to that in Whoa Nellie, the only change being the addition of a few holds such as Buddy Rogers’ piledriver. I’ve not been able to establish exactly who borrowed from who, but I believe the Dick Lane book may have come first.

That aside, this is still a far more substantial offering and its between this and Sid Feder’s Wrestling Fan’s Book as your best bet to track down if you want one book from the era.

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The Toughest Man Alive by Gene LeBell

lebellWhile wildly entertaining, this comes with a recommendation that carries a disclaimer.

While LeBell may be best known to modern fans as the cornerman of Ronda Rousey, if you’re an avid viewer of any US drama of the 1970s or 1980s, you’ve probably seen him before and never realised. A former pro wrestler and stuntman, he was a regular in Hollywood and as a result virtually every show which did a wrestling themed episode would film at the Olympic Auditorium and use LeBell as both the stunt arranger and an on-screen referee.

The book is filled with stories from all elements of LeBell’s life, both as a performer and a competitor who was among those who explored the relative merits of martial arts in a real combat situation long before the initials UFC or MMA were ever heard.

Exactly how honest the book is is difficult to tell. There’s plenty that sounds outlandish but is verifiable, but at the same time the suggestion that Andre the Giant fought Joe Bugner (rather than Chuck Wepner) at Shea Stadium is a signal that at the least LeBell’s memories shouldn’t be taken as gospel.

The book comes with an intriguing backstory. It was written with LeBell’s cooperation but through ghostwriter Bob Calhoun. However, the text was reportedly stolen and printed without permission, with neither man receiving royalties. LeBell and Calhoun then used their source material to produce a fresh book the following year titled The Godfather of Grappling.

With that in mind, if you’re determined to buy a new copy of a LeBell book, you should  track down The Godfather of Grappling. If you’re happy to shop for a used copy (with no resulting royalty issues), The Toughest Man Alive is certainly a viable option.

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Release Schedule (9 December)

One new addition this week, The Masked Saint: Husband, Pastor, Hero by Chris Waley:

The Masked Saint revolves around the life of Chris Samuel, a professional wrestler and family man who realizes he needs something more. His calling to become a pastor prompts him to retire from wrestling and move with his wife and daughter to a small town. Yet the battles he faced in the ring are minor compared to the challenges he must overcome at his new church. From an overbearing congregant and failing attendance to mounting bills for church repairs, Chris has his hands full.

Chris finds an ally in Miss Edna, an elderly woman from his church, who gives him sage advice and shares her wisdom in a book of writings. Unbeknownst to him, she is also a wrestling fan and encourages him to use his talents to take action, tricking him into reconnecting with his old colleagues―including a shady wrestling promoter. When Chris stumbles onto a fight on the seedy side of town, his wrestling skills take down the assailant and a masked vigilante is born.

In order to raise some funds, Chris returns to the ring professionally, and things begin to seemingly improve for the church. His life as a pastor and wrestler soon take up most of his time though―not to mention Samuels’ shrouded crime-fighter is now being sought by the police. His talent, as well as his violent secret identity, begins to overshadow his calling as a Pastor, and it takes his faith, family and Miss Edna to remind him about grace, goodness and the truth.


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

5 January: The Masked Saint: Husband, Pastor, Hero by Chris Waley

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

1 June: Thud in Trouble (Wrestling Trolls) by Jim Eldridge

24 June: Performance and Pro Wrestling

12 July: Champion of the World by Chad Dundas

1 August: The Final Showdown (Wrestling Trolls) by Jim Eldridge

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It’s Good To Be The King… Sometimes by Jerry Lawler

lawlerWithin the context of being an authorised WWE autobiography, this is a very pleasant surprise.

Released in 2002, shortly after Lawler’s return to the company after an eight-month absence, this puts much more emphasis on his Memphis days than might be expected. Indeed, it’s 250 pages in before the story reaches his WWF debut, although the chronology does jump around now and again to allow for more thematically-focused chapters.

Given Lawler was very much an old-school wrestler, it’s refreshing to read a very open take on his career, including his time in an outlaw territory and his big break by impressing Lance Russell with his artwork. The book has the feel of Lawler telling stories, sharing wisdom and insight along the way without actively trying to teach lessons. In particular there’s plenty of talk about what did and didn’t work in booking and, unlike many veterans, there’s no pretence that “every show was a sellout.”

It’s very much an autobiography rather than a definitive history, however. If you’re looking for extensive detail on backstage gossip such as somebody in the WWF locker room defecating in Lawler’s crown, or the amazing story of conman Larry Burton, you’ll be disappointed to see barely a passing mention, while, perhaps understandably, there’s nothing about his legal problems in 1993.

Those are minor criticisms however, and this is very much worth picking up whether you’re a long-time territorial era fan or just somebody who wants to know more about Lawler’s rich pre-puppies past. Despite being issued more than a decade earlier, there’s considerably more detail on offer here than in the recent WWE DVD documentary.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Release Schedule (2 December)

One new addition this week, Champion of the World by Chad Dundas:

In this stunning historical fiction debut set in the world of wrestling in the 1920s, a husband and wife are set adrift in a place where everyone has something to hide and not even the fights can be taken at face value.

Late summer, 1921: Disgraced former lightweight champion Pepper Van Dean has spent the past two years on the carnival circuit performing the dangerous “hangman’s drop” and taking on all comers in nightly challenge bouts. But when he and his cardsharp wife, Moira, are marooned in the wilds of Oregon, Pepper accepts an offer to return to the world of wrestling as a trainer for Garfield Taft, a down-and-out African American heavyweight contender in search of a comeback and a shot at the world title.

At the training camp in rural Montana, Pepper and Moira soon realize that nothing is what it seems: not Taft, the upcoming match, or the training facility itself. With nowhere to go and no options left, Pepper and Moira must carefully navigate the world of gangsters, bootlegging, and fixed competitions, in the hope that they can carve out a viable future.

A story of second chances and a sport at the cusp of major change, Champion of the World is a wonderful historical debut from a new talent in fiction.


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

3 December: Andre The Giant: Closer To Heaven by Brandon Easton (Pro Wrestling books review already available.)

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

1 June: Thud in Trouble (Wrestling Trolls) by Jim Eldridge

24 June: Performance and Pro Wrestling

12 July: Champion of the World by Chad Dundas

1 August: The Final Showdown (Wrestling Trolls) by Jim Eldridge

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Whoa Nellie: Dick Lane’s Wrestling Book

whoanellieThis is a cash-in booklet from the 1940s-50s era when Lane was the announcer on the televised Olympic Auditorium shows during the initial “golden age” when many homes could get wrestling in prime time almost every night of the week.

It’s a mere 32 pages, most of which is made up of capsule profiles and pictures of wrestlers of the day. There’s also a short section covering seven of the most popular moves of the day and relatively credible explanations of how they work.

It finishes off with a Q&A section with highlights including the revelation that a wrestler can ordinarily hold a tight lock with his fingers at full grip for four to five minutes and that it’s not as important to be as finely conditioned in wrestling as in boxing because “a little girth is necessary to help cushion against the shock of falls and pressure.”

The booklet has a surprising number of typos, including references to Jim London and Vern Gagne.

It’s a fun little booklet but there’s not a great deal to read, so it’s only worth tracking down as a collector’s piece.

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