Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Hulkamania! Hulk Hogan America’s Hero by Abbot Neil

hulkamaniaAs cash-in titles go, this is pretty decent if not exactly hard-hitting journalism.

While there’s a couple of chapters of capsule profiles and a pre-1984 history (including the claim that the wrestling business collapsed in the 1960s and was still in a terrible state when Vince Jr came to power), it’s largely a kayfabe-respecting account of the main Hogan and WWF storylines from his title win through the first WrestleMania, with that event covered in enough detail and photographs to take up 55 pages.

It’s very much a storyline-based history in which Roddy Piper was born in Glasgow and Moolah was at the end of a 26 year title reign, and there’s no original research, with all the quotes taken from WWE broadcasts, TV guest show appearances and wrestling magazines and books.

Despite all that it’s a relatively fun and breezy read that captures the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling era well. It’s also got a good selection of photographs licensed from both the wrestling and mainstream media.

It’s not one to go out of your way to track down, but well worth picking up for collector value if you see it at a decent price.

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Sharpshooters & Sermons by Darren Kane

sharp2One of the more unusual books about wrestling you’ll find, this is one man’s tale of the parallels he finds between wrestling (mainly WWE) and religion (mainly Christianity.)

The book follows a set pattern with each chapter beginning with a recollection of an incident or aspect of wrestling and then an explanation of a related element of religion or Biblical story. For example, the opening chapters compare the issue of planning a match vs calling it in the ring with taking similar approaches to delivering a sermon; the story of Paul Heyman sitting in uninvited at a Dusty Rhodes booking meeting to the need for churchgoers to listen to and learn from religious teachers; and the need to avoid the edge of the ring in a Royal Rumble to the need to avoid temptation as a believer.

It’s often an intriguing set of comparisons and includes some less well-known wrestling moments. For example, I was particularly struck by an examination of two Mick Foley promos about moments being more important than statistics and how that relates to members of the religious community being overly concerned with the raw numbers of their congregation and forgetting to view members as individuals.

Other comparisons seemed more of a stretch and, for non-believers at least, would best be viewed as very loose parables rather than exact comparisons, for example a likening of Bret Hart being screwed in Montreal to the betrayal of Jesus, or DX continuing and thriving without Shawn Michaels being reminiscent of the disciples continuing their work after Christ’s death.

In some ways it’s a cleverly organised book given the diverse potential audience: the more direct comparisons and shorter examples come at the beginning, while later on the book moves to looser parallels and more extended quotations and explanations of Bible scripture.

There’s also a chapter on explicit references to religion in wrestling characters and storylines, though it doesn’t go into great depth. In particular, there’s little exploration of the way many religious characters have been portrayed negatively, but that this has usually been in the form of the character misusing religion for personal gain, rather than attacking faith itself. It was also surprising to see no mention at all of Austin 3:16.

For those who are opposed to religion and wary of feeling “preached to”, parts of this book may feel too much. However, you don’t necessarily have to be a religious believer to find at least parts of this book of interest, particularly where the parallels are drawn to human nature in general rather than specific Christian rituals and stories.

[Thanks to the author for supplying a review copy.]

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The Grapple Manual by Kendo Nagasaki

grapplemanualThis is a real Tokimitsu Ishizawa of a book.

It’s a small, 80 page affair with capsule profiles, the distinguishing feature being that among the usual Undertaker, Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart, there’s also a collection of British performers such as Mick McManus, Catweazle and Adrian Street.

The profiles aren’t badly written, but won’t contain any new detail to readers of this blog. While most of the information such as dates appears accurate, there are some curious timline issues such as the suggestion that in 2005 Ric Flair was regularly working six shows a week and doing 60-minute draws.

The book also has a few two-page spreads covering wrestling moves such as the piledriver, clothesline and Big Daddy splash.

It’s tough to recommend this as anyone with enough interest to buy it for themselves would likely gain little insight from reading it. It comes across very much as a book aimed at non-wrestling fans trying to find a Christmas or birthday present for relatives they vaguely remember are fans of wrestling.

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Ali-Inoki Book On The Way


MMA writer Josh Gross has just finished writing and editing a book on the famous Muhammad Ali-Antonio Inoki match which was planned to be the latest in Inoki’s worked “mixed matches” but turned into an early MMA contest.

Ali vs Inoki is scheduled for publication on 21 June:


“Inoki can use his bare fists. He can use karate. This is serious. There’s $10 million involved. I wouldn’t pull a fraud on the public. This is real. There’s no plan. The blood. The holds. The pain. Everything is going to be real. I’m not here in this time of my life to come out with some phony action. I want you to know this is real.”
—Muhammad Ali, June 14, 1976, The Tonight Show

On June 26, 1976, Muhammad Ali, possibly the most famous athlete in the world, flew to Japan to fight Antonio Inoki, Japan’s iconic pro wrestling champion, for the so-called “martial arts championship of the world.” Broadcast to an audience of 1.4 billion in 34 countries, the boxer versus grappler spectacle foreshadowed, and in many ways, led to the rise of mixed martial arts as a major sport.

The contest was controversial, but the real action was behind the scenes, and various players in the underbelly of organized wrestling and boxing jockeyed for position. Egos, competing interests, and a general sense of apprehension over what would happen in the ring led to hodgepodge rules thrown together at the last minute. Bizarre plans to “save” Ali if the fight got out of hand were also concocted. One scheme—canceled at the last minute—involved having the boxer nicked with a razor blade if the fight got out of hand, forcing the referee to stop the fight.

In Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment, author Josh Gross gets inside Ali’s head leading up to the match by resurrecting pre-fight interviews that featured the boxer’s famous pro wrestling-influenced trash talk he first encountered in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. Gross also introduces us to Inoki, little known in the United States but hugely influential in Japan. After the fight, Inoki became a household name throughout Asia, and his role in Japan’s popular Pride Fighting Championships helped shape modern mixed martial arts.

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Release Schedule: 16 March

Just one new addition this week, a hardback titled Superstars of Wwe (Pro Sports Superstars) by Todd Kortemeier. It seems to be part of a series of books on different sports, released on the same day and aimed at young children. Note that it’s only listed at 24 pages.

Presents some of the WWEs greatest wrestlers and their achievements, including John Cena, Randy Orton, and Seth Rollins.

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

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

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

10 May: WWE: 100 Greatest Matches

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

1 July: Superstars of Wwe (Pro Sports Superstars) by Todd Kortemeier

12 July: Champion of the World by Chad Dundas

24 July: Performance and Pro Wrestling by Broderick Chow & Laine Eero

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

9 August: Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE by Pat Patterson

31 August: Lucha (Spanish Edition) by Paola Gonzalez

18 October: Rudas: Niño’s Horrendous Hermanitas! by Yuyi Morales

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The New Pictorial History of Wrestling by George Napolitano

newpictorialOne of three Napolitano picture books (alongside This Is Wrestling! and Championship Wrestling), this is the least “coffee table” of the trio and the closest to having some weight, albeit far from a comprehensive reference book.

Aside from a centre section, it’s largely made up of full page black and white shots, with a page each for around 150 wrestlers. Each comes with a capsule bio and a “fun fact”, which ranges from the bland (Al Perez is a devoted family man) to the storyline (Great Muta helped Gary Hart get investors for J-Tex) to behind the scenes trivia such as Bam Bam Bigelow being called Scott or Tugboat being married to Dusty Rhodes’s sister.

It’s an eclectic mix, presumably driven by availability of shots, with the obvious superstars of the publication period (1990) accompanied by a seemingly random choice of foreign and independent starts such as Akira Maeda, Otto Wanz and Cheetah Kid (the future Rocco Rock.)

The picture quality is mixed, with some professional studio shots accompanied by several clearly taken from the stands at WWF shows, such as an out-of-focus image of King Haku. Perhaps the most notable image is of Vader and Stan Hansen in the infamous match where Vader’s eye is horrifically swollen (having at one point popped out of its socket.)

While there’s a bit more meat to this one, it’s hardly a riveting read, so the glossier Napolitano titles might be more suited to collecting.

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Recent Release Roundup

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

The Wrestling Journeyman: Life and Times of an Indy Wrestler by Dusty Wolfe

Dusty Wolfe has the hardcopy of The Wrestling Journeyman that was written in 2008 when he was still working. When a pro wrestler is still depending on bookings and worried about if Vince MCMahon may call one day, you cannot tell all. Now Dusty Wolfe is retired from wrestling and a history teacher at a local college. His children are all in great places, and his only goal is to tell the story of how wrestling really was to explain all the sacrifices. From traveling with Zeus for Vince McMahon to being the first match for many superstars to struggling in the indy scene with multiple balancing acts between life and preserving a career. This is the perfect book for anyone wanting to get a look at the other side of pro-wrestling with a few local quips that many Texas stars will appreciate.

2015 Missouri Wrestling Revival Yearbook by Brian Paul Kelley

Since 2008, Missouri Wrestling Revival has covered the exciting independent professional scene in the Midwest. The MISSOURI WRESTLING REVIVAL 2015 Yearbook captures an unforgettable year in Midwest professional wrestling that featured the legends of yesterday, the superstars of today, and the future stars of tomorrow.

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