Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Release Schedule (31 January)

One new blurb this week:

The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling: A Hardcore, High-Flying, No-Holds-Barred History of the One True Sport by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno:

From the host of the critically acclaimed pro wrestling podcast Straight Shoot, this graphic novel-style history of wrestling features the key grapplers, matches, and promotions that shaped this beloved sport and form of entertainment.


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

30 January: WWE Vol 2: The Lunatic Fringe

6 March: WWE Superstar Guide, 2nd Edition by DK

8 March: Identity in Professional Wrestling: Essays on Nationality, Race and Gender by Aaron D Horton

13 March: The Book of Booty: Shake It. Love It. Never Be It (It’s Twerked for Us!) by The New Day

29 March: Wrestling in Britain: Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences (Routledge Research in Sports History) by Benjamin Litherland

3 April: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 1 by Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown et al

8 May: WWE Raw: The First 25 Years by Dean Miller and Jake Black

22 May: Golosseum 1 by Yasushi Baba

12 June: Russell Wrestles The Relatives by Cindy Chambers Johnson and Daniel Duncan

7 August: Creating the Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life (no author listed)

18 September: Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling (no author listed)

2 October: WWE: The World of the Rock by Steven Pantaleo

9 October: The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling: A Hardcore, High-Flying, No-Holds-Barred History of the One True Sport by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno

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Recent Release Round-Up

Here are a few titles released in recent weeks that didn’t get advance listings and thus weren’t in the weekly release schedule. Note that I’ve decided not to include wrestling-related titles that are primarily erotica, of which you will find plenty in the self-published field.

 


TrumpMania: Vince McMahon, WWE and the making of America’s 45th President by Lavie Margolin

The bluster and bravado that Trump witnessed at several WrestleManias, whether from a front row seat or inside the ring, surely lent a hand to his memorable electoral debate oratories. TrumpMania is the story, on screen and off, of the mutually beneficial business and personal relationship between Donald Trump, Vince & Linda McMahon and the WWF/WWE. No matter what side of the political aisle you sit on, it would be hard to deny that Vince McMahon had some hand in the election of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

(Disclaimer: I edited this book.)


Rival Angels: Season 3 Volume 1: Book 7: Double Trouble by Alan J Evans

Rival Angels is the #1 Wrestling Webcomic. Four sassy girls attempt to make a career for themselves in a male dominated sport: Professional Wrestling! They soon discover that surviving their battles outside of the ring will be tougher than their battles inside the ring.

Season 3 (Volume 7) sees Sun and Sabrina try to make in-roads in the tag team division, but nothing can prepare them for the Towers or Terror, Too Hott or the tag champions, Black and Blue. Krystin and Brooke try to get the next chapter of their careers in gear, if only they could get out of their own way!


To Be The Man: Evil Ain’t Good: Chapter 1 by Jared Vaughan Davis and Josh Taylor

The 80’s. Reagan’s ‘Murica. Where fantasy and reality are one and the same, and the heroes of the day are the booze-fueled demigods of the squared circle… “Fabulous” Frank Hazard and Greg “The Gargoyle” Grimes are just a couple of “the boys,” traveling up and down the road in search of fame, fortune, and glory. With their violent, blood-and-guts Southern territory under threat of extinction from the cartoonish promotion up North, Hazard and Grimes’s heated rivalry has spilled out of the ropes and into the batshit-insanity of their daily lives. But when the greedy promoter from the New York-based federation of World Wrestling All-Stars literally sells his soul to steal control of the southerners’ coveted championship belt, the two boozy bruisers will have to set aside their boiling hatred to form an unlikely tag team that must fight Evil in and out of the ring.


Wrestle Maniacs

A dozen dark fiction masters bring their twisted vision to the world of professional wrestling. Twelve original stories of crime, horror, humor, and taboo. Ohhh, yeahhh! This ain’t no kayfabe, baby. This is hard-hitting wrestling fiction that grips like a Camel Clutch, and pins the reader to the page for the count of one, two…THREE! Includes a confrontational foreword by ring legend ‘Pulverizing’ Pat McCrunch (as told to Jeff Strand)… An all-new story starring Nick ‘The Widowmaker’ Bullman from James Newman’s wrestling noir, “Ugly as Sin”… And ex-boxer turned strip club bouncer Reggie Levine (“Tijuana Donkey Showdown,” “Damn Dirty Apes”) returns for another action-packed misadventure. Whether you like it or not, learn to love it, because it’s the best thing going, WOOOOO!!


Kayfabe: Stories You’re Not Supposed to Hear from a Pro Wrestling Production Company Owner by Sean Oliver

“Sean’s story, beginning as a renegade, outlaw company and evolving to redefining the shoot video genre, is extremely fascinating. Who knew that the man asking the questions was as fascinating as his subject matter?” -Justin Barrasso, Sports Illustrated

“Kayfabe brings to life a world that once had its own version of ‘omerta’ in a fascinating, well written book that will intrigue long time fans, new fans, and just those who are hoping to take a peek behind the curtain of this unlikely cultural phenomenon.” -Eric Bischoff, WCW President

“I worked in a business full of liars, cheaters, workers, con artists and of course…politicians. I can name maybe 3 people over the years that I 100% trusted, or even believed for that matter. Sean Oliver is one of those men. In reading Kayfabe, you can believe that 100% of this masterpiece is accurate–yes, even the parts about me. The most stand-up guy perhaps ever associated with the business of Pro Wrestling. You want truth–you’ll find it right here.” -Vince Russo, Former WWE/WCW Head Writer

If you thought the world of pro wrestling was wild, imagine what you haven’t seen on TV and in the ring. Add to that the backdrop of building a renegade production company, negotiating with impossible wrestling talent, and hosting groundbreaking, shoot-style programming, and you have the story of Sean Oliver.

Sean has seen industry-wide accolades for the company he co-founded and for which he serves as frontman. But there are also the threats, stories of abuse, and moments of downright hilarity that you haven’t known…until now.

Watch the unpredictable and unconventional story through Sean’s eyes.


Clash of the Champions: The Story of Sting CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION: Now featuring reviews of WWE’s two CoC events and more! by Ted Blanchard

Includes reviews of all of the WCW Clash of the Champions events, as well as WWE’s two Clash of Champions shows!

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Release Schedule (17 January)

Two new entries this week:

Wrestling in Britain: Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences (Routledge Research in Sports History) by Benjamin Litherland

At the intersection of sport, entertainment and performance, wrestling occupies a unique position in British popular culture. This is the first book to offer a detailed historical and cultural analysis of British professional wrestling, exploring the shifting popularity of the sport as well as its wider social significance.

Arguing that the history of professional wrestling can help us understand key themes in sport, culture and performance that span the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it addresses topics such as: attitudes towards violence, representations of masculinity, the media and celebrity culture, consumerism and globalisation. By drawing on a variety of intellectual traditions and disciplines, the book explores the role of power in the construction of popular cultural forms, the ways in which history structures the present, and the manner in which audiences construct identity and meaning through sport.

Wrestling in Britain: Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences is fascinating reading for all students and researchers with an interest in media and cultural studies, histories and sociologies of sport, or performance studies.

(Note that you might want to hang fire on ordering this as it’s currently listed at a very academic price of $140.)

The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling: A Hardcore, High-Flying, No-Holds-Barred History of the One True Sport by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno

From the host of the critically acclaimed pro wrestling podcast Straight Shoot, this graphic novel-style history of wrestling features the key grapplers, matches, and promotions that shaped this beloved sport and form of entertainment.

As a pop culture phenomenon, professional wrestling–with its heroic babyfaces and villainous heels performing suplexes and powerbombs in pursuit of championship gold–has conquered audiences in the United States and around the world. Now, writer/podcaster Aubrey Sitterson and illustrator Chris Moreno form a graphic novel tag team to present wrestling’s complete illustrated history. Featuring legendary wrestlers like Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, and The Rock, and modern-day favorites like John Cena, Kenny Omega, and Sasha Banks, the book covers wrestling’s progress from the carnival days of the Gold Dust Trio to the dominance of the WWF/WWE to today’s diverse independent wrestling scene, and it spotlights wrestling’s reach into Mexico/Puerto Rico (lucha libre), the U.K. (all-in), and Japan (puroresu).

 


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

29 January: Identity in Professional Wrestling: Essays on Nationality, Race and Gender by Aaron D Horton

30 January: WWE Vol 2: The Lunatic Fringe

6 March: WWE Superstar Guide, 2nd Edition by DK

13 March: The Book of Booty: Shake It. Love It. Never Be It (It’s Twerked for Us!) by The New Day

29 March: Wrestling in Britain: Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences (Routledge Research in Sports History) by Benjamin Litherland

3 April: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 1 by Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown et al

8 May: WWE Raw: The First 25 Years by Dean Miller and Jake Black

22 May: Golosseum 1 by Yasushi Baba

12 June: Russell Wrestles The Relatives by Cindy Chambers Johnson and Daniel Duncan

9 October: The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling: A Hardcore, High-Flying, No-Holds-Barred History of the One True Sport by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno

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Crazy Like A Fox — The Definitive Chronicle of Brian Pillman, 20 Years Later by Liam O’Rourke

The saying that perception is reality applies to few industries more than professional wrestling, and none so more than the case of Brian Pillman. He was first a victim of the often baffling blurring between fact and fiction and then harnessed that confusion for his own advantage before his struggles to deal with physical reality ended in tragedy.

It’s a tale that is told expertly in Liam O’Rourke’s biography, a work that not only covers a subject that suits detailed examination but avoids many of the stumbling blocks of many similar books. At one extreme you have bios that are too light on detail, relying on broad strokes with little insight. At the other you have books where the author has clearly put immense work into research but lacked the self-discipline or self-awareness to edit down so that only relevant information is included – instead almost trying to prove they’ve put in the effort.

That’s not to say Crazy Like A Fox lacks research: quite the opposite. It’s packed with detail, with many revelations that were fresh even to this seasoned grappling obsessive (on the very first page we learn Pillman was half-Welsh), but every tidbit advances the story and illustrates a point.

As well as research on the details of matches, the book draws from a carefully selected batch of interviewees: enough to give a rounded insight to Pillman’s life and career but not so many that the reader loses track or that quotes are included for the sake of it. Perhaps surprisingly to some readers only two wrestlers (Raven and Shane Douglas) are among the interviewees, but the list includes figures who can speak with authority to Pillman’s dealings with the political nature of pro wrestling, notably ‘insider’ newsletter writer Dave Meltzer and NFL strength coach Kim Woods, both of whom acted as confidants and advisors for Pillman’s career choices.

For those unfamiliar with Pillman, or indeed with the wrestling business, the book fully explores his best-remembered period under the ‘Loose Cannon’ banner in the World Championship Wrestling. This involved Pillman secretly working with WCW chief Eric Bischoff to attempt to fool fans and colleagues alike that he was a performer out of control who would go off-script during live TV appearances. Pillman fully committed to the character, both at wrestling shows and in ‘real life’, becoming the talk of both the industry and a growing online community of fans who were as fascinated by behind-the-scenes machinations as the on-screen storylines.

The punchline was that Pillman was in fact playing Bischoff as much as his colleagues. The character – developed with Woods’ assistance – was designed to peak his notoriety just as his contract expired, the idea being to provoke a bidding war between WCW and the rival World Wrestling Federation. Indeed, at one stage Pillman even convinced Bischoff to order WCW’s human resource department to legitimately release him from his contract. While Bischoff believed this was simply a way to make the insider storyline more realistic, Pillman had in fact created an opportunity to begin negotiations with both sides on his own terms.

At the simplest level, Crazy Like A Fox explores these events in intricate detail. For example, it was already known that Pillman had planned to gain publicity for his ‘crazed’ character by chaining himself to the goalposts at the Super Bowl, giving up the idea only because he could not persuade contacts to lend him a pitch-side press pass. However, the book also reveals that he had tickets for a WWF event with the intention of attending in a mask and hitting the ring without authorization during the main event, unhooding to attract attention before the inevitable arrest, with only a family emergency foiling the plot.

More impressively, everything in the book sets the scene for this period of Pillman’s life and the context in which he pursued the character. We learn how football coaches could not overcome their perception of him as too small to succeed in his chosen position despite him performing impressively in real games. We also see how he learned the lesson that attracting attention and becoming a known figure in the locker room helped him politically in both football and wrestling.

We also discover how Pillman came to learn how perception is reality in the multi-layered world of pro wrestling. Promoters decided he was too bland or small to attract ticket-buying customers and TV viewers, selectively choosing their evidence and ignoring the occasions when Pillman proved he really could ‘get over’ with a crowd. Yet we also realise how the process works in reverse: by portraying Pillman as a loser in wrestling storylines, promoters were able to damage his standing with the audience and in turn hurt his market value. Indeed, the way in which wrestlers with large guaranteed contracts were promoted in prime position to justify the expenditure was a self-fulfilling prophecy that both frustrated and drove Pillman in his career choices.

That leads the book to its depressing final section in which Pillman is hit with the cruellest blow: just as he becomes the bidding war prize he hoped, he suffers a serious car wreck that destroys his ability to perform in the ring with advanced athleticism. Joining WWF just a couple of years before it exploded in popularity headed by his former partner Steve Austin, Pillman sinks into a cycle of painkiller dependency and personal life chaos. It’s sadly no spoiler to reveal that he died in 1997 of a cocaine-induced heart attack like exacerbated by damage caused from steroid use.

To try to pick out criticisms of the book is a difficult task. For British readers at least, a little more explanation of the college sports system might have made it easier to understand the progress Pillman made and the challenges he faced. There’s also an analogy to Hitler and Martin Luther King that comes across as a little heavy-handed. But these are petty niggles at worst.

While Crazy Like A Fox justifies its billing as ‘the definitive chronicle of Brian Pillman’, it is far more than the tale of one man’s life. Both Pillman’s journey and the way in which it is told here serve as a truly enlightening explanation of the physical and psychological stresses of a business that few people truly understand.

Brian Pillman was one of those people and one of the many tragedies of this story is that ultimately this didn’t make a difference.

(This review originally appeared on the Cinemazine site.)

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