Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Eggshells: Pro Wrestling In The Tokyo Dome by Chris Charlton

Writing a good wrestling book isn’t just about having a knowledgeable and skilled writer picking an engaging topic. That topic has to be of the right size and scope to neatly fit the format of a book, something that’s certainly the case for Chris Charlton’s latest project.

In a previous review of James Dixon’s All or Nothing, we noted that 1PW was one of the few promotions for which it would be possible (and interesting) to write a blow-by-blow account of every single show and backstage happening: a smaller, shorter-lived group would not justify the attention, while anything with more of a history would be impractical to cover in such a format.

Similarly, few buildings other than the Tokyo Dome would work for a book like Eggshells. Somewhere used less often would not have the heritage and prestige to be worthy of coverage, while venues such as Budokan Hall or Madison Square Garden have been used too often to allow coverage with this depth.

For each of the shows at the venue, Charlton provides the full results along with detailed reports on the most notable matches. It’s not merely a blow-by-blow however: instead, every match is put into context so we know why it mattered, where the relevant wrestlers were in their career, and what difference the outcome made to their story.

The book also provides context on the show itself and the state of the relevant promotion, meaning we learn how and why it came to be running the Tokyo Dome. The result is that as well as covering the shows in detail, the book provides an overview of the past 30 years of Japanese wrestling history.

That’s particularly the case with New Japan, which has ran at least one show a year in the Dome since 1989. This means the background sections taken together tell the complete story of the promotion’s glorious 90s, the debacles as Antonio Inoki’s obsessions with MMA crossovers almost brought the company to its knees, and the slow rebuilding in the eras of Tanahashi, Okada and now Omega that have brought it to arguably its highest point since losing strong network television exposure.

It’s not just New Japan however. The book covers shows from other promotions, some of which you may remember such as the series of All Japan events or the SWS shows with WWF talent, and others that are more obscure including cards from shoot group PWF-G and all-female promotion Jd’ Star. The trivia notes keep on coming with potential pub quiz answers including Kenta Kobashi tangling with Tito Santana, a post-WCW Curt Hennig working for All Japan, and Hiroshi Tanahashi facing Sean O’Haire.

The book is meticulously researched with pages of footnotes, while Charlton has interviewed numerous wrestlers, announcers and journalists with first-hand insights into the events covered in the book. While the occasional direct quotes don’t always sparkle, it’s clear that the information these talks uncovered was as useful if not more so than the specific words the subjects provided.

While those on a budget will no doubt gravitate to the e-book edition, the print version is certainly worth considering. The electronic version’s formatting is functional but occasionally throws the reader for a loop when it switches from Charlton’s writing to a direct quote, a transition that’s not always clear.

Meanwhile the print edition does far better justice to the excellent artwork from Shining Wizard Designs with dozens of ink drawings of the events and performers covered in the book.

Eggshells really does have something for everyone who has even the slightest interest in Japanese wrestling. The long-time or dedicated follower will learn behind-the-scenes details that put their memories in a fresh light as well as being reminded of some long-forgotten historical oddities. Meanwhile more recent converts to Puroresu will get an enjoyable introduction to the story of how wrestling in the company has developed in the modern era.

(This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Release Schedule (14 November)

One new entry this week, Jim Cornette Presents: Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories by Jim Cornette, Brandon Easton & Denis Medri:

Pro-Wrestling’s secrets and greatest moments are immortalized in this graphic novel from legendary wrestling personality Jim Cornette.

A true-story style anthology, these “insider” tales will show the lengths that wrestlers went to uphold “kayfabe” (the old carny term for the presentation of legitimate conflict) as well as the noteworthy cultural, racial, and economic effect these events and characters had on society. This is the graphic novel that old school wrestling fans have been waiting their entire lives for: a no-holds-barred graphic representation of the moments that wrestling insiders couldn’t talk about for years.

Featuring appearances by Ric Flair, Jerry Lawler, Andy Kaufman, Sputnik Monroe, The Sheik, Junkyard Dog, the Fabulous Freebirds, the Midnight Express, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels.

Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories present three chapters of tales, personally curated by Cornette and adapted by Brandon Easton (M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) and Denis Medri (Red Hood/Arsenal), the award-winning team behind Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven.


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

18 December: WWE Vol. 4: Women’s Evolution by Dennis Hopeless

23 December: Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier

15 January 2019: Positively Unstoppable: The Art of Owning It by Diamond Dallas Page

5 March: WWE Greatest Rivalries

5 March: Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson

19 March: WWE: The Official Cookbook by Allison Robicelli

19 March: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 3

7 May: WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting by DK

7 May: Self Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow by Al Snow and Ross Owen Williams

7 May: An Encyclopedia of Women’s Wrestling: 100 Profiles of the Strongest in the Sport by LaToya Ferguson

16 July: 100 Things WWE Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Bryan Alvarez

6 August: Jim Cornette Presents: Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories by Jim Cornette, Brandon Easton & Denis Medri

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Ken Shamrock Book In The Works

Jonathan Snowden, author of Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling, has written a new authorised biography of Ken Shamrock and is now seeking crowdfunding to publish it.

It follows on from Shamrock’s original MMA autobiography/how-to guide Inside The Lions Den. The blurb for the new book reads:

There is no shortage of material on Ken Shamrock. He’s written two books and done countless interviews and documentaries. But, despite millions of words and hours of video, any exploration of his life leads to more questions than answers.

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a superstar on the road with WWE, where the strip club VIP room is always open and drugs are just what you do to get from one day to the next? Or what happens behind the scenes when negotiating with UFC President Dana White or WWE legend Vince McMahon?

What drives a proud man to continue stepping into the ring long after he can do so with his head held high? Why did Ken’s adopted brother leave his teammates in the Lion’s Den behind? And just how real was Pancrase anyway?

You may think you know the Ken Shamrock story. You do not—because it’s never been told.

Until now.

Pardon our french but, simply put, it’s a wild f–king tale, the story of a man who came from nothing, conquered the world, then lost it all again. Now, with the strength of his faith to help power him, he’s finding his way once again.

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Inside the Lion’s Den by Ken Shamrock and Richard Hanner

Inside The Lion’s Den, released in 1998, is written in two sections. The first 123 pages are a look at Ken Shamrock’s life and no-holds barred career, while the remaining 78 sides give instruction in the Lion’s Den fighting techniques.

To the pro wrestling audience, it is the former section that will prove more interesting. In September 1993, Richard Hanner, a Stockton, California newspaper reporter, was sent to cover local submission fighter Ken Shamrock’s participation in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. He found the assignment so captivating that he went on to follow Shamrock from match to match, while researching his background. The result is the biographical portion of Inside The Lion’s Den.

The book describes Shamrock’s upbringing, including his days on the street, living in abandoned cars, spells in prison, and his adoption by Bob Shamrock It then follows his no-holds barred fighting, including the creation of Pancrase, and the success of UFC, along with its controversies. There’s even a brief account on Shamrock’s little known spell as a table-top dancer.

Of particular interest to pro wrestling fans will be the brief account of his days in the South Atlantic Pro Wrestling group as Vince Torelli, along with the infamous hotel room sneak attack by the Nasty Boys (who are not named).

The pace of the biography makes for entertaining and engrossing reading, following a chronological account, but breaking away for a chapter at a time to take a look at a particular aspect of Shamrock’s life, be it his relationship with his family, or a look at the no-prisoners-taken attitude in tryouts for the Lion’s Den.

The use of description is also extremely effective, making for a fascinating look at the development of the UFC.

Shamrock’s own contribution is perhaps of more practical use to the martial arts enthusiast, but does give a comprehensive insight into his training methods, nutrition and fighting techniques.

This section (as with the rest of the book) is illustrated in detail, and all but a couple of the manoeuvres shown can be easily followed. The training manual also demonstrates how submission fighting systems need to constantly develop, with Shamrock readily admitting that he has made mistakes in fights, pointing to the need to learn from his errors. The UFC I loss to Royce Gracie is one such case, with Shamrock later adjusting his fighting methods to account for opponents wearing a gi. Of course, looking back 18 years later, it’s clear how much the MMA game has changed in the meantime.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Pro Wrestling: A Comprehensive Wrestling Guide by Lew Freeman

It’s unfair to review a book having only read the free Kindle sample. But then it’s also unfair to produce something this bad and charge $94 for it.

You’ll often see academic books with ludicrous prices such as this, mainly because nobody is buying them with their own cash. You’ll often see wrestling books with as many factual errors, though admittedly usually in eBook-only titles that cost a dollar or two. But you’ll rarely see the two combined in this manner.

It starts out reasonably enough with a very simplified history of wrestling in America, albeit with a slightly odd jump from Evan Lewis, the original ‘Strangler’ of the late 19th, to the post-war territorial era. But within a few pages it goes to pot and the flurry of often-baffling errors begins.

We learn that shortly after 1983, Vince McMahon signed a deal to have wrestling shown five nights a week on TNT. We learn how the 1980s begin with the WWF overwhelming WCW and ECW.  We learn that Andre the Giant’s run as Giant Machine was a failed attempt to fool the fans. We learn how ECW was originally East Coast Wrestling.

It’s just a shame we don’t learn how this book got made or why it costs so much. But the fact that author Lew Freedman has more than 120 books listed on Amazon might be a clue.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Release Schedule (31 October)

One new entry this week, 100 Things WWE Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Bryan Alvarez

Covering the most charming babyfaces and hateable heels, the high-flyers as well as the hardcore heroes, this comprehensive, authoritative book explores the personalities, events, and facts every WWE fan should know. Dive into pro wrestling history with indispensible information on iconic matches, behind-the-scenes business, unforgettable feuds, and outstanding feats by superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, John Cena, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, and Bret Hart. Whether you had the privilege of witnessing the glory days of The Rock, or are a more recent fan of Daniel Bryan or Sasha Banks, this is the ultimate guide to what goes on inside and out of the ring. Bestselling author Bryan Alvarez (The Death of WCW) has collected essential knowledge, trivia, and must-do activities and ranks them from 1 to 100, providing an entertaining and easy-to-follow checklist as you progress on your way to fan superstardom.


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

9 November: The Elite Team: Young Bucks Stand Tall by Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson

18 December: WWE Vol. 4: Women’s Evolution by Dennis Hopeless

23 December: Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier

15 January 2019: Positively Unstoppable: The Art of Owning It by Diamond Dallas Page

5 March: WWE Greatest Rivalries

5 March: Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson

7 March: Convergent Wrestling: Participatory Culture, Transmedia Storytelling, and Intertextuality in the Squared Circle (The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture) by CarrieLynn D Reinhard and Christopher John Olson

19 March: WWE: The Official Cookbook by Allison Robicelli

19 March: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 3

7 May: WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting by DK

7 May: Self Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow by Al Snow and Ross Owen Williams

7 May: An Encyclopedia of Women’s Wrestling: 100 Profiles of the Strongest in the Sport by LaToya Ferguson

16 July: 100 Things WWE Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Bryan Alvarez

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