Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Recent Release Roundup

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.

 


NITRO: The Incredible Rise and Inevitable Collapse of Ted Turner’s WCW by Guy Evans

In April 1999, Entertainment Weekly asked its readers what many were surely wondering to themselves: how did wrestling get so big? As a consequence of the heated ratings competition between World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), the spectacle had taken over Monday nights on prime-time cable television. But in a departure from the family-friendly programming produced by the last industry boom – the 1980s wave, which made household names of Hulk Hogan, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and Andre the Giant – the new era of wrestling combined stunning athleticism with a raunchy sex appeal, engrossing story lines and novel production techniques that reflected a changing society and its shifting values. Once again, wrestling was a ubiquitous phenomenon – only this time, it seemed as though the fad would never end. With both WCW and WWF expanding into other forms of entertainment – movies, video games, music and the like – the potential for growth appeared to be limitless. But with uncertainty surrounding its corporate future, and increasingly uninspired programming eroding its audience, WCW stood on the verge of collapse. Three years into a five-year plan devised by its charismatic leader – a former Blue Ribbon Foods salesman named Eric Bischoff – the company whose unexpected ascension initiated the entire boom was operating on borrowed time. For by the end of the five-year plan, WCW ceased to exist. But NITRO is a story about much more than WCW and the Monday Night Wars. It is a story of an era, a time in which the media and cultural landscape precipitated – and later supported – pro wrestling’s mainstream popularity. It is a story of how a company made in the image of an intuitively brilliant risk-taker betrayed its original promise. It is a story of how a handful of men, each struggling with their own limitations, facilitated a public obsession that changed television forever. And so, with the inside knowledge of a journalist, the perspective of a historian, and the passion of a fan, author Guy Evans provides a fresh look at an unfortunate inevitability – the downfall of World Championship Wrestling. Bolstered by exclusive interviews with over 120 former TBS and WCW employees, NITRO is the definitive picture of the last wrestling boom. Featuring exclusive interviews and comments from: Eric Bischoff, fmr. President of World Championship Wrestling; Harvey Schiller, fmr. President of Turner Sports; Jamie Kellner, fmr. CEO of Turner Broadcasting System; Bill Burke, fmr. President of TBS network; Joe Uva, fmr. President of Turner Entertainment Sales and Marketing; Scot Safon, fmr. SVP of Marketing for TNT network; Kevin Nash, WWE Hall of Famer and 5-time WCW world champion; Diamond Dallas Page, WWE Hall of Famer and 3-time WCW world champion; Vince Russo, fmr. WCW writer; Marcus ‘Buff’ Bagwell, fmr. WCW superstar and 5-time world tag team champion; Kevin Sullivan, fmr. WCW superstar and head booker; Hugh Morrus, fmr. WCW superstar; Neal Pruitt, fmr. WCW Feature Producer and voice of the nWo; David Crockett, fmr. WCW Vice President of Production; Dick Cheatham, fmr. Group Controller for TBS; Alan Sharp, fmr. WCW Director of Public Relations; Mike Weber, fmr. WCW Director of Marketing; Rob Garner, fmr. WCW Vice President of TV Programming and Sales Jerry Jarrett, legendary wrestling promoter and booker… And many, many, many more!

 


Lord Carlton: Aristocrat of the Mat by K.K. Herzbrun and John Cosper

Leo Whippern was a talented young painter, the descendant of Hungarian royalty, and a phenomenal athlete, but as “Sailor” Tug Carlson, his life was headed no where. He was just another fit grappler in black trunks with nothing to make him stand out. Then without any warning, Tug Carlson was gone. In his place came a veteran of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, a world-traveler, a British nobleman intent on teaching the Americans what a truly outstanding athlete looks like. K.K. Herzbrun, daughter of his lordship, and John Cosper (author of “Dr. D” David Schultz’s best-selling autobiography) tell the story of a forgotten legend of the 1950s, a heel on par with the great Gorgeous George who sold out arenas from coast to coast in the 1950s. Inspired by Lord Lansdowne, the same man whose gimmick inspired Gorgeous George, Whippern transformed himself into the British heel Lord Leslie Carlton. His new heel persona made him a rich man as he created drama in and out of the ring, but his family life after wrestling proved to be even wilder than any wrestling storyline. Lord Leslie Carlton’s tale is a story of triumph and heartbreak. It’s the story of a stellar athlete and a talented artist, an eclectic migrant family, a tragic murder, a vengeful wife, and the daughter who somehow found the God her father never believed in.

 


What the World Was Watching: The World Wrestling Federation in 1995 by Logan Scisco

1995 was the doldrums of the professional wrestling industry. Major promotions such as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) lost money, ratings for programming declined, and suspicions of drug and steroid use clouded the sport. However, 1995 also set the stage for a post-Hulkamania wrestling boom as the Monday Night Wars began and talent switched companies. This book offers a historical glance at the WWF in 1995, reviewing all of its major televised programming, compiling win/loss data for superstars, charting major feuds and angles, ranking matches, and providing a timeline for the year’s major events.

 


Memoirs of a Mad Man by Mad Man Pondo

“He’s just a bleeder,” they said. “He can’t wrestle. All he can do is bleed!” Mad Man Pondo never argued when people called him “just a bleeder.” He knows who he is, and he’s embraced it. He knows that his high tolerance for pain, his fearless nature, and his talent for bleeding are the reason he’s wrestled all around the world, starred in three video games, appeared in a horror film with one of his great heroes, befriended celebrities from the A-list to the D-list, and become a legend to deathmatch wrestling fans everywhere. Now, Mad Man Pondo is telling his story his way. He takes you from his early days as a wrestling fan in Flora, Illinois who accidentally got his butt kicked by Jos LeDuc to his glory days as a headliner for Big Japan. You’ll read about in-ring encounters with Junkyard Dog, Terry Funk, and Kevin Sullivan; real life run-ins with David Blaine and Benny Hinn; and unexpected confrontations outside the ring with crazed fans and the Yakuza. You’ll learn how his small cable access show Skull Talk led him to become a casting agent for Jerry Springer and how a deathmatch legend gets to rub shoulders with the likes of MC Hammer, Jonny Fairplay, Mick Foley, Eli Roth, and Robert Englund. Pondo shares stories about his most legendary deathmatch encounters and the inspirational story behind his all-women’s promotion, Girl Fight. And you’ll read his unforgettable speech from the Juggalo March on Washington D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial where Forrest Gump once cried out, “Jenny!!!” With a foreword by Vanilla Ice (yes, THE Vanilla Ice!), dozens of must-see photos, and countless stories from friends, fans, and fellow grapplers, Memoirs of a Mad Man is an all-out extreme autobiography as graphic and over the top as a Four Corners of Pain Deathmatch.

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Wrestling The Hulk by Linda Hogan

Perhaps the politest way to review this book would be to note that wrestling fans may not be its primary target audience.

It’s only 236 pages of very large type (and even some padding out with recipes) but still feels a long-winded route to effectively say “I met and married Hulk Hogan but he turned out to be a shagger so we got divorced.”)

There’s virtually no wrestling content and what little there is seems somewhat shaky. For example, not only do we learn how Vince McMahon took wrestling out of “small, dingy, dimly lit no-name arenas with fifty to one hundred people in the audience” but Linda claims the first time she went to one of Hogan’s matches he wrestled Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA title in front of barely 300 people.

There’s no acknowledgement of a ghostwriter and if somebody did work on the project, they may have gone too far in making the writing authentic. Because it’s filled with lame puns! And exclamation marks everywhere! It also seems light on editing, with several cases of the book contradicting itself.

All that said, it’s hard to criticise too much as the content certainly matches the book’s premise of being one party’s side of the story. The problem is that while it’s certainly nowhere near as bad as Chyna’s autobiography, it’s a similar scenario by which the writer will have gotten far more benefit from the process than the reader will.

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Recent Release Roundup

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.

 


Don’t Call Me Fake: The Real Story of “Dr. D” David Schultz

Ask anyone who watched wrestling in the early 80s who the most dangerous man in wrestling was and they will tell you it was Dr. D. Trained by Herb Welch, the Tennessee native terrorized fans in Tennessee, Memphis, Florida, Calgary, Japan and Minnesota before being recruited into the WWF at the request of Hulk Hogan. Dr. D was a singles and tag team champion for multiple promotions, and he faced some of the most dangerous men in the business: Antonio Inoki, Abdullah the Butcher, Bruiser Brody, and Johnny Rodz. Yet he is remembered to this day for taking down a very different opponent: ABC reporter John Stossel, who dared to utter the words, “I think this is fake.” While the Stossel incident precipitated the end of his wrestling career, but it’s hardly the end of the story. Dr. D  turned babyface in real life, finding an even greater calling as a professional bounty hunter. Working out of Connecticut, Dr. D traveled the world and brought back hundreds of “skips” who had fled from justice. Dr. D tracked fugitives from New York to California to Puerto Rico and even Egypt with a 100% capture rate. If he couldn’t coax you into coming back of your own free will, he still possessed the skills taught by Herb Welch that could turn even the biggest thug into a crybaby. Call him a wrestler. Call him a bounty hunter. Just don’t call him fake! Dr. D David Schultz is the real deal, a hero in the wrestling locker room who became an even greater hero in his post wrestling career, clearing the streets of dangerous men and women with his Southern charm and a shooter’s grip.

 


Canvas Countdown: The world of wrestling in 100 lists by Paul Meehan

Canvas Countdown contains 100 lists which explore the diverse world of professional wrestling. From facts and key statistics about the major events to personal reflections on the wrestlers, events, feuds and stories that have shaped a century of grappling history, Canvas Countdown spans the wrestling world. The lists highlight the glamour and glitz of the major American promotions as well as featuring events and stars from Japan, the UK and the independent circuit. Canvas Countdown also reflects the author’s journey of discovery over the past three decades, tracing the rise of the sport in Japan, the Monday Night Wars of the 1990’s and of course the infamous ‘Attitude Era’. With personal reflections, plenty of statistics and a look at some of the key figures that have shaped the industry, Canvas Countdown offers something for every wrestling fan.

 


The Great Cheyenne by Alma Chaidez and‎ Jason Eaglespeaker

An indigenous female pioneer. One woman’s journey deep into the alpha male world of professional wrestling.

 


The 100 Greatest Wrestlers of 1993-2001: Ranking the Best Wrestlers of the Attitude and Monday Night War Era in ECW, WWF/WWE and WCW by Jonathan Johnson

The nineties were a time of great social change. A youth counter-culture was emerging in the world and professional wrestling embraced reality more than ever before to make Monday nights the most watched cable television nights of the week. Millions of fans were entertained by three amazing promotions, ECW, WCW, and the WWF/WWE. Enjoy reliving the Monday Night War and the Attitude era through the hundred greatest stars that made professional wrestling great!


KB’s History of the WWE Championship by Thomas Hall

It’s the grandest prize in wrestling and one of the most historic championships in the history of the spot. Over the last forty years, nearly every top star in wrestling has held it in all of its many forms. There have been many great matches and moments over the years and that’s certainly worth looking back at again. In this book, we take a look at the history of the WWE Championship over the last fifty years, including every title change and several important defenses along the way. With over 280 matches reviewed and no title change left out, this is as comprehensive a look as you’ll be able to find about the important parts of the title’s history.

 


The American Wrestling Association: The ESPN Years: 1988-1990 episode reviews by Ted Blanchard

The American Wrestling Association broke ground in the 1980’s by appearing on the then-fledgling ESPN network. Watch the progression (and some would say fall) of the AWA through reviews of episodes resurrected on ESPN Classic.

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Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar by Shawn Michaels

This is not a wrestling book.

Don’t get me wrong: the blurb and other cover material don’t make any pretense this is a wrestling book, but it’s important to stress this so that would-be readers don’t get misled. This isn’t a book like the Bill Watts autobiography that is about wrestling but has some diversions into religion. Instead it’s the story of Shawn Michaels’ Christianity with a backdrop of pro wrestling.

When it comes to the faith talk itself, your mileage will vary. It was never going to be to my taste, but I found it very generalised and repetitive. One incident in the book involves Michaels getting a call from Bruce Prichard about returning to wrestling and deciding that as he was in church when the phone rang, that was a sign from God that he should get back in the ring. How you respond to that proposition is probably a good indication of how much you’ll get from the book.

There are some wrestling-related passages, but you won’t learn much that isn’t already public knowledge, other than Michaels saying he and Undertaker’s legendary WrestleMania 25 bout was only officially allotted 15 minutes. Perhaps the most interesting wrestling section is where he talks about navigating the return of DX without compromising his new-found beliefs. There are also a couple of pages about the McMahons vs Michaels/God pay-per-view match, though you’ll have to decide for yourself how convincing his defence of the storyline is in the wider context of the book.

As a wrestling-related title, though, I can really only recommend it to readers who are open to the religious content or those for whom absolutely anything relating to Michaels is a must read.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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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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Second Nature: The Legacy of Ric Flair and the Rise of Charlotte by Ric Flair and Charlotte Flair

While a creative concept for a WWE book, this is less than the sum of its parts.

Second Nature effectively combines two autobiographies – covering Ric Flair’s final run in WWE and retirement and Charlotte’s entry into the business – neither of which would provide enough material for a full-length book in themselves. They join together almost too seamlessly, drawing attention to the way that the ghostwriting doesn’t really feel like the natural, individual voice of either wrestler. Indeed, WWE speak plagues the book, with some particularly awkward mentions of “championship” that make no contextual sense when describing the physical belt. There’s also a jarring reference to “WWE” not being an NWA member.

The strong points of the book certainly work well, with Ric detailing the adjustment to being out of the business, including some surprisingly positive mentions of how he was treated in TNA. Charlotte gives a heart-breaking account of her close relationship with brother Reid and the tragedy of bereavement. There’s also some surprising revelations about professional jealousy between Charlotte and Sasha Banks, while her recollection of an abusive relationship with a former husband provides the emotional meat of the book.

The problem is that even with the two-in-one approach, there’s still far too much padding. Ric’s section includes what feels like a blow-by-blow account of his 75-minute Hall of Fame acceptance speech (complete with the ludicrous claim that he wrestled Ricky Steamboat three thousand times.) Meanwhile nearly 100 pages of the Charlotte section covers her childhood, which pretty much comes down to her having a comfortable upbringing and having fun. At times we get lists of seemingly every film or song she enjoyed, while other sections have the feel of a junior school essay: “Practice was two hours. We’d drive home, and I’d go straight to bed after dinner. Our games were on weekends. Once tournaments began, our team spent a lot of time out of state.

Style choices aside, the real limitation of the book is simply that while WWE may feel there’s an audience for Charlotte’s life story, her career path has been too short and too straightforward to justify a book at this point, even with the inclusion of the Ric section. Indeed, one downside of the NXT/Performance Center setup is that while it has an impressive potential to create WWE Superstars from scratch, the process won’t necessary produce too many fascinating stories along the way.

(This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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No Is A Four Letter Word by Chris Jericho

One of the big perils of successful career autobiographies — as seen with Mick Foley — is that subsequent volumes cover a shorter and shorter period and require more padding out of concentration on trivial detail. Chris Jericho has presumably tried to avoid this with his fourth book, which is presented not as a chronological sequel but rather a self-help motivational title.

Such an approach can work, as shown in Bobby Heenan’s follow-up to his original career autobiography. Here, though, it falls flat.

The book follows a consistent pattern in each of its 20 chapters: Jericho introduces a generic platitude (most of which come down to “work hard and believe in yourself), then recounts some incidents from his life that relate to it with varying degrees of relevance.

This usually fails in two separate ways. One is that the connections are usually strained at best. For example, “don’t take no for an answer” is illustrated by an incident when he was late for an airport check-in, resigned himself to waiting for the next flight, then was recognised as a TV star by a staff member who spontaneously offered to bend the rules. The incident neither proves the point, nor has much use for ordinary civilians.

The second problem is that, with the content taken from throughout his career, many are stories that didn’t make his previous extensive books and are inherently less entertaining. In the words of Alan Partridge, “that’s no good. That’s an incident. It’s not an anecdote.” For example, to illustrate the maxim “Have a good time, all the time,” Jericho recounts how this one time he and the New Day went out drinking in Tokyo till late, and then this other time he drank a lot on a plane and was sick on his leg.

The book isn’t completely without merit for wrestling fans. It has a couple of interesting recollections about being taught a psychology lesson by Negro Casas and the unique challenges of pitching an idea to Vince McMahon. There’s also some basic behind-the-curtain details of his most recent runs, including the programs with AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose.

Overall, though, it’s a big disappointment. What was once a fresh, unconventional and unstuffy style of writing now feels tiresome, and the main message of the book seems to be that Jericho has met a lot of celebrities and most of them told him how great he is. As a result, it’s tough to recommend this to anyone but the most dedicated of Jericoholics.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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When You’re Ready Boys – Take Hold! by Len Ironside

While this has some interest, the length and style mean it’s really for collectors only.

Ironside was a Scottish wrestler, so this has some good insight into some of the names and characters who didn’t get the TV exposure. It’s more of a collection of stories and reminiscences than a chronological career history.

Unfortunately it’s only 88 pages so is likely a single-sitting read. It’s also written with kayfabe in full effect, which won’t be to everyone’s taste.

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Finally Meeting Princess Maud by Seamus Dunleavy with Shirley Thompson

Although Dunleavy had a lengthy run as a pro wrestler including several years as a TV regular, this is primarily not a wrestling book.

Only a few chapters of this autobiography are dedicated to his time in the ring, though there’s some interesting stuff in particular on his training at the infamous Snake Pit and on the boxing booths.

The book as a whole is ghostwritten in what comes across as a very authentic conversational voice, complete with all manner of diversions and tangents. At times it can be confusing though, with Dunleavy suddenly directly addressing ghostwriter Thompson or even referring to the structure of the book itself, while later sections include comments from his family members where it’s not always easy to keep track of who’s talking.

It’s hard to recommend this just for the wrestling content, so it’s more suited to people with a likely interest either in Dunleavy’s tale of a rural Irish childhood and emigrating to work in the UK, or as a local history piece on Birmingham from the 60s to today.

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