Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

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.

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Read on Kindle (

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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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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.

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.

Wrestling Demons by Jason Brick

Varsity wrestler Connor Morgan and his mother moved to Portland, Oregon to get away from his drug-addicted father, but they didn’t move away from trouble. At his new high school, three heavyweight wrestlers chase him through the halls. He runs away, in his underwear, past the girl he likes, into the January cold.

Then something weird happens.

The next thing Connor knows, he is fighting for his life against supernatural evil with the help of new friends as he learns the powers and dangers of his new destiny. The stakes rise as he discovers a powerful enemy bent on destroying more than just his high school. Ultimately, he must embrace his role in an ancient fight if he wants to save the day.

And he still has to get good grades and a date for the prom.

Season’s Beatings: Holiday Wishes from the Golden Age of Wrestling by John Cosper

From the golden age of grapplin’ comes a holiday treat for wrestling fans young and old! Compiled from a 1947 California wrestling program, this amazing collection of Christmas greetings features stars like Gorgeous George, “The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell, Enrique Torres, Jan Blears, Yvon Robert, and Ed “Strangler” Lewis. Season’s Beatings is not a history or a biography. It’s a window into the past, a photographic look at some of the biggest stars of wrestling’s golden age. It’s the perfect gift for those who prefer headlocks and body slams to visions of sugar plums.

KB’s Complete Monday Nitro Reviews Volume VI by Thomas Hall

A comprehensive look back at every episode of WCW Monday Nitro and Thunder from July – December 1999. To say WCW is in a bad place is the understatement of the year. They haven’t won a night in the Monday Night Wars in almost nine months and things are getting worse every single week. While the first few months are going to be more of the same, there’s a major change around Halloween that is going to shake things up forever. In this book, every episode of both shows in the second half of 1999 is reviewed in full, complete with analysis, ratings and complete content included.

The Ballad of Shelby McCallahan: The Raging Redhead of the Redneck Riviera by Jacob H Baxter

This book is about a young girl growing up in Panama City, Florida, chasing her dream to become a professional wrestler.

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

An alpha male with a beta body, looking to thrive in worlds where beta males with alpha bodies are the primary requirement. He was a complex paradox, a walking contradiction. He lived more in 35 years than most do in a lifetime, the product of an arduous infanthood. His overachievement is awe-inspiring. Tales of his conflicts and conquests became the stuff of legend. His borderline genius and tragic demise made him an icon shrouded in mystique. He was Brian Pillman, and two decades later the most comprehensive look at one of professional wrestling’s most fascinating stories has been compiled. Discover unheard details of his upbringing, the incredible story behind chasing an NFL roster spot and his introduction to pro wrestling in the crazy Stampede circuit. Revel at his trials and tribulations in WCW and the WWF, walking the fine line between the cusp of superstardom and political turmoil. Reflect in the most detailed, inside breakdown of his Loose Cannon gambit ever produced, the scam that turned him into the talk of the business, before fatally drowning in personal tragedy and addiction. With exclusive interviews with some of Brian’s closest friends and family, Crazy Like A Fox is a must-read for Pillman fans, and a breathtaking look at the bizarre world of wrestling to boot…

The 100 Greatest Wrestlers of 1985-1992: Ranking the Best Wrestlers of the Hulkamania Era in WWF / WWE and WCW by Jonathan Johnson

Who can forget their first exposure to the crazy circus that was wrestling in the mid-80s? From Giants to Snakes to Nature Boys to Million Dollar Men, professional wrestling had something for everyone in the height of its greatest era. Relive now the hundred greatest men who made professional wrestling must watch television in the Hulkamania era!

Memphis Wrestling History Presents: Tennessee Athletic Commission: Memphis Filings 1977-1980 by Mark James

After every Monday night at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Wrestling promoter Jerry Jarrett had to file paperwork with the Tennessee Athletic Commission in Nashville. Several items had to be accurately entered on the form. From every wrestler and referee on the card to the number of tickets sold and even the total revenue taken in from those ticket sales, it was all there. This book contains all those Jarrett filings and looks at those numbers from 1977 through 1980. These hard facts add even more info into the rich history of Memphis Wrestling.

7 Keys to Becoming a Better Performer: A Book For Fellow Pro-Wrestlers by Mike Quackenbush

Pro-wrestling is performance art, and trying to occlude that fact for decades has, in many ways, prevented the evolution of the art form. Little has been written about the challenges modern pro-wrestlers face, and the ways in which they engage with audiences. “7 Keys to Becoming a Better Performer – A Book for Fellow Pro-Wrestlers” offers a fresh, frank examination of the skill set every professional wrestler needs to hone, regardless of where they ply their trade.

Oh, and Stuart Carapola has put out another 11 books this month…


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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.


Drew Gulak: Biography Paperback by Ronald Russell and Alex Medvedev

Biography of Drew Gulak, currently Professional Wrestler at Combat Zone Wrestling, LLC., previously Swimming Instructor at Northeast Raquet & Fitness Center and Swimming Instructor at Northeast Raquet & Fitness Center.


Planning The Biggest Party Of The Summer 2017 by Aaron Varble

WWE threw the Biggest Party Of The Summer once again when they returned to Brooklyn for an impressive third year in a row. Relive all of the build up to the big show as well as all the injuries, controversy and political nightmares along the way. From Enzo Amore’s brush with an angry stripper to Baron Corbin’s social media faux pas which might have stifled his push it’s all in this comprehensive book. This book features every Raw and SmackDown from June to August 2017 as well as the entire results for Money In The Bank, Extreme Rules, Great Balls Of Fire, and Battleground. Of course, it also features detailed coverage and analysis from SummerSlam as well as plenty of news stories along the way to keep you up to date with the stories.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia: Date With Destiny (Volume 1) by Ed Khuenal and Matt Entin

When a disgruntled professional wrestler declares himself “galactic champion of the universe” an alien planet of wrestlers sees it as an act of war! A hilarious THIRTY-TWO PAGE megaextravaganza kicks off this limited comic book series with art by Dan Schkade, colors by Marissa Louise and lettering by A Larger World Studios.

A Fan’s Perspective: 2016 – What A Year To Be A Fan Of WWE by Oliver Newman

2016 was a truly great year to be a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment. Join me as I take you on a journey through every PPV (RAW & SD Live), NXT Takeover and WWE Network Special. Read my alternative Wrestlemania 32 booking, plus my thoughts and insights on all of 2016’s major matches, segments, story-lines and major news stories throughout this historical and ground-breaking time.

1984-1986 WWF LJN Wrestling Figure Price Guide by Jimmy Lee Kelly

This guide will give you prices for the 1984 Line of WWF figures distributed by LJN. These figures were some of the most popular figures of the 80s and were well loved despite their lack of articulation.

Independent Pro Wrestling Guide: How To Become an Independent Professional Wrestler by Matthew Soulia

If you want to learn how to become an independent professional wrestler, then check out “Independent Pro Wrestling Guide.”

This guide is written by a former indie pro wrestler who will show you step by step to get started in the independent wrestling world.

• Learn how to get your start in as a professional wrestler on the independent circuit.

• Hear tales and get advice from someone who knows what it’s like to wrestle as an independent wrestler

• Find out how to find the perfect wrestling school as well as how to pay for your wrestling education.

• Having trouble getting booked in your first match? This book lets you know what tools you need to get yourself between the ropes!

• From the moves you perform in the ring to the timing of said moves, everything you do in the ring has meaning. This book helps to tell you what that meaning is, and how to improve your in-ring game!

• Contains tips to help you when developing your wrestling persona, as well as useful suggestions for how to become a better talker on the microphone.

• Learn what it takes to survive the long and perilous roads when traveling from show to show, and how to deal with troublesome situations with fellow wrestlers.

Number 1 Red by Ian Mullins

He’s a disgraced wrestler living in an abandoned carnival. She’s a frustrated ex-grappler and wrestling promoter who wants to tear it down. When they clash in the ring more than blood will be spilled. She has a daughter she hardly knows, and a partner she barely respects. He has no-one, and wants to keep it that way. As the northern winter tears up the coast, the secret that unites their warring families will destroy them both, or finally set them free. Together or apart, they face the same question: how do you ‘keep it real’ in a world of fake emotions? Why would you even try?

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Mad Dog by Bertrand Hebert & Pat Laprade

A comprehensive biography of Maurice Vachon, this will appeal to fans of the territorial era.

The book, originally published in French, has been flawlessly translated by George Tombs. It’s well researched and, unlike some bios, the details that are included — particularly about Vachon’s youth — are there to give context and explain Vachon’s character, rather than shoehorned in for the sake of it. The detail is in the stories and accounts where it matters, rather than through excessive inclusion of dates and locations that don’t contribute to the narrative.

It’s also very balanced, presenting Vachon as a rounded character and not being afraid to highlight shortcomings in his family life or his less successful spells in the wrestling business.

It’s perhaps a step below the top-tier historical wrestling biographies such as those of Gorgeous George or Mildred Burke, though that’s more because Vachon’s career was less revolutionary or era-defining than it is the quality of the writing. Even with that said, it’s definitely worth a look if you have any interest in Vachon and his era.

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Read on Kindle (

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Killer Bees Comic Biography on Kickstarter

John Crowther has let us know about a series of comic biographies he’s written about wrestlers, mainly 1980s stars. They are all authorized titles based on interviews by the author with the wrestler in question. A Nikolai Volkoff title is currently available at while a Killer Bees title is available to fund on Kickstarter, with PDF and print editions plus signed copies among the options.

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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.

Professional Wrestling by Ed W Smith

Back in 1900, when wrestling was not nearly as popular in the Middle West as it is at the present time, and when wrestlers were looked upon with a great deal of suspicion by the average man, the wrestler being qualified along with the crafty secondstory man and porch climber, Martin Burns, then one of the best heavyweights in the country, began to circulate stories about a wonderful young fellow he had discovered out in Iowa and for whom he predicted the most brilliant future. His name was Gotch, and he said he intended to make a champion of the world out of him if it took him the rest of his life.

The Unmasked Tenor: The Life and Times of a Singing Wrestler by Sam Tenenbaum and TJ Beitelman

Equal parts showman and artist, hustler and faithful son, trained tenor and fast-talking raconteur, Sam Tenenbaum is—to paraphrase Whitman—large, he contains multitudes. In this inspirational and quintessentially American “song of himself,” we see Sam pick himself up by the bootstraps of an awkward childhood in mid-20th Century Birmingham, Alabama, and forge an unlikely path through the roughriding, anything-goes early days of professional wrestling in the American South—all while nurturing his faith and pursuing, on the sly, his  rst true love: operatic singing. In the end, we learn what Sam learned early on: how to live large, fear nothing, and never give up on your dreams.

The Impending Sausage Sandwich of Doom by Kirk St Moritz

Elliott Rose is having a bad day. After being fired from his job as the clandestine stooge on hit TV show Ghostbusters UK, Elliott returns home to find his girlfriend missing. To make matters worse, Hapkido Valentine, the legendary 1980s wrestler, has returned from the dead and taken up residency in Elliott’s flat. Despite a voracious appetite for sausage sandwiches, Hapkido is convinced he has finally become the mystical Japanese warrior he once portrayed in the ring. Together they must undertake a dangerous journey to find out why the Universe created this most unlikely of partnerships. All that stands in their way is a medallion wearing TV psychic, a train-spotting assassin and the murderous intentions of the local over 75’s women’s group. If Elliott thought the day started badly, things are about to get a whole lot worse.

AWA Record Book: The 1970s Part 2 197579 by Mark James & George Schire

A record book that covers the entire AWA wrestling territory from 1975 through 1979. This book features the cards and results for hundreds of wrestling cards that took place throughout the mid-west wrestling promotion during the second half of the 1970s. This is the third book in the AWA series.Besides cards and results, this book features programs and photos.

The Road To The Show Of Shows 2017: How WWE Put Together The Biggest WrestleMania Of All Time by Aaron Varble

WrestleMania 33 was the most watched WrestleMania of all time. WWE really outdid themselves with the $5 million set, the stacked card, and the seven hours of showtime. Let’s take a look back at the events leading up to the Show Of Shows in 2017 and relive all of the amazing action along the way. Relive all of the injury drama, the anticipation, and the Hardy news that kept us on the edge of our seats. This book provides full play-by-play of the entire WrestleMania 33 card, 2017 Royal Rumble match, and 2017 Elimination Chamber match . Read never-before-read analysis from Still Real To Us writer Aaron Varble providing a retrospective look at how each big match on the card was set up. This is a can’t miss for any pro wrestling fan.

OCW Vol 1 (Finale): The Lethal Lotto by TL Brown

LETHAL LOTTO IS TONIGHT!! -Genuin defends against Sully Sphinx -Lita Walters finally gets to fight Key -Top contenders will be named in two devastating Lethal Lotto matches.

Four Horsemen: A Timeline History by Dick Bourne

 From the author of “Big Gold” and “Ten Pounds of Gold” comes a look back at the greatest faction in the history of professional wrestling: the Four Horsemen.

“Four Horsemen” is a complete month-by-month, year-by-year, linear timeline of the Horsemen, covering every version of the group and every member of each version over their thirteen years of existence.

From the glory days of Jim Crockett Promotions to the early WCW period to the Monday Nitro era, it’s all here in one concise timeline.

Every break-up and every reformation. All the championships. All the triumphs. All the betrayals. Month-by-month, year-by-year. It’s the ultimate reference guide to wrestling’s most infamous group, with clear timeline confirmations of keys dates and events.

Ric Flair, Ole and Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger, Barry Windham, James J. Dillon, Sting, Brian Pillman, Steve McMichael, Dean Malenko and all the rest. Every wrestler, every manager, and every woman that walked the aisle with them.

Over 40 photographs, some rare, a few never published before.

They were pro wrestling’s greatest stable and the very foundation upon which every other great faction that followed was built.

They were the Four Horsemen!


Nature Boy: The Career of Buddy Landel by Lance Archie

“You know I’ve got dozens of friends and the fun never ends as long as I’m buying. When the money ran out, that’s when the people left me. God forgave me. My family forgave me. And everybody in Knoxville knows that Buddy Landel is a home cooking, hometown boy. I love Knoxville, Tennessee and I’m proud of it.” – Buddy Landel Buddy Landel was considered one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ in the world of professional wrestling before he died tragically after a car accident in 2015. In the mid-1980s, Landel seemed to be on the fast track to fame in becoming the heir apparent to “Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s top dog status in the NWA promotion. But Landel couldn’t steer clear of the fast life and would ultimately fade into obscurity for several years until a career resurrection in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Finally defeating his demons, he would turn his life around and become one of the feel good stories of wrestling before dying tragically after a car accident.

[Warning: This is only 36 pages long.]

Wildfire: The Career of Tommy Rich by Michael Cooney

Wrestling went through a Golden Era in the 1980s due to the advent of cable television. Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Ric Flair would become household names during this time. But the first wrestler to benefit from the change in the market would be none other than “Wildfire” Tommy Rich. Sporting shoulder-length bleached blonde hair and a good old boy personality, Tommy Rich would set attendance records in the Tennessee and Georgia areas before his star fizzled out almost as fast as he rose to the top.

[Warning: This is only 34 pages long.]

Tale of a Mad Dog: Wrestling Legend Buzz Sawyer by James Chaplin

Buzz Sawyer was considered one of the most athletically gifted wrestlers to campaign in the 1980s. Opinions vary on the man as most of the wrestlers who worked with him did not have a flattering assessment of his personality or character. All would concede, however, that he was a genuine bad ass in an era of tough guys. What was undeniable was his charisma and ability to entertain in one of wrestling’s Golden eras.

[Warning: This is only 38 pages long.]



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First Looks (2 May)

Here’s another batch of initial impressions of some recent releases based on the free samples on the Kindle. Obvious disclaimer that these are not necessarily fair reflections of the book as a whole, so please do share your views if you’ve read the whole thing.

Squared Circle Blues by Matt Posner is one of several novels set in the territory eras. There’s certainly plenty of authentic-sounding insider jargon (and politically incorrect dialogue) along with all the stock character gimmicks you’d expect to get. It may well be a slow burner however as the free sample appears to be more about explaining the business to non-fans than any major plot developments, though the effect of a struggling territory’s top star jumping ship to what’s clearly the WWWF appears to be the catalyst.

Hardway: A Novella by Hector Acosta seems to be more of a teen fiction drama based around backyarding rather than the fully pro business. The sample suggests the wrestling element might be more of a backdrop than the primary focus of the book, but it’s an easy read.

Taking Bumps: How I Made 49 Bucks In Pro Wrestling by Alexander Goodlive is a non-fiction memoir about what can only be described as very low-level indy wrestling. It’s very much about the business rather than Goodlive as an individual and there’s some intriguingly detailed accounts of what goes through his mind during a match.

Wake Up! It’s Feeding Time by Ryback Reeves is a selfhelp book that looks like its aimed at people who wouldn’t normally buy such a book. The sample covers nutritional advice (with fitness, motivation, money management and personal responsibility covered later on.) For the most part it seems to be simple, almost common sense points made in a clear way, but there’s also what feels like padding with several pages made up of lists of side effects associated with artificial sweeteners that are simply copied and pasted (with attribution) from medical and health websites. The sample does prove intriguing as it cuts off when a list of the supplements Ryback takes every day has already reached 10 items.

Teeny: Pro Wrestling’s Grand Dame by Brennon Martin is a biography of hia grandmother Christine Jarrett. While that’s no doubt a fascinating story of an undersung figure in the business, it’s a little disappointing to find it told in a “non-fiction novel” format with extensive detail and dialogue that the writer confirms in the foreword is imagined and recreated based on stories that have been passed down. The problem is that the dialogue so clearly being created in this way makes it difficult to trust any of the stories, making it hard to know what mindset to apply when reading.


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First Looks (part 1)

While I’m working on full book reviews, I thought I’d take a quick break to recap my initial impressions of some recent release based on the free samples on the Kindle. Obvious disclaimer that these are not necessarily fair reflections of the book as a whole, so please do share your views if you’ve read the whole thing.

Best Seat in The House by Justin Roberts starts off with some engaging and well-written material about his childhood as an avid fan. Based on full reviews and a recent conversation I had with Roberts for an FSM piece, the theme of the book appears to be the experience of entering the wrestling business and the way that changes the fan perspective. It looks a worthwhile read though very expensive on Kindle.

The PowerSlam Interviews Part 2 by Findlay Martin is, naturally enough, along the lines of the first volume. Martin takes the original transcript of the interviews, with a mix of kayfabe and storyline, and presents them as Q&As, albeit with the questions sometimes extremely lengthy (and presumably not how they were originally uttered) to give the reader background and context. Long-time readers (dating back to 1998 when this book starts) might find the content familiar, but the inclusion of five new interviews and several bonus features might make it worth a purchase.

Looking At The Lights by Pete Gas doesn’t have much in the sample to suggest this has any more mainstream appeal than you’d expect. The short section of the book that’s included starts with a tale that’s going to make unwelcome reading for WWE on multiple grounds: Gas receiving numerous concussions including one from a stiff chairshot from JBL. It’s hard to tell, but this could well be one of those books that’s more honest than WWE might appreciate but without any air of bitterness. Still, it’s hard to gauge how much depth is here.

The Canvas, Volume 1: The Shine by DA Edwards is one of several fiction books to appear recently. The sample suggests it’s something of an epic (even without accounting for future volumes), along the lines of a Blood Red Turns Dollar Green series but without the crime element. Set in early eighties Florida (with the book going on to cover Mid-Atlantic and the New York region), it’s got a lot of familiar tropes and disguised characters, but appears to tell a compelling story and it’s one I plan on checking out in full.

Fritz Von Erich: Master of the Iron Claw by Ron G Mullinax is a hard one to assess. It’s a biography based on lengthy interviews with Von Erich in his final years, though much of the sample is about how Mullinax came to befriend him rather than his career. (Von Erich’s battles to adapt from DOS to Windows 95 are one of the stranger asides you’ll see in a wrestling book.) That means its hard to say whether the book has enough behind-the-scenes, non-storyline insight to be worth a read.

Lumps, Bumps and BodySlams by Michael Markus is a novel that features a lawyer and mayoral candidate with the amazing name Lawson Dawson. That’s about the highlight of the sample, however, and despite the theme there’s nothing to suggest wrestling fans would find this particularly gripping.

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Recent Release Roundup

Here are a few 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.

Hardway by Hector Acosta

Fifteen-year old Spencer loves professional wrestling. It’s the reason why he, along with his older brother Billy, started their very own wrestling promotion in their Dallas apartment complex. The fact it puts Spencer closer to Tori, Billy’s girlfriend and the only girl either boy knows who can take a chair shot to the head, doesn’t hurt.

It isn’t long before RBWL—The Royal Brooks Wrestling League—have a rival in Woodland Terrace, a nearby apartment complex with their own wrestling promotion run by Eddie Tornado, an unhinged teenager with a connection to Tori and a hard-on to see Spencer and Billy fail.

When Spencer breaks into Eddie’s home and steals a gym bag he believes holds Woodland Terrace’s championship belt, the feud between teenagers and promotions escalates. Before long, Spencer will find the world of professional wrestling can be more real and dangerous than anything seen on television.

Louisville’s Greatest Show: The Story of the Allen Athletic Club by John Cosper

For 22 years, the Allen Athletic Club’s weekly wrestling show at the Columbia Gym was the place to be on Tuesday night. Promoters Heywood Allen and his successors Francis and Betty McDonogh overcame the Great Depression, the 1937 flood, a World War, and a “crooked” athletic commissioner to bring the best of the golden age of wrestling to Louisville.   Now for the first time, author John Cosper (Bluegrass Brawlers) presents the full story of “That Gang of Allen’s,” the wrestlers, referees, announcers, and others who made Tuesday Louisville’s favorite night of the week. This is the story of the true golden age of wrestling, when men and women wore their Sunday best to see hometown heroes like Blacksmith Pedigo, Kid Scotty Williams, Stu Gibson, Mel Meiners, Sgt. Buck Moore, and “The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell mix it up with Lou Thesz, Gorgeous George, the French Angel, Buddy Rogers, Freddie Blassie, Johnny Valentine, Mildred Burke, Mae Young, Bobo Brazil, and Ginger the Wrestling Bear.   From mud matches to masked men; from Wild Bill Cantrell to Wild Bill Longson; from live TV to live alligators, the Allen Athletic Club was Louisville’s Greatest Show.

Supermarket Slam Issue #2 by Alberto Costantini

After working 15 years in a supermarket, a lot of tension rises. When that happens, you build a wrestling ring on the sales floor, and take your frustration out on problem customers. Follow Alberto and his friends, through the daily struggles of working in retail.

It’s Real When It Hurts: Part I – The Pain and Passion of Being A Professional Wrestling Fan by Joshua Laurent

It’s Real When It Hurts: Part I – The Pain and Passion of Being A Professional Wrestling Fan examines the idea that wrestling fans and those that work within the industry themselves not only crave reality within the sports-entertainment hybrid, but find the genre at its most compelling when “real life” overshadows anything WWE scriptwriters can invent. Perhaps more interestingly, these active participants – both inside and outside of the ring – crave an emotional negative trigger since it is the most genuine. It’s Real When It Hurts: Part I – The Pain and Passion of Being A Professional Wrestling Fan features original interviews with some of the greats of professional wrestling including: Jake “The Snake” Roberts, “Diamond” Dallas Page, Jim Ross, Dan Severn, Magnum TA, Pro Wrestling Illustrated Editor-in-Chief Stu Saks, International Female Wrestling Superstar LuFisto, Wrestling Historian Sheldon Goldberg and more.

“Teeny”: Professional Wrestling’s Grand Dame by Brennon Martin

Rule #1: Be on time. Rule #2: No foul language. Rule #3: Stay away from the “arena rats.” Rule #4: Never break kayfabe. Virtually every big name in wrestling in the second half of the 20th Century crossed paths with “Ms. Christine,” as she was known to most. If they followed her rules, Christine “Teeny” Jarrett probably taught them a thing or two about staying out of trouble and saving money for a rainy day. If they got out of line, they likely faced The Grip. Over the course of her 50-year career in wrestling, Teeny worked her way from selling tickets in the back of a Nashville, Tennessee shoe store to running a network of towns for Nick Gulas and Roy Welch to owning one of the most successful territories in the business with her son Jerry Jarrett – until they lost it all to “that so-and-so” Vince McMahon! Teeny was my grandmother. This is her story.

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