Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Kendo Nagasaki and the Man Behind The Mask

I would say this book was worth the wait, but frankly nobody ever expected to see it in the first place.

Nagasaki/Thornley had arguably protected his character more than any other wrestler in the English-speaking world with the possible exception of The Undertaker. He’s finally broken that silence and gone beyond the character, reasoning it was best to tell his story properly in a book designed as a fundraiser for a charity in the memory of British soldier Lee Rigby.

At just short of 500 pages, it’s a comprehensive autobiography covering both his career and personal life. It’s not merely offering Thornley’s thoughts on known career events, but covers subjects that were previously somewhere between uncertain and mystery such as his childhood, his time at the Snake Pit, and his few appearances under a different name and without the mask. (There’s still a few mysteries however: the precise details of how he lost his finger and the process of acquiring a tattoo on his skull are both glossed over.)

The book also includes extracts from an unpublished autobiography on manager George Gillette (including colourful accounts of the celebrities on the London gay scene of the 60s and 70s) and some first-hand passages from Nagasaki’s assistant Roz MacDonald.

One aspect of the book that’s easy to overlook is the balance. Plenty of non-wrestling topics such as Thornley’s music management career, his outside business interests, his sexuality, and his spiritual education and teachings are covered, giving a well-rounded account of his life, but none take up an excessive space. In particular, he talks about meditation and faith healing without it feeling ‘preachy’.

Either way, there’s plenty here for wrestling fans, with most of the major moments of Nagasaki’s career covered. The book is written with Thornley telling the story in the first person while referring to Kendo Nagasaki (in the ring) in the third person. This may feel a little jarring, but the book does convey how keeping this mental separation was clearly important to Thornley.

Given the protection of the Nagasaki character over the years, it’s understandable many may have been sceptical or wary about this book before publication, but the finished product is a strong recommendation for anyone with an interest in this period of British wrestling.

Read on Kindle (

Read on Kindle (

(Disclaimer: The publishers provided a review copy.)

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‘Unladylike: A Grrl’s Guide to Wrestling’ Fully Funded

Congratulations to Heather Bandenburg whose book Unladylike: A Grrl’s Guide to Wrestling has been fully funded on Unbound, a Kickstarter-like crowd funding site for books. Due out next year, it has the following blurb:

Most wrestling books are about the stars of the industry – this one isn’t. Unladylike offers an honest and comedic insight in to the world of independent wrestling from the perspective of one angry, overweight woman following a dream she didn’t know she had. Unladylike is structured around the last five years of my wrestling journey, using it as a backdrop to explore both the hidden and overblown world of wrestling. It also talks about women’s bodies; cabaret in Underground post-recession London; forming unlikely friendships; generational ennui; pushing boundaries and personal politics. It is written for both an existing and new wrestling audience in a way that hasn’t been attempted before – sitting squarely within the narrative non-fiction genre with influences of both sport writing and feminist thought.

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My New Book: Have A Good Week… Till Next Week

I’ve just released a new book, Have A Good Week… Till Next Week

For six years, the stars of Britain’s ITV wrestling told their stories to Fighting Spirit Magazine’s John Lister. Now these in-depth biographies of more than 50 grapplers come together in the ultimate history of the ‘World of Sport’ era. From Adrian Street to William Regal, from Tiny Tom Thumb to Giant Haystacks, these are the true stories of amazing lives in and out of the ring.

The full list of contents in the 400-page books is:

Adrian Street
Albert Wall & Gwyn Davies
Big Daddy
Billy Robinson
Blackjack Mulligan
Blondie Barratt
Brian Dixon
Brian Maxine
British Bulldogs
Chic Cullen
Chris Adams
Colin Joynson
Danny Collins
Dave Taylor
Doc Dean
Drew McDonald
George Kidd
Giant Haystacks
Jackie Pallo
Jackie Turpin
Jim Breaks
John Cox
John Freemantle
John Kenny
John Naylor
Johnny Kidd
Johnny Kincaid
Johnny Saint
Kendo Nagasaki
Kid Chocolate
Klondyke Kate
Kung Fu
Len Ironside
Les Kellett
Mal Kirk
Mal Sanders
Mark Rocco
Marty Jones
Mel Stuart
Mick McManus
Mike Marino
Mitzi Mueller
Orig Williams
Pete Roberts
Ray Robinson
Ricky Knight
Robbie Brookside
Scrubber Daly
Sheamus Dunleavy
Steve Grey
Tom Thumb
Tony St Clair
Tony Walsh
William Regal
Cup Final Day
Holiday Camps
Pre-TV Era
Royal Albert Hall
Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland
The Calgary Connection
Wembley Arena
Joint Promotions


You can check out my other books at the dedicated page on this site.

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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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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.

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.

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

A comprehensive look back at every episode of WCW Monday Nitro and Thunder from January – June 1999. WCW is in trouble and there’s not much of a better way to put it. They’re being defeated by Monday Night Raw in the Monday Night Wars, but as any wrestling historian can tell you, that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. Monday Night Raw was crushed for the better part of two years so maybe WCW can come back as well. In this book, every episode of both shows in the first half of 1999 is reviewed in full, complete with analysis, ratings and complete content

Shoot by Zachary Keith Jesse Smith

Josh is a failed independent wrestler who has taken his other love, beer, as his constant companion. One day he is given a chance to get back in the ring, and he is determined to make this opportunity into what he had always dreamed his career would be. The championship belt is like the holy grail to some wrestlers, and Josh is really hoping he is worthy of that prize.

Over: A Short Story Collection About Wrestling by Zachary Keith Jesse Smith

A short story collection about the lives, relationships, dreams, and failures of the people in the WBC (World’s Best Competition) wrestling promotion. “The story keeps going. It’s never over.” This collection features characters from the novel Shoot, continuing their stories, as well as giving the reader a glimpse into their lives before they were professional wrestlers.

KB’s Complete 2002 Monday Night Raw Reviews by Thomas Hall

To say 2002 was an up and down (ok mostly down) year for Monday Night Raw is a huge understatement. The show underwent a variety of changes, many of which would affect the way the company operated for years to come. That certainly sounds like something that deserves to be looked at again all these years later. In this book, I’ll be breaking down each episode of the year and looking at each one match by match and segment by segment. Included will be analysis and ratings for the shows to see what worked and what didn’t.

A Wrestler’s Lament: And one hundred other poems by Joe D’Orazio

A poem is a window into somebody’s mind. The pages within this book allow you to peek through that window and into the creative side of a much-loved mind of the old wrestling scene. The average wrestler has a tough image. By taking the time to read this book, that image of Joe D’Orazio will dissolve and leave behind a residue of his humbleness. Poetry found its way into Joe’s life when he met his wife, Tina. With her support and inspiration and his energy and dedication he became a published poet and author. As Joe firmly believes “The world would be a better place if we all spoke poetry to each other”. So we invite you to peel back the cover and experience his love, sweetness and cracking sense of humour.

Three-Way Dance by Michael Chin, Frankie Metro & Brian Rosenberger

The following collection of professional wrestling themed literature is no disqualifications, no count-outs, and no holds barred … Our first writer, hailing from Utica, New York, with his chapbook of prose poetry (and lyric essay) “The Leo Burke Finish,” is the student, the scholar, the technician, Mike Chin. Our second entrant, with his story “Todo lo Malo,” comes to you via the open road, by way of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is the enigmatic Frankie Metro. And our third and final writer, hailing from Parts Unknown, and armed with his chapbook “The Rulebreaker’s Alphabet,” is the spiritual lovechild of Bruiser Brody, aka Brian Rosenberger. Three men enter the squared circle, and the winner, dear reader, is you. Gimmick Press proudly presents … Three-Way Dance!

And as usual Stuart Carapola has published another 873 or so books.

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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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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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Ropes and Glory: The Emotional Rise of British Wrestling by Greg Lambert

A sequel to Holy Grail: The True Story of British Wrestling’s Revival, this is a worthy book, if perhaps not what readers might assume.

While the book does cover the stunning boom in British independent wrestling since the last volume ended a decade ago with the closure of the original XWA, it’s not quite a comprehensive history. Instead, as with the original, it’s more of a first-hand account based around Lambert’s continuing experiences, most notably with his own promoting work in Morecambe, his involvement with the brief revival of the FWA and the blossoming Futureshock group, and his commentary and creative work at Preston City Wrestling. Concentrating on the first-person view means that coverage of some of the most notable players in that boom such as ICW and PROGRESS is largely limited to accounts from a couple of shows Lambert attended, albeit including the Fear & Loathing show that sold out the SECC in Glasgow.

Lambert’s experiences are certainly enough to give a good flavour of the scene’s revival however, and it’s certainly engaging to be able to look back at that decade and see the events in context, particularly the increasing mainstream media attention and the first series of TNA’s British Bootcamp.

As with the first volume, perhaps the most intriguing element of the book is Lambert’s experiences with Alex Shane, this time involving Shane’s character reinvention, interest in spirituality, and work with the FWA and Challenge TV. Once again Lambert gives his own views in a well-balanced manner, but this time he includes detailed quotes from interviews he conducted with several current key players on the British scene who offer a very different perspective.

It’s no spoiler to say the book ends with the announcement of wrestling returning to ITV, something we now know has led to the first book’s stated “Holy Grail” of weekly television. Ropes & Glory serves as a detailed reminder that this success did not spring out of nothing and comes highly recommended to anyone interested in the British revival.

Read on Kindle (

Read on Kindle (

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Physical Chess by Billy Robinson with Jake Shannon

A brief read, this still manages to convey a life and career that was fuller and more widely influential than many wrestlers can dream of.

There are few wrestling tales that take you from the Snake Pit in Wigan (described in all its unglamorous reality) to the US territorial scene to both the glory days of New Japan’s TV era and the growth of the shoot-style promotions (and in events obviously not covered here, to WWE’s cruiserweight show via trainee Jack Gallagher).

Robinson tells a story that encompasses his skills and accomplishments without ever seeming arrogant. In particular, the moment he defeats Billy Joyce in a legitimate gym bout (which Joyce made a prerequisite for dropping the British heavyweight title in a public worked match), he is quick to point out it was more a question of ageing vs athletic prime than superior talent.

There’s also a great balance of including the technical detail of Robinson’s grappling skills without confusing the reader. One key example is when Robinson explains how legitimate catch wrestling, which allows both pins and submissions, was able to work as a contest: while at first glance these might seem two completely contrasting aims, Robinson tells of how a wrestler trying to bridge out of a pin inevitably risks exposing a joint to a submission hold.

The closest thing to a criticism of this book is that it could have been longer, but that’s certainly not to say it will leave you short-changed.

Paperback: Amazon UK
Read on Kindle (US)
Read on Kindle (UK)

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