Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Eggshells: Pro Wrestling In The Tokyo Dome by Chris Charlton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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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.

 


On the Ropes: The Ultimate Wrestling Quizbook by Paul Meehan

Welcome to On the Ropes, a quizbook that covers a diverse range of topics across the wonderful world of professional wrestling. The book is aimed at both casual fans and hardcore grappling enthusiasts, with questions covering a huge range of promotions, eras and styles. Some quizzes will be straightforward, others offer more of a challenge and require a little specialist knowledge!In addition to more than 600 general knowledge questions, we’ve included a series of challenges and puzzles – match the wrestler to their hometown, identify grapplers from their real names, list the first 10 holders of a particular belt or achievement, identify tag teams from their members, and more. We’ll cover American, British, Japanese, Canadian and Mexican wrestling, take in the greatest stars of yesteryear and test your knowledge of the big names plying their trade in the ring right now. Whether you are a casual fan of the WWE or a diehard independent or Japanese wrestling fan, there’s something for everyone.Whatever your level of wrestling knowledge, On the Ropes is designed to entertain and educate – have fun!

 


Night Work by Greg F Gifune

In the secret worlds of organized crime and the independent professional wrestling circuit of the 1990s, no one is immune to the con, the violence, the hunger for power and respect, the lust and the darkness.

How far would you go for money and supremacy? Who would you betray? What could you tolerate? How much would you sacrifice?

Frank Ponte is about to find out…

Night Work, originally published in 2003, is Greg F. Gifune’s first published novel. Hailed as a strong debut from a promising author by both critics and readers alike, it offers a fictional glimpse behind the veil of secrecy that existed in the independent professional wrestling world at the time, and chronicles the descent of a young couple into the depths of darkness and depravity.

Part crime novel, part Greek tragedy, Night Work has been out of print for several years, but is once again available in an all-new author’s preferred edition, which includes a new introduction from author/artist Sandy DeLuca, and offers a unique look at the early work of Greg F. Gifune.

 


Before A Fall: A History of PRIDE Fighting Championships by Lee Daly

Before A Fall is the first book in English on the history of the PRIDE FC MMA promotion from beginning to end! Starting out with the story of how the first PRIDE came together, the book covers the history of the promotion in detail and includes: -Exclusive interviews with Bas Rutten, Stephen Quadros, Dan Severn, Frank Shamrock and many others. -Illustrations by professional illustrator John Sheehan. -A fully researched and cited text with quotes, facts and stories.

 


The Book on Pro Wrestling: Lessons from Rip Rogers by Caleb Hall

A compilation of the lessons and teachings from one of the all time great pro wrestling coaches, Rip Rogers. Head trainer at OVW (previously the WWE development center) for many years, Rip has guided some of the biggest stars in wrestling today through their early days including: Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and more. Being able to understand and implement these lessons will greatly expand your knowledge and help you further your career in pro wrestling.

 


Hottest Ticket in Town: History of Pro Wrestling in Lenor, NC (Volume One 1951 -1959) by Jason Freeman

Hottest Ticket in Town is a collection of newspaper clippings, results, phots and reproduced window posters from professional wrestling promoted in Lenoir, Hickory or surrounding town. Jim Crockett Promotions began running weekly events at the Dysart-Kendall American Legion Home in downtown Lenoir in October 1951. The Legion held weekly cards most Saturday night until March of 1955 when the weekly event moved to the Community Center in Hickory. This project is far from finished I hope that we can continue to gather more information about the history of professional wrestling in this area. Projects about the history from 1960 till present day are currently in the works. If you have clippings, posters, photos, old ticket stubs or just have stories about going to the events please contact me. Pro Wrestling has a rich history in this area and if still a part of the local culture.

 


The Joshi Dragon by Robert Lefrancois

Yumiko is the daughter of one of Japans top wrestling stars, when her mother dies she is raised by her uncle Takeshi, a brutal Yakuza crime lord. When Takeshi arranges for Yumiko to marry the leader of a rival yakuza family, she decides to run away. Yumiko enlists the help of her lesbian lover Devil Matsumoto and the two steal a large sum of money from her uncle, then flees Japan to start a few life in the United States. Once in America, Yumiko sets out to follow in her mothers footsteps. She and Devil join a small indie wrestling promotion, where she meets Mike Hilton, the charismatic champion of Union City Wrestling. Mike takes Yumiko under his wing and helps her and Devil get their start. It isn’t long before Yumiko and Mike fall in love—which doesn’t sit well with Devil. Yumiko is torn between her strong friendship and loyalty to Devil and her true love with Mike. Yumiko’s problems increased ten fold when she learns that news of her success has travelled back to her native Japan. It isn’t long before Takeshi and two of his top killers are on a plane bound for the United States. Takeshi is determined to force Yumiko to return to Okinawa with him, and will kill anyone that stands in his way.

 


Mid-Atlantic Wrestling 1976 Yearbook by Dick Bourne & David Chappell

The detailed, written history of one of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling’s most exciting years ever. Includes a huge collection of newspaper ads, event posters, memorabilia, and a massive collection of match listings and results for every city in the territory. Comprehensive rosters of all wrestlers, announcers, and managers for the entire year broken down by their position on the card. The book also includes reproductions of the four major event publications sold at the arenas throughout that year. Plus over a dozen special features focusing on 1976. It was year full of unforgettable action and major angles featuring The Anderson Brothers, Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones, the Masked Superstar, Paul Jones, “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods, Terry Funk, Prof. Boris Malenko and the Mongols, Andre the Giant, and many more. Special features include: – Photo feature on the year’s biggest feud: Flair vs. Wahoo! – TV Wrestling in 1976 – NWA Officers and Board Members – The Mulligan wing of the Gateway Museum – Dusty Rhodes’ Chase of the Championships – The Birth of the Masked Superstar – A close look at the United States Championship in 1976 – Truckin’ Tom Miller ..and more! The book features – – Written History Event Posters from Greensboro 30 pages of Newspaper Ads Memorabilia Rosters & Title Histories Reproductions of all four quarterly issues of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazines from 1975 50 pages of Match Listings and Results Special Features, including tournament brackets, exclusive photos, and more.

 


Anything Is Possible: The Eddie Edwards Story by Eric Maher

With as much impact as his signature move, the Boston Knee Party, Anything Is Possible: The Eddie Edwards Story takes fans of all ages inside the ring for an inspiring look into world champion wrestler Eric Maher, aka Impact Wrestling’s Eddie Edwards’ journey to the top of the independent wrestling scene. Maher teams up with co-writer and DC Comics artist Mark Poulton to deliver highlights from his incredible career. The only man in history to win the Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and GHC world heavyweight championships–professional wrestling’s triple crown, Maher recounts his days as a kid dreaming of a wrestling career, including training with the legendary Killer Kowalski and living and training in a Japanese dojo in the footsteps of his heroes.

The world is full of underdogs, but as “Die Hard” Eddie Edwards, Eric Maher proves that with hard work and determination his mantra of “Anything Is Possible” can be true for anyone.

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The Wrestling Journeyman: Life and Times of an Indy Wrestler

There’s nothing wrong with this book. It’s just… there.

While Wolfe is perhaps best known for his “enhancement” work for WWF, he’s put the miles in, catching the final years of the territory system, working opening matches on WWF house show swings, experiencing the Texan indy scene of the 1990s and 2000s, going on foreign tours and, perhaps inevitably, joining the scores of wrestlers on hand at WCW’s Orlando tapings.

It’s all covered here, so you certainly don’t get shortchanged. The problem is that many of the stories and recollections are on repeated themes: young guys don’t know how to work; smarks killed the business; most promoters are shady; driving in foreign countries is scary.

It’s not to say none of the stories here are entertaining: there’s a great revelation about life on the road with Zeus from No Holds Barred and a subsequent Bobby Heenan zinger. However, with the greatest of respect, this isn’t a book that needed to be so comprehensive.

It’s not a bad read as such, it’s just that you’ll be dedicating a lot of time to fairly routine stuff among the gems. If it’s on on offer on the Kindle it might be worth a look, but the inevitable price implications of a 350-page self-published print book means the paperback is probably worth passing on.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Quick Thoughts: Eggshells & Death Of The Territories

I have upcoming reviews in Fighting Spirit Magazine for two books, which I’ll add here once the issue is off sale, so here’s some quick thoughts.

Eggshells: Pro Wrestling In The Tokyo Dome by Chris Charlton is well worth a look if you have any interest in Japanese wrestling. It’s got full run downs of every show in the building, including some I was previously unaware of. There’s also plenty of background and context, so in some ways it’s also an overview of New Japan in particular over the past 30 years.

Death of The Territories is the latest Tim Hornbaker title, covering the period between Vince McMahon taking over from his father and Ted Turner buying out Jim Crockett. It gets off to a great start with some interesting details that haven’t been widely discussed and a good job of highlighting context. However, the latter stages concentrate too much on in-ring events that don’t really contribute to the narrative.

 

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Canvas Countdown by Paul Meehan

Following on from my recent review of The WWE Book of Top 10s, this independently produced alternative is a mixed bag with some worthwhile elements.

It’s a similar format of 100 lists of 10 entries, almost all with a brief explanatory paragraph. As you’d expect, the big difference is the absence of photos: how important that is depends on the reader.

Other differences are that the book covers a much wider range of promotions and that the lists are for the most part in no specific order. This can occasionally be a little jarring when something seems to be obviously in a “wrong” position and in a second volume it might be worthwhile putting the entries in alphabetical order to reinforce the point that the items aren’t ranked.

One of the strong points is the diversity of subjects covered with examples including amusing real middle names of wrestlers, PWI Rookies of the Year that proved a wise choice, and wrestlers whose ring name involved a family relationship.

Perhaps surprisingly, some of the more intriguing lists are the purely objective stats-based ones. I certainly wouldn’t have picked out which wrestler has an 0-16 record at the Royal Rumble or who has the most wrestling pay-per-view appearances, while on a non-wrestling note it’s something of a surprise to see how many more people follow WWE stars on Instagram than Twitter.

It’s not a 100% hit rate: a couple of the lists feel overly smarky while others feel a bit like a clickbait listicle. But overall it’s got enough worthwhile content to justify it as something to read in small chunks, particularly at the Kindle price.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

(Disclaimer: The author provided a review copy.)

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Tokyo Dome Book Free Sample

Chris Charlton has published a sample chapter of his upcoming crowdfunded book Eggshells: Pro Wrestling In The Tokyo Dome. The chapter covers the February 1990 New Japan show that included appearances from All Japan and AWA wrestlers.

The funding has now reached a high enough level that the book will be published in both paperback and hardback versions, and that there’ll be an accompanying podcast series (with episodes released early for backers.) The next funding target is for an audiobook version read by Dan Lovranski.

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Tokyo Dome Book On The Way

Chris Charlton, the author of Lion’s Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling, will soon be publishing EGGSHELLS: Pro Wrestling In The Tokyo Dome. It will be available initially through the Indiegogo crowdfunding site and we’ll have a link when it’s ready. In the meantime, here’s the blurb:

In 1988, the Tokyo Dome was constructed in Suidobashi in the heart of Tokyo. Initially built for concerts and baseball, pro wrestling events, not viewed as a stadium attraction, were seen as a huge risk. Yet the course of professional wrestling in Japan changed forever in the spring of 1989, and a new institution was born.

Eggshells takes a series of 64 in depth looks at each event run inside the Tokyo Dome. Told through Chris Charlton(Lion’s Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling)’s historical perspective, as well as contemporary sources never before seen in English, and anecdotes from those involved in these iconic events, this is the definitive look at one of wrestling’s most famous venues. Framed by their biggest shows, Eggshells examines the history of the ten promotions that ventured into the Big Egg:

  • New Japan Pro Wrestling
  • Universal Wrestling Federation
  • All Japan Pro Wrestling
  • Super World Sports
  • Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi
  • All Japan Women’s
  • JD’Star
  • Wrestle-1
  • Pro Wrestling NOAH
  • Dramatic Dream Team

Eggshells also includes unique insights from wrestlers, announcers and the press who were at events in person, including:

  • Kota Ibushi (Ibushi Pro Wrestling Research)
  • Kenny Omega (NJPW)
  • Jim Ross (AXS TV)
  • Kenta Kobashi (Fortune KK)
  • Rocky Romero (NJPW)
  • Soichi Shibata (Veteran TV announcer and journalist)
  • Jordan Breen (Sherdog)
  • John Pollock (Post Wrestling)
  • Steve Corino (Formerly Zero-One, NJPW)
  • Tomoyuki Matsumoto (Spike Chunsoft)
  • Jinsei Shinzaki (Michinoku Pro)

From the hardcore wrestling historian to the newcomer to Japanese wrestling, Eggshells is an essential guide to a touchstone of the medium.

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Puroresu Tourism: Vacation in Japan to Watch Pro Wrestling by Craig Mann

While there’s some useful information in this, it doesn’t really justify the steep cover price.

The book combines some factual details for would-be wrestling visitors to Japan with a personal recollection as an introduction, some interviews with people who’ve seen wrestling in Japan, and brief overview histories of the major Japanese promotions. The opening account of being at a show at Korakuen Hall is extremely atmospheric and more along these lines would have been interesting to read. Unfortunately the interviews and histories don’t really add much and feel a little like padding.

The meat of the book is listings and details for venues and facilities. The most useful section lists a wide range of wrestling stores plus bars and restaurants that either have a wrestling theme or are owned or staffed by wrestlers, along with a map of the Tokyo Dome area. Another highlight is two sections of useful Japanese phrases, one relating to buying tickets and choosing seats and the other covering train travel. There’s also a section on Osaka that may be useful to those travelling further afield.

Other listings and information sections aren’t as useful. The guide to buying tickets doesn’t give any real specifics that can’t be found with a quick Google search, while sections of getting a passport or using credit cards abroad feel too generic for such a title. I was also disappointed to find that although Korakeun Hall and Ryogoku Sumo Hall are both covered, there’s no detail on other popular Tokyo venues such as Shinjuku Face and Shin-Kiba 1st Ring.

The real problem is that although some of the content here would have made for exceptionally useful website articles or blog posts, it doesn’t really stretch to a full-length book with a $20 print price tag or $10 Kindle version to match.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Womens Wrestling by Pat Laprade & Dan Murphy

With the Diva’s Revolution in full effect, it’s certainly an appropriate time to look back at the history of female grappling. But while undoubtedly well-written and comprehensive in scope, the format of this book can often be frustrating.

The strength is the wide range of the book, giving due attention to various eras of female grappling from the pioneer years to the Fabulous Moolah era, the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling connection days, the Diva period and the modern day, along with separate looks at Japan, the rest of the world and the independent scene.

As with Laprade’s Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screwjobs, which covered wrestling’s rich heritage in Montreal, the writing flows well, with quotes taken from a wide range of sources; it’s clear the writers have not skimped on effort or research.

The main problem is that rather than a broad chronological or thematic history, it’s presented as a series of profiles of female wrestlers, verging on encyclopaedic format. This brings several disadvantages. One is that the wider story of women’s wrestling’s evolution is somewhat erratically told. In particular, there’ll often be a teasing reference to an incident or event (such as the first women’s match in New York) that’s then left hanging until later in the book when another wrestler is profiled.

The laudable aim of covering as many names as possible also has drawbacks. For those women such as Mildred Burke or Moolah with rich stories to tell, the profiles inevitably only scratch the surface. In other cases even a few paragraphs feels like a stretch with the emphasis on dates and title reigns giving the impression there’s no particularly compelling human interest story to tell. British readers may be particularly disappointed when what’s trailed earlier as a dedicated section turns out to be a matter of a few paragraphs listing names and then a solitary profile of Sweet Saraya.

More positive points include a handful of special sections breaking up the profiles to detail a specific event or setup, be it GLOW, the controversial Wendi Richter-Lady Spider bout, or the 1994 AJW Tokyo Dome show. There’s also some welcome even-handedness with both sides of controversial issue’s such as Moolah’s control of her stable given a fair hearing.

Overall it’s not quite a comprehensive history of women’s wrestling to rival the Montreal book, but certainly serves as an appetiser for fans of contemporary wrestling to learn more about the women wrestlers of the past before moving on to a more focused volume such as Jeff Leen’s ‘Queen of the Ring’ which details the Mildred Burke era.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

[This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.]

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