Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

Unladylike: A Grrl’s Guide to Wrestling (Crowdfunding)

An interesting looking title from Heather Bandenburg on Unbound, a Kickstarter-like site for books where would-be readers effectively place pre-orders. If the book doesn’t reach the target, pledgers get a refund (site credit by default but you can ask for cash instead.)

Unladylike is the first book written about feminism and wrestling – it follows one unlikely woman’s journey to becoming an infamous masked wrestler, and honestly retells the life lessons grappling teaches her on the way.

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.

Unbound is a Kickstarter-like site for books where would-be readers effectively place pre-orders. If the book doesn’t reach the target, pledgers get a refund (site credit by default but you can ask for cash instead.)

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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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PROGRESS Promoter Publishing Wrestling History Book

PROGRESS promoter and stand-up comedian Jim Smallman is publishing ‘I’m Sorry, I Love You: A History of Professional Wrestling’ this August. Blurb as follows:

‘We have all felt every emotion today. Remember today, the next time a family member or workmate tells you that wrestling is stupid. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve screamed our lungs out. Professional wrestling is the greatest thing in the entire world.’ – Jim Smallman, 2016

Comedian and PROGRESS Wrestling founder Jim Smallman takes us on a wild ride through the history of pro-wrestling, from its beginnings at the turn of the twentieth century to the pop-culture, pay-per-view juggernaut that it is today.

Join Jim as he looks at the most defining and iconic moments in wrestling’s history and attempts to nail down just why this ludicrous, over the top, compelling quasi-sport means so much to so many people.

Further details from the inside flap:

March 30th, 2008. The Citrus Bowl, Orlando. Wrestlemania XXIV. Ric Flair, the bleached blonde veteran, gets groggily to his feet. His opponent, Shawn ‘The Hearbreak Kid’ Michaels, knows what has to be done. Time stands still. Seventy-five thousand spectators lower their voices as a tearful Michaels locks eyes with his childhood hero, now fictional foe. ‘I’m sorry, I love you,’ he says, before delivering his signature ‘sweet chin music’ superkick, pinning Flair in the ring and ending his career on the grandest possible stage.

That moment is now part of wrestling folklore. To comedian and PROGRESS wrestling founder, Jim Smallman, Michaels’ words embody something else. For too long, fans like Jim have had to be apologetic about their love of professional wrestling. But all that’s about to change. Prepare for a wild ride through the history of pro-wrestling, from its beginnings at the turn of the twentieth century to the pop-culture, pay-per-view juggernaut that it is today. Part history, part love letter to a much-misunderstood form of entertainment, join Jim as he brings you tales of early pioneers like ‘Farmer’ Burns and Frank Gotch, bizarre gimmicks, phenomenal finishing moves, Mexican and Japanese innovators, the McMahon dynasty, Big Daddy, André the Giant, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, The Undertaker and The Rock, as he attempts to nail down just why this ludicrous, over the top, compelling quasi-sport means so much to so many.

It’s available for pre-order now in hardback and Kindle forms, with an August release date.

Pre-order on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

 

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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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More On New Chris Jericho Book

Here’s the latest blurb for No Is a Four-Letter Word: How I Failed Spelling But Succeeded in Life by Chris Jericho which is released next week:

Sharing his secrets to success, No is a Four-Letter Word tells the story of how a small-town Canadian kid followed his seemingly impossible dreams and, against all odds, made them come true.

In Jericho’s trademark style – jam-packed with ridiculous stories and hilarious references – he focuses on twenty-two principles to make it to the top of your field, featuring legends and influencers along the way. Whether it’s discovering how to make any situation work (like when Chris bargained with Vince McMahon for the chance to meet Keith Richards…with an assist from Jimmy Fallon), spending money to make money (like when he doled out tens of thousands of dollars on his trademark light-up jackets because that’s what KISS would do), or learning from his NHL-legend father to always sell himself, Jericho guides readers on his journey up the ladder of success, and shows them how they can apply these principles in their own lives.

If you like the sound of the format, you might also enjoy Chair Shots And Other Obstacles: Winning Life’s Wrestling Matches by Bobby Heenan.

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WWF 1997 Book Coming Next Week

James Dixon, author of the Titan Sinking and Titan Shattered books that covered WWF in depth for 1995 and 1996 respectively, has now finished a third volume to be released next week.

James Dixon, author of Titan Sinking and Titan Shattered, two detailed chronicles of the World Wrestling Federation’s stories and backstage dealings in 1995 and 1996 respectively, pairs up with Justin Henry (Fighting Spirit Magazine, WrestleCrap) in compiling the third book of the series, Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.

Continuing through the timeline of WWF history, Titan Screwed provides a comprehensive look at the World Wrestling Federation from January 1997 all the way through WrestleMania XIV in March 1998, covering every major element of the WWF’s evolution into the vaunted and historic Attitude Era.

Stories extensively detailed include the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels losing his smile, the heel turn of Bret Hart, WWF vs. ECW with Jerry Lawler pulling the strings, the death of Brian Pillman, Austin vs. Tyson, the seedy story elements that overtook WWF programming, the birth of the nefarious Mr. McMahon, and of course, Montreal: the build-up, the secret plotting, the match, the moment, and the aftermath in all of its incredible details.

Exclusive author-conducted interviews for Titan Screwed include Ken Shamrock, Rob Van Dam, Jim Cornette, “The Patriot” Del Wilkes, Dr. Tom Prichard, Danny Doring, former ECW owner Tod Gordon, and more.

It’s available to pre-order in print directly from What Culture or on Kindle in the US and UK.

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Ali-Inoki Book On The Way

aliinoki

MMA writer Josh Gross has just finished writing and editing a book on the famous Muhammad Ali-Antonio Inoki match which was planned to be the latest in Inoki’s worked “mixed matches” but turned into an early MMA contest.

Ali vs Inoki is scheduled for publication on 21 June:

 

“Inoki can use his bare fists. He can use karate. This is serious. There’s $10 million involved. I wouldn’t pull a fraud on the public. This is real. There’s no plan. The blood. The holds. The pain. Everything is going to be real. I’m not here in this time of my life to come out with some phony action. I want you to know this is real.”
—Muhammad Ali, June 14, 1976, The Tonight Show

On June 26, 1976, Muhammad Ali, possibly the most famous athlete in the world, flew to Japan to fight Antonio Inoki, Japan’s iconic pro wrestling champion, for the so-called “martial arts championship of the world.” Broadcast to an audience of 1.4 billion in 34 countries, the boxer versus grappler spectacle foreshadowed, and in many ways, led to the rise of mixed martial arts as a major sport.

The contest was controversial, but the real action was behind the scenes, and various players in the underbelly of organized wrestling and boxing jockeyed for position. Egos, competing interests, and a general sense of apprehension over what would happen in the ring led to hodgepodge rules thrown together at the last minute. Bizarre plans to “save” Ali if the fight got out of hand were also concocted. One scheme—canceled at the last minute—involved having the boxer nicked with a razor blade if the fight got out of hand, forcing the referee to stop the fight.

In Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment, author Josh Gross gets inside Ali’s head leading up to the match by resurrecting pre-fight interviews that featured the boxer’s famous pro wrestling-influenced trash talk he first encountered in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. Gross also introduces us to Inoki, little known in the United States but hugely influential in Japan. After the fight, Inoki became a household name throughout Asia, and his role in Japan’s popular Pride Fighting Championships helped shape modern mixed martial arts.

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WWE Book Early Release/Scottish History Book Fundraiser

Thanks to reader Kevin Desrosiers for letting us know the WWE history book Capitol Revolution: The Rise of the McMahon Wrestling Empire, while still listed on Amazon as coming out on March 17 as (per an e-mail to pre-order customers) been brought forward to February 9. Meanwhile Amazon is listing the Kindle version as coming out on March 1.

Meanwhile author David Bateman is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the completion of a book on the history of Scottish wrestling. Pledge options include pre-orders for e-book, paperback and hardback copies of the book, with an estimated August release.

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The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella

sweetheartWrestling-based novels do not have a great reputation and those involving female characters and an element of romance are normally something for reviewers to fear (particularly in the self-publishing realm.) Thankfully The Sweetheart, professionally published by Simon & Schuster, is a strong exception to that pattern.

It’s the tale of Leonie Putzkammer, better known as 1950s female pro wrestler Gwen Davies. Without giving too much of the plot away, she’s discovered, trained, works as a heel, then makes a key career decision that affects both her professional and personal life.

The Sweetheart pulls off that rare task of being an engaging novel in its own right that will appeal to a general audience, but being credible for pro wrestling fans, with the wrestling scenes an integral part of the storyline and themes rather than merely being a backdrop.

Author Angelina Mirabella has clearly researched the subject does a great job of capturing some of the little-known nuances of the real wrestling business such as the genuine physical suffering and the potentially psyche-destroying way in which “opponents” are both working together for the show and competing for promotional positioning.

One particularly impressive element is the way Mirabella includes details of genuine wrestlers, promotions and events of the era to add credibility, but skilfully controls the plot to avoid Davies interacting directly with them.

The only two gripes I had with the book are both a matter of taste, and both became far less problematic as the book rolls on. The first issue, which is very much nitpicking, is that in the earlier chapters the use of cultural references of the time is overdone and feels like an author trying to make the most of research; this is a matter of degree and certainly doesn’t spoil the reading experience.

Secondly, the story includes two matches which are shoots. It would be an exaggeration to say such a thing is impossible (indeed, the second bout is directly linked to the genuine Mildred Burke-June Byers contest) but with the first bout there’s not quite enough detail for my liking about how the in-ring action would dramatically differ from a standard performance, not enough emphasis on how such a match would be a major event to those inside the industry. It also comes across as a little stretched that this is a tag bout, something that seems even more incompatible with a genuine match (although such as thing has happened in more recent years with independent shoot-wrestling promoters.)

Also worthy of note is that the book is written in the second person (meaning both Gwen and in turn the reader are addressed directly as “you”), a rare literary device. I’m not sure if it has the presumably-intended effect of making the reader identify more with the subject of the book, though it’s possible that my being male may be a mental block to this. However, I found it surprising how quickly what could have been a distracting device became something I barely noticed. I’m also unsure if the reader is meant to be aware of exactly who is supposed to be delivering the narrative; for me that point was clarified at the end of the book and came as an intriguing revelation, but other readers may realise what’s happening throughout.

While it might be a stretch to say every wrestling fan needs to read The Sweetheart, anyone who has a keen interest in wrestling and also enjoys reading fiction will certainly find it a worthwhile purchase.

The Sweetheart will be published in January 2015. Thanks to Angelina Mirabella for supplying a review copy.

Pre-order on Kindle (Amazon.com)
Pre-order on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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The Dead Wrestler Elegies by W Todd Kaneko

deadwrestlersUntil now, the only wrestling poetry book of note was Lanny Poffo’s Wrestling With Rhyme. That’s changed with The Dead Wrestler Elegies, of which to say it is a different prospect would be an understatement.

Each of Kaneko’s poems centres on a particular wrestler who is now deceased, some simply because they came from a bygone era, but all too many because they passed away prematurely.

But in the same way as the Vince McMahon-Steve Austin feud is so often explained as a reflection to allow fans to live vicariously and work off their own frustrations as an employee, the poems here are not purely about the wrestling business. Instead there’s a common theme in which the poems serve as a way to frame Kaneko’s memories of his childhood and his relationship with his parents. By the accounts here, his mother left the family, with wrestling viewing one of the ways the abandoned father and son bonded in the aftermath.

Exactly how much of the detail of Kaneko’s own life related here is genuine is impossible to tell, and the way the wrestling he watched parallelled his own experiences is often so neat as to arouse suspicion. But just as with how wrestling’s storylines and reality are so often blurred, what is and isn’t true is not the point of the book.

Hardcore wrestling fans will certainly appreciate the level of detail that shows Kaneko certainly know his stuff: references such as those to the Stanislaus Zbyszko doublecross of Wayne Munn, or Sherri Martel’s spell as Honky Tony Man valet Peggy Sue make clear this is not the work of an outsider coming fresh to the wrestling world.

Many of those who come to this book primarily from the perspective of a wrestling fan rather than a poetry lover (the two, while not being mutually exclusive, possibly occupying a narrow slice of Venn diagram) may be surprised by the style. The arrangement of neat, even-length lines and sections is almost entirely for visual effect, with the content often made up of lengthy sentences that are closer to prose at times.

Perhaps the most appealing element of the collection to wrestling fans, beyond the mere nature of the subject matter, will be the section where each poem is introduced by a transcript of a notable wrestling promo, with Kaneko’s following words echoing the phraseology and themes of the promo. The promos appear to have been picked for their suitability to the poem’s subject matter rather than being those regarded as the best in wrestling terms, but it would be interesting to see Kaneko develop this approach to offer his takes on, for example, an Austin 3:16 or Dusty Rhodes’ Hard Times.

Perhaps appropriately for poetry, whether this will appeal to wrestling book devotees may depend on the prior conceptions they bring to the table. Those who find it hard to imagine enjoying a wrestling poetry book will likely find that assumption correct. For those for whom poetry is an enticing prospect, the inclusion of a familiar subject will certainly enhance the experience.

The Dead Wrestler Elegies will be released on November 11. Thanks to Curbside Splendor Publishing for supplying a review copy.

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