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)