Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

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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Tough Guys: The Birth Of An American Sport by Bill Viola Jr & Dr Fred Adams

This history of the original MMA promotion is unfortunately a classic case of ignoring the policy of “show, don’t tell.”

It’s the tale of CV Promotions which, in 1979 and 1980, ran several combat events in Pennsylvania under the Tough Guys banner. They appear to have been the first formalized shows that combined multiple martial arts into a single sport. While the events are described as the forerunner to UFC, their setup — complete with weight divisions, extensive list of banned moves, and a 10-point must scoring system — is a lot closer to UFC as we know it today than the free-for-alls of the mid-1990s.

(From a pro wrestling perspective, this isn’t purely a book with crossover appeal: there are also a few direct references such as on athletic commission regulation or Bruno Sammartino being included among debates over the true toughest guy around.)

The gist of the book is covering the promotion’s struggle with athletic regulators before an eventual ban, and highlighting the lack of attention paid to it when people give an account of MMA’s history that starts with UFC. Unfortunately the balance of the content is very much for the benefit of the writer rather than the reader.

The actual descriptions of the planning of the promotion and the events themselves are engaging but too short. It then feels like almost the final third of the book is solely dedicated to reiterating the point about the media ignoring the company and painting UFC as the originators of mixed martial arts.

While it’s perfectly understandable that the writers — one of whom is the son of a Tough Guys promoter — want to right this historical wrong, but it soon becomes a tedious read. There’s also not enough use of the original source material to which the writers had access, in particular only a segment of the original rules being included and being almost illegible on the Kindle edition.

(Note: This is a re-release of a book originally titled Godfathers of MMA with the new title being to match a Showtime documentary on Tough Guys.)

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Wrestling The Hulk by Linda Hogan

Perhaps the politest way to review this book would be to note that wrestling fans may not be its primary target audience.

It’s only 236 pages of very large type (and even some padding out with recipes) but still feels a long-winded route to effectively say “I met and married Hulk Hogan but he turned out to be a shagger so we got divorced.”)

There’s virtually no wrestling content and what little there is seems somewhat shaky. For example, not only do we learn how Vince McMahon took wrestling out of “small, dingy, dimly lit no-name arenas with fifty to one hundred people in the audience” but Linda claims the first time she went to one of Hogan’s matches he wrestled Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA title in front of barely 300 people.

There’s no acknowledgement of a ghostwriter and if somebody did work on the project, they may have gone too far in making the writing authentic. Because it’s filled with lame puns! And exclamation marks everywhere! It also seems light on editing, with several cases of the book contradicting itself.

All that said, it’s hard to criticise too much as the content certainly matches the book’s premise of being one party’s side of the story. The problem is that while it’s certainly nowhere near as bad as Chyna’s autobiography, it’s a similar scenario by which the writer will have gotten far more benefit from the process than the reader will.

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Release Schedule (16 May)

One new entry, WWE Original Graphic Novel: Undertaker:

An original graphic novel looking at the career of one of the greatest Superstars in WWE history, Undertaker.

The Dead Man. The Phenom. The Legend who dominated Sports Entertainment for over twenty-five years. For the first time, the unrivaled career of Undertaker is chronicled in graphic novel form from WWE and BOOM! Studios.


Titles in bold are new additions. Titles in italics have changed release date in the past week.

22 May: Golosseum 1 by Yasushi Baba

12 June: Russell Wrestles The Relatives by Cindy Chambers Johnson and Daniel Duncan

31 July: WWE Vol. 3: Roman Empire by Dennis Hopeless

7 August: Creating the Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life  by Jon Robinson

7 August: King of Strong Style: 1980-2014 by Shinsuke Nakamura (Author),‎ Jocelyne Allen (Translator)

13 August: Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier

23 August: I’m Sorry, I Love You: A History of Professional Wrestling by Jim Smallman

18 September: Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling by Tim Hornbaker

30 September: Pro-Wrestling: A Comprehensive Reference Guide by Lew Freedman

2 October: WWE: The World of the Rock by Steven Pantaleo

2 October: The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling: A Hardcore, High-Flying, No-Holds-Barred History of the One True Sport by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno

23 October: WWE: The Official Cookbook by Allison Robicelli

30 October: WWE: Then, Now, Forever Vol. 2 by Dennis Hopeless

6 November: WWE Original Graphic Novel: Undertaker

18 December: WWE Vol. 4: Women’s Evolution by Dennis Hopeless

19 February 2019: Own Your Life: How to Make Yourself Positively Unstoppable by Diamond Dallas Page

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The WWE Book Of Top 10s

Another “get it for Christmas, read it once” title, the content here is more plausible than you might imagine.

The format is exactly as you might imagine: 100 or so lists with around 50 words explanation for each entry. There’s a good variety of topic matters, broadly divided into wrestlers, matches and championships, including a few purely objective rankings (shortest title reigns, youngest champions etc.)

Aside from a little inconsistency over whether non-WWE content is included, the rankings themselves are generally credible enough that while you might not agree with them, they aren’t ridiculous. It’s certainly not a modern-day whitewash: for example, in a ranking of title belts (or rather “championship titles” in WWE-speak), the current WWE belt is ranked behind both ‘Big Gold’ and the Winged Eagle WWF title.

Indeed, the lists are reasonable enough that the few exceptions for modern storylines are particularly jarring, a notable example being Roman Reigns included in the top 10 crossover stars from other sports based on playing one season in Canadian football. There’s also a few stretched definitions such as the Hardys and Steiners being listed as among the top wrestling “families”.

There’s also a couple of questionable entries such as Raven being listed as a long-time ECW fan favourite and an apparent confusion of the ECW and WCW TV title concepts. Again, it’s more a credit to the book as a whole that these really stand out.

The only real downside apart from the lack of re-readability is that because the rankings are so reasonable, there’s not much in the way of surprises. In many cases you’ll be able to guess the top three to five, even if you don’t get the precise order.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Release Schedule: 2 May

We’ve got our first listing for 2019,Own Your Life: How to Make Yourself Positively Unstoppable by Diamond Dallas Page:

World-renowned wrestling champion turned fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page wants to transform your life.

He believes that the primary reason so many of us are stuck, whether in unhappy relationships, dead-end jobs, or with self-destructive habits, is because we choose not to truly take ownership of our lives. In this straightforward and insightful book, DDP has created a 13-week fitness and nutrition program that will strip away your litany of excuses and motivate you to get honest, take action, and take ownership―and show you taking control of your pain lets you take control of your life.

Combining workout principles and yoga with elements of rehabilitation, and filled with powerful stories of transformation, Own Your Life shows you how to overcome any obstacle to create a magnificent, healthy life.


Titles in bold are new additions. Titles in italics have changed release date in the past week.

15 May: WWE Raw: The First 25 Years by Dean Miller and Jake Black

22 May: Golosseum 1 by Yasushi Baba

12 June: Russell Wrestles The Relatives by Cindy Chambers Johnson and Daniel Duncan

31 July: WWE Vol. 3: Roman Empire by Dennis Hopeless

7 August: Creating the Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life  by Jon Robinson

7 August: King of Strong Style: 1980-2014 by Shinsuke Nakamura (Author),‎ Jocelyne Allen (Translator)

13 August: Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend by Steven Verrier

18 September: Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling by Tim Hornbaker

30 September: Pro-Wrestling: A Comprehensive Reference Guide by Lew Freedman

2 October: WWE: The World of the Rock by Steven Pantaleo

9 October: The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling: A Hardcore, High-Flying, No-Holds-Barred History of the One True Sport by Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno

23 October: WWE: The Official Cookbook by Allison Robicelli

30 October: WWE: Then, Now, Forever Vol. 2 by Dennis Hopeless

18 December: WWE Vol. 4: Women’s Evolution by Dennis Hopeless

19 February 2019: Own Your Life: How to Make Yourself Positively Unstoppable by Diamond Dallas Page

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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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