Pro Wrestling Books

Wrestling with words

Pro Wrestling Books - Wrestling with words

WWE Greatest 100 Matches by Dean Miller

It’s hard to tell if this book is a success because it’s unclear what it’s trying to do.

From a literal perspective, it fits the bill: it has 100 matches presented in a random order rather than ranking, with each getting a two-page spread with a brief background piece, a detailed description of the bout itself, and then a short paragraph on what happened next.

Perhaps anticipating the inevitable criticism of the choices, the authors give no explanation of the selection process or the criteria, other than that a handful of bouts are noted as being the top choice of a particular group (WWE wrestlers, WWE Magazine and so on.)

For the most part it’s a combination of the generally regarded best in-ring matches and those with some form of historical significance (the latter being the only explanation for including 2011’s 40-man Royal Rumble.) In some cases the reader is left to figure this out somewhat: for example, the only thing notable about Team Piper vs Team Flair at Survivor Series 1991 is that it was Flair’s WWF pay-per-view debut, but this isn’t really hammered home. Similarly the description of Shawn Michaels vs John Cena at the 02 Arena in London makes no mention of the match going (on TV at least) almost an hour.

There’s also a tendency to favour stipulation bouts, with a key example being the Bret Hart-Owen Hart SummerSlam 1994 steel cage match included but the pair’s WrestleMania X match left out. That’s probably the most obvious exclusion from an in-ring perspective, while Ivan Koloff ending Bruno Sammartino’s eight year title reign is likely the biggest historial oversight.

The list is more spread out chronologically that you might imagine, though a few of the more questionable choices seem to be the beneficiaries of recency bias such as Daniel Bryan vs Dolph Ziggler at Bragging Rights 2010, a match I still don’t remember even after reading the description.

For those wondering, there’s one Chris Benoit match included (the 2001 Royal Rumble ladder match with Chris Jericho), with the pictures carefully chosen to not show Benoit’s face. It’s very hard to criticise either the inclusion of this or the omission of the WrestleMania XX match which, while no doubt top-notch in the ring, loses much of its context and appeal given what later happened.

As a general rule the historical sections are accurately written, though the book does perpetuate a few myths such as Bruno Sammartino having “nearly 200 sellouts” at Madison Square Garden.

It’s a decent enough historical primer or nostalgia piece depending on your age, but having neither criteria nor rankings does leave it feeling a little flat.

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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.

 


Don’t Call Me Fake: The Real Story of “Dr. D” David Schultz

Ask anyone who watched wrestling in the early 80s who the most dangerous man in wrestling was and they will tell you it was Dr. D. Trained by Herb Welch, the Tennessee native terrorized fans in Tennessee, Memphis, Florida, Calgary, Japan and Minnesota before being recruited into the WWF at the request of Hulk Hogan. Dr. D was a singles and tag team champion for multiple promotions, and he faced some of the most dangerous men in the business: Antonio Inoki, Abdullah the Butcher, Bruiser Brody, and Johnny Rodz. Yet he is remembered to this day for taking down a very different opponent: ABC reporter John Stossel, who dared to utter the words, “I think this is fake.” While the Stossel incident precipitated the end of his wrestling career, but it’s hardly the end of the story. Dr. D  turned babyface in real life, finding an even greater calling as a professional bounty hunter. Working out of Connecticut, Dr. D traveled the world and brought back hundreds of “skips” who had fled from justice. Dr. D tracked fugitives from New York to California to Puerto Rico and even Egypt with a 100% capture rate. If he couldn’t coax you into coming back of your own free will, he still possessed the skills taught by Herb Welch that could turn even the biggest thug into a crybaby. Call him a wrestler. Call him a bounty hunter. Just don’t call him fake! Dr. D David Schultz is the real deal, a hero in the wrestling locker room who became an even greater hero in his post wrestling career, clearing the streets of dangerous men and women with his Southern charm and a shooter’s grip.

 


Canvas Countdown: The world of wrestling in 100 lists by Paul Meehan

Canvas Countdown contains 100 lists which explore the diverse world of professional wrestling. From facts and key statistics about the major events to personal reflections on the wrestlers, events, feuds and stories that have shaped a century of grappling history, Canvas Countdown spans the wrestling world. The lists highlight the glamour and glitz of the major American promotions as well as featuring events and stars from Japan, the UK and the independent circuit. Canvas Countdown also reflects the author’s journey of discovery over the past three decades, tracing the rise of the sport in Japan, the Monday Night Wars of the 1990’s and of course the infamous ‘Attitude Era’. With personal reflections, plenty of statistics and a look at some of the key figures that have shaped the industry, Canvas Countdown offers something for every wrestling fan.

 


The Great Cheyenne by Alma Chaidez and‎ Jason Eaglespeaker

An indigenous female pioneer. One woman’s journey deep into the alpha male world of professional wrestling.

 


The 100 Greatest Wrestlers of 1993-2001: Ranking the Best Wrestlers of the Attitude and Monday Night War Era in ECW, WWF/WWE and WCW by Jonathan Johnson

The nineties were a time of great social change. A youth counter-culture was emerging in the world and professional wrestling embraced reality more than ever before to make Monday nights the most watched cable television nights of the week. Millions of fans were entertained by three amazing promotions, ECW, WCW, and the WWF/WWE. Enjoy reliving the Monday Night War and the Attitude era through the hundred greatest stars that made professional wrestling great!


KB’s History of the WWE Championship by Thomas Hall

It’s the grandest prize in wrestling and one of the most historic championships in the history of the spot. Over the last forty years, nearly every top star in wrestling has held it in all of its many forms. There have been many great matches and moments over the years and that’s certainly worth looking back at again. In this book, we take a look at the history of the WWE Championship over the last fifty years, including every title change and several important defenses along the way. With over 280 matches reviewed and no title change left out, this is as comprehensive a look as you’ll be able to find about the important parts of the title’s history.

 


The American Wrestling Association: The ESPN Years: 1988-1990 episode reviews by Ted Blanchard

The American Wrestling Association broke ground in the 1980’s by appearing on the then-fledgling ESPN network. Watch the progression (and some would say fall) of the AWA through reviews of episodes resurrected on ESPN Classic.

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Release Schedule (28 February)

A new entry this week in the Then, Now, Forever comic book series: WWE Vol. 4: Women’s Evolution by Dennis Hopeless

This volume of the hit series focuses on the WWE Women’s Evolution, and the groundbreaking female Superstars who have taken the wrestling world by storm.

Sasha Banks. Charlotte Flair. Becky Lynch. Bayley. The Four Horsewomen.Their run in NXT ushered in a new era for women in WWE, and earned them a spot on Monday Night Raw. But what happens when one of the Horsewomen gets left behind? Follow Bayley’s attempt to ascend to the heights of her former sisters-in-arms in the untold story of the Women’s Evolution!

Writer Dennis Hopeless (Jean Grey, Spider-Woman) and artist Serg Acuña take readers through one of the most exciting runs in WWE history in the fourth volume of the hit series.

(In case you’re wondering about volume 3, it will deal with Roman Reigns and be released in September, but hasn’t yet made it on to Amazon’s listings.)


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

6 March: WWE Superstar Guide, 2nd Edition by DK

8 March: Identity in Professional Wrestling: Essays on Nationality, Race and Gender by Aaron D Horton

13 March: The Book of Booty: Shake It. Love It. Never Be It (It’s Twerked for Us!) by The New Day

29 March: Wrestling in Britain: Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences (Routledge Research in Sports History) by Benjamin Litherland

3 April: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 1 by Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown et al

8 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

7 August: Creating the Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life (no author listed)

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

18 September: Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling (no author listed)

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

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Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar by Shawn Michaels

This is not a wrestling book.

Don’t get me wrong: the blurb and other cover material don’t make any pretense this is a wrestling book, but it’s important to stress this so that would-be readers don’t get misled. This isn’t a book like the Bill Watts autobiography that is about wrestling but has some diversions into religion. Instead it’s the story of Shawn Michaels’ Christianity with a backdrop of pro wrestling.

When it comes to the faith talk itself, your mileage will vary. It was never going to be to my taste, but I found it very generalised and repetitive. One incident in the book involves Michaels getting a call from Bruce Prichard about returning to wrestling and deciding that as he was in church when the phone rang, that was a sign from God that he should get back in the ring. How you respond to that proposition is probably a good indication of how much you’ll get from the book.

There are some wrestling-related passages, but you won’t learn much that isn’t already public knowledge, other than Michaels saying he and Undertaker’s legendary WrestleMania 25 bout was only officially allotted 15 minutes. Perhaps the most interesting wrestling section is where he talks about navigating the return of DX without compromising his new-found beliefs. There are also a couple of pages about the McMahons vs Michaels/God pay-per-view match, though you’ll have to decide for yourself how convincing his defence of the storyline is in the wider context of the book.

As a wrestling-related title, though, I can really only recommend it to readers who are open to the religious content or those for whom absolutely anything relating to Michaels is a must read.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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The WWE Attitude Era by Jon Robinson

Finally this under-covered era gets some attention from WWE.

Snark aside, this is pretty much the book version of the countless documentaries and countdowns WWE has produced in recent years, particularly since the launch of the network. It’s not a chronological history but rather a collection of pieces focused on the main players, with a heavy emphasis on photography.

As you might imagine, the book is hardly an objective history. At times the detailing of events such as the Montreal Screwjob verge first into being misleading and then outright false.

The book also has a few sections where things are presented either without context or with errors. For example, there’s a story from Stephanie McMahon that’s simply referenced as the “wedding angle” with no background, accompanied by a picture of her and Triple H at an in-ring ceremony. However, on closer reading the story actually refers to her aborted wedding to Test, who isn’t mentioned in the piece, and the revelation of a drive-thru ceremony with Triple H, which is mentioned without explanation.

(The same thing happens later in the book, making it clear Test’s name has been deliberately excluded. Perhaps more understandably, there’s a wonderfully chosen shot of the Radicalz where Chris Benoit is completely hidden behind Dean Malenko.)

While there’s not much you’ll learn from the book, it does finish with a fun section of previously-untold road stories including the origins of the Rock’s use of “smackdown” and the Big Show making an unfortunate exit from a jet plane. You also get a few pieces of artwork such as original designs for wrestler costumes. A book based around such content (along the lines of the memorabilia collection in the Ultimate Warrior book) would be a more intriguing prospect that what’s on offer here.

It’s somewhat telling that such a book exists and is considered a marketable prospect in 2018: after all, it’s the equivalent of WWF at the peak of the Austin-McMahon feud releasing a photobook celebrating the Billy Graham era. That aside, it’s a light piece that’s fine for what it is, though it’s more of a nostalgic gift for lapsed fans than a genuinely insightful history.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

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Release Schedule (21 February)

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

6 March: WWE Superstar Guide, 2nd Edition by DK

8 March: Identity in Professional Wrestling: Essays on Nationality, Race and Gender by Aaron D Horton

13 March: The Book of Booty: Shake It. Love It. Never Be It (It’s Twerked for Us!) by The New Day

29 March: Wrestling in Britain: Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences (Routledge Research in Sports History) by Benjamin Litherland

3 April: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 1 by Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown et al

8 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

7 August: Creating the Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life (no author listed)

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

18 September: Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling (no author listed)

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

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Release Schedule (14 February)

Three new entries this week:

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

The life of the internationally famous professional wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura, from his childhood to the International Wrestling Grand Prix championship, and beyond!

Before he became a star of American professional wrestling, Shinsuke Nakamura was Japan’s “King of Strong Style.” Follow his life and career from the amateur grappling ranks to the Nippon Budokon, thrill to his matches against such legends as Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar, his reign as the youngest IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and his success as a mixed martial artist.

WWE: The Official Cookbook by Allison Robicelli

Take your talents from the ring to the kitchen with WWE: The Official Cookbook, a collection of recipes and dishes inspired by your favorite WWE Superstars.

Can you smell what the WWE Universe is cooking? WWE: The Official Cookbookgives fans a guide to creating a variety of fun dishes and drinks inspired by the WWE Universe of both the past and present. In addition to the showcase of unique WWE-inspired recipes, this book will include a collection of food pairings along with everything needed to a build your own creative Superstar dishes. Indulge yourself with Roman Reigns’ spiked Superman Fruit Punch, The Rock’s Brahma Bull Ribs, Macho Man’s Savage Cheese and Nachos, and even take a trip to Brock Lesnar’s Soup-Plex city.

Featuring over 75 recipes and striking, full-color photographs, WWE: The Official Cookbook will feature separate categories for food and drink — from appetizers to desserts — creating the ultimate recipe collection for fans of the WWE

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

This anthology contains a wealth of new content, celebrating the versatility and diversity of WWE throughout its various eras.

Go further than what you get to see on TV and WWE Network. WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Volume Two is the next stage in the smash anthology series taking fans through the greatest moments of Sports Entertainment history! From moments of pure power in Survivor Series to ridiculous Royal Rumble brawls, the biggest and best moments are brought together here! Showcasing fan-favorite superstars like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Macho Man Randy Savage, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, The Shield, and more!

Featuring an all-star roster of writers and artists including Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown, Ryan Ferrier, Kendall Goode, Lucas Werneck, Rodrigo Lorenzo, Daniel Bayliss, and a story co-written by WWE Superstar AJ Styles, this anthology celebrates the rich history of WWE.


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

6 March: WWE Superstar Guide, 2nd Edition by DK

8 March: Identity in Professional Wrestling: Essays on Nationality, Race and Gender by Aaron D Horton

13 March: The Book of Booty: Shake It. Love It. Never Be It (It’s Twerked for Us!) by The New Day

29 March: Wrestling in Britain: Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences (Routledge Research in Sports History) by Benjamin Litherland

3 April: WWE: Then. Now. Forever. Vol. 1 by Dennis Hopeless, Box Brown et al

8 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

7 August: Creating the Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life (no author listed)

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

18 September: Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling (no author listed)

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

 

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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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The Complete WWF Video Guide

With the WWE Network adding 38 Coliseum Home video releases next week, it reminded me to point out a series of books by James Dixon, the man behind the 1PW book and Titan Sinking series, that will now be even more useful.

The Complete WWF Video Guide series has exceptionally detailed reviews of all the video releases. There’s four in total, with the first two covering all the titles that are going up on the network.

Read on Kindle (Amazon.com)

Read on Kindle (Amazon.co.uk)

I wrote of volume 1:

This is one of the very rare self-published books that is significantly better in print than e-book format. That’s not to disparage the Kindle edition (and if cost is a factor it’s likely better value), but it’s a much easier read in print thanks to the great layout, formatting and artwork.

The book itself is very comprehensive and a genuinely useful reference guide, even if choosing between vintage WWF tapes is (thanks to the likes of YouTube) now an issue of time rather than money. There are some very neat touches like a complete ranking of all the tapes and a listing of the highest rated individual matches, plus some fun capsule bios.

The writing style won’t necessarily be to everyone’s taste. From a literary perspective it’s fine — it all reads smoothly and flows well. However, with a review project like this there’s a fine line between being dry and dull, or being too outlandish. The style varies as there’s a panel of authors, but on several occasions it verges too far into a forced personality with too many of the “smart fan” cliches such as excessive swearing, repetitive jokes about bookers being on drugs and the like. I understand these will be refined in volume 2, which will be a welcome improvement. One particular issue is the repeated references to individual wrestlers’ motivation going into a bout (in reality, not storyline) which is clearly little more than speculation.

All that aside, it’s definitely worth a read whether you are coming to this as nostalgia or its your first exposure to some of these classic — and not so classic – video releases.

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