Are You Hardcore by Matt Hiller & Joe Lisi
Review / March 29, 2019

There was a point at the turn of the millennium where it seemed any book related to wrestling could find a publisher. This is one of those books. It’s pretty much an internet forum thread come to life, with the first half being nothing more than 316 (geddit?) ways to tell you are obsessed with pro wrestling. A random selection should give a flavour of what’s on offer: 46: When delivering a eulogy, you don’t see the problem in equating death to being pinned by God. 123: When someone gets in the backseat, you yell “WHERE TO —-anie?” filling in the blank with their name. 265: You carry a large sign with your name and a large arrow pointing down written on it wherever you go. The second half of the book is simply a glossary explaining the jokes, though why anyone who wouldn’t get the references would be reading is unclear. As much as I enjoy detailing the great books about wrestling, books like this are one of the reasons this blog exists. At the time of its release with a cover price of $11, it was a fair enough proposition: anyone seeing it in a bookstore could flick through…

Are We There Yet by Robert Caprio
Review / March 28, 2019

This is an official WWE book made up of a collection of road stories from wrestlers on the crew in the mid-2000s. It’s a fun read, albeit with everything showing the wrestlers in a good light. The stories are all a page or two at most, so it’s perfect for bathroom reading or dipping into. To give an idea of the subject material, a random selection throws up Ivory and Jacqueline staying in the motel from hell; Rico helping subdue a violent passenger on a flight who claimed to be a member of Special Force;  Chris Jericho’s adventures on his first visit to the German tournaments (a shortened version of the account in his first autobiography); the Big Show having to destroy a Japanese bathroom so he could sit on the toilet; and several Divas going on a road trip in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. There’s a lot of entertainment in the book and it covers a variety of subjects. It’s not entirely WWE-centric as several wrestlers recall stories from working the territories or overseas. It’s also surprising how much the book kills any image you might have of WWE ‘Superstars’ living a glamorous life. As you’d expect, it’s…

Andre The Giant: Closer to Heaven by Brandon M Easton & Denis Medri
Review / March 27, 2019

A wrestling star might get one graphic novel written about their life. Andre the Giant, a wrestling legend in every sense, now has two. I’ve not had a chance to read Box Brown’s Andre the Giant: Life and Legend yet, though other reviews suggest it may be more of a surface read, recounting some popular tales (some likely as tall as Andre.) This new take from Easton and Medri feels like a rounded biography, or as much as can be covered in a 104-page comic. It’s advertised USP is that it is based on interviews with people who knew Andre, plus the involvement of his daughter Robin in the project. For the most part the stories certainly ring true and aren’t restricted to the official WWE line (let alone the Hogan version of reality). There’s clearly been some literary license taken with the inclusion of private conversations between Andre and people who also died decades ago such as Frank Valois and Vincent J McMahon, but this content doesn’t feeling inauthentic in the context of those events which are documented. The most impressive part is the balancing act of creating an overreaching narrative of Andre’s life without being overly twee or simplistic. It accurately…

Release Schedule (27 March)
Release Schedule / March 27, 2019

A big batch of new entries this week starting with The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Storytellers (From the Terrible Turk to Twitter) by Greg Oliver & Steven Johnson: The legendary storytellers worthy of a spot in the pro wrestling hall of fame You can’t escape pro wrestling today, even if you want to. Its stars are ubiquitous in movies, TV shows, product endorsements, swag, and social media to the point that they are as much celebrities as they are athletes. Pro wrestling has morphed from the fringes of acceptability to a global $1 billion industry that plays an everyday role in 21st-century pop culture. In The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Storytellers (from the Terrible Turk to Twitter), Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson explain how the sport’s unique take on storytelling has fueled its remarkable expansion. Based on hundreds of interviews and original accounts, Oliver and Johnson describe the imaginative ways in which wrestlers and promoters have used monkeys, murderers, smelt, and wedding cakes to put butts in seats and encourage clicks, likes, and swipes across countless screens. As they trace the evolution of wrestling storytelling, Oliver and Johnson take readers on a winding journey from the New York…

All Or Nothing by James Dixon
Review / March 26, 2019

According to writer James Dixon, All or Nothing was originally conceived as an unofficial sequel to Simon Garfield’s 1995 book The Wrestling, updating readers on developments in the British scene since that time. Tales of the 1PW group proved so compelling that Dixon decided to first make the promotion the basis of an entire chapter and eventually took it on as the subject of a full-length book. In an openly admitted homage to Garfield’s book, All or Nothing is made up entirely of first hand accounts by those involved in the promotion, with Dixon himself writing only to fill in context. It’s skilfully assembled, with the various interview sections carefully cut together to keep a constant flow while highlighting the contrasting claims of the main players without explicitly labelling anyone as truthful or dishonest. The resulting story is an epic tale that becomes a clear pattern when the reader completes the book. In short: wrestling merchandise store owner Stephen Gauntley attracts regular large crowds to the 2,000-seat Doncaster Dome with heavy use of imported US talent only to eventually claim near-bankruptcy as the cash runs out; a string of successors, comebacks, alliances and conflicts winds up with two further promotional…

Adam Copeland On Edge
Review / March 25, 2019

The fact that a book by a then-16-time WWF titleholder was released far too early in his career may say more about modern-day booking than it does the author, but this 2004 autobiography looks woefully incomplete today. At the front end that’s the simple issue that Edge falls the wrongside of the “Jericho divide” regarding modern wrestlers route into the business. While the likes of Jericho and Mick Foley toured the world and had tales of working international and domestic territories, Edge is from the generation of a brief small-time independent career before going into the WWF developmental system. As a result, while his account of growing up a fan with best friend Jay Reso (who’d one day be his WrestleMania-winning tag partner Christian) are charming, there’s little of interest on his pre-WWF days save some hair-raising tales of working the “death tours” in remote and frozen Canada.A On the back end, the book ends during his enforced year-plus layoff with a neck injury. That leaves a WWF spell when Edge had plenty of matches, but there’s little gossip or backstage insight: you won’t learn much other than that Christian and he enjoyed doing comedy skits, and that they talked over some…

Accepted by Pat Patterson
Review / March 22, 2019

This may not be the book you were expecting, but is still well worth your time. Ghostwritten by Bertrand Hebert (who co-authored the excellent Montreal history Mad Dogs, Midgets & Screwjobs), the book’s focus is very much on Patterson’s life as a gay man and a love story of he and his late partner Louie. It’s fascinating to read not only of the obstacles the pair faced (Patterson notes the parallel of the secrecy of his sexuality and the secrecy of maintaining kayfabe in the territorial wrestling days) but also the many occasions on which it simply wasn’t a big deal to other in the business. The story also gives a better understanding into the personal significance for Patterson of “coming out” in the final episode of WWE Legends House, something many would naturally have dismissed as far from a revelation. The book doesn’t short-change the reader on wrestling content, both as a performer and on the creative side, but it’s very much about the big picture and working relationships such as with Vince McMahon rather than specific details of particular incidents. It’s by no means the booking encyclopedia that some might have hoped for, and Patterson admits he remains uncomfortable about…

A Star Shattered: The Rise & Fall & Rise Of Wrestling Diva by Tammy “Sunny” Sytch
Review / March 21, 2019

You know what. It could have been worse. If you’ve watched any of Sytch’s “shoot” interviews, it appears there’s little new here, but it’s an easy read if not always the most entertaining. There’s a good amount about her time in the wrestling business and her experiences learning about working the crowd. The two big problems are that it’s hard to tell how true the content is (if nothing else, it very much comes across as somebody taking little or no personal responsibility for their life events) and a lot of incidents you might expect to see here are unmentioned. A seemingly trivial but perhaps telling example is the book gleefully celebrating a time Sable found excrement in her bag but saying nothing about an oft-cited incident in which Sunny herself was the victim of an even more unpleasant variation on this ‘rib’. While the sleaze, booze and jail section of the book doesn’t overshadow the wrestling as it might have done, it’s still a depressing few chapters that are neither pleasurable nor informative for the reader. As for the ending, it’s unusual to say the least to have the happy conclusion of an autobiography being the shooting of an adult movie. It’s…

Release Schedule (20 March)
Release Schedule / March 20, 2019

25 March: Convergent Wrestling: Participatory Culture, Transmedia Storytelling, and Intertextuality in the Squared Circle (The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture) by CarrieLynn D. Reinhard (Editor), Christopher J. Olson 7 May: Self Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow by Al Snow & Ross Owen Williams 7 May: WWE SmackDown 20 Years and Counting by Dean Miller & Jake Black 7 May: An Encyclopedia of Women’s Wrestling: 100 Profiles of the Strongest in the Sport by LaToya Ferguson 15 July: Cody Heart of the Mountain (The Elite Team) by Cody Runnels & Sam Weisz 16 July: 100 Things WWE Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Bryan Alvarez 6 August: There’s No Such Thing As a Bad Kid: How I Went from Stereotype to Prototype by Thaddeus Bullard (Titus O’Neill) & Paul Guzzo 6 August: Jim Cornette Presents: Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories by Jim Cornette & Brandon Easton 3 September: Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story by Rocky Johnson & Scott Teal 3 September: WWE 35 Years of Wrestlemania by Brian Shields & Dean Miller        

A Pictorial History of Wrestling by Graeme Kent
Review / March 20, 2019

Surprisingly widely available for a 1968 title, this is a great combination of text and photos of wrestling on both sides of the Atlantic. Written entirely from the perspective of wrestling being a sport (albeit one with showmanship in spades), the first 130 or so of the 300+ pages here deal with the development of amateur wrestling in its various styles around the world. The rest covers the professional business from the pre-Gotch days, split into “The Golden Age”, “Between the Wars” and separate chapters on American and European Wrestling after 1945. The text history is relatively comprehensive and accurate, albeit limited by the lack of “insider” material, particularly during the often-baffling era of doublecrosses and promotional manouvrings in the 1920s and 19302. Meanwhile the picture content is hugely impressive: although limited to black and white, there are literally hundreds of images included, covering everyone from Al Hayes to Georges Gordienko in both action and posed shots. Highlights include pictures of Reggie Lisowski (The Crusher) and Pat Patterson in their early years and a shot of an early battle royale from a time when that gimmick still involved teams of wrestlers doing battle while wearing boxing gloves. At almost any…