Championship Wrestling by George Napolitano
Review / April 18, 2019

This is a good example of the type of books that were available before the boom inspired by the success of Have A Nice Day and the growth of self-publishing and eReaders. It’s a 112-page collection of pictures by George Napolitano, arguably tied with Bill Apter for the best-known wrestling photographer of his era. There is a fair bit of accompanying text, though nothing with any real insight and it’s mainly made up of kayfabe capsule profiles. The pics themselves are great quality as you’d expect, and include some offbeat shots such as the Ultimate Warrior in shades, Doom in tuxedos, Road Warrior Hawk applying his make-up. Altogether though, it’s really something you’d only want to buy if you wanted to get your hands on every wrestling book going, something that was both achievable and understandable at the time of its 1991 release, but not really necessary or viable for most people today. You can get it second hand for pennies, however, so it may be worth looking out for if you’re a collector or completist. Buy on Amazon

Chair Shots And Other Obstacles: Winning Life’s Wrestling Matches by Bobby Heenan
Review / April 17, 2019

This is a wrestling book like no other. It’s also one of the most undersung titles around. It’s a format few would have expected to see from Heenan: a self-help manual. Rather than the usual wishy-washy new age content you’d normally see in such books, this is effectively a series of serious points for living a successful live used as pegs for genuinely hilarious stories from Heenan’s career. Unlike with his autobiography, there’s no attempt to follow any structure here and the book works all the better for it. It’s particularly effective as, in between the humour, Heenan uses the opportunity to share some valid gripes, such as being underpaid in a manager role, in a way that doesn’t come across as bitter or whiny. He’s also extremely self-aware in the book, never afraid to acknowledge the sheer absurdity of the professional wrestling business but never shy of admitting his love for it. Heenan also addresses his battles with cancer, something that might seem hard to fit to his lighthearted style, but it’s genuinely uplifting without being sentimental. Buy on Amazon

Release Schedule (17 April)
Release Schedule / April 17, 2019

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 6 August: The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Storytellers (From the Terrible Turk to Twitter) by Greg Oliver & Steven Johnson 1 September: Thumbelina, Wrestling Champ: A Graphic Novel (Far Out Fairy Tales) by Alberto Rayo & Alex Lopez 3 September: Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story by Rocky Johnson & Scott Teal 3 September: WWE 35 Years of Wrestlemania by Brian Shields & Dean Miller 10 September: Life Is Short…

Capitol Revolution by Tim Hornbaker
Review / April 16, 2019

American wrestling as most Brits know it arguably began on 23 January 1984 when Hulk Hogan beat the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden to capture the WWF title and kick off the national expansion era. But New York wrestling has a rich heritage, explored in this book which appropriately enough ends on that very day. Capitol Revolution begins its tale just after the first world war when the likes of Jack Curley and Tex Rickard battled to revive wrestling after the departure of former national stars Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt. It then goes on to tell the complex tale of double-crosses and alliances in the 1920s and 30s when wrestling switched from a faithful simulation of amateur grappling to a wilder performance that would still be recognisable as pro wrestling today. It also addresses the multi-generational influence of Toots Mondt and the rise of the McMahon family to dominance in New York, along with its often terse relationship with the National Wrestling Alliance. Finally we get details of Vince McMahon’s transition from local promoter and TV commentator to company owner. Hornbaker’s research skills and dedicated cannot be questioned, which was demonstrated in his previous volume on the NWA’s…

Chavo Guerrero’s Warriors Creed By Fabian Nicieza, Eddie Nunez & Fabiano Neves
Review / April 15, 2019

The niche of people crying out for a Chavo Guerrero comic book is presumably quite small, but this should certainly satisfy their needs. The first in a planned series, referred to in publicity as Warriors Creed, this is very much a taster with little storyline development. All we really discover in the 24 page debut instalment is that Guerrero retires through injury but is pursued by mysterious powers seeking to capture a particular ability he has. One unusual element is that in the storyline pro wrestling is a worked entertainment event, meaning that this and future instalments will not be drawing drama from Guerrero’s attempts to win matches. Artwise, I’m no expert, but there’s a distinct theme of large blocks of single colours, giving an effect similar to A Scanner Darkly (but without the photorealism.) It’s also very much comic book/graphic novel style in that this Chavo appears as if he most certainly would not pass a wellness test. It’s a curious choice of subject as Chavo doesn’t have the masked persona traditionally associated with Mexican wrestling superheroes and his current Lucha Underground character is an unlikely hero. While there’s nothing wrong with this as such, there’s also too little to tell whether…

Demolition Dad by Phil Earle
Review / April 12, 2019

Well regarded in its own right as a children’s book, this will particularly appeal to wrestling families. It’s the first in a series of books set in the same street, though the only one dealing with wrestling. It was picked as book of the month by British TV channel CBBC and is listed as being aimed at 9-11 year olds, though I’d suspect it would be suitable for a wider range. It tells the story of a father who secretly wrestles on a low-level British circuit at weekends accompanied by his son, who then enters him in a competition to find a new wrestler for WOW, a thinly disguised WWE. At 200+ pages the story has a fair bit of depth for a young child’s book and goes into some sophisticated themes about body image, identity and self-worth. It’s also quite on the money when it comes to the wrestling element, celebrating its bombastic nature. While on the face of it it treats wrestling as a legitimate contest, I found it still made sense if you chose to imagine that in this world wrestling is a work but the father kept that secret from the son. Special mention must go…

Drawing Heat by Jim Freedman
Review / April 11, 2019

Back when wrestling books were few and far between, this was one of the titles that was worth tracking down through bookshop ordering systems. Even today, it’s still a remarkable insight into a particular aspect and era of the business. Freedman is an anthropologist who taught at the University of Western Ontario for 26 years, during which time he wrote Drawing Heat. It’s a study of wrestling in Ontario, partly of the main NWA territory operated by Frank Tunney, but mainly of the outlaw promotion run by Dave ‘The Bearman’ McKigney. McKigney was not strictly an opposition promoter, but rather somebody who promoted the small towns where nobody else wanted to go. He allowed Freeman to accompany him on the road, including for an entire tour, allowing Freeman to document the bizarre world of pro wrestling from an outsider perspective. It’s a cast including midgets, the Sheik and a wrestling bear among others. The book goes into immense detail about the practicalities of a smaller promoter trying to make ends meet, deal with an athletic commission, and and rouse up publicity through whatever means necessary. In some ways it’s very much of its time, capturing the tail end of the…

Dusty: Reflections of an American Dream by Dusty Rhodes with Howard Brody
Review / April 10, 2019

It’s perhaps unfair to compare this to what might of been, but sadly this isn’t as good as you might imagine. Rhodes’s death in 2015 led to many reflecting on his stardom and career and how it far outweighed the lowpoints when he overpromoted himself in the dying days of the Crockett territory. He lived a hell of a life, but this book doesn’t really capture it. The upside of NWA promoter Howard Brody ghostwriting the book is that the factual details of the wrestling content are generally accurate and credible. However, he appears to have been unwilling or unable to capture Rhodes’s unique voice. While that may have been a task beyond any writer — and wouldn’t necessarily have made for a coherent read — there’s a definite disconnect because it’s hard to imagine Rhodes speaking the words out loud as he tells his story. The other main limitation was also perhaps inevitable, with Rhodes straddling the line between confidence and ego: in this book, nothing ever bad happened that was his fault and he even argues Crockett was mistaken to sell the territory in 1988 and that he could have turned things around. The book has an unusual format,…

Release Schedule (10 April)
Release Schedule / April 10, 2019

Two new entries this week, starting with Thumbelina, Wrestling Champ: A Graphic Novel (Far Out Fairy Tales) by Alberto Rayo & Alex Lopez: Tania “Thumbelina” Pulgar may be small, but she’s fierce in the wrestling ring. When her friend Jorge “The Mouse” Mendoza introduces her to a manager named Mr. Mole, she’s promised a pro career full of fame and fortune. But soon Thumbelina is miserable as she’s dragged from match to match and forced into a flashy new persona that just isn’t a good fit. Can the little wrestler break free of Mr. Mole’s hold and live her own life? Experience Hans Christian Andersen’s classic like never before in this graphic novel retelling for kids. Each Far Out Fairy Tales adventure includes info on the original tale, a guide to the story’s twists, and visual discussion questions to critically engage readers. Smackdown Town by Max Nicoll & Matt Smith: A boy’s wish to be a star wrestler is granted in this wacky middle-grade fantasy Ollie and his older brother, Hollis, have wrestling in their blood: Their mom was a pro whose dreams of stardom were dashed by a devious opponent. Now she’s an overworked, underpaid ref at Smackdown Town,…

Recent Release Roundup
News / April 9, 2019

The following recent releases did not get advance listings and thus weren’t in our weekly release schedule. To Be The Man: Evil Ain’t Good: Chapter 4 by Jared Davis & Josh Taylor It’s true that nothing makes wrestling great quite like a loud and rowdy crowd, but most nights out at the matches don’t end with a mob of pissed-off hellions jumpin’ the guardrail! Unfortunately for Hazard and Grimes, the Devil’s fanged flunkies are on their tails again, and tonight, they’re lookin’ for a rematch! Can “The Gargoyle” and his skunk-drunk nemesis, “Fabulous” Frank, overcome their boiling hatred for one another AND the heels’ infernal Numbers Game? Or will the Devil’s minions get their hellborn hands on championship gold and take the coveted SCW title belt up North to the soulless Bruce McMaverick? The Boys better be ready for a Rumble in Valdosta, ’cause Eeeeeeeevil is runnin’ wild in Georgia tonight! The Business of Kayfabe: Turning Wrestlers’ Secrets Into a Million Dollars by Sean Oliver Is that thing you love to do in your spare time worth a million bucks? The personalities in pro wrestling have always been some of the most unique and entertaining in the world. For over…