Everybody Down Here Hates Me by Pat Barrett
Review / April 9, 2019

This book is a real two-for-one deal: a great story, and a fun game as a bonus. The great story comes from Barrett having a true globetrotter career: as well as several US territories including the WWWF, he worked in the UK, continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. He covers his various exploits in the ring along with plenty of colour about experiencing different locales. The book doesn’t outright talk about wrestling being worked, but there’s enough detail for those who read between the lines that you shouldn’t find your intelligence insulted. The fun game comes from the fact that while Barrett uses many real names, he also changes the names of people at the centre of controversies. It’s a curious approach to defamation laws, but it’s entertaining to try to decipher who he is talking about — though not always that challenging. For example: “Flamboyant” promoter Tim Bernard = Jim Barnett Nashville promoter Gulus the Greek = Nick Gulas Masked man Gregory Nielson = Gordon Nelson Blind wrestler Morris Shapiro = Mighty Atlas Jake West = Jay York The Indian = Wahoo MacDaniel Ron Peters = Ken Patera Prankster Joey Hart = Johnny Valentine Andrew Lane =…

Blood Red Turns Dollar Green (Volume 1) by Paul O’Brien
Review / April 5, 2019

Between the wrestling book boom sparked a decade ago by Mick Foley and the growth of the e-reader making self-published titles ever more viable, numerous wrestling “novels” have appeared in recent years. Sadly most have been badly written and poorly researched, the worst examples being little more than poorly hidden sexual fantasies about real-life wrestling performers. That run has come to an end with Blood Red Turns Dollar Green, the first truly professional novel about professional wrestling. While this is Paul O’Brien’s first book, he has years of experience writing for the theatre and it shows here. The plot and feel of the book lies somewhere between the wrestling territories of the 1970s and a Soprano’s-style mafia tale. It covers a four-year period during which rival promoters across the US work together while also battling to control the booking rights to the world title and in turn the business itself. While both the plotting and storytelling are top-notch, the most impressive skill here is using recognisable traits from real wrestling promotions, owners and grapplers to produce engaging and believable characters, without simply turning it into a thinly-veiled ripoff. Lead characters like New York promoter Danno Garland and behemoth title contender…

Banner Days by Penny Banner with Gerry Hostetler
Review / April 4, 2019

Whether you find this book worthwhile depends on your interest in female wrestling history and your attitude to books that maintain kayfabe. As a historical recollection, it’s got a lot to offer. In terms of first-hand accounts, Banner is arguably the biggest name female of her era who wasn’t  part of the Fabulous Moolah troupe, so makes for an interesting counter perspective It’s as much a life story as a wrestling book — there’s some fun accounts of Banner’s romantic liasions with Elvis Presley and some understandably less pleasurable accounts of her tumultuous marriage to a man she curiously refers to as Johnny Spade. It’s not clear if this was an attempt to avoid hurt feelings or legal issues, but her husband was in fact the relatively well-known wrestler Johnny Weaver. The kayfabe element of the book goes beyond the understandable desire of a wrestler of Banner’s era wanting to protect the business. While claiming her bouts were all legitimate, she dismisses modern female grappler as fakers and even suggests she was surprised to recently discover that men had been working finishes during her career. It’s a shame as it’s not only insulting, but also undermines credibility. The book is well-illustrated, though it’s made…

At Issue: Professional Wrestling
Review / April 3, 2019

Part of a series that covers everything from Anti-Semitism to UFOs, this is designed to be a research tool and study guide for social studies students. It’s an anthology, which brings the benefit that you get a slightly wider range of viewpoints than usual in such books (including entertainment and sports writers alongside professors) but the drawback that some pieces are extremely short and have little substance. Most of the topics here that aren’t part of the usual academic coverage of pro wrestling are both brief and blindingly obvious to any wrestling fan: in short, promoters have power over whether wrestlers are featured, wrestling at the turn of the century had some violent and sexual content, and backyard wrestling isn’t safe. The more traditional topics don’t bring much to the table either. One essay is based around the idea of pro wrestling being an anti-sport and a terrible moral example for kids because rulebreakers prevail: while it’s true that wrestling is based on a very child-unfriendly premise (disputes should be settled by violence), heroic babyfaces overcoming the odds with skill and effort rather than shortcuts is still, in theory, the basis of the business. Another essay tries to make the…

Release Schedule (3 April)
Release Schedule / April 3, 2019

6 April: 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 6 August: The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Storytellers (From the Terrible Turk to Twitter) by Greg Oliver & Steven Johnson 3 September: Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story by Rocky Johnson & Scott Teal 3 September: WWE 35 Years of…

Arn Anderson 4 Ever by Arn Anderson
Review / April 1, 2019

The subtitle of this book is “A Look Behind The Curtain” but that’s one thing you most definitely will not get from this book. This autobiography was published in 2000 by the “Kayfabe Publishing Group”, an appropriate title given its nature. As those who’ve seen Anderson speak in interviews or in talking head segments on documentaries, Arn continues to maintain that wrestling was a legitimate contest and the on-screen product was 100 percent real. That may be admirable or endearing for some fans, but it made for a book that was disappointing upon its release and even more so in today’s context. With Anderson repeatedly talking about how he won a match or how he planned a beatdown, what we’re left with is effectively a recap of his storyline career with little insight or new information. There are some anecdotes about life on the road and the stresses and strains and logistics of working shows in different times, but it’s nothing revelatory. For those looking for details on the most notorious moment of Anderson’s career, the genuine fight with Sid Vicious in England in 1993, there’s virtually nothing said, with Anderson blaming the lack of detail on legal issues. About…