I’m Next by Bill Goldberg
Review / May 20, 2019

While widely viewed and remembered, Bill Goldberg’s wrestling career was extremely brief-lived. It might seem as if there’s not much to say and that certainly seems to be the case with this book. Released in 2000, when his WCW stint had barely finished, this doesn’t have a great deal of wrestling content. It’s written in a somewhat haphazard order and only around 90 pages (of large type) deal directly with the chonology of his in-ring career. The rest is a hodge-podge of his experiences as a celebrity and his time in college and NFL football. A lot of the wrestling content is a recap of on-screen events, though there are some surprisingly frank revelations such as Goldberg admitting he frequently gets lost in matches and has little ability at putting a match together. There’s also a wonderful anecdote about a match where he wrestled Ric Flair. These are limited though as a lot of the content includes transcripts of promos plus original quotes from other wrestlers that don’t add much insight. It would be unfair to call the book a waste of your time as a reader, and with second-hand copies easy and cheap to acquire, it’s certainly recommended for…

Who’s The Daddy?: The Life and Times of Shirley Crabtree by Ryan Danes
Review / May 17, 2019

Who’s The Daddy is as much a story of Shirley Crabtree the man as it is Big Daddy the wrestler. Much like its subject, the book has clear strengths and weaknesses and its reception will depend largely on what the audience is looking for. It’s the fresh content that is the main advantage of the book. Author Ryan Danes has spoken extensively to Crabtree’s daughter Jane and uncovered some genuinely informative insights into his personal life. These build up a picture of a man with simple tastes who was never overly worried about money. We also learn a lot about some of Crabtree’s unusual quirks, his relationship struggles (including a shocking revelation involving the breakdown of one of his marriages) and the stresses of stardom and life on the road. It combines to give a balanced look at the man behind the character and serves to remind readers that simply labelling somebody as a good or bad person is overly simplistic. Unfortunately, like Daddy’s own in-ring performances, this isn’t enough to carry the show. The most striking negative is the book’s use of references to historical and world events with nothing to do with either Crabtree or wrestling. While this…

Whoa Nellie: Dick Lane’s Wrestling Book
Review / May 16, 2019

This is a cash-in booklet from the 1940s-50s era when Lane was the announcer on the televised Olympic Auditorium shows during the initial “golden age” when many homes could get wrestling in prime time almost every night of the week. It’s a mere 32 pages, most of which is made up of capsule profiles and pictures of wrestlers of the day. There’s also a short section covering seven of the most popular moves of the day and relatively credible explanations of how they work. It finishes off with a Q&A section with highlights including the revelation that a wrestler can ordinarily hold a tight lock with his fingers at full grip for four to five minutes and that it’s not as important to be as finely conditioned in wrestling as in boxing because “a little girth is necessary to help cushion against the shock of falls and pressure.” The booklet has a surprising number of typos, including references to Jim London and Vern Gagne. It’s a fun little booklet but there’s not a great deal to read, so it’s only worth tracking down as a collector’s piece.

Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls by JJ Dillon
Review / May 15, 2019

This is another on my list of undersung wrestling books. It’s big strength is the sheer diversity of Dillon’s career and thus the wide range of topics for which he offers an insider perspective. Though best known as the manager of the Four Horsemen, that only covered a couple of years of his career. He also worked as a WWWF referee; spent more than a decade on the territory circuit including Mid Atlantic, Florida and Amarillo; toured Japan; spent time as a booker; was one of Vince McMahon’s right-hand men for several years; and worked in WCW during the Monday Night Wars era. All of this is well covered in the 350 page book which, as is typical with those ghost-written by Scott Teal through his Crowbar Press publishing, manages to tell a coherent, flowing story while still staying true to the voice of the subject. Whatever your particular interest in wrestling, you’ll find something of interest here, whether it’s the process of breaking in and being gradually smartened up, or the lavish lifestyle that came from the Horsemen living their gimmick. For me, who became a fan through late 80s and early 90s WWF, the section on the creative process during this…

Release Schedule (15 May)
Release Schedule / May 15, 2019

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 and So Am I: My Life In and Out of the Wrestling Ring by Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl! 3 October: Job Man: My Life in Professional Wrestling by Chris Multerer & Larry Widen 29 October: GLOW: Vs The Star Primas by Tini Howard 5 November: For Your Consideration: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson by Tres…

Wrestling by Frank Gotch, World’s Champion
Review / May 14, 2019

This is definitely one to collect rather than read, but given its age it’s surprisingly attainable (in the US at least.) Showing the prestige and perception of pro wrestling at the time of its 1913 publication, this is part of a series of sports and fitness books published by Richard K Fox of the National Police Gazette which, despite its title, was the original boxing and sports magazine of its day. The book starts with a brief bio of Gotch, though oddly it only covers the first Hackenschmidt bout and not the 1911 rematch. There’s then a look at wrestling, bemoaning the fact that some matches appear to be little more than exhibitions, and some training tips. The rest of the book is made up of 29 photographs showing different holds, posed by Gotch himself and Oscar Samuelson, a name I couldn’t trace other than in references to this book. The selected holds certainly give the impression Gotch’s bouts would have more closely resembled an amateur contest than the slam-bang style of even the 1930s.

Coming Soon From Crowbar Press
News / May 14, 2019

Some exciting releases here and on the way from Crowbar Press. The highlight is a new reprint of Fall Guys by Marcus Griffin, a 1930s expose behind the scenes of the pre-war machinations and doublecrosses. While the book is excellent, some of its claims are questionable or exaggerated, with a strong theory that Toots Mondt was a key, but unreliable, source. That’s addressed in this new edition which includes detailed annotations from publisher Scott Teal and historian Steve Yohe, correcting and challenging the content. It’s an approach that worked well with a previous reprint of Lou Thesz’s autobiography Hooker. Meanwhile Pro Wrestling Books reader Jason Presley kindly passed on the “coming attractions” schedule for Crowbar Press. Highlights for 2019 include a series of books on “The Great Wrestling Venues” in both Japan and the US territories. There’s also “Bowdren The Booker”, which was the title of a popular series in the Wrestling Observer newsletter where Bowdren produced an alternative timeline for WCW.

Wrestling Babylon by Irv Muchnick
Review / May 13, 2019

Some valid and important points in this book are let down by some fundamental limitations. Muchnick is a professional news writer who has made his name over the years by writing mainstream outlet articles on the darker side of the wrestling business, covering topics often ignored by “real” media on the irrelevant grounds of wrestling being “fake.” There’s absolutely no debating that Muchnick — the nephew of legendary St Louis president and NWA chief Sam Muchnick — has put in the hours to research both documentation and first-hand accounts of matters those in wrestling management and even law enforcement and government would prefer to be kept quiet. Unfortunately that work is not shown to its best in this format, a collection of his articles published between 1988 and 2004. One problem is the length. It’s only 152 pages and once you take out the introductions and an appendix listing premature wrestling deaths, it’s closer to 120. No subject is addressed in real depth and it often feels like there wasn’t quite enough here for a full book. Another limitation is that the nature of Muchnick’s writing doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an anthology. Virtually every piece he writes is in…

Wrestling at the Chase: The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling by Larry Matysik
Review / May 10, 2019

Every wrestling fan should read at least one of Larry Matysik’s books about St Louis wrestling. If you’re only going to read one, this is probably the best bet. As well as books on the 50 greatest wrestlers of all time (with a definite St Louis flavour) and Bruiser Brody, Matysik has written three books specifically on St Louis. At one extreme is From the Golden Era: The St Louis Wrestling Record Book, an e-book which is no longer available to buy but occasionally shows up through less official distribution channels. It’s literally a list of full show reports and crowd figures, with a running commentary by Matysik on what did and didn’t work at the box office. At the other extreme is Drawing Heat the Hardway: How Wrestling Really Works, which is much more of a general look at the distinct St Louis booking philosophy and how it contrasted with the WWF approach. Wrestling at the Chase falls between the two. It’s a historical account of St Louis during the Sam Muchnick era, but jumps about thematically rather than being a strict chronology. Rather than try to document every event, Matysik uses them as examples to illustrate wider points…

Recent Release Roundup
News / May 10, 2019

The following recent releases did not get advance listings and thus weren’t in our weekly release schedule. Unscripting Professional Wrestling by Anthony Campana Professional wrestling resonates with millions of people around the world but is also greatly misunderstood by many others. Pro-wrestling has a strong parallel with the worlds of sports and entertainment. However, for every similarity drawn to an avenue of sports or entertainment, there is a key difference between the two. The biggest wrestling company, the WWE, is filled with complex and topical ideas that have highs and lows. From the contentious subjects of steroids, racism, sexism, death, and crime to the revolutionary ideas, unforgettable moments, and long-lasting pop-culture icons; this book not only takes you on the professional wrestling roller-coaster but also sharpens one’s mind in sports entertainment relationships. The Legacy Of The Undertaker by Colin Tavarez Few wrestlers can ever claim to have a long-lasting impact on the wrestling business as a whole, but the Undertaker is certainly one of them. His career has certainly had its highs and lows, but for nearly thirty years, the Undertaker has played a key role in nearly every period in the modern era. From the waning days of the Hulk…