Titan Shattered by James Dixon
Review / May 28, 2019

1996 was a curious year for the World Wrestling Federation: while house show attendance began to rebound and the company returned to profitability, it’s seen as a year of failure thanks to WCW beginning its two-year dominance of Monday night TV ratings. Creatively it was a confusing period, with a move to a more adult, realistic product undermined by cartoonish gimmicks such as TL Hopper and the Goon. These contradictions are covered in depth in Dixon’s sequel to Titan Sinking, his book on the WWF’s 1995. As with that volume, he combines a chronological and thematic approach to explore individual incidents in detail without losing sight of the big picture. Several stylistic shortfalls from the first book have been addressed here. While Dixon has included material from original interviews with the likes of Jim Cornette, JJ Dillon and Tracey Smothers, these are used to illustrate relevant points rather than included solely because they were available. The Dillon comments are particularly interesting as they go further in addressing the steroid testing policy that bore his name than he was able to do in his own excellent autobiography. Dixon also pulls off a better balance of concentrating on the WWF while adding…

Smackdown 20 Years And Counting by Jake Black, Jon Hill and Dean Miller
Review / May 28, 2019

If you’ve read any of the similar WWF titles, most notably WWE RAW: The First 25 Years, you can probably imagine exactly how this book goes. It’s the same format with around eight pages for each year, made up of a couple of dozen one-paragraph entries about matches and angles on the show. You also get the occasional boxout for when a character debuted on the show and a few snippets about happenings on pay-per-views that affected ongoing Smackdown events. As you might expect from a WWE-authorized title, it’s all completely written in storyline mode. With roughly one thing mentioned for every two episodes, the selection does occasionally feel a bit random, though it’s certainly a reminder of just how much content there’s been on the show. The main criticism would be an occasional lack of context where events are taken out of isolation and follow-ups not mentioned. For example, there’s an entry of Chris Jericho announcing he’ll pick a new partner to replace Edge as his tag team championship partner, but readers never find out who this would be. There’s also plenty of photos, though they aren’t always the quality you’d expect from WWE, with a surprising number either…