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 enough detail of other industry events to add the necessary context. Material as diverse as the nWo’s formation and the history of interpromotional feuds in Japan are covered without losing focus or outstaying their welcome.
The use of footnotes is particularly effective, adding valuable detail without interrupting the flow of the narrative. For example, one such footnote takes task with a claim made by Tony ‘Ahmed Johnson’ Norris: correcting his factual error is necessary, but would be distracting in the main body of the story.
One element that may fall short for some readers is the use of an almost fiction-style of describing events, with the book telling us of somebody angrily punching in numbers on a telephone or letting out a sigh when they read a fax message. The extensive list of sources suggest many of these details may come from first-hand accounts, but without direct citation (which could be clunky) these often feel like literary license.
Whether you’re a newer fan or somebody who lived through the year in question, Titan Shattered has something to offer. FSM looks forward to the seemingly-inevitable 1997 edition (surely Titan Screwed?) in which Dixon will face the challenge of describing perhaps the most-documented incident in WWE history.
(This review originally appeared in issue 123 of Fighting Spirit Magazine.)