If you’re reading this blog, the chances are that reading this book will be reminiscent of a Sean O’Haire promo.
This official WWE release is billed as the story of the men who held the title up till 2010. The acknowledgement section mentions carrying out some fresh interviews, but the majority of the quotes appear to come from the full range of WWE official autobiographies and the feel is very much of a compilation.
While the book is fairly comprehensive, including for example the controversial Antonio Inoki reign, it’s biggest weakness is a confusing attitude to kayfabe. For the most part wrestling is treated as legitimate but also a business; Vince McMahon hires Hulk Hogan because he can draw fans, but Hogan wins the title match on his own merits. While such an approach might have worked had it been kept consistently, it falls apart at stages, for example in the Montreal section where it suddenly appears Bret Hart is somehow at fault for refusing to take a dive. Throw in several quotes at other parts of the book where wrestlers praise their opponent for carrying them to a good match and it becomes more awkward when author Kevin “not that one” Sullivan talks about storyline events.
While the Montreal section is, at best, oversimplified the accuracy of the accounts is generally decent, inevitable tall tales by wrestlers aside. Two sections do stand out as worthy of mention as bogus however. The very first chapter implies Vince McMahon senior was the first promoter to successfully harness the power of television, in 1956 nonetheless. Given an entire boom period had been created by wrestling being among the earliest national TV hits in the late 40s and early 50s, this seems ludicrous.
Meanwhile we get the oft-repeated claim that WrestleMania VII was moved from the LA Coliseum for security reasons after threats against Sgt Slaughter. While this might have been excusable, Sullivan has the cheek to write “WWE didn’t think twice about filling the place, despite urban legends to the contrary.” Given the show was moved to a 16,000 seat building only a few weeks in advance, if the promotion was on course to getting anywhere close to a sellout of the 100,000 seat Coliseum it would have had to find a way to deal with tens of thousands of ticket-holding fans who could no longer be accommodated, something that never happened.
The book does have one particular triumph though: when Sid Eudy talks about his lack of concern in winning titles, he explains that “”If you won the title fourteen times, you lost it fifteen times.”
Most long-time fans who know the basic history and have read a few biographies will get little from this book. That said, it could make a good present for a new fan just getting into the product.