The Encylopedia Of Professional Wrestling (2nd Edition) by Kristian Pope & Ray Whebbe Jr
Review / June 27, 2019

This is by no means a lazy cash-in, but in 2016 it’s more one for collecting than reading. The first 60% of this bulky book are made up of chapters interspersing wrestling history (vintage, 70s, 80s, Monday Night Wars) and logical subject groupings such as championships, babyfaces and heels, tag teams and women wrestlers. It’s designed more for readability than comprehensiveness and chapters will often wander off into a dedicated section of several pages on, for example, the Hart family of Paul Heyman. The final 40% is where the “encyclopedia” lives up to its name with a series of 1,500 or so capsule bios. Each is only a matter of a few sentences so there’s no real depth but they are generally a fair summary in the available space. In a few cases the content seems a little suspect, such as the entry on Big Daddy which claims his persona was a take-off of Burl Ives (in reality, he simply took the name of Ive’s character in the film of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof) and that he had “almost a cult following overseas” which will be news to many. The book’s strongest point, particularly in the early chapters, is…

Soulman by Rocky Johnson & Scott Teal
Review / June 27, 2019

Another engaging title, this is a story only one man could tell. Johnson’s career, while successful, was not particularly out of the ordinary when it comes to making a way around the territories circuit. What makes his experience and perspective unique is two specific characteristics. Firstly, he has an interesting take on his status as a black wrestler, often booked to almost fill a quota in a territory. As well as being accepting of the pros and cons of such as position, he also details how he strove to establish his own personality and ring style so that he couldn’t simply be replaced by another grappler in the “African American slot.” He also talks at length about the experience of his son not only following him into the business as The Rock, but his subsequent Hollywood success and how that changed his own life. There’s also plenty of insightful backstage stories about the advice he received over the years on working and booking, though the number of times he mentions being told to slow down over the years does make you wonder how much notice he took! Among the other highlights is Johnson’s spell in Memphis with the hard-to-believe but…