I Am A Korean by Li Ho In
Review / September 16, 2019

You’ll sometimes see a WWE authorised book dismissed as “propaganda.” But this North Korean biography of Rikidozan really is propaganda. The story of Rikidozan is well known: he was the first star when pro wrestling caught on in a big way in Japan, he was among the first major TV stars in the country from any walk of life, he was a genuine cultural icon, and if you see a ranking of famous or historically significant wrestlers and he’s not in the top 10, you can safely dismiss it as a joke. What’s less well-known is that he was born in Korea and was adopted by a Japanese family in 1940: when he became a sumo star, he changed his name to Mitsuhiro Momota and posed as a Japanese native to avoid xenophobic attitudes in the country. While the country was still united when he left, Rikidozan’s birth place was in what’s now North Korea, hence the inspiration for this 1989 biography that, while rare in the West, is widely available in bookshops in the country, particularly those aimed at tourists. As you might expect from North Korea, it goes far beyond the historically correction of explaining Rikidozan’s true origins and…

In The Pit With Piper By Roddy Piper
Review / September 13, 2019

This book has some fascinating stories. Some of them may even be true. Having dealt with, and known people who’ve dealt with, Piper professionally, he was a mixed bag. His insight into ring psychology and protecting oneself within an often cutthroat business was always top notch, but his recollection or telling of facts and dates was, to say the least, something you had to keep on top of. For example, the book includes Piper’s traditional story that his first pro match was a quick loss to Larry Hennig, which was not the case. He also tells of a prank being played upon him in his Madison Square Garden debut that led to him being immediately dropped by Vince McMahon Sr, when in fact he wrestled at the venue twice more that year. There are also plenty of details which don’t quite stack up, such as him recalling being infuriated during his boxing match with Mr T by the commentary lines of Susan St James, which would have been difficult to hear given the announce position was nowhere near ringside. Other stories are plausible but difficult to verify. For example, Piper claims he was booked to lose a house show match…

If They Only Knew by Chyna & Michael Angeli
Review / September 12, 2019

It seems likely that Joanie Laurer got a lot out of the experience of writing this book. It’s just as likely you’ll get nothing out of the experience of reading this book except for a deep sense of discomfort. Avoid. Buy on Amazon

Inside Out by Ole Anderson
Review / September 11, 2019

Not everyone who reads this book is going to like or agree with what it says, but you certainly can’t accuse it of being inauthentic. A Crowbar Press publication, this is arguably the best example of Scott Teal’s prowess as a ghostwriter. He’s put together a book that’s engaging, focused and flows in a logical order, but still comes across as the genuine voice of Anderson. It’s 382 pages in print and certainly won’t leave anyone disappointed by a lack of depth. As far as accuracy goes, while there are always limitations in perspective and memory, this is reminiscent of Bob Holly’s book in that reading it you get the impression this is Anderson’s honest belief and opinion and — for better or worse — he’s not varnished over anything for the sake of winning friends or boosting his own image. Thanks to Anderson’s career this also serves as an excellent insightful guide into both the territorial era as a whole, and the relatively unusual position of “homesteading” in a particular territory (specifically Mid-Atlantic and later Georgia) for an extended period, both as a wrestler and booker, rather than travelling around the country. Perhaps the only disappointment for some fans…

Release Schedule (11 September)
Release Schedule / September 11, 2019

3 October: Job Man: My Life in Professional Wrestling by Chris Multerer & Larry Widen 15 October: For Your Consideration: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson by Tres Dean 15 October: Wrestling Action Figures of the Early 1990s by Kevin Williams 15 October: Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story [Check out my review] 29 October: Professional Wrestling and the Commercial Stage (Routledge Advances in Theatre & Performance Studies) by Eero Laine 5 November: WWE: Then Now Forever Vol. 4 by Dennis Hopeless and Brent Schoonover 26 November: Mayor Kane: My Life in Wrestling and Liberty by Glenn Jacobs 29 November: GLOW: Vs The Star Primas by Tini Howard 1 December: #WWE: Professional Wrestling in the Digital Age (The Year’s Work) 8 December: New Jack: Memoir of a Pro Wrestling Extremistby New Jack 28 January 2020: Smackdown Town by Max Nicoll & Matt Smith 6 February: Maximilian and the Curse of the Fallen Angel (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures) by Xavier Garza 17 February: Professional Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle, Second Edition by Sharon Mazer 17 March: WWE Beyond Extreme by Dean Miller 31 March: Under the Black Hat: My Life in the Wwe and Beyond by Jim Ross 5 May: WWE Kicking Down Doors: Female…

It’s True, It’s True by Kurt Angle
Review / September 10, 2019

As the alternatives to WWE become fewer and weaker, autobiographies by WWE performers are likely going to have less diverse background stories. Angle’s book is one of the rare examples of somebody having a story to tell from before pro wrestling, though it may prove disappointing for those coming to the book for the first time. Of the 300 or so pages, just over half deal with his life before signing with WWE, concentrating on the premature death of his father, followed by Angle’s amateur career and the Olympic gold medal he won with, as is widely known, a broken neck. Co-writer John Harper has done a great job of recognising many readers of the book won’t be amateur grappling aficionados and thus avoiding too much technical detail or jargon about the sport. There’s also some good stuff about the tricky transition to “real life” after the Olympics and attempts to cash in with endorsements and media work. The WWE part of the book runs up to the end of Angle’s first heavyweight title reign in 2002. While there’s not a great deal of insider scoops or scandal (the ECW crucifixion incident is addressed over a couple of pages), there’s…

Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia: #1 – A Date With Destiny
Review / September 9, 2019

Very much a scene-setter, this initial instalment of a graphic novel series has promise, though it’s hard to draw too many conclusions about where it’s going. Without wanting to go into too many spoilers, on the face of it the initial issue is about “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rory Landel”, a fast-talking heel from the territorial era who loses his spot when the business switches to a family-oriented style. Passed over for world title status, he declares himself the galactic champion, something that we later find out has attracted the attention of an alien lifeform that is (presumably) 15 light years away. Alien elements aside, the storyline is plausible enough from a wrestling perspective and there’s some nice references to real world characters and locations to watch out for. The problem with recommending future instalments is that there’s no real indication of how much the focus will switch from the world of grappling to science fiction elements. The artwork is effective enough, with the style closer to caricature that cartoon, and the use of colour is particularly striking and atmospheric. (Obvious as it may seem, while this is available on Kindle as well as print, it’s best saved for either tablets…

Killer Pics by Walter Kowalski
Review , Uncategorized / September 6, 2019

The gimmick of this being a photography book by Killer Kowalski is not enough to make it worth seeking out. After a brief background piece on Kowalski’s interest in photography, the book goes straight into 36 pages of portrait of wrestlers, a mixed bag from superstars like Andre the Giant and Bruno Sammartino to lesser-known performers like Moose Monroe and the Pink Assassin. The problem is that the pics are all very samey: posed portrait shots of the wrestler against a white background, with only a few capturing the wrestler’s character or gimmick. The rest of the book is non-wrestling material, split into the western world, eastern world (from Kowalski’s trips to Asia) and nature. I can’t profess to be a photography expert, but while the shots all seem technically competent, there was nothing that stood out as an image I’d want to return to again. At best this would be a nice novelty for somebody who wanted to collect relatively rare wrestling titles, but given the prices it goes for today, it’s impossible to recommend even in that context. Buy on Amazon

King of the Ring by Harley Race
Review / September 5, 2019

A storied career is somewhat let down by a lack of depth in this autobiography that falls short of its potential. Race has an eventful and distinctive history to tell: not just his multiple NWA title runs, but also being trained by the original Zbyszkos (upon whose farm he worked) and even working the carnival circuit where betting scams were as key as drawing crowds. The book has plenty of stories, with an unusual encounter with Vince McMahon a highlight, but it’s certainly not a comprehensive career history. The chronology jumps around a little with some chapters being more thematic. There’s also relatively little insight into Race’s thinking and why he made particular decisions. Despite the book being relatively brief, there’s still some sections that feel like padding: for example, when talking about his time managing Lex Luger, the book includes several paragraphs on Luger’s subsequent WWF run. The overall effect is somewhat like reading a transcript of a poorly conducted shoot interview rather than a fully-fleshed life story. It’s still worth your time reading if you can get a good price, but it’s the subject rather than the content which carries the book. Buy on Amazon

Leaping Lanny: Wrestling With Rhyme by Lanny Poffo
Review / September 4, 2019

If this blog’s opinion is one you respect Get this in print only to collect Read this once and amuse yourself But then it will gather dust on your shelf It’s not autobiography but rather just rhymes About wrestling, life and other pastimes It names Rita Marie, Mel Phillips and other folks But sadly lacks any mention of insider jokes Though if you have a Kindle, there’s little expense And it’s probably worth it at ninety nine cents   (The price listed above was correct at the time. Since then it’s gone up to a buck thirty-nine.) Buy on Amazon