This is a decent 100-page book. Unfortunately it’s 300 pages long.
This is Foley’s fourth volume of memoirs and as with Chris Jericho’s No Is A Four Letter Word there’s an obvious limitation with covering an ever decreasing time period with each instalment.
Foley’s third book tackled this by going in-depth on a specific short period, namely the build-up to his appearance at One Night Stand in 2006. Jericho’s last book abandoned chronology altogether and became a series of stories loosely tied together with a self-help theme.
Countdown to Lockdown merges the two approaches with chapters alternating between a diary of Foley’s thoughts and approach in the build-up to a TNA match with Sting and almost random stories.
It’s clear Foley was concerned about the approach being seen as padding as each “non-diary” chapter begins with an almost passive-aggressive “meter” rating how much wrestling content it contains.
The problem isn’t that some parts of the book move away from wrestling, it’s that there’s very little focus. It’s not just that some chapters are “off-topic” but regardless of what the supposed subject is, the writing regularly goes off into tangents and tangents of tangents that hold little relevance.
As with Foley’s previously highly-regarded volumes, there are plenty of gags and meta-jokes that break the fourth wall of the writing process, but here they are repetitive and overbearing such as digs at Jay Lethal that are immediately followed by an explanation that they have no meaning and are just an attempt to recreate the Al Snow insults from previous books.
Meanwhile the format itself becomes unwieldy when it comes to Foley’s admiration for Tori Amos. First we get a perfectly fine chapter about how much Amos’ music meant to him in his life and career and what a momentous occasion it was to finally meet her.
All well and fine, but later we get a chapter of the “diary” that covers Foley writing said chapter. Then the book finishes with Foley getting a response from Amos having read the chapter followed by him contacting her about her response.
The real shame is that the actual meat of the book has some strong moments. Foley’s detailing of his thought process in planning and executing the Sting match work well, almost as an extended and improved version of the final chapter that was the only redeeming feature of the latter half of The Rock’s autobiography.
Foley also brings some compelling insights into his WWE announcer run, his charity work in Africa, and his nuanced, complicated response to the Chris Benoit tragedy and the wider issue of drug use and testing.
Today such material and the diary approach would naturally lend themselves to either a podcast format or an eBook of the appropriate duration. In 2010, however, a full-length print book was still the primary medium for wrestling storytelling and the result is like sitting through a three-hour edition of Raw for the sake of a couple of good matches and a memorable promo.