The Death of WCW by RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez
Review / November 19, 2019

For a tale that would make you cry if you didn’t laugh, this book blends its authors’ voices for a particularly apt tone. Even 15 years later, the speed of the decline of WCW remains easy to underestimate. In 1998 it became the most profitable wrestling company in the history of the business. In March 1999 a Hulk Hogan vs Ric Fair match attracted 325,000 buys; the same bout in March 2000 drew just 60,000, while house show attendance collapsed at a similar rate. In March 2001 the company sold for just a few million dollars. Just how this happened is detailed at length in a book that divides its focus between the big picture of the business, addressed mainly by Bryan Alvarez, and the fine detail of the weekly descent into some of the least effective creative ever seen on wrestling programming, detailed by RD Reynolds in the same manner with which he addressed wider WrestleCrap. It’s an effective approach that keeps the book entertaining (if perversely so at times) while informative, bringing home the point that a product so wildly out of kilter with the audience’s tastes was enough to sink a company  that had every advantage imaginable. The only…

Hercules The Bear by Maggie Robin
Review / November 18, 2019

This is at best of tangential interest to wrestling fans but may be an intriguing read for some. Andy Robin was a Scottish amateur and then professional wrestler who made a dozen or so TV appearances but was best known in his native country where he was part of the Eldorado All Stars in the always atmospheric Eldorado Stadium in Edinburgh. The book instead deals with the other element of his fame, the nine-foot tall grizzly bear that he and wife Maggie considered part of the family. There’s very little wrestling content here save for a chapter on Robin wrestling with Hercules highlighted by the bear’s initial refusal to perform while muzzled, a measure that the humans on hand understandably considered a dealbreaker. Instead the book is about the relationship with Hercules and the sheer logistics of dealing with such a huge family member. The highlight is a section that makes up almost a third of the book covering the time Hercules — who like other grizzlies was a competent swimmer — went missing in the Hebrides for over a week. Buy on Amazon

Through The Shattered Glass by Jeanie Clarke
Review / November 15, 2019

Giving another angle on some familiar events, this autobiography manages to deal with issues of personal crisis and faith without being overly preachy. Clarke is perhaps best known to wrestling viewers for her love-quadrangle storyline in Dallas with Chris Adams, Steve Austin and Toni Adams, and her brief run as Lady Blossom in WCW. While the wrestling parts of the book are substantial enough to satisfy most readers, including plenty of insight into Chris’s creativity and mind for the business, it’s also very much a tale of real life behind the scenes, including Clarke being married to Steve Austin until 1999. Ghostwritten by Bradley Craig, the book does a particularly good job of simultaneously covering Austin’s early career woes and his rise to superstardom while telling the story of he and Jeanie’s personal life. It’s a powerful reminder that even the most iconic wrestlers are real people, often with a less glamorous reality than the persona. Clarke captures the frustration of being alone running a home and the awkwardness that comes when a wrestler returns from the road and wants only to recharge their batteries rather than go out and about with their partner. While the book is hardly a character reference for Austin (and…

My Favorite Match by Jon Robinson
Review / November 14, 2019

A brisk read, this has its moments but won’t call for repeat readings. Robinson has previously worked on a compilation of WWE road stories and this is of a similar style and format. As the name suggests, its made up of 20 chapters where a WWE star recalls their favorite match and explains why. All but two (Rey Mysterio vs Eddie Guerrero at Hallowe’en Havoc ’97 and Alberto Del Rio’s pro debut in Japan) are WWE bouts, most at major pay-per-views. It’s very much a mixed bag. Highlights include Cody Rhodes and Dolph Ziggler talking with surprising candour about wrestling politics and Ricky Steamboat revisiting his WrestleMania III classic with Randy Savage which, for many years, he though of as nothing particularly special. Several entries are less informative and merely detail the on-screen events, in particular Sgt Slaughter barely mentioning his chosen bout (the Alley Fight with Pat Patterson) and instead recapping his entire career, to the point that it feels as if this was excerpted from an interview for a different project. While the book is smoothly written, Robinson falls short of giving every wrestler their individual voice, meaning it feels a little corporate at times with similar phrasing and…

Positively Page: The Diamond Dallas Page Journey by Diamond Dallas Page & Larry Genta
Review / November 13, 2019

Long, perhaps overly detailed, and full of twists and turns with an upbeat ending. But enough about how Dallas Page plans his matches: let’s talk about his book. At 442 pages and not even reaching the end of his WCW career, this book certainly doesn’t miss anything out. If you find Page’s style of confidence to be abrasive, this is going to be a struggle. For most readers however, it will be a treat. Part of the bulk is down to the production style, with material coming in three ways (marked by different typefaces): Page’s own account; a third-person biographical sections to fill in the chronology by co-writer Larry Genta; and recollections of many of Page’s peers. It gives a more rounded view, but makes the book feel somewhat intense at times. The length is also caused by what appears to have been a very generous editing process with seemingly nothing left out. Turning to pages at random, you’ll learn about Lex Luger’s luggage packing techniques, the billing process of an early internet service provider and a PR strategy for a nightclub. This might be annoying in some accounts, but its appropriate for Page’s life story. The seemingly lengthy sections…

Release Schedule (13 November)
Release Schedule / November 13, 2019

22 November: Wrestling in Britain: Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences by Benjamin Litherland 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) 4 December: Professional Wrestling and the Commercial Stage (Routledge Advances in Theatre & Performance Studies) by Eero Laine 28 January 2020: Smackdown Town by Max Nicoll & Matt Smith 30 January: New Jack: Memoir of a Pro Wrestling Extremist by New Jack 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 28 April: The Eighth Wonder of the World: The True Story of André the Giant by Bertrand Hebert & Pat Laprade 19 May: WWE Kicking Down Doors: Female Superstars Are Ruling the Ring and Changing the Game!

The Grapple Manual by Kendo Nagasaki
Review / November 12, 2019

This is a real Tokimitsu Ishizawa of a book. It’s a small, 80 page affair with capsule profiles, the distinguishing feature being that among the usual Undertaker, Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart, there’s also a collection of British performers such as Mick McManus, Catweazle and Adrian Street. The profiles aren’t badly written, but won’t contain any new detail to readers of this blog. While most of the information such as dates appears accurate, there are some curious timline issues such as the suggestion that in 2005 Ric Flair was regularly working six shows a week and doing 60-minute draws. The book also has a few two-page spreads covering wrestling moves such as the piledriver, clothesline and Big Daddy splash. It’s tough to recommend this as anyone with enough interest to buy it for themselves would likely gain little insight from reading it. It comes across very much as a book aimed at non-wrestling fans trying to find a Christmas or birthday present for relatives they vaguely remember are fans of wrestling. Buy on Amazon

It’s Good to Be the King…Sometimes by Jerry Lawler
Review / November 11, 2019

Within the context of being an authorised WWE autobiography, this is a very pleasant surprise. Released in 2002, shortly after Lawler’s return to the company after an eight-month absence, this puts much more emphasis on his Memphis days than might be expected. Indeed, it’s 250 pages in before the story reaches his WWF debut, although the chronology does jump around now and again to allow for more thematically-focused chapters. Given Lawler was very much an old-school wrestler, it’s refreshing to read a very open take on his career, including his time in an outlaw territory and his big break by impressing Lance Russell with his artwork. The book has the feel of Lawler telling stories, sharing wisdom and insight along the way without actively trying to teach lessons. In particular there’s plenty of talk about what did and didn’t work in booking and, unlike many veterans, there’s no pretence that “every show was a sellout.” It’s very much an autobiography rather than a definitive history, however. If you’re looking for extensive detail on backstage gossip such as somebody in the WWF locker room defecating in Lawler’s crown, or the amazing story of conman Larry Burton, you’ll be disappointed to see…

The Toughest Man Alive by Gene LeBell
Review , Uncategorized / November 8, 2019

While wildly entertaining, this comes with a recommendation that carries a disclaimer. While LeBell may be best known to modern fans as the cornerman of Ronda Rousey, if you’re an avid viewer of any US drama of the 1970s or 1980s, you’ve probably seen him before and never realised. A former pro wrestler and stuntman, he was a regular in Hollywood and as a result virtually every show which did a wrestling themed episode would film at the Olympic Auditorium and use LeBell as both the stunt arranger and an on-screen referee. The book is filled with stories from all elements of LeBell’s life, both as a performer and a competitor who was among those who explored the relative merits of martial arts in a real combat situation long before the initials UFC or MMA were ever heard. Exactly how honest the book is is difficult to tell. There’s plenty that sounds outlandish but is verifiable, but at the same time the suggestion that Andre the Giant fought Joe Bugner (rather than Chuck Wepner) at Shea Stadium is a signal that at the least LeBell’s memories shouldn’t be taken as gospel.  The book comes with an intriguing backstory. It was…

The Rock Says by The Rock with Joe Layden
Review / November 7, 2019

A couple of intriguing chapters doesn’t make up for some truly atrocious filler here. This always had a tough spot to fill, following on from the huge success of Mick Foley’s Have A Nice Day, which was designed to test the waters for WWE autobiographies. Even without that as a comparison point, this is a half-assed effort however. The pre-wrestling element is arguably the more interesting part of the book, doing a good job of illustrating how a young Dwayne Johnson had the natural heritage to get into the business, but certainly didn’t have an easy start in life and struggled financially as a student and footballer. The wrestling part is less informative and is clearly written with a desire to avoid confrontation. There’s a detailed story of a teenage Johnson being disgusted by the disrespect shown by Lars Anderson on a Hawaii show, but nothing about a similar incident involving Shawn Michaels. Neither does the efforts of Michaels and Triple H to disrupt his early WWF run get a mention. Considering these incidents may have cost the WWE Universe from ever seeing a Rock-Michaels bout, these seem like oversights to toe the company line. It’s when Rocky Maivia turns into the…