While it’s only fair to review a book after reading it in full, first impressions are also important. With that in mind, here are some initial thoughts on many recent releases. They are based on the free sample on Kindle, which usually includes somewhere up to the first 10% of the total book.
Kicking Down Doors… by LJ Tracosasis an authorized WWE book covering the history of female wrestling. Written in full kayfabe mode, it looks like it falls into the obvious trap of having to simultaneously push the idea that the promotion revolutionized womens wrestling in 2015 while avoiding any suggestion it treated female performers unfairly at any time before that. This includes the particularly baffling comment that after losing the womens title to the Fabulous Moolah/Spider Lady (with no acknowledgement of the double-cross by the promotion), a devastated Wendi Richter “walked out of the arena and out of WWE for good, but with the satisfaction of knowing that she had changed WWE – and the way the world saw its female Superstars – forever.”
Donald Trump and the Kayfabe Presidency: Professional Wrestling Rhetoric in the White House (Rhetoric, Politics and Society) by Shannon Bow O’Brien appears to be an interesting take on how Trump’s rise to power and time in office borrowed many elements of pro wrestling from adopting a character to building an us vs them divide. One thing that does let down the early pages at least is an apparent belief that pro wrestlers still strictly maintain kayfabe outside of the performance realm, which clearly is not the case in 2020.
The History of the WWF Volume III: 1988 by Jonathan Johnson is a blow-by-blow recap of every PPV, Saturday Night’s Main Events and every episode of Superstars of Wrestling and Wrestling Challenge from the year. It’s refreshingly snark-free compared to some similar projects and clearly involved an immense amount of work. However, the nature of the weekly TV shows doesn’t make for the most captivating material with a lot of space taken up by descriptions of squash matches which inherently become repetitive.
Turning Face by Terry M West is a full-blown horror novel with the main characters being literal devils. It’s hard to tell from the sample how heavy the wrestling element is.
Grappling by Gaslight by John Cosper could be worthy of further investigation. It’s a series of short stories set in the pro wrestling carnival era of the 1880s. The opening story certainly appears entertaining while still historically accurate.
Incomparable by Brie and Nikki Bella certainly looks more suited to their dedicated fans than a general wrestling audience, though it’s notable that it isn’t a WWE authorized or sanitized book and has some critical elements about the backstage scene.
Memoirs of a Madman by Madman Pondo looks to be exactly what you’d expect: a bunch of crazy stories from a deathmatch indy star that are too good to question how true they are.
Coliseum Classics: The Best of the WWF 1-10 by Nick Temple is along the lines of the The Complete WWF Video Guide series. The main differences are that there’s a lot less snark/humour/opinion, but the recaps are far more detailed, to the extent that there might not be much point watching the videos after reading.
Wrestling with Pixels by Audun Sorlie is clearly a formidable piece of research covering every wrestling video game you’ve heard of and many you haven’t. Unless you’re using a tablet app, I’d skip the Kindle version and get the printed copy as this is extensively illustrated with screenshots and doesn’t work well on a small monochrome screen.
There’s not really enough in the sample of Over the Ropes by Jay Sandlin to draw many conclusions other than that it’s a professionally produced graphic novel and has the intriguing storyline of being about a self-confessed jobber rather than a star. Again it’s definitely one for colour devices or print only.
Babyfaces & Heels: A Pro Wrestling Story by Aaron Goff appears somewhat bizarre. It’s a novel that doesn’t just play off real-life characters and events from the 70s and 80s, but barely disguises the names while confusingly mixing fictionalised promotion names and straight references to the NWA. There’s certainly not enough in the sample to suggest the plot itself would have enough originality to sustain what appears a lengthy book.
Rope Break by Thomas Michaels appears to be a competently-written novel that’s sound enough on the technical aspects of training to be a wrestler, though the sample isn’t long enough to show whether any compelling plot develops.
WWE Beyond Extreme is barely one step up from a picture book with limited text and a weak theme that somehow encompasses a Jeff Hardy TLC bump and a ‘chapter’ on Chyna that is presumably about the Good Housekeeping match with Jeff Jarrett.
The ghostwritten New Jack: Memoir of a Wrestling Extremist certainly doesn’t read as the voice of the wrestling persona, though it could well be true to Jerome Young and the difference between the two is certainly key to the book, with a reasoned explanation and understanding of how Young’s youthful experiences shaped his colourful life.
The Squared Circle Murders by Marc Hertel has an intriguing premise with a former failed wrestler now working as a homicide detective and investigating a case involving several of his former colleagues, so may be worth a look.
The Showstopper by Ian Nelson and Rebecca Straney is an odd format that doesn’t make clear whether it’s meant to be a novel or a screenplay, but either way isn’t a smooth read.
Wrestling: The 1940s Decade Series Book III by Robert Murillo is, at best, a bad translation to the Kindle format. The intro suggests it’s themed alphabetically, but it reads as simply a list of random results that aren’t in chronological or any other discernible order.
The Worst of the Pro-Wrestling Wars of the 80s and 90s by Everett PetersonThe Worst of the Pro-Wrestling Wars of the 80s and 90s by Everett Peterson reads as WrestleCrap without either the colour or the humour