Can You Take The Heat? The WWF Is Cooking: By Jim Ross
Review / April 19, 2019

This concoction has a nasty aftertaste of cash-in. It’s doubtful whether it’s possible to produce a good wrestling-themed cookbook, but this certainly isn’t one. It’s nothing more than a bunch of very basic, unappetising recipes which appear to have been randomly assigned to wrestlers with little pretense the superstar in question either cooks or eats the meal. The unlucky buyer will learn how to make Stone Cold’s Cinnamon Ice Cream, Mideon’s Minestone Soup and Dean Malenko’s Beef Stroganoff among others. Less than half a dozen seem to be in anyway connected to the character and — Big Bossman’s Pepper Steak aside — most of those are nothing but references to genitalia. The culinary advice isn’t much better. You’ll learn such sophisticated recipes as making Kahlua coffee by adding Kahlua to coffee. You’ll also encounter perhaps the vilest sounding meal of all times, Scotty Too Hotty’s Too Cool Orange salad, a mix of cottage cheese, pineapple, whipped cream and  powdered gelatine. To drive home how lazy and cheap the book is, the only pictures of food are to be found on the front cover and instead you’ll find around half the page count to be made up of low-resolution black and white…

Championship Wrestling by George Napolitano
Review / April 18, 2019

This is a good example of the type of books that were available before the boom inspired by the success of Have A Nice Day and the growth of self-publishing and eReaders. It’s a 112-page collection of pictures by George Napolitano, arguably tied with Bill Apter for the best-known wrestling photographer of his era. There is a fair bit of accompanying text, though nothing with any real insight and it’s mainly made up of kayfabe capsule profiles. The pics themselves are great quality as you’d expect, and include some offbeat shots such as the Ultimate Warrior in shades, Doom in tuxedos, Road Warrior Hawk applying his make-up. Altogether though, it’s really something you’d only want to buy if you wanted to get your hands on every wrestling book going, something that was both achievable and understandable at the time of its 1991 release, but not really necessary or viable for most people today. You can get it second hand for pennies, however, so it may be worth looking out for if you’re a collector or completist. Buy on Amazon

Chair Shots And Other Obstacles: Winning Life’s Wrestling Matches by Bobby Heenan
Review / April 17, 2019

This is a wrestling book like no other. It’s also one of the most undersung titles around. It’s a format few would have expected to see from Heenan: a self-help manual. Rather than the usual wishy-washy new age content you’d normally see in such books, this is effectively a series of serious points for living a successful live used as pegs for genuinely hilarious stories from Heenan’s career. Unlike with his autobiography, there’s no attempt to follow any structure here and the book works all the better for it. It’s particularly effective as, in between the humour, Heenan uses the opportunity to share some valid gripes, such as being underpaid in a manager role, in a way that doesn’t come across as bitter or whiny. He’s also extremely self-aware in the book, never afraid to acknowledge the sheer absurdity of the professional wrestling business but never shy of admitting his love for it. Heenan also addresses his battles with cancer, something that might seem hard to fit to his lighthearted style, but it’s genuinely uplifting without being sentimental. Buy on Amazon

Capitol Revolution by Tim Hornbaker
Review / April 16, 2019

American wrestling as most Brits know it arguably began on 23 January 1984 when Hulk Hogan beat the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden to capture the WWF title and kick off the national expansion era. But New York wrestling has a rich heritage, explored in this book which appropriately enough ends on that very day. Capitol Revolution begins its tale just after the first world war when the likes of Jack Curley and Tex Rickard battled to revive wrestling after the departure of former national stars Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt. It then goes on to tell the complex tale of double-crosses and alliances in the 1920s and 30s when wrestling switched from a faithful simulation of amateur grappling to a wilder performance that would still be recognisable as pro wrestling today. It also addresses the multi-generational influence of Toots Mondt and the rise of the McMahon family to dominance in New York, along with its often terse relationship with the National Wrestling Alliance. Finally we get details of Vince McMahon’s transition from local promoter and TV commentator to company owner. Hornbaker’s research skills and dedicated cannot be questioned, which was demonstrated in his previous volume on the NWA’s…

Chavo Guerrero’s Warriors Creed By Fabian Nicieza, Eddie Nunez & Fabiano Neves
Review / April 15, 2019

The niche of people crying out for a Chavo Guerrero comic book is presumably quite small, but this should certainly satisfy their needs. The first in a planned series, referred to in publicity as Warriors Creed, this is very much a taster with little storyline development. All we really discover in the 24 page debut instalment is that Guerrero retires through injury but is pursued by mysterious powers seeking to capture a particular ability he has. One unusual element is that in the storyline pro wrestling is a worked entertainment event, meaning that this and future instalments will not be drawing drama from Guerrero’s attempts to win matches. Artwise, I’m no expert, but there’s a distinct theme of large blocks of single colours, giving an effect similar to A Scanner Darkly (but without the photorealism.) It’s also very much comic book/graphic novel style in that this Chavo appears as if he most certainly would not pass a wellness test. It’s a curious choice of subject as Chavo doesn’t have the masked persona traditionally associated with Mexican wrestling superheroes and his current Lucha Underground character is an unlikely hero. While there’s nothing wrong with this as such, there’s also too little to tell whether…

Demolition Dad by Phil Earle
Review / April 12, 2019

Well regarded in its own right as a children’s book, this will particularly appeal to wrestling families. It’s the first in a series of books set in the same street, though the only one dealing with wrestling. It was picked as book of the month by British TV channel CBBC and is listed as being aimed at 9-11 year olds, though I’d suspect it would be suitable for a wider range. It tells the story of a father who secretly wrestles on a low-level British circuit at weekends accompanied by his son, who then enters him in a competition to find a new wrestler for WOW, a thinly disguised WWE. At 200+ pages the story has a fair bit of depth for a young child’s book and goes into some sophisticated themes about body image, identity and self-worth. It’s also quite on the money when it comes to the wrestling element, celebrating its bombastic nature. While on the face of it it treats wrestling as a legitimate contest, I found it still made sense if you chose to imagine that in this world wrestling is a work but the father kept that secret from the son. Special mention must go…

Drawing Heat by Jim Freedman
Review / April 11, 2019

Back when wrestling books were few and far between, this was one of the titles that was worth tracking down through bookshop ordering systems. Even today, it’s still a remarkable insight into a particular aspect and era of the business. Freedman is an anthropologist who taught at the University of Western Ontario for 26 years, during which time he wrote Drawing Heat. It’s a study of wrestling in Ontario, partly of the main NWA territory operated by Frank Tunney, but mainly of the outlaw promotion run by Dave ‘The Bearman’ McKigney. McKigney was not strictly an opposition promoter, but rather somebody who promoted the small towns where nobody else wanted to go. He allowed Freeman to accompany him on the road, including for an entire tour, allowing Freeman to document the bizarre world of pro wrestling from an outsider perspective. It’s a cast including midgets, the Sheik and a wrestling bear among others. The book goes into immense detail about the practicalities of a smaller promoter trying to make ends meet, deal with an athletic commission, and and rouse up publicity through whatever means necessary. In some ways it’s very much of its time, capturing the tail end of the…

Dusty: Reflections of an American Dream by Dusty Rhodes with Howard Brody
Review / April 10, 2019

It’s perhaps unfair to compare this to what might of been, but sadly this isn’t as good as you might imagine. Rhodes’s death in 2015 led to many reflecting on his stardom and career and how it far outweighed the lowpoints when he overpromoted himself in the dying days of the Crockett territory. He lived a hell of a life, but this book doesn’t really capture it. The upside of NWA promoter Howard Brody ghostwriting the book is that the factual details of the wrestling content are generally accurate and credible. However, he appears to have been unwilling or unable to capture Rhodes’s unique voice. While that may have been a task beyond any writer — and wouldn’t necessarily have made for a coherent read — there’s a definite disconnect because it’s hard to imagine Rhodes speaking the words out loud as he tells his story. The other main limitation was also perhaps inevitable, with Rhodes straddling the line between confidence and ego: in this book, nothing ever bad happened that was his fault and he even argues Crockett was mistaken to sell the territory in 1988 and that he could have turned things around. The book has an unusual format,…

Everybody Down Here Hates Me by Pat Barrett
Review / April 9, 2019

This book is a real two-for-one deal: a great story, and a fun game as a bonus. The great story comes from Barrett having a true globetrotter career: as well as several US territories including the WWWF, he worked in the UK, continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. He covers his various exploits in the ring along with plenty of colour about experiencing different locales. The book doesn’t outright talk about wrestling being worked, but there’s enough detail for those who read between the lines that you shouldn’t find your intelligence insulted. The fun game comes from the fact that while Barrett uses many real names, he also changes the names of people at the centre of controversies. It’s a curious approach to defamation laws, but it’s entertaining to try to decipher who he is talking about — though not always that challenging. For example: “Flamboyant” promoter Tim Bernard = Jim Barnett Nashville promoter Gulus the Greek = Nick Gulas Masked man Gregory Nielson = Gordon Nelson Blind wrestler Morris Shapiro = Mighty Atlas Jake West = Jay York The Indian = Wahoo MacDaniel Ron Peters = Ken Patera Prankster Joey Hart = Johnny Valentine Andrew Lane =…

Blood Red Turns Dollar Green (Volume 1) by Paul O’Brien
Review / April 5, 2019

Between the wrestling book boom sparked a decade ago by Mick Foley and the growth of the e-reader making self-published titles ever more viable, numerous wrestling “novels” have appeared in recent years. Sadly most have been badly written and poorly researched, the worst examples being little more than poorly hidden sexual fantasies about real-life wrestling performers. That run has come to an end with Blood Red Turns Dollar Green, the first truly professional novel about professional wrestling. While this is Paul O’Brien’s first book, he has years of experience writing for the theatre and it shows here. The plot and feel of the book lies somewhere between the wrestling territories of the 1970s and a Soprano’s-style mafia tale. It covers a four-year period during which rival promoters across the US work together while also battling to control the booking rights to the world title and in turn the business itself. While both the plotting and storytelling are top-notch, the most impressive skill here is using recognisable traits from real wrestling promotions, owners and grapplers to produce engaging and believable characters, without simply turning it into a thinly-veiled ripoff. Lead characters like New York promoter Danno Garland and behemoth title contender…