Andre The Giant: Closer to Heaven by Brandon M Easton & Denis Medri
Review / March 27, 2019

A wrestling star might get one graphic novel written about their life. Andre the Giant, a wrestling legend in every sense, now has two. I’ve not had a chance to read Box Brown’s Andre the Giant: Life and Legend yet, though other reviews suggest it may be more of a surface read, recounting some popular tales (some likely as tall as Andre.) This new take from Easton and Medri feels like a rounded biography, or as much as can be covered in a 104-page comic. It’s advertised USP is that it is based on interviews with people who knew Andre, plus the involvement of his daughter Robin in the project. For the most part the stories certainly ring true and aren’t restricted to the official WWE line (let alone the Hogan version of reality). There’s clearly been some literary license taken with the inclusion of private conversations between Andre and people who also died decades ago such as Frank Valois and Vincent J McMahon, but this content doesn’t feeling inauthentic in the context of those events which are documented. The most impressive part is the balancing act of creating an overreaching narrative of Andre’s life without being overly twee or simplistic. It accurately…

All Or Nothing by James Dixon
Review / March 26, 2019

According to writer James Dixon, All or Nothing was originally conceived as an unofficial sequel to Simon Garfield’s 1995 book The Wrestling, updating readers on developments in the British scene since that time. Tales of the 1PW group proved so compelling that Dixon decided to first make the promotion the basis of an entire chapter and eventually took it on as the subject of a full-length book. In an openly admitted homage to Garfield’s book, All or Nothing is made up entirely of first hand accounts by those involved in the promotion, with Dixon himself writing only to fill in context. It’s skilfully assembled, with the various interview sections carefully cut together to keep a constant flow while highlighting the contrasting claims of the main players without explicitly labelling anyone as truthful or dishonest. The resulting story is an epic tale that becomes a clear pattern when the reader completes the book. In short: wrestling merchandise store owner Stephen Gauntley attracts regular large crowds to the 2,000-seat Doncaster Dome with heavy use of imported US talent only to eventually claim near-bankruptcy as the cash runs out; a string of successors, comebacks, alliances and conflicts winds up with two further promotional…

Adam Copeland On Edge
Review / March 25, 2019

The fact that a book by a then-16-time WWF titleholder was released far too early in his career may say more about modern-day booking than it does the author, but this 2004 autobiography looks woefully incomplete today. At the front end that’s the simple issue that Edge falls the wrongside of the “Jericho divide” regarding modern wrestlers route into the business. While the likes of Jericho and Mick Foley toured the world and had tales of working international and domestic territories, Edge is from the generation of a brief small-time independent career before going into the WWF developmental system. As a result, while his account of growing up a fan with best friend Jay Reso (who’d one day be his WrestleMania-winning tag partner Christian) are charming, there’s little of interest on his pre-WWF days save some hair-raising tales of working the “death tours” in remote and frozen Canada.A On the back end, the book ends during his enforced year-plus layoff with a neck injury. That leaves a WWF spell when Edge had plenty of matches, but there’s little gossip or backstage insight: you won’t learn much other than that Christian and he enjoyed doing comedy skits, and that they talked over some…

Accepted by Pat Patterson
Review / March 22, 2019

This may not be the book you were expecting, but is still well worth your time. Ghostwritten by Bertrand Hebert (who co-authored the excellent Montreal history Mad Dogs, Midgets & Screwjobs), the book’s focus is very much on Patterson’s life as a gay man and a love story of he and his late partner Louie. It’s fascinating to read not only of the obstacles the pair faced (Patterson notes the parallel of the secrecy of his sexuality and the secrecy of maintaining kayfabe in the territorial wrestling days) but also the many occasions on which it simply wasn’t a big deal to other in the business. The story also gives a better understanding into the personal significance for Patterson of “coming out” in the final episode of WWE Legends House, something many would naturally have dismissed as far from a revelation. The book doesn’t short-change the reader on wrestling content, both as a performer and on the creative side, but it’s very much about the big picture and working relationships such as with Vince McMahon rather than specific details of particular incidents. It’s by no means the booking encyclopedia that some might have hoped for, and Patterson admits he remains uncomfortable about…

A Star Shattered: The Rise & Fall & Rise Of Wrestling Diva by Tammy “Sunny” Sytch
Review / March 21, 2019

You know what. It could have been worse. If you’ve watched any of Sytch’s “shoot” interviews, it appears there’s little new here, but it’s an easy read if not always the most entertaining. There’s a good amount about her time in the wrestling business and her experiences learning about working the crowd. The two big problems are that it’s hard to tell how true the content is (if nothing else, it very much comes across as somebody taking little or no personal responsibility for their life events) and a lot of incidents you might expect to see here are unmentioned. A seemingly trivial but perhaps telling example is the book gleefully celebrating a time Sable found excrement in her bag but saying nothing about an oft-cited incident in which Sunny herself was the victim of an even more unpleasant variation on this ‘rib’. While the sleaze, booze and jail section of the book doesn’t overshadow the wrestling as it might have done, it’s still a depressing few chapters that are neither pleasurable nor informative for the reader. As for the ending, it’s unusual to say the least to have the happy conclusion of an autobiography being the shooting of an adult movie. It’s…

A Pictorial History of Wrestling by Graeme Kent
Review / March 20, 2019

Surprisingly widely available for a 1968 title, this is a great combination of text and photos of wrestling on both sides of the Atlantic. Written entirely from the perspective of wrestling being a sport (albeit one with showmanship in spades), the first 130 or so of the 300+ pages here deal with the development of amateur wrestling in its various styles around the world. The rest covers the professional business from the pre-Gotch days, split into “The Golden Age”, “Between the Wars” and separate chapters on American and European Wrestling after 1945. The text history is relatively comprehensive and accurate, albeit limited by the lack of “insider” material, particularly during the often-baffling era of doublecrosses and promotional manouvrings in the 1920s and 19302. Meanwhile the picture content is hugely impressive: although limited to black and white, there are literally hundreds of images included, covering everyone from Al Hayes to Georges Gordienko in both action and posed shots. Highlights include pictures of Reggie Lisowski (The Crusher) and Pat Patterson in their early years and a shot of an early battle royale from a time when that gimmick still involved teams of wrestlers doing battle while wearing boxing gloves. At almost any…

A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex by Chris Jericho
Review / March 19, 2019

Between the subject matter and the style, there’ll be few books like this in the future, which is something of a shame. Jericho was arguably the last wrestler to make it big in WWE having spent a serious amount of time working for both full-time US territories and international promotions. After leaving the Canadian independents, he spent time in CMLL, WAR, the German tournament scene, Smoky Mountain Wrestling, ECW and WCW, giving him one of the more diverse backgrounds of his generation. This gives him a wealth of experience of very different styles and set-ups of pro wrestling which he describes here, whether it be being abandoned in the middle of nowhere in Mexico, the raucous nightlife of Hamburg (and the hellraising of the likes of Drew McDonald), or the sheer confused disorganization of WCW. It’s a striking contrast to his later volumes as there’s a real sense of the personal and professional journey he took to the point where he stood by the curtain for his WWE debut, which marks the book’s conclusion. The style and tone is a difficult one to judge for anyone yet to read this book. As the first of Jericho’s books, it came across as refreshingly…

A Few Kindle Only Titles
Review / March 18, 2019

For the most part this blog sticks to books released in print, partly because the number of e-Book titles is both so large and so variable in quality. Here are three that may be worthy of your attention, with the disclaimer that I am “online friends” with two of the authors (Millard and Davies.) Confessions of a Smart Wrestling Fan by Lorcan Mullan Lorcan Mullan has been a fan of the wild, unpredictable and unique world of professional wrestling for over twenty years. This book continues on from his hit solo stand-up comedy show in providing a personal history of life as a obsessive in the wild, bizarre and unique world of pre-determined tussles. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t hold out much hope when I read the description, but it’s actually tremendous. I don’t know how many non-wrestling fans would actually stick with it all the way through (as opposed to seeing a one-hour show version), but I genuinely can’t imagine any wrestling fan in their forties or younger, particularly based in the UK, not enjoying it. You’ll either enjoy the nostalgia, learn about being a fan “back in the day”, repeatedly recognise yourself in the book, or…

The Professional Wrestling Trivia Book by Robert Myers
Review / March 14, 2019

This isn’t an information piece but rather a quiz book. It’s serviceable enough but with little reread value. Published in 1988, it’s made up of nothing more than 500 multiple choice questions, grouped as “Heroes and Villains”, “Tag Teams”, “Legends of The Past” and the not entirely politically correct “Women, Blacks and Midgets.” The questions aren’t inherently difficult, but in some cases the age of the book makes them a little more challenging now. To give some random examples of the tone and difficulty: He is America’s hero A) Hulk Hogan B) Sergeant Slaughter C) Ric Flair D) Dusty Rhodes (Answer: B, presumably because it was a specific nickname he used at that time.) … was responsible for the initial success of the Fabulous Ones. A) Jackie Fargo B) Ernie Roth C) Lou Albano D) Jimmy Hart (Answer: A) Ronnie Garvin hooked up with… to create the Risky Business Boys. A) Dusty Rhodes B) Steve Regal C) Rick Morton D) Scott Hall (Answer: A)   The book has a few minor problems. One is that some questions don’t have a clearly objective answer, such as one asking which wrestler “experts consider to be the top black athlete in pro wrestling.”…

Wrestling With The Truth by Bruno Lauer
Review / March 14, 2019

Downtown Bruno, aka Harvey Whippleman, was a gruff, angry, vociferous little so and so. And his book is not much different. While a manager (and occasional referee) rather than grappler, Lauer had an interesting career path that lends itself to an autobiography with wide appeal, covering the smallest independents, the territorial era and the WWE in both peaks and troughs. Large parts of the story here are about the rough and ready nature of the territory scene with hustle and BS as important as performance in making sure you always had somewhere to work. Territories as diverse as Hawaii, Memphis and the Continental area are all covered here, along with Lauer’s journey from total mark to teacher. It’s an understatement to say Lauer is direct and to the point here (ghostwriter Scott Teal has done an excellent job of capturing his unique voice.) Those he feels deserve praise get it, while those he did not take to get their criticism with unrelenting force, often to a shocking degree, though always with Lauer’s personal justification for his views. The peak of this comes in a couple of incidents where he shows no interest in the maxim of not speaking ill of…