Tales From Wrescal Lane by Mick Foley & Jill Thompson
Review / July 4, 2019

For wrestling fans, this is the best of Foley’s range of childrens books, though that also means it may be somewhat dated for today’s kids. The story, told in rhyme, takes the stars of the Attitude era and pictures them as children growing up on the same street and getting into scrapes. It’s amusing enough stuff and largely in exaggerated character, with the only real insider gags being Foley continuing the digs at Al Snow from his autobiographies. The illustrations are great with Thompson doing an excellent job of taking the cartoonish caricatures of the actual wrestlers and turning them into plausible kids, rather than simply shrinking them down. The Dudley Boys throwing a tantrum is a particular highlight. It’s enough of a novelty that it’s worth picking up if you spot it at a bargain price. Whether your kids will recognize the characters enough to find it of any interest may depend on whether you’ve let them loose on the WWE Network with the parental controls switched off. Buy on Amazon

The Adrian Street Collection by Adrian Street
Review , Uncategorized / July 3, 2019

Chris Jericho’s autobiography has reached three volumes (so far.) Mick Foley is up to four. But Adrian Street — a man not short of experience nor verbiage — is up to seven. The volumes are: My Pink Gas Mask, which covers his years growing up in Wales, dreaming of one day becoming a pro wrestler. I Only Laugh When It Hurts, covering his moving to London and breaking into the independent scene. So Many Ways To Hurt You, covering his initial years working for Joint Promotions. Sadist In Sequins, covering more of his Joint career, plus his international travels. Imagine What I Could Do To You, covering his move to the independent circuit. Violence Is Golden, covering trips to Mexico and Germany and then his US work in Memphis and Mid-South among other territories. (I’ve not yet reviewed the final book, Merchant of Menace.) It’s clear across all six volumes that Street has both a storytelling skill and an incredible memory. As well as being entertaining, the books are also extremely informative — instead of just recounting events, Street explains his thinking at the time and the way he managed to build himself up into a main eventer, with payoffs to…

The Best In The World: At What I Have No Idea by Chris Jericho
Review / July 2, 2019

This is definitely among the best third volumes of wrestling autobiography, alongside Adrian Street’s So Many Ways To Hurt You. Unfortunately that categorisation acts as faint praise for several perhaps-inevitable reasons. Jericho’s new book, following on from the structural trick of his first two volumes, runs from his 2007 return to WWE until his surprise appearance at the 2013 Royal Rumble. It’s a period that covers some of his bigger wrestling successes, notably the Shawn Michaels feud in 2008 that earned him his spot in the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame. Two major problems limit the book’s potential. The first is simply the period it covers, one in which Jericho was firmly established in both wrestling and other entertainment activities. A Lion’s Tale had the story of a boyhood fan working his way around the world en route to achieving his dream job. Undisputed told the tale of a man struggling to overcome setbacks and disappointments with said dream job, as well as branching out into non-wrestling activities. This book has no such arc to speak of: while Jericho’s successes are great for him personally, there less cohesion or narrative here and it’s simply a set of anecdotes in which…

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pro Wrestling by Lou Albano & Bert Sugar
Review / July 1, 2019

Oh boy. This is the result of the publishers of a series along the lines of the “…for Dummies” brand deciding to cash in on the Monday Night Wars era boom by doing a wrestling title and finding the always media-friendly Sugar and Albano to lend their names. If you’ve seen any of their appearances in mainstream media reports of the era, you’ll know their role is to play a gimmick that excites TV producers rather than to lend any real insight. Fortunately it appears the bulk of the book was written by a professional, Roger Woodson. He’s done similar titles on everything from photography to “reaching your goals”, so has the skills needed to quickly explain an unfamiliar topic in simple terms. The problem is that while he does a decent job of that, the book’s in the unfortunate position that anyone with enough interest to read a book on pro wrestling will likely know more than the author. It’s not a topic where you can give useful “how to” tips, so it’s more of a potted history, an overview of the late 20th century scene, and one hell of a lot of padding. There is some good background…

The Dead Wrestler Elegies by W Todd Kaneko
Review / June 28, 2019

Until now, the only wrestling poetry book of note was Lanny Poffo’s Wrestling With Rhyme. That’s changed with The Dead Wrestler Elegies, of which to say it is a different prospect would be an understatement. Each of Kaneko’s poems centres on a particular wrestler who is now deceased, some simply because they came from a bygone era, but all too many because they passed away prematurely. But in the same way as the Vince McMahon-Steve Austin feud is so often explained as a reflection to allow fans to live vicariously and work off their own frustrations as an employee, the poems here are not purely about the wrestling business. Instead there’s a common theme in which the poems serve as a way to frame Kaneko’s memories of his childhood and his relationship with his parents. By the accounts here, his mother left the family, with wrestling viewing one of the ways the abandoned father and son bonded in the aftermath. Exactly how much of the detail of Kaneko’s own life related here is genuine is impossible to tell, and the way the wrestling he watched parallelled his own experiences is often so neat as to arouse suspicion. But just as with…

The Encylopedia Of Professional Wrestling (2nd Edition) by Kristian Pope & Ray Whebbe Jr
Review / June 27, 2019

This is by no means a lazy cash-in, but in 2016 it’s more one for collecting than reading. The first 60% of this bulky book are made up of chapters interspersing wrestling history (vintage, 70s, 80s, Monday Night Wars) and logical subject groupings such as championships, babyfaces and heels, tag teams and women wrestlers. It’s designed more for readability than comprehensiveness and chapters will often wander off into a dedicated section of several pages on, for example, the Hart family of Paul Heyman. The final 40% is where the “encyclopedia” lives up to its name with a series of 1,500 or so capsule bios. Each is only a matter of a few sentences so there’s no real depth but they are generally a fair summary in the available space. In a few cases the content seems a little suspect, such as the entry on Big Daddy which claims his persona was a take-off of Burl Ives (in reality, he simply took the name of Ive’s character in the film of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof) and that he had “almost a cult following overseas” which will be news to many. The book’s strongest point, particularly in the early chapters, is…

Soulman by Rocky Johnson & Scott Teal
Review / June 27, 2019

Another engaging title, this is a story only one man could tell. Johnson’s career, while successful, was not particularly out of the ordinary when it comes to making a way around the territories circuit. What makes his experience and perspective unique is two specific characteristics. Firstly, he has an interesting take on his status as a black wrestler, often booked to almost fill a quota in a territory. As well as being accepting of the pros and cons of such as position, he also details how he strove to establish his own personality and ring style so that he couldn’t simply be replaced by another grappler in the “African American slot.” He also talks at length about the experience of his son not only following him into the business as The Rock, but his subsequent Hollywood success and how that changed his own life. There’s also plenty of insightful backstage stories about the advice he received over the years on working and booking, though the number of times he mentions being told to slow down over the years does make you wonder how much notice he took! Among the other highlights is Johnson’s spell in Memphis with the hard-to-believe but…

The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story by Bob Holly & Ross Williams
Review / June 25, 2019

Many wrestling autobiographies feature the subject being “outspoken” for the sake of it, in a similar way to how “shoot interviews” seem to be judged on how many people the interviewee verbally attacks. The Hardcore Truth is most definitely an outspoken book, but Holly clearly has a different motivation: he simply says it how he sees it, with no regard for how it will be perceived or the consequences for his career. Whether or not you were a fan of Holly or like (what you believe you know of) him as an individual will not make much difference to your enjoyment of this book. Nor will your opinion likely be changed. While Holly was not a WWE headliner, he was involved in plenty of interesting points in the company’s history, from the dark days of the mid 90s through the Attitude Era, the Brawl for All and, of course, Tough Enough. He covers these aspects in detail with his perspective, giving a rounded account of the reality behind the fantasy. Ghostwriter Ross Williams does a great job of keeping the narrative focused while having it come across in a consistent voice that is clearly that of the man behind the Bob Holly…

The Hardy Boyz by Matt and Jeff Hardy
Review / June 24, 2019

While the subjects don’t exactly have a broad career to match the likes of a Billy Graham or Jerry Lawler, all the more so when this was published in 2003, there’s more substance to this than you might expect. Ghostwritten by Michael Krugman, the book alternates between the voices of Matt and Jeff and Krugman does a good job of distinguishing the two while still making it clear and coherent. He makes sure to highlight occasions on which the pair disagree, such as when Jeff talks about a desire to push the in-ring style to the limit while Matt talks about having a finite number of bumps in his career and wanting to make them count. (It may be hard to believe for those who’ve been online in the past decade, but Matt was once considered the level-headed one of the pair.) While the narrative of the book only really covers the pairs backyarding adventures, creation of the independent Omega group, and their early years as a WWE team including the TLC bouts, it covers several events and incidents that you might have expected to have been glossed over. One such case is both wrestlers working on TV tapings in their…

The Midnight Express 25th Anniversary Scrapbook by Jim Cornette with Tim Ash
Review / June 21, 2019

Unless you have zero interest in wrestling of the territorial and national expansion era, this is an absolute must. It’s a perfect format, midway between a record book and an autobiography. The main feature is a complete listing of every match from both the Bobby Eaton/Dennis Condrey and Eaton/Stan Lane version of the team, covering Mid-South, World Class and Jim Crockett Promotions. As well as dates, venues and results, the live gate and attendances are listed wherever possible. The results are broken up by numerous notes of varying length explaining the booking patterns, backstage antics, memorable crowd interactions and payoffs, fair and otherwise. You’ll also seen numerous original documents from Cornette’s collection, including payoff sheets, tickets, memos from management (including Bill Watts explaining how to sell a stipulation match in a promo) and even format sheets for television shows including Clash of the Champions IX, a notable contrast to the epic scripts that occasionally leak from RAW shows today. These are all placed in the relevant section of the book rather than arranged randomly, giving them a much clearer context. Before and after the result section is around 70 pages of bonus content, a combination of photos and articles on more…