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…

Banner Days by Penny Banner with Gerry Hostetler
Review / April 4, 2019

Whether you find this book worthwhile depends on your interest in female wrestling history and your attitude to books that maintain kayfabe. As a historical recollection, it’s got a lot to offer. In terms of first-hand accounts, Banner is arguably the biggest name female of her era who wasn’t  part of the Fabulous Moolah troupe, so makes for an interesting counter perspective It’s as much a life story as a wrestling book — there’s some fun accounts of Banner’s romantic liasions with Elvis Presley and some understandably less pleasurable accounts of her tumultuous marriage to a man she curiously refers to as Johnny Spade. It’s not clear if this was an attempt to avoid hurt feelings or legal issues, but her husband was in fact the relatively well-known wrestler Johnny Weaver. The kayfabe element of the book goes beyond the understandable desire of a wrestler of Banner’s era wanting to protect the business. While claiming her bouts were all legitimate, she dismisses modern female grappler as fakers and even suggests she was surprised to recently discover that men had been working finishes during her career. It’s a shame as it’s not only insulting, but also undermines credibility. The book is well-illustrated, though it’s made…

At Issue: Professional Wrestling
Review / April 3, 2019

Part of a series that covers everything from Anti-Semitism to UFOs, this is designed to be a research tool and study guide for social studies students. It’s an anthology, which brings the benefit that you get a slightly wider range of viewpoints than usual in such books (including entertainment and sports writers alongside professors) but the drawback that some pieces are extremely short and have little substance. Most of the topics here that aren’t part of the usual academic coverage of pro wrestling are both brief and blindingly obvious to any wrestling fan: in short, promoters have power over whether wrestlers are featured, wrestling at the turn of the century had some violent and sexual content, and backyard wrestling isn’t safe. The more traditional topics don’t bring much to the table either. One essay is based around the idea of pro wrestling being an anti-sport and a terrible moral example for kids because rulebreakers prevail: while it’s true that wrestling is based on a very child-unfriendly premise (disputes should be settled by violence), heroic babyfaces overcoming the odds with skill and effort rather than shortcuts is still, in theory, the basis of the business. Another essay tries to make the…

Arn Anderson 4 Ever by Arn Anderson
Review / April 1, 2019

The subtitle of this book is “A Look Behind The Curtain” but that’s one thing you most definitely will not get from this book. This autobiography was published in 2000 by the “Kayfabe Publishing Group”, an appropriate title given its nature. As those who’ve seen Anderson speak in interviews or in talking head segments on documentaries, Arn continues to maintain that wrestling was a legitimate contest and the on-screen product was 100 percent real. That may be admirable or endearing for some fans, but it made for a book that was disappointing upon its release and even more so in today’s context. With Anderson repeatedly talking about how he won a match or how he planned a beatdown, what we’re left with is effectively a recap of his storyline career with little insight or new information. There are some anecdotes about life on the road and the stresses and strains and logistics of working shows in different times, but it’s nothing revelatory. For those looking for details on the most notorious moment of Anderson’s career, the genuine fight with Sid Vicious in England in 1993, there’s virtually nothing said, with Anderson blaming the lack of detail on legal issues. About…

Are You Hardcore by Matt Hiller & Joe Lisi
Review / March 29, 2019

There was a point at the turn of the millennium where it seemed any book related to wrestling could find a publisher. This is one of those books. It’s pretty much an internet forum thread come to life, with the first half being nothing more than 316 (geddit?) ways to tell you are obsessed with pro wrestling. A random selection should give a flavour of what’s on offer: 46: When delivering a eulogy, you don’t see the problem in equating death to being pinned by God. 123: When someone gets in the backseat, you yell “WHERE TO —-anie?” filling in the blank with their name. 265: You carry a large sign with your name and a large arrow pointing down written on it wherever you go. The second half of the book is simply a glossary explaining the jokes, though why anyone who wouldn’t get the references would be reading is unclear. As much as I enjoy detailing the great books about wrestling, books like this are one of the reasons this blog exists. At the time of its release with a cover price of $11, it was a fair enough proposition: anyone seeing it in a bookstore could flick through…

Are We There Yet by Robert Caprio
Review / March 28, 2019

This is an official WWE book made up of a collection of road stories from wrestlers on the crew in the mid-2000s. It’s a fun read, albeit with everything showing the wrestlers in a good light. The stories are all a page or two at most, so it’s perfect for bathroom reading or dipping into. To give an idea of the subject material, a random selection throws up Ivory and Jacqueline staying in the motel from hell; Rico helping subdue a violent passenger on a flight who claimed to be a member of Special Force;  Chris Jericho’s adventures on his first visit to the German tournaments (a shortened version of the account in his first autobiography); the Big Show having to destroy a Japanese bathroom so he could sit on the toilet; and several Divas going on a road trip in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. There’s a lot of entertainment in the book and it covers a variety of subjects. It’s not entirely WWE-centric as several wrestlers recall stories from working the territories or overseas. It’s also surprising how much the book kills any image you might have of WWE ‘Superstars’ living a glamorous life. As you’d expect, it’s…

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…