Wrestling The Hulk by Linda Hogan
Review / December 13, 2019

Perhaps the politest way to review this book would be to note that wrestling fans may not be its primary target audience. It’s only 236 pages of very large type (and even some padding out with recipes) but still feels a long-winded route to effectively say “I met and married Hulk Hogan but he turned out to be a shagger so we got divorced.”) There’s virtually no wrestling content and what little there is seems somewhat shaky. For example, not only do we learn how Vince McMahon took wrestling out of “small, dingy, dimly lit no-name arenas with fifty to one hundred people in the audience” but Linda claims the first time she went to one of Hogan’s matches he wrestled Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA title in front of barely 300 people. There’s no acknowledgement of a ghostwriter and if somebody did work on the project, they may have gone too far in making the writing authentic. Because it’s filled with lame puns! And exclamation marks everywhere! It also seems light on editing, with several cases of the book contradicting itself. All that said, it’s hard to criticise too much as the content certainly matches the book’s premise of…

The WWE Book Of Top 10s by Dean Miller
Review / December 12, 2019

Another “get it for Christmas, read it once” title, the content here is more plausible than you might imagine. The format is exactly as you might imagine: 100 or so lists with around 50 words explanation for each entry. There’s a good variety of topic matters, broadly divided into wrestlers, matches and championships, including a few purely objective rankings (shortest title reigns, youngest champions etc.) Aside from a little inconsistency over whether non-WWE content is included, the rankings themselves are generally credible enough that while you might not agree with them, they aren’t ridiculous. It’s certainly not a modern-day whitewash: for example, in a ranking of title belts (or rather “championship titles” in WWE-speak), the current WWE belt is ranked behind both ‘Big Gold’ and the Winged Eagle WWF title. Indeed, the lists are reasonable enough that the few exceptions for modern storylines are particularly jarring, a notable example being Roman Reigns included in the top 10 crossover stars from other sports based on playing one season in Canadian football. There’s also a few stretched definitions such as the Hardys and Steiners being listed as among the top wrestling “families”. There’s also a couple of questionable entries such as Raven…

WWE Official Book Of Rules (And How To Break Them)
Review , Uncategorized / December 11, 2019

If you don’t mind the fact you’ll probably never read this twice, it’s an amusing enough diversion. It’s written under the pretext that, like the British constitution, the WWE rulebook is made up of a variety of official and unofficial documents that are never collated in one place. Covering both the in-ring ‘rules’ and the company policies, it’s effectively a cover for a barrage of in-jokes for wrestling fans including references to incidents and characters of the past. The problem is that the execution rarely strikes the right balance. In some cases the gag is overplayed, such as a supposed memo from Vince McMahon to WWF referees dated 9 November 1997 pointing out that the chairman’s instructions are final. Left at that it would be mildly amusing, but instead we get a series of handwritten additions to the memo that spell out the reference and joke in full detail, killing any humour. At the other end, some pages are breathakingly lazy. The final page is literally a print of a tax return defaced with the words “PAY YOUR TAXES! IRWIN R SCHYSTER”. The book does have some genuinely neat insider references. There’s the first ‘canon’ acknowledgement of the rule that…

WWE Greatest 100 Matches by Dean Miller
Review / December 10, 2019

It’s hard to tell if this book is a success because it’s unclear what it’s trying to do. From a literal perspective, it fits the bill: it has 100 matches presented in a random order rather than ranking, with each getting a two-page spread with a brief background piece, a detailed description of the bout itself, and then a short paragraph on what happened next. Perhaps anticipating the inevitable criticism of the choices, the authors give no explanation of the selection process or the criteria, other than that a handful of bouts are noted as being the top choice of a particular group (WWE wrestlers, WWE Magazine and so on.) For the most part it’s a combination of the generally regarded best in-ring matches and those with some form of historical significance (the latter being the only explanation for including 2011’s 40-man Royal Rumble.) In some cases the reader is left to figure this out somewhat: for example, the only thing notable about Team Piper vs Team Flair at Survivor Series 1991 is that it was Flair’s WWF pay-per-view debut, but this isn’t really hammered home. Similarly the description of Shawn Michaels vs John Cena at the 02 Arena in…

Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar by Shawn Michaels
Review , Uncategorized / December 9, 2019

This is not a wrestling book. Don’t get me wrong: the blurb and other cover material don’t make any pretense this is a wrestling book, but it’s important to stress this so that would-be readers don’t get misled. This isn’t a book like the Bill Watts autobiography that is about wrestling but has some diversions into religion. Instead it’s the story of Shawn Michaels’ Christianity with a backdrop of pro wrestling. When it comes to the faith talk itself, your mileage will vary. It was never going to be to my taste, but I found it very generalised and repetitive. One incident in the book involves Michaels getting a call from Bruce Prichard about returning to wrestling and deciding that as he was in church when the phone rang, that was a sign from God that he should get back in the ring. How you respond to that proposition is probably a good indication of how much you’ll get from the book. There are some wrestling-related passages, but you won’t learn much that isn’t already public knowledge, other than Michaels saying he and Undertaker’s legendary WrestleMania 25 bout was only officially allotted 15 minutes. Perhaps the most interesting wrestling section…

The WWE Attitude Era by Jon Robinson
Review / December 6, 2019

Finally this under-covered era gets some attention from WWE. Snark aside, this is pretty much the book version of the countless documentaries and countdowns WWE has produced in recent years, particularly since the launch of the network. It’s not a chronological history but rather a collection of pieces focused on the main players, with a heavy emphasis on photography. As you might imagine, the book is hardly an objective history. At times the detailing of events such as the Montreal Screwjob verge first into being misleading and then outright false.  The book also has a few sections where things are presented either without context or with errors. For example, there’s a story from Stephanie McMahon that’s simply referenced as the “wedding angle” with no background, accompanied by a picture of her and Triple H at an in-ring ceremony. However, on closer reading the story actually refers to her aborted wedding to Test, who isn’t mentioned in the piece, and the revelation of a drive-thru ceremony with Triple H, which is mentioned without explanation.  (The same thing happens later in the book, making it clear Test’s name has been deliberately excluded. Perhaps more understandably, there’s a wonderfully chosen shot of the…

Crazy Like A Fox: The Definitive Chronicle of Brian Pillman, 20 Years Later by Liam O’Rourke
Review / December 5, 2019

The saying that perception is reality applies to few industries more than professional wrestling, and none so more than the case of Brian Pillman. He was first a victim of the often baffling blurring between fact and fiction and then harnessed that confusion for his own advantage before his struggles to deal with physical reality ended in tragedy. It’s a tale that is told expertly in Liam O’Rourke’s biography, a work that not only covers a subject that suits detailed examination but avoids many of the stumbling blocks of many similar books. At one extreme you have bios that are too light on detail, relying on broad strokes with little insight. At the other you have books where the author has clearly put immense work into research but lacked the self-discipline or self-awareness to edit down so that only relevant information is included – instead almost trying to prove they’ve put in the effort. That’s not to say Crazy Like A Fox lacks research: quite the opposite. It’s packed with detail, with many revelations that were fresh even to this seasoned grappling obsessive (on the very first page we learn Pillman was half-Welsh), but every tidbit advances the story and…

Puroresu Tourism: Vacation in Japan to Watch Pro Wrestling by Craig Mann
Review / December 4, 2019

While there’s some useful information in this, it doesn’t really justify the steep cover price. The book combines some factual details for would-be wrestling visitors to Japan with a personal recollection as an introduction, some interviews with people who’ve seen wrestling in Japan, and brief overview histories of the major Japanese promotions. The opening account of being at a show at Korakuen Hall is extremely atmospheric and more along these lines would have been interesting to read. Unfortunately the interviews and histories don’t really add much and feel a little like padding. The meat of the book is listings and details for venues and facilities. The most useful section lists a wide range of wrestling stores plus bars and restaurants that either have a wrestling theme or are owned or staffed by wrestlers, along with a map of the Tokyo Dome area. Another highlight is two sections of useful Japanese phrases, one relating to buying tickets and choosing seats and the other covering train travel. There’s also a section on Osaka that may be useful to those travelling further afield. Other listings and information sections aren’t as useful. The guide to buying tickets doesn’t give any real specifics that can’t…

Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Womens Wrestling by Pat Laprade & Dan Murphy
Review / December 3, 2019

With the Diva’s Revolution in full effect, it’s certainly an appropriate time to look back at the history of female grappling. But while undoubtedly well-written and comprehensive in scope, the format of this book can often be frustrating. The strength is the wide range of the book, giving due attention to various eras of female grappling from the pioneer years to the Fabulous Moolah era, the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling connection days, the Diva period and the modern day, along with separate looks at Japan, the rest of the world and the independent scene. As with Laprade’s Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screwjobs, which covered wrestling’s rich heritage in Montreal, the writing flows well, with quotes taken from a wide range of sources; it’s clear the writers have not skimped on effort or research. The main problem is that rather than a broad chronological or thematic history, it’s presented as a series of profiles of female wrestlers, verging on encyclopaedic format. This brings several disadvantages. One is that the wider story of women’s wrestling’s evolution is somewhat erratically told. In particular, there’ll often be a teasing reference to an incident or event (such as the first women’s match in New York) that’s…

WWF Wrestling: The Official Book by Edward R Ricciuti
Review / December 2, 2019

While something of a cash-in on the early 90s craze, this 1992 UK release has a little more depth than most such official titles. It’s much the format you’d expect, a 160-large pages, full colour affair with a few dozen profiles of wrestlers and managers, largely featuring their character and storylines in 1991-2 rather than a full recap of their WWF careers. There are also sections on popular moves and the big four pay-per-views, all illustrated with good quality pics. There’s something a little bit different towards the end of the book with looks at WWF’s tours and popularity in Europe and Japan, Hulk Hogan’s movies, WWF television shows and the various merchandise, magazines and home video releases. It’s not exactly the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, but it’s a change to see such explicit acknowledgement of the promotion’s business activities. It’s by no means a must-read, but makes for a fun bit of nostalgia if you see it at a reasonable price. Buy on Amazon