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…

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…

Release Schedule (4 December)
Release Schedule , Uncategorized / December 4, 2019

(Dates are US releases and may vary elsewhere.) 5 December: Professional Wrestling and the Commercial Stage (Routledge Advances in Theatre & Performance Studies) by Eero Laine 24 January 2020: New Jack: Memoir of a Pro Wrestling Extremist by New Jack 28 January: Smackdown Town by Max Nicoll & Matt Smith 6 February: Maximilian and the Curse of the Fallen Angel (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures) by Xavier Garza 17 February: Professional Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle, Second Edition by Sharon Mazer 17 March: WWE Beyond Extreme by Dean Miller 31 March: Under the Black Hat: My Life in the Wwe and Beyond by Jim Ross 28 April: The Eighth Wonder of the World: The True Story of André the Giant by Bertrand Hebert & Pat Laprade 19 May: WWE Kicking Down Doors: Female Superstars Are Ruling the Ring and Changing the Game!

Countdown to Lockdown by Mick Foley
Review , Uncategorized / November 22, 2019

This is a decent 100-page book. Unfortunately it’s 300 pages long. This is Foley’s fourth volume of memoirs and as with Chris Jericho’s No Is A Four Letter Word there’s an obvious limitation with covering an ever decreasing time period with each instalment. Foley’s third book tackled this by going in-depth on a specific short period, namely the build-up to his appearance at One Night Stand in 2006. Jericho’s last book abandoned chronology altogether and became a series of stories loosely tied together with a self-help theme. Countdown to Lockdown merges the two approaches with chapters alternating between a diary of Foley’s thoughts and approach in the build-up to a TNA match with Sting and almost random stories. It’s clear Foley was concerned about the approach being seen as padding as each “non-diary” chapter begins with an almost passive-aggressive “meter” rating how much wrestling content it contains. The problem isn’t that some parts of the book move away from wrestling, it’s that there’s very little focus. It’s not just that some chapters are “off-topic” but regardless of what the supposed subject is, the writing regularly goes off into tangents and tangents of tangents that hold little relevance. As with Foley’s…

The Toughest Man Alive by Gene LeBell
Review , Uncategorized / November 8, 2019

While wildly entertaining, this comes with a recommendation that carries a disclaimer. While LeBell may be best known to modern fans as the cornerman of Ronda Rousey, if you’re an avid viewer of any US drama of the 1970s or 1980s, you’ve probably seen him before and never realised. A former pro wrestler and stuntman, he was a regular in Hollywood and as a result virtually every show which did a wrestling themed episode would film at the Olympic Auditorium and use LeBell as both the stunt arranger and an on-screen referee. The book is filled with stories from all elements of LeBell’s life, both as a performer and a competitor who was among those who explored the relative merits of martial arts in a real combat situation long before the initials UFC or MMA were ever heard. Exactly how honest the book is is difficult to tell. There’s plenty that sounds outlandish but is verifiable, but at the same time the suggestion that Andre the Giant fought Joe Bugner (rather than Chuck Wepner) at Shea Stadium is a signal that at the least LeBell’s memories shouldn’t be taken as gospel.  The book comes with an intriguing backstory. It was…

Stephanie McMahon Autobiography Back On The Books
News , Uncategorized / November 4, 2019

After a previously abandoned book titled “Ladyballs”, Stephanie McMahon once again has an autobiography on the schedule, this time set for August 2020 and titled UNREAL: Inside the Crazy, Fun Show Business World of WWE An entertaining, empowering and revealing memoir packed with never-before-told stories from Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of Vince McMahon, wife of Paul “Triple H” Levesque, and the Chief Brand Officer of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), one of the most powerful brands in entertainment today. In the ring as one half of the powerful “Authority,” Stephanie McMahon’s on-screen life is full of drama, villains, heroes, romance and scandal. However, Stephanie’s on-screen life pales in comparison to the real story of the family behind the global entertainment powerhouse WWE. This revealing memoir exposes her life growing up behind the scenes in WWE as the daughter of WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. It also uncovers the secrets of her tumultuous romance with her husband Triple H, the frightening FBI investigation that threatened her family, and the reasons Stephanie rose above the rest to become the company’s global brand ambassador. Stephanie shares never-before-told stories of what it was like growing up in the shadow of the ring, and of…

To Be The Man by Ric Flair
Review , Uncategorized / October 30, 2019

As a wrestler biography, this is OK. But as a biography of one of the biggest names of his generation, this is a huge letdown. A WWE publication, the content of this book is fine. It’s ghostwritten by WWE’s Keith Elliot Greenberg and edited by wrestling columnist Mark Madden, so for the most part it reads smoothly and is free from obvious lies or exaggeration (with a few exceptions such as the claim to have wrestled Rick Steamboat 2,000 times.) The problem is the scope. The book tries to tell the story of a 30+ year headlining career in fewer pages than were allocated to the autobiography of Lita. While most of the career highlights are covered, there’s not a great deal of depth and few long-time fans will learn much. The formatting works well. Flair’s recollections are interspersed with lengthy quotes from other sources, giving a more rounded view. The writers have also erred towards putting in extra detail and context at the expense of staying true to Flair’s voice. One potential downside is that the book does come across as biased towards WWE’s head personnel and against WCW management. That may very well reflect Flair’s true opinions, but…

Release Schedule (30 October)
Release Schedule , Uncategorized / October 30, 2019

5 November: WWE: Then Now Forever Vol. 4 by Dennis Hopeless and Brent Schoonover 22 November: Wrestling in Britain: Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences by Benjamin Litherland 26 November: Mayor Kane: My Life in Wrestling and Liberty by Glenn Jacobs 29 November: GLOW: Vs The Star Primas by Tini Howard 1 December: #WWE: Professional Wrestling in the Digital Age (The Year’s Work) 4 December: Professional Wrestling and the Commercial Stage (Routledge Advances in Theatre & Performance Studies) by Eero Laine 28 January 2020: Smackdown Town by Max Nicoll & Matt Smith 6 February: Maximilian and the Curse of the Fallen Angel (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures) by Xavier Garza 17 February: Professional Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle, Second Edition by Sharon Mazer 17 March: WWE Beyond Extreme by Dean Miller 31 March: Under the Black Hat: My Life in the Wwe and Beyond by Jim Ross 3 April: New Jack: Memoir of a Pro Wrestling Extremist by New Jack (This is still listed as a 30 October 2019 release in the UK.) 28 April: The Eighth Wonder of the World: The True Story of André the Giant by Bertrand Hebert & Pat Laprade 19 May: WWE Kicking Down Doors: Female Superstars Are…

Killer Pics by Walter Kowalski
Review , Uncategorized / September 6, 2019

The gimmick of this being a photography book by Killer Kowalski is not enough to make it worth seeking out. After a brief background piece on Kowalski’s interest in photography, the book goes straight into 36 pages of portrait of wrestlers, a mixed bag from superstars like Andre the Giant and Bruno Sammartino to lesser-known performers like Moose Monroe and the Pink Assassin. The problem is that the pics are all very samey: posed portrait shots of the wrestler against a white background, with only a few capturing the wrestler’s character or gimmick. The rest of the book is non-wrestling material, split into the western world, eastern world (from Kowalski’s trips to Asia) and nature. I can’t profess to be a photography expert, but while the shots all seem technically competent, there was nothing that stood out as an image I’d want to return to again. At best this would be a nice novelty for somebody who wanted to collect relatively rare wrestling titles, but given the prices it goes for today, it’s impossible to recommend even in that context. Buy on Amazon

Main Event by Roberta Morgan
Review , Uncategorized / August 29, 2019

Published in 1979, this used to be one of the regular results when, in a pre-Internet age, you’d sheepishly ask bookshop owners to search their catalogues for “wrestling.” That’s no longer the case and thus this is no longer a must-read. It’s a fairly standard format with brief sections on promoters, match types and wrestling histories, but the bulk of the book being profiles of wrestlers of the day. It’s clear the author set out to try to put the profiles together in a similar way to “legitimate” sports coverage and has included detailed quotes from most of those covered. The drawback is that either Morgan has made the quotes up in the style of certain wrestling publications of the era, or that the wrestlers she interviewed remain entirely in character. Either way, there’s little insight for modern readers. Perhaps the most amusing part of the book is discussing the formation of the NWA, with Morgan (or at least the promoters she spoke to) arguing that the territorial system was needed because promoters running in other promoter’s territories was “a form of unfair competition with other promoters who were then not able to get wrestlers in their own areas.” Oddly…