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…

Modern Wrestling by Jack Curley and Nat Fleischer
Review , Uncategorized / August 23, 2019

Most definitely in the collectors category, this is a good example of wrestling in its era, albeit one that doesn’t lend any real insight into the business itself. It’s the work of Jack Curley, a major boxing and wrestling promoter of the late 19th and early 20th century, responsible for several of the style and rule changes that made pro wrestling more entertaining, and a key part of the original “wrestling trust”, a forerunner to the NWA. Fliescher was editor and creator of Ring Magazine, which originally covered wrestling as well as boxing. The book is an instructional manual with details of how to apply holds and training exercises. It’s written at a time where the only real difference between pro and amateur rules was the three count (the rules listed here don’t mention submissions), so in practice it’s an amateur wrestling manual. There’s also a suggested menu, which sounds good to me: bacon for breakfast, lamb chops for lunch and steak for the evening meal! There are plenty of illustrations, both drawings and photos of stars of the day such as Ed Lewis, Ray Steele and Jim Londos performing holds, both in posed demonstrations and match action shots. It’s…

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 Grapple Manual by Kendo Nagasaki
Uncategorized / June 26, 2019

This is a real Tokimitsu Ishizawa of a book. It’s a small, 80 page affair with capsule profiles, the distinguishing feature being that among the usual Undertaker, Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart, there’s also a collection of British performers such as Mick McManus, Catweazle and Adrian Street. The profiles aren’t badly written, but won’t contain any new detail to readers of this blog. While most of the information such as dates appears accurate, there are some curious timline issues such as the suggestion that in 2005 Ric Flair was regularly working six shows a week and doing 60-minute draws. The book also has a few two-page spreads covering wrestling moves such as the piledriver, clothesline and Big Daddy splash. It’s tough to recommend this as anyone with enough interest to buy it for themselves would likely gain little insight from reading it. It comes across very much as a book aimed at non-wrestling fans trying to find a Christmas or birthday present for relatives they vaguely remember are fans of wrestling. Buy on Amazon

Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Volume 2 by Paul O’Brien
Review , Uncategorized / March 13, 2019

Paul O’Brien’s debut novel, published last year, received high praise: in the pages of FSM we described it as “the first truly professional novel about professional wrestling.” Volume two answers the question of what happened next and does so in a stylish manner. Without spoiling too much of the plot, the new book deals with the immediate fallout of a battle between rival promoters that spilled over from control of the wrestling world championship to a blood feud. After charting the rise of Danno Garland — loosely based on Vince McMahon Sr — to the top of the cutthroat wrestling business, we discover what happens after a shocking event that makes his victory a hollow one. Whereas volume 1 covered a four-year period, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green only advances the storyline by a further seven days. However, large parts of the book involve flashbacks to the timeline of the first volume, revealing previously undocumented events. The technique allows O’Brien to slowly add new context to events with which the reader is already familiar, putting a new spin on things and forcing the reader to rethink how to view particular characters and the choices they make. It’s a format that…