Wrestling’s 101 Strangest Matches by Oliver Hurley
Review / April 30, 2019

This is along the lines of similar books on unusual incidents in sports like football, cricket or golf, but being the outlandish world of pro wrestling there’s a lot more barbed wire and hypnotism. The book is divided into loose sections covering the likes of doublecrosses, unusual locations, crazy stipulations and unpredictable events. Many, from the Funk-Lawler empty arena match to New Jack and Eric Kulas will be familiar to long-time fans, but you’d have to be a pretty dedicated fan to already know about every match covered here. The pioneers section in particular doesn’t just cover the ‘obvious’ choices like Stecher and Lewis going five hours, but has some lesser-known incidents such as Gorgeous George escaping a ring in a rowing boat. Pedantic readers might take issue with the occasionally stretched definition of “strange” with entries include Sid Vicious vs Nightstalker (listed solely for being awful) and Tom Magee vs Bret Hart (listed solely for appearing to be good) but these are interesting nonetheless. In describing each bout in some detail, Hurley achieves a couple of impressive balances: adding levity without descending into snarkiness, and explaining things in a way that would illuminate even a non-wrestling fan without patronising…

Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia Gets Six-Issue Deal
News / April 30, 2019

Last year I reviewed the initial instalment of a planned graphic novel series Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia. (I’ve copied the recovered text from that review below.) The publishers have now announced the series has been picked up by Starburns Industries Press. There’ll be six monthly issues in digital format, which will then be gathered together as a paperback. Here’s the blurb: INVASION FROM PLANET WRESTLETOPIA Script: Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin (Lumberjack Man) Art: Dan Schkade (The Spirit), Kendall Goode (WWE) Color: Marissa Louise (Hex Wives) Letters: A Larger World (Ninja•K)   Creators Ed Kuehnel and Matt Entin bring their cult classic to SBI Press, where the story will be completed for the first time! “Boy Scout” Bob Schultz! Cousin Orville! Mini Macho! Kodiak Jack! Spanish Rose! Don Fong Wong! These are the megastars of 1984’s AWF. “Rock ’n’ Roll” Rory Landell isn’t getting the respect he thinks he deserves, so one crazy night he ups the game, declaring himself the Galactic Champion of the Universe. But it turns out AWF fans aren’t the only ones listening, and the denizens of planet Wrestletopia aren’t going to take a challenge like that sitting down! Soon the Earth is enclosed in a…

Wrestling’s Ring Side Seat by Johnny Kincaid
Review / April 29, 2019

This is the self-published story of the former European heavyweight champion best known for his ‘Caribbean Sunshine Boys’ team with Dave ‘Butcher’ Bond. The most striking initial impression is that the book, apparently by design if the foreword is anything to go by, has not been professionally edited. The punctuation is patchy at best, and many of the sentences run on far beyond their natural length. While this is initially distracting, once you adjust to the style (which quite possibly mirrors Kincaid’s natural speech) it doesn’t harm the story-telling. Fortunately this unconventional formatting is strongest during the early portion of the book, which deals with Kincaid’s upbringing in care homes and a spell in a juvenile detention facility. For wrestling fans, the interest level picks up when he first attends a show and is driven home with Earl Maynard, accompanied by a gorgeous woman, though at this stage Kincaid is discouraged from entering the business. Instead he finds work assembling rides at a travelling fairground (equivalent to a US carnival) before taking work on the boxing booth where his wages would be docked if a challenger from the audience ever lasted three rounds. Eventually he doubles-up as a wrestler on…

Bobby The Brain by Bobby Heenan
Review / April 26, 2019

While you might expect this to be a fantastic book given the author, it’s not only merely decent, but it isn’t Heenan’s best book. Written with former PWI staffer Steve Anderson, the book is pretty slim at 192 pages of very large type. It’s a slightly unconventional format as the first 100 pages or so are a chronological recollection organised into logical chapters, while the rest is based around themes such as the territories, celebrities and dealing with fans. There’s very little depth in the book, though as expected a great deal of dry humour. It’s also got a lot of single-sentence paragraphs which are presumably meant to serve as punchlines or emphasise a point, but have the effect of making the writing very brusque at times. It comes across as an attempt by Anderson to capture the sharp wit of Heenan, but the voice doesn’t feel authentic to his more familiar style of longer sentences and going into detail like he did in promos and announcing. This isn’t to say the book is worthless — there’s a lot of coverage given to Heenan’s wrestling and managing career before the prime years in WWF for which he is best known. There’s…

Brisco by Jack Brisco & William Murdock
Review / April 25, 2019

While not everyone will find the entirety of this ghostwritten autobiography interesting, it’s a must for people with an interest in the territorial era. It’s a worthwhile story from a wrestler who was once at the very top of the business and then walked away right as the WWF was beginning its national expansion, making him one of the few wrestlers to quit while still healthy and able to perform at a strong level. The manner of his departure — simply turning around while changing flights and heading on the first plane back to Florida — is addressed here. The first 50 pages or so cover Brisco’s amateur career, culminating in the NCAA championship. This section is a little dry and may struggle to hold the interest of those who don’t follow amateur wrestling closely, but its well worth persevering. What really makes the book is Brisco’s account of his time as NWA champion. Rather than merely recount dates and opponents, he goes into great detail about the pros and cons of working the schedule — making great money, but rarely being home. His recollections of the sharp contrast of leaving the ring after a main event only to be…

Brody by Larry Matysik & Barbara Goodish
Review / April 24, 2019

The story of Bruiser Brody would always be a fascinating one, but it’s the format that makes this book a particular success. It’s a blend of biography and autobiography, with chapters alternating between close friend Larry Matysik recalling Brody’s in-ring career and widow Barbara Goodish talking about his personal life. The approach works particularly well given the contrast between the crazed brawler and the intelligent family man. The writers also make what turns out to be a smart decision in opening the book with Brody’s death before returning to a more chronologically conventional approach. It comes across as both a recognition of how unavoidably significant his death at the hands of a fellow wrestler was, and a way to avoid the book ending on a downbeat note. In terms of pure facts such as dates and events, the book is hard to criticise as Matysik was a meticulous record keeper. He also encompasses a wide range of recollections from Brody’s peers rather than relying solely on personal memories. One limitation is that the book somewhat downplays Brody’s stubbornness/self-preservation when it came to negotiating finishes, holding up promoters and even no-showing events. While the subject is addressed, there’s little exploration of…

Nitro by Guy Evans
Review / April 23, 2019

This is a remarkable and unique book despite not being the comprehensive WCW history you might imagine on first glance. The key selling point (beyond the sheer length at 500+ pages) is the intensive research through interviews and in turn access to documentation. While some key on-camera figures such as Eric Bischoff, Kevin Nash, Vince Russo and Kevin Sullivan are among the subjects, the fresh angle here is interviews with people working behind the scenes in production and management, particularly from TBS. The result is a book that is not so much a history of WCW the wrestling promotion, but rather the business structure in which both its triumphs and insanity was able to thrive. It’s certainly a crutch for some involved in the creative process to blame all their failings on the corporate politics, but the book does set out some of the examples of how so many things spiralled out of control. A notable element of the interviews can be read as a strength or weakness depending on your perspective. For the most part quotes and claims from participants are left unchallenged. Where claims are in doubt it’s more a case of presenting contradictory quotes from two different…

Broken Harts: The Life and Death of Owen Hart by Martha Hart
Review / April 22, 2019

This is a book every wrestling fan should read once. It’s also a book few will bring themselves to read a second time. This is not a traditional wrestling biography as it features virtually nothing about Owen Hart’s in-ring career, save to acknowledge the respect his abilities had earned within the industry. Instead it’s a very personal account by his widow Martha of their life together, the stresses of his being on the road, and the experience and aftermath of his tragic death in 1999 when he fell from the rafters of the Kemper Arena in Kansas City. The book details the circumstances of Hart’s death and lays bare that, while most definitely an accident, it was most certainly avoidable. The very nature of his planned ring entrance, in which he would fall from a zip wire a few feet from the ring, fatally reduce the basic safety levels that should have been expected for such a descent. In detailing the resulting legal battles and the turmoil it caused the extended Hart family, the book fully explores the process by which Owen Hart was fitted with a quick-release harness against the advice of experts in the field. The standout section of the book…

Can You Take The Heat? The WWF Is Cooking: By Jim Ross
Review / April 19, 2019

This concoction has a nasty aftertaste of cash-in. It’s doubtful whether it’s possible to produce a good wrestling-themed cookbook, but this certainly isn’t one. It’s nothing more than a bunch of very basic, unappetising recipes which appear to have been randomly assigned to wrestlers with little pretense the superstar in question either cooks or eats the meal. The unlucky buyer will learn how to make Stone Cold’s Cinnamon Ice Cream, Mideon’s Minestone Soup and Dean Malenko’s Beef Stroganoff among others. Less than half a dozen seem to be in anyway connected to the character and — Big Bossman’s Pepper Steak aside — most of those are nothing but references to genitalia. The culinary advice isn’t much better. You’ll learn such sophisticated recipes as making Kahlua coffee by adding Kahlua to coffee. You’ll also encounter perhaps the vilest sounding meal of all times, Scotty Too Hotty’s Too Cool Orange salad, a mix of cottage cheese, pineapple, whipped cream and  powdered gelatine. To drive home how lazy and cheap the book is, the only pictures of food are to be found on the front cover and instead you’ll find around half the page count to be made up of low-resolution black and white…

Championship Wrestling by George Napolitano
Review / April 18, 2019

This is a good example of the type of books that were available before the boom inspired by the success of Have A Nice Day and the growth of self-publishing and eReaders. It’s a 112-page collection of pictures by George Napolitano, arguably tied with Bill Apter for the best-known wrestling photographer of his era. There is a fair bit of accompanying text, though nothing with any real insight and it’s mainly made up of kayfabe capsule profiles. The pics themselves are great quality as you’d expect, and include some offbeat shots such as the Ultimate Warrior in shades, Doom in tuxedos, Road Warrior Hawk applying his make-up. Altogether though, it’s really something you’d only want to buy if you wanted to get your hands on every wrestling book going, something that was both achievable and understandable at the time of its 1991 release, but not really necessary or viable for most people today. You can get it second hand for pennies, however, so it may be worth looking out for if you’re a collector or completist. Buy on Amazon