The WWE Championship by Kevin Sullivan
Review / May 31, 2019

If you’re reading this blog, the chances are that reading this book will be reminiscent of a Sean O’Haire promo. This official WWE release is billed as the story of the men who held the title up till 2010. The acknowledgement section mentions carrying out some fresh interviews, but the majority of the quotes appear to come from the full range of WWE official autobiographies and the feel is very much of a compilation. While the book is fairly comprehensive, including for example the controversial Antonio Inoki reign, it’s biggest weakness is a confusing attitude to kayfabe. For the most part wrestling is treated as legitimate but also a business; Vince McMahon hires Hulk Hogan because he can draw fans, but Hogan wins the title match on his own merits. While such an approach might have worked had it been kept consistently, it falls apart at stages, for example in the Montreal section where it suddenly appears Bret Hart is somehow at fault for refusing to take a dive. Throw in several quotes at other parts of the book where wrestlers praise their opponent for carrying them to a good match and it becomes more awkward when author Kevin “not…

This Is Wrestling! by George Napolitano
Review / May 30, 2019

If you’ve read my review of Championship Wrestling by Napolitano, you know what to expect here. Sadly this book fails to meet even those limited expectations. It’s the same basic concept — a collection of Napolitano photographs in a coffee-table format book — but looks remarkably like the publishers saw Championship Wrestling and decided to see if they could capitalise with a version that was quicker and cheaper to produce. This runs only 60 pages with just three sections (an intro, the main body and a brief ‘outside the ring’ section). The photos are much blander from an artistic perspective than in Championship Wrestling and several are even somewhat out of focus. The closest thing to an unusual picture is one of Ron Simmons with his wife, while the main attraction for the type of teenage boy who’d buy this (in other words, me) is a shot of Madusa Miceli in a leather dress. That’s not exactly enough to carry a book in the Internet age. Buy on Amazon

Thumbs Up by Joe Cornelius
Review / May 29, 2019

This is a hugely entertaining story of a British wrestler’s career and life, but it’s most definitely not for the easily offended. Cornelius was a successful heavyweight in the 1950s and 60s, working across the UK as well as touring continental Europe and Japan. He went on to act in films and on stage, including being a regular entertainer at the London Palladium. The book doesn’t explicitly break kayfabe, but it’s easy enough to read between the lines when he’s explaining how he would liven up a bout for the benefit of the crowd. It’s the tales outside the ring that really stand out however. His activities in the world of not-entirely-legitimate goods trading are lively and entertaining, while his recollections of sexual antics are eye-raisingly explicit at times. There’s not really enough here for anyone but an enthusiast for the period to go out of their way to read, but if you spot a second-hand copy at at a bargain price, it’s worth a buy. Buy on Amazon

Titan Shattered by James Dixon
Review / May 28, 2019

1996 was a curious year for the World Wrestling Federation: while house show attendance began to rebound and the company returned to profitability, it’s seen as a year of failure thanks to WCW beginning its two-year dominance of Monday night TV ratings. Creatively it was a confusing period, with a move to a more adult, realistic product undermined by cartoonish gimmicks such as TL Hopper and the Goon. These contradictions are covered in depth in Dixon’s sequel to Titan Sinking, his book on the WWF’s 1995. As with that volume, he combines a chronological and thematic approach to explore individual incidents in detail without losing sight of the big picture. Several stylistic shortfalls from the first book have been addressed here. While Dixon has included material from original interviews with the likes of Jim Cornette, JJ Dillon and Tracey Smothers, these are used to illustrate relevant points rather than included solely because they were available. The Dillon comments are particularly interesting as they go further in addressing the steroid testing policy that bore his name than he was able to do in his own excellent autobiography. Dixon also pulls off a better balance of concentrating on the WWF while adding…

Smackdown 20 Years And Counting by Jake Black, Jon Hill and Dean Miller
Review / May 28, 2019

If you’ve read any of the similar WWF titles, most notably WWE RAW: The First 25 Years, you can probably imagine exactly how this book goes. It’s the same format with around eight pages for each year, made up of a couple of dozen one-paragraph entries about matches and angles on the show. You also get the occasional boxout for when a character debuted on the show and a few snippets about happenings on pay-per-views that affected ongoing Smackdown events. As you might expect from a WWE-authorized title, it’s all completely written in storyline mode. With roughly one thing mentioned for every two episodes, the selection does occasionally feel a bit random, though it’s certainly a reminder of just how much content there’s been on the show. The main criticism would be an occasional lack of context where events are taken out of isolation and follow-ups not mentioned. For example, there’s an entry of Chris Jericho announcing he’ll pick a new partner to replace Edge as his tag team championship partner, but readers never find out who this would be. There’s also plenty of photos, though they aren’t always the quality you’d expect from WWE, with a surprising number either…

Wrestling Arcade Book On The Way
News / May 27, 2019

One of the gems of wrestling Twitter is working on a book. Wrestling Arcade’s Twitter feed features 32-bit pixellated animations of classic wrestling moments from Shockmaster to Barber Shop. It’s the same creative force that produced the opening titles for the Being The Elite YouTube series. The animations are now coming out as a stills book titled Pro Wrestling’s Greatest Moments – A Pixelated Guide. It won’t be out for some time but pre-orders will start on July 1st. You can sign up for a mailing list at

Titan Sinking by James Dixon
Review / May 27, 2019

Of the 25 years I’ve been following WWE, 1995 was undoubtedly the in-ring lowpoint, when I’d have tapes posted to me from home while away at university only to find myself struggling to make time to see the likes of Sid, Mabel and Tatanka in lead villain roles. It was a period of depression in the company’s product, and one that is detailed in-depth in Titan Sinking. As previously noted here, it’s a major change of pace from Dixon’s previous work on review-based books where snarkiness, humour and opinion where the order of the day. This is a more mature, focused piece of historical writing that not only covers 1995’s tumultuous scenes inside and outside the ring, but brings up details that have previously been little addressed. The research and resulting writing are both excellent, based on a wide range of sources such as “shoot” interviews along with some original research ranging from lengthy conversations with Jim Cornette, Tom Prichard and even the lawyer for Douglas Griffith, the solider who got into an infamous brawl with Shawn Michaels outside of a nightclub, which is explained at length here with information that both boosts and weakens Michaels’ side of the story….

Tonight… In This Very Ring by Scott Keith
Review / May 24, 2019

You know when you’re at a wrestling show and you’re having fun but the experience is spoiled by that one guy OF DOOM behind you who won’t shut up with the smarky insider talk where he keeps going on about people being held down or getting a push or being good workers? And it’s really annoying because he proves that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and it feels like half of what he says is not just factually wrong but reveals his lack of wider understanding, like, ooh, I don’t know, saying Buddy Rogers won the NWA title from Lou Thesz. And half of what he says seems to contradict itself. And the worst part about it is that a bunch of people seem to be hanging on his every word because the fact that he is shouting so loudly FOOLS them into THINKING he must be authoritative. Now imagine that guy was a book. Buy on Amazon

Undisputed by Chris Jericho
Review / May 23, 2019

While this lacks the charm of A Lion’s Tale, it’s entertaining enough and in some ways more insightful. The second volume from Jericho deals with his initial WWE run from 1999 to 2005 and his subsequent break from wrestling before returning in late 2007. That means it doesn’t have the sheer breadth of settings of its predecessor, but it does give it a very focused look at the reality of life behind the scenes in WWE. The big strength is the book’s honesty. It’s not a WWE publication and it feels as if Jericho is giving his genuine recollections and opinions without fear of breaching protocol. It doesn’t descend into bitterness and thus makes for a well-rounded and balanced look at the unconventional workings of the company. For example, there’s plenty of the criticism that you might expect of issues such as the booking of Jericho during his Undisputed title run into WrestleMania (along with a genuinely shocking story about his payoff for the show), but also plenty of self-awareness about his struggles to adjust to the “WWE style.” The book is also particularly strong on giving an insight into Vince McMahon’s strengths, weaknesses and unique character, as well as addressing…

Western Boxing & World Wrestling by John F Gilbey
Review / May 22, 2019

One of those few titles that would reliably show up in book catalogue searches for “wrestling” a couple of decades ago, this holds little interest for pro wrestling fans today. The book splits roughly in two into boxing and wrestling. Much of the latter half is taken up by the legitimate combat styles of places such as Japan, India and Turkey. Despite being written in 1986, the US and UK history is almost entirely about pre-war wrestling. There are brief mentions of familiar names from the pro scene, but these are limited. For example, Bert Assirati is the only British wrestler of any kind mentioned after 1906 and it’s as good as implied that he was the only pro who ever wrestled for real, something that would no doubt be a surprise to the Wigan set among many others. The US section is also far from comprehensive, with some detail on Gotch, Hackenschmidt and Stanislaus Zbyszko. It’s also of dubious accuracy, repeating a supposed claim by Zbyszko that the first ever worked bout was Ed Lewis dropping the world title to Gus Sonnenberg in 1928, a timeline that’s likely several decades out. About the only section of interest even to keen historians…