Long Bomb by Brett Forrest
Review / August 30, 2019

This isn’t strictly a wrestling book, but it does detail the biggest financial bloodbath any wrestling promoter has ever suffered. It’s the story of the XFL (perhaps tellingly, the X stood for nothing at all), the joint venture by the WWF and NBC to run a springtime football league. As with so many other challengers to the NFL, it bit the dust, but did so quite spectacularly. Folding after just one season it lost a reported $70 million after taxes, split between the two sides. Indeed, it was such a disaster that Vince McMahon’s company managed to lose money during the financial year when its wrestling business was strongest, averaging a ridiculous 531,000 buys for every pay-per-view show. Long Bomb is an unauthorized account of the XFL’s brief history: though receiving no assistance from WWF or NBC, author Bret Forrest interviewed numerous sources, most notably the players of the Las Vegas Outlaws team. He has an engaging and lively style, but still covers all the bases in telling the story. In particular, the book makes clear that the league was by no means dead on arrival. It’s debut broadcast did a 9.5 rating, double what the league had targeted when selling…

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…

Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped the World of Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Bertrand Hebert
Review / August 28, 2019

Mention Montreal to a modern wrestling fan and the chances are the first thing they think of is “screwjob” – as in the 1997 Survivor Series. But not only was the Bret Hart-Shawn Michaels incident far from the only noteworthy moment in Quebec wrestling history, it wasn’t even the first Montreal screwjob. Back in 1931, Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis was defending his version of the world title in the city against Henri DeGlane. Lewis lost the match and his title by disqualification after DeGlane revealed bitemarks. However, most accounts suggest the marks were actually inflicted in DeGlane’s locker room during a break between falls and were a deliberate scam to relieve Lewis of the belt, contrary to the planned finish. As Mad Dogs… recounts, Montreal is arguably among the most undersung territories historically. Fifteen times the city has played host to the biggest wrestling crowd of the year across the entire planet. As late as 1985 the local promotion drew 21,500 for a show headlined by a heated feud pitting brothers Jacques & Raymond Rougeau against “brothers” Ronnie and Jimmy Garvin. The book itself is more of an encyclopaedia format than a straight historical narrative. There are brief overviews of the…

Missy Hyatt: First Lady of Wrestling by Missy Hyatt
Review / August 27, 2019

This is an entertaining enough read, albeit on the short side and with much more emphasis on Missy’s romantic encounters than on her insight into the wrestling business. However, Missy herself says she was unhappy with the book, which was ghostwritten, a process she believes means it’s not a full and accurate account of her life and career. She’s working on a second book which she will have written entirely herself and based on her contributions to my articles for Fighting Spirit Magazine I suspect this will be one well worth looking out for, and surprisingly insightful and perceptive. Buy on Amazon

More Than Just Hardcore by Terry Funk
Review / August 26, 2019

Any serious wrestling fan would likely love a chance to spend a few hours to Terry Funk telling stories. This is the closest thing to doing so. Ghost writer Scott Williams does a great job of capturing Funk’s distinctive tone of voice while still making for a clear flow of sentences. It comes across very much as a collection of anecdotes that have been shaped into a relatively logical order. It most definitely is not a comprehensive chronological account of Funk’s entire career. It’s not quite as brief as the 242-page count might seem — the text is relatively small with no visual padding — but it could never begin to come close to a complete history. If you’re hoping to dip into it to find Funk’s recollections of a specific incident, you may be out of luck, but he covers most of the key moments. Instead the real treats come when the story goes off track and Funk shares his insight into a particular wrestler, booking style or tricks of the trade. That gives it a very personable feel, helped by the fact that Funk is almost relentlessly positive and doesn’t give the impression of wanting to settle scores. While this isn’t…

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…

My Life in Wrestling by Gary Hart
Review / August 22, 2019

When the index to a book takes up 25 pages, you know it’s going to be detailed. While it’s reputation may have been boosted a little by its irritating rarity, Gary Hart’s tale remains one of the top tier books on pro wrestling. In its simplest terms, it’s an account of a wide-ranging career taking in wrestling, managing and booking in multiple territories, most notably in Florida and World Class. The breadth of Hart’s time in and around the ring would have made this worth investigating even if it were merely a dry chronological recollection of events such as Dusty Rhodes’s babyface turn or the Kerry Von Erich-Ric Flair cage match. The book feels comprehensive and you’ll struggle to find a significant moment in Hart’s career that isn’t addressed. What makes the book stand out, however, is the depth. It almost serves as an educational guide into what works in the wrestling industry, with Hart clearly on a mission to share his knowledge and experiences. He doesn’t merely recall what happened with a particular match or angle, but also his reasoning at the time and, just as importantly, how that decision turned out and what lessons he learned. He also manages to…

National Wrestling Alliance by Tim Hornbaker
Review / August 21, 2019

This is a great historical study that was sorely in need of an editor. Covering the history of the Alliance — and by default the US wrestling business as a whole — from its origins in the 1940s  through to the 1970s, with some brief coverage of later events, what really stands out here is the detail. Hornbaker has clearly worked tirelessly to track down documentary evidence rather than rely on the opinions and memories of those involved. Key to the book is the consent decree, a 1956 agreement between the NWA and the Department of Justice that was designed to settle allegations that the group acted as an unlawful cartel. The files relating to this agreement were made partially public following legal action by Jim Wilson for the book Chokehold, but Hornbaker was able to get access to thousands more pages through freedom of information laws. This allows him to cover the activities of the various promotion in extensive detail. The downside is that the sheer level of detail is overwhelming and leads to a dry narrative at times. It appears Hornbaker has fallen into the trap (with which I can personally sympathise) of being reluctant to leave out any of…

No Is A Four Letter Word by Chris Jericho
Review / August 20, 2019

One of the big perils of successful career autobiographies — as seen with Mick Foley — is that subsequent volumes cover a shorter and shorter period and require more padding out of concentration on trivial detail. Chris Jericho has presumably tried to avoid this with his fourth book, which is presented not as a chronological sequel but rather a self-help motivational title. Such an approach can work, as shown in Bobby Heenan’s follow-up to his original career autobiography. Here, though, it falls flat. The book follows a consistent pattern in each of its 20 chapters: Jericho introduces a generic platitude (most of which come down to “work hard and believe in yourself), then recounts some incidents from his life that relate to it with varying degrees of relevance. This usually fails in two separate ways. One is that the connections are usually strained at best. For example, “don’t take no for an answer” is illustrated by an incident when he was late for an airport check-in, resigned himself to waiting for the next flight, then was recognised as a TV star by a staff member who spontaneously offered to bend the rules. The incident neither proves the point, nor has much use…

Life Is Short And So Am I by Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl with Ross Owen Williams
Review / August 20, 2019

A Hornwsoggle autobiography might not seem the most obviously engaging title, but it could be the sleeper surprise of 2019. While the book does address Postl’s height and medical condition, it’s very much not a cliched story of “triumph over tragedy”. Instead most of the detail on the subject is about the practicalities of his lack of height such as the fact he can drive a car without any problems but would likely be endangered rather than helped were his airbag to deploy. Wrestling makes up the bulk of the book and in turn his WWE stint makes up the bulk of his career. It’s a great insight into the pros and cons of a WWE run, with a few added twists such as spending many hours under the ring during live events and TV shows. The book is ghostwritten by Ross Williams and as with his previous collaborations with Bob Holly and Al Snow, it feels honestly told rather than a deliberate attempt to either maintain good relations or settle old scores. There’s plenty of acknowledgement of the opportunities and fortune of travelling the country and being a TV star, but also the frustration at an impenetrable creative process…