The Cowboy And The Cross by Bill Watts and Scott Williams
Review / November 29, 2019

Ghostwriting means turning a subject’s recollection into a coherent narrative. Sometimes it’s a seamless process. But sometimes it’s clearly a struggle. The Cowboy And The Cross isn’t an unclear or rambling book by any means, but it gives the distinct impression of a tussle between Watts wanting to let rip on the subjects of his choice and Williams wanting to produce a narrative that would appeal to the likely audience. If you don’t want to know Watts’s views — expressed at length — on religion or political correctness, you’ll be disappointed by sections of this book. But at the same time, there’s plenty of insight into his wrestling experiences and philosophies, including his booking skills learned at the hands of Roy Shire and Eddie Graham among others. While the chronology and verifiable facts appear to be correct, it feels as if Williams chose to let Watts give his account on matters of opinion rather than fact. As a result, it’s a book very much in Watts’s authentic voice, complete with little indication that he ever made poor decisions or was proven wrong. It’s still an informative read however, and should be particularly valuable for those willing to learn lessons and…

When Wrestling Was Real (volume 1) by Paul ‘The Butcher’ Vachon
Review / November 28, 2019

One of the more underrated wrestling books out there, this is sadly difficult to track down.  This isn’t to be confused with Wrestling with the Past: Life In and Out of the Ring, a 2012 single volume autobiography from Vachon which (based on the opening chapter at least) is not as good. Instead this is the first of a three volume set self-published by Vachon in the early 2000s and sold by mail order and in person at conventions. It mainly covers his early pro years across Canadian territories and then travelling around Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and India. As much as this covers his in-ring activities, it’s also a genuinely entertaining travel tale as he attempts to scrape together enough cash to take he and his family back home. During this time he does everything from work as a singer in Lahore and hang out with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to spend New Year’s Eve on a perilous drive from Montreal to Calgary and operating full touring shows with just two men and two women to cover the wrestling, refereeing and box office. There’s also the tale of the Great Antonio falling for the infamous Mabel….

Wrestle Radio USA Grapplers Speak by Ed Symkus and Vinnie Carolan
Review / November 27, 2019

Somewhat outdated in the Internet age, this is a collection of transcripts of radio interviews with wrestlers between 1993 and 1996. There’s a combination of big names like Ric Flair and Rick Steamboat and future superstars in the early part of their career such as Triple H in his Jean Paul Levesque days. For the most part the interviewees don’t explicitly break kayfabe, but neither do they insult anyone’s intelligence and it’s easy to read between the lines where necessary, while there’s plenty of behind the scenes talk. The main drawback is that many of the interviews are relatively brief and there are plenty of one-line replies that don’t get followed up on. These are very much time-restricted radio segments rather than the type of in-depth talk that’s more commonplace in today’s shoot interview era. It’s an interesting enough read and the anthology format keeps things moving, but the novelty of wrestlers being interviewed outside of a storyline setting is long gone, so this isn’t something to go out of your way to track down today. Buy on Amazon

Ask Him Again Ref! by Dale Storm
Review / November 26, 2019

More of a conversation than an autobiography, this is still an interesting insight into some of the more under-covered elements of the British wrestling business. Storm was a Scottish wrestler who divided his time between Joint Promotions and the independent circuit, two factors which meant he didn’t have television exposure or national attention. However, he did have a lengthy career working with some top stars and in a way his status lends to the appeal of the book. It appears to have been adapted from an initial draft as a stage or screenplay and is presented in the form of a fictionalised conversation with a journalist set in 1984. It’s a device that’s sometimes a little strained: the Storm of 1984 has some remarkable foresight at times, while the conversation seems exceptionally long. That said, it does allow Storm to cover many elements of his career and experiences in wrestling without having to group it by theme or chronologically, and it certainly conveys what it must be like to listen to him holding court. Some parts of the story are specific to the Scottish scene, particularly the independents in more remote venues. However, there’s also some fascinating insight into the…

Shake, Wrestle ‘n’ Roll by Adrian Street
Review / November 25, 2019

As a collectable item this is as quirky as ever. As a novel, it’s now a victim of the fact that truth is stranger than fiction. We’ve previously covered <a href=”“>Street’s comprehensive series of autobiographies</a> which are full of some genuinely amazing tales of life in and out of the ring. This forerunner was published back in 1987 and is instead a semi-autobiographical work of fiction produced as part of Street’s barrage of merchandising with music videos, albums and other paraphernalia during his US run. Appropriately enough the book is printed on pink paper. Most of the story is based on the Street character bridging the worlds of wrestling and music with themes that will be familiar to those who’ve seen the movies Body Slam or Grunt. Indeed, the back cover notes Street had a screenplay of the same title, as well as releasing an <a href=””>album that’s still available to download</a>. However, while it’s largely fiction, readers of Street’s autobiographies will recognise a few elements of reality such as the story of his entry into the business in England which is not far removed from reality. There are also a few nice touches such as an undercard wrestler performing…

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…

Inside the Lion’s Den by Ken Shamrock and Richard Hanner
Review / November 21, 2019

Inside The Lion’s Den, released in 1998, is written in two sections. The first 123 pages are a look at Ken Shamrock’s life and no-holds barred career, while the remaining 78 sides give instruction in the Lion’s Den fighting techniques. To the pro wrestling audience, it is the former section that will prove more interesting. In September 1993, Richard Hanner, a Stockton, California newspaper reporter, was sent to cover local submission fighter Ken Shamrock’s participation in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. He found the assignment so captivating that he went on to follow Shamrock from match to match, while researching his background. The result is the biographical portion of Inside The Lion’s Den. The book describes Shamrock’s upbringing, including his days on the street, living in abandoned cars, spells in prison, and his adoption by Bob Shamrock It then follows his no-holds barred fighting, including the creation of Pancrase, and the success of UFC, along with its controversies. There’s even a brief account on Shamrock’s little known spell as a table-top dancer. Of particular interest to pro wrestling fans will be the brief account of his days in the South Atlantic Pro Wrestling group as Vince Torelli, along with the…

Wrestlecrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling by RD Reynolds & Randy Baer
Review / November 20, 2019

An attempt to give added value in this book falls short, meaning its most appreciative audience may be limited. The book stems from a hugely popular site of the same name that regularly posts short articles about some of the more ridiculous gimmicks and storylines in wrestling history, from the Shockmaster to Katy Vick and from the Ultimate Warrior’s mirror magic to Evad Navillus’s rabbit. It would have been easy to simply pick out a couple of hundred of the standout entries, slap them together with a gimmick (perhaps a Top Trumps style ranking of their various demerits) and make the type of comedic book that you get as a Christmas present and dip in and out of. While in some ways its admirable the authors tried not to use this approach, possibly for fear of seeming like a cash-in, their efforts don’t really work. Instead they use the original source material to put together a narrative that’s divided into largely chronological-ordered chapters such as one on the WCW mini-movie era. In trying to be both coherent and complete, the account loses some of the charm of the original website. It means there’s a lot of content that, while necessary to…

The Death of WCW by RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez
Review / November 19, 2019

For a tale that would make you cry if you didn’t laugh, this book blends its authors’ voices for a particularly apt tone. Even 15 years later, the speed of the decline of WCW remains easy to underestimate. In 1998 it became the most profitable wrestling company in the history of the business. In March 1999 a Hulk Hogan vs Ric Fair match attracted 325,000 buys; the same bout in March 2000 drew just 60,000, while house show attendance collapsed at a similar rate. In March 2001 the company sold for just a few million dollars. Just how this happened is detailed at length in a book that divides its focus between the big picture of the business, addressed mainly by Bryan Alvarez, and the fine detail of the weekly descent into some of the least effective creative ever seen on wrestling programming, detailed by RD Reynolds in the same manner with which he addressed wider WrestleCrap. It’s an effective approach that keeps the book entertaining (if perversely so at times) while informative, bringing home the point that a product so wildly out of kilter with the audience’s tastes was enough to sink a company  that had every advantage imaginable. The only…

Hercules The Bear by Maggie Robin
Review / November 18, 2019

This is at best of tangential interest to wrestling fans but may be an intriguing read for some. Andy Robin was a Scottish amateur and then professional wrestler who made a dozen or so TV appearances but was best known in his native country where he was part of the Eldorado All Stars in the always atmospheric Eldorado Stadium in Edinburgh. The book instead deals with the other element of his fame, the nine-foot tall grizzly bear that he and wife Maggie considered part of the family. There’s very little wrestling content here save for a chapter on Robin wrestling with Hercules highlighted by the bear’s initial refusal to perform while muzzled, a measure that the humans on hand understandably considered a dealbreaker. Instead the book is about the relationship with Hercules and the sheer logistics of dealing with such a huge family member. The highlight is a section that makes up almost a third of the book covering the time Hercules — who like other grizzlies was a competent swimmer — went missing in the Hebrides for over a week. Buy on Amazon