Our Fight: A Memoir by Ronda Rousey
Review / May 14, 2024

Appropriately enough this is a no holds barred view of pro wrestling from an outsider. The first half of this book (Rousey’s second volume of autobiography) covers her final two MMA bouts (both defeats) and the beginnings of her relationship with Travis Browne. It’s largely soul searching and won’t necessarily appear to wrestling fans, though her claims about the long-term effects of her repeated concussions raise some serious questions about medical screening in both UFC and WWE. The second half, covering both her WWE runs, is a notable parallel to the recently released autobiography of fellow WrestleMania main eventer Becky Lynch. While they cover many of the same events, Lynch’s WrestleMania dream was a lifetime obsession built on years doing the grind. Rousey comes to the business late and from a place of obsession. After transferring her legitimate fighting skills to TV drama and movies, she is clearly fascinated by the artform of live dramatic fighting with a 360 degree audience and no retakes. It’s clear that wrestling became the latest in a lifetime of periods dedicated to trying to master a task before moving on with her life. While the story of her adjustment to wrestling is a compelling…

Becky Lynch: The Man: Not Your Average Average Girl by Rebecca Quin
Review / April 17, 2024

Not just an biography, this is a remarkable insight into the psychology and mental element of working as a professional wrestler at every level of the business. Lynch’s career path is an unusual one, grinding on the independent circuit for several years then getting completely out of the business before returning via a WWE tryout and going straight into the new-look developmental system. This comes across in the book as a different perspective of the usual experience of moving from being active on the independent circuit into the “big league”. The biggest theme of the book is the balance and seeming contradiction between the self-doubt that comes with knockbacks and struggling to make an impression with fans and management, and the sheer confidence and drive to be determined to headline WrestleMania despite it seeming a near-impossibility that any woman would ever do so, let alone herself. There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes detail here that confirms many rumors about wrestlers on all sides aiming to preserve their position (including the first appearance of a particularly strong expletive in a WWE-based autobiography), but it’s primarily about Lynch herself. In some ways it resembles Drew Galloway’s decision to focus his book on his thought…

Wrestling Shorts: The Royal Rumble 2000 by Alex Smith-Powell
Review / March 28, 2024

Short but sweet, this may be too brief for some buyers. Lying somewhere between an extremely extended blog post and a very concise book, Amazon estimates a print version of this e-Book only title would be around 30 pages, something that’s important to remember if you’re considering a purchase. Unlike some less reputable titles such AI-generated “biographies”, this is an appropriate length for the subject matter: a detailed look at a single PPV. Rather than simply recapping the moves, this adds some content and background both for individual matches and for the event as a whole, including the perspective of a viewer in the UK where it was the first WWF PPV on broadcast television. It also includes analysis of the matches, concentrating on why particular elements worked rather than simply what happened. (One exception is the Rumble match itself which curiously switches into the present tense and is largely a running commentary.) The book achieves what it sets out to do and certainly doesn’t fall short of its billing. The question is whether that’s enough to justify a purchase, which is a matter where personal opinions mary vary. Read on Amazon. (Affiliate Link) Disclaimer: The author provided a review copy.

Business Is About to Pick Up!: 50 Years of Wrestling in 50 Unforgettable Calls by Jim Ross
Review / March 18, 2024

A third volume of autobiography is always a challenge, but the gimmick here doesn’t really hit. As the likes of Mick Foley and Chris Jericho have shown, later chronological volumes usually prove diminishing returns with too short a period to cover. The alternative is a fresh format, something that works well in some cases (Bobby Heenan) and not so well in others (Jericho again). Here the gimmick is 50 short chapters, each based around an incident in Ross’s career and pegged onto a line of commentary (though in most cases we get multiple occasions.) The big problem is that many of his most important career moments have already been documented in his previous books. What’s left is a combination of chapters making a single point (racial portrayals have progressed in the business), covering less important moments (Jeff Hardy was elevated despite losing to Undertaker) and elements from Ross’s personal life that are sometimes clunkily connected to a match call to fit the format. It’s the last of these categories where the book most often shines, with genuinely touching insights into Ross losing his wife in a tragic car accident, coping with the adjustment to single life, using work as a…

Macho Man: The Untamed, Unbelievable Life of Randy Savage by John Finkel
Review / February 1, 2024

This is a well-researched and often illuminating biography, but for a WWF superstar subject, his time in the promotion is the weakest aspect of the book. This is the closest thing to an authoritative biography of Savage thanks to brother Lanny Poffo being a key source before his own passing. It also brings together quotes from a wide variety of figures both inside and outside the business, usually – though not always – commenting on topics where they have particular knowledge or insight. This research pays off most in the accounts of Savage’s childhood, baseball career and pre-WWF wrestling days. While for those outside North America the cited baseball statistics could have used more explanation and context, there’s plenty on Savage’s motivations and even a rounded account of father Angelo Poffo’s time in the business. The book also has some fresh and intriguing accounts of Savage’s out-of-the-ring activities from the production of his signature ring gear to his time working with Slim Jim, his baseball announcing and his talk show appearances. Unfortunately, the coverage of his in-ring career after joining the WWF brings less insight. That’s partly because there’s little new to tell here and partly because of some inaccuracies….

Wrestling Unmasked: Ripping the Mask off the Crime, Politics and Intrigue Beyond the Ring by WrestleTalk
Review / January 22, 2024

Somewhat a mirror image of its predecessor, this works as an overall collection of articles, even if some pieces feel a little flat. The second compilation from WrestleTalk, this follows The New War: AEW vs WWE. I found that while individual pieces were intriguing, it didn’t necessarily hang together as an overall narrative or history of a time period. The situation is reversed here, with a much broader topic, namely wrestling’s crossover into the real world. Topics include the portrayal of gay and disabled characters, political-based storylines, the Chris Benoit case and the lack of unions in the business. Despite being less directly connected, the book’s themes comes together, turning the compilation format into a strength. The main problem is that many articles have plenty of relevant content, but left me unfulfilled at the end. Too often the writer would provide plenty of examples and incidents on a particular topic but either intentionally avoid making a conclusive argument or unintentionally lack a big picture point. Pieces intended to be thought-provoking often failed to really cut through. Some notable exceptions do lift the book. A piece giving some previously underreported examples of mafia involvement stands out, as does a (perhaps overly)…

Bang Your Head: The Real Story of The Missing Link by Dewey Robertson and Meredith Renwick
Review / October 26, 2023

Something of a mixed bag, this takes a while to get going but provides some useful insight. The ghostwritten format works well when sharing the first-hand accounts of Dewey Robertson, the man behind the gimmick. However, in what could be either an attempt of completeness or a touch of padding out, the book does occasionally fall into extensive lists which are neither informative nor entertaining. Unfortunately this is particularly prevalent in the early stages dealing with Robertson’s early life and local wrestling career before moving out to the territorial circuits. This means readers will need to stick with it to get to the best content. Once into the meat of his career, the book becomes insightful, with Robertson sharp on the way promoters operated, the importance of character development, booking approaches and the realities of varying pay structures. It’s particularly strong on the similarities and differences of various promotions and the realities of their declines. One confusing element is the approach to kayfabe: Robertson is open about how wrestling worked and why particular booking patterns emerged, yet at times describes matches as if he was legitimately competing to win. It’s more of a linguistic quirk than an attempt to fool…

Chris Candido: No Gimmicks Needed by John Cosper and Jonny Candido
Review / October 12, 2023

In a just world this would be an autobiography. We’ll have to settle for an entertaining and informative biography. A good wrestling biography will do one of three things: adequately document a wrestler’s in-ring career, give some insight into their life outside the ring, and share some engaging stories. This manages all three, thanks largely to its authorship. It’s not quite the same as when Scott Teal steers the recollections of a wrestler into the realms of reality, but perhaps the next best thing. Cosper is an experienced wrestling biographer who conducted dozens of interviews for the project, while Candido (Chris’s brother) was clearly incredibly close with Chris and shares not just personal memories, but retells experiences and conversations which Chris had shared with him. The result is both a life story and a career retrospective that doesn’t simply list dates and matches, but shares the lessons Chris Candido learned on his journey to becoming a truly great worker in the professional wrestling business. Inevitably it’s not the happiest of tales at times and doesn’t shy away from Candido’s low points or the effects his drug problems had on his career and colleagues. However, it does fully convey the tragedy…

Ambush At The Palace by DR Feiler
Review / September 28, 2023

Feiler’s third wrestling novel shifts genre but remains an easy read that should hold your interest. Ambush At The Palace is set in the same universe (a fictionalised late-70s Florida territory) as his previous books on Gorpp The Grappler, but puts less emphasis on the sci-fi element. Instead this is a crime thriller kicked off by a robbery of the man returning the night’s takings from a wrestling show. The wrestling element is more of a backdrop this time, with Gorpp a cameo player, though with the interesting perspective that to the characters in this volume, whether he is really an alien is a mystery on the same level as to how much Native American heritage a headdress-wearing grappler really has. The story develops smoothly and at a brisk pace, with the main criticism being that it occasionally goes into too much detail about pricing or times that feels like an unnecessary attempt to prove that the fine detail of points such as timelines are indeed internally consistent. The ending of the book also felt a little rushed, though this was partially a matter of expectations as the final 15% or so of the book is actually a sample of…

Bruiser: The Worlds Most Dangerous Wrestler by Richard Vicek
Review / September 19, 2023

Proving you can tell a story based on research, this is something of an undersung title. As we’ve covered in many reviews, historical wrestling books often fall in to a couple of traps. One is to conduct meticulous research and then be so afraid to let any of it go to waste that you bombard the reader with irrelevant detail, drowning out any narrative. The other is to concentrate on wrestling storylines or to rely on a wrestler’s recollection, which can be plagued by faulty memories or outright BS. Vicek avoids these traps by drawing source material from as many angles as possible, including public records, interviews and relevant sections from other wrestling publications. Perhaps the most extreme example is when he dug out a newspaper article showing a young Dick the Bruiser lifting a child at ringside and then tracked down the child — now a retiree — to get his recollection of the incident. The results is a book that is much about breadth as depth. It’s by no means a comprehensive career chronology, but rather aims to capture as many aspects as possible of a wrestling character and the man that portrayed him. In particular, the book…