Flowers for Adrian: The Life and Death of Adrian Adonis by John Ellul
Review / March 2, 2023

You may ask “why write a biography of Adrian Adonis?” For John Ellul, the question was “why not?” As well as a chronological account of Adonis’s life and career, Ellul explores the question of how history remembers individual wrestlers. As he notes, Adonis had high-profile runs in multiple territories, was at once stage rated as one of the finest workers in the business, and had a particularly memorable run with a major match at the iconic WrestleMania III. Yet not only is he in no major Hall of Fame, but his absence has proven largely uncontroversial. Unlike many wrestling bios, Ellul does not have a unique selling point in telling the story such as access to a game-changing source or documentation. Instead it’s a wide-ranging approach that brings together video footage, publications, archive interviews and a range of original interviews with Adonis’s colleagues, family and industry insiders. It produces a multi-faceted account. No one interviewee is a game-changer, but each offers insight into a particular topic, be it future pro Terry Daniels on his noteworthy acceptance of Adonis’s shoot challenges to audience members or journalist Fumi Saito on Adonis’s leisure time at home in California or on tour in Japan….

There’s Just One Problem… By Brian Gewirtz
Review / February 17, 2023

Depending on your viewpoint and what you know about Gewirtz, he represents everything that’s right or everything that’s wrong with WWE’s modern TV product. This book does a good job of proving the truth is somewhere in between, but will entertain you even if it doesn’t change your mind. For those who don’t know, Gewirtz was a WWE writer throughout the 2000s, including a lengthy run as the head writer. His account addresses that era, including both the development of full-blown Hollywood style writer rooms and the switch to more heavily-scripted promos. Above all else, the book conveys the sheer insanity of applying this process to a TV production like no other (live broadcasts with scripts completed or even written on the day, then handed to athletes without formal acting training) and a boss like no other in Vince McMahon. Many of the best-remembered (for good or worse) storylines are detailed, giving a unique insight into everything from guest hosts on Monday Night War to Katie Vick to the anonymous Raw GM to Goldberg in a wig. To Gewirtz’s credit, he explains the rationale and development process behind each moment, but never tries to pretend something was well-received or effective…

Beer, Blood and Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling by Bob Calhoun
Review / February 14, 2023

While it tells the story of the ultimate in for-the-moment entertainment, this is a memoir that reveals its depths when taken as a whole. For those who don’t remember it’s notoriety from the tape-trading scene of the mid-to-late 90s, Incredibly Strange Wrestling was an unusual San Francisco based promotion where people who didn’t really know how to (professionally) wrestle performed for people who weren’t really fans of pro wrestling. The group performed in bars and music venues in San Francisco and as part of music tours, gaining a cult following as it evolved from a lucha-style promotion to a cast of outlandish, often tasteless gimmicks from Harley Racist and the Abortionist to El Homo Loco and NAMBLA. Calhoun performed under a host of gimmicks as well as working in publicity and booking for the group. This isn’t a definitive history of the promotion (which would be a particularly weird exercise to embark on) but rather his memories of his time in and around ISW and the punk rock scene. It’s extremely detailed, to the point that it often left me wondering who is meant to care about the minutiae of petty squabbles at the lower levels of independent wrestling (albeit…

The Woman Who Would Be King: The MADUSA story by Debra Miceli
Review / January 20, 2023

Definitely more of a life story than a wrestling book, this should still appeal to Miceli’s fans. While the wrestling career of Madusa is well-known and fondly remembered by many, it’s only part of a live lived to the full, reflected in this story. The book occasionally skips around from subject to subject rather than being a traditional chronological autobiography, but the wrestling section makes up around a third of the content. If you’re purely interested in the wrestling itself, you may be disappointed as most specific on-screen moments are covered only in passing and there’s very little about individual matches. However, there’s plenty of insight into the life of being a wrestler in different eras and settings, in particular the contrast between being a rare female on the roster in the US and being part of an all-female crew in Japan. Almost as much of the book covers Miceli’s love of motorcycles and her monster truck career. Some parts may be a little technical for non-fans, but there’s certainly some interesting parallels with the business side of pro wrestling including the promotional elements and the fine line between competition and camaraderie. As noted, it’s also very much a life…

Lucha Loco by Malcom Venville
Review / November 25, 2022

While a lovely item to own, there’s not enough meat here to make it worth paying over the odds. Wrestling photo books is a niche category and harder to review that traditional titles. This is certainly much better produced and more visually striking than the likes of George Napolitano titles from the 1980s, One Ring Circus or Killer Pics. It’s a similar size and quality to Exquisite Mayhem, though without that title’s… distinctive… content. Lucha Loco is simply made up of around 120 studio portraits of Mexican wrestlers, with the left hand page of each spread being almost completely blank save for a brief quote from the wrestler. These vary immensely, ranging from motivation for being a wrestler to a significant number of comments about who does and doesn’t wear the mask in more intimate moments. It’s a bit of a mixed bag of wrestlers, chosen presumably on availability more than any other criteria, from major superstars like El Hijo Del Santo and the Villanos to El Gangster and the underwhelmingly named Chris. As you might expect, all but a couple are masked. As noted, the book itself is beautifully produced, with my first edition copy coming in a custom…

MOX by Jon Moxley
Review / September 9, 2022

Characteristically unconventional, this is a book with an approach that would have worked for few wrestlers. Much of the positive feedback has concentrated on the open and honest approach Moxley takes to the book, combining an authentic voice with an open approach similar to that of the original volumes by Mick Foley and Chris Jericho. It’s fair to say he goes a step further as even the most honest book published by an active WWE roster member would have been unlikely to have the references to hard drug use you’ll find here. Unlike the Foley and Jericho books, this does not aim to be a comprehensive, chronological account of a life and career. Instead it’s a series of anecdotes and memories that skip from subject to subject, feeling more like a long car ride with a man telling stories that an autobiography. While less focused than Drew McIntyre’s book, MOX offers plenty of insight into his approach to wrestling and thought process. If you go into this looking for the inside scoop on specific incidents, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it’s Moxley telling the stories he wants to tell, with some of the unexpected highlights being his…

Indestructible by Chris Michaels
Review / August 30, 2022

One for fans only, this is all breadth and little depth. Michaels has wrestled since the late 80s, chiefly around the East Tennessee and Kentucky areas. While he’s worked for everyone from WWF and WCW to Smoky Mountain and TNA, this doesn’t really have the level of detail you might hope for in a book from an experienced journeyman. Take out the photo section and there’s under 100 pages here, due partly to the fact that most of the incidents he covers are more a statement of fact than a story. It’s not uncommon for a topic to get just a couple of paragraphs, such as his run as a booker for an independent group. Most of the detail involves Michaels’ colourful private life and whether this interests a reader will largely determine their response to the book. A few stories, including those involving his mentor Tracey Smothers are entertaining enough but beyond that there’s not much in the way of insight here to recommend it to the general reader. Read on Amazon

Gorpp The Grappler by D R Feiler
Review / August 9, 2022

While the audience for this may be a small sliver of a Venn diagram, it’s surprisingly readable and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Regular readers will know many, if not most, wrestling novels fall into a common theme: a fictionalised version of the territorial era of the 70s and 80s, with (sometimes thinly) veiled versions of the NWA and its touring champion model. Occasionally you’ll have an extra genre in the mix, usually crime, sometimes romance. This follows that pattern but the genre is science fiction. The story is based around Gorpp, an alien on an advance mission for an invasion of Earth who sees a televised wrestling show and, misunderstanding the description, believes he must defeat the World Heavyweight Champion to take over the planet. It’s not exactly the most plausible of situations, but the book works by playing it straight and sticking to as much internal consistency as the pretext allows. The whole “main character is an alien” deal doesn’t get in the way of the story and instead is a useful logistical device for overcoming situations where time and distance would otherwise derail the book’s pace. Perhaps the biggest compliment is that it often doesn’t feel like a…

Follow the Buzzards: Pro Wrestling in the Age of COVID-19 by Keith Elliot Greenberg
Review / July 28, 2022

At times this feels like three books in one and unfortunately that’s not a benefit. Following Greenberg’s Too Sweet, which chronicled the rise of independent wrestling to the All In show, this covers the period from the emergence of COVID-19 in January 2020 to the return of full crowds at AEW show in Summer 2021. I noted of Too Sweet that it’s early section “often feels a little scattergun, skipping from topic to topic and relaying a string of information about each but without really telling a story or making a clear point. In particular, several sections will have multiple short quotes from different wrestlers and personalities that don’t really add up to an overall insight.” Not only does that approach continue here, but the bigger picture’s focus is unclear. It switches between a chronological account of wrestling in the period, a thematic examination of the effects of the pandemic on the business, and an overview of the pandemic itself and political events. The transitions between these often feel abrupt (there’s a particularly audacious move from wrestler deaths to the election campaign via James ‘Kamala’ Harris and the future vice-president), while some sections of historical events such as Brexit negotiations…

Pierre Von Mercy: A Life Of Pain by DC Cameron
Review / May 31, 2022

The latest in a line of fictional autobiographies of pro wrestlers, this has plenty of colour but not enough polish. Pierre Von Mercy — whose real name is creatively obscured from the reader — is a former circus strongman who’s recruited into pro wrestling and goes on to be a major star with an NWA-like group of territories. Individually, the incident and anecdotes in the book are lively enough with vivid descriptions. There’s also a good sense of how Von Mercy approaches the business at different stages of his career, from green rookie to top dog to elder statesman passing the torch. However, they don’t always fit together into an overarching story, even given the book’s stated emphasis on his personal experience rather than the in-ring action. The book could also have benefited from some significant editing. An almost complete absence of colons and semi-colons means frequent run-on sentences, while several timeline inconsistencies interrupt the flow for the reader. It’s certainly not boring and does evoke the atmosphere of the territorial era points, but it’s hard to call it a must-read. The free sample on Kindle and the Amazon site is reflective of the book as a whole, so that…