Flowers for Adrian: The Life and Death of Adrian Adonis by John Ellul

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.

It’s fair to say that on occasion the book has to rely on speculation, for example on the circumstances of Adonis’s birth or the origins of his ring name. While this speculation is clearly labelled as such, it does mean the occasionally frustrating lengthy passage without any firm facts.

Despite the book being written with the blessing of Adonis’s family, it’s by no means an unquestioning, glowing account. Topics such as his weight gain, his apparent drug abuse, and the complete lack of subtlety or taste in his final WWF gimmick are addressed in detail and without excuse.

Above all else, the book tries to answer the question of how somebody can rise from mid-card loser to the Wrestling Observer’s pick for third best wrestling in the world and then find himself at the most remote reaches of the independent “circuit”, all inside a decade and all without making it to the age of 35.

Ultimately, the Adrian Adonis story is not necessarily the most dramatic or legendary, but perhaps the real conclusion of Flowers For Adrian is that hundreds – even thousands – of wrestlers had their own story and career path that deserves recognition. It’s a book that perhaps inevitably is only a must-have for Adonis fans, but it’s a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the transition from the territorial era to the national domination of the WWF.

Flowers For Adrian will be released on March 23.

Disclosure: The author provided a review copy.

Pre-order from Amazon