Follow the Buzzards: Pro Wrestling in the Age of COVID-19 by Keith Elliot Greenberg

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 seem completely out of place.

As with Too Sweet, the highlights are the first-hand accounts of Greenberg visiting independent shows as promoters and wrestlers grappled with returning to business while remaining safe, or observing the bizarre situation of WrestleMania 37 having more cardboard cut-out fans than human spectators.

There’s also a surprising tale of the National Wrasslin’ League, a little known promotion that offered full-time contracts and health insurance, albeit a story that took place several years before the pandemic.

While it’s not always fair to criticise a book for what it isn’t, rather than what it is, I’d really have liked to see much more about the effects of COVID on wrestling, with more insights from wrestlers about adjusting to performing before empty arenas, virtual audiences and restricted crowds. While the book is largely US-focused, it also seems a minor oversight to have nothing on Choco Pro, one of the only groups that ran consistently throughout lockdowns, with YouTube shows that made the empty-arena status an integral part of the presentation.

It’s well-written and conversational, but at this stage, when so much of the content covers events still fresh in our minds, it’s hard to call it a must-read.

Read on Amazon

Follow the Buzzards: Pro Wrestling in the Age of COVID-19 will be released on 4 October. 

Disclaimer: The publishers provided a review copy.

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