In Defense Of… Exonerating Professional Wrestling’s Most Hated by JP Prag

September 25, 2020

Sometimes you don’t enjoy a book because it’s plain bad. Sometimes you don’t enjoy it because it just isn’t for you. This feels like more of the latter.

“In Defense Of…” is an anthology of columns from the 411Mania site in the mid 2000s with a simple concept: to take the conventional wisdom of the “Internet Wrestling Community” and argue against it, in the form of a courtroom defense argument.

Prag is open in the appendix of this book that what some readers will see as a weakness is a deliberate design choice. These aren’t meant to be balanced articles or to get involved in a back-and-forth of the style that would actually happen in courtroom cross examinations or a debate. Instead they are intentionally one-sided pieces that ape and almost mock the extended negative rants that were popular online at the time.

The book is certainly wide in scope, covering all the major topics of the era from the Monday Night Wars to Montreal to the booking career of Dusty Rhodes. That means it will certainly appeal to those who like the idea of thought-provoking and unfamiliar takes. (That said, the piece on Owen Hart’s death – a topic which really was a court case involving legal responsibility – feels completely out of place among the other ‘crimes’ under examination.)

For me, the format didn’t really appeal as so many of the pieces were intended to be relentless for literary effect but do so to the point that it’s hard to know how seriously to take the argument. For example, the defense against charges of Eric Bischoff being an overall negative on WCW’s legacy include his karate skills. It’s clearly a joke and almost a parody on the hyperbolic vitriole of his opponents, but it makes it harder to assess which parts of the argument have real merit.

Another element which is a matter of personal taste is that the book is inherently prone to strawman arguments. Because each piece addresses a wide range of criticisms and arguments on a particular topic rather than being a specific targeted rebuttal, it often feels as if Prag is simply countering the most extreme and ridiculous takes.

To be fair, the book is limited by contextual issues outside of the author’s control. Having a string of articles in the same format can be overwhelming compared with their original appearance as standalone pieces (or even multi-part articles), particularly given many are exceptionally long and detailed. They also lose the original context of appearing on a website just a click away from a host of columns with a negative and repetitive tone that gave these pieces their unique selling point.

Whether you enjoy this book will largely depend on whether the premise appeals. If you think the idea of an almost 4,000 word explanation of why everything you believe about the “Fingerpoke Of Doom” is actually wrong, this is tailor made for you.

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