Mat Memories: My Wild Life in Pro Wrestling, Country Music, and with the Mets by John Arezzi

February 19, 2021

Wrestling fans will enjoy the relevant sections of this book but it may not be enough to recommend the whole thing.

Arezzi – also known as John Alexander and John Anthony as the book explains – has had a multi-faceted life. Largely a marketer and salesman, he’s worked in baseball, pro wrestling and country music.

The wrestling sections of his life story are fascinating. In the space of a few years he produced the one of the first broadcast show (Pro Wrestling Spotlight on radio) to cover the business in a non-kayfabed sense, coinciding with the WWF drugs and sex scandals. He was partially responsible for Vince Russo’s entry into the business. He helped broker AAA’s stunningly successful expansion into the US in the early 90s. And he was a key player in establishing the wrestling convention circuit.

All of this is covered in some detail, with honest and amusing recollections and a refreshing sense of perspective and reality on the ups and downs of the business.  The most notable anecdote involves Arezzi’s two match “career” in the ring in the early 80s when he blagged his way into appearing as a jobber on a WWWF taping with awkward results.

Greg Oliver’s ghostwriting is particularly effective in this book: while the narrative remains focused and on track, the language feels authentic to Arezzi’s voice rather than unnaturally formal or cliched.

The detail and comprehensiveness continues into the rest of the book, which is where it may fall short for some. On the surface the country music years – which made up the bulk of Arezzi’s career chronologically – bring some interesting insight into how the business compares to pro wrestling and the way marketing and promotion changed with the media landscape.

However, the sheer length and detail of this section can get tiring if you aren’t familiar with country music and thus don’t recognise the significance of the names involved.

This isn’t a criticism of what the book is meant to be: Arezzi is clear that wrestling was a brief period of his life, albeit one that still has a hold over him. But if you do buy this solely for the wrestling content, bear in mind that the final third or so of the book is largely wrestling-free.

Mat Memories is released on April 6. The publisher provided a review copy.

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