Wrestling Babylon by Irv Muchnick

May 13, 2019

Some valid and important points in this book are let down by some fundamental limitations.

Muchnick is a professional news writer who has made his name over the years by writing mainstream outlet articles on the darker side of the wrestling business, covering topics often ignored by “real” media on the irrelevant grounds of wrestling being “fake.” There’s absolutely no debating that Muchnick — the nephew of legendary St Louis president and NWA chief Sam Muchnick — has put in the hours to research both documentation and first-hand accounts of matters those in wrestling management and even law enforcement and government would prefer to be kept quiet.

Unfortunately that work is not shown to its best in this format, a collection of his articles published between 1988 and 2004.

One problem is the length. It’s only 152 pages and once you take out the introductions and an appendix listing premature wrestling deaths, it’s closer to 120. No subject is addressed in real depth and it often feels like there wasn’t quite enough here for a full book.

Another limitation is that the nature of Muchnick’s writing doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an anthology. Virtually every piece he writes is in some way negative, criticising either wrestling promoters, government agencies or both, which is exactly what you’d expect from somebody trying to reveal stories people in power prefer hidden. But while every piece is valid on its own merits, in compilation format it feels unrelentingly pessimistic and unbalanced, with no hint that the wrestling business can have any redeeming merits.

Another problem is the format. It appears to be an all-inclusive collection of anything to do with wrestling, but that means several pieces feel like padding and an overall lack of focus. Particular examples include articles on the NATPE television syndication convention where wrestling is only mentioned in passing. There’s also little tying things together and virtually no updates to let readers know later developments in the stories covered in Muchnick’s original work.

It’s not a bad book as such, just one which seems incomplete. Ideally Muchnick would have put together a more traditional and complete book, perhaps a better take on Sex Lies and Headlocks. In the meantime, this is really one for the completists, with Muchnick’s talents better displayed in his more focused Jimmy Snuka eBook.

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