Wrestling’s Ring Side Seat by Johnny Kincaid

April 29, 2019

This is the self-published story of the former European heavyweight champion best known for his ‘Caribbean Sunshine Boys’ team with Dave ‘Butcher’ Bond.

The most striking initial impression is that the book, apparently by design if the foreword is anything to go by, has not been professionally edited. The punctuation is patchy at best, and many of the sentences run on far beyond their natural length. While this is initially distracting, once you adjust to the style (which quite possibly mirrors Kincaid’s natural speech) it doesn’t harm the story-telling.

Fortunately this unconventional formatting is strongest during the early portion of the book, which deals with Kincaid’s upbringing in care homes and a spell in a juvenile detention facility. For wrestling fans, the interest level picks up when he first attends a show and is driven home with Earl Maynard, accompanied by a gorgeous woman, though at this stage Kincaid is discouraged from entering the business.

Instead he finds work assembling rides at a travelling fairground (equivalent to a US carnival) before taking work on the boxing booth where his wages would be docked if a challenger from the audience ever lasted three rounds. Eventually he doubles-up as a wrestler on the booth (leading to confusion when he tries his hand at an amateur gym where his new-found submission abilities are not appreciated) and turns pro.

After a tour of Greece, he gets taken on full-time by Dale Martin promotions, facing TV legend Jackie Pallo in his first match, leading to a valuable lesson where Pallo tells him to slow down in the ring so that the crowd can see what he’s doing. (Kincaid never specifically addresses the issue of match finishes being pre-determined, but he’s relatively open about ‘opponents’ working together to make the match.)

The highlight of the book is the lengthy section about Kincaid’s numerous overseas tours, which took him across Europe, Africa and Asia. It’s an amazing collection of stories, from the apartheid of South Africa, to topless female ring seconds in Sweden, an aggrieved Indian chef lacing dishes with rat poison, a wrestler with a taste for urinating on opponents in the shower, a bizarre meeting with the King of Nepal, and a member of 70s pop band Marmalade giving an ill-advised impression of Adolf Hitler in a Berlin ring.

The final section of the book deals with Kincaid’s heel turn and formation of the team with Bond (which he describes as a calculated attempt to take over the mantle of top villains from Mick McManus and Steve Logan) and the legal issues that followed the resulting crowd heat. He winds up winning two out of three cases stemming from fights with fans, but is also (against all usual wrestling protocol) prosecuted for punching Adrian Street in a locker room.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the book is that Kincaid never complains about racial abuse. While there are countless references to his skin colour by the characters involved, they are all dismissed either as friendly banter or racial hatred which can be exploited for heel heat. It’s interesting to read about somebody whose skin colour has been a constant factor (at one stage a European promoter specifically asks for a black wrestler) but doesn’t appear to have any complaints.

Despite the rocky start, the book is extremely entertaining, largely for the globetrotting stories which take readers back to an era that barely longer exists in the days of cultural homogenisation and the WWE’s global domination.

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