A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex - After being disappointed in several high profile releases (thank you very much Mr. Bischoff and Mr. Michaels), I was hedging my bets on A Lion's Tale. Sure, I've always been a fan of Chris Jericho, but his media appearances on TV during the Benoit situation and later on many radio shows hyping his book led me to believe this Chris Jericho was not the guy I remembered. The Y2J that I remembered was cutting edge with a biting sense of humor, not the watered down, by-the-numbers, play it safe Jericho I was watching during these interviews. So it's fair to say I was beyond relieved after reading the book and felt completely satisfied. In fact, Jericho is back to help save the wrestling book industry.
Developing his skill through a route which has all but vanished, Jericho is able to tell story after story about his time in various places around the world – including Mexico, Canada, Japan, Philly's own ECW, Smokey Mountain Wrestling, and WCW, among others – in an entertaining way with more than a few laughs, many at his own expense. Seriously, Jericho is an unrepentant dork. It's refreshing to read a wrestling book from someone in the industry that isn't A) full of himself or B) full of shit. You get wonderful welcome to indy wrestling stories that will make you wonder how any human being could possibly continue on without strangling someone. Filled with pop culture references, Jericho in print form actually whets the appetite for his return to WWE TV, as this guy just oozes the it factor. I skipped right to the ECW and WCW chapters and was totally marking out. Jericho tells great stories about catching Paul Heyman in lies, but then admitting that you could never stay mad at Paul for long. It was also interesting to hear Jericho talking about his matches with Scott Hall, especially after watching a recent shoot DVD with Hall and reading his Torch Talk with Wade Keller. Rest assured, Jericho's recollection of Hall, and whether or not Hall actually helped his career, is remarkably different than Hall's memory. Mix in a ton of references to all the stuff I love (Beastmaster, Back to the Future, Seinfeld, etc) and you get a book that couldn't come more recommended.
CLICK HERE to get your copy of A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex. Get it. NOW.
Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling - This might actually go down as the best wrestling book that most fans will never read. Stu Hart's Stampede promotion was the breeding ground for many of wrestling's biggest names, including Dynamite Kid, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Bad News Allen, Chris Benoit, and Bret Hart. The book itself covers, in an in-depth style rarely seen in any wrestling book, the Stampede promotion and the dysfunctional Hart Family. Both have their highs and lows, but reading about the in-fighting by all the Harts is particularly disturbing. This is one book that will make you realize exactly how good you had it growing up. I was creeped out when watching the movie Wrestling with Shadows when they had tapes playing of guys being stretched out in Stu's dungeon, but that is child's play compared to the stories here. This is far from a hatchet job though as author Heath McCoy plays it fair throughout.
I've always enjoyed listening to Dan Callis and Lance Storm describing their "death tours" in Canada, describing the sometimes extreme measures wrestlers would have to go through just to work at rinky dink shows, and enjoyed reading about similar horrific journeys in Pain and Passion. Long nights and volatile temperaments are a bad mix. We've all heard the stories of how a guy like Dynamite Kid would treat a person he likes, such as his wife. Guess how he reacts to someone he hates like Bruce Hart? A bio of Stu Hart. An incredible documentation of the rise and fall of one of wrestling's most talked about territories. A look inside the family dynamic of a group of people whose actions continue to defy belief. A great look at many of wrestling's most charismatic personalities. This is one book that truly does have it all.
A huge homerun from ECW Press, CLICK HERE to get your copy of Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling by Heath McCoy (336 pages, 65 b&w photos)
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels - I've reviewed a previous Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame book by Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson that focused on Tag Teams. Just like that book, The Heels is about as comprehensive a book as you'll ever see on the subject. Clocking in at 400 pages with over 150 pictures (some of them just fantastic), this is a mammoth book that will have wrestling historians drooling over themselves. Oliver and Johnson do their homework and give bios on all the classic guys you know and love (Ric Flair, The Iron Shiek, Jake Roberts, Bad News Allen, Eddie Gilbert, Edge, Terry Funk) and many most don't (Dick Daviscourt, Bull Ramos, Dutch Savage) that covers wrestling heels from the 1920s to today.
They say a hero is only as good as his villain, and this book delivers one solid story after another about all the guys we love to hate. I've written many times that I was hooked onto wrestling the minute I stumbled onto a match between Sergeant Slaughter and the Masked Superstar on TV back when I was ten years old. I didn't know why I hated the Masked Superstar, but I was dying for Slaughter to pull off that jerk's mask. The segment on Superstar (Bill Eadie) describes how he was an outstanding high school athlete looking forward to a career in teaching until a chance encounter in 1972 led him towards wrestling. With the mask hiding his facial expressions, Superstar learned how to show emotions in various other ways, including developing "unusually articulate" promos. Just a fantastic look at so many guys who, most of whom never got their full due for everything they did in wrestling. This isn't a book about cheap heat magnets like Muhammad Hassan, this is a book about the guys who drew the hatred from the crowd the old fashioned way, they earned it.
CLICK HERE to order your copy of The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels by Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson (400 pages, 150 b&w and color photos)
Brody: The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling's Rebel - I'm hoping that one day a DVD comes out spotlighting the career of Bruiser Brody, because I have read so much about him throughout the years, most of which in the Wrestling Observer, and all of it has me intrigued and wanting to see more. This book adds to my desire to see more of Brody as Larry Matysik (author of the very good Wrestling at the Chase book and Brody's wife Barbara Goodish paint a powerful picture of "the intelligent monster." Brody is like Chris Jericho above in that he worked literally around the world in every promotion you can name (except for, most notably, WCW and Vince McMahon's WWE) and this book details his experiences across the globe. Alternating writing chapters, Matysik and Goodish present a side of Brody that doesn't come across on all the clips I see of him on YouTube, the human side. Brody was a man who had no problem standing up to promoters and was a dedicated family man. In fact, throughout the book there are various personal photographs that show Brody existed in a world beyond the squared circle. Matysik would describe Brody as both a wrestler in the ring and in the locker room, while Goodish would provide a compelling narrative of Brody at home with his wife and son.
The book started off with the story I was most interested in reading, what led up to Brody's death in Puerto Rico. Matysik details first hand accounts of men who were in the building with Brody, while Barbara describes her final days with Brody, how she found out about the death, and what the ramifications were on the Brody family. Overall a fascinating book that mixes the tragic with the outrageous while detailing the life of one of the most unique men in the wrestling business, and certainly one of the rarified few that played the game by their own rules. And trust me, you'll read stories from people in the book who didn't exactly enjoy the way Brody played the game.
CLICK HERE to get your copy of Brody: The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling's Rebel by Larry Matysik and Barbara Goodish (200+ pages, 50 b&w photos, 16 page color photo section)
Dave Meltzer's Tributes II: Remembering More of the World's Greatest Wrestlers - It's a bit morbid when you think about it, but nothing brings out the best in Dave Meltzer than when he has to write an obituary. Maybe because it is one of the few times it becomes obvious that Dave is not just a good wrestling writer, he's a damn good writer that would have fit in nicely within any major newspaper or magazine. There's dozens (if not hundreds) of people who recap WWE TV shows and PPVs, each with their own distinctive flavor, but there is only one man we all go to read the definitive history of a wrestler. This book includes Dave's obits for Lou Thesz, Wahoo McDaniel, Elizabeth, Fred Blassie, Road Warrior Hawk, Andre the Giant, Curt Hennig, Johnny Valentine, Davey Boy Smith, Terry Gordy, Owen Hart, Stu Hart, Gorilla Monsoon, The Sheik and Tim Woods.
Dave uses his warts-and-all style to describe the lives these colorful men led, including the self-destructive things many of them engaged in that directly led to their way-too-early exits. Each tribute is unique, informative, and a very entertaining look and the entire life story of these sixteen incredible personalities. As a bonus, the book also comes with an hour long DVD that has Dave further elaborating on the people in the book. You can't go wrong with that. It also includes a forward by none other than Bret "The Hitman" Hart. C'mon, this is a no-brainer.
CLICK HERE to get your copy of Tributes II: Remembering Some of the World's Greatest Wrestlers by Dave Meltzer.
Bret Hart's Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling - Alright, this is the one book in this list that I don't have, but let's face it, this is one we all want to get and devour. Wrestling celebrity Keith Lipinski does have the book and here's his quick thoughts: "Without a doubt one of the greatest wrestling books of all time. I can't describe in words how amazingly great it is, even with it only being 600+ pages" Hart, involved in wrestling's most controversial moment ever, is one of the few wrestlers who documented every part of his career so that he could frame his legacy in the manner in which he knew was correct. And talk about foresight, if Hart hadn't have kept detailed notes, who knows how much detail he would have never been able to remember after the concussion he suffered at the foot of Bill Goldberg and his subsequent stroke.
Weighing in at almost 600 pages, edited down from well over 1000, this is one book that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Bret Hart. And then some. Early reviews give detail about Hart describing life on the road in WWE, including Hart admitted to rampant adultery. Hart covers his entire career, from the grueling days in Canada working for his father's Stampede promotion, to becoming the biggest signing in pro-wrestling history when he went to WCW from WWE, and the multiple disasters that immediately followed. You'll get all the dirt on what happened backstage, what the overseas tours were like, and how he felt on outliving his fun loving younger brother Owen. A must read book if there ever was one.
CLICK HERE to get your copy of Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling by Bret Hart.
J.J. Dillon's Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls - I'm not a huge fan of J.J. Dillon, and I can't exactly explain why, but something about the man bugs me. It's weird too, because I enjoyed Dillon's new Guest Booker DVD and this Seagulls book is very enjoyable. Dillon used to have to play the "bad cop" for Vince McMahon, a fact that was earlier described by Mick Foley in his books, and Dillon explains exactly what is was like to work directly under the most powerful man in wrestling. I watched a recent shoot interview with Scott Hall in which Hall described his Razor Ramon character to Vince McMahon, and McMahon had no idea what Scarface was. Dillon confirms this when talking about McMahon when describing Vince's psychotic work schedule and that he literally has no interests outside of wrestling. Dillon also worked for WCW when it went straight down the tubes, so he has some incredible stories to tell from both sides of the fence. You might remember Eric Bischoff taking a shot at Dillon when promoting his own book, as well as Dillon's press release response, which basically told Bischoff to go fuck himself.
I was less interested in reading about Dillon's early career as a ref and wrestler, but I loved reading about his days as part of the Four Horsemen and the afore-mentioned WWE and WCW days. Dillon is a guy who knows where the bodies are buried, and while this book isn't an expose, it certainly delivers enough to make you feel satisfied when finished. I always enjoy a look behind the curtain and read about the little details on what people have to do to make the WWE machine run the way it does.
CLICK HERE to get your copy of Wrestlers are like Seagulls: From McMahon to McMahon by J. J. Dillon
Irv Muchnick's Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror that Destroyed a Family and Crippled
a Sport - Recently I reviewed Muchnick's Wrestling Babylon and suggest to everyone reading this that they get a hold of a copy. It's an awesome collection of
essays that Muchnick's has written over the years, spotlighted by some incredible pieces of the Von Erich Family and the Jimmy
Snuka murder story. Irv is part of four men who contributed to this book, the other three include Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy,
and Greg Oliver. Sound familiar? They should, they were responsible for several of the books in this list. Here's what each
individual brings to the table:
*The media’s coverage of the story and the role of the media in the story itself will be covered by Steven Johnson.
*Heath McCoy establishes the facts of the case and examines Benoit’s Alberta wrestling roots.
*Irvin Muchnick gives his opinion on the pop-cultural relevance and the place of this tragedy in wrestling’s dark history.
*Greg Oliver discusses the Benoit story in the context of the pro-wrestling industry and personal correspondence with Benoit.
I have to say, I was disappointed in the small page count of the book and the overly large font size. I mean, let's get real here. ECW Press puts out some of the best wrestling books around and doesn't need to resort to stuff like this. A couple of other essays should have been thrown into the mix to add some more bang for the buck. You do get a well-written, straight forward account of the entire Benoit tragedy, so if that's what you're looking for, here you go.
CLICK HERE to get your copy of Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror that Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport.
James Hold's Remember the Aloe, Moe - This is book two in James Hold's Out of Texas series. Trying to describe it is almost impossible, so here's the hype job: J, an intrepid radioactive cat turned human, is back in Remember the Aloe, Moe. In this hilarious second installment of the Out of Texas series, the gaunt-faced grappler has a new girlfriend (who happens to be a mosquito), finds employment as "J-man," a professional wrestler, and continues his quest for acceptance in the eyes of God and the field of lucha libre wrestling.
But at the heart of J's adventures is a modern-day retelling of the Old Testament love triangle involving Jacob, Rachel, and Leah. Follow the plucky J-man as he stumbles into one absurd circumstance after another. With James Hold's unique use of language and wacky sense of humor, you'll laugh out loud!
Where else are you going to find a story that weaves in wrestling, religion, and pop-culture references? And author James Hold does come up with a lot of witty uses of wordplay. I can't say it's for everyone, but if this is your cup of tea, you're going to love it. Check out this interview with author James Hold for more on the book and for something to give you a better idea if this book is something up your alley.
CLICK HERE to get your copy of Remember the Aloe, Moe by James Hold
J.R. Benson's Extremely Strange - As a person who somehow has acquired more XPW material than any person on Earth outside of possibly Rob Black himself, I was not surprised at all to get a book on the company written by former employee JR Benson. It clocks in at over 400 pages and has a font size that makes the Wrestling Observer print look like the Benoit book above. So it is certainly an exhaustive account of one man's love for professional wrestling and how he got involved with possibly the most controversial wrestling company in history, and imagine what that is saying.
Benson gives first hand accounts of all the major XPW stories that went down along with everything
else that happened in his crazy life, including handing some video tapes to Howard Stern. How many guys can say that? Well,
probably a lot, but how many that are involved in wrestling? You'll get Roland Alexander stories, crazy indy stories, ECW
stories, Vic Grimes stories and anything else you can think of. Benson writes in a very casual style that is basically Bizarro
Irv Muchnick. Irv likes to drop ten dollar words while Benson freely drops in exclamation points at so many points I was reminded
of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes with this brilliant exchange:
Jake: "Ok, I'm excited. I just don't happen to like exclamation points."
Elaine: "Well, you know Jake, you should learn to use them. Like the way I'm talking right now, I would put an exclamation points at the end of all these sentences! On this one! And on that one!"
CLICK HERE to get your copy of Extremely Strange by J.R. Benson
And now, some COMIC BOOK TRADES. Why comics? Because comics are cooler than wrestling. 'Nuff said.
HEROES - One of my favorite shows on TV this year, and probably the biggest reason I all but have stopped watching Monday Night Raw other than fast-forwarding through it on my DVR, is Heroes on NBC. I loved it last year and would recommend the DVD set to anyone who loves quality written shows. Actually, that's a group that probably doesn't include many wrestling fans.
This trade paperback collects 34 stories that originally appeared on NBC.com. I'm not the type of guy who enjoys reading comics on my computer screen, so I was dying for them to put them in book form. And here it is. NBC has pulled out all the stops, including getting none other than Alex Ross to paint the cover. This book contains some of the industry's biggest talents, including Michael Turner, and also features a ton of stuff by Tim Sale, the guy who does all the artwork seen on the show itself. The stories are intended to fill in all the gaps from the television show and are there to basically provide even more layers to those of us who just can't get enough. There are stand alone stories and some multi-part ones that feature characters from the major to obscure. Definitely a book that any hardcore fan of the show must have. 240 pages~!
CLICK HERE to get Heroes: Volume One delivered to your door, and at 34% off to boot!
Stephen King's Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born - I was a big fan of King's Dark Tower series of books and loved the comics as well. Adapted by Peter David (whose run on The Hulk is one of my favorites of any character) and drawn by Jae Lee (interesting enough, the first artist I ever met), this comic does a fantastic job of translating the adventures of Roland to comic book form. I'll be honest with you, the first issue of the comic cleared up an issue I had for years with the regular book. Like the Heroes book above, this series was designed to further enrich the world that fans already enjoyed. I think newcomers may enjoy it, but Dark Tower fans will love it.
Here's the hype job: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." With those words, millions of readers were introduced to Stephen King's Roland - an implacable gunslinger in search of the enigmatic Dark Tower, powering his way through a dangerous land filled with ancient technology and deadly magic. Now, in a comic book personally overseen by King himself, Roland's past is revealed! Sumptuously drawn by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove, adapted by long-time Stephen King expert Robin Furth (author of Stephen King's The Dark Tower: A Concordance) and scripted by New York Times bestseller Peter David, this series delves in depth into Roland's origins - the perfect introduction to this incredibly realized world; while long-time fans will thrill to adventures merely hinted at in the novels. Be there for the very beginning of a modern classic of fantasy literature! Collects Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1-7.
CLICK HERE to get Stephen King's Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born for 34% off!
Scarface: Devil in Disguise - This is one book that you'll have to pre-order, since it doesn't drop 'til January, but I've read the individual issues and loved it. Written by wrestling fan Joshua Jabcuga, this story deals with the history of Tony Montana, one of the most recognizable characters there is in pop culture. Talk about having the pressure on you to deliver in a major way, but Jabcuga hits a huge homerun with a story that will appeal both the people who can quote the movie by heart, and to those – like myself – that aren't even huge Scarface fans. Full of action, politics, and intrigue, this is one book that should appeal to friends of yours who look at stuff like Spider-Man and think it's for five year olds.
Here's the hype: Before Tony Montana came to America, he cut his teeth as a young military assassin in Cuba, and rose up as a hustler in Havana. He knows the world is his, and he craves the American dream. But first, he's gotta get out from Castro-imposed solitary confinement. Add to this Molotov cocktail mix the CIA, La Cosa Nostra, and the scumbag who gave Montana his infamous scar. Make a deal with the devil... just know which devil you're dealing with first.
CLICK HERE to pre-order Scarface: Devil in Disguise
Derek Burgan has been writing for the Wrestling Observer/Figure 4 Weekly~! family since October, 2005. He also has a MySpace page~! and contributes goofy stuff over at The Wrestling Fan. He previously worked as a right wing as a Punjabi prison guard. If you have any questions, corrections, feedback, comments and ideas, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).