RD’s DVD, Video Game, and Book Shelf!
I don’t know quite why, but for some zany nutty cukoo reason, people want to know what I think of certain books and DVDs. So here ya go!
Keep in mind, as always, that these are just my opinions, and your mileage may vary. Like my good buddy Eric always says, that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla (which he inevitably follows up with “because you like crappy ice cream”).
I’ll start with DVDs, but if you’re more learned and would like to curl up with a book, then just click here.
So everyone’s heard about The Wrestler and how great it is. Heck, I even reviewed it a couple months back and said the same thing. It was an incredibly accurate look at the life of a fading, past his prime wrestling star, struggling to make ends meet on the independent circuit.
But while I loved that movie, I may have found a new favorite wrestling movie, and odds are, you’ve never heard of it. It’s called Kayfabe and it also explores the indy scene. The difference? Kayfabe doesn’t focus on a has-been; it focuses on never-weres.
Or more precisely, a bunch of goofballs pretending to be wrestlers, performing in front of 30 people in school gyms. It’s like someone followed me backstage at every indy show I ever worked and decided to make a film of it!
Right out of the This is Spinal Tap mold, Kayfabe takes the mockumentary formula and runs with it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s nowhere near Tap, but as a look behind the curtain of your typical indy wrestling show, it’s top notch stuff. Whether it’s the gruff old time promoter who swears every other word and talks about the old days, the guy who wants to gig in every match, or the kid who despite being in on the booking and seeing who is going over in every match still has no clue and thinks that it might be real…this movie absolutely NAILS it. And off the wall stuff like the announcer with a midget fetish or the gay guy who walks around backstage completely nude just add to the utter absurdity – and fun – of the movie.
For someone like me, who has been backstage and worked these shows, I cannot fathom a better premise for a movie, and the guys behind Kayfabe just knocked it out of the park.
Highlight: Gotta go with Cam’s training session where he completely botches a simple string of moves by wanting to add “his gimmick.” I’ve seen that countless times at indy shows, and Ilaughed so hard at that I thought I’d wake the neighbors.
You can order Kayfabe by clicking, you guessed it, rightchere!
You’ve heard it from everyone else on planet earth, so you may as well hear it from me: The Wrestler is one fantastic movie.
Fantastic, that is, if you are a wrestling fan.
Let me be blunt, if I may. I cannot even fathom non-wrestling fans watching this movie and enjoying it. Actually, I shouldn’t say that non-wrestling fans wouldn’t enjoy it, because I CAN believe that. The acting in the film, especially the work of Mickey Rourke, who is amazing, and Marisa Tomei, who is also amazing (and I’m not just saying that because of her nude scenes), is absolute top-notch stuff. In fact, it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve seen actors meld into roles, not people acting in a movie, not people playing roles or being characters, but actually becoming the people on the screen. Seriously, if I saw Rourke at an indy show, I would totally believe he was once Randy “The Ram” Robinson. And Tomei’s aging stripper is so believable that I wouldn’t be shocked to see her at the local Gold Club.
What I must say, however, is that I would think that non-wrestling fans would watch the film and think, “There is no possible way that there are actually people in this world who exist like this.” Wrestling, I think, is a difficult business to explain to people. By that, I mean it’s easy to explain what wrestling is from an entertainment perspective (I like to use the term “jakked up soap opera”), but that it’s difficult to explain it from the business side of things.
It’s hard to explain that there are men (and women) in this business who flourish, who can perform in sold out arenas and be in videogames and have kids wearing their t-shirts…and just a few years later, be completely destitute, and with no real means of making a fraction of the income they made previously.
And more than that, having no clue what to do the rest of their lives.
I understand it, because I’ve been backstage at indy shows with guys who I used to watch every Monday night on TV. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. Therefore, when I see Randy “The Ram”, I am instantly transported back to that dressing room. And that opening scene, where he gets the disappointing payoff?
I’ve heard that word for word before.
And I’ve seen the sad look on that wrestler’s weary face.
Look, if you’re reading this, obviously you are a wrestling fan. So to you, I say go find a theater showing this and see it IMMEDIATELY. It’s fantastic, and I cannot wait to get the DVD. It’s incredible.
Just don’t expect your non-wrestling fan girlfriend or wife to be equally enamored.
Unless, of course, she’s a fan of Mickey Rourke’s butt.
If that’s the case, she may like it even more than you!
Highlight: Hard to pick out just one, but the scene with him at a fan “convention” was so well done, so realistic, that I felt sorry not for “The Ram”, but all wrestlers who’ve set up a table and had no one show up. That’s powerful theater.
The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment
Three Disc Set
I’ve mentioned it countless times, but I love The Rock. In fact, a while back inFighting Spirit, I wrote about it in detail:
There is an excitement lacking in wrestling these days. There are tons of wrestling shows, but at the end of the week, when I’ve seen them all, it’s very seldom that I can remember anything that happened. And it’s an even more rare occurrence that anything on these shows made me look forward to seeing what was happening next. I pretty much just continue to watch wrestling out of habit. It didn’t used to be that way.
I used to look forward to watching wrestling. Those days, it seems, are long gone. And when I think about the timeframe that this switchover took place, I can pinpoint it fairly precisely.
Man I miss The Rock.
And I bet a lot of you feel the same way.
The Rock, now there was a guy that I would go out of my way to see. There was a guy that could reach right through the television set and grab you by the collar and pull you into the action. He had more than charisma – he had presence. Whether he was in the ring, on the stick, doing some zany skit…didn’t matter. Whatever he was doing, you had to watch. You couldn’t miss what he said or did because no matter the material he was given, no matter how bad some of the stuff he was thrown into, he made it must-see TV.
Don’t believe me? Consider this, then: he made the Diva Search entertaining. I’m not sure there can be higher praise than that.
I think that pretty much everyone agrees that when it comes to mic work, there have been few better. But I must admit I’m humored that there is now a contingent of fans that now claim that Rock was never really that great of a “worker”. These poor, misguided souls claim that his punches looked “bad” and he didn’t perform the sharpshooter “correctly”, and thus, he really wasn’t all that good.
Maybe wrestling has passed me by, but my definition of what makes a good “worker” doesn’t begin and end with a moveset. Maybe that’s what the modern wrestling fan thinks wrestling is all about, and if you do, more power to you. Enjoy your weekly TNA X-Division spotfest and call whoever is in the ring at the time the greatest worker ever.
For me, though, a “worker” needs more than the ability to do a 720 flippymajobber. It’s more about how to draw fans into a story, a feud, a match. Did Rock ever do a triple-jump moonsault? No. Did he draw fans into matches with what he did do in the ring? I believe his track record of drawing money speaks for itself.
While I won’t say Rock was a once in a lifetime star (especially since his rise came almost simultaneously with Steve Austin, who shares many of the same characteristics), he was certainly a very rare breed: a man who could captivate audiences in any number of ways. Give him a microphone, put him in the ring, script him to do some goofy skit. The man could do it all. That’s why Hollywood wants him so badly.
Now that you know how I feel about the guy, you can just imagine my giddiness when I snatched this from the shelf at the local Circuit City:
Three DVD’s of nothing but the Rock? Is there any chance I would NOT buy it?
And you should too.
Seriously, what more could you want? Sure, you get hte backstory of the guy, but that’s really just scraping the surface.
Matches? Rock vs. Foley. Rock vs. Angle. Rock vs. Eddie. Rock vs. Hogan. Rock vs. Jericho. And what were two of my favorite matches ever (and arguably my single favorite feud ever): Rock vs. Austin.
But while I liked Rock in the ring, I thought he was even better just running his mouth. And what a selection of promos are here:
- Rock giving us a rundown of a conversation between Billy Gunn and God
- Rock making Coach dance the Charleston
- Rock dead on impersonations of Hunter, Austin, and Rikishi (“Shut your mouth, you thong-wearin’ fatty!”)
- Rock singing about how Cleveland doesn’t rock, it sucks
- And my favorite Rock promo ever, where he confronts the nWo and totally buries Hall, Nash, and Hogan so far beneath the earth it’s not even funny
Even though all these promos are fantastic, I can’t help but wish that on this three disc set, they would dedicate an entire DVD to nothing but interviews. That’s the guy’s biggest strength, so why not load us up with them? (I should note it’s not the first time I’ve ever thought that, either – can you imagine a Flair DVD of nothing but two hours of promos?)
Ok, I think I’ve gushed about Rock enough.
But before I go, let me tell you something else you get from this set, something I hadn’t even thought about until I sat back and watched it again. On these three discs, you not only get tons of Rock, but you get the glory days of what many consider WWE’s greatest period ever: the late 90’s and early 2000’s. So it’s not just Rock, it’s Austin, Foley, DX, Taker, Jericho, Angle. Heck, even Vince back when he was somewhat new and fresh. What a good time to be a fan.
And that’s what this disc does – it makes you happy again to be a wrestling fan. I was laughing, I was marking out. I was a fan again.
And I don’t think it gets much better than that.
Highlight: That promo with the nWo. That three minutes alone is worth the entire price of admission.
You can order The Rock DVD Set by clicking rightchere!
Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 (Wii)
I think, by now, after all these years of doing this silly website, it’s probably fairly apparent that your old buddy, your old pal, RD Reynolds loves pro wrestling. And I think it’s probably also common knowledge that he loves videogames. (In fact, back before I started WrestleCrap, I actually considered starting a videogame site instead.)
Being that I am an old geezer, I’ve played pretty much every wrestling videogame ever made, dating all the way back to the earliest of computer wrestling games.
Ah yes, Bop n Wrestle. What a pile of complete pile of crap that game was. Get this: when you’d put someone in a move, the game would load. No, not when you started the match. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MATCH, BETWEEN EVERY SINGLE MOVE. You’d go to give your opponent a suplex, and the disk drive would start grinding and whirring, sounding for all the world like it was going to explode.
Since then, things got better. We had old classics like Pro Wrestling on the NES, WWF Superstars and WrestleFest in the arcades, and excellent newer games like the New Japan series on the Playstation. And who could forget those classic N64 wrestling games?
So here we are in 2008, and the Nintendo Wii is all the rage. And with good reason: it’s a hella fun system. While Sony and Microsoft would throwing all their effort behind making the best graphics imaginable (and doing a damn good job at it!), Nintendo went off in their own wacky direction, with a system that introduced the mass market to motion controlled games, stuff so simple your grandma could play. It’s an unqualified smash, and I love it.
But some games…some games are probably better off without the flailing of so many limbs. And I dare say that wrestling games would be key among them. So I was a bit skeptical when I threw THQ’s latest, Smackdown vs. Raw 2008, into my Wii.
Soon enough, though, I was throwing punches like a madman and gesturing for my foes to “Bring It” ala the Rock. Oh yeah, and one more thing: I was getting my ass kicked all over this very ring, because I had absolutely no clue what the hell I was doing. Try as I might, I couldn’t even figure out how to run! Now sure, you could say that with practice, you could figure all this stuff out. Well, I’ve had the game for over a month and still have no earthly idea how to run.
I can, however, do a crotch chop.
I don’t quite consider that a fair trade off.
But as I was attempting to throw hip tosses and suplexes, Mrs. Deal walked in the room. Now keep in mind, that she plays the Wii almost as much as I do, and she loves it. Cookin’ Mama, Super Mario Galaxy, Excite Truck…she’s into that. But as she saw me waving my hand in front of my face, doing Cena’s “You can’t see me” bit, she had but one thing to say:
“You look like an idiot.”
And you know what, I couldn’t argue. I did look like a fool. And I wasn’t having a lot of fun.
It seems to me that this game would be a lot of fun, though, if you had friends hanging around to play against. See, because then not only would you look like a fool, but your friends would as well. And when friends look like idiots together, well, that’s just good time.
Especially if liquor is involved.
So, final verdict?
Recommended, but only under the following conditions: a) you have gaming friends and more importantly b) you have gaming friends who will get completely liquored up and/or stoned while you play.
You can order WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 for the Wii by clickingrightchere!
Wrestling Society X: The Complete First (and Last) Season
I think it pretty much goes without saying that Wrestling Society X, a short-lived wrestling promotion that aired on MTV, was a “love it” or “hate it” affair. You either were enamored with WSX’s over the top, explosive-laden antics or you found it inexplicably stupid.
Bring on the explosions, beyotch!
There wasn’t a week that went by in WSX’s far too brief existence that I didn’t look forward to the show. There were goofy yet awesome characters (Matt Classic, I am looking at you), incredible acrobatic action (courtesy of countless performers, my favorite of which being Teddy Hart), and crazy ass stipulation matches. More than anything specific, though, the show just had something that no other wrestling show in recent memory was: FUN.
Now think about that. When was the last time you sat down and watched a show and you were just smiling and laughing from beginning to end? I can’t tell you the last time I did that for a WWE show. And God knows if I EVER have for TNA. But WSX…it was always a blast.
Pun fully intended, of course.
Now, thanks to the fine folks at Big Vision Entertainment, we get WSX in its entirety. And when I say “entirety”, I ain’t just talking what aired on MTV. This 4-disc set has WAY more than that. Stuff like 10 WSXtra’s, which are basically 10 additional shows that aired on their website, tons of deleted scenes, and commentary with WrestleCrap co-hort Dr. Keith Lipinski. Hell, the set is worth getting just for the never before seen final episode, which features a PIRANHA DEATH MATCH and an EXPLODING STEEL CAGE TIMEBOMB DEATH MATCH. That’s just good times right there.
In the end, I leave you with this quote from our own Derek Burgan:
“WSX will join Freaks & Geeks, Undeclared, Firefly and other TV greats in the pantheon of shows Americans were too stupid to ‘get.'”
Highest possible recommendation!
You can order WSX: The Complete First (And Last) Season by clickingrightchere!
Life in the Fast Lane
As the internet wrestling community has grown, it seems that one thing folks never tire of is hearing road stories from the boys. And with good reason. After all, I don’t think you could ever find a more misfit group than grown men who pretend to beat each other up for our amusement. And for those guys who spent years and years out on the road, flying and driving from town to town to do so? Well, obviously they’d have some stories to tell.
Enter Big Vision Productions, the folks who recently released the fantastically awesome Wrestling Society X set. This time they’re back, with something not anywhere near as fun, but worth a few good laughs nonetheless. It’s Life in the Fast Lane, which takes snippets from various shoot interviews from over the years and hodgepodges them into a movie mix of road stories. While that sounds like it might be something that short changes viewers, realistically, I found it to be fairly interesting. After all, do you really want to sit through a three hour Marty Janetty shoot? Wouldn’t it work just as well to hit the highlights and move on?
And rest assured, there are loads of highlights here, with tons of names being interviewed. Here’s a no doubt abbreviated list:
Honky Tonk Man
Abdullah the Butcher
Tammy “Sunny” Sytch
Billy Jack Haynes
Yeah, that’s a pretty damn impressive list. Heck, for me it was just fun to see all these old guys and try to guess who they were before their names popped up on the screen. (And I have to say “Bravo” to Dr. D, who actually looks to be in better shape now – and somehow younger – than he did 20 years ago.)
Highlights? Well, you have Billy Gunn dropping the f-bomb literally every other word as he discusses Tough Enough. You get Ricky Morton talking about Ric Flair falling out of his boat and almost drowning at sea. And what more could you ask for than a story of someone taking a dump in Outback Jack’s hat?
Overall, it’s fun, if not particularly substantial. The whole thing breezes by in less than two hours, and there’s another hour worth of bonus material to keep you occupied. That would be my only real complaint – there’s just not enough of it. Still, you can find it used on Amazon for under $10, and that’s a decent enough deal to get a thumbs up from me.
Recommended if you can pick it up on the cheap. If you love wrestling road stories, then it’s highly recommended, regardless of price.
You can order Life in the Fast Lane by clicking rightchere!
Twenty Years Too Soon: The Superstar Billy Graham Story
Before I get too far into this review, I have a confession to make: despite sometimes being mistaken for a walking wrestling encyclopedia (which trust me, I ain’t), prior to watching 20 Years Too Soon, all I really knew of “Superstar” Billy Graham was his horrific run in the late 1980’s in the WWF. I saw this guy stinking up rings, and then, shortly thereafter, giving some of the worst color commentary this side of Art “How Much Does Dis Guy Weigh?” Donovan.
So you’re probably asking why, since I had no real info on the guy, why I’d ever actually pick up a DVD of his life story. The answer, friends, is quite simple:
It was $5 at Wal-Mart.
Having seen the disc, it was well worth the price of admission. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s worth whatever they’re charging on Amazon or High Spots. It’s actually a fascinating story of a man who wound up on top of the wrestling world, and basically let ego get in the way, going into seclusion when his star had never really been brighter. Later, he’d not only see his career end, but nearly his life as well, ironically due to everything that made him famous in the first place.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that most everyone at least knows of the legend of Billy Graham. If not, here’s a one sentence synopsis: he was a body builder with a fantastic physique and an incredible gift of gab, one imitated by everyone from Hulk Hogan to Jesse Ventura to Triple H and countless others. In fact, when you watch the interviews on the disc, you can flat out state “so that’s where Hogan stole that from” or “I’ve seen Hunter do that exact same thing.”
To me, though, it wasn’t his massive influence on the business that made the story so fascinating; it was his personal issues. Following his run atop the WWWF (the precursor to the WWF and WWE), Graham lost the belt and immediately hit the bricks, not wanting to be around if he wasn’t the champ. He collapsed into depression and drugs, and when he did finally return, the thrill, as they say, was gone. His moment had passed. This led to even more depression and more drugs, and by the time he finally returned to the WWF in the late 1980’s, he was such a shell of himself that younger fans (such as myself) were thinking, “Why in the hell is this guy on my TV?”
A bitter parting of ways with Vince later, Graham soon began to see his body collapse as well, with the years of steroid abuse taking a very violent toll. His life would be saved by a liver transplant, and he dedicated his life to the donor of that liver, a young woman who died in a car accident. And oh yes, he went back to his religious roots.
Great, great, great stuff, although if you’re not religious, it may not be your thing. For myself, though, who does believe in God, it was excellent, a fascinating journey of a pretty fascinating man.
Highlight: The part where he talks about dedicating his life to the girl who had donated her liver actually had me pretty choked up.
Recommended if you have a religious bone in your body; not recommended if you don’t.
You can order Twenty Years Too Soon by clicking rightchere!
Wrestlemania III: Championship Edition
Two Disc Set
I think it probably goes without saying that Wrestlemania III was a high water mark for the WWF. While Mania 1 established the WWF as THE wrestling company to follow, Mania 2 was, in nearly all respects, a misstep. When it was announced that Mania III was to take place at the Silverdome in Detroit, obviously it was crucial that Vince & Co. have a big ticket main event.
And they did – the “unbeaten” Andre the Giant versus WWF Champ Hulk Hogan. It was a dream match in every sense of the word (well, as long as the word was neither “technical” nor “wrestling”), and it drew over 78,000 fans to the event live, as well as countless thousands more on PPV and closed circuit. More than that, though, it is the one show that any fan who followed wrestling in the 80’s remembers. Heck, we can probably even recite the entire card. In fact, before I even popped the disc in, I tried to see how much of the show I could remember off the top of my head:
Can-Am Connection versus Muraco & Orton
Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules Hernandez
Harley Race vs. Junkyard Dog
King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, & Little Tokyo vs. Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver, & Haiti Kid
Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake vs. the Rougeus
Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis
Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat
Koko B. Ware vs. Butch Reed
Jake Roberts (with Alice Cooper) vs. Honky Tonk Man
British Bulldogs & Tito Santana vs. The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis
Sheik & Volkoff vs. the Killer Bees
Andre vs. Hogan
A double check of the case says I got them all. Compare that with, say, last year’s show, and I bet I can name like three matches. Let’s see…
Trish vs. Mickie James
Money in the Bank (but I can’t name anyone in the match but RVD)
Wow. What a difference 20 years makes.
Now to be sure, Mania III ain’t the greatest show in the world. In fact, aside from Steamboat vs. Savage and seeing Bundy kill a midget, there’s not much on the show I was dying to see again. Well, save for this one spot where Davey Boy Smith made Danny Davis a good four inches shorter with a jumping piledriver. And Hogan versus Andre may have been historic, but damn it sucked in the ring.
You know what, though – watching again was just like revisiting an old friend, and it was so much fun that I cannot help but recommend it again to anyone who was around when it hit originally. It’s part of our past, part of what no doubt made many of us fans in the first place. And this presentation of it is a complete and total blast!
For starters, most of us copie…err. BOUGHT, the old Coliseum home video version of the show, which was actually pretty chopped up to save on tape. This DVD release has the whole darn thing in its entirety, so even someone like myself who can recite the commentary word for word gets some stuff we’ve never seen. The quality of the video transfer is remarkable as well, and it looks a zillion times better than any version I’ve ever seen. Sure, there is some audio weirdness here and there (for instance, Don’t Go Messing with a Country Boy is sadly missing), but overall, you just can’t go wrong with it.
On top of that, there’s a bunch of extras, such as the ability to watch a sorta pop-up video version of the show, complete with fun facts and inset interviews from match participants. If that’s not enough, there are also additional matches, such as a rather famous battle royal from Saturday Night’s Main Event. The most interesting thing to me was the several Randy Savage interviews. Damn that guy was awesome. Vince really needs to get over whatever his problem is with him and induct him into the Hall of Fame immediately.
So what are you waiting for? If you were a fan in the 80’s, this is a must. If you are a newer fan, well, you should nab it too…if for no other reason than for the fact you won’t be totally lost when we reference it all the time. Plus, if it sells well, we will get more of these. I’m personally jonesing for a Mania X7 release with all these special features.
Highlight: Tough to choose, but I’ve gotta go with the Randy Savage interviews. It’s been waaaaaaaay too long since I’d seen any of those.
You can order Wrestlemania III by clicking rightchere!
Wrestling’s Greatest Managers
You want to know the real reason why I got into wrestling?
Two words: Bobby Heenan.
Yes, I watched it before I ever saw my first Brain promo, but I think my fascination with the business would never have been more than a passing thing were it not for Mr. Heenan. In fact, I dare say I’ve probably watched more Brain segments than anyone else in wrestling. And were it not for The Simpsons, I’d be willing to bet that I’ve logged more time watching Bobby Heenan than any other television show personality period.
I remember years ago, when I was in college, and I was going through a very rough time in my life. I had a horrible bout with depression. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I just stayed up at night crying. And the only thing that got me through? Watching taped episodes of Prime Time Wrestling featuring Bobby and Gorilla Monsoon, over and over again. No matter how many times I saw them go to Tony Packo’s Hot Dog Emporium, I laughed just as hard as the first time I saw it.
The man is a genius in every sense of the word. And don’t take my word for it – Vince McMahon himself calls him the greatest manager of all time.
For years, I’ve longed for a DVD release of Bobby’s exploits. Heck, I’d want a three disc set. But no such luck. I guess that WWE feels there wouldn’t be sufficient demand for such a release, and that’s too bad.
I think that’s the case of a lot of their past performers, so getting a DVD such as WWE Presents The World’s Greatest Wrestling Managers is somewhat of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we get segments on a lot of guys that would never get a DVD release in 10,000 years. On the other, you can’t help but feel shortchanged that guys like Heenan and Jim Cornette were never given their own DVDs to fill up.
Having said all that, this DVD is a hell of a lot of fun. We get great looks at everyone from Arnold Skaaland to Paul Heyman to Sherri Martel to everyone inbetween. While seeing these blasts from the past is quite entertaining, the DVD isn’t without its shortcomings, the primary one being the fact that sometimes people in the segments refuse to break kayfabe while in others it’s openly discussed how so and so would “get heat”. Oh, and Todd Grisham hosts the thing, and man does he suck.
There used to be so many managers on the scene, and now they’ve all but vanished. It’s a lost art. And that’s REALLY a shame, because there are a lot of young guys who could really benefit from having a mouthpiece like Cornette or Slick in their corners.
And after watching this, you’ll probably see where I am coming from.
Highlight: Uh, it has Bobby Heenan. What do you expect me to say?
Highly recommended if you are a 1980’s wrestling fan; mildly recommended if you are not.
Two Disc Set
Talk about a double-edged sword – there’s nothing that shows everything right in the wrestling world and everything wrong in the wrestling world better than WWE’s latest release, entitled simply McMahon. While I’ve long said that Vinny Mac’s “Mr. McMahon” character is one of the greatest heels in wrestling history, and therefore a hightlight reel of his nefarious antics would be nothing short of spectacular, unfortunately we also see the flipside of WWE’s success: their ability to rewrite history in any way they see fit.
This is the kind of disc that will make our good pal Dave Meltzer have a heart attack.
The disc is basically the life story of Vince McMahon written by, well, Vince McMahon. By that I mean that any semblance of reality is thrown out the window in favor of telling the story so that anything dumb that he may have done in his life is now structured in such a way that it is somehow either a) ingenious; b) ballsy; or c) not his fault. For instance, remember the disaster that was the XFL? Well, that was actually a really good idea that the networks just gave up on. It wasn’t the fact that the first few games were awful and turned fans off. It was all the networks’ fault, dammit!
Speaking of networks…older fans might remember a bleak day in 1984 when Vince found himself on TBS. You know, the network that aired the NWA and Crockett and Georgia Championship Wrestling and WCW and all that stuff? Well, Vince did a deal with Ted Turner whereby the WWF would be broadcast on the network. It didn’t last long, because according to Vince, Ted Turner was so stoked by the great ratings and outstanding fan responce that the show was doing that he wanted to buy the WWF.
Now those of you who read my second book, The Death of WCW, might recall that this is NOT quite the way things actually happened:
“Further into his expansion, McMahon purchased Georgia Championship Wrestling for $750,000. As part of the deal, he got the coveted Saturday and Sunday 6:05 P.M.timeslots on TBS, where his plan, obviously, was to replace tapes of the Georgia wrestlers with tapes of his WWF superstars. The problem with this plan was that there was a vast in-ring difference between the two products: the Georgia show featured an emphasis on in-ring action with talented workers, and the WWF show featured a bunch of one-sided “squash” matches that had already aired on the USA Network. When the switchover took place on “Black Saturday,” July 14, 1985, over one thousand fans angrily complained to the Superstation. Turner’s response was to give Ole Anderson a 7:00 A.M.timeslot so that he could open up Championship Wrestling from Georgia, Inc. (which didn’t last long). Then, the following year, he gave Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling a one-hour timeslot on Sunday, and agreed to finance him so that he could compete nationally against McMahon. Vince, who thought his purchase of GCW would give him an exclusive on TBS, was outraged. Turner, of course, disagreed, feeling that Vince had reneged on a stipulation in the contract that required him to produce a separate weekly program from an Atlanta studio. If Vince wasn’t going to do it, well, someone else would. Thus began the two-decade war between McMahon and Turner.”
So yeah, there was a little bit of difference there.
And don’t get me started on what a “great idea” it was to have Eric Bischoff come out and hug Vince. As I said in DOWCW, that was akin to taking a big barrel of money and lighting it on fire.
And to be honest, that’s the kind of thing that, as I watch these new WWE discs, drives me absolutely insane. I mean, seriously…what Vince McMahon has been able to accomplish is impressive enough, isn’t it? He overran the wrestling world and created his own monopoly. He was obviously better than everyone else. The fact he is still around while no one else is proves that point.
Why not just admit a failure or two? Is it really that hard?
You’ll also be wildly amused to see who does the best puckering up to the boss’ backside. It’s a really tough race, as everyone is seemingly falling over themselves to pay homage to the king. Personally, I’d give the nod to JBL, but everyone from Big Show to Eric Bischoff to standard lackies like Gerald Brisco all do their damndest to win employee of the month. Sadly, perennial WWE DVD mainstay Steve Lombardi is nowhere to be found on the main feature (though he is apparently hidden somewhere on the disc).
There’s also way too much on the McMahon family feud, which just gives WAY too much airtime to our ol’ pal Nipple H. Good GOD is that woman grating. I mean, I must have seriously blocked her out of my mind because on this disc she is so shrill (and not just in voice but in personality) that I seriously considered taking a flame thrower to my set. Still, I have to give Her Almighty Annoyingness credit for killing a storyline in which her daughter’s father would turn out to be…Vince McMahon.
You go, girl.
So yeah, there’s a whole heap of garbage on this disc, but I can’t NOT recommend it. Why, you ask? Well, anyone who was a fan during the initial McMahon-Austin feud will tell you that it was without question one of the greatest times ever to be a wrestling fan. This disc covers that feud in extensive detail, and that alone makes it worth the price of admission.
Even if you have to sit through a whole lot of Kiss My Ass Club segments to get there.
And to be fair, there is a LOT of fun on the disc. Vince may be an egotistical maniac, but he is a very entertaining egotistical maniac. He will do whatever he can to make your viewing entertaining, no matter how goofy or stupid he may wind up looking. Or if he winds up in a hospital, for that matter. And for that, I give him credit.
I think, in the end, Shawn Michaels said it best:
“That’s why I say he’s the greatest guy in the world to work for – because he’s an idiot.”
And that idiot is a whole lot of fun to watch.
Highlight: Amazingly enough, too many to mention. If I had to choose, though, I’d go with the WrestleCraptastic 1987 Slammy’s clip in which Vince belts outStand Back. Damn is that great.
You can order McMahon by clicking rightchere!
Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be
Three Disc Set
From 1986 or so through the end of his career in 2000, Bret Hart was my favorite wrestler. His flat out wrestling ability, his talent for making things look so “real”, made any match he was in well worth watching. Of course, once he left the WWF following the infamous Survivor Series fiasco, things went downhill, but even with WCW’s total ineptitude, he still had good matches when he was presented the opportunity.
So getting the new three-disc Bret DVD was a no-brainer (and many thanks to “Diamond Dan” Garza who did just that for me as a Christmas present).
I won’t bore everyone with the entire backstory of how the disc was originally slated to be produced, but suffice to say it was at first going to be a documentary not unlike the Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior one. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, and Bret decided to do what he could to personally salvage the product. And thank God he did. This is easily my favorite WWE release since the Flair three disc set, and, to be honest, I probably like this even more than that one.
First up is the two hour documentary of Bret’s car eer, and it’s a dandy. It has all the stuff you’d expect, plus a ton more. There is a LOT of really early Bret footage from his Stampede days (that would be Stu Hart’s old territory), and that’s a real treat for someone like me who’s seen virtually all of Bret’s WWF and WCW work and thus felt like he’d seen everything the guy ever did. Sadly, there aren’t any complete Stampede matches, but what’s there is gold – his work with the likes of Dynamite Kid are really something to be seen.
While complete Stampede matches aren’t to be found, there’s plenty of bouts to get excited about. Notably, a match I’ve long raved about that was shown exactly once to my knowledge on WWF TV: Bret versus Ricky Steamboat from the old Boston Gardens in 1986. You’re probably thinking that a match like that couldn’t possibly live up to what you’d expect, and you’d be 100% wrong. It’s great, even better than what I remembered (probably due to the fact that in its original showing on the old Prime Time Wrestling it was shown in progress). There are also a rare bout with Ted DiBiase (which doesn’t even have commentary!), which is good, but more of a teaser of what could have been had they had a prolonged feud. The disc is rounded out by all the matches you’d expect (versus Davey Boy Smith from SummerSlam 92, versus Owen at Mania X, versus Austin at Mania 13, and a bunch more) and they’re all great.
As for anything left out? Well, the Iron Man match with Shawn Michaels is rather conspicuous by its absence. In fact, other than a Rockers-Harts match, you won’t see Shawn in any matches. Well, Bret did pick them out. I was also a little bit sad to see one of my personal favorite matches, Bret versus Jerry Lawler (when Lawler faked an injury and had Doink the Clown sub for him, then got caught and was forced into the match that had as much heat as any I’d ever seen), left off the show. Finally, there was a GREAT promo I was wishing would be on there, with Bret and Neidhart mocking the Bulldogs being managed by Matilda that went like this:
Neidhart (to Ken Resnick): “Let me ask you something, Ivy League. What exactly is a female dog?”
Bret: “Yeah, what is it?”
Resnick: “A bitch?”
Neidhart (with Bret DYING in the background): “A WHAT?”
Resnick: “The terminology is a ‘bitch’.”
Bret: “It’s bad enough you have to take orders from a dog…but they’re taking orders from a BITCH.”
Neidhart laughs maniacally
Ah well. I can’t give this anything but the absolute highest possible recommendation, so if you haven’t picked it up yet, you really need to.
Highlight: Steamboat versus Bret. Duh.
Most highly Recommended.
Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 80’s
Three Disc Set
Said it before, and I’ll say it again – there is no greater asset Vince McMahon owns than his massive tape library. He could put out awesome discs that I’d want to buy probably on a weekly basis, just because there’s almost no footage he doesn’t have the rights to.
That’s what makes a collection like this so much fun – you have WWF guys like Hulk Hogan, whom you’d expect on a release such as this, but since WWE owns the rights to the AWA and WCW/NWA, you have all kinds of footage you simply do not expect to see. And it’s AWESOME. I particularly love all the great classic interviews from the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, and Roddy Piper. I should note, however, that the absence of Randy Savage is totally mind boggling. Ah well, maybe volume 2 will have him (and Ted DiBiase and Ultimate Warrior and Jesse Ventura and the Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs and Andre and everyone else they left out).
If you grew up watching wrestling in the 80’s, I can recommend no disc more highly than this one.
Highlight: The Bobby Heenan Show is here in full force, featuring the debut of, oh yes, JAMESON.
Most highly Recommended.
RVD: One of a Kind
Two Disc Set
If you ever wanted to see just how different WWE can make a wrestler, check this one out. I had totally forgotten just how innovative and insane Rob Van Dam was, seeing as he has been stuck doing the same old, same old for so long. This set has tons of old (as in ECW) RVD bouts, including awesome stuff against Sabu, Lance Storm, and Jerry Lynn. Even more fun than that, though, might be his WCW stuff as Robby V. You really have to see Raven decked out a SCOTTY FLAMINGO; I literally laughed until I cried. What an outfit.
Highlight: RVD’s selling of Tommy Dreamer’s piledriver is something to behold. I’ve watched it 20 times, in slow motion, and still can’t figure out how he sprung 3 feet off the mat via his head.
Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story
Two Disc Set
Everyone and their brother has probably told you of the awesome life retrospective on this set. It’s so good, in fact, that most folks fail to mention the matches on this, and that’s a crime, as they are awesome. Not only do we get some classic stuff against Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and RVD, there’s also a bout against Rey Mysterio that is one of the greatest matches I’ve ever seen. Their WWE stuff simply isn’t even in the same ballpark as what their WCW work was, sadly enough. I had totally forgotten just how emotional his win over Brock Lesnar was until I popped this bad boy in. If all that wasn’t enough to get this one, I give you the…
Highlight: An easter egg on the disc has an interview with Uncle Hector telling us about his stint as the GOBBELDY GOOKER!
Bloodbath: Wrestling’s Most Incredible Steel Cage Matches
Two Disc Set
I can’t help but think that this set would have meant so much more, say, 10 years ago. These days, the steel cage match, which used to be THE feud ender, has been so watered down that it’s hard to get too excited about seeing a cage match. Sure, I should have been excited about this trip down memory lane, but for some reason the whole disc just fell flat. Especially perplexing is the inclusion of stuff like Bob Backlund vs. Pat Patterson in its entirety, while Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes is just shown with some clips.
Highlight: WrestleCrap is represented once again as Bret Hart takes on…ISAAC YANKEM.
Beyond the Mat: Special Edition
I am often asked what I consider to be the definitive wrestling movie: Beyond the Mat or Wrestling with Shadows. It’s a tough call, because I really love them both, and this disc, which contains all kinds of extras, makes it even tougher to call. In addition to the movie itself, this release has a Dinner with Jesse Ventura and Mick Foley that’s just that – these two legends sitting around eating and talking pro wrestling. If you’ve never seen it, you must. It’s a bit long in the tooth, but still a pretty fascintating look behind the scenes.
Highlight: Vince McMahon giving Droz his first character: “He’s gonna puke! HE’S GONNA PUKE!!”
The Monday Night War
I actually did a full review of this when it came out, and here it is:
“To discount what WCW did, to discount what Eric Bischoff did, would be grossly unfair to him.” – Shawn Michaels (of all people!), Monday Night War
I have to admit, I was a bit concerned about the release of this disc. It was coming hot on the heels of a few tremendous discs, including the Shawn Michaels from the Vault, and the Foley and Flair collections, which were certainly tough acts to follow. My biggest concern, though, was that WWE would attempt to once again re-write history as they have done so often in the past.
I’m happy to say, they took the high road and didn’t do that. Well, for the most part. Sure, you have Hunter claiming that DX invading Nitro was a turning point in the war (ummm, it wasn’t, sorry), but for the most part, the story is told pretty fairly. Only a few folks come off as total ass kissers, most notably Gerald Brisco, who is so pathetic in towing the company line that you will likely start laughing every time he appears on screen.
The bulk of the disc is a nearly two-hour piece detailing the beginnings of Raw, Nitro, and the battle for supremacy that took place every Monday night for the better part of six years. To the company’s credit, they actually give Bischoff his props for coming up with new and innovative ideas, like the nWo and Nitro itself. As I’ve been doing my research for the Death of WCW book, I too have been utterly astounded at just how groundbreaking a lot of his ideas were, and just how well he executed, especially in a company that had seemingly zero clue before he took over. It’s nice to see that they didn’t just bury the poor guy, as they seemingly do on TV week in and week out.
Instead, Bischoff comes off as a certified super-genius during the first half of the piece. Stuff like announcing the pre-taped results of Raw was really shocking, though it infuriated some fans, me included. Still, I have to give him credit for the line “Bob Holly, is he still around?” – and that was back in 1995! Anway, this was just ground breaking stuff, and really forced the WWF to somehow fight back. The formation of the nWo is also given a fair shake, although, of course, there is talk about how Bischoff was conning people into believing it was the WWF invading WCW. Funniest line here was the narrator: “Viewers were confused, yet interested.” Yes, everyone tuned in because they were CONFUSED. The whole thing just smacks of irony, considering that Bischoff did a better job with two guys invading WCW than Vince did with the entire COMPANY invading WWF.
Perhaps most comical are some of the WWE guys’ take on Nitro and Bischoff’s actions. Of course, Ted Turner is a target, with Vince claiming that the only reason that Nitro was put on Monday nights was to hurt the WWF. Hate to tell anyone this, but if you have a known night when wrestling is a draw, wouldn’t it make sense to put it on that night? You know people are going to be interested, so why not try to tap into that audience? For a guy with “balls the size of grapefruits”, I thought it was pretty lame of Vince to play the “oh, poor me” bit with regards to Turner’s decision.
I also thought the bit where Madusa dropped the belt into the trash on Nitro was very interesting. Bischoff claimed that she did it totally against her will, stating “I loved it, but I’m sure she now wishes she wouldn’t have.” No doubt. Vince felt totally betrayed, and then said, “If you box me in, I’m going to do something stupid. Foruntately, it didn’t get that far.” The next scene, the Billionaire Ted stuff, sort of disproves that statement.
There’s a lot of great stuff on display here: the time when Nash lawn darted Rey Jr. into the side of a truck; Austin’s rise to fame; the creation of the Mr. McMahon character, which I still think is one of the top two or three heels of all time; Golberg’s rise to glory; Foley’s championship win; Jericho’s Raw debut (but only the Rock’s rebuttal – WTF?); and much, much more. A thirty second clip of lucha action featuring Rey, Juvie, and others was fantastic, and made me almost literally start crying. Man their cruiserweight division was awesome.
There’s even some WrestleCrap, as Russo and Ferrera make a brief appearance, and are slammed by virtually everyone, with Ric Flair going so far as to call him a clown. Among their “highlights” were Pinata on a Pole, Oklahoma, and Russo in the Popemobile. Extras include a couple of great matches (like Booker-Benoit) and some classic stuff, like the “Bret screwed Bret” speech and a Jim Cornette tirade in which he calls Hogan and Piper every name in the book. My God I miss James E. Time to start getting those OVW tapes again.
The biggest ommission has to be the fact that the biggest angle WCW ever did, which lead, in turn, to the biggest PPV they ever did, is not even mentioned. That would, of course, be Sting vs. Hogan. Look, I know the guy isn’t with the company, but come on…that’s what had a lot of people watching Nitro throughout its long winning streak.
The downfall of WCW is blamed primarily on the right things: not pushing new stars, giving talent creative control, burying Flair, etc.. They really just brush on why WCW failed, focusing more on how WWE came back. That’s good and bad – it’s bad because it would have been really interesting for folks to see a lot of the bad decisions that were made, but it’s good because that means my upcoming book will fill everyone in on what REALLY went down without being colored by opinions that may be biased toward WWE.
The show ends with the final Nitro, of course, and the various folks reflecting on the death of the company. Most of the guys were saddened to see it go, because they had friends there who would no longer be employed. Eddy specifically mentions Chavo, and boy was I glad to see WWE pick him up. The oddest statement came from Ric Flair: “I was so happy at that last show to see that company close down.” That just seems so strange, but somehow understandable, especially given his tumultuous relationship with the company.
In the end, I think Chris Benoit said it best: “It was a great time to be a wrestling fan, it was a great time to be a wrestler.”
After reliving so many memories while watching this disc, I’d be hard pressed to disagree.
Highlight: “Viewers were confused, yet interested.”
The Rise and Fall of ECW
Two Disc Set
It’s the second best selling WWE DVD of all time, and with good reason. This thing absolutely rocks. The title says it all – this is the story of how ECW grew from a tiny little indy promotion to a force that still sends shockwaves through the wrestling world four years after its demise. There’s literally nothing I can say that hasn’t been said a million times before, so just buy the damn thing if you haven’t already.
Highlight: Paul Heyman’s Steve Austin impersonation.
The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection
Three Disc Set
Everyone loves this collection, and, on the surface, I do too. But after revisiting it the other day, I can’t help but feel there was a LOT of stuff left out that should have been here. Specifically, although great matches are all over this thing, classic Flair interviews are far too sparse. The old stuff he used to do with Bill Apter on WTBS has been so thoroughly burned into my memory that a Ric Flair set without at least a half dozen of those bits seems like a total rip off.
But hey, I’m just being a jerk. If you like Flair, you will love this collection. Just do yourself a favor and turn it off before he starts talking about how great Hunter is on disc three.
Highlight: Royal Rumble 92; arguably Bobby Heenan’s greatest commentary performance ever.
Five Disc Set
I picked this one up at Wal-Mart for like $15, and suffice to say, I wasn’t expecting much. To be honest, I saw the words “Mud Match” and thought, “There’s a ready made WrestleCrap induction.” And to be fair, most of the actual wrestling on this thing is pretty hard to watch, with some matches being contested between guys who you’ve never heard of.
Having said all that, this collection is a hell of a lot of fun, because Jim Cornette and Dave Meltzer are doing commentary. Cornette is absoutely hysterical, and Dave is his usual informative self, even stumping Cornette from time to time. Too bad half the matches end with them getting cut off in mid-sentence!
Highlight: Cornette’s description of Bob Sweetan.
Recommended, but only if you can find it REALLY cheap.
Hulk Still Rules
Two Disc Set
I’m anything but the world’s biggest Hulkamaniac, but after all the glowing reviews, I had to pick this thing up. And while it did little to convert me, I have to admit it was a lot of fun jumping in the wayback machine and reliving some of wrestling’s most famous moments. Tons and tons of old stuff that will really get you misty eyed for the old days, when a suplex meant the end of a match. I especially loved re-living Paul Orndorff’s heel turn; damn that was fun stuff.
Highlight: Hogan’s claim that he shot on Tatsumi Fujinami was absolutely hysterical.
Highly recommended if you like Hogan; mildly recommended if you don’t.
Since so many people have asked for it, what follows below is a listing of some of the more popular wrestling books available today. I’ve also listed some books that were written, belive it or not, by fellow Crappers! I haven’t listed my two books, WrestleCrap (Amazon, High Spots) and The Death of WCW (Amazon,High Spots), since a) I think my reviews would be pretty biased and b) I kinda sorta hope you have them already, to support the site if nothing else.
You can find these books pretty much anywhere, including High Spots and Amazon. In fact, since some of the books are a bit older, you can pick them up for next to nothing at the Amazon marketplace. For instance, you can nab Have a Nice Day for just over a George Washington. At that price, you really can’t go wrong with any of these books.
Well, except for Moolah’s, that is…
Rope Opera: How WCW Killed Vince Russo
by Vince Russo
“How ironic is it that ECW Press, my publisher, also published a book entitled The Death of WCW, with a picture of yours truly on the cover. The epic manuscript goes on in detail – not factually based, but detail nonetheless – fingering the culprits who killed WCW. Now mind you, being one of the “usual suspects” named, I was a bit taken aback that I was never interviewed and that none of the authors involved in the book ever had any legitimate ties to WCW whatsoever, but regardless – the book’s a masterpiece. It’s right up there with The Toilet Zone: A Hilarious Collection of Bathroom Humor by Reynolds and Gross.”
With a paragraph like that, you’d probably think that I would have nothing good to say about Vince Russo’s latest tome, Rope Opera: How WCW Killed Vince Russo. And while I admit I bristled a bit at reading his ‘critique’ of my book, that ‘anger’ lasted approximately two seconds before I laughed out loud. Because honestly, what would you expect from a book from Russo’s perspective? Do you think the guy is going to say, “Yep, they were right to put me on the cover of their book – good for them!”
Of course not.
But what I am about to write next may surprise you. I’m not particularly upset with Russo. Heck, I’ll go past that, and go so far as to say I actually enjoyed his book. It was his chance to give his side of the story, and he went into a lot of detail.
I’d crack that his detail was “not factually based, but detail nonetheless”, but I’m not a jerk like that.
But yes, believe it or not, I did enjoy the book. I disagreed with a lot of it (and I do mean a LOT of it, especially some of the ratings that were toted as ‘facts’), but I found a lot of it pretty fascinating. He gives his versions of such notable events as Bash at the Beach, the attempt to team up with Eric Bischoff, and, of course, the David Arquette title run. Again, I don’t agree with them, specifically the Arquette thing, which he claims was a success because people are still talking about it. My argument, which I made in Death of WCW, is that it hurt ratings and killed ticket and PPV sales. Yes, people still talk about it to this day, but they also talk about the Hindenburgh. Sometimes there is such a thing as bad publicity.
It’s not all negative though. He goes into quite a bit of depth concerning his relationships with folks like Bill Goldberg, Ric Flair, and Hulk Hogan. As you can probably guess, he doesn’t have a lot of nice things to say about these folks, who previously had not so nice things to say about him. The most fascinating relationship, though, is that with Vince McMahon. If you ever have dreams of working for WWE, trust me, once you read this, you’ll come to the conclusion that would be one of the worst jobs ever. And that’s one that I completely believe.
Another interesting aspect of Rope Opera is that many of the items we pegged as reasons for the downfall of the company Russo also notes. In fact, I chuckled as he named several reason why the company perished…and they matched ones that Bryan and I listed in Death of WCW. Don’t get me wrong, he named several that contradict what we had written, but there are some that basically match up exactly, which pretty much validates what we had to say all along.
The question, of course, is this: will most readers of Death of WCW enjoy this book, or will they just get annoyed? That’s a question that I cannot answer. Look, there are people out there that just hate the guy, and no matter what he says, those people are not going to agree with him. For instance, I don’t think Jim Cornette would read the book and find anything to like in it. My guess is Bryan would be the same way. Russo can definitely rub people the wrong way, and there is quite a bit in the book that will be 40 grit sandpaper on an open wound to those folks. Also, some folks won’t enjoy the religious aspects of the book. As a fellow Christian, though, I definitely did.
Long story short, there are always three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. I believe Death of WCW to be the most accurate version of the story. Bryan and I worked really hard to get everything right in that book, and trust me, we talked with a lot of folks who were there. We’ve also been told by others that were there at the end that we nailed it dead on. Obviously, I don’t view Russo’s as being as accurate as ours, but it’s his side of the story, and you may find it very interesting.
While I disagreed with a lot of it, I know I did.
Highlight: I found his constant discussions of his relationship with Vince McMahon fascinating. For once, we have a guy who is absolutely unafraid to speak his mind about McMahon. It’s obvious he has zero intention or hope of ever going back to WWE, unlike so many others who would probably love to say these things, but know they can’t because, well, you know…he may call them and give them one more payday!
Recommended if you think you can go into this with an open mind; Not recommended at all if you aren’t open to things that blatantly contradict Death of WCW
You can order Rope Opera: How WCW Killed Vince Russo by clicking, you guessed it, rightchere!
by Scott Williams
I know I’ve mentioned it on interviews in the past, but I think it bears repeating what happened following the unexpected success of the first WrestleCrap book. My publisher, ECW Press, came back to me asking if I would consider doing a second book. I knew it was too soon to do a true sequel to the first book, so I had to go in a different direction. I came up with three ideas:
1. ToyCrap: The Very Worst Toys We Had as Children
2. The Death of WCW
3. The Death of ECW
The book I REALLY wanted to do was the toy book, which I had even talked to Matt at X-Entertainment about co-authoring, and he was interested. I thought that would be really cool to do, but ECW was not interested, instead wanting me to do another wrestling book. And the one they wanted was NOT Death of WCW, but rather Death of ECW.
In the end, I vetoed that idea. I didn’t want to do that book, because it’s my goal to make people laugh. I felt that WCW, with its absurd amounts of absurdities was ripe for comedy. ECW, though, was just going to be too depressing to write about, and thus, we agreed I’d work on the WCW book. I was able to convince Bryan Alvarez to work on that book with me, and the rest is history.
Since Death of WCW hit (and was a hit), countless folks have come along to do the book that I turned down. And while I’ve not read all of them, I have read one that I thought was really good: Scott Williams’ Hardcore History. In fact, I would dare call it a perfect companion to Death of WCW.
While it doesn’t contain the comedy DOWCW does (again, how could it?), the amount of research is every bit as good as what Bryan and I did. In some ways, I think it’s even better. One of the major complaints I’ve heard over the years on DOWCW is that we didn’t have enough quotes in the book. That was primarily due to the fact that most of the guys we talked with were under a gag order from WWE; it’s not that we didn’t talk to people, it’s that we couldn’t print what they had to say. Due to most of the guys on the ECW roster NOT going to WWE, Scott didn’t have the same issue. And because of that, there is no shortage of folks speaking their minds. You’ve got everyone from Shane Douglas to Raven to Jerry Lynn to Terry Funk. Sure, there were a few key players absent (namely Paul Heyman himself), but it’s a fascinating look behind the scenes as to what happened in the company.
Still, if I had one complaint about the book it would be that there is almost an overabundance of quotes. Seriously, did we really need to find out what Stately Wayne Manner thought of what was happening backstage at the bingo hall?
As I would have predicted going in, reading it made me very sad. I can only imagine how depressed I would have been had I actually wrote it.
So thank you, Scott Williams, for doing the dirty work so I didn’t have to.
Highly recommended if you think you can withstand the depression you will no doubt feel after reading it.
You can order Hardcore History by clicking RIGHTCHERE!
Heartbreak & Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story
by Shawn Michaels with Aaron Feigenbaum
As I made clear in my review of Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Professional Wrestling, I am a huge fan of Bret Hart. In a lot of ways, though, I’ve also been a fan of Shawn Michaels, which, as you can imagine, has been a bit of a conflict. After all, if there were ever two men who did not get along in this business, it would be Bret and Shawn.
Despite my markedness for the Hitman, as the old saying goes, there are two sides to every story. So I really wanted to get Shawn’s perspective on things to give the guy a fair shake. After all, is it not possible that Bret is just bitter that Shawn keeps trucking along in the business long after it had chewed Bret up and spit him out? And not just floundering, but in main events and delivering spectacular match after spectacular match? Could it be that I’ve been cheering for the wrong guy all along?
My answer, after reading Heartbreak and Triumph, is a resounding “No.”
A bit of backstory for those newer fans of the business. Dating back to the early to mid 1990’s, Shawn Michaels has had a reputation of being someone impossible to deal with behind the scenes, a guy who refused to do jobs so often that it became a running joke. It wasn’t just Bret Hart that maintained this viewpoint, but countless interviews with others as well confirmed this to be true. I believe at some point Dave Meltzer may have even done an entire Wrestling Observer detailing all the times he lost titles while miraculously not being pinned. He and his buddies, the Kliq, which included Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, and Triple H, would make sure things went their way.
In short, Shawn was a pain in the ass who, when he didn’t get his way, would simply take his ball and quite literally go home.
So my big question going into this book was how, exactly, Shawn would explain these situations. My feeling was that with his newfound conversion to Christianity, he would come clean and admit that he had done not only the WWF wrong, but his peers as well.
What a fool I was.
Instead, what I got was over 300 pages explaining how everyone was jealous of him, how the boys in the back had heat with him for no reason, how every dirtsheet is full of nothing but lies, and how even if he had refused to do a job, he really had no say. Indeed, the most common refrain in the book being “There is no refusing to do a job. Ask Bret Hart. Ask the people in Montreal. It only happens if Vince allows it.”
And I think that right there is the crux of the whole thing: Shawn saw his ability to manipulate Vince as some sort of justification as to why all the things that people accused him of doing were ok. That is made very clear. He feels as though, since he was able to talk Vince into, say, not having him and Kevin Nash lose their titles, that made it ok.
Sorry, but I have to disagree. Just because you can talk your boss into something that is wrong doesn’t make it any less wrong. It just means you know how to politic to get your way. And sometimes when you get your way, it hurts not only other people within the company, but the fans watching the product as well. You can look at a long line of promotions that died due to this, and honestly, were it not for Shawn’s injury that put him out of action for four years, one has to question whether guys like Steve Austin and the Rock would have ever been able to get past his and Hunter’s political power.
Think I’m full of conspiracy theories? Then consider the fact that in one honest moment in the book, Shawn actually admits to what I am saying: “Were we using our political clout to keep each other on top? Absolutely. What we did was no different from what Hogan, Save, Piper, and Bob Orton Jr. had done before. If you are on top, you want to make sure you keep working with people on top. That’s how you stay up there.”
Who’s the champion on Raw right now?
My point exactly.
The book isn’t entirely without merit. There are lots of interesting stories, and in a very warped way, you can almost see where Shawn is coming from in a lot of these instances. It’s just too bad that he’s not honest enough with himself – and with you, the reader – to actually admit to his wrongdoings.
In fact, I became so frustrated reading the book that in a lot of ways, my enjoyment of his current work has taken a hit. Because I just feel like by getting into his matches, by cheering for him, I am supporting someone who just doesn’t seem on the up and up.
Very, VERY mildly recommended if you want Shawn’s side of things. Just keep in mind that your enjoyment of Shawn’s current work may nosedive after hearing some of the BS inside!
You can order Heartbreak & Triumph by clicking rightchere!
Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling
by Bret Hart
If ever you were to ask me who my favorite wrestlers are, odds are that Bret Hart would be near the top of the list. Quite simply, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone in the ring who I would put in his class. Sure, you could make a case for others, such as Ric Flair, Eddy Guerrero, Dynamite Kid, or countless others. But if I were going on that proverbial desert island and could only take footage of one guy, it would be “The Hitman.”
So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I hear rumor of him penning an autobiography. I had these wild visions of it being on par with his exploits in the ring, a five star classic like his bouts with Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels.
The kicker? The book may even be better than that. It’s awesome.
Now I say that with a bit of a disclaimer: if you are a fan of Bret, you may walk away from the book actually thinking LESS of him. I did. While Bret (obviously rightly, but almost to a fault) toots his own horn about his wrestling acumen, he is not quite as kind to Bret Hart, the person. And when you read of his out of the ring actions, well…your hero might drop a notch or two.
“Brutally honest” is a phrase thrown around a lot these days, but here it is very appropriate: his stories of illicit relationships and drug usage are discussed in a very frank and open manner. As you read again and again about him cheating on his wife, or his drug abuse, you almost have to step back and think, “Man, this guy is kind of a scumbag. Is this someone I should have really been looking up to?”
Conversely, it’s that openess that actually gains some of that lost respect back. How many autobiographies tell the entire truth, warts and all, without covering up the author’s faults? It is commendable that Bret would be willing to lay it all on the line the way he has.
And the depth in this book…my goodness. I can honestly state I have never, EVER read any wrestling book that dives into so much detail. Bret talks about all his famous matches, as well as some not so famous ones, not only going over in the ring happenings, but backstage as well. Most of the time he even lists the date the bout took place!
Bret also has zero problem giving his blunt, honest opinions of his contemporaries in the business. While other books might have a shot here or there against someone, Bret throws all caution out the window and absolutely laces into those he doesn’t care for. No doubt you are thinking, “Boy, Shawn and Hunter are gonna get it”, and they do, with one of the great lines in the book being “I’ll never forgive Shawn, or Hunter, for killing the business that so many of us gave our lives for.”
But you might be stunned to read about the others he thinks so little of. Bad News Brown, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and countless others are ripped to absolute shreds. Even folks Bret does like, such as the British Bulldogs, are taken to task. Heck, even his own FAMILY members are read the riot act!
But not once did I find myself thinking, “Man, Bret’s just being a jerk here.” No, I found myself thinking, “I totally see why he would say that. What the hell is/was wrong with these people?” I also thought his overall view of the business, and what it has become, was right on the money.
Bret’s life has had a LOT of tragedy, and you really start to feel for him throughout the mess of it all. Owen’s passing, Montreal, in-fighting in the family, all the deaths of his family and friends, the Goldberg kick, the absolute stupidity of WCW, his stroke…after a while, you just wanted the poor guy to have something, anything, go his way.
The most shocking thing about the book? It has a lot of humor. It’s not joke a minute (leave that to us!), but there are some laugh outloud moments in the book. Here are a couple of my favorites:
(Regarding his brother Dean): “Dean’s life now existed of getting high and simply existing. He made it look like he earned his keep at Stu’s by tinkering on old Cadillacs and moving piles of bricks and debris from one end of the yard to the other for no apparent reason.”
(Regarding Chyna): “Even Hunter came out to greet me, with Chyna, who clearly had radical cosmetic surgery since the last time I’d seen her; she looked drastically altered, reconstructed and beautiful in a ghastly kind of way.”
I promise you, henceforth when I describe Chyna, it will be that she is “beautiful in a ghastly kind of way.”
What can I say? This is the absolute pinnacle of wrestling books. Wait for the US release if you can, but I say get it right now, by any means neccessary!
Absolutely highest possible recommendation if you’re a Bret fan. Still recommended if you’re not.
You can order Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling by clickingrightchere!
Missy Hyatt: First Lady of Wrestling
by Missy Hyatt
Well, it’s taken forever, but I have finally gotten around to reading – and thus reviewing – another wrestling tome. And this one may be an oldie, but it’s a goodie.
The book we’re taking a look at today is Missy Hyatt’s First Lady of Wrestling. At first thought, you are probably like I was: what the hell could Missy Hyatt fill up a book about?
A lot of folks probably only remember Missy from ECW, or if they’re a bit older, then from WCW before that. But truth be told, the girl’s been in the business for years, dating back to when I initially started watching wrestling back in the mid 1980’s.
And I will never forget first seeing Missy: blonde, stacked, gorgeous. In an era where the saintly Miss Elizabeth ruled the roost…well…Missy was everything that Elizabeth wasn’t. She wasn’t about to hide her sexuality, and instead put it right in your face. And best of all, she was a heel.
Like I said: everything Elizabeth wasn’t.
Once I started getting into the book, I quickly realized just how many territories Missy had been in, and quickly realized she had no shortage of stories to tell. I mean, hell…here’s a short list of what she had to work with.
- Married Eddie Gilbert, one of wrestling’s all-time great minds
- Worked for the Von Erichs
- Did a very, very short stint in the WWF as the replacement for Piper’s Pit, the ill-fated (and in dire need of being inducted) Missy’s Manor
- Worked for Bill Watts and the original UWF
- Worked for, and then sued, Eric Bischoff and WCW
- Worked for Paul Heyman and ECW
Oh yeah, and one more thing…she’s done like half the guys in wrestling. As you will discover (and correctly would have guessed), she loves the penises. And she talks about them in great detail. Hmmm.
Anyway, here’s a very abbreviated version of Missy’s lipstick case notches: Jake Roberts, John Tatum, Tommy Rich, Dr. Tom Prichard, Brutus Beefcake, Road Warrior Hawk, and Val Venis, who she absolutely buries six feet beneath the earth for his sexual “prowess”.
And if you want to know about other dudes she’s banged, well, there’s Bill Fralic and the older brother from The Wonder Years, Jason Hervey. Sadly, she never mentions if he called her “Scrote” during their most intimate moments. I’d like to think he did.
So yeah, she has a ton of material to work with, and she actually does a pretty damn good job with it; the book is very funny. The sad part is that it’s just so short…at just 163 pages, I was really hoping for more. Oh well.
Still, I can’t knock it. It’s fun, light reading. And I think folks have it used onAmazon for like $6, and at that price, you can’t go wrong.
One last thing before I head out…in the book, Missy talks about how she was sad she never stuck around the WWF and got a Missy Hyatt doll.
Melissa, my dear, if you are reading this, a word of advice: WWE is producing all kinds of legends dolls, and I am sure you still have a shot at that.
After all, a Missy doll would sure in the hell outsell a Johnny Rodz one.
Recommended if you’re in the mood for a quickie. Err, quick read that is. 8)
You can pick up First Lady of Wrestling by clicking…you guessed it…rightchere!
Controversy Creates Ca$h
by Eric Bischoff
I really wanted to like Controversy Creates Ca$h. I know that probably sounds absurd, but let’s face it – Bischoff was never going to talk to us for Death of WCW. Sure, we had tons of other folks within the company who did (almost all of whom now work for WWE and were thus uncredited in our book), but Eric had likely the best view of anyone as to exactly what unfolded in the dying days of the company. It would be interesting to see what his take was on the mistakes the company made as well as the miscues he himself orchestrated. I was truly intrigued by his side of the story. If you were a fan back in the Monday Night Wars era, you likely were as well.
In a move that will no doubt ensure that I won’t be on Eric’s Christmas card list again this year, let me save you the $26 and give you Bischoff’s side of what happened: the merger of Turner and Time Warner curtailed a lot of WCW’s freedom was was thus the reason for the downfall of the company. They could no longer be edgy, and that was the entire reason why Raw kicked Nitro’s ass. As examples, Bischoff cites the facts that he couldn’t make jokes about Monica Lewinsky (page 289), or do a skit in which an 80-year old woman gave birth to a hand (page 293). This, we are told, was a major issue and the primary reason that WCW began to lose the ratings battle to the WWF.
There’s your lesson for today, kids: making money isn’t about making matches that fans want, and therefore are willing to pay, to see. It’s all about bad Jay Leno jokes and stupid skits involving elderly vaginas. Who knew?
You see, nothing that happened during WCW’s freefall was Eric’s fault at all. It was all due to the fact that Eric’s bosses were jerks. Oh, and of course that fact the WWF was great, especially Vince McMahon. Yes, Vince was a genius, a genius the likes of which everyone should aspire to be. In fact, “genius” doesn’t really do him justice; we really need to come up with a word beyond “genius.” Come to think of it, maybe folks who display such brilliance would simply be known as “McMahons.”
If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone was trying to get a contract extension. Hmmm.
Other fun facts I learned in this book:
1. Eric is obsessed with “dirt sheets” like Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer. Hardly a page passes when the word “dirt sheet” doesn’t appear. According to the book, these publications are filled with lies and have no basis in fact. This, of course, is despite the fact that Bischoff appeared countless times on Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Live during Nitro’sheyday, openly discussing things they had talked about at other times.
2. Bret Hart had no passion for wrestling in WCW, he was just there collecting big paychecks. Sadly, Eric doesn’t go into detail (actually he never goes into detail about anything in the book), so the part about how WCW booked Bret into oblivion following his opening feud with Ric Flair that drew excellent ratings is omitted. Surely those two items couldn’t have somehow been related. Right?
3. His first ever appearance on Raw was great television. When he and Vince hugged, they shocked everyone. For once, I agree – I know I was shocked that WWE threw a true money making angle (Bischoff versus McMahon was probably the last true “feud” from the War that had any kind of money making potential) right down the toilet. Not so sure it was great television, but if the Hindenburgh is your kind of thing, it was probably right up your alley.
Look, I don’t blame Eric for all the Vince ass-kissing. He’s just a guy trying to make a living, and his best chance to do so is to butter up the boss. The late, great “Earthquake” John Tenta said it best in the foreword to my first book: “Where’s Bischoff now? And where’s WCW? Vince McMahon owns them both.”
Eric-bashing aside, I have to say I am honestly disappointed that Eric wasn’t more honest about the downfall of the company. He was the major force for the company’s rise, but he was also one of many who had a hand in its demise. He should have at least owned up to some of that. I can only believe that had he been more open, it would have made for a much better book.
Ah well, what can you do? After all, Honesty Creates Cash wouldn’t have been as good a title.
Recommended if you want to hear Eric’s superficial retelling of the story. If not, get Death of WCW.
King of the Ring: Harley Race
by Harley Race
I’ll be honest – by the time I got into wrestling, Harley Race was way past his prime, and almost into retirement. Having said that, I thought I’d give his book a look, just to see if something might catch my attention. While Race’s stories are, at times, somewhat interesting, I found the book overall to be a bit on the blah side. Thankfully, though, the book doesn’t really have time to get too boring, as it is very short. I’m thinking that older fans, who got to watch Harley in his prime, would probably enjoy this one a lot more than I did.
Recommended only for those who really idolized Race (and therefore, probably have the book anyway).
The Mouth of the South: The Jimmy Hart Story
by Jimmy Hart
There are few in wrestling who have led a more interesting life than the Mouth of the South. He was a legit rock & roll star (with a group called The Gentrys), worked one of the most famous wrestling angles of all time with Andy Kaufman, and eventually became the real life manager of Hulk Hogan. You’d think he’d have hundreds of stories to tell, but sadly, this book is so short that very little is actually said. His WWF career is brushed through so fast that you’d think he was only there for a month instead of nine years. Note to all future wrestlers doing autobiographies: the fans want to know what you thought of various matches, wrestlers, and angles. What your thoughts were on them and why you thought they were good or bad. After all, why write an autobiography if you’re going to leave out the details everyone wants to read about?
Sadly not recommended.
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan: Wrestling’s Bad Boy
Chair Shots & Other Obstacles: Winning Life’s Wrestling Matches
by Bobby Heenan
Bobby Heenan was my idol in the wrestling business before I ever had the chance to meet him. After I had the privilege of chatting with the Brain earlier this year, he’s now an idol to me outside the ring. And I’m happy to say that his books didn’t disappoint, capturing the wit and wisdom of the man long known to fans as the Weasel. As great as his first effort was, I think I actually like the second one more, as he discusses his fight with cancer. Obviously, I can relate to this on a very personal level. Those who haven’t had that misfortune would probably prefer the first book, as it is more wrestling related. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Highest recommendation on both books.
by Dave Meltzer
There are few in wrestling that are more respected when it comes to being an insider than Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. After all, if he didn’t invent the “dirt sheet”, he certainly popularized it along with Wade Keller and his Pro Wrestling Torch. Both of his Tributes books are really good reads; they are basically obituaries of some of the world’s most famous wrestlers. Book one has life stories of (among others) Brian Pillman, Rick Rude, Kerry Von Erich, and Junkyard Dog, while book 2 has more recent passings, such as Davey Boy Smith, Curt Hennig, Road Warrior Hawk, and Miss Elizabeth. I think I actually liked the first book better, simply because I was fascinated reading about JYD and especially Kerry.
Highest recommendation on both books, especially the first one.
by Spencer Baum
This is a fictional story about a guy by the name of Joey Hamilton who winds up the champion of the world in a very political wrestling environment. Sound familiar? It’s very clever, with a some real twists and turns along the way. And get this – it’s by a loyal Crapper, just like yourself!
If you’re into fan fiction at all, check it out.
The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle
by Lillian Ellison
I have never been a Fabulous Moolah fan. And you know what? I have never met anyone who is. Quick – name a great Moolah match? Can’t do it? With the exception of the Cyndi Lauper angle (which was all about Cyndi), name a memorable Moolah storyline. Don’t feel bad – I can’t either. So why I bought this book is a total mystery.
I’ll be blunt – I absolutely LOATHED this book. I knew I would from the very first page when she detailed a bout with Ivory and attempted to make it sound like a shoot. Those opening pages pretty much illegitimated anything she wrote through the rest of the book, because she had already established the fact that she was trying to “work” the reader. So when she talked about meeting Elvis, all I could think was, “You lied about ‘figthing’ Ivory – why would I believe that you knew the King of Rock & Roll?”
Avoid like the plague crossed with gonorrhea crossed with that White Chicksmovie.
Have a Nice Day
Foley is Good
by Mick Foley
I find it hard to believe there is even one wrestling fan out there who hasn’t read at least one of Mick’s books. And if you haven’t, you really should; if you like Mick even in the slightest, you will really enjoy both books. Upon first glance, they appear to be monstrous, and indeed they are. But they are so damn funny that it’s hard to put them down. I still go back and reread them from time to time, and even gave out the second book as gifts to the groomsmen at my wedding. Not sure you can get a bigger thumbs up (and cheap pop) than that.
Highest recommendation on both books.
In the Pit with Piper
by Roddy Piper
Whereas I found Flair’s book to be politically penned, Piper’s is anything but. He goes off on the industry in such a manner that you’d think the guy was insane. That’s the good part. The bad part is that he also wants you to believe that everything in wrestling is a “fight”, and that he was basically the biggest star in the history of the world. I really liked the part where Piper took the business to task; that would have made for a great book. Sadly, the rest of it missed the mark.
To Be The Man
by Ric Flair
As much as I enjoyed the Nature Boy’s autobiography, I couldn’t help but be let down by the fact that Flair was being so political throughout the whole thing. And that makes me very sad. You can almost hear Flair’s thought process in writing the book. “Ok, Hunter doesn’t like Bret, so let’s bash him. And let’s talk about how great Vince is. That’ll win me a job for life!”
I found it ironic in the book that at one point, Flair felt as though he wasn’t a good performer, and he lost all confidence in himself. Reading his endless shilling of Trips has to make me wonder if he ever really regained the belief that he is, in fact, the greatest wrestler of or times, or if he believes the only way he will keep getting paychecks is to kiss ass.
Recommended, as long as you know what you are getting into.
Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams
by Greg Oliver
This one caught me totally by surprised. I say that because the first book in the Hall of Fame series (The Canadians) was a title I didn’t enjoy much at all. Having said that, this look at the greatest tag teams of all time is fascinating reading. There are tons of behind the scenes stories, and detailed histories, with lots of information that I, a wrestling fan of 20 years, did not know.
I didn’t agree with the rankings of the top 20, but let’s face it – lists like that are just designed to get people talking and debating.
Wouldn’t be the first book I’d grab off the shelf, but if you’ve got all the other “highly recommended” titles on this list, you can’t go wrong with this one.
by The Rock
I love the Rock.
I hate being worked when I am reading wrestling books.
Perhaps you see my dilemma.
The bulk of this book is written in the third person, and DAMN does that get annoying quick. It doesn’t help that it was so obviously ghost-written, no doubt as a quick cash in following the success of the first Foley book. I don’t care how much you love the Rock, do yourself a favor and do NOT buy this book.
What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History
by David Hofstede, Tom Bergeron
Covering everything from Joanie Loves Chachi to the replacement Duke Cousins to Cop Rock, think of it as TVCrap: the Very Worst of Television. It’s a book I wish I had thought of and written, but someone beat me to it!
As a consolation prize, though, a WrestleCrap inductee actually gets a mention, as coming in at number 62 is the Raw featuring Mae Young giving birth to a hand (complete with commentary by yours truly). Very funny stuff indeed.
Buzz on Pro Wrestling
Tonight, In This Very Ring
Death of the WWF
by Scott Keith
I don’t think it’s any big secret that I find Scott Keith to be a very insightful author when it comes to pro wrestling. I also greatly enjoy his sense of humor. So it probably comes as little shock that I recommend his triumvirate of titles to fans of this site. Scott and I view most things WWE in pretty much the same vein, although to be fair, he is much more scathing than even I am when it comes to stuff like Hunter, Steph, and Vince himself. I should also note that his first book is littered with misspelled names and silly clip art that makes no sense.
Still, they are well worth the cash, especially when you consider you can nab the second one used from Amazon for under $6, and his first effort for…this cannot be right…sixty-seven cents?!!
Long Bomb: How the XFL Became TV’s Biggest Fiasco
by Brett Forrest
Although it’s not strictly a pro wrestling book, I really enjoyed Long Bomb. It’s a very inside look at the XFL and all the disastrous decisions that were made that sealed the fate of the company. At times, it tends to drag a bit due to the fact that so much emphasis is placed on the games themselves. While I understand why this was done, I can’t help but think that a shorter version of the book would have been much more enjoyable. I also think it needed a bit more “bite” to it – at times, it felt as though Forrest was simply relating the story, when some in-depth analysis would have really put it over the top.
Recommended, but be forewarned it has a LOT of football recapping.
by Tom Billington (aka, the Dynamite Kid)
Dynamite Kid was easily my favorite in-ring performer of the 1980’s, so you’d think no book would come more highly recommended. As much as I would love to, I can’t do that. Now don’t get me wrong – I liked this book, and found it very interesting. At the same time, however, it also made me really sad to read first hand just how bitter my former hero had become. I’m all for folks speaking their minds, but Dynamite almost reaches Bruno Sammartino levels here. I also found the book to be a bit dry and at times, flat out boring. A real disappointment to me.
Not recommended, unless you really love Dynamite Kid.
Journeys Of Love
by Hank Bohannan
No doubt you’re asking, “What the hell is a book of love poems doing in a list like this?” Well, here’s the scoop – yes, Journeys of Love is a book of poetry. But not only is it pretty good, the author, Hank Bohannan, is giving half the proceeds to the Salvation Army.
So if you’re looking to impress the ladies, why not do a good deed as well?
Recommended, but obviously know what you are getting into!
Every Man Has His Price
by Ted DiBiase
I know many fans do not care for this book, and I understand why. If you are looking for a behind the scenes, detailed account of Ted DiBiase’s wrestling career, you will be disappointed. In fact, following his first break with the Million Dollar Man gimmick, Ted pretty much skims over his entire career with almost zero details. That’s because this book is about something more important to DiBiase: the salvation he found through Jesus Christ. I actually found DiBiase’s battles within himself to make for fascinating reading, and really enjoyed it in a way I would have never expected from a “wrestling” book. I liked it a lot, but I can understand why others wouldn’t. It’s definitely not what you expect from a wrestling bio.
Recommended, but only if you are of a religious nature.
Wrestle Radio USA: Grapplers Speak
by Ed Symkus, Vinnie Carolan
This book is actually a series of interviews conducted throughout the 1990’s on a radio show in the New England area. It’s not particularly insightful, and most of the stuff can be found elsewhere online. Well, with the notable exception of one interview – with PEZ WHATLEY. Yes, Shaska gets ink!
How can I not endorse a book with Pez Whatley?
Sex, Lies, and Headlocks
by Shaun Assael and Mike Mooneyham
This was one of the first wrestling books to really catch people off guard, and it is a pretty good one. A detailed look behind the scenes of the late 90’s WWF, Assael and Mooneyham pull no punches when examining exactly how Vince McMahon established his promotion as the world wide leader in sports entertainment. But it’s a fair assessment; it’s not like the two just dump on the guy for no reason.
There are some things about the book I don’t care for, like the various factual errors, but overall it’s quite good and well worth picking up.
Can You Take the Heat? The WWF Is Cooking!
by Jim Ross
It’s a cookbook – with WWF stars donating the recipes.
What, you need me to further elaborate?
Not recommended unless you really, REALLY need the recipe for Billy Gunn’s Grilled Badd Ass-paragus.