When I first started watching professional wrestling regularly around 1986, it was the boom of the “Rock and Wrestling Connection”, where musicians like Cyndi Lauper, Alice Cooper, and Rick Derringer would be on wrestling programs next to Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, and others. The mainstream media would cover wrestling when pop culture stars like Mr. T would wrestle, or when the wrestlers would appear on shows like Friday Night Videos, Saturday Night Live, and daytime talk shows.
Even though I was a young teen at this time, and normally would root for the “babyfaces” (aka good guys) like George Steele, The British Bulldogs, and Hogan himself, there were a few “heels” (bad guys) I always cheered for, such as Buddy Landel, Nick Bockwinkel , and the two biggest managers at the time; Bobby “The Brain Heenan” and Jim Cornette.
Cornette has since become THE wrestling historian, known for his massive collection of magazines and collectibles, while becoming one of the top wrestling podcasters in the business. His has also written several books on the history of wrestling (You can read my review of his Tuesday Nights At The Gardens book here in the archives or type in the search engine). Cornette’s latest book, a graphic novel titled Jim Cornette Presents Behind The Curtain: Real Pro Wrestling Stories ( IDW Publishing, 2019) continues some of the famous stories in wrestling in a comic book format.
The book , written by Brandon Easton with artwork by Denis Medri, was created by the same people that created the Andre The Giant graphic novel. This heavily hyped comic , through Cornette’s podcasts and funding via KickStarter, at first brought my skepticism, not because of the quality and care Cornette would bring to his work (regardless of what you may think of him, he puts out quality products which many wrestling companies could learn from), but just in the fact that those that were funding the book were paying large amounts of money to help create the project. What others do with their money is their business, but when I first saw the final cover, I was a little unimpressed with the artwork (on top of the price of the special hardback edition, which sold out quickly for an 80 some page book). However, I should know by now not to judge things from their covers.
The pages are thick and glossy, filled with color and detail , especially with the faces (which even Marvel and DC failed to capture at times, varying from frame to frame), and has more text than the mainstream comics. A short written commentary by Cornette himself starts off the book, describing the history of professional wrestling, where at one time was a secret society before the internet came around, and before promoters started letting the audience behind the curtain (which is where the title comes in).
The rest of the book is filled with wrestling tales of the bygone era; tales about the Andy Kaufman/Jerry “The King” Lawler work where the truth was hidden for decades, the plane crash that injured Ric Flair, David Crockett, Tim Woods, and Johnny Valentine, to the history of the “double cross,” which led up to Cornette’s involvement in the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels Montreal event in 1997.
There are humorous stories in here involving the Fargo Brothers’ pranking a fan with a “murder,” to the crazy Dr. Jerry Graham going to the hospital where his mother died armed with a gun, which led to making the local papers (and a special trip to the mental institution) , along with the historical impact wrestling had with Sputnik Monroe, who helped break down the segregation walls in and out of the ring. There are also a few pages of photographs from Cornette’s collection, when he covered the Kaufman matches as a photographer, to a few newspaper articles involving a few of the stories, all through vibrant illustrations and detail throughout each page.
This is a book that young teens should own to learn some of the history of wrestling, with events that started with the carnival days of wrestling to the WWE “Attitude” era, along with added tales about the era when wrestlers kept their characters going 24/7, to when crazy fans took the sport so seriously that events involved fans with guns, rioting, and causing wrestlers to be banned from arenas (including kids under age 14 for a while). The last part of the book has a little “Dream Match” page, where some of the biggest stars would battle past legends in a made up Supercard (such as Bruno Sammartino vs. Steve Austin, Hogan vs. Gorgeous George, and The Sheik vs. The Undertaker), which all of us young wrestling fans would create as kids using our own wrestling figures, or to pass the time, arguing who would win between the territory and federation’s top stars of past and present. There is also a glossary of wresting terms , detailing the language used in the business.
I wished I had a book like this when I was in junior high, that combined two of my favorite loves; comics and pro wrestling. The people involved with this project, along with Jim Cornette’s wonderful stories, have produced not only a great graphic novel, filled with detailed artwork, but also a history lesson on top of it.
Jim Cornette Presents Behind The Curtain: Real Pro Wrestling Stories (IDW Publishing, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-68405-492-3 , by Jim Cornette , written by Brandon Easton , Art by Denis Medri, Colors by Jordi Escuin, Letters by Tom B. Long, and Edited by Eric Moss can be ordered at Amazon.com or at local comic retailers.
For information about Jim Cornette, go to : http://www.jimcornette.com
For information on IDW Publishing, go to: http://www.idwpublishing.com
A special thanks to Watchtower Heroes, LLC. in Columbiana, Ohio for getting the copy for me. Visit them at : https://www.watchtowerheroes.com/
Geared Towards: Ages 12 and Up
For Fans Of: Pro Wrestling History, Graphic Novels, Comic books