Review: Pay Attention to the Man Behind The Curtain with the Graphic Novel

Cover artist: Denis Medri, Design: Curtis Fandango, Assistant Editor: Anni Perheentupa

 

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/

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 80

Language: Mild

Geared Towards: Ages 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Pro Wrestling History, Graphic Novels, Comic books

 

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Book Review: Forgotten Cleveland Past Covered in Book

Cover photo (from Cleveland State University Library) of Rams tailback Parker Hall in 1939 game at Municipal Stadium.

 

 

Fans of the Cleveland Browns may remember when owner Art Model announced he was moving the team to Baltimore in 1996 (which became the Ravens). It was a massive blow to the fans and the city at the time, but some, especially younger football fans, may not know that this was not the first time the city had a football team move.

The Cleveland Rams by James C. Sulecki (McFarland, 2016) covers the historical football team from 1936-1945 who left the city for Los Angeles after winning their championship in 1945.

The writing takes the reader through the early days of the Rams, who got their name based on the fact that it would be easy to read in the newspaper headlines, starting in the American Professional Football Association, which had five Ohio based teams in the league. The Cleveland area had several failed teams, such as The Indians, Panthers, and Bulldogs before the Rams. The team then in the AFL league, where the author states a funny story about a game where the opposing team lost their uniforms during travel from New York ( so when the players had to substitute in and out, the New York team had to also switch jerseys), which made the referees and fans confused when it came to calling penalties and knowing who was playing.

The history covers the first season in the NFL, which was viewed as the more professional league , as opposed to the AFL. The first season with Hugo Bezek and draft pick Johnny Drake, along with the other seasons to the championship, are covered in detail in this writing. The impact of World War II on the players and league, along with the impact with conflicts of the owners, coaches, and the league are written.

The author’s detailed writing is evident in the book, and does an admirable job in the history of the team and the impact it had on the city. Like many sports books like this, the names of players and owners/league officials etc are so many that it gets confusing at times keeping track who is who. This isn’t a knock on the writer, but just in my tastes of book style. I do not like trying to keep track of many names, along with stats of the players , which to me (who is not a major sports fan) gets tiresome reading. However, fans of these books will enjoy the detailed research the author presents, along with the “What Became Of” section in the back of the book. If you like Cleveland history, or football history in general, this may be the book for you, in reading about a time where many have forgotten about. For me, it was too much information for my pleasure entertainment reading.

 

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

The Cleveland Rams : The NFL Champs Who Left Too Soon, 1936-1945 by James C. Sulecki (McFarland, 2016) ISBN: 978-0-7864-9943-4 (print) 978-1-4766-2645-1 (eBook) can be ordered at : http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 288

Language: None

Geared For: 12 and up

For Fans Of: Football, Cleveland Ohio History, Sports.

Book Review: Book Takes Reader Inside Football Coach’s Life With No Excuses

I recently was asked why most of my reviews on here sports-wise are mainly professional wrestling. Although I did a review on Terry Pluto’s book on the Cleveland Browns (you can find it in the archives), most books on football and baseball tend to be boring to me, filled with many names and statistics that clutter the pages, where I’d rather read something else (another great thing is writing this page is that I have total say in the books).

With that said, one book really interested me when I was doing research for books was by coach Bob Stoops, whose career is most known for being the coach of Oklahoma football. Not only do I like watching the team play (I was introduced to them by wrestling announcer Jim Ross’ love and constant references to them on television), but Stoops grew up near me in Youngstown Ohio (which is about 20 minutes from my residence in Columbiana, Ohio).

No Excuses: The Making Of A Head Coach, by Stoops and ESPN journalist Gene Wojciechowski (Little, Brown, and Company, 2019), does not just show hometown flavor for me, but is actually a good book in getting readers to know who the man behind the visor really is.

The book has about 70 pages in the beginning about the area of Youngstown , where Stoops and his family grew up, with his father being a well known local football coach. His father was also an educator at Cardinal Mooney High School, who taught his children to work hard and instilled family values among them. After the 1977 closing of the steel mills in Youngstown (known as “Black Monday”), young Bob decided to get out of Youngstown if he was going to have a future in football, deciding on going to Iowa University. He also states how growing up , he rooted for the Kansas City Chiefs, and was not an Ohio State fan (a team I do not like either).

The book takes the reader through Stoops’ football career in college to his coaching days at Kent State, Iowa, Kansas State, and the University of Florida under Steve Spurrier. The book has many former players and coaches giving their take on certain games and the character of Stoops; from Baker Mayfield, Stoops’ family, former boxer Ray Mancini, and others. It also shows how, when getting the head job at Oklahoma (which was not a great team when he took over), he led by example by acts such as cleaning up crickets in the training area with a vacuum, cleaning up after some of the players at times, to the meaning behind the title “No Excuses.”

There are several humorous stories throughout the book, from the time his father and Nick Saban were in a Youngstown bar that got robbed while they were inside without knowing it (because they were sharing football notes), a time in Florida when Stoops hit a squirrel golfing only to find a nice present the next day on his desk, to his heart-filled chapter on his love to visiting local children hospitals throughout his coaching tenure at Oklahoma.

Of course there are many football stories in No Excuses. The writers cover how Stoops approaches his players and the various games, along with the times other teams tried to lure him away, including several NFL teams. Some memorable stories college football fans will remember; the rivalry with the University of Texas (and the 2001 last minute win), winning the National Championship, and his thoughts on some other coaches and players, including some of the scandals that occurred. Stoops writes throughout the book about his family, and how his wife views him being a head coach, along with her involvement with the players and the university.

Even though I had my doubts, at first, with the book, wondering how much would be covered about Youngstown, Stoops constantly credits his time growing up in the area as giving him determination and grit on and off the field, along with getting some of his early jobs due to knowing others that came from the area. The book does have many statistics, but not as much as I thought, which normally would bore me. Although I did not remember a lot of the players named, there are still familiar names in the book , like Mayfield, Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford, and Joe Mixon. The book discusses his reasons to retire, and is how he is going to be the coach for one of the Vince McMahon owned XFL teams.

This was a pleasant reading into his life, and some of his thinking on football and life, which is not usually seen in front of the cameras, along with his struggles and doubts separating the celebrity coach to the family man.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publishers.

 

No Excuses : The Making Of A Head Coach by Bob Stoops and Gene Wojciechowski (Little, Brown, and Company, 2019) ISBN: 978-0-316-45592-3 can be found at: http://www.littlebrown.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 320

Language: Moderate

Geared For : 13 and Up

For Fans Of: College Football, Coaching, Sports, Youngstown Ohio history

Book Review: Singer Weaves Emotions Into Life Story

Cover Photo by David Molnar Cover design by Edward Crawford

Christian singer Mike Weaver, along with Jim Scherer, brings a powerful story in their book I Am Redeemed : Learning To Live In Grace (Worthy Publishing, 2019) which will draw many emotions from the readers.

I will first say I am not familiar with Weaver’s band Big Daddy Weave, besides of the knowing their name, in the Christian music market. Although I am not blind to the Christian music genre; my favorite acts have been Al Denson and Rebecca St. James (St. James writes praise for the book in the opening with other artists), and have seen acts like David Crowder, Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Matthew West, and others in concert in the past. I have not heard any songs from Big Daddy Weave, so I went into reading this book totally unaware of their work.

The book tells the story of how Weaver struggled with acceptance and anxiety as a young child, from being insecure in his youth, from schoolmates. He found a love for music , which lead him to forming a band with several college friends , which turned into the band Big Daddy Weave. While the band started getting successful by playing where they could (Weaver states that within three years of forming, they were playing almost 200 dates a year, without soliciting gigs), more struggles occurred; from his family losing their home in Hurricane Ivan, personal struggles with doubt and his place fitting in, to his brother dealing with several serious health issues, which created a major darkness within the family.

This is not a “woe is me” writing from a guy who has made a career in music that many have dreamed of. This is just an honest man looking, and many times questioning, God and his purpose in the ministry. His detailing accounts of his brother’s heath issues and his family’s struggles during this time, is very emotional and heart straining. Weaver’s own personal journey dealing with weight issues, brings more emotions to the writing.

There are several up lifting stories in here as well, from when Weaver meets his wife, and the births of his children, to some funny on the road stories and interactions with some friends in the Christian music scene. The book flows well in reading, with short chapters (most are only around 5-6 pages in length), in which I read the whole book within 2-3 days. The writer’s voice , along with the stories, will make the reader keep the pages turning. Even if you (like me) have never heard of the band, this is a powerful Christian book, detailing a life that is not all glamorous as a musician. There are Bible verses throughout the book, but some are at the end of the chapter that relate to what Weaver is writing about, but they are not in your face, nor is there a lot of preaching or discussions on the verses.

Weaver’s story is not only interesting and entertaining at times, but full of sensitivity, affection, sadness, and praise. This is a book that will bring out many feelings from the reader, while letting them know that even the so called Christian celebrities have their struggles and doubt in their Christian walk. Redeemed is a journey that will take the reader on many roads and paths until the last page.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

I Am Redeemed :Learning to Live In Grace by Mike Weaver and Jim Scherer (Worthy Publishing, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-5460-3358-5 (hardcover), 978-1-55491-8354-6 (downloadable audio), 978-1-5460-1499-7 (ebook) can be found at http://www.iamredeemedbook.com, and http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/imprint/hachette-nashville/worthy-books.

 

For information about the band , go to http://www.bigdaddyweave.com

 

Worthy Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group, INC.

 

The Overall:

Pages: 224

Language: None

Geared For: Ages 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Christian Music, Religion, Christian Living, Personal Memoirs.

Classic Book Review: Wrestling’s Legend Takes Reader on Life’s Ride

Image result for road warrior animal book
Cover photography by Bob Mulrenin. Cover design by Adam Mock

 

 

The 1980s wrestling scene was filled with tag teams. Granted tag team wrestling was not new in the decade; wrestling had many tag teams events and stars before the 1980s, but the turn of the decade moved newer fans to wrestling, thanks to cable television and the ending of some of the territories. With newer fans, wrestlers and promoters had to create something different and make it more exciting. Teams like The Midnight Express, The Rock N Roll Express, and The Fantastics all were stars in the 1980s. However, the biggest tag team had to been The Road Warriors.

Joe “Animal” Laurinaitis ‘ book The Road Warriors: Danger, Death and The Rush of Wrestling ( Medallion Press, 2011) takes the reader through his career as one half of the legendary team, telling great road stories, along with his relationship with tag partner Hawk ( Michael Hegstrand).

One of the enjoyable parts of the book is that there are not a lot of chapters detailing the childhood of Laurinatitis before his wrestling career. He sums up his high school days and pre-wrestling days all in one short chapter. Sometimes writers of biographies or autobiographies tend to spend 5-7 chapters on their early childhood, when the reader wants to just get to the stories of how they got their break. This is not to say the background of the person does not help in the storytelling, but this book was refreshing in the fact that things were summed up quickly, which separates this from other wrestling titles.

From starting his gimmick after the Mel Gibson movie Mad Max: The Road Warrior, and knowing several future wrestlers like Scott Simpson (Nikita Koloff) and future partner Hawk at local gyms and bars in Minnesota (at one bar the bouncers were Animal, Hawk, Rick Rude, and Barry Darsow), former wrestler Eddie Sharkey trains the gang and gets Animal a shot in Georgia with booker Ole Anderson. After Anderson has a fight with Jim Barnett, Animal actually quits wrestling for a while, along with Hawk (who was being booked in Canada as a German heel). Ole comes calling later and puts together Hawk and Animal and gives them the Georgia Tag Titles (they kayfabe the win- they never even had a match for the belts).

The book then soars , just like the Road Warriors success, with great tales of them being the top tag teams in the NWA and AWA, including when AWA promoter Verne Gagne wanted the Warriors to lose the belts to The Fabulous Ones in a way where the Warriors decided to change the ending. Tales of the team winning over Japan is also included, along with the early (and eventual problematic) ways Hawk started living a party lifestyle that caused him to miss dates , where Animal had to cover for his partner, which got worse when they started working for Vince McMahon Jr. in the WWF.

Animal tells the reader about how he first thought when he witnessed Road Warrior imitators through the various promotions via the wrestling magazines, including The Blade Runners in Bill Watts’ Mid South (who later became Sting and The Ultimate Warrior), to when Hawk went to Japan and was wrestling in his own version of the Warriors without Animal knowing about it.

The honesty in the book towards Hawk’s lifestyle choices throughout his career makes the writing more than just a typical wrestling book, especially towards the end of the book, where the relationship between the two were strained. Hawk’s failed drug tests in the WWF (WWE) is detailed, where many fans may not have known about, along with the time Jake Roberts was in the WWF as an agent, along with Animal being approached to be one as well. Newer fans may not know all of the names that Animal writes about in the book; he tends to mention their names without most background stories, assuming that the reader knows who the wrestler is, but that also shows an appeal to us fans who have followed it for years.

The overall book is a easy read and is a must for those that were fans of the Jim Crockett era territories before it went worldwide when Ted Turner bought it and renamed it WCW. There were many parts of the book that I forgot about ,including when Animal was in the match (sort of) when Sid Vicious broke his leg at WCW Sin, to the hatred between Hawk and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Another enjoyable part is at the end of the book, several wrestlers detail their thoughts on the Warriors, from Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes, and Bret Hart. I read this book years ago on my Kindle, but recently found a hard copy at a local book sale. I enjoyed reading this book even more the second time I read it, and is one of the better wrestling books that I have come across.

 

The Road Warriors: Danger, Death, and The Rush of Wrestling by Joe Laurinaitis with Andrew William Wright (Medallion Press, 2011) can be found at Amazon.

 

The Overall:

Pages: 368

Language: Moderate

Geared For: 13 and up

For Fans Of: Wrestling, Sports Biographies,

 

Childhood Classic: Sha Na Na Still Brings The Memories

Sha Na Na was released by Karma Sutra Records in 1971

 

 Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see some of those in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com.  With the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock this year, I thought this would be the perfect time for this release.

 

Before MTV came along, music listeners had to watch their favorite music acts on television, via shows like Solid Gold, American Bandstand, and variety shows. Two of the biggest acts that had their own variety show when I was growing up were The Bay City Rollers and Sha Na Na.

Even today in 2019, some people do not give Sha Na Na the respect they deserve. The band was started at Columbia University, where some of the members were studying graduate work. The act was featured in movies like Grease, American Graffiti and on Happy Days. The fact that they provided almost a whole side of the Grease soundtrack, which is one of the top selling movie records of all time, should say something right there (plus singer Scott Simon co wrote the song “Sandy” for the movie, which was a hit for John Travolta). They even played the original Woodstock Festival, right before Jimi Hendrix performed. Their variety television show lasted almost four years to many viewers, which provided music, comedy, and other guest stars. The band’s popularity was not only due to bass singer Jon “Bowzer” Bauman , but had quality musicians including Lennie Baker (who played with Danny and The Juniors) and Henry Gross (of the hit “Shannon”) was in the early lineup. The group’s greaser look, as a tribute to the 1950s -1960s music acts, gave a historical lesson to listeners like me who were too young to remember those days of music.

The act released several albums, mostly of cover songs from the early rock era, but one album that I listened to frequently from my childhood was 1971’s Sha Na Na record, known among followers as the “Gold Boots” record, due to the album cover.

The first side is a live concert from Columbia University, filled with the early rock staples like ” Yakety Yak,” Great Balls of Fire,” and “I Wonder Why.” These covers are great capturing the live energy of the band, including Bowzer’s bass parts on the up-tempo versions of Gene Chandler’s “Duke Of Earl” and “Blue Moon,” which ended up being a slower version on the Grease record.

One of my favorite songs off the first side is the cover of Ray Peterson’s “Tell Laura I Love Her,” which has a pop feel to it. I list this song as one of the few songs that is better than the original. Peterson’s version has a folk sound to it, where I like the more rock style that the act brings, with Johnny Contrado on lead vocals and the drumming by Jocko Marcellino. I used to love playing this version on my drums when I was younger, and wanted to play it in the bands that I was involved in, only to be vetoed each time.

The last song on the release, “Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay,” a tribute to Danny and The Juniors, is a memory for me only because there is a F- bomb thrown in there before the song. Before parental warning stickers, I wonder to this day how it got kept on the release, and how I listened to it for years and my parents never noticed it.

The second side is where I think the band impresses me the most, with studio songs, almost all written by Scott Simon. “Only One Song” has a ballad that has The Beatles-like harmonies and studio production on it that if I played it to a stranger , they may not know it was Sha Na Na. The song is wonderful and one of my favorites to this day from my childhood.

“Depression” has is a guitar driven song that I remember for being the theme song to my toy wrestlers. I was a big wrestling fan growing up, and would play with my wrestling figures (even using my G.I. Joes when I didn’t have enough figures). I would make up my own characters and created my own Supercards, where my figure who I chose to be me, would be on the same cards as wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Nick Bockwinkel, and others, regardless of the league they were in. Being a fan of the tag team The Rock N Roll Express, I would use “Depression” as my theme song. The rhythm and guitar work was perfect for my imagination.

“Canadian Money” is a song I always play when I get this record out, even sometimes just to hear it. A slow acoustic feel to it, talks about sites in Canada. I recently researched information for the song, and it has been mentioned that it was a protest song for the Vietnam War, with it’s line “No great Army doing it’s duty/Making waves across the sea.” If it is true or not, I love the song, and it should have been a release from the album.

One song that did chart from the band is “Top 40,” which has a old Southern Gospel feel to it, with some humorous lyrics. The song hit #84 on the Billboard charts. The song tells the story of someone who asks if they are going to be a hit in heaven because they were one on earth. The lyrics “Are you on the Top 40 of your Lordy?” has the tongue in cheek lyrics gives the song an unique take on heaven and how to live life on earth.

“Ruin Me Blue” reminds me of something that would have been on one of my favorite all time TV shows, W.K.R.P. in Cincinnati. It has strong piano and guitar work that drives the song, although the lyrics are pretty simple.

The final track , written by drummer Jocko, “Just A Friend” has a Rolling Stones-feel to the song. I think it is the weakest of the studio tracks, but the band still gets credit for writing some original work.

Sha Na Na may have started out as a novelty act, but listening to this record shows that the members had talent. The act has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, even finding some of the TV shows on Youtube to watch to this day. They were not a bunch of street gang people that they portrayed on television; these guys had talent and also had graduate degrees- they consisted of lawyers, writers, and great musicians who worked with some of the acts they covered. Bowzer has been an advocate for decades for preserving the names of the originals acts of the 1950s and 1960s, to where the groups have to let the public know how many original members are still in the groups.

The cover of this record , along with the music, takes me back to a great time of my early music childhood, being one of the first records I can remember getting as a child.

 

Track Listings:

  1. Yakety Yak 2. Jailhouse Rock 3. Duke of Earl 4. Tell Laura I Love Her 5. Blue Moon
  2. I Wonder Why 7. Great Balls of Fire 8. Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay
  3. Only One Song 10. Depression 11. Canadian Money 12. Top Forty 13. Ruin Me Blues
  4. Just A Friend.

Book Review: Debut Author Geared For The Ladies

Kingdom Come: Finding Holy in the Here and Now by [Zaldivar, Melissa]
Cover Design by Jody Waldrup. Cover Copyright 2019 by Hachette Book Group, INC

There are many reasons why a reviewer may not like a certain book. For me, there are several, from just not being in the mood of the tone and style of the author, the topic sounded good at the time and then the writing goes into a different path, or it just doesn’t connect with the book at the time reading (there have been times that reading the same book later changes my view). I mostly read my books right before going to sleep, so whatever goes on during the day before that than can have an influence on it. Finally, reviews are just opinions, and I may just plain not like the book, but has nothing to do with the writing or author. I respect how hard it is to have the drive to not only write something, but find a way to put it out to the audience (either self publishing, or finding an agent and company).

Kingdom Come : Finding Holy in the Here and Now ,by Melissa Zaldivar, (Faithwords Books, 2019 ) is a book that did not resonate with me. The book seemed interesting to me at first, with the topic of looking at the Kingdom and Presence of God, how to find discernment between the two, and use it in the Christian walk.

The author defines the Kingdom of God as things that are under God’s rule, whereas the Presence is the reality of what happens when people encounter God. With that said, the writer takes the reader through certain aspects that are needed to know about the two, while encouraging the reader to dig deeper into their own hearts and embrace facts like learning to know God’s timing, the difference between kindness and niceness, finding time to seek the presence, and risk taking.

The writer gives great examples throughout the book (some Biblical ), such as asking how people in today’s society can get into God’s presence when we can’t get off our cell phones for two minutes without checking on it (even if it is on vibrate), using the examples of how blindness is symbolic in the Bible (both spiritual and physical), and how to view the fact that Christians do not let go of things; thinking the worst endings is the result, instead of trusting God.

While these are all great ideas, and written in ten chapters, the beginning several chapters were a struggle to get through, especially the first one, where I would keep staring at the words and wondering what it is I read. Zaldivar ‘s bio states she holds a Master’s degree in theology, which may present the first part’s problem of not being clear cut (at least to me) of the book’s goals. However, once the reader gets deeper into the book, the chapters and points flow nicely, such as the two chapters on risk taking (which is the best in the book), and the chapter on fear with an in depth look at Peter of the Bible, which was just as enjoyable.

Another problem for me is that many of the personal examples Zaldivar uses are vague and tended to turn me off. Maybe this book is geared more towards women, but after every other page of the examples such as ” I was dealing with something at this time of my life” (the quote is mine for example, not the hers), I got bored and agitated. I understand that the reader does not need to have total access about the writer’s life, and some things do not need to be known, which may be too personal for her to reveal, but other examples could be more entertaining and helpful in order for the reader to embrace the theme of the book. Also, after every situation, she writes that she would break down and cry, or give examples of “after this, I ended up crying” (again not actual quote). This may be where the female audience would get more out of the book, and this is not to sound judgmental of the emotions and passion the author has on the subject and her past experiences, but as a stranger reading the book, it, along with the vague examples, took my attention off of the points being made.

Zaldivar’s first book is for a select audience, and not for everybody. Her writing is down to earth and not over the head of readers (with exception of the first chapter which was a fight to get through). Her style is nice, and for a first time writer, she has some wonderful Biblical examples using Judas, Peter, Eve, and Ruth from the Bible, and would been better to use more of these , or use other people’s tales to help out with some of the points, instead of the vagueness of many of the situations. She knows her topic well, and at times, shows the emotion that she wants the reader to experience as well, which would be nice to see more of it to get her point across and add emphasis to the ideas being presented. Besides of these critiques, she will get her following with her writing style, and have a nice writing future if she sees fit.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Kingdom Come: Finding Holy in the Here and Now (Faithwords, 2019) by Melissa Zaldivar ISBN: 978-1-5460-1083-8 (hardcover) , 978-1-5460-1081-4 (ebook) can be ordered at : http://www.faithwords.com

 

For more about the author, go to: melissazaldivar.com

 

 

The Overall:

Pages:213

Language: None

Geared To: Ages 15 and Up.

For Fans Of: Christian Living, Growth, Christian books, Spirituality, Women Studies

 

Book Review: Wrestling Book Tells A Historic Story

Front cover photo: New Japan Wrestling. Cover design Tania Craan.

 

I am not going to write a positive book review just because one of the writers of The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame : The Storytellers from the Terrible Turk to Twitter (ECW Press, 2019) is Greg Oliver, along with Steven Johnson. I strive, and take pride in writing honest reviews, where many of the publishers and writers have complimented me on with their books. Since I have written for Oliver’s wrestling site , Slam Sports, in the past, it will not sway my review.

I saw the book online, and the cover immediately turned me off , with the photograph of wrestler Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho from their New Japan match. I still like Jericho as a wrestler, a businessman, and a writer. I have never seen the appeal of Omega, where the internet darlings, who also helped many of the ECW wrestlers in the day think they were better in the ring than they really were, praise him constantly, yet don’t know anything about when wrestling was believable. I personally would not seek out a book with Omega on the cover period. When the book came in the mail from the company, I figured I might as well give it a chance, you know the old saying about a book’s cover.

I had no doubt that something with Oliver’s name on it would be well written, but this book was wonderful in detailing the early days of wrestling, to the territories days, and beyond, when it came to the various aspects of storytelling in the ring (and out of it). The early parts of the book describes the history of promoters taking wrestling from the carnival days, to the days of Ed Lewis and his promoter manager, and making wrestling a global attraction. There are stories about how several promoters in the business , before Vince McMahon Jr. ever did in the late 1980s-1990s, publicly announced the business was not legit, and was more entertainment.

The book tells tales about the early “first blood,” ladder, and blindfolded matches, along with the strange matches involving monkeys, bears , and yes, even fish. The first cage matches, and the first manager heel, Count Rossi, are covered in the easy to read, short chapters. Announcers such as Bill Mercer, Dennis James (who is considered the first national wrestling announcer), and the return of Tony Schiavone, along with the announcers’ roles in keeping story lines going, are also part of the book.

The text covers times in the 1970s and 1980s when wrestlers needed a crazy story to boost business gate receipts, such as throwing the title belts into rivers and lakes (which was done many times before The Rock and Steve Austin did it in WWE), to how important the wrestling magazines were in helping get wrestlers over to the fans.

There are many wonderful stories about classic characters like Jack Pfifer, Jim Barnett, Dr. Sam Sheppard (who was the inspiration for the TV show The Fugitive, and had ties to my hometown, near Youngstown Ohio), to wrestlers who went on to be actors in Hollywood, like Alex Karras (Mongo from Blazing Saddles) and Victor the bear. The writers used many interviews (the credits state over 200) from people like Tom Prichard, Court Bauer, Jim Cornette, Kevin Sullivan, Bobby Fulton, and Eric Bischoff.

Another interesting part of the book (besides the first 200 pages filled with the older history of wrestling) is the section on the importance of the current day writers. I agree that wrestling today is way too scripted when it comes to writing story lines and interviews (they don’t come off as legit and too rehearsed), but the interviews with former WWE and TNA writers taking the reader behind the scenes to what goes on weekly was an informative. Another entertaining part included the wrestling magazines section, where during the pre-internet days, fans had to visit to the local newsstand and buy wrestling magazines (which I have many from the late 1980s-1990s) to keep up with what was going on, because most newspapers did not cover wrestling.

The last 50 pages for me was the weakest of the book. These sections dealt with hardcore wrestling (from ECW to “death matches,” where everything from bats to light bulbs are used) , to how the wrestlers The Hardys’ used the TNA Deletion angle into a mini movie (along with Lucha Underground, which adds a science fiction flavor to the productions in filming), and interviewing Omega on his take on storytelling. Because I was not an ECW fan , or one of Lucha, this did not appeal to me, although the authors covered almost everything on the topic of storytelling to their credit. The Omega interview was laughable to me , because of the way he explains his matches to the writers, which makes it as if he is very serious about his role in wrestling, yet this is the guy that used blow up dolls, dressed up like video game characters, and he (along with another team I can not stand, The Young Bucks), average around 200 super kick moves in each match. His interview section made him look like Randy Savage, who was known at times to have pages of ideas and moves for just one match. I am not saying Omega is not an athlete, but I never understood the appeal of many who state him as one of the top wrestlers in the world, when he does the same move 15 times in a match. I am sure he is a nice person outside of the ring, but I am not a fan of his, and his take on storytelling sounded like he was the Charles Dickens of wrestling, with every little move and segment carefully planned months in advanced. However, if the only problem in the book is my personal dislike for certain type of match or wrestler, the writers did an amazing job with detailing the subject.

The best part of the book is the first 200 pages, with all the classic wrestling tales and history, from the early masked men (and possibly the first person to ever wear a mask that got major attention), to a wrestler in matches against alligators, fans will love the classic stuff. If you are a newer fan, there is about 50-70 pages on the newer style of wrestling, from the decline of WCW, the “Attitude Era” with Shawn Michaels, to the impact of Dave Meltzer’s dirt sheets. The book is sectioned nicely, with subtitles in each major chapter, basically in three parts. The writing is easy to understand ; telling the events with interviews woven in, to where it is entertaining and a history lesson combined, without a ton facts and dates cluttering up the pages. Regardless of the cover photo ( if you’re like me and not a fan of Omega or these newer gimmick matches that is covered in the last 50 pages), don’t judge a book by the cover, and enjoy great wrestling history with the first three fourths of the book.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher

 

The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame The Storytellers from the Terrible Turk to Twitter (ECW Press, 2019) ISBN: 9781770415027 (softcover) 9781773054223 (PDF), 9781773054216 (ePub) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com

 

For information about the authors, go to:             http://www.slam.canoe.com/Slam/Wrestling/home.html

 

 

The Overall:

Pages: 304

Language: Moderate

Geared For: 13 and Up.

For Fans Of: Wrestling History, Professional Wrestling, Sports

Book Review: Educate Yourself with O’Neil’s Debut Book

Cover photo @ Craig Ambrosio /WWE. Cover image WWE. Cover Design Rodney Githens and Adam McGinnis.

 

If you have followed professional wrestling as long as I have (I started regularly watching in 1986, but watched on and off since ’84), you will know that not everyone can be the champion or in the main event. Back in the territory days, there were the main eventers, mid carders and developmental talent (also called “jobbers”). Now days, with few television time considering as many are on the WWE roster , sometimes a wrestler may not been seen for such a long time, that many may not know they are still with the company. However, they are no less important in the shape of wrestling; just because a wrestler isn’t on the shows every week, doesn’t mean they are not working the house shows or dark matches before the cameras come on, working with the upcoming stars or those coming back from injuries.

I admit the few times I have seen WWE wrestler Titus O’Neil was when he was put in goofy comedy spots. Yes, at one time he was a WWE Tag Team Champion , but all I really know about him is how much work he does outside of the ring with various charities and WWE community events.

After reading There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Kid: How I Went from Stereotype to Prototype , along with Paul Guzzo (ECW Press/WWE Books, 2019), I have a different view on who the person is behind the WWE wrestler, even if he does not get a lot of screen time.

The following needs to be made clear; this is NOT a wrestling book. Yes, he is a wrestler, and there are a few wrestling-related stories (maybe 3-4), but this is O’Neil’s take on how to educate, and help succeed, children from at risk environments, and trying to get them on the road to a better life, escaping drugs, gangs, or whatever they may be a part of and encouraging them to graduate high school and college and , in turn, give back to others.

The title deals with the fact that even though some children lash out at others, either school teachers, social workers, adults, and other kids in general, the label of them being a “bad kid” is not just. O’Neil, born Thaddeus Bullard, uses his own life as being labeled a “bad kid” as example to show how he overcame the stereotype with help from patient adults who saw a future for him in a different way, and encouraged him to achieve it, although the road was filled with obstacles and set backs. I do not give out spoilers, but just reading about O’Neil’s childhood (especially the relationship between his mother and other siblings) is a powerful and admirable testament to where he is today.

Being sent to various camps for at risk children, after constantly being disrespectful to schoolmates and teachers, O’Neil was taught through hard work, goals, and the right people in his life, he became the first college graduate in his family, along with playing football for the University of Florida under Steve Spurrier, and the Arena Football League before ending up in wrestling.

The only wrestling tales are used as examples to the topic of the chapters, which could be read all at once, or by using one chapter at a time, to show his opinions (and his life experiences and struggles), from the “Titus Slide,” where he ran to the ring for a match in 2018, only to slide under the ring before getting in it, to finally getting to train in the FCW league (what is now NXT). This book is more about educating-both adults and children- to look at our at risk areas with a different approach. Although I may not agree with all of his suggestions (being in the educational field at times myself), it definitely got me to look at things a little differently from my normal viewpoint. For instance some of his ideas may be hard to implement , such as getting more time in schools for the arts, when the schools have to spend some much time getting the students to pass the state standard testing (which many schools already spend the time on pre-tests, testing, make ups, practice tests, etc just on those tests as it is). I do agree with his statements on making the students have uniforms, so those without the top of the line clothing do not feel ashamed (of course then the subject of who funds them comes into play).

The various charitable things that he does when not on the road is not only admirable, but shows a love for what he does, without sounding like a braggart in writing about the events. Just because this is not a wrestling book, does not exclude the fine writing (short and easy to comprehend explanations) , and unique commentary on a problem here in the United States. O’Neil comes off as a person that one would like to sit down with at a coffee shop or restaurant, and pick his brain on many topics, without him having a judgmental attitude when the other person asks questions. Hopefully this book does not go unnoticed, especially being a WWE related book, where many of the wrestling books in past have been suspect at best (with the superstars being “in character” the whole time), because some may look at the cover and see the WWE logo on it and think it’s about wrestling. It’s about changing goals, achieving dreams, along with a touch of forgiveness and spirituality added. This is a book that educators, politicians, and anyone that works with , or wants to work with, children should read. This will , hopefully, make the reader want to get more involved with their communities to address a problem in our education system.

 

 

There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Kid: How I Went from Stereotype to Prototype by Titus O’Neil with Paul Guzzo (ECW Press/WWE Books, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-77041-491 (hardcover), 978-1-77305-425-4 (PDF), 978-1-77305-424-7 (ePUB) can be found at : http://www.ecwpress.com

 

For information about the authors: check out @TitusONeilWWE and @PGuzzoTimes.

 

The Overall:

Pages: 230

Language: Moderate

Geared For: Ages 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Social Services, Autobiography, Self-Help, Children and Youth, Biography

Childhood Classic : Barry Manilow 1989- Simple Title But Memorable Songs

Barry Manilow was released on May 2, 1989

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com, or on my online portfolio at llumleyportfolio.wordpress.com

 

My first exposure to Barry Manilow was during my sophomore year in high school. I took a theater arts class and one day we were listening to the song “Memory” from Cats. The title looked familiar to me, so I went home and dug around my parents 45s (remember them??), where they had two of Manilow’s records ; 1981’s “The Old Songs”/ “Don’t Fall In Love With Me” and “Heart of Steel”/Memory” from 1982. A few years later , I stumbled upon Manilow’s PBS special from England, which ended up being “The Greatest Hits And Then Some” release. I was mesmerized by the show, and had to listen to more of his music. I played those 45s over and over again to the point where I needed some newer material. I saw an ad on television in 1997 that Manilow was coming to Starlake Amphitheater in Burgettstown , P.A. I had to get tickets to see him. My mother took me to the local National Record Mart, so I could get tickets the day they came out. If it weren’t for her, I would not have been able to see him. She gave me her credit card to use, and when the guy printed out the tickets, he mentioned that it was cash only (although there was nothing stating that before the sale date or at the store itself in the ticket policies). Luckily, she had cash on her, and I was shocked at the price of the tickets; I saw my first concert in 1991 with lawn seats at the same amphitheater for 18 dollars. Each ticket was $40 for Manilow, plus service charge, which was a lot back then (but they ended up being like 10th row-and now some of his seats go for over $100) .

After the show, I had to get some more Manilow releases (I had the cassettes of the 1978 Greatest Hits and the 1989 Volume 1 which I got from the BMG music club.) . I went to Best Buy, and the only CDs they carried were the Greatest Hits from 1989 (Volumes I, II and III), along with his self titled 1989 album. I chose the self titled one as my first Manilow CD.

Some fans have dubbed Barry Manilow as the “purple album”, because he released several other albums with his name on it; his debut in 1973, Barry Manilow II (1974), 1980’s Barry, and 1985’s Manilow. Whatever fans want to call it, it was an unique album for many reasons besides the title; all but one song had outside writers on it (Manilow usually wrote or co-wrote most of his songs, and allowed few outside writers at this time), it had a polished production, and it was his last all original music until 2001, where besides some live releases, he released covers and themed albums from Broadway, the Big Band era, and the 1970s (The Summer of ’78 album is highly underrated) . It was also one of the longer run times from previous records , almost an hour long.

The opener “Please Don’t Be Scared,” is a wonderful ballad to start off the record. Manilow still sticks to the formula of loss, love, and hope in his songs. This first track , with the lyrics “Someday someone will make you glad you survived” brings the hope theme into play , while struggling to see the bigger picture in life.

“Keep Each Other Warm,” is a cover of the British group Bucks Fizz, and became a hit on the AC charts for Barry at #7. The soulful/ R&B song would have been placed perfectly along the radio songs by groups like Surface and Breathe. Unfortunately it was never played in my area stations in Youngstown, Ohio (where the local station was, although I live in Columbiana, Ohio, twenty minutes or so away). Manilow’s take on this song has more power to it instrumentally, where the original sounds like an ABBA cover band.

Songs like “Once and For All, ” and “The One That Got Away” continue the polished 1980s feel , where “The One That Got Away” has a simple chorus lyrically , which Manilow pulls off, even though it is some of the weaker songs on the release. Even though they are weaker than the others, a weak Manilow song can still be better than some artists’ best work.

“When the Good Times Come Again,” and “Some Good Things Never Last” are two great songs in a row. “…Good Times..” has the format, much like his hit “Somewhere Down The Road,” with the theme of hoping better things will come in the relationship after taking a break, where “Some Good Things Never Last” was featured on his follow up release, Live On Broadway. The opening line of “It’s 3 in the morning/You’re nowhere in sight” is a line that’s been thrown in my head numerous times for no reason whatsoever, especially being awake at 3 A.M. It’s a wonder to me, looking back now, why “Some Good Things Never Last” was not released as a single. It should have been on the pop or AC charts.

The last three songs are the songs I remember most about the release. “My Moonlight Memories Of You’ is a catchy song that displays Manilow’s love for Broadway songs. The song starts off one way , and then goes in another style, one that you could see Fred Astaire dancing and singing in an old time musical, or in a vaudeville show. The “I Can’t Smile Without You” feel of the song challenges the listener NOT to sing along, and with the end , where he is singing the melody while it fades out, one can picture the main star walking down the street while the camera pans overhead to the city while the credits roll.

“Anyone Can Do The Heartbreak” was a hit for Anne Murray in 1987. Both versions are just as good, and it’s hard to choose one over the other.

The final is a road song, “A Little Traveling Music, Please.” I first heard this song on the PBS special, or the VHS release of the show, I can’t remember exactly, but I thought it was a great , soft song about being on the road , and away from the special person. Many road songs in music, like “Faithfully “or “Turn The Page,” have power to it musically (hence the name power ballad), where this song is a refreshingly mellow and clam, with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta playing brushes on the track. This song is the perfect placement as the ender of the album. I played this song many times after playing in local bands as a drummer on the way home to calm my ears after playing rock and blues all night long. It takes a while for the song to get going, with an instrumental intro, but when the song gets going, its great.

Barry Manilow has wonderful memories for me. One, it was exposure to Manilow’s latest work, and not just the popular hits that I knew the time. It also had a long run time, so I got my money’s worth, along with some songs becoming my favorite rarer songs from his catalog (“Memories of You,” and “Traveling Music” are two of them).

The songs still hold up after 30 years, and doesn’t sound too dated, even though it is one of his more polished production wise albums (along with 1985’s Manilow) . Manilow fans all have their favorite albums (they are as passionate as Kiss, The Beatles, and The Oak Ridge Boys’ fans as which are their favorites), this is one of my favorites where I don’t have to skip songs ( I am not counting his cover albums). Even though some are a little weaker than others, it can play all the way through. This is a CD that gave me more of a love of Manilow’s music (especially when I was in college at the time, where his music was a friend to me). It is still a go-to CD to play when I want to hear some rarer Manilow songs.

You can read my other post on Barry’s rarer songs here in the archives, by typing in “Barry Manilow” in the search engine.

 

Track Listing: 1. Please Don’t Be Scared 2. Keep Each Other Warm 3.Once And For All 4. The One That Got Away 5.When The Good Times Come Again 6. Some Good Things Never Last 7. In Another World 8. You Begin Again 9.My Moonlight Memories Of You   10. Anyone Can Do The Heartbreak 11. A Little Traveling Music, Please