Book Review: Slobberknocker is Golden As The World Title

In the book Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling (Sports Publishing; October 2017), Jim Ross and Paul O’Brien not only write about the exciting world of professional wrestling, but they also capture the ideals of the American Dream.

Jim Ross is known to many as the greatest wrestling announcer of all time, along with his duties behind the scenes on the creative committee and talent relations of several wrestling organizations. In the book, Ross details his life growing up on a farm, his first encounter watching wrestling on television, and how he worked his way up from ring crew to the top announcer in Bill Watt’s Mid-South area, Ted Turner’s WCW, and the WWE.

Early in the book, Ross writes about getting into professional wrestling, by watching it on television with his grandparents, and make up storylines with his toy army figures while commentating on his make believe matches. After getting a chance to see a live event in Oklahoma, Ross decided that “I knew I wanted into this crazy business somehow. I just didn’t know how to find a way in.”

Ross found his way in when he and a friend started fundraisers in college after making phone calls to Mid -South Wrestling’s main man, “Cowboy” Bill Watts. After Watts became impressed with Ross’s work, he was invited to work for the company, just shy of graduating from college.

Ross’s early job in the Mid -South area involved being a babysitter for announcer and part owner Leroy McGuirk, where Ross details several funny stories in the territory, including a humorous car ride involving McGuirk and his famous cigars that McGuirk was known for. Ross also worked as a referee, on the ring crew, and helped with the booking of the shows (helping plan out the storylines).

Ross tells the reader many stories about some of the wrestlers in the Mid South, including Dick Murdoch, the 600-pound twin McGuire Brothers, Bill Dundee, Ernie Ladd, and wrestlers from the more famous time of the Mid -South region like The Rock n Roll Express, Jim Duggan, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and manager Jim Cornette.  He also talks about when their biggest moneymaker, The Junkyard Dog, just walked out of the company in order to join Vince McMahon’s WWF in the early 1980s, along with Watt’s opinion of the situation. McMahon’s taking over Georgia Wrestling on the cable channel WTBS is covered, where after dealing with the situation, Watts and Ross decide to go national with the Mid-South to compete with the WWF.

Ross gives his take on many of wrestling’s top stars, such as Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Steve Austin, The Rock, Randy Savage, and more, as the book takes the reader through Jim Crockett’s NWA, Ted Turner’s WCW, and McMahon’s WWF/WWE. Ross also describes some of the bad creative decisions in his wrestling career from being on the creative committee, with angles involving Flair and Ricky Steamboat, the Ron Garvin NWA Title reign, and how he felt the NWA/WCW handled Steve “Sting” Borden as champion. Ross also informs the reader about his time in the WWF covering famous feuds, such as The Undertaker and Mankind’s “Hell in the Cell” cage match, the ill-fated “Brawl for All” Tough Man competition, and the famous “Montreal Screw-Job” involving Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.

Ross covers the revolving door in WCW’s management, which could have been a book in itself on how to manage many different bosses in a short time. Not only were there multiple managers in charge, but he also had to deal with a rotation roster of bookers as well, from Flair, Rhodes, Watts, to Ole Anderson. Since Ross was also one of the announcers, he discusses his opinions on his announcing partners such as Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan, Jerry Lawler, Gordon Solie, Lord Alfred Hayes, and Curt Hennig, along with interactions with celebrities Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Butterbean, and Robocop.

The book is not just about pro wrestling; it is an inspiring tale about a man who had to overcome obstacles to achieve his dream of being in a business that was closed off to many and secretive. Ross overcomes low pay after traveling hundreds of miles, failed marriages, losing the family business store, and overcoming health issues with his fights with Bell’s palsy. Someone not familiar with professional wrestling can still find an uplifting story in Ross’s memoir. This is a tale about a man that wanted to be a part of sports entertainment and made it to the top, via hard work, determination, and a strong will.

Overall, the book is a great read, mixed with humor and inspiration. I would have liked a few more stories dealing with Sting and WCW, but with Ross’s decades of experience, there are bound to be stuff passed over, unless he wanted a 1000 page book (my book has 319 pages without the afterward, which my copy did not have).  There is enough background information about his younger years that make the book interesting, without drawing out multiple chapters, like some memoirs. The chapters are mostly short, which is something else I love about the book. The book ends in 1999; right after Ross announces the Wrestlemania XV Main Event between Steve Austin and The Rock.  Those that follow wrestling would know that Ross has many years left to cover in his career, and maybe another book will be coming in the future, but just like in the wrestling business, Ross’s book leaves the audience wanting more, which is a good thing.

 

Slobberknocker; My Life In Wrestling by Jim Ross with Paul O’Brien will be released in October 2017.

A special thanks to Sports Publishing, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing for the Advanced Reading Copy.

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British Acts that Weren’t One Hitters

One of my pet peeves when talking about music from the 1980s is when people assume acts were One Hit Wonders because their most popular song is constantly played on radio stations or on compilation CDs (along with the term “Hair Metal,” which really drives me nuts, because the band’s hair had nothing to do with their musical talents).  Some people may not know but the radio format plays the same songs almost every hour, even during “Time Warp” Weekends (where radio stations play all songs from the 1980s), so it’s easy for newer listeners to assume that some of these music acts only had one hit, for instance when people  think of the band Mr. Mister, they think of “Broken Wings,” but forget about “Kyrie” or “Is It Love,” which both hit the U.S. Charts, or the Australian band Icehouse, who recorded the song “Electric Blue,” but forget about my favorite of the band, “Crazy,” which hit #14 in 1987. Or even the Canadian band Men Without Hats, who we know from “The Safety Dance” hitting #11 on the U.S. Charts, but do you remember their other 1987 hit “Pop Goes The World” that charted at #20?

We can blame it on ignorance (not everyone studied music like I did, trying to know who wrote the songs or its chart position due to my childhood listening to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” every Saturday Morning), or due to the format of radio today, but I thought I’d look (an hopefully inform) at a few British acts that are usually viewed as One Hit Wonders, but really weren’t.

 

  1. Cutting Crew. This act’s big hit “I Just Died In Your Arms” was recently used in “The Lego Batman Movie”.  The group broke in the U.S. with the 1986 album “Broadcast,” which had this famous song. However, the band hit the U.S. Charts with the #9 “I’ve Been In Love Before,” which is my favorite of the band. The song was actually the third single in the U.S., but was a huge hit for them.  The band also was in the Top 40 with a second single from the album, “One For The Mockingbird”, but it wasn’t until they took another chance with “Been In Love” after it only hit #31 in the UK as the follow up song for “I Just Died In Your Arms.”  The band still records and tours with lead singer Nick Van Eede and different lineup changes through the years. I still prefer the second single, “I’ve Been In Love Before” over the first breakout single that most people remember of the band.
  1. The Escape Club. This band hit #1 on the U.S Charts with the single “Wild, Wild West,” but many may not know that they had another in 1991, “I’ll Be There,” which charted at #9.  The band formed in 1983, and as of 2012, is still performing with singer Trevor Steel, and guitar player John Holliday. Steel was also an A&R person for Universal Records in Australia after the band’s spotlight died down. As with Cutting Crew, I prefer the second single, “I’ll Be There,” which is a better song than the first single that broke the band. “I’ll Be There” is a darker song about a death of a friend, but still has positive lyrics to the song. The song has an eerie type melody, almost a goth- feel to it, but was still main stream enough to hit the Top 10. Whenever the band comes up in my music conversations, many people have never heard this second song, which is a shame, because it is really well written.
  1. Johnny Hates Jazz. This act hit #2 in the U.S. with the song “Shattered Dreams” in 1988, but was first released in 1987 (back in this era, it took usually time for the released song to gain airplay and move up the charts, unlike today).  The act also recorded “I Don’t Want to Be A Hero”(#31) in 1988. My favorite song of the band did not chart on the Top 100 Singles, but charted at #5 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary Charts, along with #12 in the U.K., called “Turn Back The Clock.” I remember seeing this video all the time on my local video channels (we didn’t have MTV at first-it was a pay channel- but watched shows like “Friday Night Videos,” and the video show on WAKR Channel 23 in Canton, Ohio with Billy Soule as the host).  To this day, it is one of my favorite videos, which shows the band looking back at their childhood and the things that they did, like hang out in a tree house. The single had backing vocals by Kim Wilde, who hit #1 in the U.S. with a cover of the Supremes’ “Keep Me Hanging On” in 1987.  This song is a lost gem in my eyes of singles of the decade that many do not remember.
  1. The Outfield. This British band had 5 Top 40 singles from 1986-1990, but yet the band is still considered One Hit Wonders due to the smash #6 hit “Your Love,” from their “Play Deep” Album.  I still crank up the song whenever I hear it playing to this day. I love their 1990 album “Diamond Days,” which I happened to get the CD at a bargain bin for a great price. I loved all the songs on the CD, including the 1990 hit “For You,” which charted at #21 in the U.S. This band is underrated when it comes to 1980s band Nu-Wave Acts. They had Nu-Wave and Pop mixed together with some straight ahead Rock feel to it. Bass player and singer Tony Lewis has a great voice, and I remember seeing the cover of their 1986 Album “Play Deep” all over the record stores at the time.
  1. O.M.D.   This is another band that had several hits from 1985 -1988, including the #4 song “If You Leave” from the 1986 movie “Pretty in Pink.” The band also hit in 1985 with “So In Love,” and “Forever” in 1986, but my favorite song by the band was called “Dreaming,” that charted at #16 in 1987 in the U.S.  The song has the band’s Synth-Pop beat like their other songs, but “Dreaming” just had some great lyrics in my opinion, especially the opening stanza. The band may have had a long name (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark), but the band’s hits are still played today, even though “Dreaming” seems to be lost in that list.
  1.  Breathe.  I remember hearing this London band’s single “Hands To Heaven” when it first came out and thought it was very soulful, as opposed to some of the other songs that were hitting the charts during 1987. The song charted as high as #2 in the U.S. in 1988. I also remember seeing their album “All That Jazz” all over the record stores at the time.  Even though the second single in the U.S. did not chart as high on the Pop Charts, “How Can I Fall” hit #1 on the U.S. AC Charts, and #3 on the Pop Charts.  Unlike some of the other acts on this list, where I liked the second single better than the first, I liked both of these singles equally. A third single from the album, “Don’t Tell Me Lies,” hit #10 on the Pop and # 5 on the AC Charts, but isn’t as played as the other two singles (in the UK, “Lies” was the first single released from the album) The band continued to record until 1992, but their three singles was the only hits they had in the U.S. The band’s work should be rediscovered for fans that like Air Supply and Rick Astley, who linked soul and jazz to their Pop sound.  I really liked these songs, and still shocked why I never owned the cassette or CD in my collection.

When people think of the 1980s British acts, artists like Duran Duran, Elton John, Rick Astley, and George Michael come to mind. However this list above is often misjudged as One Hit Wonders, when in reality, they had great success. I encourage you to check out these acts’ other songs-you may find some more gems to add to your playlist that you don’t hear on local radio.