Book Reviews: Double Shot of Wrestling History

Photos from the collection of Larry Matysik 2005

If you have read any of my reviews when it comes to professional wrestling, you would know how I prefer the days of the territories, where many different promoters ran particular areas, and bred their stars, as opposed to today’s product where the wrestlers only have NXT or a few other choices to learn their characters and skills. Places like Florida, Texas, and the Carolinas had their own regional promotions, which some were placed under the National Wrestling Alliance banner (also known as the N.W.A.). One of the most respected, and historic promotions was the St. Louis area, run by Sam Muchnick, which is detailed in the book Wrestling At the Chase by Larry Matysik (ECW Press, 2005).

Matysik was a key member of the St. Louis territory, starting his work as a writer and press person, all the way up to helping Muchnick develop the league as a booker ( a person who sets up the matches and the endings). Stories throughout the book are told about many of the top stars of the day, from Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Bobby Heenan, Dick The Bruiser, and other legendary wrestlers. Each chapter is (almost) based on the author’s experience with the particular wrestler, along with other chapters that detail his friendship with Muchnik and what made that St. Louis area popular with not only the fans , but the wrestlers as well.

What were some of the reasons that wrestlers respected Muchnick? Not only did he give out respectable payouts to the workers (one time even paying them when there was not even a show), but the booking was unique; there were mostly clean finishes in the matches, where other territories were constantly booking controversial finishes every month, which left fans angered and (finally after so many of them) refusing to come back to the matches. The author writes how Muchnick valued the sport aspect of the wrestling that made the fans respect his television and live events. Muchnick also didn’t like “swash” matches, where the star would get all the offense in his television matches against a younger wrestler with little experience. Sam thought that the enhancement wrestler should make the match seem like a legit fight, and have some offense.

The writing relays stories that are entertaining, such as the time a bunch of local guys wanted to fight the wrestlers in a hotel, and 7-foot tall Andre The Giant decided to challenge the men, to how respected Bobby “The Brain” Heenan became , who ended up being the first and only manger in the territory. Stories are told about stars like Jerry “Crusher” Blackwell (who walked out on Vince McMahon Jr. right during his start of the 1980s boom), Joe Garagiaola (who was an announcer for the promotion at one time), and Dick Murdoch.

Another great aspect of the book is the author’s telling of some of the political behind the scene lobbying among the N.W.A. brass in determining the champion at the time (the N.W.A. Champion would travel to each territory to defend the title as an added attraction). One story deals with how then champion Dory Funk Jr. was injured and may not have been able to defend when he was scheduled to be in St. Louis, where the fear and rumors were that he just did not want to drop the title. Muchnick responded by getting Bruno Sammartino from New York’s WWWF to come to St. Louis to show that Muchick could work with the “rivals” of the N.W.A. The political sections of the book also covers when Vince McMahon Jr. started his 1980s run in buying out the territories to create his World Wresting Federation (WWF), after taking over his father’s league, and later, conquering the world.

Matysik covers his friendship with the late Bruiser Brody, a wrestler who became one of the original independent wrestlers. Brody would pick and choose who he worked for, and sometimes refuse to follow the actual finishes of matches. Since Brody was tragically murdered at an event in Puerto Rico, fans of the wrestler would enjoy these stories about the writer’s and one of the original hardcore wrestler’s friendship, which brings a touching aspect to the book. Not only is the friendship with Brody emotional, but also Matysik’s and Muchnick’s evolution over the years is also touching.

Wrestling At the Chase is a wonderful, easy to read book about the bygone era of territory wrestling. This is a collection of great tales involving the classic stars, what made that area different from the others, and several tales of a few long lasting friendships on top. There are some pleasing black and white photographs throughout the book of the great wrestling stars, such as Harley Race, Terry Funk, Andre, and more. The author, sadly, died in 2018, but this book is a testament to his contribution to wrestling history.

 

This book was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Wrestling At The Chase by Larry Matysik (ECW Press, 2005) ISBN: 978-1-55022-684-3 can be ordered at http://www.ecwpress.com

 

The Overall

Pages:232

Language: Mild

Geared For: Teens and Up (12 and Up)

For Fans Of: Classic Wrestling, Sports , St. Louis History

 

Cover design: Michael Holmes.

Women’s wrestling has become a major player in the past few years, especially in the WWE with their Women’s Revolution. Although many wrestling critics have scoffed at the sincerity of some of the choices made, it has given women wrestlers more of a spotlight in the mainstream.

The book Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy (2017, ECW Press) follows the years of women’s wrestling that have led us to this point. The authors have been followers of wrestling for years, with Laprade writing the great book on Mad Dog Vachon (a review can be found here in the archives), and Murphy was a writer for the wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which was THE major magazine in the 1980s and 1990s.

The book starts with a forward from WWE Superstar Natalya Neidhart, discussing how her uncle Stu Hart always had wrestlers at his home, which she became acquainted with, along with the two author’s support of the women wrestlers, where many promoters viewed them as a side show.

The history begins covering how women wrestlers dated back to the Amazon warrior days (even questioning if the Amazons even existed) and in the 1800s, where women took part in boxing, wresting, and bar room fighting. Names like Marie Ford, who participated in what could be an early form of MMA, to Josie Wahlford, who may have been the first women’s champion of wrestling are discussed. These early women fought both men and women on carnival shows and the burlesque circuits. The authors take the reader through names like Cora Livingston, who in 1910 became the first to carry an actual belt as champion, and Clara Mortensen, who claimed to be champion and went on to be a Hollywood actor, along with her part in helping the transition from the carnivals into actual sports arenas.

The book covers mini-biographies of many of the wrestlers, separated by eras, such as the 1980s Rock ‘N” Wrestling era, with Wendi Richter, Leilani Kai, Candi Devine, and Sherri Martel. One of the great stories about this section is how Richter was a part of a screw job (long before the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels event in 1997), with the backstage politics of The Fabulous Moolah, who ran most of the women’s wrestling for decades. Each wrestler gets a several page biography stating some of their wrestling history, along with how they got into the business. I personally enjoyed Candi Devine’s work in the AWA, although the writers seemed to just pass her off as nothing special.

The Attitude Era from the WWE (with stars like Lita, Trish Stratus, and Chyna), TNA’s Knockouts Division (with Gail Kim, Awesome Kong, and Angelina Love), to Japanese and Australian stars are all covered in this writing. The process of going from “women” to “Knockouts” to “Diva’s” are all transitioned here.

The most interesting parts of the book for me was the early history of the women, from names like Cora Combs, Penny Banner (who dated Elvis Presley), and Ethel Johnson (who was one of the early popular African American wrestlers). The detailed story about Mildred Burke and Billy Wolfe’s influence on women and wrestling is a plus, along with the backstage influence of Moolah, which to this day has controversy among those that worked with her. There is also an interesting story from 1951 that details the death of Janet Boyer Wolfe at a card in East Liverpool, Ohio (which is around a 30-minute drive from my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio.

The biographies of the other stars are limited to a few pages at best, depending on how big of stars they were, and several are omitted from here from recent times- the writers mention Stephanie McMahon’s influence on the current product, and there is a chapter on Ronda Rousey, but no Alexa Bliss, covering only NXT wrestlers like Paige, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair. Throughout the book there are comments from Dave Meltzer, who is considered a historian in wrestling by some, and not so by others (Meltzer created dirt sheets newsletters, where he would expose the business by giving so called backstage “news” about contracts, storylines, and the paid arena incomes, although many in the business claim his stories were all made up, some claim he is correct). I personally, would have liked a little less of his opinions, and maybe more of the writer’s view.

It would been nice to have the writers state a little of their personal opinions into the book, such as some of their favorite matches from the stars, but overall the book is a nice reference guide for looking at some of the women and their biographies. Names like The Jumping Bomb Angels, Judy Grable, and Velvet McIntyre may not be well known with today’s fans (but neither are current wrestlers like Tenille Dashwood or Tessa Blanchard) that may only follow the WWE, but they are featured in this time capsule. True fans will enjoy the early history of the pioneers and the Moolah stories. It is interesting to see how far the women’s world has evolved, regardless of opinions of those that see the WWE’s division with skepticism.

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History And Rise of Women’s Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy (2017, ECW Press) ISBN: 978-1-77041-307-0 (paperback), 978-1-77305-015-7 (PDF) , 978-1-77305-014-0 (Epub) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 415

Language: Mild

Geared For: 12 and Up

For Fans Of: Women’s Wrestling, Pro Wrestling, Wrestling History.

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Music Review: Childhood Classic- Celebrating The Summer of 1985 With The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys Released by Brother/Caribou/CBS Records 1985

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 written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com , where I contribute now and then. With summer starting soon, what better release to look at than one by the band that made summer fun?

The year 1985 was a good year for records. Whitney Houston’s debut, Ratt’s Invasion of Your Privacy, Tears For Fears’ Songs From the Big Chair, No Jacket Required by Phil Collins and “We Are the World” was blasting the charts and airwaves. I was listening to these, along with the WWF Wrestling Album, Stryper’s Soldiers Under Command, Rick Springfield’s Tao, and Corey Hart’s Boy In The Box. One of the underrated albums that had great memories for me was the self titled Beach Boys album.

I grew up listening to The Beach Boys as far back as I can remember; they were one of the bands I never strayed away from, regardless of what genre I was listening to at the time. Drummer Dennis Wilson was one of my favorite drummers, who played with a passion and intensity live. Regardless of the backlash that he wasn’t playing on all studio tracks, he was still a good drummer live. I remember seeing the ABC TV Special from 1976 many times on television, getting to tape it on VHS in the 1980s, and wearing out that tape (getting a copy of it years ago on DVD was an extra treat for me when that came out).

The 1985 album was the first release since the death of Wilson, who drowned in 1983. The record was produced by Steve Levine, who produced albums by The Culture Club, and the simple title of The Beach Boys was also symbolic of a new era for the band; from the first release without a founding member, to moving into the 1980s pop sound with drum machines, synthesizers, and samplings.

The first song, “Getcha Back” starts with a big drum sound, and then the powerful harmonies of the group kicks in before the first verse. I remember seeing the band on one of my favorite television shows of the day, “Solid Gold,” debut the song. Once I saw them on the show, I had to get the record because the song just hit me. My local radio station actually was playing the song on frequent rotation, and the single charted to # 2 on the AC charts and # 26 nationally. One could argue that the success of this song helped pave the way for the next big smash, “Kokomo” in 1988 (the band did chart with a duet with rappers The Fat Boys before that, and in 1986 barely charted with the underrated “Rock N’ Roll To The Rescue” for a greatest hits package). Many stations were not playing new music from a “nostalgia” act like The Beach Boys, so getting airplay in 1985 was a big help.

The song has the strong harmonies that the band made famous, along with the lyrics looking back on a love gone wrong, with hope that the lovers could get back together. The opening line of “The other night they were playing our song/haven’t heard it for ooh so long,” and in the second verse, “I’m getting tired laying around here all night/thinking about some other guy holding you tight/he may have money and a brand new car/may even treat you like a movie star,” may sound simple but was just poetry for me hearing it back then. This song is a Nicholas Sparks novel in 3 minutes.

The whole first side of the album is filled with strong vocals and harmonies that could have been on any radio station at this time. The slower “It’s Getting Late” (which was also released from the album , but for some reason didn’t connect with the national listeners), and the next song, ” Crack At Your Love,” gives the album a great flow. “Maybe I Don’t Know” is maybe the only filler song on the first side, but it’s not a bad song.

One of my favorite songs on the album, besides “Getcha Back,” is the last song on the side; a ballad written by Bruce Johnson titled “She Believes in Love Again,” which features Johnson on lead with Carl Wilson coming in on the chorus. This ballad about the guy messing up and asking for forgiveness is a updated theme of the normal love goes wrong and has a spirituality to it. It was released a single but didn’t get airplay anywhere near me, which is a shame because it is one of my favorite ballads of the group.

Side Two kicks in with an ode to California called “California Calling.” After all the years of writing songs about surfing and beaches, you’d think the band would have run out of ideas or original ways to talk about the theme, but this is a fun pop filled song that isn’t dated. Ringo Starr guest drums on the track, which is interesting due to the band’s past with The Beatles, where Brian Wilson had to top the band on the charts. “Passing Friend” has a calypso style to it, co written by George O Dowd (aka Boy George) and Roy Hay (also of Culture Club).

The Brian Wilson led “I’m So Lonely” has the feel of his solo work , with a mid tempo song filled with layers of vocals throughout the chorus. The song is not a typical ballad but has a 1970s feel that could been on the AC charts. The quick two and a half minute song sends the listener back to the days of the 45 records, where anything over 4 minutes would been considered too long for the listener.

Stevie Wonder contributes to the song “I Do Love You,” which sounds like the group just singing a Wonder song. This coming after the song “Where I Belong,” which is another filler on the album starts to seem like the band lost the pop radio friendly style and went back to experimenting with another direction. These songs are not bad , but listening to the album as a whole, it ended the flow. Not being a fan of Stevie Wonder’s music (with the exception of a few songs), I don’t want to hear one of my favorite groups sing a song that sounds just like Stevie Wonder.

After the song “I’m So Lonely,” the album goes downhill for me, but very few records (even now) has every track a winner. The first side and a half though is filled with great songs and memories. I remember wearing out several copies of this cassette while playing along in my bedroom on a summer day with my drums. My best female friend during junior high was also a Beach Boys fan, so this was an album that was played often in my childhood and bring back summer days hanging out with her. The album was re-mastered on CD on a double release with Keepin’ The Summer Alive from 1980 (why this combination was put together with the releases five years apart is questioning, but I only listen to the 1985 release).

When I want to go back to my childhood and listen to a feel good record that takes me back to summer time, friends, and a simple time, I can always count on this release.

 

Track Listings:

  1. Getcha Back 2. It’s Getting Late 3. Crack At Your Love 4. Maybe I Don’t Know
  2. She Believes In Love Again 6. California Calling 7. Passing Friend 8. I’m So Lonely
  3. Where I Belong 10. I Do Love You 11. It’s Just A Matter of Time

Book Review: A Physical Workout Getting Through Superstar’s Book

Front cover Photograph Denise Truscello Cover design by Alex Ross Penguin Random House Australia PTY LTD

 

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was not a bigger female star on the music charts than Olivia Newton- John. John was near the top of the rock and country charts throughout this time, and was considered the world’s sweetheart after her movie role in the musical Grease (which is one of my top three favorite movies, next to The Wizard of Oz and Cocktail with Tom Cruise). In her memoir, Don’t Stop Believin’ ( Gallery Books, 2019) John takes the reader through her life on and off stage, detailing some of her work and struggles.

The book starts by John describing her childhood in England, along with stories of her family and some of their famous friends; her grandfather was a Nobel Prize winner who was friends with Albert Einstein. John tells about growing up at her various schools, even getting a “F” grade in music . It wasn’t until a few friends of hers started singing at a coffee shop that her music career started, along with appearing on several television shows, where she won a talent contest with the prize being a trip to Great Britain.

John’s music career started rolling when she and her duet partner, Pat Carroll, started singing backup with Cliff Richards. John later went solo and started hitting the country and pop charts with several singles. Her songs topped the charts, like the AC charts, and in 1975, she won a Grammy for her song “I Honestly Love You,” which the record label did not want to release as the first single, according to the book, and when she was the ACM award for Country Vocalist for “Have You Ever Been Mellow,” she states that many members of the committee split and even quit because they did not feel the song , nor she, was a true country.

John takes the reader through her time when she ended up being in a lawsuit with her record label, based on the label stating that she owned them more albums, although her contract was based on years. John ended up winning the suit, which set a precedent from the recording industry at the time.

The most anticipated parts of the book is her time on the set of Grease, where she had to be convinced by co-star John Travolta to play the part of Sandy, which moved her career onto a different level than where she was. The stories of directors having a sock hop the first day of shooting to get the cast comfortable with each other, to the broken air conditioning throughout the shootings, to Sandy not being originally in any dance scenes at the time, makes the book very enjoyable. One could read a whole book on the making of the movie alone. John tells the reader about why there wasn’t a sequel to the movie, with Danny and Sandy (instead Hollywood made the dreadful Grease 2 film).

The section of John’s movie career in the middle gives the book its most enjoyable parts. After Grease, she discusses turning down certain films, along with making others that did not do as well as Grease at the box office. The book takes just as much detail is telling the behind the scenes of Xanadu, which she claims many people still come up and tell her how much they loved that film (I remember seeing it in the theaters with my father at age 7, and even at that time, I didn’t know what I was seeing). The author seems to make the film out to be better than it was during this time. It is her book, and she has every reason to like the film and the good memories of it (and be proud of the work for being something different), but in my opinion, the writer tends to boost the film up as better than it really was. But her tales on filming the movie while injured, may give her more respect as an actor, which may require another watching of the flick.

The rest of the book covers John’s passion for her charity causes, and her fights with cancer. There is a small part about her thoughts on her boyfriend Patrick McDermott, who disappeared in 2005. For readers that are looking for juicy information, there are not any here; only a few sentences about the situation. The second half of the writing is more about John’s thoughts on health, charity, and other views, which turns the book into a New Age /healing genre book.

The first part of the writing is the best part for me, reading about her career and her filming of the two major movies. However, for a memoir, there are many parts that just fly off quickly. There is not much information on her behind the scenes of recording some of her albums, only the craze that her video for “Physical” and how she had double thoughts about the song after she recorded it. Other than that, there is not much take on her thoughts on recording the albums or songs. The same goes for her filming Two Of A Kind with Travolta, except a brief plot line of the film, and how it disappointed at the box office. There is not much gossip stories about filming with Travolta and her co stars, which some may want to get out of the book. Maybe the author didn’t have great stories to tell, but the reader will be misled thinking there will be some funny pranks or mishaps on the film set. I’m not advocating a TMZ style book, but some more background stories about the recording of the music and films would be more entertaining for me as a reader than several hundred pages on the many charity and New Age thoughts (But then again, the die hard fans of John who follow her career after the “Physical” stage will enjoy this-it wasn’t for me).

Regardless of my thoughts politically on the writer’s views, the book is covered with class; which is not to be surprising considering it’s Olivia Newton-John, who seemed to have a classy outlook throughout her career. The most interesting parts of the book (with the exception of the Grease and Xanadu ), seem too brief and glossed over. Maybe it was because of the publisher or editor’s decision, or just that’s they way she wanted to cover the book, but music fans may be a little let down by this. I really was looking forward to reading this book, being a fan of her career up through the 1980s, but parts fell flat for me, especially with the lack of entertaining tales during her major run in the spotlight. However, those who are true die hard fans of hers, they will enjoy the writing and her insight on her life.

 

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Olivia Newton-John (Gallery Books, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-9821-2224-9 (hardback), 978-1-9821-2226-3 (ebook) can be found at:

www. simonandschusterpublishing.com/gallery-books .

 

For information on the author go to : http://www.facebook.com/olivianewtonjohn

 

The Overall:

Pages: 323

Language: Mild

Geared For: 13 and Up

For Fans Of: Music, Film, New Age, Memoirs.

 

 

No Lamination Needed: KISS Member Shares Life’s Views

Front cover image: Brian Lowe. Front Cover Design: Charles Brock Faceout Studio.

One of my favorite bands of all time is KISS, so when Paul Stanley announced he was writing a follow up book to his 2014 Face The Music: A Life Exposed book, I was very excited.

Face The Music , in my opinion, the best book out of those written by KISS members. I felt Peter Criss’ book was just full of bashing and anger, and I was never a big Ace Frehley fan to buy his book (although I read it via the local library). I liked Gene Simmon’s KISS and Make Up, but Paul’s book seemed honest and was just an all out entertaining read (you can search for my review in the archives of Gene’s latest book 27).

Stanley’s latest writing, Backstage Pass ( Harper One, 2019) is very different than his last book. The first book was an autobiography, telling about his life growing up, and his time in the band. The second writing is more of Stanley’s thoughts and views on how to live a happy life, along with his opinions on certain values that he was instilled with throughout his life.

Backstage Pass is not a typical “I am rich and successful, and here is how you can be too” writing, which Simmons has used in a few of his past releases. I have always been skeptical on books like that, especially in Gene’s books, where he has stated that he worked two and three jobs, while being able to play in bands on weekends. This may have worked in the 1970s, but many employers (especially where I live) not only hand out part time jobs, but getting the weekends off is unheard of, nor will they work around other schedules. Nonetheless, Stanley’s advice is detailed on advice that anyone can use, no matter what the person’s living situation is all about.

Some of Stanley’s stories involve him going back to his childhood apartment to show his children what kind of youth he had, to the Kiss Kruise in 2017, when he re-connected with Pete Criss’ ex-wife. Paul discusses his family’s religious values, and the concept of starting his side band Soul Station. Stanley also covers why he does not have unreleased songs from his past, as opposed to Simmons and his vault of songs.

Don’t be confused though, in thinking that this another book filled with KISS stories, because it is not. There are some tales about KISS, but they are far and between. The book is mainly Stanley discussing topics like “the only person that you can change is yourself,” not having a bucket list (because instead of crossing off goals, you should continuing adding goals), and “relationships shouldn’t have an agenda.” Stanley uses some stories about KISS, his loves for cooking and painting as a backdrop for examples of his topics, but if you are looking for a continuation of tales from the previous book, you may be a little let down.

This is not to say that the book is a bad read by any means. The title Backstage Pass isn’t misleading, but it is not what a reader may originally think the book is presented. The reader gets the backstage look at Stanley’s more private life beyond the spotlight. Some of the great tales in the writing is how he discusses how depressed he was during the Creatures of the Night tour, where the band was playing for half full arenas, and how he wanted to take the makeup off during that time instead of waiting until the Lick It Up album, to his dislike of the Carnival of Souls : The Final Sessions record from 1997, and his thoughts on bands such as YES and the Eagles not having all original members in the lineup.

Most of the press on the book deals with the segment where Stanley talks about Criss, stating that Peter has spent his time being negative , along with his time dealing with him during the reunion tour, where Stanley writes that Criss was rude to all the hotel staff, and everyone around him. KISS fans, much like fans of The Beatles, are very passionate and have their own favorite members who they side with when it comes to the breakup and press attacks of each other. Regardless of whose side you take (it’s usually Gene and Paul verses everyone else), the reader will either find Stanley’s views throughout the book as an honest person who has matured from his previous days, or will find him hypocritical with his sincerity. As a reader who has only met one member of KISS, Eric Singer, when he played with Alice Cooper, I have to give the author the benefit of the doubt, because Stanley does not spend his time writing pages filled with hate or anger . This, to me, is a book where the writer expresses mistakes from his past, along with informing the reader on things he learn the hard way , so to speak.

Overall, the book was an enjoyable read, much better than Gene’s latest on the 27 Club in music. Stanley’s book is just different in that the Kiss tales are just to give a side note to the points he is trying to make. One does not even have to be a KISS fan to read this and take some valuable information away from it.

 

Backstage Pass by Paul Stanley, along with Collaborator Tim Mohr ( HarperOne, 2019) ISBN: 978-0-06-282028-0, 978-0-06-295134-2 (BN), 978-0-06-295328-5 (BS) is available at : http://www.harperone.com.

 

For information about the author, visit: http://www.paulstanley.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 240

Language: Mild

Geared to: 15 and up.

For Fans Of: Music, Biographies, Self Help, KISS

Book Review: Bizarre Self Help Book Wrestling Fans’ Enjoyment

Cover image by Lee South

I was never a fan of ECW Wrestling, nor a fan of wrestler Al Snow. I thought the whole ECW product made a mockery of wrestling. The league prided itself of having cheese graters, weapons in every match, while setting each other of fire. It was what the Internet fans thought wrestling should be while killing the legitimate fight aspect to wrestling. Wrestling should be where two men want to settle their problems in the ring while making the fans believe it was real. The ECW product made wrestling into a joke by showing wrestlers beat each other up with broken tables, while jumping on top of a guy from the balconies in front of the referee who stood there without calling for a DQ.

However, when I read that Al Snow was writing a book, I decided to seek it out, because although I was not a fan of his on screen gimmick, I knew he could put out an entertaining read full of some great stories. In Self Help: Life Lessons From The Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow, with help from Ross Owen Williams ( ECW Press, 2019), Snow achieves this goal of giving great tales, and then some.

At first, I thought this was going to be a how-to-book based on the title, like other wrestlers have started doing recently, but this book is very different. Snow gives advice on each page (the “life lessons), but some are just humorous thoughts, along with some pointers that someone could use in real life, not just being in wrestling (for instance, one states about having only one chance to make a first impression). Snow tells stories about his wrestling career in a biography form with lively stories.

After a forward by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Snow walks the reader through starting out as a wrestling fan at age 14, and having his first match in 1982 (something I did not know, and thought he just started a little before his stint in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling). Snow details his early matches with Bruiser Brody, Kerry Von Erich, and calling promoters to get booked, including Ole Anderson in Georgia. Snow journeys into the WWE, ECW, and his time in TNA, with an attitude that is different than most wrestling books; instead of always blaming the promoters (like Vince McMahon) for his work not catching on, Snow shows an honesty that his attitude at times hindered his work by not running with the gimmick and trying to make it the best gimmick it could have been at the time (something critics of Terry Taylor have mentioned with his Red Rooster gimmick in the WWF). Snow admits immaturity at times in the locker room, along with the backstage politics that occurred during his run in the wrestling world.

The creation of his gimmick, carrying a mannequin head to the ring (named “The Head”), which gave him his most famous character, is told which involved a mixture of reading a psychology book and a car ride with wrestler Mick Foley. His WWE career teaming with Steve Blackman, his Hardcore title time, and his tales of events in ECW and the independent leagues are wonderfully described. Two humorous stories on the Indy circuit involved a promoter and his son using horses to come to the ring as part of their cowboy gimmick, and another that involves an incident going to an IHOP restaurant with a bunch of “little people.” Two other stories that involves taser guns will have the reader laughing out loud.

Snow also takes the audience through his time behind the scenes at TNA Wrestling, and the problems the league had, along with his time at the WWE developmental league OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling), and some of the wrestlers he worked with at the time before they moved up to the major WWE roster. During the TNA section, Snow tells which wrestlers were difficult to work with (as well as some of the officials), and why the TNA women were easier to work with then the men.

Even if you are like me and was not a fan of ECW or Snow’s work in the ring in the WWE (I just did not get the whole idea of his “head” gimmick), this is one of the better wrestling books I have read in a while. The chapters are short, well written, and will make readers appreciate not only the person inside the ring, but also will have a good time reading these stories. This is not a bash fest against Vince McMahon or Snow’s other bosses, but a tale of a mature wrestler looking back at his work with appreciation of the time that he got to spend in the spotlight, along with meeting some strange, and exotic people along the way. This is a surprising, appealing read of a man that had some fun, while also admitting at times that he wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. From the “Life Lessons” segments throughout the pages, to the exciting, wild ride on the roads, and in the rings, Al Snow’s book will be well worth the time reading.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.

 

Self Help: Life Lessons From The Bizarre Wrestling Career Of Al Snow, by Al Snow and Ross Owen Williams (ECW Press, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-77041-439-6, 978-1-77305-303-5 (pdf), 978-1-77305-302-8 (epub) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com

 

The Overall:

Pages: 302

Language: Moderate

Geared To: Ages 14 and Up

For Fans Of: Pro Wrestling, Sports, Biographies.