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.
Geared For: Ages 12 and Up
For Fans Of: Social Services, Autobiography, Self-Help, Children and Youth, Biography