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Under-the-radar wrestling book recommendations

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It had been a while since I browsed through the wrestling book category on Amazon so I started clicking through the other day. Man, there are a shitload of wrestling books (and e-books) out there that I've never heard of!

 

Does anyone have any recommendations for under-the-radar titles that are worth reading? By under-the-radar, I mean stuff besides the autobiographies from well-known superstars, Cornette's stuff, etc. Something that deserves to stand out among the clutter, but maybe hasn't had a spotlighted shined upon it.

 

I'll recommend one to start: I'm halfway through "Kamala Speaks" and it's really good. The writing is substandard, but not bad enough to derail the storytelling and interesting tidbits through the first 150 pages.

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Forgive me for quoting myself from old threads, but here goes:

Kindle Unlimited (wrestling books)

Has anyone else tried this? I signed up for a free month and loaded it up with wrestling books. Several of them are available through this service. You can check out ten books at a time and keep them for as long as you want. When you're done, return one and add another.

There is a ton of rubbish - and searching for wrestling books in Kindle Unlimited, funnily enough, also gives you listings for gay erotica (lol).

But there are enough good wrestling books to make a free month worthwhile.

What I've found so far:

  • Hacksaw: The Jim Duggan Story
  • Dusty: Reflections of Wrestling's American Dream
  • Hart Strings (Julie Hart)
  • Black Bart & Me And a Few Other Wrestling Tales (Dusty Wolfe)
  • Animal (George Steel)
  • Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story
  • JUSTICE DENIED: The Untold Story of Nancy Argentino's Death in Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka's Motel Room (Irvin Muchnick)
  • Legends of Memphis Wrestling (Steve Crawford)
  • The Stamp Collection (Dennis Stamp)
  • A Pro Wrestling Curriculum: Advice, suggestions and stories (Tom Prichard)
  • Latin Thunder: My Journey Off The Top Rope!
  • Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore
  • The Somebody Obsession: A Nobody's Desperate Journey to Stardom (Matt Murphy)
  • The Professional Wrestler in the World of Sports-Entertainment (Matt Murphy)
The ones I've read:

- Terry Funk: I actually read this years ago and remember it being good fun.

- The Somebody Obsession: I also read this years ago, and even though I still have no idea who the hell Matt Murphy is, it was actually a very interesting book about a low-level journeyman wrestler. He talks about training with Harley Race, dealing with bitter wrestlers like Malia Hosaka, etc. I highly recommend it. He has a second book, but I haven't read it yet.

- Hacksaw: Surprisingly good. Much better than I expected, actually. He's very open about people and behaviors he doesn't like, including violence against women (naming Steve Austin, among others), what a wreck WCW was (he seemed bitter about people like DDP acting like they were big stars even though business was in the toilet), etc.

- Dusty: I actually thought he had written this himself, because for better or worse, it reads like he's talking to you the whole time. I was surprised by how much bad language he used. Good book. I only wish he had updated it to include more recent events. At the time it was written, Cody was still an aspiring actor, etc.

- Hart Strings: This is the whole book in a nutshell: Bret Hart was physically abusive, slept around, did drugs, used her for sex after they split up, abandoned his kids, etc. I have no idea what's true and what isn't, but man, she's bitter (maybe rightfully so, maybe not - I don't know). She had a tough upbringing, even ending up in a detention center at one point. It's hard to know what's true and what's bullshit, but it's still an interesting look at the Hart Family. She thanks Bret at the end, despite everything she claims he put her through. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Not sure what to read next. I was surprised and delighted when I discovered THE STAMP COLLECTION though. :D

The Dusty Wolfe book is actually just a few pages (I haven't read it yet), and he has several others. I don't know why he didn't just combine all of these into one book, but maybe he makes more money this way?

I think I've found just about every worthwhile wrestling book this service offers, but if you know of any others, please share them. I'm not sure yet if Kindle Unlimited is worth $10 a month, but I'm definitely enjoying my free month.

 

I am reading The Professional Wrestler in the World of Sports-Entertainment (Matt Murphy) now. It's basically a "how to" book if you decide to become a wrestler. Not the moves, but how to act, what to do, bathe, wash your gear, etc. Despite that, it's surprisingly compelling. I may be wrong on that (or I may be right). I know nothing about the author, to be honest.

 

Both Matt Murphy books are well worth reading. One fascinating tidbit from The Professional Wrestler in the World of Sports-Entertainment: It offers advice for wrestlers who want to send a résumé to John Laurinaitis (yeah, it's a bit dated now, haha). Apparently, Big Johnny wanted PowerPoint presentations. WTF??? IMO, there are few programs more useless, obnoxious, and bloated than PowerPoint.

On that note, I just found this a few minutes ago: http://www.businessinsider.com/universities-should-ban-powerpoint--it-makes-students-stupid-and-professors-boring-2015-6

 

I tried reading the 1PW book, but the default font is miniscule (I can increase it, but still, why should I have to change my settings for one book?) and it is an oral history involving people I've never heard of and don't care about. Obviously, that's my own bias. It's possible I'm missing out on a truly great book. If so, my loss.

With that said, I'm really enjoying the Titan Sinking book so far. It hasn't gotten into 1995 specifically yet, and there's very little written about the years before that I didn't already know, but it's still interesting to read. I can't really judge the book accurately until it gets into 1995 itself, but so far so good.

I can't think of any names for 1996 (maybe something with Stone Cold?), but if he ever gets to 1997, From New Generation to D-Generation could be good. :)

 

My thoughts on some more books:

Titan Sinking: I finished it, and while you don't really learn anything new if you've been around long enough, it's still a very entertaining trip down memory lane. My only nitpick is that sometimes it seems rumor and speculation are passed along as fact. I recommend it though - and I'm looking forward to the 1996 edition.

Curtain Call: How An Unscripted Goodbye Changed The Course Of Pro Wrestling (by Dan Ryckert): This isn't mentioned in the OP - I discovered it after. It reminds me somewhat of Titan Sinking, except it's much shorter and covers only the Kliq. Again, nothing new, but a fun trip down memory lane with some interesting tidbits about Shane Douglas and the Bone Street Krew (Taker's clique). There was a lot about the Kliq in Titan Sinking as well, so I could be mixing up what was in there with what's in here. Either way, this isn't a bad companion piece of sorts to the Titan book, even though they're both by different authors.

Dusty Wolfe's "books": They're all single columns really - no more than 5-10 pages each. I really enjoyed the ones about other wrestlers the most. The soapbox and general history pieces from him weren't as interesting to me. That's just my opinion though.

The Stamp Collection: A mixture of poetry, Dennis Stamp's oversized ego, and some fun stories. Yes, this is as strange as it sounds. He has no love lost for Blackjack Mulligan, Dick Murdoch, and especially Bruiser Brody. He takes a particularly nasty shot about Brody's murder. Still, that's balanced by an incredible story at the end involving Terry Funk and a sick child that will leave you in tears. Like him or not, Dennis Stamp is definitely one of a kind, LOL. (And in case you're wondering, no, there's no mention of "Beyond the Mat" anywhere in the book.)

Latin Thunder: I'm reading this one now, and while I have no idea who the hell the author is, I still like it so far. He is very thankful to his first trainer, even though the carny con man essentially took his money and ran. That's a bit much for me, making him sound like a brainwashed "respect the business, brother" type. Still, I do like it so far. Any book that starts out with Skandor Akbar (who was not the trainer I mentioned above) has to be at least decent.

I tried reading the Tom Prichard book, but I wasn't in the mood for it. Maybe I'll go back to it after. I'm also not really looking forward to reading the two Snuka books, for obvious reasons.


Kamala Speaks (wrestling book) is spectacular!

The ebook version of Kamala Speaks recently landed on the Kindle store, so I decided to treat myself to it as a Christmas present. After reading Backlund's book, I dived right into Kamala's. I am a huge Kamala fan from childhood, so I was really excited to finally be able to devour this. As a kid, I knew I couldn't ever be Hulk Hogan or Ultimate Warrior, but maybe I could be Kamala... (I don't mean growing up to become an African savage - kind of hard for a white kid to aspire to, haha - and I definitely don't mean becoming a bodyguard for Idi Amin. :) I mostly mean the belly. I could rub my belly with the best of them!)

I knew I'd have fun with this, of course, but I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it is.

What really makes Kamala Speaks stand out is that James Harris (and/or Kenny Casanova, who is listed as the book's co-author) is not afraid to dig deep, show his emotions, and lay his soul bare for the reader - anger, sadness, regret, longing, fear, and those sweet but fleeting moments of happiness. Whether it's losing his legs or headlining Madison Square Garden with Hulk Hogan, all of his feelings are described powerfully. One of the most impactful moments of the book, for me, was when a retired Kamala returned to one of the arenas he headlined - this time as a truck driver making a delivery - and ran into his old wrestling co-workers.

And Kamala definitely has some strong opinions about those co-workers - particularly Vince McMahon and Andre the Giant. He also goes into his low payoffs, racism in wrestling, the creation of the gimmick in Memphis with Lawler and Jerry Jarrett, Friday/Kim Chee, Mid-South, his WWF runs and eventual face turn there, his brief stint in WCW, his one remaining friend from the wrestling business, and all of the other topics you'd expect from his career.

Occasionally, the book will slip off into weird side-tangents. In one instance, former WWF ring announcer Mel Phillips' foot fetish and accompanying scandal is mentioned - possibly to parallel Kamala's own foot amputation issues? There are also a bunch of Pat Patterson and "Brooklyn Brawler" Steve Lombardi stories. Kamala addresses those rumors head-on, apologizes for his part in them, and then goes on to make fun of Lombardi several more times anyway. It's all a bit bizarre, but it does make for strangely compelling reading.

Oddly enough, Lombardi, Harvey Wippleman, and pretty much anyone from the WWE apparently refused to be quoted for Kamala Speaks - "out of fear," according to the author(s). I can believe it, because the book is pretty hard-hitting. But still, to me, it only makes everyone currently in the WWE look petty for not contributing their own thoughts to a former colleague's life story. What harm would that have really done? Kamala was going to write whatever he was going to write anyway - and he did! WWE didn't really do itself any favors by distancing itself for no reason, if you ask me.

The foreword is written by Jim Ross, but the ebook version contains several unused forewords at the end and other extra material that didn't make it into the print version. There was nothing wrong with J.R.'s foreword - it was fine - but I have no idea why they didn't use Koko B. Ware's instead. It was far more personal and heartfelt. My only guess is that J.R.'s version was ultimately chosen because he's a "bigger name."

There are a couple of minor errors in the ebook edition (not sure if they're also present in the print book). There are two instances where a sentence is cut off. I believe this happens in Chapters 1 and 7, but I'll have to double-check. Hopefully I can find a way to contact the authors so these tiny gaffes are corrected (easy enough in a ebook, since existing buyers can get updated versions automatically). Other than that, this is clean, polished, and professional.

Overall, Kamala Speaks is fantastic - definitely up there with the best wrestling books I've ever read, and I've read most of them.

Link to the ebook: http://www.amazon.com/Kamala-Speaks-eBook-Editors-Autobiography-ebook/dp/B019JJR59Q/


Edit: Formatting should be fixed now.

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Pure Dynamite by Dynamite Kid is great.

 

Headquarters by Quackenbush was surprisingly good. Its different from all the other wrestling books because it deals with what its like to not be successful and to spend your time struggling on the indies, starving, making no money.

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Click the link in my signature. They don't get much more "under the radar" than Drawing Heat, in both the book itself, and it's main subject, The Canadian Wildman.

 

Drawing Heat was the first book I'd ever heard that candidly discussed the behind the scenes goings on in Pro Wrestling, and it really is a tragic story. The Wildman was never a household name (although he became infamous for all the wrong reasons when the bear killed his girlfriend) but he really was an underground legend in eastern Canada, as his shows were ECW about 10 years before there was an ECW.

 

This book has info on plenty of other famous names too, especially The Original Sheik. It isn't mentioned in the book, but The Wildman actually helped train Sabu and gave him his start as "Terry S.R." and of course Adrian Adonis was on a Wildman tour when he was killed in the same accident which killed The Wildman.

 

It is extremely well written too, as the author is a Professor at the University of Western Ontario so I'd say it is one of the better written books on wrestling I've read from a technical standpoint, if nothing else. It can be almost philosophical and poetic in parts, written from the standpoint of a non-fan wanting to understand the world of Pro Wrestling, and the journey that takes him on.

 

Seriously...read this book.

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Quote



A reader over at the Fighting Spirit Magazine Facebook group recently asked for suggestions for lesser-known books worth reading. I’ve copied across the list from my reply below:

Theatre In A Squared Circle by Jeff Archer (covers lots of offbeat topics like newsletter writers, training schools, jobbers etc) (Review)

Hey Boy, Whered’ya Get Them Ears by Paul Boesch (hard to track down, but a great autobiography that doubles as a history of the business) (Review)

Fall Guys by Marcus Griffin (imagine having the Wrestling Observer or FSM in the 1930s!) (Review)

BRISCO: The Life and Times of National Collegiate and World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion JACK BRISCO by Jack Brisco (slow to get going as there’s a lot of amateur stuff, but the sections about being on the road as NWA champ are very interesting) (Review)

“Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls”: From McMahon to McMahon by JJ Dillon (especially the bit about working in WWF) (Review)

Drawing Heat by Jim Freedman (the author spends the summer touring the frozen deserts of rural Canada with the Wolfman and the Sheik) (Review)

Lita: A Less Traveled R.O.A.D.–The Reality of Amy Dumas (WWE) is the most undersung of the WWF releases and a very unusual and interesting story. (Review)

Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling by Heath McCoy is a great history of Stampede. (Review)

When Wrestling was Real by Paul Vachon (this is an older printed book, not his recent eBook, but is a tremendous story of literally working his way round the world)

I'd also add in Queen of the Ring by Jeff Keen about Mildred Burke, which I'm midway through and is excellent.

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The Tony Atlas book is excellent. Very in depth and honest. I don't know how long it took Scott Teal to get all this info out of Atlas or how he did it. I would put it up there with any top book.

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Thanks man!

 

Is Stan Hansen's book on Kindle Unlimited?

 

Unless they've added it since my post, no, I don't think so. I definitely would've read that one.

 

I didn't keep the KU membership, BTW, but it's definitely worth having for a month or two.

 

Pure Dynamite by Dynamite Kid is great.

 

I second this. One of the best wrestling books I've ever read.

 

Click the link in my signature. They don't get much more "under the radar" than Drawing Heat, in both the book itself, and it's main subject, The Canadian Wildman.

 

One day I will go wild and order a bunch of Crowbar Press books. Just wish most of them weren't only available on that site.

 

• Theatre In A Squared Circle by Jeff Archer (covers lots of offbeat topics like newsletter writers, training schools, jobbers etc) (Review)

 

Oh man, I forgot all about this book. It's truly fantastic and takes an approach most books don't.

 

Also one of the rare negative portrayals of Owen Hart.

 

BTW, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Brody book. I guess it's probably not under-the-radar by our standards, but it would be by general wrestling standards. I found it at a used bookstore last weekend and I'm looking forward to getting into it. Was really excited to spot it, because I went in there thinking, "No way would a high end, upscale bookstore like this ever have anything about wrestling." Turns out they had two: the Brody book and the WWE-published biography about Andre (which I already have).

 

Oh, don't sleep on Gary Michael Cappetta's Bodyslams!: Memoirs of a Wrestling Pitchman. It's amazing.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Bodyslams-Wrestling-Gary-Michael-Cappetta/dp/1550227092/

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Which Brody book did you read C.S. Emerson Murray or Larry Matysik?

 

I liked the Emerson Murray one better myself due to all the people interviewed for it. It didn't come across as biased. Where the Matysik definitely was. The format was kind off odd as well with every other chapter by Barbara Goodish.

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Which Brody book did you read C.S. Emerson Murray or Larry Matysik?

 

I liked the Emerson Murray one better myself due to all the people interviewed for it. It didn't come across as biased. Where the Matysik definitely was. The format was kind off odd as well with every other chapter by Barbara Goodish.

 

Well, I haven't read it yet, but the one I found was the Matysik/Goodish version. I don't like the idea of the two authors alternating chapters - that sounds terrible - but hopefully I'll still enjoy it. I think there's value in having the people closest to him write a book. But the other book by Murray sounds like it's more journalistic in nature.

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Most of the Crowbar Press stuff is on Kindle now. The newer titles that aren't will be up soon.

 

Theater in a Squared Circle I haven't read in forever and have been meaning to get a new copy of, but is worth the few dollars you can get it for to have all of the reprinted stuff from Wrestling Then and Now.

 

Lita's book is indeed very good.

 

William Regal's isn't talked about as much these days but is one of the very best.

 

Chokehold isn't talked about much anymore, either, but it's a wonderful resource and the eBook version is available at a pretty low price on most platforms.

 

Chris & Nancy has some flaws but it's tremendously well researched and covers the Benoit case better than anyone else.

 

If you like big color photos, the old George Napolitano books are great and can be had cheap.

 

Emerson Murray's Brody book kind of disappointed me, though it's still solid and the photo quality is awesome. A highlight is the real story behind the Onita-Invader angle as told by Scott Romer, the photographer who took the pictures for the Japanese magazine story.

 

Of course get the eBook of Fall Guys :)

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Reading the solid chronicles. Getting fed up of scanning through it for wrestling stories. When does he quit the stock cars?

 

 

Update - Up to Funk-Brisco and he's still off with the racing every few paragraphs. Annoying.

 

What book is this?

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No one ever mentions this one, but Jody Hamilton's "Man Behind the Mask" from Crowbar press is one of the best territorial wrestling books. It has a distinctive voice and lots of good stories, especially about the Georgia wrestling wars in the early '70s.

 

Don Fargo's book is well worth reading, but it's utterly crazy. Dude had a hell of a career and it has great description of territories that aren't covered in depth elsewhere (Gulf Coast, WWA, etc.), but there are parts that make you cringe.

 

The Grappler's book is extremely well written, compelling, and has a detailed history of Portland in the late '80s. His opinions on Don Owens are way different from anything else I've read.

 

I know this is a controversial figure, but Ole's book is one of my favorites. Super distinctive voice, great insights on how booking should work, and his version of what happened with the Georgia buyout is fascinating. I've read it at least 4 times.

 

Another one I recommend that just came out is "Front Row Section D" by John Hitchcock. Not only is it one of the funniest wrestling books I've read, it's a great look at the history of the Mid-Atlantic territory plus North Carolina indy wrestling in the '90s. It's one of the few books that is written from a fan perspective. It's also short and very readable.

 

I think Stan Hansen's book is boring. In my opinion, he was holding back on opinions. It seems really guarded.

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Reading the solid chronicles. Getting fed up of scanning through it for wrestling stories. When does he quit the stock cars?

 

 

Update - Up to Funk-Brisco and he's still off with the racing every few paragraphs. Annoying.

 

What book is this?

Sorry, it's the solie chronicles by Robert Allyn

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No one ever mentions this one, but Jody Hamilton's "Man Behind the Mask" from Crowbar press is one of the best territorial wrestling books. It has a distinctive voice and lots of good stories, especially about the Georgia wrestling wars in the early '70s.

 

Don Fargo's book is well worth reading, but it's utterly crazy. Dude had a hell of a career and it's a great description of a lot of territories that aren't covered in depth elsewhere (Gulf Coast, WWA, etc.), but there are parts that make you cringe.

 

The Grappler's book is extremely well written, compelling, and has a detailed history of Portland in the late '80s. His opinions on Don Owens are way different from anything else I've read.

 

I know this is a controversial figure, but Ole's book is one of my favorites. Super distinctive voice, great insights on how booking should work, and his version of what happened with the Georgia buyout is fascinating. I've read it at least 4 times.

 

Another one I recommend that just came out is "Front Row Section D" by John Hitchcock. Not only is it one of the funniest wrestling books I've read, it's a great look at the history of the Mid-Atlantic territory plus North Carolina indy wrestling in the '90s. It's one of the few books that is written from a fan perspective. It's also short and very readable.

 

I think Stan Hansen's book is boring. In my opinion, he was holding back on opinions. It seems really guarded.

I agree about the Hansen book. It's the only Teal book I had to keep taking breaks from reading. I thought I was the only one that didn't care for it that much. It has some good parts, just not enough. Plus he was way too repetitive. He kept repeating some of the same stuff in regards to Japan.

 

I've been meaning to pick up that Fargo book. Sounds like a crazy read.

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Has anyone read Sunny's book? I read the free sample on Kindle last night and it seems really compelling so far, but I want to know if it's worth $10 before I take the plunge. Sunny being Sunny, it could devolve into a giant BS-fest, ya know?

 

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Star-Shattered-Rise-Fall-Wrestling-ebook/dp/B01BHH8EAM/

 

BTW, another recommendation: The Road Warriors book is pretty good, and relatively inexpensive.

 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Road-Warriors-Danger-Wrestling-ebook/dp/B004P8K21K/

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I haven't read Sunny's book, but I have read this review which might help sway your decision.

 

http://jojomellon.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/a-star-shattered-rise-fall-rise-of.html?m=1

 

Seems like it's the usual fare from Sytch.

 

As for some recommendations, I have just finished Bob Backlunds autobiography, which is excellent, although it only focuses on his run up to 1984. His Mr Backlund heel run is touched upon briefly though.

 

Another book worth seeking out may be Lions Pride - The turbulent history of New Japan Pro Wrestling by Chris Charlton, which is a decent read, and quite up to date as well.

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Not quite under the radar, but just got the kindle version of Bill Apter's book for $4.99.

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