Wait, wait! Come back! Ok, I get it. Wrestling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and everyone has their own reasons for that. I’m not necessarily trying to convert anyone but what I would like to do with this post is show professional wrestling as I view through, of course, book recommendations!
Before I get into the recommendations, I want to let you know a few things about my personal fandom:
- I know that wrestling isn’t real. Well, I know that the outcomes are predetermined (for most matches…more on that later), I know that the moves are choreographed, and I know that when the wrestlers argue with one another, it’s been written by a team of writers (although, again, that’s not always true). Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I have answered the question “Why do you like wrestling? It’s fake!” more times than I could ever count. My response is usually, “Your favourite movie is also fake, but that doesn’t stop you from loving it.”
- I have been a fan of wrestling since I was five years old. Wrestlemania III happened on my birthday in 1987. I just turned eight and I went to my uncle’s house to watch it. He had one of those HUGE satellite dishes in his front yard and he got all the wrestling PPVs (pay-per-views). I fell in love with the pageantry, the battles between good and evil, the colourful costumes and face paint, the bonkers promos (monologues given by wrestlers). I couldn’t get enough.
- My peak wrestling fever was during the Attitude Era of WWE. Popular wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and The Undertaker engaged in ridiculous storylines and matches. This was while I was in university and once I got my degree, I fell away from wrestling for a while. I picked it up a few years ago and I’ve been obsessed again ever since!
Here’s a few of my favourite books about wrestling:
The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker
My hope is that some of you reading this who haven’t watched wrestling before will be intrigued enough to at least check out this book. This is a book featuring the untimely and tragic deaths of many wrestlers. This is something else that has intrigued me about wrestling over the years. Far too many wrestlers have died young. Whether it be through murder, suicide, drug abuse, or some combination of these, wrestlers, especially during the eighties and nineties, were dying at a rapid rate. Shoemaker explores many of those deaths in this book, giving a brief biography while concentrating on what led to the tragic end. Wrestlers to this day are more often than not on the road, often performing 300 days or more a year. They fly or drive from venue to venue all across the world. Couple that with the pain they suffer and wrestlers from the past would often turn to unhealthy combinations of pain medications, illegal drugs, and alcohol. It’s an issue that has largely been eradicated today but the tragic past of wrestling is on full display in this book.
To Be The Man by Ric Flair and Keith Elliot Greenberg
Chances are, the first name you think of when you think “wrestling” is Hulk Hogan. Chances are also good the second man is Ric Flair. Flair has been in the news for the wrong reasons the past week with serious medical issues (get well soon, Ric!) but he has been a fan favourite for decades. Flair portrayed a character who wanted, and got, all the finest things in life: private jets, the finest clothes, the loveliest ladies. The thing is, he also lived his personal life that way. He’s been married three times, has dealt with financial issues most of his professional career, and been in two (two!) plane crashes, one in which he broke his back and was told he would never wrestle again (he did so for three more decades). Through all the trials and tribulations, he is still the life of every party, drinking everyone under the table and WOOOOOOOing all of the ladies with his ubiquitous catchphrase. This autobiography takes us through the early years of Flair’s life and career up until about 2000. He was working on a second book that is to be released later this year and there’s an ESPN 30 for 30 film coming in November about his life. No one has lived the rock star life in wrestling quite like Flair. This one is a fun read.
Bret Hart was my favourite wrestler growing up. He is probably the best technical wrestler ever, which means he makes the moves look real and he tells a great story with his wrestling. You believe he’s in pain and you believe he’s inflicting it. The Hart Family is a legendary one in the world of wrestling. In their hometown of Calgary, the Hart boys and other young hopefuls would work on their craft in The Dungeon, which was the dingy basement of father Stu Hart’s house. Of all the people who survived The Dungeon, Bret was the most talented. Where he suffered was with his mic work. He did cut some memorable promos but his character development often left something to be desired. The most famous (or infamous) moment of his career, which Hart writes about extensively in his book, is what became known as the Montreal Screwjob. Bret was the WWF champion in November of 1997. However, he was soon moving to WCW or World Championship Wrestling. Vince McMahon, the owner of WWF knew this and was fine with it but he was fearful that Hart would bring his belt to WCW, embarrassing McMahon in the process. So, while Hart was told he would win on Sunday and then give up the belt on Monday, McMahon concocted a plan where Hart would lose to Shawn Michaels on Sunday. Hart went into the match thinking he was going to win but instead was put into a submission hold where the referee, also in on the Screwjob, told the timekeeper to ring the bell. Hart was livid and would spit on McMahon, who was ringside, and later punched him backstage. Drama! It’s a rare moment where the plans were made without the knowledge of one of the participants.
So! That’s a glimpse into why I love wrestling so much. It’s not for everyone but I think the participants certainly deserve respect for their athleticism, their dedication, and their suffering for their passion.