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INSIDE THE ROPES    
ItR Book Review: Wrestling with
Literature, Part 3 

August 2, 2006

by the Canadian Bulldog    
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Firstly, I just wanted to thank the millions (AND MILLIONS) of Canadian Bulldog fans who voted in response to my "retirement" situation last week. I have to say, the feedback has been overwhelming -- and really, on both sides of whether ITR should keep going, or whether it should taken out back and shot.
 
As of Monday afternoon, there were more than 5,200 responses to the poll on my website (though for all I know, it's probably one person pushing the vote button over and over and over again). Here are just some excerpts of the more encouraging responses I've received so far:
 

 

  • "I like to compare your column with Jim Rome's sports radio show: it takes a little time to get it, but once you do you're hooked. ITR gives me that chuckle I need to get through a busy work night."
  • "Don't listen to the OO naysayers...your column is the highlight of the Wednesday/Thursday internet doldrums!!"
  • "It's still not all my thing, but I appreciate the effort that goes into it, even the stuff that doesn't amuse me."
  • "Your work is very good, and you have a lot of fans write for them not the one or two people who prefer their humour in the form of “jackass”."
  • "If you truly love doing ITR, then don't stop. You'll have a forum for it, and you know there are people that like it." 
  • "I do get a kick of your satire and like how you put the WWE in its place when it sucks! I hope the heads in WWE read your column to see how BAD their ideas sometimes are."
  • "I enjoy reading your articles, and would be disappointed if you quit because of a few lonely quail-tards posting on the forums."
  • "The American government is secretly controlled by aliens from outer space." (Bulldog's Note: Um, what?)
  • "When I first started reading OO I used to hate Thursdays cos the only update would be ITR which I didn't like, but believe you me the more I read it the more I liked it and now I look forward to Thursdays/Fridays to when I can read you stuff."
  • "Don't retire. You're funny as hell."
  • "The Rick should at least double your pay"
  • "Dude I look forward all week to your column and have for years.  Don't make get emotional here, I promised myself I wouldn't do this…*snif*."
  • "Don't listen to the whiny twits - keep entertaining!!!! Ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
  • "Three years is a long time to come up with original content, so if you ever decide to stop writing your column, I would completely understand."
  • "You and Matt are the only reasons to come to OO. Rick hasn't been interesting in years."
  • "Keep the humor coming, Bulldog. I will keep on reading and laughing. BANK ON IT! You are welcome for the compliment!"
  • "Bulldog -- why won't you at least acknowledge the birth of our child?"

Wait, how'd that last one get in there?

Anyhoo…  I haven't made my mind up just yet, but I'm hoping to have a decision by this point next week. In the interim, please keep sending me your feedback. And it's of a negative or death threat-like nature, send it here. No matter how nasty or ill-mannered the threats are, I won't mind a bit.

With that out of the way, I figured this would be as good a time as any to bring back "Wrestling With Literature", where we strive to prove that not ALL wrestling fans are illiterate.

In this third installation, I thought I'd supply reviews on the cheap; that is, these are titles I found in used bookstores, bargain bins, that kind of thing. I think I even won one of them in a contest. Are these books bad because they're inexpensive? Not necessarily; some are hidden gems that are just a little on the stale-dated side.

So strap on your bargain-hunting boots (if such boots exist) and join me as we look at five not-so recent releases. Oh, and just a quick reminder of patented Canadian Bulldog Ratings System:

The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be = Self-explanatory. This rating is reserved for my absolute favorites, ones that I could read through over and over again.

Oh Hell Yeah! = While not the top of the line, there's enough good stuff in here to make me want to recommend it.

Transitional Champion = Not an urgent read, by any means. If you're starting up a collection, or if you're a big fan on the subject matter, go for it.

Bowling-Shoe Ugly = More bad than good here. Hey, if you can pick it up for a few dollars at a used bookstore or borrow it off your friend, fine. But you've been warned.

You're FIRRRRRRRRRED! = Why on earth would any publisher approve this crap? What were they thinking? Only valuable if you're the type that likes reading total and complete train-wrecks.

 

Arn Anderson 4 Ever: A Look Behind The Curtain
 

Author: Arn Anderson
Pages: 164
Synopsis: A look at the life of career Four Horseman Arn Anderson, published shortly after his retirement but before WWE's purchase of WCW.

Throughout his wrestling career, "The Enforcer" was known as a good talker, efficient, hard-working, straightforward and talented -- rarely the best match on the show, but never the worst -- without having to delve into the backstage politics and backstabbing people, like many of his colleagues had.

Arn Anderson's book is remarkably similar to his career. There's something refreshing about reading through a life story without having to endure endless amounts of bragging, overbearing ego and outright lies. Instead, you get kind of a plain-Jane story about a guy who just wanted to wrestle, and was quite successful at doing so.

Credit where credit is due: Only a handful of wrestling bios out there are actually written by the author, instead of showing up as "By Arn Anderson with…", "By Arn Anderson featuring…" or my personal favorite, "By Arn Anderson, as told to…". This is apparently one of those few. Extra credit because this was published in 2000, right near the start of the modern wrestling book era, so kudos to Arn for writing this while The Rock and others were simply talking into a microphone.

Anderson goes into quite a bit of detail about his broken home growing up, and how his grandparents ended up raising him instead. This could be just personal taste, but I'm generally appreciative of a wrestling biography where family is mentioned prominently throughout the book (Mick Foley) instead of treated more as less as a footnote (Jimmy Hart). Arn delves into his family in spades, from his rough early days to his granny's last day on earth. Tremendous detail here.

Unfortunately, there's not a ton of substance beyond that. His wrestling career, while impressive, never had a lot of controversy to it. His most remarkable out-of-the-ring incident -- the infamous U.K. hotel room scrap with Sid Vicious -- is downplayed because of legal concerns. The "nightlife" stories during his time as a Horseman are there, but they're not in vivid detail the way, say, Ric Flair wrote about them. Add these things up, it doesn't make for terribly exciting reading.

That's not to say this book doesn't have its charm, because it does. Arn has positive things to say about almost everyone in the business, and doesn't take the low road in attacking Vince McMahon and/or Eric Bischoff the way some of his colleagues have. Plus his biography isn't one that gets told very often, so there are some new details here for sure.

The book does every thing right, format-wise, it just doesn't wow you in doing so. Kind of like the wrestler who wrote it.

Rating: Transitional Champion. If you're an Enforcer fan, or a wrestling-bio completist as I am, you wouldn't be wasting your time tracking this down at a used bookstore somewhere. But it's certainly not a "must read". 

 

Every Man His Price: The Story Of Wrestling's True Million Dollar Man
 

Author: Ted DiBiase
Pages: 167
Synopsis: A bio of the future hall-of-famer (and current WWE agent), with not-so-subtle religious overtones throughout.
 

While I'm not your typical Ted DiBiase message-board fanboy, I will concede that "The Million Dollar Man" was one of the top heels in the mid-1980's, and a great technical wrestler to boot.

Some similarities to the Anderson book: I found both of these titles at a used bookstore on the same day. The lengths are within a few pages of each other. Both get into great detail about their families, which started off poorly and improved from there. Both are good friends, and make mention of this fact in their books. And like Arn Anderson, DiBiase apparently didn't tell his story to a ghostwriter.

DiBiase hooks you in early, with the story of his (adopted) father Mike DiBiase, who died in the ring at a relatively young age. Despite a promising career in college football, Terry Funk and other veterans encouraged the younger DiBiase to try his hand in the ring.

Off to a tremendous start in the Mid-South and related territories, DiBiase was recruited by Vince McMahon and became the larger-than-life Million Dollar Man character that would eventually help end Hulk Hogan's landmark first WWF title reign. Following a lengthy stint in New York, DiBiase went to Japan, came back to the WWF (this time as an announcer and manager) and finally jumped to WCW, where (as of the time this book was published) he was the figurehead financial backer of the nWo. His life as commissioner of the short-lived WXO is, unfortunately, left out.

Then we get to the "re-discovered religion and became a preacher" portion of his life. Folks, I am not a religious man by any stretch, so undoubtedly, a lot of this is just lost on me. But I can still appreciate the fact that DiBiase wanted to find peace with his life. Good on him for that.

But at the same time, DiBiase hints at the "personals demons" he had struggled with, without actually divulging WHAT said demons were. As a result, you're left wondering what exactly happened to him (If I were to warrant a guess, it would be something along the lines of every hooker having her price).

Now… I completely respect DiBiase's decision to keep his private life private, but then… why write a book about your "true" life story? You know?

Overall Rating: Bowling-Shoe Ugly. Who knows? If you enjoy reading about religious inspiration, this may end up being your bag, but as a wrestling biography, not so much.

 

Are We There Yet?: Tales From The Never-Ending Travels Of WWE Superstars

Author: Robert Caprio
Pages: 240
Synopsis: A collection of road stories by WWE superstars (many of which have since left the company but, hey, this was written almost two whole years ago).
 

Some of my favorite parts of wrestling biographies are the crazy road stories. I won't soon forget Edge's "death tours" across frozen rivers, Mick Foley's crazy antics with Al Snow, and Ric Flair's… well, pretty much everything Ric Flair has done on the road.

So this book basically polls a group of wrestlers on their funniest, scariest and most interesting travel stories. For those of you who think the days of wrestlers criss-crossing the country through inadequate conditions are over, prepare to be surprised.

Most of these are short and to the point, while some are extended tales. For the most part, they're little bite-sized anecdotes that, with the exception of three or four of them, I'd never heard elsewhere before. And all of your favorite current WWE stars are here, including Bill Goldberg, A-Train, Miss Jackie, D-Von Dudley, Dave Hebner, Ivory and Molly Holly. Uh… yeah.

Surprisingly, some of the most interesting stories come from guys like Triple H, Rico, Paul Heyman and Chris Jericho. Randy Orton's contribution is classic, too, but only because it fits the image we all have of him to a T. HEY!

The section on ribs is, obviously, the funniest part of the book. Most of these jokes are of the harmless kind, unlike the ones Roddy Piper and Ric Flair describe in their books. Edge and Rey Mysterio dress up sleeping comrades on a flight; Triple H and The Godwinns scare the crap out of Aldo Montoya; and Vince McMahon, of all people, pulls the ultimate prank on Coach.

The only downside is the brevity of the book. I remember buying this book on a trip from Portland, Maine to Toronto last year, and breezing through the book with a good two hours left to spare. You're definitely left wanting more, which is why I'm guessing there might be an "Are We There Yet 2" in the future.

Overall Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! Lots of fun, and some interesting stories to boot. Definitely worth a peek.

The Rock Says

Author: It doesn't MATTER who the author is! Just kidding… The Rock, with Joe Layden
Pages: 292
Synopsis: The Rock's biography of his life before wrestling, and then his first few years in it.
 

Imagine how much more interesting wrestling would be if The Rock decided to come back now, even if it was for a few matches a year? I'd love to see what he could do with an Edge, Batista or John Cena, or even if it was to renew old rivalries with Triple H, Kurt Angle or King Booker.

The Rock's story, and his meteoric rise to stardom, makes for good bio fodder. He's a third-generation superstar who, after some success in the football world, was pushed through WWE's developmental system in short order. From there, Rock made his national wrestling debut during a PPV match from Madison Square Garden, which would lead to several world championships as "The People's Champion", before his star took off in Hollywood and he left this wrestling crap behind.

Unfortunately, the book was published in the middle of Rock's WWF/E run and thus, you don't really get the full picture. As a result, you get disproportionately long stories about tryout matches and the like that, in the grand scheme of things, aren't really crucial to telling of The Great One's story.

On top of that, The Rock decides to switch into "character" for several chapters once he turns heel, speaking in third person and talking smack about guys who, in previous chapters, he had complimented. Then, without warning, he turns into a normal civilian again, but within a few chapters, he's back in character again. The hell?

I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea (I'm thinking Russo). Had Rock started his book off with a brief chapter speaking as "The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment" then, fine, I could have accepted that. Everyone would have understood that he was demonstrating the differences between Dwayne Johnson and The Rock. But as it stands now, it's quite confusing. Not to mention annoying.

I don't know -- this just epitomizes lazy to me. Not only did Rock likely just talk into a microphone for Layden, but it was far too early in his career to make a credible book. Had he just waited a few more years, I'm fairly confident this book would have had some more oomph to it.

Overall Rating: You're FIRRRRRRRRRED! My best advice would be to take this book, shine that sumbitch up real nice, turn it sideways, and STICK IT STRAIGHT UP YOUR CANDY-ASS! Damn, I really miss The Rock. Too bad I can't say the same for this lame-ass book. If ya smelllllllllalalow… what The Dog… is cookin'.

 

Broken Harts: The Life And Death Of Owen Hart  
 

Author: Martha Hart with Eric Francis
Pages: 272
Synopsis: Owen Hart's tragic death, told from his widow's perspective.
 

Speaking of wrestlers I truly miss… Owen Hart has always been one of my favorites. Not just because of the horrible way he left us, but even prior to that. I had the pleasure of meeting Owen a handful of times as a member of the "wrestling media", and was thrilled that he (seemed to) remember me the second time we met. Not only that, but I truly believe he was one of the most charismatic and athletically gifted wrestlers of the modern era.

I was at my best friend's wedding (the wedding, that is, not the film of the same name) the evening of May 23, 1999, and thus missed out on watching Owen's final night on earth. When I learned what had happened, I gave up wrestling… for an entire week, at least, until I came to the realization that Vince McMahon and anyone else involved in the company never meant for this to happen.

But that doesn't lessen the pain any for Martha Hart. Thus, "Broken Harts" is about how she tried to make sure Owen was remembered. In addition to Martha's recollections of Owen and his life leading up to "Over The Edge", she also discusses the lawsuit that was launched after Owen's death and how it divided the Hart family. (By the way, to read a more objective view of the Hart squabbles, I would highly recommend the book "Pain and Passion", which I reviewed in the first chapter of WWL.)

Is Martha biased? Is she open about her hatred for Vince McMahon, the Harts and the wrestling business as a whole? Absolutely, and I'd be hard-pressed to see how one could ever write a book any differently, under the circumstances. So that's one caveat you need to know going into this -- she does not sugarcoat the world of pro wrestling in the least. 

At the heart of this, though, is an interesting story about a storybook romance that ended in tragedy. It is NOT a "wrestling book" by any stretch, but still quite compelling, particularly for Owen Hart fans.

Overall Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! Although my top rating may have been more appropriate for the family ties, I can't in clear conscience say this is one of the "best" out there. Still, given that it’s a perennial bargain bin favorite in many bookstores, it's definitely underrated.

As a bonus, I believe that a portion of the sales benefit the Owen Hart Foundation children's charity that Martha established after his passing.

That about does it for this time. I'd love your feedback and to hear if there are any wrestling-books you'd like me to check out going forward. Oh, and don't forget: hate mail goes here.

Next week: The Future Of ITR???

E-MAIL THE BULLDOG    
BROWSE THE ITR ARCHIVES

Canadian Bulldog has written his own wrestling book, which is available here, and he also contributes to the following book review blog. He'd love to hear your suggestions for wrestling-related books to review at bulldog@onlineonslaught.com.


  
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