Contrary to what you might think, wrestling is much more about the characters and the performers than the performances themselves. Any two people can have a good match, but if you don’t have a reason to care about these people or what they’re doing, you’re not going to have much of an audience. I know it’s a bit of a tired example, but Hulk Hogan’s five move offense drew more money than anyone with eight hundred and thirty four moves could ever hope to.
There are a lot of ways wrestlers can tell you what is going on, but there are also ways that you could want more from them. Therefore, a lot of wrestlers have written books over the years. Some of these are a lot better than others and there are a variety of ways to write a book about wrestling. I’ve been upgrading my wrestling library over the last few days and that’s brought us here.
This week we’re going to look at some of the better wrestling books out there. I’m not saying these are best or that all of them are great. Instead I’m going with books that I’ve read and liked in one way or another, most of which can be picked up for relatively cheap online or in a used bookstore. And hey, we’re only a week away from Christmas so if you have any wrestling fans, consider it a gift guide.
These are in no particular order.
Walking A Golden Mile – William Regal
We’ll start off in the deep end as this one has some of the harder material you’re going to find. Not that Regal goes too in-depth or anything, but he goes into some VERY detailed descriptions of his battles with substance abuse. A lot of the time you’ll read descriptions of such a thing and a lot of the details are glossed over. That’s not what you get here, as Regal leaves out no details and goes all the way into what he did, what problems it caused and what he had to do to make up for it.
Oh yeah and there is a lot of wrestling involved as well. Regal of course got his start on the British wrestling circuit and you get a lot of great background information on how things worked back in the carnival days, which was a completely different world. It helps that Regal is a great storyteller and you can see how good he would be in various forms of entertainment, just because of how straight to the point he tends to go. Just be ready for some punches to the gut.
Anything By Tim Hornbaker
This is a catch all as Hornbaker has written three excellent books (National Wrestling Alliance, Capitol Revolution and Death Of The Territories) and I can’t pick between them. Hornbaker has a heck of a task in front of him as he has to put together a lot of moving parts into a coherent narrative, which is a lot harder than it sounds. He manages to pull it off incredibly well though and each one is a great read.
You’re going to get a lot of history in these books and that’s because they’re structured very well. Hornbaker knows how to put everything together and make it easy to understand (and keep track of) all of the names and parts to the story. These are some very long stories that have to be compressed into a not very long book and Hornbaker manages to pull it off. Check out any or all of them if you want to brush up on your older wrestling history.
A Lion’s Tale – Chris Jericho
Ok so this one is a little bit easier than some of the others but that’s because it really is that good. It’s almost impossible to not know a lot about Jericho at this point of his career as he has been around forever and done almost everything there is to do in the wrestling world. That’s what makes his books so interesting: he’s been around for so long and has so many good stories to tell. Hence why he’s written four memoirs at this point and probably will put out another later on.
Here’s how it ends:
My Life In Wrestling (With A Little Help From My Friends) – Gary Hart
If you ever have any interest in running a wrestling company (or just want to learn how it’s done), this is the be all and end all of books. Hart goes into some incredible details about how to book a company and there is absolutely nothing like it anywhere. I know Hart might not be the best known manager in the world, but he was around World Class and various territories for a long time and is someone worth reading.
Now there’s just one problem: this book is very rare and VERY expensive, with the cheapest copy I’ve ever seen going for about $400 (and triple that on the high end). I’m going to go on a limb and say that’s going to be a bit out of the realm of possibility for some people, but if you can find it elsewhere, even in a digital version, it is more than worth reading if you want an education in how the other side of wrestling works.
KB’s History Of The WWE Championship – Thomas Hall
This one isn’t perfect (it needs updating and needs a better editor) but it shows a different perspective on wrestling. Hall isn’t someone who has ever worked in wrestling before but he has spent over thirty years watching it and has built up a pretty nice working knowledge of how things work, at least from an outsider’s perspective.
The book (which you can get right here) is a collection of over 200 match reviews with breakdowns of what would happen to the title and its holders between the title matches listed. There are a lot of historical trends to pick up on and Hall does a good job of tying things together and showing how history has repeated itself over the nearly sixty years of the title’s history. It may not be perfect (but it is available on Kindle, right here), but it was put together by someone who cares and put some effort into it.
Side note: further investigations have shown that I may have been the one who wrote the previous book. This is just a coincidence, I assure you.
Crazy Is My Superpower – AJ Lee
We’re going back to the Regal motif here as this one also delves into the world of substance abuse while throwing in some mental health issues at the same time. Lee is a rather fascinating author as she feels like she is writing in a stream of consciousness and it makes for a unique style that takes some getting used to. I certainly got used to it and couldn’t put the book down by the end.
Something a little more fun:The best part of this are all of Lee’s tangents and random thoughts, which often come out of nowhere and are more entertaining than the (also awesome) narrative. This is one of my favorite wrestling books ever and I never would have guessed that coming in. Lee isn’t someone who was a big star in wrestling for very long as she was the bridge between the Divas era and the Women’s Revolution, but these stories will draw you in like few others and some of them will actually be hard to sit through. That’s some good writing and I was incredibly impressed.
Foley Is Good – Mick Foley
I know the easy way to go here is Have A Nice Day but that one has been covered to death so I went in a different direction this time. How do you follow possibly the best and most successful wrestling autobiography of all time? Well pretty much by doing another version of the exact same thing. It might not be as good but it’s still Foley talking about wrestling and that’s always a good thing.
Foley is at his best when he is telling stories in his own way and that’s what you get here (plus a long section on how ridiculous it is to say wrestling is too violent when you compare it to various family films). This one covers the end of his career, plus a few bonus stories thrown in. Of course it’s excellent and while Have A Nice Day is better, this one deserves some attention of its own (kind of like the Cell match with HHH).
The Death Of WCW – RD Reynolds/Bryan Alvarez
This one is going to need a grain of salt with it because there are some factual errors (mostly minor) and I don’t quite agree with the constant praise of Ric Flair, but some of the details in here are just hard to fathom. WCW went out in a blaze of awful but it’s incredible to see just how bad things got. Some of the financial decisions and bad ideas that this company had are unfathomable and yet they just kept happening over and over.
This is one of those books that I tend to just pick up and read a random section at times because it makes you feel better knowing that whatever you’ve messed up, at least you’re not these numbskulls. It’s one of the rare situations where you think it couldn’t get any worse and then it just kept going until the company was gone. It’s an amazing story and there will never be another like it, which makes for quite the read.
Midnight Express Scrapbook – Jim Cornette/Tim Ash
We’re going back to the incredibly detailed (and incredibly expensive, with the cheapest I’ve seen going for about $125) books here as Cornette goes into WAY more detail than the average fan could ever need. This is as complete of a history as you will ever get of any team, with Cornette not only going into how the team formed, but also listing almost EVERY MATCH RESULT THE TEAM EVER HAD, even down to house shows and including finishes and most of their payoffs.
There will never be another one like him:
Of course there are dozens and dozens of other books to pick from and many of them are better than others. You never know when you might find a gem in there and while there are some that aren’t exactly interesting, the better ones are more than worth your time. Hopefully something on this list interests you, but you owe it to yourself to check out a few wrestling books here and there as wrestlers are some of the most fascinating people in the world, no matter where they are.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. His latest book is KB’s Complete 2004 Monday Night Raw Reviews.
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