“If I Could Be Serious For a Moment”
by, 05-16-2012 at 08:41 PM (4006 Views)
Ok, I will admit to the deep, dark secret…I like to read. Maybe it is not for everyone I will grant you that, but ever since I was a little tike dragging around Dr. Seuss I have discovered an immeasurable amount of satisfaction sitting down to a good book and getting lost in the pages. Thankfully, there always seems to be a plethora of worlds to choose from in the areas of fiction and nonfiction alike and from science fiction novels to do-it-yourself manuals I have tried them all.
Over the last ten years or so, however, my particular interests have turned to a preference for biographies and autobiographies—more specifically the memoirs of those in the professional world of wrestling. From Mick Foley to Kurt Angle…from Ric Flair and Bret Hart to Edge and Chris Jericho the books are out there and they keep coming! I will not claim to have read them all, or to even desire to read them all, but if you call yourself a wrestling devotee, a scholar of the business that is professional wrestling (still cannot call it “sports entertainment”) you owe it to yourself to pick a few up from your local library—yes they still exist—and spend the energy.
Of course, according to your preferences whether for currently active professional wrestlers or those that have retired and “passed the torch” the multi-layered literary efforts are out there and worth your time. If nothing else they are a glimpse of the sometimes elusive world that fascinates and entertains us from the perspective of those specialists who lived/live their craft and gave/give us their all. Like the old saying goes, “those who can do…those who cannot read about it and dream.” Or something like that…
A few memoirs are surprisingly well-written by the wrestler themselves (Mick Foley) and some are obviously not (Chyna) but—good or bad—they all have something to offer to the great puzzle that is professional wrestling. Likewise,I will not pretend to be a particularly knowledgeable reviewer of books but I know what I like and I certainly have opinions like any other so if I can borrow a little more from one of my favorite professional wrestlers—Lance Storm—I wish to be a “book mark” here and share some thoughts and titles.
As a further disclaimer before you proceed I must also admit this is not meant to be an inventory of EVERY worthy selection—as there are many more out there I will surely omit as I have not read them yet—but for the sake of brevity and focus here I will choose a handful of my favorites to comment on. Indeed, since opinions are plentiful when it comes to any special area of interest my remarks may not be wholly original or illuminating, but they are genuine—and in no particular order of importance. As ever I welcome any and all observations that agree or disagree!
Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks by Mick Foley
If this well-written autobiography is not already on the top of everyone’s “must read” list it should be. While there were inevitably many previous forays into the literary universe by professional wrestlers before this book was published in 1999, it can be safely argued “Mamma Foley’s little boy” revived and even revolutionized the genre with his initial offering. Not only did he prove to the publishing industry that (some) professional wrestlers can write their own stories without the heavy babysitting of a ghost writer—paving the way for those who would follow—he would top the 700-plus page best-selling tome with two more brilliant offerings.
For the sake of objectivity and awesomeness I will include Foley is Good: And the Real World is Faker Than Wrestling (2001) and The Hardcore Diaries (2007) here under the same commentary as one entry. Likewise, over the years Mick has put his mark in the world of kid and adult fiction to varying degrees of success but I maintain his best work with the pen—as he reportedly likes to write freehand—was done when he inspired the world by simply sharing his story. Personally, I did not find the books a long read at all and found myself wanting more…wanting to know more and experience more with this “hardcore legend” who is all at once captivating, funny and true to his calling. Mick is just so likeable and annoyingly normal as a father, husband and all around hard working character it almostmakes you think you know him because he knows himself so well. He might not be a crazy man or a supersized love machine but he has played them both on TV…thank you Mick and keep up thegood work!
Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling by Bret Hart
Ok…first of all…like many I did grow up watching the Hitman on television through his early days in the WWF (WWE) on to WCW but I must admit I never really became more than a passing fan. Sure I thought he was gifted, charismatic and great at his job I just could never get all the way there to call him one of my favorites. Indeed, I would cheer or jeer him with the antics of the Hart Foundation depending on how the prevailing winds blew but if I had to pick a favorite it would have been his brother Owen that would emerge my Hart of choice.
Times change of course and people change with them and when I finally got around to reading his biography published in 2009 the excellently executed memoir (pun intended) got me. Forget all the details of his many feuds and matches—he kept a thorough record of his career—and the insider perspective ofthe well-oiled machine that is the WWE…forget that he is a very talented artist and comes from wrestling royalty…forget his unabashed side of the “Montreal screwjob” and how he battled back after his 2002 stroke…forget his apparent success with the ladies around the world and his tumultuous family life…forget all of that and you still have a man who had a dream, worked hard to make it happen and paved the way in his chosen industry for others as an innovator and true master of the ring. He may have not made a full convert of me just yet to wear the pink and black with pride like he has for some many years, but this book is a damn fine read written by a damn fine wrestler.
A Lion's Tale: Around the World of Spandex by Chris Jericho
A talented musician, actor, wrestler and all around entertainer Y2J is no “bottom feeder” himself when it comes to telling his tale and sharing his journey. From his days as an up-and-comer training hard in Canada at the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling to his trial-and-error labors in Mexico and Japan, Jericho’s 2007 book is as astute mixture of humor and gusto with a strong dash of intelligence and willpower to show what it takes to make it to the WWE.
As with his fellow scribe and WWE alumnus Mick Foley he would follow up this offering in 2011 with another popular memoir called Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps which chronicles his voyage through the rough seas of the WWE to international stardom. In cementing his status as one of the best talkers in the world of professional wrestling (and as the first undisputed WWE champ) this shining duo of books emerges to enthrall and assure you this accolade is worthy of the man in the shiny jacket.
In the Pit With Piper by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
The addition of this memoir may come as a surprise to some but I think it has a place (on my list at least) as a truly necessary read for any serious connoisseur of wrestling legend. Published in 2002 it clocked in at a mere 250-plus pages and certainly did not break any records but it was one ofthe few that I liked so much I ended up buying a copy to keep on my shelf. If the frolicking craziness that is one of the best wrestling journeys of all time does not grab you, the humor and sheer passion of arguably the greatest heel of all-time will. Maybe it is not the best written biography that you will ever read—it never really finds it flow—but it is certainly one of the most honest, gut-wrenching and representative accounts of one man’s hard journey through a business he also helped to pioneer. Opinions…yep Roddy has them in spades and shares them freely about the WWE, other wresters and the “sickness” that drives and stains the industry and exactly what he thinks about what he thinks. The book, like the man, is a study of perseverance and pain…tragedy and triumph…but it is one that as equally funny and educational.
Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All by Bobby Heenan
With the help of Steve Anderson “The Brain” indeed tells all and pulls no punches in his 2002 memoir. In 2004 he would add Chair Shots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life's Wrestling Matches to his literary repertoire and together these books paint a vivid picture of a brilliant man with a brilliant mind for the business that is professional wrestling. His perspective is fascinating from the side of a lifelong fan of the industry that did well in it just by the sheer genius of his mind and audacity of his tongue. Indeed, through the often blunt, sometimes poignant words of “The Weasel” we are reminded that all successful forerunners to what we know as the erstwhile sport of professional wrestling were/are not always wrestlers (though he did wrestle bears in Canada and pay his dues) or promoters.
Married to his dear wife Cindy for over 45 years “The Brain” is an altogether surprising family man and quick to praise his fellow “humanoids” as well as remain brutally honest and forthcoming. If you are after frank details concerning the ongoing effects of his battle with throat cancer you got them and never one to miss an opportunity Heenan has a rhythm and rhyme of speaking that is all his own and can never be duplicated. Some of the world’s best wrestlers have been part of his extended “Heenan Family” (don’t call them a stable) but it is from his example we look at the state of the business and wonder “where have all the good managers gone?”