COMMENTARY | Due to the secretive nature of pro wrestling and the lack of mainstream media coverage, many fans have an insatiable appetite for real news about the business.
In the past, the best we could get were great kayfabe magazines such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Later, the internet provided scores of forums and websites that gave us a peak behind the curtain. However, for serious fans who really want to delve into the inner workings of professional wrestling, there are dozens of books that recount the most important promotions, wrestlers, and incidents in history.
As part of its merchandise machine, the WWE publishes books about its greatest wrestlers. The most noteworthy of these include Mick Foley's three offerings and the WWE Encyclopedia. However, there are a number of other great books that wrestling fans may not be aware of because they were not pushed by the WWE. As a pro wrestling enthusiast who has read dozens of books on the industry, these five stand out as particularly outstanding.
Take a closer look at five great pro wrestling books that every fan should read.
"Bobby the Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All," by Bobby Heenan with Steve Anderson
Bobby Heenan is one of the most beloved figures in pro wrestling history. I find it impossible to watch old videos with Heenan on commentary and not bust out laughing. Heenan's autobiography is just as funny with countless stories about the old days of life on the road. Without giving anything away, the story of how Killer Karl Kox got fired in Mid-South alone is worth the price of the book. Heenan also writes about how the storyline of his WWF "firing" came about and he doesn't mince words about his time in WCW with Tony Schiavone, Eric Bischoff, and Vince Russo.
"When Wrestling Was Rasslin'," by Peter Birkholz
For anyone who was ever a fan of Paul Boesch or followed Houston Wrestling, this book is a must-read. Peter Birkholz, who ran the Houston promotion in its later years, does a phenomenal job of recounting all the wrestlers who ever worked in the area. In fact, Birkholz's book goes back to the 1910s and each chapter recounts the greatest wrestlers and events of each decade in Houston. The book concludes with the author's personal story of how Houston held out so long as an independent promotion until the WWF finally bought the territory in the late 1980s.
"The King of New Orleans," by Greg Klein
This book gives readers an in-depth look at the special relationship that existed in Mid-South between wrestling fans in New Orleans and the Junkyard Dog. While most wrestling books focus on either the wrestlers or promoters, Greg Klein gives a unique perspective from the New Orleans fans' point of view. Having lived in New Orleans in this era, I can also attest to the rabid popularity of JYD in the Crescent City. Klein pinpoints the exact match (which involved JYD) that he believes led to the subsequent decline in popularity of Mid-South Wrestling in New Orleans.
"The Cowboy and the Cross: The Bill Watts Story," by Bill Watts and Scott Williams
Cowboy Bill Watts secured the services of seasoned pro wrestling author Scott Williams for his autobiography and it paid off in an incredible book. Although I mainly read this book to learn more about my favorite promotion, Mid-South, Watts' autobiography spans several promotions and eras. This book gives a detailed account of how Watts secured ownership of Mid-South and how his efforts to take the UWF nationwide failed. Many wrestling fans may not know that Bill Watts briefly worked for the WWF after leaving WCW, which he recounts in his book as well.
"National Wrestling Alliance," by Tim Hornbaker
If you ever wanted to read a wrestling book that made you feel like you were prepping for a college exam, this is the book for you. Tim Hornbaker's book is one of the most incredible reads I have ever engaged in. The events and details about what went on behind the scenes in the NWA in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s makes Chicago during Prohibition look like recess in Kindergarten. However, Hornbaker treats the modern era with the same respect, giving Ted Turner's purchase of WCW and Shane Douglas throwing down the NWA Championship equally great coverage.
Honorable Mention outstanding pro wrestling books
"In the Pit with Piper," by Roddy Piper, "Hacksaw: The Jim Duggan Story," by Jim Duggan, "Every Man Has His Price," by Ted DiBiase
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of pro wrestling. Patrick's favorite wrestling promotion was Mid-South Wrestling back in the 1980s. Patrick's favorite wrestling angle of all-time was the NWO and his favorite wrestler is Roddy Piper. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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- Arts & Entertainment
- pro wrestling
- Bobby Heenan
- Bill Watts