And Another Thing: The Greatest Story Never Told
Posted by Hyatte on 11.06.2000
I stopped by my nearest Barnes & Noble bookstore the other day... just to be sure.
I stopped by my nearest Barnes & Noble bookstore the other day... just to be sure.
Wedged in the "Sports" section, between a few Boxing books were the following tomes dedicated to Professional Wrestling:
The Idiot's Guide To Professional Wrestling by Captain Lou Albano and Bert Randolf Sugar for $18.95... which was structured just like all the Idiot's series are. User Friendly.
Rulers of the Ring: Wrestling's Hottest Superstars by Robert Picarello for $10.95. There were a LOT of pictures, and some cheap bios.
WOW: World Of Wrestling: The Very Best of the WWF, WCW, and ECW for $14.95 and $19.95. There were two of them, with different covers. More pictures to go with zippy single-paragraph bios. Just for a little extra, they threw in a look at some other "Extreme" sports such as Snowboarding and... well, I put the book down after seeing pictures of Snowboarders. No single or group author was credited for the book. Once you see the thing, you'll understand why no one in particular wanted to get credit.
WCW: The Ultimate Guide by Bob Ryder and Dave Scherer. This beaut, for $19.95, will give people who never saw wrestling ever in their lives a glossy, slick rendering of the world of WCW. Of course, this brand new reader will walk away assuming that Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Kevin Nash have spent their whole careers in WCW, and that WCW is the only company around. I hope Mr. Ryder and Mr. Scherer were well compensated for this oversized brochure. These "Journalists" should be ashamed of themselves.
That was it for the general wrestling books. There were also a few biographies on the shelf. Both Mick Foley's hardcover and paperback were displayed. The Rock's hardcover was there, with the paperback on it's way later this month. There was also Every Man Has His Price by Ted DiBiase for $10.99, but be warned... the book slowly yet surely turns into a sermon on how Christ can save you too. Bret Hart's Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be that he wrote with Peray Lefko is available for $19.99. This is another big, glossy book with large lettering and lots of pictures so it feels like a lofty read... it isn't. Finally, there was a little, fast book called Texas Rattlesnake: The Unfiltered, Totally Unauthorized Story Of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin by Scott Edelman. This is one of those "On-The-Fly" quickies that hack writers love to slap together for a few fast bucks.
That's everything on Wrestling that I could find in the store. So, I went online to Amazon.com and checked out the selections there. They are selling Arn Anderson's book for $22.00 and Dallas Page's book for $23.16 (with Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea credited as a co-author).
Interestingly enough, I also found two books on both Page and Hart by the same author! Diamond Dallas Page: The Story Of The Wrestler They Call "Diamond Dallas Page" (Pro Wrestling Legends) by Jacqueline Mudge for $8.05 and Bret Hart: The Story Of The Wrestler They Call "The Hitman (Pro Wrestling Legends)also by Jaqueline Mudge for $8.95. One wonders why Bret's story cost 90 cents more than Dallas's? Maybe because she had to work harder in the whitewash she gave Bret?
Among the more "broader" wrestling books, Amazon provided these:
Stranglehold: An Intriguing Behind The Scenes Glimpse Into The Private World Of Professional Wrestling by Larry Nelson, James R. "Jim" Jones, and Marilee Chiarella for $14.99. AWA Announcer Larry Nelson jams inside stories and exclusive pictures of saggy Verne Gagne wearing his tights into a paltry 152 pages.
Kayfabe : The Secret World of Professional Wrestling (The X-pert X-plains) by David Flood. Priced at $19.95, this "X-Pert" only needs 168 pages to break the news that wrestling is NOT real.
Professional Wrestling As Ritual Drama in American Popular Culture (Mellen Studies in Sociology, Vol 8) by Michael R. Ball. For $79.95... it'll probably be the most expensive sleeping pill you'll ever buy.
Professional Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle (Performance Studies Series) by Sharon Mazer $14.48. Don't get excited. This one clocks in at 191 pages... hardly enough to cover the career of the Mulkey Brothers, much less this entire sport.
There were other books, but you get the idea.
Checking out the books that have not been released yet, such as the Rock's paperback, Bios from Goldberg and Chyna, there are also:
Biographical Dictionary Of Professional Wrestling by Harris M. Lentz III for $55.00. More definitions and explanations... only this time, it's the long winded version.
The Buzz On Professional Wrestling by Scott Keith and John Craddock for $16.95. To fill in those blanks left by Albano and Sugar?
The Encyclopedia Of Professional Wrestling: 100 Years Of The Good, The Bad, And The Collectible by Kristen Pope for $17.56
Meet The Stars Of Professional Wrestling by James Preller for $5.39
The Professional Wrestling Trivia Book by Robert Myers for $9.95 (+ $0.85 special surcharge)
Anyone see a recurring theme here?
You can buy the books if you want. I'm not telling you not to. All I'm saying is that... well...
They're all crap.
Truth is, the real story on Professional Wrestling has yet to be written, and probably will never be written.
The best we can get are more trivia books, lots of quickie, harmless bios, lots of Guides, Dictionaries, and other handbooks designed to explain this crazy sport to the "normal" people. We'll also get autobiographies from wrestlers who will share with us some private stories of the road... just as soon as their bosses carefully scour the finished manuscript and delete anything that may show Wrestling in a negative light. Oh, if you are perfectly happy with seeing things on the sunny side, then you'll probably enjoy reading Page go on about how everyone is a pal and how everything about the sport is wonderful. You'll also thrill at the unique literary device the Rock employs as he switches... from first person narrative to speaking in the third person. You'll have lots of pictures to look at too.
For the rest of us, though, we are out of luck. I doubt we will ever see the book that long time wrestling fans deserve to read. The book that encompasses the entire wacky, sordid, hidden, and beautiful world of Professional Wrestling. A book which tells of the rise of the WWF from a small Northeastern territory to the Global Carnival Freakshow that it became in the 80's. A book that also probes the NWA's consolidation from being an entity that supported many smaller territories to becoming the Atlanta based WCW that alone tried to face down the WWF 80's Juggernaut. A story that reaches deep into the heart of Texas and tells of the tragedies that were heaped upon the Von Erich clan. A story that recounts the pre-ECW "extreme" UWF, the years in the Sunshine State when Dusty ruled, the years of how Verne Gagne tried to stay true to History as McMahon paved a new future, the years when a young wrestler was not a Wrestler until he traveled to Memphis and was put over by the King. Can you imagine what kind of book that would be? Can you imagine what kind of book the second volume that covers 90's Pro Wrestling would be?
This is the story that should be written. One that tells the real story, warts and all. One that conveys the deep, deep loneliness of a road tour. One that talks of drugs, homosexuality, steroids, deceit, backstabbing and black-balling. One that describes just how a Wrestler turns over his pride, his integrity, and his families survival with just one signature on a contract. How the business has managed to keep the talent from Unionizing. How they are ALL truly "Independant Contractors", yet still form a loose "clique" to watch each other's back. One that shows off the insecurities all wrestlers have when a new, exciting star joins their company and the lengths they will go to insure their own personal continued success. A story that shows the raging Egos and the sly, political power-plays. Stories like these are famous... legendary, in fact, among those in the business, but they will most likely always stay within the confines of a whisper, somewhere in the shadows.
The real story of Professional Wrestling will never be written, if Vince McMahon has anything to do with it. For you see, not just because of the potentially embarrassing skeletons that he, himself has locked in his closet, but because even though Wrestling is now more in the public eye than ever before, and even though it is now under the brightest media spotlight possible, this is still a very secretive, very controlled business. McMahon and his ilk still try to control every scrap of information given out. It was only a few years ago that they even recogonized the "Entertainment" part of "Sports Entertainment", much less embrace it. It will be quite some time, if ever, when they will allow the darker side of the business to be revealed. It took someone under a mask to show how Magicians make Elephants disappear, men like McMahon will never allow anyone in the business to show how these Illusionists can make Wrestling's underbelly vanish into thin air. If someone tries, that someone will never work in the business again... period. That's why Wrestling is such a hard business to break into. It's the most exclusive Inner-Circle in the world. They protect their own out of loyalty, fear, and their sense of self-preservation.
Then there are the disgruntled stars. Bret Hart and Roddy Piper have both promised to write the "real" story. Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and the Ultmate Warrior have also made threats. Should he decide to try, I'm sure Phil Mushnick could put together a book detailing the low points of the business and why we are fools for watching it. If these books are made, I'm sure that they will be chock full of depravity and amoral stories. Given the apparent bitterness of these people, I'm sure they will explain how evil McMahon is, how shameful their fellow workers are, and how the business rode them like a horse until they couldn't walk a single step further, then ate them up and spat out their bones. Of course, they will be sure to portray themselves as naive innocents guilty of only putting their trust and faith in the wrong hands. They gave their all to the business, and have nothing but millions in return. They'll pen the tell-all, all right, but they'll be sure to twist the "tell" just enough to make sure they come out of the "all" looking like Saints.
No, that won't do either. For you see, the Great Wrestling Novel needs to justify our love for the sport. It needs to be a book that shows Wrestling as it really is, good and bad. It needs to shock us with it's candor, yet celebrate the glory of the business as well. There is an honor in professional wrestling. The utter simplicity of a staged showdown between good and evil is something to be cherished. We are fans because wrestling is fun and basic and unapologetic in it's inherent foolishness. What we now need is the book that dares challenge our loyalty by showing the business in an uncompromising light, and by showing us that these larger than life Heroes are just as Human as we fans are.
Who can write this story? Someone who loves the sport. Someone who still loves the sport and asks us to love it after bringing the corrupt stories out of the shadows where they have dwelled for twenty years. Someone who loves the sport enough to track down hundreds of sources who have hundreds of stories they are just waiting to share. Someone who has no connection to the business other than adoration and admiration. Someone who is understands that we do not need another book that explains to us what "kayfabe" is and even the most uninformed non-fan in the world will be able to read the True Story of Wrestling and fully comprehend it without needing to know why "getting over" is so important.
Who is this someone? Well, he or she has to be out there somewhere.
Maybe he or she is reading this?
Maybe the author if the Greatest Story Never Told is you?
There are more than enough Wrestling books for Dummies.
How about a book for the rest of us?
This is Hyatte too