Book Review: ‘Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce – The Annotated Version’ by Marcus Griffin, Annotated by Steve Yohe & Scott Teal

Fall Guys is a book that was written in the 1930s in an effort to expose the wrestling business. While it gets a lot of credit for pulling back the curtain, it wasn’t really the first piece written on the subject, as many magazine and news articles of the time had already delved into the behind the scenes stuff.

I think that this became somewhat legendary because it was released as a book and not as a series of articles in the paper or in a sports magazine.

If you’re going to read this and I feel like fans of wrestling history should, it would behoove you to pick up the annotated version by Steve Yohe and Scott Teal.

This was a great and solid read, as the new commentary on it served to correct some of the wrongs of the book and to clear up any misconceptions and faulty facts. Also, a lot of the examples and stories in the original book were fiction, used by the author to better illustrate his points.

The original piece of work is still an entertaining read and it does a superb job in painting the picture of what wrestling looked like in the 1930s, which in the wrestling world may feel like prehistoric times now. But it is certainly cool seeing what the business was generally like then in contrast to what it’s evolved into almost a century later.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other historical wrestling books available by Crowbar Press.

Book Review: ‘Wrestling Record Book: Florida 1977-1985’ by Mark James

If you’ve read any of the stuff I’ve written about wrestling on Talking Pulp, you might be aware that I’m a Floridian and that I grew up attending Championship From Florida shows fairly regularly. I’ve also had a pretty deep love of the once great promotion that has only grown over the years due to the ever-powerful nostalgia bug and the fact that modern wrestling just isn’t my thing.

So when I was looking for wrestling history books on Amazon, I came across this record book for CWF. Being that it was written and compiled by Mark James, a great wrestling historian who I’ve been reading for awhile, made buying this a no-brainer.

What this primarily is, is a list of wrestling cards organized in chronological order. While that may sound boring to the layman, it allows you to see who was wrestling when and where, as well as being able to follow trends from guys getting pushed to the top of the card, to main eventing, as well as all the marquee feuds and how they played out from 1977 to 1985.

I liked the fact that I could go through it and find the cards that I saw in person. Additionally, there were cards that my dad or my uncle told me about that I could look up, see the date, the venue and who was there. I actually found several cards I was at, as well as the first card my dad took my stepmom to before they were married.

For fans of this specific promotion and wrestling from this era, it’s a pretty invaluable resource not unlike Mark James’ other similar books from other territories.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other historical wrestling books written and compiled by Mark James.

Book Review: ‘Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked Man’ by Len Denton, Joe Vithayathil

While I know who The Grappler is, I wasn’t too familiar with him due to him not having much time in areas where I would’ve been exposed to him as a kid. I saw him in Florida once but I’d only really get to know more about him based off of tapes I’d get from Mid-South in the ’90s when I was tape trading pretty heavily.

Over the years, other wrestlers have talked very favorably about him and I started to understand his legacy in regards to the bigger picture.

Since I’ve been reading through a lot of wrestling books, as of late, and because this one was free with Kindle Unlimited, I figured that I’d give it a read, as I love Mid-South wrestling, as well as many of the other territories that The Grappler traveled through during my favorite era in the business.

I’ve got to say, I was more than pleasantly surprised by this book.

Len Denton, The Grappler is one hell of a storyteller and he really gets into the details of some of the biggest and best moments of his career. He also goes through his mistakes and the lessons he learned from them along the way, especially those from earlier in his career.

He also covers the behind the scenes stuff without fully exposing the business and ruining the mystique that surrounds his intriguing era.

My favorite stories are the ones involving Roddy Piper, Ric Flair and his stuff about Bill Watts, the Junkyard Dog and his time in Mid-South.

From cover-to-cover, this is packed full of a lot of great stories and life lessons. Frankly, it’s one of the best wrestling biographies that I’ve ever picked up. Even if you aren’t familiar with the guy or his work, maybe you should be.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling biographies, especially those featuring stars from the end of the territory era.

Book Review: ‘Under the Black Hat: My Life in the WWE and Beyond’ by Jim Ross, Paul O’Brien

This book is really a continuation of Jim Ross’ first autobiography, Slobberknocker. This one picks up right where that one left off and it talks about Ross’ career from the early ’00s and onward, leading up to his recent job as the lead commentator for the new company, All Elite Wrestling.

The stories here are fantastic and Jim has a great memory, as he recalls the details and dialogues he had with all the great characters that were a part of his life in the wrestling business.

I especially like hearing his take on the angles where Vince McMahon used J.R. as a character in storylines and how that all played out behind the scenes, as he worked with Steve Austin, the Undertaker, Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole.

The book also really gives you J.R.’s perspective on his relationship with Vince McMahon, his leaving the company, multiple times, and how things went when he was negotiating with Dixie Carter of TNA, as well as his time working for New Japan.

If you have read the first book and loved it as much as I did, this is definitely something you need to pick up. Jim Ross comes off as honest, sincere and doesn’t really hold back. The guy is a legend in his industry and deservedly so.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: JR’s previous book Slobberknocker, as well as other wrestling biographies and books about the business side of things.

Book Review: ‘4 Ever: A Look Behind the Curtain’ by Arn Anderson

Since Arn Anderson is one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time, I’ve always wanted to pick up this book and read it. Sure, it’s over twenty years old but it did come out just after he retired and it covers his in-ring career.

Arn is a great storyteller and he doesn’t really hold back here. My only complaint is that this feels like it should be a much larger book.

While it covers the big moments in Arn’s life and career up until 1997 or so, there are a lot of angles and feuds I would’ve liked to read about that were left out.

He gets into his relationship with Ric Flair and the formation of the Four Horsemen. He also goes into some detail about his time in the WWF and his return to WCW but there are so many stories that could’ve been told and added into this too thin book.

Still, for fans of the man, this is certainly worth reading. Luckily, he gets into much more detail about his career on his podcast, which I’d suggest that people listen to. It’s one of the better ones out there on the insides of the wrestling business.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling biographies, as well as books about the territory days.

Book Review: ‘Think Like a Warrior: The Five Inner Beliefs That Make You Unstoppable’ by Darrin Donnelly

I really liked Darrin Donnelly’s Relentless Optimism and thought that it was a book that I really needed to read, as it helped me get through some shit and it was more focused on having an optimistic mindset, which was something I was struggling with as of late.

That being said, I wanted to read some of his other stuff, so I went back and gave this a shot, as it is actually the first of the five books in Donnelly’s Sports for the Soul series.

It’s pretty darn good for what it is and I enjoyed it and found it helpful. It didn’t quite connect with me like the other book did but that one was more geared towards what I was looking for.

This one still has some solid, sagely advice and a good example of how to apply certain techniques and mindsets.

Frankly, Donnelly just has a good way with words and an even better way at weaving his thoughts and ideas into a story that is easy to digest and understand. 

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other four books in Darrin Donnelly’s Sports for the Soul series.

Book Review: ‘Unfuck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life’ by Gary John Bishop

I was telling a psychologist friend about how much I liked Relentless Optimism by Darrin Donnelly (reviewed here) and they told me that I would probably really enjoy this book, Unfuck Yourself.

They weren’t wrong.

Mostly, I really like the very direct approach that the author takes, as he doesn’t mince words and gets right down to business, telling the reader to own their shit and get to work fixing it. And frankly, that’s the best advice for those that genuinely want to “unfuck themselves”.

There wasn’t anything here that I thought was life changing, I just appreciated the approach.

Sorry to cut this short but there’s not much else to say.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: I’m assuming the follow up to this book, as well other realistic books about taking positive action in your life.

Book Review: ‘Relentless Optimism: How a Commitment to Positive Thinking Changes Everything’ by Darrin Donnelly

I’ve never been big on reading self help sort of stuff. I certainly write about the subject, though. I like to help other people and I’m often told about how I give good insight and I’m easy to talk to and usually give solid, rational advice. I’m no therapist, however, and even if I can help people deal with their own shit, sometimes dealing with my own can be a bit taxing. But you have a very different perspective when you’re really close to a problem.

Being that I’ve been overwhelmed by mental clutter lately and because that doesn’t help when I’m a person that has battled severe depression and anxiety my entire life, I’ve been in a really negative, cynical head space, as of late. So I felt like I needed to inject some optimism into my life and while searching for books on my Kindle, I came across this one.

To put it bluntly, this is one of those books that is legitimately life altering, at least from my point-of-view.

The author’s advice and examples of how to apply it are all told through a story about a struggling minor league baseball player. The story isn’t real but it helps frame what the author is trying to convey in a way that’s easy to understand and digest.

While I understand that many people don’t give a crap about sports and that this is written to help athletes, the lessons and ideas expressed here just work in life, regardless of whether or not you’re a baseball player, an office workers or in a creative field.

I really enjoyed this and actually read it in one sitting within a few hours. I plan to read it again and keep it to reference in the future.

I also discovered that this is the third book in a series of five, so I think I’ll start giving the other volumes a read as well. Because even if they’re only 50 percent as effective as this book was, they’d still be way ahead of similar books I’ve read in the self help realm over the years.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: I’m assuming the other four books in Darrin Donnelly’s Sports for the Soul series. I’ll probably read the others in the near future, based off of how much I enjoyed this one.

Book Review: ‘Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs’ by Michael T. Osterholm PhD MPH, Mark Olshaker

For what this is, it’s pretty invaluable.

I first heard of Michael T. Osterholm when he appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic and gave his very informed and personal take on what’s going on. In fact, I’d implore people to watch that episode, just to have a better grasp on fact vs. fiction in a time when there is a lot of misinformation and fear floating around.

You can actually watch the episode on YouTube and I’ll link it at the end of the review.

This book goes through the history of Osterholm’s work in this field, as he breaks down how they scientifically figured out a lot of viral mysteries over the last few decades.

This also talks about how pandemics can be prevented and what needs to happen for the world to take these things more seriously and learn how to protect itself. In fact, the writing has been on the wall for awhile and things could have been done to manage the spread of deadly germs and viruses.

Deadliest Enemy is superbly written and frankly, everyone should read it, especially now. There needs to be a collected effort from as many people as possible to push our governments towards taking these threats more seriously. Plus, it would be in everyone’s benefit to understand this stuff on a factual level, as opposed to emotionally reacting to sensationalist headlines and social media rumors.

If it’s hard to find a physical copy of this book, which I imagine is probably true now that the COVID thing has hit us this hard, you can download the Kindle version (see here), which I did.

Rating: 9.5/10

Book Review: ‘Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling’ by Jim Ross, Paul O’Brien, Scott E. Williams

Man, this was just a damn good read, through and through.

Good Ol’ JR tells us his life story from his youth, to his first gig in the wrestling business and through all the companies he worked for from the ’70s and up until the ’00s.

What makes this so good is that it is very much just Jim Ross talking in his own words. While there are co-authors on the book, these are Ross’ personal stories and they are told with that certain panache that is very much JR. Fans of the man’s work over the years probably understand what I mean by that.

While this is about his own personal journey through life and the wrestling business, it actually gets more intimate and more personal than I was expecting and as a longtime admirer of Jim Ross, it’s really neat getting this close to the guy, as he’s been front and center in my family’s living room for decades.

Everything in this book is interesting, as he had a full life and never seemed to live a dull chapter. But the fact of the matter is, Jim Ross came up with hard work and a burning desire to be a part of the business he fell in love with as a kid. He hustled and shoved his foot through the door with a certain youthful moxie that says a lot about his character and his drive. And ultimately, it paid off for Ross, as he has now spent decades in front of the camera and behind the scenes for massive companies.

I really liked the early sections of the book that dealt with how he eventually won over Cowboy Bill Watts and got to be an important part of Watts’ Mid-South empire. But honestly, the whole book is engaging as hell and sucks you in.

I really took my time with this book, more so than I normally do, as it hooked me early and kept my attention throughout. There isn’t really a low point and it just made me like and respect the man even more.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: JR’s upcoming book Under the Black Hat, as well as other wrestling biographies and books about the business side of things.