Book Review: ‘Florida Mat Wars 1977’ by Robert D. VanKavelaar & Scott Teal

At this point, many of you know that I grew up in Florida and witnessed Championship Wrestling From Florida live and in-person, as a kid in the ’80s. My earliest and some of my fondest wrestling memories came from this great promotion.

That being said, I like to read every book that has ties or stories to the company. Since I wasn’t alive in 1977, I found this one particularly interesting, as it chronicles a full year in the company before I was born.

However, 1977 was also an incredible year where CWF was packed full of immense prime time level talent.

This book is a collection of photos, newspaper articles and promotional advertisements of every event the company held in the State of Florida that year.

By looking through this, the year takes shape as you see rivalries form, feuds ignite and what came next for the wrestlers involved. Also, I liked seeing where all these events took place, as I could pinpoint ones that I knew my father and my uncles would have gone to live.

This is just a really cool book to own and to thumb through if you’re a fan of the promotion and wrestling history in general.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.

Book Review: ‘Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask’ by Joe Hamilton & Scott Teal

I’ve definitely been digging the wrestling biographies I’ve recently gotten from Scott Teal’s website, Crowbar Press. This one is just the latest of those books that I’ve read but it lives up to the quality I’ve come to expect from the publisher.

The Assassin primarily wrestled before my time but I did get to catch the tail end of his work when I was really young. Also, he spent some time in Florida, where I grew up and still live. Because of that, I love reading books that are tied to that specific wrestling territory.

This was thoroughly enjoyable from cover-to-cover and I even liked all the stuff about his youth and growing up, as he had some issues and felt as if he needed to leave his small town behind and follow his older brother into the professional wrestling business.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book, as I honestly didn’t know much about the man other than his in-ring character and all that knowledge came later, as I was a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s and early ’00s.

Like everything I’ve read from Crowbar Press, this did not disappoint and it’s a cool book for anyone that’s a fan of the old territory era of the professional wrestling business.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.

Book Review: ‘The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams’ by Greg Oliver & Steven Johnson

I’ve heard good things about this book series from several of the people on the old school wrestling podcasts I listen to regularly.

That being said, I really wanted to check this one out first, as I’m a massive fan of old school tag team wrestling because it’s an art that seems lost in the modern era and because so many of the legendary tag teams were just too cool for f’n school.

This does a great job of providing mini-biographies on the greatest teams the sport of wrestling has ever seen up to the early ’00s. It covers all the different eras going back to the beginning of tag team wrestling.

The book is well organized, well researched and it discusses the teams and the wrestling stars with great care.

All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I especially liked it because I don’t think tag teams get enough love.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other books from this series, as well as other historical wrestling books.

Book Review: ‘Don’t Call Me Fake: The Real Story of “Dr. D” David Schultz’ by David Schultz, John Cosper

To say that “Dr. D” David Schultz is one of the most interesting guys that ever worked in the wrestling business might be an understatement. He’s most famous for being infamous but he also got pushed out of the career he loved and became one of the most famous bounty hunters in the United States.

His most famous act, still to this day, was slapping 20/20‘s John Stossel back in December of 1984 at Madison Square Garden. It’s the incident that changed his life and set him on a different career path outside of professional wrestling.

Schultz is much more complex and a lot more interesting than just being the cantankerous heel that hit a reporter, though. He’s actually a pretty badass dude, legitimately.

He was known as one of the toughest wrestlers in the locker room and he would go on to have a great career as a bounty hunter where he actually used that job to try and help those on the wrong side of the law. Despite his legendary reputation as a heel, David Schultz has actually helped people turn their lives around, whether just checking up on them or helping them escape very bad people.

This book tells Schultz’s story in his own words and man, it’s compelling stuff and, hands down, one of the best wrestler biographies I have ever read.

The first half of the book covers Schultz’s youth and wrestling career while the second half takes you through his bounty hunting career. Even though I bought this for the wrestling stories, I found the bounty hunting stories to be much more intriguing and captivating. The guy has lived one hell of a life.

Don’t Call Me Fake is incredible and I don’t know why this hasn’t been made into a movie yet.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other biographies and historical books written about old school wrestling from the territory era.

Book Review: ‘The Solie Chronicles: The Life and Times of Gordon Solie’ by Robert Allyn, Pamela S. Allyn & Scott Teal

I grew up in Florida with the men in my family being big professional wrestling fans. So the territory that I was exposed to the most was Florida’s. Because of that, Gordon Solie really was the voice of my childhood, as far as being the guy who was the host of every single episode of the television program I liked the most after G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Sadly, I never got to meet the man even though I saw him at wrestling events all over the state, as well as being front and center at the few studio tapings I went to with my dad and my uncles.

As a kid, I took Gordon Solie for granted. He was just always there and I guess I never realized how great he was and how much he meant to me until he wasn’t with us anymore and other than Jim Ross and Lance Russell, who I could only see when I had access to Memphis wrestling, I was typically disappointed with the wrestling commentary that came after Solie.

Additionally, I never knew much about the man. I had heard and read things over the years but even then, a lot of the information was scant and kind of unreliable. Wrestlers love telling stories but if you’ve listened to enough, you know that those stories often times comes with a lot of bullshit.

So reading this was really great. It’s written by Solie’s son-in-law and daughter and they were able to give a lot of insight into the man’s personal life, going all the way back to his childhood, his military service and how he eventually broke into sportscasting in the State of Florida.

I know that this book might not appeal to many people, as it’s about a guy from just one territory in a bygone era for a business that has completely changed but I enjoyed it and I think that those who know of Gordon Solie, might enjoy it too.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.

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.