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.

Documentary Review: I Never Quit: The Magnum T.A. Story (2016)

Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Cast: Magnum T.A., Bill Apter, Dave Meltzer, Jim Ross, Ricky Morton, Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff, George South, Jimmy Valiant, various

Highspots, Ellbow Productions, 92 Minutes

Review:

When I was a kid, just really getting into wrestling, Magnum T.A. was a pretty big f’n deal. I loved the guy regardless of my allegiance to the heels. I think a lot of that had to due with his association with Dusty Rhodes, one of the few babyfaces I gave a pass to, but Magnum was still a great talent and commanded attention when he spoke and when he fought in the ring.

This guy was a supernova of charisma and talent but sadly, a car crash ended his career before he even reached his peak.

I remember when I first heard about this tragedy and even though I was a little kid, it was a punch to the gut.

In later years, as I learned more about what other wrestlers thought about how great this guy would have been, it became a much sadder story, as the wrestling industry could’ve really used Magnum during one of its lowest eras, the early ’90s.

It was really nice seeing this documentary though, as I learned that the man has weathered the storm about as well as one could. He’s got a pretty positive and good outlook on life and the business he was once a huge part of. Frankly, he’s still involved in different ways and he makes appearances to this day.

But I really liked hearing his story from his own words, as well as the words of his closest peers and his mother. Ultimately, this made me appreciate Magnum T.A. more than I had before.

If you remember the guy or just have a love of old school wrestling, this is definitely worth looking at.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries put out by Highspots and Ellbow Productions.

Documentary Review: Championship Wrestling From Florida: The Story of Wrestling In the Sunshine State (2019)

Release Date: June, 2019
Cast: most courtesy of archive footage: Dusty Rhodes, Mike Graham, Gerald Brisco, Austin Idol, Kevin Sullivan, Gary Hart, Steve Keirn, Brian Blair, Bob Armstrong, Terry Funk, Ron Bass, Ricky Steamboat, JJ Dillon, Superstar Billy Graham, Black Bart, various

Highspots, 95 Minutes

Review:

Growing up in Florida and not too far from Tampa and Miami, I actually went to see Championship Wrestling From Florida shows fairly often. Since my dad knew some people within the promotion, I got to experience what it was like backstage as a kid. That being said, I always had a soft spot for this wrestling organization from almost day one.

Knowing what I’ve known for years, it’s great to see that someone finally made a documentary about this, as it was a top territory, made superstars and was actually a bit ahead of its time in how it developed and presented its talent.

While this isn’t a WWE documentary, it is well produced so my hat goes off to Highspots and frankly, I’m glad I have a slew of other documentaries to watch from them now.

This dives pretty deep into the history of the promotion, as well as professional wrestling in the State of Florida. It also goes into the tragedy surrounding the Graham Family, who ran the business. But ultimately, it sheds a lot of light on how those behind this organization were trailblazers in a very different era of the professional wrestling business.

The documentary is mostly told through the words of the people who were there in talking head interviews. Some of these were newer interviews but a lot of the footage was taken from older shoot interviews, as some of the people featured, aren’t with us anymore.

I loved the hell out of this and I’m sure I will revisit it again in the future.

Also, if you buy the two-disc set on Highspots, you also get a bonus DVD with two and a half hours of matches and footage from Championship Wrestling From Florida.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries put out by Highspots and Ellbow Productions.

Documentary Review: A Future WWE: The FCW Story (2020)

Release Date: March 8th, 2020
Cast: Sasha Banks, Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Gerald Brisco, Charlotte Flair, Steve Keirn, Triple H, Seth Rollins, Bayley, Natalya, Baron Corbin, Corey Graves, Tom Prichard, Dusty Rhodes, Gordon Solie (archive footage)

WWE, 79 Minutes

Review:

This wasn’t a documentary I ever expected to see but I’m glad WWE made it, as it really showcases a lot of the modern stars that started a few years before NXT became WWE’s developmental brand.

Also, being that I’m from Florida and that this promotion was an homage to Championship Wrestling from Florida, which I grew up with, gave FCW a special place in my fanboy heart.

For those that don’t know, Florida Championship Wrestling was where WWE sent their young talent in an effort to teach them WWE’s style of the business. It was owned and ran by veteran, Steve Keirn, and also had other ring veterans on staff to teach these kids how to work and how to excel.

This was a neat piece on FCW simply because it interviewed several of the well-known stars that worked there. It allowed them to give insight into the company, their education and their earliest career struggles and accomplishments.

However, like all WWE produced documentaries, this felt like it was a fairly one-sided story and take on the subject matter. Obviously, it doesn’t talk to those who failed and only focuses on the success stories. Some of the failed talents are mentioned but they weren’t given this platform to talk about their experience.

For the most part, this was still engaging and entertaining and it was nice seeing this small part of WWE’s history get showcased.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other WWE behind the scenes style documentaries and their reality series Breaking Ground.

Book Review: ‘Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling Forever’ by Tim Hornbaker

There have been countless books that have talked about wrestling territories and their collapse due to the emerging monster that was Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. However, none of the books I’ve ever read were as good and comprehensive as this one.

I think the main reason this is the best book I’ve read on the subject is because it’s not told from one perspective or about one promotion and its own woes against the WWF juggernaut. This book just lays out the facts, tells its tales and covers every territory under the sun.

This looks into every territory, from all angles and gives a ton of info and history while moving through the late ’70s and the entire ’80s. It’s comprehensive as hell and doesn’t seem to have any bias one way or the other. It helps set this apart from the wrestling book pack, as many are written with an axe to grind or with just one version of a story.

The subject matter here is fascinating, whether one is a wrestling fan or they just like to read about businesses and industries during times of major change.

Death of the Territories was superb, well researched, well presented and honestly, it makes me wish someone would make a documentary on all of this and do it the same justice.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other books on wrestling history. In fact, there are a lot of really good ones that have come out in recent years.