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.

Documentary Review: Rock-n-Roll Never Dies: The Story of the Rock-n-Roll Express (2015)

Release Date: 2015
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Cast: Ricky Morton, Robert Gibson, Jim Cornette, various

EllBow Productions, Highspots, 117 Minutes

Review:

Watching this documentary, it kind of dawned on my that I have seen the Rock-n-Roll Express wrestle live and in person over five consecutive decades. I saw them in the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ’10s and the ’20s after recently seeing them at NWA Hard Times back in January before this COVID spectacle put the dead stop halt on Planet Earth.

While they’ve never been my all-time favorite tag team, they are certainly pretty high up on my list and have my respect for their contributions and longevity in the wrestling business. Hell, these guys can still go and they’ve proved that the two most recent times where I was able to see them.

So I was pretty stoked when I got this three disc set, which featured the documentary I’m now reviewing, as well as two other discs packed full of bonus material, interviews and matches.

As far as the documentary goes, it was a good, solid piece that covered these guys’ long and storied careers. It even goes back to the time before they were a team, showing how each man developed their style and how they eventually came together, forever changing the business and the tag team landscape.

So many other great teams have been inspired by the pairing of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson and their effect is still felt today, even with the younger generation of wrestlers we have now, who are two-to-three generations removed from the height of the Rock-n-Roll Express’ career.

The best part about this piece, is hearing the stories that Ricky and Robert got to share about their history, as well as their takes on the business then and now.

Old school wrestling fans, especially those who loved the greatest tag team era, should thoroughly enjoy this.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by EllBoy Productions and put out by Highspots.

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: Bruiser Brody: Wrestling’s Last Rebel (2017)

Release Date: 2017
Cast: Bruiser Brody (archive footage), Gerald Brisco, Bill Apter, Bob Armstrong, Kevin Sullivan, Jim Ross, Dave Meltzer, Abdullah the Butcher, Jimmy Hart, J.J. Dillon, Bill DeMott, Stan Hansen, Tony Atlas, various

Highpsots, 110 Minutes

Review:

I loaded up on a bunch of documentaries from Highspots due to not having much else to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve run some great sales on their site, so it’s allowed me to grab a lot of the films and collections that I’ve wanted to own for quite awhile.

Being that I love Bruiser Brody, at least the stuff I’ve seen over the years since my tape trading days, I was stoked to see a beefy documentary about the guy. There is a great Dark Side of the Ring episode about his death but this here, is pretty much his full story, as it talks about his early life, his family and his career as a whole.

Like all the Highspots documentaries that I’ve seen, this features a ton of talking head interviews with Brody’s friends and colleagues. Many of these were taken from various shoot interviews over the years but they are well edited and form a good, energetic narrative.

There are also segments and narration by his widow, which add a lot of context to who the man was outside of the ring while also shedding more light on his tragic end.

For fans of old school wrestling, especially of the territories at their height, this is a cool film to dive into. Brody was primarily an indie wrestler that worked just about everywhere, touching a lot of people be they co-workers or fans.

This also comes as a three disc set with two other discs chock full of bonus material and some matches.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by Highspots.

TV Review: Wrestling Gold (2001)

Original Run: April 24th, 2001 (DVD Box Set)
Cast: Jim Cornette, Dave Meltzer, Jerry Lawler, Randy Savage, Terry Funk, various

VCI Video, 5 Episodes, 105-130 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is a box set of five different DVD releases by VCI Video from 2001. I believe this is the full set of the DVDs that they put out. You can still get this on Amazon but I bought mine off of Jim Cornette’s website, as he still has some and he’ll actually sign them for you.

The five DVDs are all co-hosted by Jim Cornette and Dave Meltzer, as they give their two cents on each of the dozens of matches presented, providing historical context and a lot of the behind the scenes stories that led to certain matches.

Most of the original commentary tracks from these various matches are still there but sometimes Cornette and Meltzer have to fill in the blanks.

This collection doesn’t just focus on one territory from back in the day, it covers a lot of ground actually and showcases great matches, primarily from the early-to-mid ’80s.

There is a lot of stuff from Memphis and Texas on here and each match typically features one or more wrestlers that made it big in the WWF or NWA. This is packed full of wrestling stars, mostly in the early stages of their career. But this is also cool to see, as many of the larger guys or guys who got banged up, actually show you what they were capable of before their bodies started to suffer.

I was pretty ecstatic to get my hands on this, just because I love the territory days and seeing wrestlers before Vince McMahon got a hold of them. But I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d appreciate and cherish this collection.

For old school wrestling lovers, this is a must own! In fact, it inspired me to track down other collections and sets of old school territory matches from this era.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

TV Review: Dark Side of the Ring (2019- )

Original Run: April 10th, 2019 – current
Created by: Evan Husney, Jason Eisener
Directed by: Jason Eisener
Cast: Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, Jim Cornette, Vince Russo, Jim Ross, various

Vice Media, Crave, 6 Episodes (so far), 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think about this series when I first heard about it. Wrestling documentaries are a dime a dozen and most of them are produced with an agenda in mind.

However, after watching the first season, I really thought that this was the best series of documentaries on the darker side of the wrestling business. Every episode felt well researched, well presented and very fair.

Interviews with the participants may be contradictory in some aspects but they are presented in a way that allows the audience to come to their own conclusion without any sort of agenda seeping in from the filmmakers or producers.

That being said, I was really impressed by this series and I went into it thinking that it’d just be more of the same and a little too “sensationalist cable TV”, if you know what I mean.

Hats off to the guys behind this series, Evan Husney and Jason Eisener, as they’ve created seriously compelling television in an era where compelling television rarely exists.

All of the first season episodes pulled me in and didn’t let go. Even the episodes I thought might be redundant like the ones surrounding the Von Erich family and Gino Hernandez gave me a fresh perspective on both of those stories, even though WWE did a pretty good documentary that covered those tales, a decade and a half ago.

Top to bottom, this series is great and I’m really excited at delving into season two, which features episodes on the Chris Benoit and Owen Hart tragedies. It’ll be interesting to see how these guys handle those episodes but after season one, I’m pretty confident that they’ll do those stories justice.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries but this show is hard to top.