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: ‘Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling’ by Ole Anderson, Scott Teal

I’ve heard people reference this book for eons and I’ve heard the stories about how Ole Anderson was a cantankerous jerk but also had a great mind for the wrestling business. All of that made me want to read his book and I’m glad that I finally did.

This is both parts a biography and Ole’s view on the wrestling business and how it evolved into something much different and from his viewpoint, became un-repairable.

I liked this quite a bit. Ole is a smart guy and an opinionated one. Even if I don’t agree with every opinion, he made the case for his points-of-view really well and made his stances very clear.

Out of all the stuff I’ve read recently on old school territory wrestling, this is one of the better books.

Frankly, it made me wish that Ole was still involved in the business and it also made me wish that he’d do more shoot interviews. I loved watching the guy on my television when I was a kid and all that personality and attitude still exists.

The book shows you that the man isn’t too different from the personality that we all saw on the TV.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling biographies and books on the history of the business 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: ‘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.