Book Review: ‘Ted DiBiase: The Million Dollar Man’ by Ted DiBiase, Tom Caiazzo

“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers and honestly, he might be my top guy.

Although, there are a lot of old school wrestlers that I hold in really high esteem, most of them being heels because, even as a kid, I always loved the villains.

Wrestling villains were always more fun to me and there weren’t many that were as good at being bad as Ted DiBiase.

The first time I remember seeing DiBiase, or at least noticing him, was the WrestleMania IV pay-per-view, which I watched with my cousins, as it was our annual tradition until this year, where none of us could make ourselves care about the current WWE product to make an effort to watch the two-day spectacle.

Anyway, I also loved DiBiase’s earlier work before he went to WWF to become “The Million Dollar Man”. In my teens and twenties, I acquired a lot of DiBiase’s other work from Texas, other territories and All Japan. Once I really deep dived into his career, my appreciation grew even more.

So I was pretty stoked to read this book. And for the most part, it’s really good, as it’s a true biography that goes through Ted DiBiase’s life from childhood to the days after he retired from being a full-time wrestling personality.

However, this is a book put out by WWE and with that, the WWE stuff is a bigger focal point and even though this covers DiBiase’s life outside of that one company, I feel like I wanted a lot more of his Texas and Japan stories.

In the end, though, fans of Ted DiBiase should probably still enjoy this. It covers a lot of phases in his life and it also doesn’t get overly heavy on the religious stuff, as he put his focus on that part of his life after leaving the squared circle behind.

Rating: 7/10
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.

TV Review: Lost Territory: The Best of Continental Wrestling (2019)

Original Run: April 24th, 2001 (DVD Box Set)

Jadat Sports, 5 Episodes, 401 Minutes (total)

Review:

This was a five-disc set that I found on Amazon for a pretty good price, considering how much stuff was packed onto each disc.

This is a compilation featuring matches and angles specifically from Continental Championship Wrestling in the era when it was ran by Ron Fuller.

CCW is a little known territory to those outside of Knoxville in the ’80s. In more recent years, thanks to tape traders in the ’90s getting the ball rolling, the small wrestling territory has become more widely known due to how bonkers some of the angles were and because of how much talent moved in and out of the company.

Watching this collection is like watching a who’s who compilation of legends featured in matches most people haven’t seen.

This was a pretty cool set and watching each disc was a treat and they flew by rather quickly.

All in all, this was a great set bought at a great value. What’s not to love for the old school wrestling aficionado like myself?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

Documentary Review: Pumping Iron (1977)

Also known as: Pumping Iron & Stand Tall (Australia VHS title)
Release Date: January 18th, 1977 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: George Butler
Written by: George Butler, Charles Gaines
Music by: Michael Small
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Franco Columbu, Mike Katz, Ken Waller, Ed Corney, Serge Nubret

Rollie Robinosn, White Mountain Films, Cinema 5, 86 Minutes

Review:

“The greatest feeling you can get in a gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is… The Pump. Let’s say you train your biceps. Blood is rushing into your muscles and that’s what we call The Pump. You muscles get a really tight feeling, like your skin is going to explode any minute, and it’s really tight – it’s like somebody blowing air into it, into your muscle. It just blows up, and it feels really different. It feels fantastic.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Pumping Iron is a much better film than one might think at first glance. It’s really more than just a documentary about bodybuilders, as it features Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno before both men would go on to become superstars of film and television.

With that, you really get to know these guys at this point in their lives and man, are they super competitive and charismatic. Most importantly, both of these mastodon men were incredibly driven and obsessed with taking the Mr. Universe crown.

This takes a subject that may seem completely uninteresting to an outsider and it makes it really damn interesting. The whole culture around bodybuilding in the ’70s was fascinating and this film captures it magnificently. In fact, had I been alive back then and saw this picture, I might have been inspired by it.

Pumping Iron is the culmination of multiple journeys, many of them incredible, as we see these men transform themselves just to be called “the best”. I loved the camaraderie between Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno’s family. This was just a really fun, entertaining watch.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno’s films and television shows, as well as other documentaries about competition.

Comic Review: Florida Man – The Graphic Novel

Published: May, 2021
Written by: Mike Baron
Art by: Todd Mulrooney, Elias Martins, Marcelo Salaza, Val Mayerik, Ichsan Ansori
Based on: Florida Man – The Novel by Mike Baron

Braly Image Group Studios, 64 Pages

Review:

I read Mike Baron’s Florida Man novel not too long ago and reviewed it. I enjoyed it and thought it did a good job of capturing the batshit insanity that my home state and its locals are known for.

The graphic novel covers part of the story and its pretty condensed but that works due to the difference between the two mediums.

I liked seeing these characters come to life in comic book form and the art was really damn good. I especially liked the colors.

Most importantly, this kept the spirit and vibe of the novel alive and it had a great balance of humor and action, as these characters continually tried to scheme their was to legendary greatness in the Sunshine State.

Sadly, there wasn’t a cameo by Ron DeSantis flying an Apache helicopter that dropped alligators on New Yorkers moving to my state but hey, this thing’s probably got a sequel coming and you can’t shoot your biggest load in the first story.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the novel it’s adapted from, as well as Mike Baron’s other comics and literary work.

Book Review: ‘Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls: From McMahon to McMahon’ by James J. Dillon, Scott Teal & Philip Varriale

James J. Dillon always seemed like a nice, standup dude. After reading his book, I see that side of him even more and it’s damn hard not to respect and appreciate the man if you were ever a fan of his work in the wrestling ring or as a wrestling manager.

What makes this biography more interesting than a lot of the other wrestling personalities of the old territory days is that Dillon has a great mind and understanding of the business that led to him being a pretty important figure behind the scenes in the World Wrestling Federation, the biggest wrestling company the planet has ever seen.

Granted, me being me, a fan of the old school territory era of professional wrestling, I enjoyed those stories the most. As Dillon worked for a lot of companies, as well as alongside and against many legends over decades.

His story about Blackjack Mulligan beating the crap out of a stupid teenager and Dillon hightailing it to tour Japan, waiting for the heat to cool, was damn great.

The stories from his time as an executive in the then WWF (now WWE) were pretty damn interesting, as he was there during some of their biggest scandals and while the business was transitioning from the territory days to what it is in modern times.

However, I think most people will enjoy his stories about the formation of the Four Horsemen and his time managing them. From a regular fan’s perspective, this was what Dillon was mostly known for.

I’ve read a lot of wrestling biographies over the last few years but this is one that really stands out and stuck with me. Dillon comes off as a pretty generous guy with a lot of gratitude towards those he worked with and learned from. Also, he’s just a straight shooter.

Rating: 9/10
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.

Film Review: Body Slam (1986)

Release Date: November 21st, 1986 (limited)
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: Shel Lytton, Steve Burkow
Music by: John D’Andrea, Michael Lloyd
Cast: Dirk Benedict, Tanya Roberts, Roddy Piper, Lou Albano, Barry Gordon, Charles Nelson Reilly, Billy Barty, John Astin, Sam Fatu, Sydney Lassick, Afa Anoai, Sika Anoai, Kellie Martin, Sione Vailahi, Tijoe Khan, Freddie Blassie, Ric Flair, Bruno Sammartino

Musifilm Productions, Hemdale Film Corporation, 89 Minutes

Review:

It amazes me that I never saw this movie as a kid and I didn’t even know of its existence until I heard someone talking about the wrestler cameos on a wrestling podcast I regularly listen to.

I guess I have to assume that this wasn’t on the shelves in the dozens of mom and pop video stores I spent time in during my childhood. I mean, there’s no way I would’ve overlooked it back then.

The film stars Dirk Benedict, a guy I loved from one of my favorite shows at the time, The A-Team. It also stars one of my favorite wrestlers, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, as well as a slew of other WWF wrestlers from the time. Plus, it also has a few cameos from a bunch of wrestling legends.

Beyond that, you’ve got Tanya Roberts, who I have been crushing on ever since The Beastmaster, as well as Charles Nelson Reilly, John Astin, Billy Barty, Kellie Martin and an underappreciated character actor I’ve always enjoyed, Sydney Lassick.

So the cast is pretty good or at least, interesting. However, the story has a weaker foundation than a house of sticks in a flood zone. For the most part, everything in this movie just feels kind of random and not much makes sense.

That being said, I still enjoy some sequences in the film but most of those usually just deal with the wrestlers I grew up loving, playing versions of themselves doing wonky ass shit.

After getting to the end of the movie, I wasn’t really sure what the point of it was. It seems like it was a tailor made picture just to include the very charismatic Piper and his wrestling buds and really, there’s nothing else here.

That’s not to say I didn’t like Dirk Benedict. He was fine with what he had to work with but I do feel like he was wasted in this and it could’ve possibly torpedoed any real attempt at a movie career after The A-Team.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other goofy B-movies from the ’80s. Also, anything starring ’80s wrestlers.

Documentary Review: The Sheik (2014)

Release Date: April 26th, 2014 (Hot Docs International Documentary Festival – Canada)
Directed by: Igal Hecht
Written by: Jian Magen, Jake Neiman, Igal Hecht
Music by: Michael Hanson
Cast: Khosrow Vaziri “The Iron Sheik”, Mick Foley, Seth Green, Jack Black, Bret Hart, Jimmy Hart, Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bob Orton Sr., Bruce Pritchard, Jake Roberts, Jim Ross, Ron Simmons, Koko B. Ware, The Nasty Boys

Magen Boys Entertainment, Big Media, Chutzpa Productions, 95 Minutes

Review:

This film was one of the rare documentaries that I actually got to see in the theater. I think I saw it around 2016, as a small indie theater near me hosted a screening. I was pretty captivated by it and always wanted to watch it again. Since it’s been about five years, I figured I’d revisit it and review it.

I’ve reviewed several wrestler biographical documentaries but most of them don’t match the overall quality of this film. It actually looks like a budget went into it, as it’s really competently shot, edited and brings in some real heavy-hitters for the talking head interviews.

The great cast assembled in this could also be due to the film’s subject, Khosrow Vaziri a.k.a. The Iron Sheik, as he is legitimately a beloved legend who would influence not just many iconic wrestlers but also people from other fields within the larger entertainment sphere.

This film really delves into the Sheik’s backstory and the stuff about his early life is truly fascinating and impressive. It discusses his major accomplishments in the sport of amateur wrestling, why he left Iran for America and then how he adjusted to life in the States and a new career as a professional wrestler, once he moved to Minnesota and found Vern Gagne’s AWA (American Wrestling Association) territory.

We see Sheik come up through the ranks and then eventually make his way to the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) where he reached superstardom after winning the World Championship from Bob Backlund and then helped launch the career of Hulk Hogan, arguably the biggest star in professional wrestling history.

There is a dark side to this story too and that’s where the documentary becomes both compelling and heartbreaking. We see The Sheik struggle with drugs and alcohol and how it has a severely adverse effect on his family life and life in general. That’s not to say that this doesn’t have a happy ending but seeing Sheik at his worst is really difficult, especially for a long-time fan like myself.

This documentary tells a great story, though. While a lot of this may seem all too familiar with the biographical documentaries on other wrestling legends from The Sheik’s generation, this one just tells its story really well. Sheik has infectious charisma and it’s on full display, here, making this one of the best character pieces of its type.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other biographical wrestling documentaries. Many have been reviewed on this site, already.

Book Review: ‘Gentleman Ed Francis Presents 50th State Big Time Wrestling!’ by Edmund C. Francis, Larry Fleece

The Hawaii wrestling territory is one of the old school wrestling territories that I know the least about.

Growing up in Florida, I was way too far away to have any sort of access to it and in the pre-Internet era, it literally existed as an island to itself.

Granted, 50th State Big Time Wrestling did attract massive stars because it was run by the great Ed Francis and who wouldn’t want to get paid to ply their trade in an island paradise?

I always hear stories about how many bottles of beer and wine Andre the Giant drank but I really want to know how many Tiki drinks he put down while on the island.

This is basically a coffee table book, as it is formatted into a large, hardcover square. Then inside, it is packed full of pictures on every page that perfectly compliment the stories and tales within.

Ultimately, this made me appreciate something I would’ve loved had I known about it other than blurbs in wrestling magazines when I was a kid. 

For those with a wrestling book library, this definitely deserves to be added in. Plus, it was actually pretty inexpensive for its size and quality.

Rating: 8/10
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.