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.

Documentary Review: You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)

Release Date: August 21st, 2020
Directed by: David Darg, Price James
Music by: Dimiter Yordanov, Matt Glass, Will Patterson
Cast: David Arquette, Patricia Arquette, Rosanna Arquette, Richmond Arquette, Courteney Cox, Ric Flair, Dallas Page, “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, Luke Perry, RJ Skinner, Ken Anderson, Coco Arquette, Eric Bischoff, Colt Cabana, Mick Foley, Jerry Lawler, Christina McLarty Arquette, Kevin Nash, Vince Russo

One Last Run Productions, Kidz Gone Bad, Carbon, 91 Minutes

Review:

I was fairly excited for this when the trailer dropped, months ago. I was never mad at David Arquette for his stint in the wrestling business and I honestly just blamed it on the shit creative that was killing World Championship Wrestling, at the time. Funny enough, the company ceased to exist the following year.

I also know that Arquette has loved and respected the professional wrestling business since he was a kid and that he truly felt bad about how people perceived his small run in it, which led to him becoming the WCW World Heavyweight Champion for a few weeks back in 2000.

People viewed this as destroying the prestige of the World Title but it was devalued immensely before Arquette ever got his hands on it. Plus, Vince Russo winning it after the Arquette debacle showed that WCW creative were absolute imbeciles that deserved their fate.

Anyway, I get why David Arquette wants to repent and doesn’t want to be perceived as a joke or some Hollywood opportunist asshole that came in and took a shit on the business.

However, his path to redemption was a terribly misguided one that just made me feel even worse for the guy and made me realize that he was taken advantage of and poorly directed by the modern “hardcore” sect in wrestling a.k.a. the outlaw mudhsow ass hats that should never have their version of the business reach the mainstream. Granted, wrestling is pretty fucking dead in my eyes, anyway, so who’s to say what kind of stupid horeseshit is going to get over with the thirteen fans that still go to live shows in crossfit warehouses.

David Arquette, for a guy that loves the business, doesn’t seem to really know enough about it to avoid the people that put him in the ring, where he nearly got killed just to make this film. He didn’t need to redeem himself by fighting the most “hardcore” shitheads in the business, he needed to go to wrestling school, a real one, and learn the basics, work hard, get put on a decent show and work his way up.

His objectives in this were never really clear but he seemed to just have this idea that he needed to be severely punished for his sins more than he needed to become a legitimate wrestler that could stand proudly next to other former WCW World Champions.

I was severely disappointed by this, overall. I was rooting for the guy and hell, I still really like him. But this isn’t what he needed to do to absolve himself of the immense guilt he’s felt for twenty years. I left this feeling even worse for him but I guess if he believes he succeeded than who am I to piss in his coffee.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent wrestling documentaries.

TV Review: Wrestling Gold: Before They Were Famous (2002)

Released: 2002
Cast: Jim Cornette, various

VCI Video, 120 Minutes

Review:

I’ve already reviewed the regular Wrestling Gold series of classic matches. This one-off release, though, features slightly more modern footage, as it showcases the earliest marquee matches of some of wrestling’s biggest stars from around the turn of the millennium.

Everything here is taken from Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Jim Cornette’s promotion from the early ’90s. Because of that, he also hosts this DVD, just as he hosted the other Wrestling Gold releases alongside Dave Meltzer. There is no Meltzer here, however.

This is a compilation of about twenty matches and segments of some of the biggest stars at the time of this DVD’s original release. A lot of big stars worked in SMW, so this is essentially a greatest hits of that promotion’s biggest stars.

The match quality is fairly decent but the overall collection is a bit of a mixed bag. Still, it’s worth checking out if you’re into wrestling history and seeing some of the top wrestlers of all-time before they were mainstream names.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the Wrestling Gold DVD series and other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Malibu Express (1985)

Release Date: March, 1985
Directed by: Andy Sidaris
Written by: Andy Sidaris
Music by: Henry Strzelecki
Cast: Darby Hinton, Sybil Danning, Lynda Wiesmeier, Lori Sutton, Art Metrano, Shelley Taylor Morgan, Regis Philbin, Joy Philbin

Andy Sidaris Company, Malibu Bay Films, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Did you hear that she got raped this afternoon by two homosexuals? One held her down and the other one did her hair.” – Liza Chamberlain

I’ve wanted to watch Andy Sidaris’ movies for quite awhile, especially this one and Hard Ticket to Hawaii. Luckily, I found the entire collection of his twelve films on Amazon for nine bucks. Yes, nine bucks! It’s a fucking steal! Buy it!

Well, that is unless you don’t like goofy action comedies with Playboy Playmates, cool dudes with guns and fast cars, as well as crime stories littered with bumbling, idiot criminals.

These films also feature stunts, lots of vehicles and budgets so low that over-the-top special effects have to be crafted out of chicken shit and dirt.

Malibu Express may be the biggest budget film of the lot (adjusted for inflation) and it doesn’t fall victim to as minuscule of a budget as the other films that came later but it’s definitely not “big budget” and had to cut corners and trim unnecessary fat.

Sidaris and his crew still did the best with what they had and the look of the production is more akin to a moderately budgeted action TV series of the ’80s, as opposed to looking like something made for less than the cost of a small house in the Hollywood Hills.

I love the lead, Darby Hinton. I also love all the beautiful women that are often times devoid of clothes. Plus, this has Art Metrano in it. I only really know him as Mauser from the Police Academy movies but I’ve loved that guy my entire life. Add in Sybil Danning and this is a solid mix of fun talent in a fun movie that’s amusing and high octane.

Sure, this is low brow schlock that got shoved into drive-in theaters and budget movie houses but it’s also what I would call an ’80s VHS classic. And frankly, that makes this the type of action comedy I tend to love.

I can’t say that I was impressed by Malibu Express but I can say that it didn’t disappoint me or leave me with buyer’s remorse. It’s pretty much exactly what I thought it would be.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other eleven films in Andy Sidaris’ Triple B Series, as well as the American films of Iranian director Amir Shervan.

Documentary Review: The Authentic Untold Story ECW (2016)

Release Date: November 21st, 2016
Cast: Corey Graves (host), The Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer

WWE, 47 Minutes

Review:

I wasn’t sure what this was when I fired it up on the WWE Network but then I immediately realized that I had already seen it back when it aired.

It’s not a traditional documentary, as much as it is a one-off interview show with a panel of ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) legends talking about their time in the promotion back in the ’90s and very early ’00s.

Overall, for old school ECW fans, this was a worthwhile watch that felt pretty honest and unfiltered. It features the Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Tommy Dreamer and ECW boss, Paul Heyman.

Each guy told stories about the heyday of ECW and went through a bunch of topics.

This is kind of a nice followup watch to the WWE’s superb documentary, The Rise and Fall of ECW.

However, for those who aren’t familiar with ECW and don’t already have a love for it, this probably doesn’t offer up much that would be considered engaging or entertaining. Although, if you’re a fan of wrestling history, you’ll probably find this interesting, regardless of your feelings on ECW.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other WWE Network exclusives and documentaries.

Retro Relapse: The Potential Overkill of Outdoor Hockey

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

Note: This was written six years ago but I still stand by it. However, now that we live in a COVID world, this might all be moot.

With the announcement that my Chicago Blackhawks will play the Washington Capitals in next year’s NHL Winter Classic, I am fairly ecstatic. Why? Well, my team will be featured in the biggest and most awesome regular season game of the year. While the Blackhawks storm Washington on New Year’s Day, millions will watch in awe, as real men take to the ice and level each other while fighting the elements and trying to score goals in much harsher conditions than playing in some random indoor arena. If the weather is anything like it was during the last Winter Classic, we are in for something special.

And that’s the thing, the Winter Classic is special. It isn’t a championship game and it really doesn’t mean anything to the record books other than a regular season win or loss for the teams involved. However, it does mean bragging rights for whomever wins the most watched game of the year. And even though bragging rights isn’t anything as big as a championship, this game does have a championship feel to it. Nothing vital is on the line but the Winter Classic still feels like the Superbowl of hockey.

As amazing, as successful and as watched as this event is, the NHL’s commissioner, Gary Bettman has taken the ball and ran with it: expanding the idea to what has become known as the NHL Stadium Series.

This passed year, due to the Winter Classic and the Stadium Series, we had 6 outdoor NHL events. We had the Winter Classic itself between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then there was the Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Solider Field. The New York Rangers had two games at Yankees Stadium, one against the New York Islanders and the other against the New Jersey Devils. The Vancouver Canucks hosted the Ottawa Senators in what is known as the Heritage Classic. There was also the most bizarre of any hockey game I have ever seen, which saw the Los Angeles Kings play the Anaheim Ducks at Dodgers Stadium. It was steamy, sunny and just a strange sight to behold.

Truth be told, six of these things is way too many. The last Stadium Series game played was Vancouver and Ottawa and by that point, I didn’t give a shit. I think I watched about five minutes of it and I’m a pretty hardcore hockey aficionado at this point. Granted, the Blackhawks and Penguins matchup from Soldier Field took place the night prior but even though that one featured my team, it felt less special, as I had already watched four of these games in the two months prior. Luckily, the Chicago game had insane weather and a dominant performance by my team because that made it more than worthwhile and an incredible experience.

The problem here, is that there is just too much of this Stadium Series shit. The NHL and Gary Bettman should put all their eggs in the basket that is the Winter Classic. That should be the focus and should feature great match ups. Call me an old school hockey whore but I think it should always feature at least one Original Six team. I’d say it should feature two Original Six teams but I wouldn’t want shitty markets like Nashville and Columbus crying that I’m being unfair.

The thing is, stadium hockey in the NHL has already reached overkill, at least for me. It probably isn’t that far behind with others. It is a unique experience but if you shove it down our throats six times a year, it isn’t unique anymore. If the Superbowl happened six times a year, most people wouldn’t care as much about the big one in February. And at least the Superbowl is contested for a championship. I’m not saying that the Winter Classic should be a championship game, that’s kind of hard considering the time of year and the 7 game series in the Stanley Cup Finals, but it should have that Superbowl feel and maintain it. Watering down the stadium concept by having a half dozen games in two months is going to kill it. Which sucks, because hockey doesn’t thrive in America and the Winter Classic could change that.

Additionally, college hockey has caught the bug and are now having a bunch of high profile outdoor games as well. Outdoor hockey hasn’t been uncommon at the college level but it is a different ballgame when you see collegiate teams battling it out on the ice in front of the Green Monster at Fenway Park. As a fan of collegiate hockey, this is great for their game. It is bringing interest to one of the most ignored collegiate sports in America. On the flip side, this probably cuts into the glorious pie that is the NHL’s Winter Classic because the more outdoor hockey we get, the less special it becomes.

Will the NHL get rid of all the stadium games other than the Winter Classic? I seriously doubt it, at least in the near future. These games bring big money, big TV deals and lots of advertising revenue. I get it, they are making hockey a big business but like the housing crisis a few years ago, this is a bubble that can burst.

As far as regular season hockey goes, I’m talking about the hundreds of indoor games, what does this do to them? If we have a half dozen outdoor rock stadium-like games, does this kill interest in the casual viewer watching the other 99 percent of hockey games because they are played in some lame indoor arena? I could see this stadium overkill having that effect and that would be really bad for the sport. At its essence, hockey could become ignored, as casual fans only tune in for the dog and pony show portions of the season.

The NHL, as I’ve already stated, should focus on the Winter Classic. Put everything into that one special game and grow it over time. It is an amazing concept and experience that will sell itself and grow year after year. In this case, striking while the iron is hot will be good for the short-term but dilute the effects over the long-term. I’d prefer the sport to grow and thrive, not explode and quickly fizzle out.

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.