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 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: ‘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.

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.

Documentary Review: Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows (1998)

Release Date: December 20th, 1998
Directed by: Paul Jay
Written by: Paul Jay
Cast: Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Stu Hart, Helen Hart, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Triple H, Brian Pillman, Blade Hart, Julie Hart, Diana Hart, Keith Hart, Tammy Sytch, Georgia Hart, Dave Meltzer, The Honky Tonk Man, Earl Hebner, Vince Russo, Mick Foley, Dustin Rhodes, Pat Patterson, Leon ‘Vader’ White, Ellie Hart, Alison Hart, Michael P.S. Hayes, Savio Vega, Harry Smith

High Road Productions, National Film Board of Canada (NFB), TVOntario, Vidmark/Trimark, 93 Minutes

Review:

Wrestling with Shadows is, hands down, one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen on any subject. Luckily for me, it’s on a subject I love: professional wrestling.

When this came out back in the late ’90s, it was a mega hit! Well, as much as it could be, as Vince McMahon used his influence to try and stop it from being seen. I remember that they did end up broadcasting it on A&E in 1999, which was the first time I saw it.

As a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s, this was one of those holy grail things that was being passed around, as well as the screener copies of 1999’s Beyond the Mat.

For those that don’t know, this was supposed to be a simple documentary about a year in Bret Hart’s life. What it ended up being is an intimate peek into one of the biggest scandals in professional wrestling history: The Montreal Screwjob.

The documentary is more intimate than most on the subject of professional wrestling. It truly delves into the personal lives of not just Bret Hart but the entire Hart Family. While Bret is certainly the focus, we get to hear from several family members and even see what family dinners looked like. We get an intimate look at the famous Hart Family Dungeon and even get to spend time with his parents, most notably his mother Helen. The Hart matriarch talks about how she truly feels about the wrestling business and how what was only supposed to be temporary became her family’s all-consuming legacy.

Beyond that, this starts to tell the story about how WWE owner Vince McMahon offered Bret Hart a twenty year contract worth a ton of money and how he decided he needed to renege on that deal and let Bret Hart leave for greener financial pastures with Ted Turner’s WCW, the company that was taking WWE to the woodshed at the time.

Eventually, this all leads to Vince lying to Bret and double-crossing him in front of the world.

The last twenty minutes or so of this documentary are damn compelling and it still holds up, twenty-three years after the incident.

Whether you give a crap about professional wrestling or not, this is still a fascinating documentary that started out as one thing and then evolved into something much, much more.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries but most notably Beyond the Mat and 350 Days.

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.

Documentary Review: Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story (2006)

Release Date: March 3rd, 2006
Directed by: Vince McMahon

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), 88 Minutes

Review:

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time. In the ’80s, he probably was my favorite but I also loved that dastardly “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The thing that really made Piper eclipse the others though, was the fact that he was the star of They Live, which is still the greatest motion picture to ever feature a professional wrestler in the lead role. Sorry, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

This is one of dozens of WWE documentaries put out in the heyday of their DVD releases, most of which were met with great fanfare and always sold really well. Like most of the others, this was initially released with several extra discs featuring pivotal matches from the wrestler’s career. I happen to own the special exclusive addition that had an extra bonus disc featuring classic episodes of Piper’s Pit, Roddy’s popular talk show segment.

The documentary is chock-full of interviews with many of the people who knew Piper over the course of his career. There are interviews with his friends, rivals and other colleagues within the wrestling business. We also get to hear from John Carpenter on why he cast Piper in They Live and what it was like to work with him on the film.

The best part of this whole film is hearing Piper himself talk about his time in wrestling and about his life beforehand.

Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story is one of the brightest spots in WWE’s long history of wrestler biography pieces. It features one of the most entertaining men in sports entertainment history and it flows nicely and covers all of the relevant stuff in Piper’s long and storied career.

Rating: 7.5/10