Book Review: ‘Bruiser Brody’ by Emerson Murray

I know, I know… I’ve reviewed a ton of wrestler biographies over the last year or so. There’s just so many good ones and I especially want to read through everything put out by Crowbar Press, as those are generally on another level.

Bruiser Brody was also a guy who I loved. I heard the legendary tales about the guy but due to him being murdered while still at the height of his career, I didn’t get to actually see him perform until I became a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s.

Once I saw Brody, I realized that the hype was real and the guy had an infectious charisma and a ring presence that made nearly anyone facing him look like the victim of a savage beatdown.

Over the years, I amassed a pretty big library of Bruiser Brody footage from all over the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan, where he did some of his most amazing work. I’ve studied the guy for a few decades now and have read a lot of old articles about him. But I never felt like I knew enough about the actual man behind the persona, until now.

This book does a superb job in showing you Brody’s life from his childhood, his life in football and his life in wrestling up until the night where he was stabbed in the showers before a wrestling event in Puerto Rico.

The best part of this book is that we get to read a lot of Brody stories through the words of other wrestling legends that worked with the man, were his friends and traveled with him.

I also like that this book is loaded with photos. But even then, it’s not so loaded that there isn’t a lot to read here. This is a good-sized book and it really lets you get to know this legend that passed way before his time.

Rating: 8/10

Documentary Review: The British Bulldogs (1986)

Release Date: October 15th, 1986 (video)
Directed by: Vince McMahon
Written by: Steven B. Hecht, Vince McMahon
Cast: “Dynamite Kid” Tommy Billington, Davey Boy Smith, Lou Albano, Bret Hart, The Iron Sheik, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, various

World Wrestling Federation, Coliseum Video, 90 Minutes

Review:

I stumbled upon this on Peacock in the documentary section of their WWE content. I was pretty stoked to watch it, as The British Bulldogs were one of my all-time favorite tag teams and seeing a then-WWF documentary from 1986 seemed pretty cool.

Well, it’s not a documentary. While WWE become known for making great historical wrestling documentaries about past talent, this was produced before that era and thus, it’s a collection of Bulldogs matches with a few other segments mixed in.

This was still really neat to watch, though, as these guys were just solid f’n workers in the ring and they had an intensity that was kind of unmatched in the era until their greatest rivals came along, The Hart Foundation.

The content here is all enjoyable but it doesn’t feature their best stuff. This came out in the middle of their historic run, so WWF only had the first half of that run to pick matches from. There are some memorable matches thrown on this like their feud with The Dream Team (Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Brutus Beefcake before he was “The Barber”).

Half of this is singles matches, though. And that’s fine, as both the Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy can work on their own. However, I was hoping for a lot of their iconic tag team championship matches. I was also hoping for a lot more of their feud with The Hart Foundation but this came out when that feud was really getting started.

Still, if you also love The Bulldogs, this is definitely worth checking out to see them win those titles and to see them both wrestle in their primes.

Rating: 7/10

Documentary Review: Bruno (2018)

Release Date: April 20th, 2018
Cast: Bruno Sammartino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, various

WWE, 46 Minutes

Review:

This was thrown together and released onto WWE Network just a few days after Bruno Sammartino passed away in 2018.

However, instead of trying to release it as quickly as possible, I really wish that WWE would’ve spent the time to put together a good, feature length documentary on Bruno. Hell, if anyone deserved it, it’s this guy, a legitimate legend that really helped make the World-Wide Wrestling Federation, decades before it became today’s WWE. In fact, this guy was the Hulk Hogan before Hulk Hogan. He was the megastar of the company and really carried it on his back.

Bruno and Vince McMahon had a falling out in the late ’80s, though, and they never really patched things up until a few years before Bruno’s death when he finally accepted a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, after rejecting those offers for nearly two decades.

This documentary does go into Bruno’s life and his career but it mostly covers him coming back into the WWE fold and his reunion with Vince McMahon. It also features some neat backstage footage of Bruno and Arnold Schwarzenegger from the night of his Hall of Fame induction.

This was fairly decent but if I’m being honest, a legend like Bruno Sammartino deserved more and this just felt like it was slapped together to capitalize off of his death happening just a few days earlier.

Rating: 6/10

Documentary Review: My Way: The Life and Legacy of Pat Patterson (2021)

Release Date: January 24th, 2021
Cast: Pat Patterson, Vince McMahon, Gerald Brisco, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, John Cena, Dwayne Johnson, various

WWE, 57 Minutes

Review:

Pat Patterson passed away last December and with his passing, the professional wrestling business lost a true legend and a guy that was very instrumental in how the business moved forward from the ’80s and into the modern era.

Not only was he a legend in the ring, he became Vince McMahon’s right hand when the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) became the dominant force in the industry.

Patterson helped shape the personalities and careers of several legendary wrestlers. He took guys like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and helped mold them into superstars.

However, Pat Patterson was also a gay man in an industry where that was very taboo in his day. It’s also an industry that is all about machismo and with that, Patterson kept his personal life very private. Those who were close to him, knew that he was gay but it was never publically stated by Patterson himself until really late in life when he felt like he didn’t have to hide it anymore.

All that being said, Patterson was an interesting but very layered guy. He was a sweet man, though. I met him briefly backstage at shows a few times and he was always a hell of a nice guy and always accommodating to the fans that got to be around him.

This WWE Network special did a pretty good job of capturing the man’s life even if it had what I consider a scant running time. But I did enjoy the fact that there was enough recorded material of Patterson for him to really tell you his story in his own words.

Rating: 7/10

Book Review: ‘The Last Outlaw’ by Stan Hansen & Scott Teal

Well, this was a hell of an entertaining book but then Stan Hansen was an entertaining person when he was a wrestler. After reading this, he’s also very personable and well spoken, at least on paper.

I enjoyed this immensely and it’s one of the best professional wrestling biographies that I’ve ever read.

I’ve always liked Hansen and his place in the history of professional wrestling.

One thing this book did well, though, was talking about his early life before football and his long career in the ring. This part of most wrestling biographies is usually the weakest but Hansen kept my attention from cover-to-cover and his childhood life came across as interesting.

However, everything still picks up greatly when he starts getting into his wrestling career. Since he’s a guy that spent time in territories all over the United States and then spent extensive time in Japan, working with just about everyone in the business, Hansen has a lot to say about himself, lots of other people and all the places he’s been.

I liked this book a lot and it’s pretty damn high on the list of my favorite professional wrestling books.

Rating: 9/10

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.

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.

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.