Saturday, July 31, 2010

Listen You Pencil Neck Geeks: "Classy" Freddie Blassie

Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: Freddie Blassie, Keith Elliot Greenberg
Publisher: First Pocket Books
Released: 5/03

The Good
The WWE books have been very hit-and-miss, this is a hit. It's tough to really do justice to a long, full life and a legendary and colorful career, but Keith Elliot Greenberg does an excellent job at both. Blassie's antecdotes are hilarious and Greenberg put them into a nice order and makes this story flow smoothly. Before he was "Classy" Freddie Blassie he was "Sailor" Fred Blassie and it shows in some colorful language. His stories are excellent and well-placed. The family and childhood is good enough for even the most impatient people, the love story is amongst the best parts of the book. Blassie doesn't short-change any part of his career and other parts aren't overblown, which is huge flaw in many recent books. He also seems to accurately portray himself and others, which is often a problem in wrestling books. A great book about a great career, period.

The Bad
I really can't knock this book all that much. It really exceeded my expectations in almost every way. I think some people might not be interested in a lot of it because they'd see his material as outdated and wouldn't know the many people he talks about from earlier times. This definitely reads like a WWE book because Greenberg has to get over the superiority of the product, which Blassie probably believed (but I doubt he closely followed pro-wrestling on a worldwide scale). This is a book for someone interested in wrestling's history, how it changed and one of it's legends. The stories are funny for non-fans or current fans, but I question if they could enjoyably read this whole book.

The Rating: ****1/4

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mad Dog Vachon [RF Video Shoot Interview]

The Good
Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon is one of the mythical characters in pro-wrestling history and he is able to reveal much of how he got there in this interview.  His English is not perfect, he gets confused about a few things and this is, in fact, an RF Video shoot interview, but despite all those drawback this is excellent.  Vachon is a great storyteller whether he's talking about his father, recounting his early days in Texas or his telling of his experiences as a top star in the AWA.  That quality really makes this one of those shoot interviews that you just cannot stop listening to (until it gets really bad at the end).

The Bad
RF Video never fails at angering me in their inability to do their research, follow-up on questions, build rapport with the interviewee or try to hide the interviewee's weaknesses.  When Mad Dog gets tired and struggles to recall the names being dropped, the interview keeps rolling along and makes the last part of this worthless.    What is even worse than that is the lack of exploration into Vachon's Grand Prix promotion and pro-wrestling in Quebec in general.  This started so strong and was overall very good, but some of the same old issues prevented it from being great.

The Rating: ****

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hooker: An Authentic Wrestler's Adventures Inside the Bizarre World of Professional Wrestling

Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: Lou Thesz, Kit Bauman
Publisher: Wrestling Channel Press
Released: 2/01

The Good
This is, according to many, the definitive source of pro-wrestling from its rough and tumble days through the territorial NWA years up to the national expansion of the WWF. Thesz has dozens of great stories and provides the history that any wrestling fan should desire. This reads easy and even non-fans can get into some of the less wrestling history intensive stuff (as I caught my mother flipping through it once and enjoying it). This stands up well and is typically considered amongst the best books on pro-wrestling and with good reason.

The Bad
Thesz has a very skewed view of things. He likes people and dislikes people and though he does not keep that a secret throughout some fans might be interested in his selective memory and interesting prespectives. His opinions on the modern product are what you'd expect and there is a fair degree of bitterness there. This is not as venomous as Pure Dynamite, but it has more hidden agendas or whatnot. Read this with a skeptical eye and probably read Chokehold afterwards.

The Rating: ****1/4

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Cowboy and the Cross - The Bill Watts Story: Rebellion, Wrestling and Redemption

Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: Bill Watts, Scott Williams
Publisher: ECW Press
Released: 1/06

The Good
I anticipated this book for a long time and it didn't disappoint. Bill Watts' shoot interview with RF Video is arguably the best in their history and this book is more orderly version of that. He has a colored past and delves into without coming across as bitter or proud of his bad-old-days, he is wiser. His wrestling career is very interesting because few know about his accomplishments and that he was in fact an NWA Championship caliber talent. He was very successful before getting involved in booking and promoting and he is very honest about it. He pulls no punches, but often realizes the folly of his old ways. In regards to booking, his words are unmatched. Watts carefully explains numerous decisions with an eye for detail that is baffling. Scott Williams captured his genius in a way no one, not even his own words, has before. That is the strength of this book without question.

The Bad
Many pro-wrestling books are the story of men who have climbed to the top and fallen hard before being saved. It makes sense that in their reflecting time, they (or a ghost writer) get it down and they sell it off. It is a way of testifying to god's glory because he saved them from a life of sin. Watts' book is very much one of those. It seems genuine though and he was not willing to cut that down to a degree that "most" pro-wrestling fans would like to read. While I appreciate his dedication to his faith and the deep reflection he fans will not take to that (generally speaking, of course). He is writing to an audience that enjoys a product that he is almost damning. It is a strange parallel that many of the wrestling writers partake in.

The Rating: ****1/2