Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Madness Behind the Mania

The Good
A panel discussion about the first WrestleMania featuring the controversial Iron Sheik, the intense Paul Orndorff, the laid back Bob Orton Jr., John Cena Sr. and a "historian" called Jackyl. Our host is Dan Morrati who is very personable and quite knowledgeable, so he generally does a good job. There is some time introducing the three stars' backgrounds, which is fine. The meat of this is talking about the national expansion, the strategies Vince McMahon used, the role of Hulk Hogan and a match-by-match breakdown of the card. This did have some great insight from all parties and a few funny exchanges as well. Mr. Wonderful mentioning to Sheik that he couldn't whoop anybody because he has two hip replacements was pretty comical. I also was curious to hear something different from Sheik on Brian Blair because Orndorff was perhaps his best friend in the business, but not much came of that segment. Overall, this was an okay product.

The Bad
The Iron Sheik returns to the place that helped him launch a new career - "Maloney Wrestling Federation!" This outfit does some decent shoot interviews and this panel discussion is alright. You know what you're getting with the Sheik, although he was on his best behavior, so perhaps he will disappoint some fans here. Orndorff and Orton are very good, but the panel format limits them rather than helps them. John Cena Sr. is briefly there and is about half in promo-delivering mode, so that's a negative. This "historian" Jackyl is alright, but does not push the discussion. Panels are best when you get the panelist to feed off one another and that does not really happen. They go around and answer questions and that's that.

The Rating: ***1/2

Sunday, January 1, 2012

King of the Ring: The Harley Race Story

Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: Harley Race, Gerry Tritz
Publisher: Sports Publishing
Released: 11/04

The Good
The pro-wrestling book craze has led to many of the old-timers publishing their memoirs to make some money and each book has it's own account of a part of history. Harley Race's in-ring career spanned from the early 60s to the late 80s, a time period that saw power shifts in the NWA and ultimately their demise and the rise of the WWF. He was not only a top pro-wrestler during that time, he was a touring NWA World Champion, booker in numerous places, part owner of the Kansas City territory and one of many who joined Vince after a tough battle against him. He candidly covers all that and wraps up things by talking about managing, retirement, his school and his recent involvement with various people and companies. All of this is fine and well. He talks about his numerous accidents that has left his body shattered, the importance of his family and even his faith, which is really the material most original to this book. This is one of those brief autobiographies that you'll enjoy if you like the wrestler and maybe don't know their story very well and haven't heard their shoot interviews.

The Bad
Any book that mentions Lex Luger several times and paints him in a positive light can't be good, can it? Actually, the big fault of this book is it's length, less than 200 pages. The chronology is good, but Race's fast-life seems to have made for a fast-book. I read this in a 24 hour period, which I had never done with a pro-wrestling book and was never had that "I can't tear myself away" feeling. Tritz is not the best ghostwriter, since he lacks credibility in many ways and probably kept this from being the book it should have been. Race was just as important as someone like Ole Anderson, but he never explains running a territory, how to book or any of that. In fact, he seems like a mark for himself just like Ole said he was. There are plenty of bad wrestling books, this isn't one of them, but it's far from the best. Borrow it if you can, read it in a day or two and you should be mildly satisfied.

The Rating: **1/2