Bulldog's Bookshelf: Hollywood Hulk Hogan, The Death of WCW, Missy Hyatt: First Lady Of Wrestling, Journey Into Darkness
By Canadian Bulldog
Apr 7, 2009 - 3:00 PM
|Not pictured: "John Cena's Big Book Of Limericks That Sound Dirty But Actually Aren't".|
All right, literature-maniacs! It's time to discuss some of my favorite, least favorite and, um.... somewhat-in-the-middle, books about wrestling. Essentially, just a whole bunch of books.
For those of you who haven't visited my bookshelf before, the first two instalments can be found here and here. Suggestions for future reviews are always welcome; drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'm happy to see what I can do.
And once again, here is the patented, unique, often-imitated-but-never-duplicated Canadian Bulldog Ratings System™:
The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be:
Self-explanatory. This rating is reserved for my absolute favorites, ones that I could read through over and over again.
Oh Hell Yeah!:
While not the top of the line, there's enough good stuff in here to make me want to recommend it.
Not an urgent read, by any means. If you're starting up a collection, or if you're a big fan on the subject matter, go for it.
More bad than good here. Hey, if you can pick it up for a few dollars at a used bookstore or borrow it off your friend, fine. But you've been warned.
Why on earth would any publisher approve this crap? What were they thinking? Only valuable if you're the type that likes reading total and complete train-wrecks.
And with that, let's get to this week's portion of Bulldog's Bookshelf™!!!
Hollywood Hulk Hogan
Author: Hulk Hogan, with Michael Jan Friedman
Synopsis: The life and times of wrestling's biggest star.
I see now that I should have taken all of the bullets out of Arsenio's gun and said "Yes, I used steroids to bulk up." I should have come clean. It probably would have hurt my career but not as badly or for as long a time. So I screwed myself.
It was the biggest mistake I've ever made. I should have just been man enough to fess up, and if it ruined me then it ruined me. As it was, I almost ruined everything I had accomplished, and that was more important to me by far.
With the news that Hulk Hogan is coming out with a second autobiography ("My Life Outside The Ring"), I thought it would make sense to look at his first one from a few years back. Hopefully, he can be a little more honest with his Hulkamaniacs on the second go-round.
In The Hulkster's defense, this book was published by World Wrestling Entertainment, thus it couldn't be a tell-all of everything that happens in the weird, wild and sometimes wacky world of professional wrestling. Plus, it's an autobiography of Hulk Hogan: the guy's such a legend that anything he writes will be interesting, and probably a best-seller to boot.
That said, he could have put more effort into Hollywood Hulk Hogan, which is the prototypical example of someone talking into a tape recorder (or, in this case, to Michael Jan Friedman) about their life without really thinking about how they want to be immortalized.
For example, Hogan is so preoccupied with talking about how great he is that it overshadows any vulnerabilities he may have. Let's face it - the best biographies (wrestling or otherwise) show someone who is less than perfect -- except, I suppose, if someone wrote a book about the late Curt Hennig. Aside from a few examples (such as the steroid one listed above), this rarely happens.
But my biggest beef here is that Hogan takes credit for basically everything that happened in the business, from turning professional wrestling into a pop culture phenomenon to "discovering" The Undertaker to building up guys like The Rock... hell, I think he even tried to take credit for Vince McMahon buying WCW! Don't get me wrong: Hogan's contributions to wrestling are immense and shouldn't be understated: he just doesn't deserve credit for every last accomplishment.
The phenomenon that is Hulk Hogan extends beyond the ring, too. As a teenager, apparently few were as gifted as him in sports and even music. According to Hogan, when he went to Hollywood and filmed such classics as No Holds Barred, Suburban Commando and Three Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain, most of them were box-office smashes! And the ones that even he had to admit to were steaming piles of cinematic shit? Those didn't cost much to make, so.... no biggie.
That said, the book isn't all bad. Most of his stories are interesting at the very least. The chapters are in easy-to-read instalments, some only a page or two each, so you certainly don't have to invest much time in reading it. And throughout the story, the reader gets the impression that he really does love his wife Linda.... which is of course really sad when you see what's happened to them since.
(On a lighter note: I discovered many lines in this book that were actually part of a Complete and Utter Bulldog "interview" with Hogan a year or so ago.... one of my favorite episodes to date, actually. I guess he was reading sections of this for a books-on-tape version or something, which was then used for a Hogan soundboard. I'm glad I finally know where "I'll meet you tonight at the Red Onion" comes from.)
Rating: Transitional Champion. I only ranked it that high because the Hulkster has a great life story to tell, but this is clearly revisionist history. Maybe he'll Hulk Up and come up with something better next time.
The Death Of WCW
Authors: R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez
Synopsis: A humorous look at the downfall of the second-biggest wrestling promotion in history.
Lex Luger, in an interview segment with Stevie Ray called "Suckas Gots to Know," asked if what he was about to say was just between the two of them. Apparently he was unaware that the program was being broadcast nationwide to several million people. Stevie was apparently unaware as well, since he responded that it was "just between you, me and 5,000 viewers." Tony Schiavone tried to make the save by claiming - really - that he meant 5,000 viewers in each house.
When WCW folded in 2001, it didn't get its just due. Part of that, I'm sure, was because WWE's purchase of its assets (and tease of a "new" WCW) kept it on life support for an unnecessarily long time. ECW has been immortalized through the One Night Stand shows and its own WWE brand (make your own punchline here), while the much-larger and powerful WCW is barely remembered.
That's why I found this The Death of WCW so fascinating. In many ways, WCW is wrestling's greatest untold story. One of the biggest successes in the business and likewise, one of its biggest failures. I'm not sure if the group deserved the death it received, but damned if it didn't get a great obituary here.
R.D. Reynolds (of Wrestlecrap.com) and Bryan Alvarez (of the Figure 4 Weekly newsletter) are both skilled at casting events in a historically significant -- and yet often hilarious -- light. They give out tons of information on attendance, buyrates, television ratings and backstage gossip, while documenting the highlights and lowlights of the promotion. Never before has such a complete chronology been put together in one place, showing you what WCW had, what it could have been, and, most importantly, how they lost it all.
One nagging concern with this book. If you read Eric Bischoff's autobiography Controvery Creates Cash, he disputes several of the theories written here (without ever referring to the book by name). Hulk Hogan and Vince Russo have done the same in public interviews, and you only need to go as far as Club WWI to hear Kevin Nash's response to a lot of the common criticisms.
Who's right and who's wrong? It's possible that it's a little bit of both, but Bischoff, Hogan, Russo and Nash (oddly enough - and I just realized this after typing this sentence - four out of the five people on the cover) lived this book. Again, it's very possible each of these guys are just trying to cover their respective asses, but you have to at least take the theories written here with a grain of salt.
Rating: Oh Hell Yeah!
A very funny read for both people who lived through the WCW era and those who want to know more about it.
Missy Hyatt: First Lady Of Wrestling
Author: Missy Hyatt, with Charles Salzberg and Mark Goldblatt
Synopsis: A juicy tell-all from wrestling's original diva.
Let me tell you something about Ric Flair. The guy's a perv. We're talking Marv Albert City here. First of all, he's got a thing about pubic hair. He loves it. He won't have sex with a woman who shaves. His saying used to be, "No hair, no Flair." Flair's main thing, though, was that he always wanted to show women his penis. Publicists. Make-up and wardrobe people. Waitressess. Department store clerks. Travel agents. Bank tellers. I mean, it wasn't even so much a sex thing. It was a perv thing. He's just always liked showing off his penis - though, frankly, I've seen it dozens of times, and it's nothing to write home about. I mean, basically, it just looks like Ric Flair's penis, like the kind of penis he would have. Put a bleached-blong wig on it, and it would look like him. Whoooo!
I realize most people are expecting me to crap all over this book, especially given how little relevance Missy Hyatt has in the wrestling business in 2009 (other than being an admittedly funny columnist on the Wrestling Observer website). But Missy Hyatt: First Lady Of Wrestling has a unique, trashy charm to it that honestly stops me from said crapping.
Don't get me wrong: Missy often comes across just as ditzy and superficial as her WCW character was back in the day. But there's also the side of her that demonstrates a ton of wrestling psychology; stuff that many female wrestlers could stand to learn today.
Hyatt talks at length about her relationship with the late Eddie Gilbert, which ended tragically but shows how much they cared about each other during their marriage. Plus there's the story of her (very brief) WWF run - betcha never knew that she'd been penciled in as Roddy Piper's replacement?
Of course, that's not the reason most people read a book about Missy Hyatt. This book is chock-full of kiss-and-tell tales (and often, more than just kissing) that's trashy and funny at the same time. Guests at Missy's Manor (and we're not talking about the talk show) reads like a Hall of Fame; she's allegedly had dalliances with Road Warrior Hawk, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, Dr. Tom Pritchard (WWI Represent!), Val Venis, hockey player Rob Brind'Amour, football players Bill Fralic and Jim Kelly, Wonder Years star Jason Hervey... even Ted Turner apparently hit on her.
None of these stories are really out of the realm of possibility (particularly if you saw what she looked like in the early-to-mid 1980's), but they're presented in a fun and mostly harmless way. Missy knows exactly who she is and doesn't really try to hide it.
Rating: Bowling-Shoe Ugly. I'd be lying if I said this was for everyone, but it's definitely a guilty pleasure, and much like Missy comes across, the read is quite easy.
Journey Into Darkness: The Unauthorized History of Kane
Author: Michael Chiappetta
Synopsis: WWE's attempt to explain a decade of really, really bad Kane storylines
"Glen Callaway" Sergeant Dominguez said, stepping into the room.
The second the police officer spoke, Melissa saw the spark vanish from the boy's eyes.
"Yeah," Glen said. "That's me."
The sergeant introduced himself, taking a step closer to the boy as he did so. Melissa took Katie by the shoulders again and pulled her out of the way.
"I'd like to talk to the boy in private, Ms. Vick," Dominguez said.
When Kane debuted in 1997, he was portrayed as a one-dimensional cartoon; The Undertaker's long-lost brother, a cross between the Dead Man and Frankenstein. And of course, even though WWE has attempted to give his character a few more "layers" over the years, they haven't been very stellar attempts.
Journey Into Darkness is possibly the most ambitious attempt to date to explain the Kane character, and how he, The Undertaker, Paul Bearer and the notorious Katie Vick fit in.
Now, make no mistake about this -- this is hardly an "unauthorized" story; the WWE logo on the cover should tell you at least that much. The "unauthorized" reference makes everything sound a bit more ominous, I guess.
It's still no small task to explain Kane's madness, at least more than the Russo-esque account that was force-fed to us, and conveniently changed numerous times during the late 90's. One minute, he killed his parents. The next minute, it was actually The Undertaker who did the deed. One minute, he and Taker are mortal enemies, and the next minute, they're best of friends. One minute, he needed a voice-box to speak, the next minute… well, you get the picture.
That's what Journey attempts to explain, in a writing style that borrows more than a little from Stephen King. We begin with a four year-old Glen Jacob Callaway (tying Kane's real name of Glen Jacobs and Taker's Mark Callaway in somewhat), awakening as his family's funeral home burns to the ground and apparently, with him being the only survivor.
..... OR WAS HE????
Without giving away too many details, Glen goes through a series of horrific events, some of which are triggered by the evil Paul Grimm (who later becomes -- you guessed it -- Paul Orndorff. Okay, fine... Paul Bearer). Mark grows up to be a powerful wrestler, and Glen is eventually coerced into confronting him.
Make no mistake: this book is hardly rocket science, or even enough to satisfy most smarks out there. But if you enjoyed the Pro Wrestling Illustrated kayfabe storylines of the 80's and 90's ("Revealed: Ted DiBiase's Secret Plot To Buy The WWF!"), you may just get a kick out of this.
Rating: Bowling-Shoe Ugly. I say that mainly because it's the kind of book you can probably read once and in only a few hours; maybe on a plane or something (as I did).... but you're not going to really learn anything new from it.
Tip: See if you can track it down in a used bookstore on the cheap, or borrow it from your local library. But don't need to go through fire and brimstone just to pick up a copy of this.
Canadian Bulldog is a borderline journalist who writes weekly for World Wrestling Insanity and has published his own book of nutty prank e-mails to wrestlers. He welcomes your feedback at email@example.com.