It's Sports & Entertainment!
It's the World Cup!
I know, I know, I'm supposed to talk about my book review. There will be two below! I have an old favorite to share, and one that is fairly new (I read it in March). I have no excuse. I have been very lax in reading because a lot of things have transpired at the start of June, and then the World Cup began.
Every four years, I transform from someone who doesn't give a damn about football (take your 'soccer' nonsense away from me) to someone who will personally debate with you for three hours why Germany deserves the win more than any other nation on God's green earth. Right now, I am operating on the Russian time zone and I dread going back to school to start substitute teaching.
No, I'm not giving up on watching my football games. I'll willingly suffer the late nights and early mornings. It's once every four years, I can live with that!
Alright, to my actual book review. This month I have two, and both are on my real sports-related passion: PRO WRESTLING. People who know me know that I am a WWF/WWE fan. I watched WWF from the time I was ten and I am a happy subscriber to the WWE Network now, because I can rewatch all my favorite matches and wrestlers. The current crop of wrestlers, sought out from indie promotions and from all over the world, are fantastic, and the women wrestling are on another level entirely. While I miss the ambitious devil-may-care Attitude Era, I do believe that this is probably one of the best times to be a pro wrestling fan.
One thing I've always loved about pro wrestling is the storytelling. There are stereotypes, archetypes, and icons in that particular industry. There are faces (the good guys), heels (the bad guys), and they can turn face/heel whenever the script calls for it. Their alliances fall apart, their rivals become their best friends, and there are so many convoluted storylines that will put any soap opera writer to shame. And everything is settled in the squared circle (or boiler room, or parking lot, or graveyard, or...).
I'm reviewing Mick Foley's Have a Nice Day! A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks and Jim Ross' Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling. Both men are legends in the pro wrestling world. Let's start with Foley.
Mick Foley, also known as Mankind or Cactus Jack or Dude Love, opened the doors to pro wrestlers sharing their stories. And what a story he shares! Right from the start, he opens with how he lost part of his ear (spoiler: it's gross), and goes on to talk about how his passion drove him to put up with all the challenges he had as a wrestler, and finally, how he succeeded as a character and as a wrestler, beloved by pro wrestling fans around the world. The stories of his interactions with fellow wrestlers are sincerely told, with emphasis on how they help one another succeed in a difficult industry, and his observations of pro wrestling are the sort you'd want to hear over a beer or five. His humor shines through, even when he indulges in some sophomoric jokes, and more importantly, his heart is on display.
One might think that pro wrestlers are not good writers. Foley, being the legend that he is, personally wrote this first tome. Longhand. On plane rides, and in locker rooms, and in hotels. And it is an engaging read, despite its heft. I devoured the whole book in one sitting. Whether you are a pro wrestling fan or not, his memoir will grab you. Like a mandible claw, but with less gagging and pain.
(Um. Maybe not the best analogy.)
Way to set the bar, Mr Foley.
I had the pleasure of attending one of his book signings. He is a giant teddy bear of a man, and I will always remember how gentle he was shaking my tiny paw of a hand. He also signed my book (the slightly foxed one pictured above). I hope I get to meet him again; he is one of the nicest human beings on this planet.
Jim Ross is another legend in the pro wrestling industry. He wasn't a wrestler, but his commentary made pro wrestling fun to watch. He added verve and passion to the matches and made every encounter sound exciting. My favorite match he called was, coincidentally, the same match that cemented Mick Foley's status as an icon: the infamous Hell in a Cell match, when Foley was thrown off the top of the cell onto the announce tables. (Foley confirmed that, yes, it hurt. A lot.)
While I was hoping for more stories about the wrestlers and the industry behind what we see on screen in Ross' book, he delves more into how he got into pro wrestling and how he brought in talent that shaped the WWF/WWE brand as we know it. (Stone Cold Steve Austin, anyone?) His book shed light on the business side of the Attitude Era, and the war between WWF and WCW then. It is an interesting book for someone like me, because I wanted to see the gears and wheels behind the show, but for anyone not into pro wrestling, it would be a fairly dry read.
However, it is still inspiring because Ross laid out his struggles with being on the road with the show and maintaining a relationship, his issues with management, and his fears after he was struck with Bell's palsy. I would've like more stories with the talent he worked with and helped raise to the top of the game, but perhaps that is for a different book. Good news is, if you enjoy pro wrestling, then Ross' book is easy to plow through, filled with nuggets of gossip that are fun to know.
Alright - time for more football!