Posted on

The Best Part of the XFL

XFL
A quick note, while I am procrastinating from working transcribing audio for an upcoming book project.

Here is what I love best about the XFL. Look at how many players are in uniform each game. Look at the number of coaches and staff on the sidelines and in the box. Look at all the people who have a chance to make a living doing what they love.

The last few years, I’ve been inspired watching so many independent wrestlers I admire become signed wrestlers. I’ve enjoyed seeing people like Marko Stunt, Dave Crist, Jordynne Grace, and others suddenly find themselves with wrestling as their primary gig and not just something they do on the weekends.

It’s a little ironic that the XFL has done the same for football. After all, if XFL founder Vince McMahon had his way, all the companies now employing wrestlers like Marko, Dave, and Jordynne would cease to be. Nevertheless, this is a great time for football, a great time for wrestling, and an inspirational time for dreamers.

Oh yeah, the football has been a lot of fun. Way better than 19 years ago. I hope this incarnation of the XFL sticks around for a bit.

Posted on

The Golden Age for Wrestling Research

Andre the Giant - The Eighth Wonder of the World

The 2020 CAC James Melby Award Winner Greg Oliver just posted a terrific editorial on Slam! Wrestling about the quest to chronicle pro wrestling history. After reading an advance copy of the Andre the Giant biography, Oliver was struck by the incredible depth of research in the spook, especially when compared to an infamous earlier bio on the Eighth Wonder of the World. Oliver suggests we’re living in a golden era for wrestling historians and research, thanks to the resources that are not only now available but being utilized by writers and researchers everywhere.

I share this because I absolutely could not agree more. I have only been at this game for seven years, having taken my first dive into the newspaper microfilms at the Louisville Free Public Library in January of 2013. The access to such archives has improved tremendously in that short time, thanks in large part to archives such as newpapers.com. In 2013 I was hunting and rooting, scrolling through film after film and then scanning the weekly Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and occasionally Friday and Saturday sports pages. Just a few short years later I was finding results much faster from my home office, scanning the same Courier-Journal newspapers but using the advanced search features available online. In less than four months, I had a complete 22 year record of the Allen Athletic Club. Between my work schedule and family life, it would have taken me years to compile the same data at the library.

Every year it seems more wrestling fans and history buffs are jumping in the waters. As a community, we are uncovering, recording, and preserving the history of professional wrestling faster than ever thought possible. This is a golden age for the wrestling historian. It’s also a golden opportunity for fans and especially workers to learn that history for themselves.

This past weekend, when a wrestler at PPW told me about the stack of wrestling books he was reading, I added to it and gave him a copy of the Black Panther book. I always love hearing that a wrestler wants to know the history of the business because that tells me, this is someone who wants to learn from the past. This is someone who appreciates those who came before. This is someone who might just discover something that hasn’t been done in decades and use it (making what is old new again) to become a star.

Whether you’re a wrestler, a referee, a manager, a student, or just a fan, I encourage you to do the same. Read the Andre book. Read Have a Nice Day. Read Lou Thesz’s incredible autobiography Hooker. Read Queen of the Ring. Read Adnan Al-Kaissie’s hard to find/ harder to put down memoir. Your favorite past time has an incredible past. More and more, it’s there waiting for you to discover.

Posted on

Coming in 2020

Happy New Year again, wrestling fans. Here’s what Eat Sleep Wrestle has in store (so far) for 2020:

Babe: The Story of How Alphonse “Babe” Bisignano Turned Out Alright

Up until now, almost everything ESW has published has been written or co-written by John Cosper. This winter we are proud to bring you the first book by Professional Wrestling Historical Society founder Jimmy Wheeler. Alphonse “Babe” Bisignano, aka Babe Carnera, was an Iowa pro wrestling legend. He was also a boxer, bootlegger, a restauranteur, a promoter, a cook book author, and an icon in the city of Des Moines. This is a colorful story about an unsung hero of the past history buffs will really enjoy.

If You Don’t Buy This Book, Everybody Dies!

The long awaited Tracy Smothers autobiography is on the way! We have been hard at work on this for months, even during Tracy’s cancer treatments, and it’s going to be a doozy. It’s the longest book yet from ESW, and it’s jam packed with your favorite Tracy stories and many you’ve never heard.

Scott Romer’s Autobiography

No one else can tell you stories about rubbing shoulders with Dick the Bruiser, Mel Brooks, President George H. W. Bush, Muhammed Ali, and Israeli intelligence because no one has lived a life quite like photographer Scott Romer. He has seen sport legends, Hollywood royalty, and world leaders through the lens of his camera, and his life story is a real page turner.

In addition to these books, I have at least three more projects in the works to be announced later!

I have just two personal appearances scheduled so far for 2020 that I can announce, but I’m excited about both. In April I am headed to ASW in West Virginia to see Gary Damron’s promotion in action. I’ll be there April 18 to see Mad Man Pondo and Tracy Smothers inducted into their Hall of Fame, and Hurricane JJ Maguire is coming with me!

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, I’ll be returning to Waterloo in July for their annual pro wrestling induction weekend. I had a fantastic time back in 2018, and I am looking forward to bringing more books and more of Jim Mitchell’s personal effects to display for fans in attendance.

This is only the beginning. Looking forward to what else 2020 brings my way!

Posted on

Scott Casey’s Memoir Is a Ride Worth Taking!

I once heard someone pose the question, if you walked into a bar and saw Jeff Bridges seated at one end and Beau Bridges at the other, which one would you sit by? Most people would be drawn to Jeff Bridges, the big name star, the Academy Award winner with the winning smile. He’d graciously smile and take photos and sign autographs and bid you a polite adieu. But Beau? Beau doesn’t get the recognition and accolades of his brother, and he doesn’t get the mob scene either. If you want to encounter a star, you go to Jeff. If you want to sit and have a drink and hear some good stories, you sit by Beau.

There are many wrestling fans who only read the books by the big names like Jim Ross, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, and Bret Hart, but the die hards know that as good as their books can be, it’s the guys from the undercard who will really tell it like it is. The journeymen with the shorter lines at the autograph shows are also the guys who will take their time to spin some truly great, untold tales. This is the case with Scott Casey and his new autobiography.

I confess Scott Casey was not a name I recognized when I first heard he was writing a book, but Scott is one of those men who worked very territory with every big name you ever heard. He cuts right to the chase, telling you just enough of his early life to let you know where he came from before settling in to tell you where he’s been. Casey has a story about every town he’s visited and every man he shared a locker room with, and his memoir is densely packed with one memory after another.

Casey has great stories about all the big names, like how the Funks helped him get his start, how a pre-Bruiser Brody Frank Goodish insisted on dropping the Western States title to Casey, partying with Ric Flair, and the time he invited Andre the Giant for Thanksgiving dinner, Casey also gives some great insights into folks like “The Grappler” Len Denton, Tiger Conway, Jr., “Killer” Tim Brooks, and Eddy Mansfield.

Casey’s autobiography reads less like a typical well-researched autobiography and more like a transcript from a night out at the bar with the author himself. At times I felt like I was sitting at a table in the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino and Vegas, home of the Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion, while Cowboy spun one tale after another from his long career. The occasional side stories from friends add even more color to the dusty trail he drove, especially the asides from the great Les Thatcher. This is co-author Nick Masci’s first crack as a wrestling author, and I have to say all in all, he did a great job capturing the voice of the Cowboy.

The book is only about 200 pages in large type, which makes it an all-too-quick read. It’s a book you’ll finish quickly because you won’t want to put it down. Fans who love a good rasslin’ story will enjoy this last ride with Cowboy Scott Casey.

You can order the book, signed or unsigned, exclusively at Scott Casey’s website www.cowboyscottcasey.com

Posted on

JJ Maguire Shares His Story in My Life in Heaven Town

Some fans (not many, but a few) were disappointed that Dr. D David Schultz’s book spent so much time on his bounty hunting days and “not enough” on his wrestling days. Dr. D told the story he wanted to tell, and I think it’s only fair to let fans know that Hurricane JJ Maguire is doing the same.

JJ Maguire is truly the master of wrestling ring music. As Jimmy Hart’s go-to songwriting partner since their days in the Gentrys, JJ collaborated on 110 pieces of music for WWF, WCW, and WWE. His list of credits probably looks like your playlist of favorite wrestling themes, as he wrote the entrance music for Demolition, the Honky Tonk Man, Bret Hart, Ted DiBiase, Shawn Michaels, and (in WCW) Hulk Hogan. He was a member of Hulk’s Wrestling Boot Band, contributing music to the album “Hulk Rules,” and he’s currently the host and MC for Kentucky Zone Wrestling.

That said, JJ Maguire is far from just a wrestling guy, and his upcoming autobiography “My Life in Heaventown” is hardly just another wrestling story. JJ Maguire was a musical prodigy who turned heads at the piano at the tender age of five. He was a member of the legendary rock group The Gentrys and played with numerous other bands from Kentucky to California. He wrote music for Hulk’s TV show Thunder in Paradise and even won a recurring role on the show.

In a career spanning six decades, he’s rubbed shoulders with Prince, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Vince Neil, Gene Simmons, Kirstie Alley, Henry Winkler, Robert Conrad, Mark Mothersbaugh, Telly Savalas, Carol Alt, Patrick MacNee, and John Landis. He visited the shop of the legendary Hollywood car builder George Barris. He discussed Kentucky burgoo recipes with Bob Hope. He shot pool with Jackie Gleason inside the Great One’s basement. He even got a kiss from Farrah Fawcett.

Yes, JJ Maguire is the master of wrestling ring music. Yes, he is the face of Kentucky Zone Wrestling. And yes, he wrote or co-wrote a lot of your favorite wrestlers’ theme songs. But his book is more than just a wrestling story. It’s a story for music lovers, for TV and film lovers, and for anyone who has ever had a dream. “My Life in Heaventown” is a story about a Kentucky boy whose talent took him further than he ever dreamed possible!

Posted on

New Albany, Indiana: Wrestling in My Hometown

Since my hometown is all over the dirt sheets this weekend, I thought it might be a good time to share a little of our professional wrestling history. New Albany, Indiana has had a long history with professional wrestling, due in no small part to its proximity to Louisville, Kentucky. In fact I almost dedicated an entire chapter of Bluegrass Brawlers to the city of New Albany’s unique wrestling story.

Promotions in New Albany

New Albany has played host to a number of independent promotions in the last couple of decades including (but not limited to) IWA Mid-South, Destination One Wrestling, XCW, and the name everyone now knows, Pro Wrestling Trainwreck. It’s worth noting, however, that so-called “outlaw” promotions are nothing new here. Back in 1941, while the Allen Athletic Club was still on the rise as THE promotion in Louisville, a group of sports lovers founded the Hoosier Fistic Club, a joint boxing and wrestling promotion intended to bring both sports to New Albany. It was an audacious endeavor spearheaded by president Seymour Hull and matchmaker Johnny Lovell. It was also short lived, as the club faced an uphill battle to draw fans away from Heywood Allen’s wrestlers and the many boxing promotions already active across the river.

Col. Stu Gibson

While wrestling in New Albany failed to take off, the Allen Club often featured Hoosier starts including a number of New Albany natives. Far and away the most famous of these was Stu Gibson, a New Albany High School graduate who was a stand out athlete in multiple sports. After serving his country during World War II, Gibson became a football star at the University of Louisville and was named a Kentucky Colonel after setting the school record for scoring. Gibson was a Golden Glove boxer but chose to pursue wrestling instead, becoming one of the most hated heels in Louisville and later San Antonio.

Lord Humongous

In the 1980s another New Albany native rose to frame as the masked Lord Humongous, a character based on the villain from the movie The Road Warrior. Like Stu Gibson before him, Jeff Van Camp played football at U of L and took a job as a security guard at Louisville Gardens after an injury ended his playing career. Jerry Lawler invited Van Camp to train with him in Memphis. Lord Humongous became a WWA Tag Team Champion with Dick the Bruiser. After relocating to Florida, he became the NWA Southeast Continental Heavyweight Champion and a three time NWA Alabama Heavyweight Championship.

Leviathan

Another monstrous wrestler “born” in New Albany is Leviathan. In the early 2000s, when WWE was sending its developmental prospects to Ohio Valley Wrestling for seasoning with Danny Davis and Rip Rogers, there were two infamous wrestling managers dominating the scene: Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin, and Synn. Versed in the dark arts, Synn made a trek down to the Ohio River in New Albany one evening and summoned forth the demon Leviathan to join her faction. Leviathan rose out of the waters ad became a member of the Disciples of Synn, wreaking havoc on countless foes at the Davis Arena in Jeffersonville.

Okay, okay, so Leviathan isn’t actually a demon, and he’s not actually a native of New Albany. Leviathan was the first persona adopted by Dave Bautista, a character he dropped before he ever appeared on WWE. That said, the video of Leviathan’s “creation” was filmed on the banks of the Ohio River, with Bautista gamely wading out into the less-than-crystal-clear waters to rise up from the deep. It was a humble beginning that led to great things for the man who has become a true movie star.

“Crybaby” Chris Alexander

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my old friend Jason Lindsey, who worked as “Crybaby” Chris Alexander during the WWE developmental days at OVW and was behind the camera the night Leviathan was “born.” Jason and I were both members of the marching band during our days at New Albany High School. We were friends then, but I honestly had no idea he was a wrestling fan until the day someone told me he was training to be a wrestler. Jason shared a locker room with all the big names who came to town including John Cena, Batista, and Mark Henry, and he wrestled them all. His biggest claim to fame is one he won’t claim for himself. During a show at St. Therese’s Gym in Louisville, Jim Cornette made all the WWE signees go out and watch Alexander make his entrance to “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” Cornette loved the way Alexander took his time getting to the ring and playing to the crowd, and he held him up as an example of how it’s done to a group of future superstars.

“Iron Man” Rob Conway

Without question, the most decorated wrestler to come out of New Albany is Rob Conway. A star basketball player in a town that LOVES its high school basketball (Romeo Langford, anyone?), Conway was part of OVW’s first class of students, the men Danny Davis trained to train all the students who came after them. He is one of the few wrestlers who came into OVW as a beginning student and earned a WWE contract. Conway won multiple heavyweight championships and tag team championships at OVW before being called up to the WWE, where he won the WWE Tag Team Championship with Sylvan Grenier three times. After leaving OVW, Conway traveled the world working the independents and won even more gold, becoming a four time NWA Tag Team Champion and two time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. He is part of an elite club of wrestlers who can say they worked both Wrestlemania and New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom show.

Time will soon tell what the fallout will be from last week’s Pro Wrestling Trainwreck show. The facts of the story are still coming out, and time will tell what repercussions, fair or unfair, this story will have on wrestling in New Albany. The bottom line is professional wrestling is in the blood of New Albany sports fans as much as it is anywhere. We are living in a boom time for professional wrestling, and the history of the sport in this town is far from over.

Posted on

Nikita Breznikov Invites You to Remember “When It Was Real”

Nikita Breznikov could have filled his first book with his own life story as a wrestler and manager. He could just as easily have filled a book (or two) with stories from his mentor, the late Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff. If he ever writes one of these books, he will find an eager reading audience, as his first book When it Was Real is a wonderful look back at a forgotten era of pro wrestling: the WWWF of the 1970s.

Breznikov grew up in the era when Vince McMahon, Sr., ran the ship that would later evolve into the WWE, and he deftly takes his readers back in time for a year by year journey to the age of men like Bruno, Pedro, and Fuji. With the assistance of co-author and master historian Scott Teal, Breznikov has crafted a book that’s as much a memoir as it is a record of who fought where and when. Breznikov comes across not as an impartial narrator but a wistful fan who remembers his heroes with great fondness. He takes you back into the buildings where he witnessed many of these events in person, introducing you to the characters at ringside and the nosy athletic officials as well as the wrestlers, the managers, and other personalities that made his childhood so unforgettable. Readers will find themselves seated beside Breznikov in a long lost time when everyone truly believed – a time when it was real!

I truly hope someone with WWE picked up a copy of this book at the Cauliflower Alley reunion. It is a love letter to the WWWF, a time capsule that could easily serve as the blueprint for a Network special or series highlighting an era that the WWE has yet to explore. I’d love to see it happen, and I can’t think of a more qualified man to host such a show than Nikita Breznikov.

Click here to order your copy of When It Was Real direct from Crowbar Press.

Posted on

Pain Torture Agony – The Story of a Legacy of Greatness

When you attend a wrestling fan convention as a vendor, it’s always a crap shoot. Sometimes you do well. Sometimes you spend more than you make. By all accounts this year’s Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion was a success for all the wrestling authors in attendance, but especially for Ron Hutchison, who released his autobiography Pain Torture Agony at the Reunion. I sold nearly 100 books in three days. Ron sold out of his 75 by lunch time on day one.

I had never met Ron and did not know his story before I attended CAC. I knew he was involved with CAC, and I had read a few emails from him regarding Dr. D’s seminar at the Reunion, but it wasn’t until I picked up a copy of the book for myself through Crowbar Press that I learned the rest of the story.

Ron Hutchison was a kid who lived his dream and became a professional wrestler. Hailing from Ontario, he trained not in the Hart dungeon but with Sweet Daddy Siki and Johnny Powers at Sully’s Gym in Toronto. Although small in stature, he earned the respect of many promoters, including Jack Tunney, and worked as an enhancement wrestlers a number of times for the WWF in the early days of the Wrestlemania era.

Hutchison’s legend really began when he stepped up and took Johnny Powers’ place as a trainer at Sully’s. Just as Stu Hart had once been the go-to trainer for Canadian dreamers, Ron became the man in the East. It started with Adam Copeland, who won free tuition to train with Ron thanks to a handwritten essay reprinted in Ron’s book. Adam’s life long friend Jay Reso followed, and when the two broke out as Edge and Christian for WWF, more students followed, including Trish Stratus, Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Sinn Bodhi, and Traci Brooks.

Pain Torture Agony is a wonderful account of Ron’s career in professional wrestling. It is at times painfully honest and hilariously funny as Ron opens up about everything from his falling out with Siki to his devotion to the Cauliflower Alley Club to his involvement with Carmen Electra’s Naked Women’s Wrestling League. (Yep, that was a real thing.) Ron’s love for the business and even more for his students shines through, and Ron is equally proud of those who didn’t “make it big” as he is for the Hall of Fame and CAC Award winners. There are personal testimonials sprinkled throughout the book from Edge, Christian, Trish, Gail, Beth, Sinn, and many more wrestling personalities from Ron’s past.

Throughout the book, Ron hints often at how tough and demanding he could be with his trainees, including the “Pain Torture Agony” training regimen that gives the book its name. If there’s one thing I came away wanting, it was the chance to sit down with one of Ron’s old pupils to hear more about Ron’s “dark side” as a trainer. This isn’t a criticism of the book, mind you, but a genuine curiosity to hear more. Pain Torture Agony made me a fan, and I suspect there are more great stories yet untold. Whether Ron has a second book in him, or whether his students will do the talking, I look forward to hearing more about one of the greatest trainers of his generation!

Pain Torture Agony is available from Crowbar Press. Click here to order in the US or Canada.