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.