In the world of professional wrestling, no one packs a book with as much information as Scott Teal. His record books, chronicling the histories of buildings, cities, and territories throughout time, are dense with results, photographs, and stories from cover to cover. He’s co-written and produced so many volumes through his own label Crowbar Press, one could argue he is building the Encyclopedia Britannica of pro wrestling.
As daunting as these books appear at first glance, I can assure you, these books do not read like an encyclopedia. They are engaging and entertaining with a narrative that grabs you from page one and leads you on a non-stop roller coaster ride from wherever it is Scott and his collaborators pick up the story to wherever they choose to end it.
I was thrilled to receive a copy of Crowbar’s latest release Japan and the Rikidozan Years, co-written with Haruo Yamagushi and one of my favorite wrestling historians, Koji Miyamoto. Koji is a walking encyclopedia of wrestling knowledge himself, a delightful storyteller who (in the words of Lou Thesz’s widow Charlie) can tell you what Lou had for breakfast on any given day when he was in Japan. Koji and Haruo’s wealth of knowledge, combined with Scott’s flair for presenting the past, is a great combination.
Japan and the Rikidozan Years begins with the introduction of American style pro wrestling to Japan and ends, appropriately, with the death of Rikidozan. The story is told through results, through news clippings, through anecdotal stories collected by all three men from Lou Thesz, Larry Hennig, and many of the men who lived through that unforgettable era. Highlights for me included the discovery of Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki, the successors of Rikidozan; photos of The Black Panther Jim Mitchell’s protégé Ricky Waldo, who became a tag team champion in Japan; the story of Harold Sakata, an American wrestler who not only helped introduce pro wrestling to the island nation but pater portrayed the unforgettable henchman Odd Job in the James Bond film Goldfinger; and some remarkable photos featuring Thesz, Hennig, Freddie Blassie, the Zebra Kid George Bollas, and many more.
Scott tells me he’s after Koji to create additional volumes of Japanese wrestling history, and I hope Koji is game. This is a wonderful introduction to the rich history of pro wrestling in Japan, and it certainly whet my appetite for more.
You can purchase Japan and the Rikidozan Years and more outstanding wrestling books direct from Crowbar Press.