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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!

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Stu Gibson Is Now a Hall of Famer!

Three months ago, I traveled to Las Vegas to present Dr. D David Schultz with an award from the Cauliflower Alley Club. This fall, I will be at the Hall of Fame banquet for my alma mater New Albany High School to see Stu Gibson inducted into the Hall of Fame.

I’ve told parts of Stu’s story here on Eat Sleep Wrestle and in two books, Louisville’s Greatest Show and Bluegrass Brawlers. A native of New Albany 1943 graduate of NAHS, Stu served his country during World War II before becoming a star football player at nearby University of Louisville. He was a stellar athlete and could easily have gone pro in multiple sports, but he chose professional wrestling.

Under the tutelage of Wild Bill Longson, Stu became a top heel in Louisville and San Antonio, where he settled and raised his family. He was a colorful personality outside the ring as well as in, a beloved family man who loved make others smile.

Much thanks goes to WNAS station director Brian Sullivan for championing Stu’s nomination with the selection committee. Congratulations and thanks also goes to Stu’s family, especially his baby sister Mary Lou Heinz, who shared many memories and photos with me while we campaigned for Stu’s induction.

You can click here to read my favorite Stu story. Also, press play on the video below to see Stu in action from the early 70s. You might recognize a certain French giant in the home movie as well.

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E-Book Now Available: The Original Black Panther

The wait is over e-readers!

Now you can order The Original Black Panther on Kindle and Smashwords!

The ebook version does not include all the photos and images of the paperback, but it is available at the discounted price of $6.99.

Not convinced? Read what others are saying about the book:

“The Original Black Panther: The Life and Legacy of Jim Mitchell is a story that made me proud to lace up my boots for more than twenty-three years and to do so as an African-American in this business. Jim Mitchell is my definition of a superhero.”

– Mark Henry, WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018

“Wrestling historian John Cosper has done it again.  His newest book, The Original Black Panther: The Life and Legacy of Jim Mitchell is a fascinating journey into the history of one of wrestling’s forgotten superstars.  This book is compelling, informative, and leave you wanting more.  Major kudos to Mr. Cosper.  Another great job!”

– Tim Hornbaker, author of Death of the Territories

Order Now: Paperback | Kindle | Smashwords

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New Book Updates

For fans eagerly awaiting out future releases, here’s where future new releases stand.

Hurricane JJ Maguire has just finished compiling a stack of photos to be added to his book. The text is finished, and once photos are inserted, it’s off to the proofreader. The book cover is also in the works, and we are still shooting for an August release.

The Bomb Shelter: Curse of the Undead Bride is now in the hands of Randi West and Joseph Schwartz, who are in the midst of a very busy summer. Once they have read through and sent back comments on the story, I’ll be doing another draft to finish the book before editing begins. Shooting for fall on this one.

Tracy Smothers fans, I have great news: his book is about half way there. I am sending a preliminary draft out this week to Tracy for review. After he reads it and we make any editorial changes, we’ll be sitting down to start filling in the gaps on a truly amazing story. Looking early 2020 for this one, but it might get moved up depending how fast we get things done from here.

Wee Willie Davis remains on my radar, but for now, it’s been postponed. It’s possible I can still make a 2020 release date, but two more projects have bumped this one back at bit.

What are those two new projects, you may ask?

One is an historical biography I was approached to write. Someone who rubbed shoulders with Wee Willie Davis and The Black Panther Jim Mitchell. By a stroke of pure coincidence, he even makes a cameo in the Bomb Shelter’s upcoming novel with Davis and Mitchell.

The other is a much more modern story.

That’s all I will say for now. The modern tale is already in development, and it’s a very timely story. Hoping to dive in on the new historical bio once JJ and the Bomb Shelter books are released into the wild this fall.

Both should be announced this fall. Both will be released in 2020.

Stay tuned.

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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.

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Sunny the California Girl Tells Her Story in Living Color!

“They were an embarrassment!”

“They exposed the business!”

“They were swimsuit models and actresses.”

“They weren’t real wrestlers.”

The original GLOW girls have heard it all. They know how they were perceived and how some fans still perceive them. Thanks to the Netflix program based (loosely) on their story, many of the original GLOW girls are finally getting to share their story and change the world’s perception of who they are. The truth will amaze you.

Sunny the California Girl is one of the first to put her true life story into print. Her life story will unfold in the pages of a full color graphic novel produced by Squared Circle Comics. “Fans have already learned a lot about my life from my social media,” says Sunny. “The comic book will mix a lot of my personal story with my wrestling career

Sunny the California Girl was part of the second wave of GLOW girls. She was still a teenager when the show went on the air, but she had been a wrestling fan all her life. “I was raised by my great aunt, and the man I knew as my father figure was the man who got me into wrestling. He was best friends with Fred Blassie, and he knew a lot of the other guys. When I was in diapers, I had a photo taken of me in The Destroyer Dick Beyer’s mask. Years later, I showed him the photo, and he signed it for me.”

Sunny was a tough cookie as a kid, having taken up for her older brother when he became the target of schoolyard bullies. “My brother had a hip displacement, and his feet were larger than most kids. He looked different, and people would tease him and call him names. I had enough, and I stood up for him. The other kids threatened to fight me if I didn’t back down, so I decided to start fighting back. There I was, Sunny the California Girl who rarely won a match on TV because I was a babyface, on the street corner fighting bullies!”

Sunny proved she was a fighter at age sixteen as well when she nearly died in a drowning accident. “I flatlined for almost four minutes, and they thought I was gone. My mother had her first heart attack on the way to the hospital to see me. But I came back and pulled through.”

A few years later, Sunny also lost her brother to suicide. “He was a pastor and a psychiatrist, and he hung himself in the church basement when he was 26. “It’s in the book, along with many other stories of my life,” she says. “I have some real crazy stories, let me tell you!”

One of the key stories, of course, is how she got into wrestling. It was just a few years after she lost her brother that her father called her into the living room to watch a new wrestling program called GLOW. Sunny had become a great athlete and was doing some modeling at the time, but GLOW really caught her attention. “I was like, Wow! These are women of all sizes, shapes, and colors, and they’re all wrestling.”

At the end of the program, they announced they were looking for new girls to join the cast. Sunny sent a headshot into the studio and was one of the few girls accepted for the new cast.

“My dad never got to see me wrestle,” she says. “He passed away while we were still filming. They pulled me out of the ring during a shoot to tell me he was in the hospital, so I flew home to see him. He never got to see me wrestle, but he knew I was wrestling.”

Sunny hasn’t held anything back in her memoir, and it’s sure to be a great read that will continue to rewrite the narrative about GLOW and the wrestlers who made the show a household name. Fans who sign on to the Kickstarter will be able to add on perks including T-shirts, autographed photos and much more.

Head to Kickstarter now to support Sunny the California Girl’s graphic novel. Pick your perks, sign up, and get ready to learn a truly amazing story of one of GLOW’s brightest stars.

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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.

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Beefcake Holds Nothing Back in Struttin’ and Cuttin’

There’s a funny thing that happens to a lot of wrestlers when they write their memoirs. Their memory gets fuzzy. They see the past with rose colored glasses. They let bygones be bygones. They downplay their own misdeeds and bad behavior, and they put on their best face for the sake of securing a gilded place in wrestling history.

Someone didn’t give Brutus Beefcake the memo. Beefcake’s autobiography is a no holds barred tell-all in which no topic is taboo or off limits. Co-author Kenny Casanova told me when I was about a hundred pages in, “I got Beefcake to talk,” and he wasn’t kidding. Brutus isn’t shy about sharing anything, from the fan he went home with who turned out to be married; to the (very few) men who have heat with him; to the brutal parasailing accident that nearly cost him his life. It’s a page turning autobiography that WWF and Beefcake fans in particular will relish.

It all begins with baseball for Brutus, who was a stellar athlete as a young man. It was in those early days he met two future world-class athletes: Wade Boggs, who wrote the foreword for the book, and the immortal Hulk Hogan. Beefcake and Hogan were a few years apart as ball players, and it wasn’t until after high school, when both men began body building and then wrestling, that their friendship really took flight. As the Proverb says, “iron sharpens iron,” and Hogan and Beefcake pushed one another to the pinnacle of professional wrestling.

The saga of Beefcake and Hogan alone is worth the journey in the book, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Brutus takes you through his early days in the business to the evolution of the Beefcake persona to his time in Hollywood to his post WWF/WCW days. He goes into great detail chronicling the harrowing parasailing accident, a gnarly and gruesome tale best read away from the dining table. I happened to be read it on a lunch break at a Chinese buffet; not an easy task!

Throughout the book, Beefer and Casanova offer additional stories and quotes from many friends and in-ring rivals that enhance and support Beefcake’s tale. Hulk Hogan is never far away, of course, and the “bromance” between the Barber and the Hulkster is really a highlight of the book.

Struttin’ and Cuttin’ is a great wrestler’s story, a larger than life tale from a larger than life persona. It’s raw, honest, and often very funny. Having read the book, I can understand why Beefcake thanked Kenny Casanova so many times in his WWF Hall of Fame speech.

Order your signed copy of Brutus Beefcake’s memoirs at the WOHW Publishing website.

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Missed CAC? Watch Night 2 of the Awards Here

My first trip to Cauliflower Alley Club was as memorable as it could possibly be. Not only did I get to introduce Dr. D David Schultz and present him with his award, the legendary Jim Ross introduced me.

Thanks to Hannibal TV, you can watch the full awards banquet on YouTube and see Andrew Anderson, Bambi, Kamala, Nick Kozak, Haku, the Barbarian, Dory Funk, Jr., and Mark Henry receive their awards as well.

You can skip to the 1:30:20 mark to see Dr. D and me, or watch from the beginning.

If it looks like you missed a fun evening, it’s because you did. CAC is worth your time and money not only for the great experience, but the great cause.

And if you think Jim Ross was great on WWE, wait til you hear him unscripted.

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See Elvira Snodgrass in Action!!

Search the Internet long enough, you can find about anything.

Today, I finally found footage of Elvira Snodgrass wrestling.

It’s in the newsreel video below, as posted on Youtube.

Skip ahead to the 6:14 mark and enjoy.

Elvira was quite the brawler. Love the moment when she shoots her opponent off the apron into the crowd.

Also… she was a redhead. Learning something more about her every day!