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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!

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CAC Is An Unforgettable Time for Wrestlers and Fans

I’ve attended some great events over the last few years. I’ve been to Wrestlemania, Axxess, Starrcast, and the Hall of Fame induction weekend in Waterloo, Iowa. Each event is unique in its own way, and if you’re a true fan, you should give every one of them a try at least once.

Cauliflower Alley Club has been on my “to do” list for a few years, and it definitely belongs in the category with the above events. Actually, it tops most of the above because not only is it an unforgettable experience, it’s for a good cause and, well, it’s in Vegas.

The 54th Annual Cauliflower Alley Club reunion took place at the Gold Coast Casino and Hotel, just a mile from the Strip. The Gold Coast is a wrestler’s hotel in the true sense of a word, a definite bargain price wise, and to be honest, the room was nice and clean if the view unspectacular. (My window opened up on a spotlight shining on a giant wall. Wow.)

But let’s face it – you’re not going to CAC to sleep. This is an event that allows you a 24/7 opportunity to rub shoulders with wrestlers, promoters, managers, valets, writers, photographers, and other fans. This is the place you come to sit down and have a drink with someone you’ve watched on television for decades. This is the place where you can meet an old timer who wrestled Lou Thesz. (Shout out to the great Reggie Parks!) This is where you get hugs from an original GLOW girl, a photo with Haku, and buy a stack of books from a host of great wrestling authors. This is where you can not only mark out over your favorite wrestlers, but see some of your favorite wrestlers mark out for their favorites, like Tyrus did when he saw Dr. D David Schultz.

Reunion week kicks off with the free independent wrestling show Sunday evening (a non-CAC event hosted by a local promotion, featuring wrestlers from around the globe). The same promotion hosts a second free show on Monday night as well. You’ll see big names like Sabu and future stars like Heather Reckless (whose name I’ve passed on to Girl Fight promoter Mad Man Pondo) and everyone in between. This year, Rock Riddle worked a match against Matt Striker, Joel Gertner read some dirty poetry, and La Rosa Negra dazzled fans with her high energy style. (I gave her info to Pondo as well.)

Monday through Wednesday, fans can mingle in the “Nostalgia Room,” where writers like me are set up with book tables alongside wrestlers like Sabu, Jerry Lawler, the GLOW girls, Haku, Barbarian, and even Dory Funk, Jr. You can shop, talk, or just sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Or if you prefer, you can hang out in the casino or the TGI Fridays bar, which was constantly full of attendees.

Tuesday evening is the Bockwinkel Blowout, a traditional “wrestler’s meal” highlighted by bologna sandwiches. No, I’m not kidding. You can have bologna on your choice of bread, or you can choose from a number of other cold cuts. The first half dozen or so awards are handed out after dinner, and then everyone moves back downstairs for drinks and stories well into the early morning hours.

The event concludes Wednesday night with the more formal banquet, where the bigger awards are handed out. It was on Wednesday that I presented Dr. D David Schultz with his Male Wrestler award. Nick Aldis presented Dory Funk, Jr., with his, and D-Lo Brown presented Mark Henry. Jim Ross played host for the evening in front a packed house, and he was delightful. Ross had no filter and no shame, repeatedly taking shots at a former employer for rewriting history in its own image while imploring attendees to spread the word about CAC and bring their friends next year.

This was my first time attending CAC, and while it was by no means a “perfect” event, it’s one I’ll never forget and one I hope to experience many more times. I met dozens of friends I had only known on Facebook prior to the event, including one of my long-time supporters and enablers, Tom Burke. I got a photo with Haku (one of my big regrets from Starrcast), and while I can’t disclose anything at the moment, I discussed two future book opportunities with wrestlers while there.

CAC was unforgettable, career-changing, and eye opening for me. I’m proud to be a member of the Club, and I look forward to working with them for many years to come. I’m also very grateful for all the friendships made and deepened last week. CAC is the most immersive experience you can have as a fan and an invaluable opportunity for anyone, regardless of age, who wants to advance in the business of professional wrestling. You can join the club now on their website to subscribe to their newsletter and become a part of the great work they are doing to help others. Once you become a member, you will certainly want to be in Vegas April of next year.

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“We Are All We’ve Got” – Why CAC Matters to Fans and Wrestlers

I just made my first trip to the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion this past week. It will not be my last. I made some great connections and memories, and I will tell many of those stories on this blog.

But first thing’s first. Today is about why you – whether you are a fan, a wrestler, or another worker in the business – need to join CAC.

Cauliflower Alley is not another wrestling convention. It is not another event like Starrcast or Wrestlecade or Wrestlecon. It is a 401c non-profit charitable organization created more than 60 years ago to support aging wrestlers and other workers in the business in times of need. It is an organization created so that today’s fans and wrestlers can lend a hand to the men and women of yesteryear as a way of saying thank you.

Put another way – Cauliflower Alley provides financial assistance to people who spent their entire careers working as independent contractors. It pays the bills for those who are in debt, it pays for necessary medical care and medication, and it provides relief for those in need.

This past week I was able to see Rico Costantino speak about what CAC has done for him. Just a few years ago, Rico was facing a dire medical emergency and mounting debt. He was unable to work, and he was unable to pay for the medical care he needed. CAC came to the rescue (as did his old manager Kenny Starmaker Bolin, a lifetime member of CAC). Rico is alive and well today in part due to the assistance CAC provided him.

Rico is not the only one. He’s one of the few who has allowed CAC to use his name to promote their services out of gratitude for what they have done for him. Last year, CAC stepped in to assist Brickhouse Brown and extend his life by six months. They are currently assisting James “Kamala” Harris in his medical and financial struggles.

As John Oliver recently made clear, the biggest wrestling company in the world does not provide any sort of medical insurance or retirement planning to its independent contractors. Many wrestlers are able to transition into second careers and provide for their families, but bad things happen and many people, through no fault of their own, find themselves in serious medical or financial emergencies.

CAC is a lifeline. It was founded by wrestlers for wrestlers to support those who need it most. Joining CAC allows you, whether you are a wrestler, ref, promoter, fan, journalist, announcer, blogger, or whatever, to be a part of that relief. Joining CAC is a tangible way to say thank you to wrestlers who have fallen on hard times and help them to get back on their feet.

As the MC for the awards ceremony Wednesday night, Jim Ross continually implored those in attendance to invite others to join CAC. He urged young attendees especially to spread the word so the work of CAC does not die out with the older generation.

“Do you think the people on ESPN give a shit about wrestling like we do? Do you think your non-wrestling fans give a shit what happens to wrestlers when they retire? We are all we’ve got.”

He’s right. If you’re a fan or a worker, you know no one cares about wrestling like wrestlers and their fans. CAC membership is only $25 a year. That’s a small price to pay to get started supporting this great organization. CAC is completely non-profit, completely volunteer. From President B. Brian Blair and Vice President Scott Teal on down, no one earns a dime working for CAC. Many staff work 10-14 hours days from February and April, and they all pay for their own reunion tickets as well as transportation costs and even vendor fees.

What’s more, most of the money collected from membership dues, reunion tickets, advertising fees, and vendor fees goes to wrestlers in need. “The only expenses are what we pay the hotel space, the meals, and, and printing,” says Scott Teal. “Other than that, every single penny that we receive goes to recipients.”

If you love wrestling, you owe it not only to yourself but to your heroes to join CAC. Go to their website now www.caulifloweralleyclub.org and start your annual membership. And please give serious consideration to joining them for the 55th annual reunion next spring. It is an incredible, life-changing event that you will never forget.

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Vegas Bound

The Cauliflower Alley Club is just days away. My bags are packed, and my books are already in town, care of an old high school friend.

Eat Sleep Wrestle will have a table in the Nostalgia Room. I will have plenty of copies of The Original Black Panther as well as Lord Carlton, Louisville’s Greatest Show, and Bluegrass Brawlers. I will even have a few signed copies of Mad Man Pondo’s book on hand.

Even if you’re not looking for a book, please stop by to have a look through my Black Panther scrapbook. It’s jammed full of photos, letters, programs, documents, and other items that actually belonged to Jim Mitchell. I will also have a pair of Mitchell’s boots on display.

Looking forward to meeting Internet friends face to face, making new friends, hearing wrestling stories and (I hope) three days of seeing all the crazy people out on the Vegas Strip.

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When We Wanted to Be Hulkamaniacs

I’ve mentioned in interviews and possibly on this blog that my introduction to wrestling books came through a friend of mine who moved in with me during the summer and fall of 2004. His name was Randy, and he’s the guy with the frightened expression sandwiched between me and my friend Jamie. It’s largely because of him this website and all the books on the website happened.

But this is not that story.

In addition to bringing his VHS tapes and books, Randy brought wrestling music – lots and lots and lots of it.  His digital music collection included everything released from WWE, WCW, and ECW. He also had another wrestling-related album the three of us came to adore: Hulk Rules by Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Band. 

I’m not making this up. This is not some spin just because I am not working with Wrestling Boot Band maestro “Hurricane JJ” Maguire on his memoir. When the three of us were out and about and we weren’t listening to No Doubt or Green Day, we were listening to wrestling music. Hulk Rules was our favorite, with our three three tracks being “Beach Patrol,” “I Wanna Be a Hulkamaniac,” and “Hulkster in Heaven.”

One evening we were dropping Jamie off at her house. As soon as she shut the car door, we rolled down the window, cranked up the stereo, and serenaded her: “The car just lost another Hulkamaniac.” Jamie laughed so hard, her Dr. Pepper shot out of her nose all over the sidewalk. 

It completely blows my mind that I am working with the man who put all the music behind Hulk Rules together. JJ Maguire has lived an amazing life, and readers are going to love his Hollywood movie star stories, his rock n roll stories, and yes, his wrestling stories. But it really was a thrill when I found out that beyond “Sexy Boy” and “Cool Cocky Bad,” JJ was the music to Jimmy Hart’s lyrics on Hulk Rules.

Say what you want about the album, the songs are fun, and there’s a charm to them that is undeniable. I was sick to death of “American Idiot” before that summer was over, but I never got sick of hearing “Beach Patrol.”

“‘We love to party, party, party!’”

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Teeny: Brennon Martin’s Biographical Novel Will Hold You In “The Grip”

It took me way to long to finally pick up this book and read it. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.

Memphis Wrestling fans know Teeny Jarrett as the lady who ran the show in Louisville, Evansville, Lexington, and spot towns for her son Jerry. Many of these stories have been told before, but here, Martin presents them in a narrative that is cinematic and compelling.

In addition to telling the story of Teeny’s rise from ticket sales to powerful promoter, Martin pulls back the curtain on the Jarrett family drama in a way that is both touching and heartbreaking. He traces Teeny’s life from her poor upbringing with an alcoholic marriage, through an ill-fated marriage, to her troubled relationships with her siblings, and her struggles to hold her own children and grandchildren together.

In the end, Martin gives wrestling fans a clear portrait of one of the most powerful women in the history of wrestling. Teeny Jarrett was a self-made millionaire who worked her way up through the ranks. She humbled everyone from Jack Pfefer to the Iron Sheik, with her signature move, a one-handed face clench known as “The Grip.” In an era when women’s wrestling has come to the fore and women are taking their place alongside men as modern day attractions, Teeny Jarrett’s story is an important and inspiring narrative that every wrestling fan needs to know.

Brennon Martin set out to write one book to tell the story of his grandmother, Teeny Jarrett. I daresay he has a gift for this sort of thing, and I hope Teeny won’t be his last effort.

Kudos to you, Brennon, for making your grandmother proud.

You can pick up your copy of Teeny on Amazon.com.

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More Art from the Remarkable Lord Carlton

The “Lady Carlton” just sent me a few new pics of her father’s art work. Lord Leslie Carlton was a huge draw and a much hated heel in his day, but he was an undeniably talented artist before and after becoming a star in the ring.

I’d LOVE to get my hands on the Marx Brothers print.

To learn more about Lord Carlton, be sure to pick up his biography, available from Eat Sleep Wrestle. Click the book cover below to learn more!