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Experience the Birth of Wrestling in Japan!

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.

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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

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On the Road This Fall

I didn’t get out anywhere this summer because I was enjoying time with the family and finishing up JJ Maguire’s book, but I am happy to say I’ve got three road trips planned (so far) for the fall.

Here’s where you can find me, and here’s who I will be with!

 

Saturday, September 14

Kentucky Zone Wrestling in Shopville, Kentucky

KZW is JJ Maguire’s home promotion. I’ll be in Shopville with over 200 fans, signing copies of JJ’s book as well as my other books.

 

Saturday, September 28

Lucha Libro at the Indianapolis Central Library – 10 am – 3 pm

An amazing event celebrating Lucha culture featuring artwork, films, exhibits, and of course – Lucha Libre wrestling. I will have books available for sale, and I will be bringing some of the Black Panther Jim Mitchell’s artifacts to display.

 

Saturday, October 5

Heroes and Legends – Allen Co. War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana

I’m returning to Heroes and Legends with both Hurricane JJ Maguire and Mad Man Pondo this fall. We’ll have copies of both of their books available, plus other titles.

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Now Available for Pre-Order!

The time has come!

The time is now!

Hurricane JJ John Maguire and I are proud to announce the release of his autobiography, My Life in Heaven Town on September 3!

This is the true story of a boy who went from Somerset, Kentucky to the Sunset Strip en route to the greatest show on Earth, the World Wrestling Federation. It’s JJ’s personal story of his musical journey, his time with the Gentrys, his glory days writing hit WWF theme songs with Jimmy Hart, his brief TV career on Thunder in Paradise, his run with Hulk Hogan’s Wrestling Boot Band, and so much more.

It’s an epic journey with cameos by Prince, Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Farrah Fawcett, Gene Simmons, Henry Winkler, Blackstone the magician, Patrick McNee, Vince Neil, John Landis, and many, many more.

We are now taking pre-orders for signed copies of the book, which will ship out on September 3.

Signed books will cost $20 plus $3 shipping in the US.

(For our international customers: shipping to Canada is $16, Europe is $25.)

PayPal accepted at johncosper@yahoo.com. Feel free to email with any questions!

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Four Steps to Finding Your Ancestor’s Wrestling Past!

One of my favorite things in this job is when I get emails from people asking me to help research their relatives. So many people have heard stories about a grandpa, great-grandpa or great uncle who was supposedly wrestler, and they want to know more. I am always happy to lend a hand in these circumstances, mining my own databases as well as searching the web, but I thought I’d share my own process for researching wrestlers of the past for anyone who wants to give it a try.

Step 1: Know Who You Are Looking For

Your grandpa might have been Joe Smith to the family, but who was he in the ring? Like actors and pop stars, many wrestlers adopted ring names to allow them to separate work from home. The first thing you need to know is what name they used in the ring. The Black Panther Jim Mitchell used his real name, Jim Mitchell, in addition to his Black Panther moniker, but Lord Leslie Carlton was born Leo Whippern and had previously wrestled under the name Tug Carlson. Maybe Joe Smith was Masked Samson, or Krusher Smith, or “Jumpin’ Joe” Flash. Knowing their ring name is going to be key to telling their story.

Step 2: Find Out Where They Were

If your relative worked for any length of time, especially during the golden age, their matches should be recorded on Wrestlingdata.com. This free website is far from complete, but it’s a goldmine of information. Not only can you learn alternate ring names and other trivia, you can get a general sense of where they wrestled and when, broken down by month and year.

Prior to writing Jim Mitchell and Lord Carlton’s biographies, I went through the records on wrestlingdata.com to put together a timeline of their careers. Again, these weren’t complete, and I was able to find some inaccuracies in Jim Mitchell’s timeline. (There were a lot of Black Panthers back in the day!) But the timeline gave me an overall sense of where these men were and when.

Incidentally, I already have a similar timeline put together for Wee Willie Davis and Elvira Snodgrass.

Step 3: Search for Their Story

Once you know their ring names and have a good sense of where they were, head over to newspapers.com. This is a pay site, unfortunately, but it’s not too expensive and well worth the cost. You can subscribe to the archives of many individual newspapers, or you can get a general subscription to all the papers on the site.

Once you’re signed up and logged in, the real treasure hunt begins. Type in the name you are looking for in quotes and hit search. You may not hit pay dirt right away, but if you don’t, do not get discourages. The search may need some tweaking. You can modify your search terms, filter by date, and even filter by state.

Be sure to try all the aliases you have for your search subject. Also, if you come across a misspelling of their name, try searching by that misspelling. You’d be amazed how poorly the old newspapers were proofread, especially the sports section, and especially the wrestling results.

It may take some time, but if you stick with it, you’ll get a handle on how to search newspapers.com and figure out the idiosyncrasies of the website and its archives. More important, you’ll begin to piece together the story of that sweet grandpa of yours, whether he was a fresh faced babyface or a dastardly heel.

4. Share What You Learn

After you start finding stories and photos from the past, share them. Share with family, of course, but join some of the pro wrestling history groups on Facebook and share them in the groups. Not only will you find a delighted and eager audience for your ancestor’s story, you may find new photos, new leads, and new information that someone else already has.

The pro wrestling history community is very giving and very supportive. We’re all working together to find the pieces of this long-lost jigsaw puzzle that is wrestling’s past. I wish you story hunters luck, and if I can ever be of service, email me!

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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