Pro Wrestling's 15 Best Books for Learning About the History of the Business
Wrestling fans, at least most of them, have not lived through many of the significant aspects of wrestling history. Many scower the Internet to dig up old matches and storylines. The Instant Queue of their Netflix account is filled with wrestling documentaries. However, nothing quite helps someone understand wrestling history quite like wrestling literature.
The wrestling book barely existed a decade ago, but has really grown into its own genre. Now, there are so many autobiographies, memoirs and exposes. Any significant event in wrestling history, be it behind the scenes or a public storyline, is being documented in wrestling books. To truly understand wrestling history, read up on these 15 books that every wrestling fan should read.
Adam Copeland Takes on Edge
We can start with a pretty easy read from a very popular superstar. The newest inductee to the WWE Hall of Fame published an autobiography in 2005.
Adam Copeland on Edge was a collection of notes from The Rated-R Superstar over the years in his WWE career. When Copeland suffered a damaging neck injury and nearly had his career end, he compiled the notes together.
Some of them were written on WWE.com and impressed enough people to gain a book deal.
It reads well and doesn't have too many mentions to the wrestling business to get lost on people who are not fans.
It was published seven years ago, so it left a lot of Edge's success out of the book, mainly his world title successes. Still, it is a nice 250-page book that tells how Edge came up in the company.
The Death of WCW
The Death of WCW was written by two men responsible for great dirt sheets. Bryan Alvarez, editor of Figure Four Weekly, and R.D. Reynolds, who created Wrestlecrap.com, joined forces to break down the major question that bothers wrestling fans from the 1990s: how could WCW have failed?
This is much more than a soapbox to butcher all of the negative things WCW has ever done. Instead, it breaks the company's history into different eras. The era before Eric Bischoff was hired was a pretty boring time where WCW was without much of an identity.
With Bischoff, the promotion thrived and was spanking WWE in the ratings war. Eventually, WCW kept being innovative, prompting WWE to step their game up and overtake them.
The best parts of this book comes toward the end of the line for WCW. Since the man responsible for Wrestlecrap is involved, you know that the lowest points of the company are the funniest parts of the book.
This book does build up the good parts of WCW, only to tear them all down in the end. To be perfectly honest, that's exactly how it happened.
Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks
The legendary "Classy" Freddie Blassie had a book written about him that spanned his entire wrestling career. The book was appropriately named Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks, a popular phrase Blassie used as a heel to enrage the crowd.
Blassie sure knew how to get the crowd to hate him, literally starting riots and getting physical damage over the years from it.
Originally, Blassie was a great wrestler in the territories of the west and the south in the 1950s and 1960s. A diagnosis of hepatitis forced Blassie into retirement and into the role as a wrestling manager.
Blassie, despite his lack of experience compared to some of the others, is considered to be among the greatest wrestling minds to ever be considered a manager.
The insider stories dug up from over the years that appear in this book are shocking. What is even more shocking is that this book was published in 2003, the year that Blassie had passed away. Perhaps Blassie was holding on to see that his impact was fully felt and his story was properly told.
Cross Rhodes: Goldust, Out of the Darkness
I personally love this book. Cross Rhodes may be the name of Cody Rhodes' finisher, but it is also the well-told story of Dustin Runnels, otherwise known as Goldust, overcoming his personal demons and living a beautiful life now.
Runnels takes the unique path that is getting to be more and more common, but rarely spoken to fans about: living up to the mystique of a successful father.
Goldust's memoirs have just about anything you could imagine. There are funny stories and extremely serious ones. From realizing he had ripped his pants as a referee during his beginning to learning the news of Brian Pillman's death, this book has just about anything you could ask for it.
Sex, Lies and Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and the WWF
Most of the books out there, including the ones on this list, come directly from WWE. Sex, Lies and Headlocks is not one of those, so you know that the stories are juicy. This tell-all literally tells it all.
It isn't all about Vince McMahon and WWE, but it sure does bring him up a lot. The book starts with the reaction of the then-WWF after the shocking death of Owen Hart. It then steps back decades before, when there were regional territories in the wrestling world.
The book takes its time going from that point back to the death of Owen Hart, hitting on many different points. The book centers around the building of McMahon's dynasty eventually as it goes in depth about the strategies McMahon used to take down his competition.
It also brings in the irony that some of that strategy was used against him by Eric Bischoff and WCW.
Despite not having citations to reference some of the claims, the book is fair enough to toe the line and tell both sides of the controversial stories. This isn't just for wrestling fans, but it sure will help a wrestling fan gain a better understanding of wrestling history.
Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore
If you need one person to talk about multiple legendary promotions over the course of multiple decades, look no further than Terry Funk and his book.
Funk's book is presented very casually, almost like you are sitting down and interviewing the hardcore legend. As the subtitle suggests, this is more about Funk's war stories from being hardcore.
The book shows Funk's opinion of some of the greats of wrestling history that he worked with, including Dusty Rhodes, Jerry Lawler and Mick Foley. It also talks about Funk's family, arguably the first family of pro wrestling.
The book goes into how both Terry and his brother, Dory, became champions in promotions. Funk is a great wrestling mind to show how the business has changed over the years. Be sure to read up on Terry Funk's career, because it will be hard for you to read this book just once.
Foley Is Good: And the Real World Is Faker Than Wrestling
Mick Foley's second book was a lot different compared to his first one. Foley Is Good is a nice book for the legendary fan favorite to talk about his passion for the business and the love for his family. It shows a nice balance between family life and Foley's emotion about the WWE.
The first book was a lot more wrestling oriented, but this book actually shows a realistic split for Foley, who had already hit most of his success in the business.
Foley defends WWE during a time period where they were often ridiculed and dragged through the mud. The title is a play on the "Foley Is God" signs at WWE events.
Foley states in the book that he doesn't like being compared to God. The way that the wrestling world goes, anyway, Foley might not be too far off from God.
Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story
Wrestling fans know ultimately how Eddie Guerrero's life ended. However, this book on his story was in the works prior to his death. Sharing the title of a DVD released the year before, 2005's Cheating Death, Stealing Life was a very nice book that appropriately told the story of Guerrero and his great life.
The book recaps the history of lucha libre wrestling, as well as brings in stories from Japan and the infamous WCW locker room. Guerrero does not make light of his situation of being born into a big wrestling family. He also does not hold back on himself from his fight with alcohol and drug abuse.
Vince McMahon wrote a one-page introduction to memorialize Guerrero, who passed away before this book was published.
Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps
Chris Jericho's second book is the book that goes in depth about Jericho's WWE career, beginning with his 1999 debut. The book goes into how he struggled adjusting to WWE's style at first, including getting chewed out by Vince McMahon. Jericho would learn from mistakes and turn in a very impressive career.
The main thing to talk about with this book is Jericho's entire chapter talking about the late Chris Benoit, a very close friend of Jericho's. The chapter goes into the entire relationship between the two, both in the ring and out of it.
It also has some profound moments from Jericho reacting to Benoit's double murder-suicide. Jericho explains the steps he took to try to make sense of what happened, looking into any and all possibilities.
There is some negative stuff in this book, but it is still a nice read. It is especially better if read after Jericho's first book, which we will mention later.
"Playboy" Gary Hart: My Life in Wrestling
If you don't know who was responsible for the booking for Jim Crockett's Starrcade, as well as World Championship Wrestling, Gary Hart is the man you need to thank. Hart was such an influential man behind the scenes in the wrestling world.
His booking is legendary and his book is just as good. The stories in the book are some of the best ones you can read anywhere and can explain to anyone how a wrestling promotion is run from behind the curtain.
Unfortunately, Hart did not live to see this book published in 2009. The highlight of this book is the mentions of the Von Erich family, described to non-wrestling fans as the wrestling equivalent to The Kennedy Family in politics.
The WWE Encyclopedia
The one-stop shop for all things WWE, the WWE Encyclopedia is a nice book for any WWE fan. Keep in mind, however, that this book is written by WWE and only talks about WWE events and superstars.
The book also keeps kayfabe alive by not going into the personal lives of wrestlers. It also lists two gimmicks played by the same performer as two separate people.
Still, aside from all of that, it is a lot of information in one book. It's a nice page turner to make you look back at the older times of the company's history. Just don't expect any big scandalous facts of anyone.
Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling
At almost 600 pages, you will have a hard time finding a book that has more inside the covers. With a lot of pages and a small font, this is a challenging read for anyone. This book has sat on my bookshelf for a while, staring at me. It is an intimidating read, but a good one even still.
The greatest gift this book gives is the ability to shed light on many rumors around his career. If there is an urban legend that Hart was around when it happened, he probably tells the truth on it in this book.
There are just so many things that Hart goes into with this book without fear of offending any company he is affiliated with, due to this being written when he was retired.
Hart also talks a lot about his dysfunctional family. With all of the issues talked about with his family, so much more is described about the wrestling world, almost making his family normal again. Hart obviously talks about the death of his brother, Owen.
For anyone who was not angry at WWE about how things were handled in that tragedy, this book will do more than enough to run anger through your veins.
Pure Dynamite: The Price You Pay for Wrestling Stardom
Dynamite Kid's scathing book gave a jolt to the wrestling world when it was published in the UK in 1999. Two years later, Pure Dynamite was published in the US as well. It tells the real story for the other member of the tag team The British Bulldogs.
Everyone knows about Davey Boy Smith, the man who would later be known simply as The British Bulldog. However, Dynamite Kid was Davey Boy Smith's tag team partner, as well as his first cousin.
Dynamite Kid keeps the mystique of the in-ring storylines alive, not breaking kayfabe from the actual matches too often. Instead, he focuses on the sad parts of the company.
Basically, if you wanted to know about the drug problem in wrestling, this is a good book to reference. Keep in mind that Dynamite Kid seems to be angry at just about anyone and everyone, so take it all with a grain of salt.
A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex
Chris Jericho's first book is so good. I mean really, really good. Where as Undisputed talked about his WWE career, A Lion's Tale is Jericho's journey through the wrestling world leading up to his WWE debut.
Jericho's story is one of a guy making it through the wrestling world and travel across the globe to accomplish it. If you have seen the Chris Jericho DVD, much of this story is already known to you. There are still some very funny stories from the road that are worth buying the book alone.
The way that Jericho broke into the business is something almost impossible to do in today's world of professional wrestling. For a unique look at how to make it, pick this one up.
Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks
The first book from Mick Foley started it all for many of the other books on this list. Foley wrote over 760 pages for this book, all by hand, to express his story in this first of what has turned into a three-book series.
Foley starts with the story of losing part of his ear during a match in WCW before beginning the book during his childhood.
His journey in the book takes him throughout college and in through wrestling promotions around the world, including ECW, WCW and two stints with WWE.
The only exception in that chronological recap of his life was when Foley wrote about the death of Owen Hart. The book ends with Foley winning the WWF Championship over The Rock.