Looking for a good summer read? Check out some of the best wrestling books of the last 20 years.
But first thing is first: A congratulations is in order for persevering past all the haters that condescendingly told you “wrestling is fake.” I swear, If I received a dollar every time I heard that one, I’d have a shitload of singles.
Still reading? Good, you’ve clearly acknowledged that you’re one committed newbie wrestling enthusiast–and, somebody that’s looking to delve deeper into it. Hell, I’ll even assume (yeah, yeah I know what they say about assuming) that you’ve got a WWE Raw and/or pay-per-view–or two–under your viewing belt.
With all of that said, you’re now ready for some history. And I’m not talkin’ bout the kind your hot social studies teacher taught you (I hope she was for your attention span’s sake). Without further adieu, here are some of the best wrestling books; the good, the bad and the f****d up.
Ric Flair: To Be the Man
“To be the man, you gotta beat the man, wooo!” And, since you won’t get the opportunity to do so, you sure as shit gotta read about “the man.” In Ric Flair: To Be the Man, “The Nature Boy” spills the beans on everything from his infamous Four Horsemen days to his all-night party benders.
“Natch” also discusses his early days wrestling for the AWA as well as some of his classic feuds. If you’re looking to brush up on the taxing on-the-road lifestyle that this business entails and get inside the psyche of one of the best in-ring and promo performers in the squared circle’s existence, then this is your read, wooo!
Have A Nice Day: A Tale Of Blood And Sweat Socks
For better or worse, the WWE has simmered down its appetite for blood in order to cater to a younger, PG audience. However, contrary to you and your 8-year-old’s belief, that wasn’t always the case (heck, who am I kidding, a 5-year-old can find this stuff on the web–sad but true). Coined “The Hardcore Legend” for his death-defying stunts, Mick Foley didn’t exactly fit the bill when it came to Vince McMahon’s “big muscle equals a top draw” mentality. Yet, he still managed to captivate audiences with his Evel Knievel-type stunts, which are heavily documented in this book.
Penned by Foley himself, Have A Nice Day: A Tale Of Blood And Sweat Socks journeys you through Foley’s–also known as Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack–Long Island, NY childhood and his quest into pro wrestling.
This captivating read deserves well more than a “cheap pop” or two, going over how he met his wife Collette, his blood bath-induced rivalries and his penchant for crummy motels. Hardcore wrestling may be dead, but Foley is God and sacrificed himself as such for the masses during a pivotal time period that will forever be etched in WWE history.
Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar
In one of the best wrestling books of the last five years, WWE superstar Shawn Michaels shares from his heart about the highs and lows of his life inside the WWE. Included are some never-before-shared stories and an intimate look into his career as well as stories of hunting, family, and faith.
With millions of fans, Michaels had adulation and all the attention he could ask for, but he discovered there was something more. When he became a committed Christian during his years in the WWE it had to affect everything. Michaels reveals what it is like to be a man of faith in this unusual world and shares insights for all of us.
Sex, Lies And Headlocks: The Real Story Of Vince McMahon
Who better to learn about than the Chairman of the WWE himself, Vincent K. McMahon? In Sex, Lies And Headlocks: The Real Story Of Vince McMahon, Vinny Mac’s ratings battles with WCW’s Ted Turner and his nifty business-minded exec Eric Bischoff are heavily examined, along with his relationships with NBC and Viacom.
This book even addresses the 1991 steroid scandal that brought McMahon and his promotion to its knees as well as the shady promoters, druggies and sexually expressive grapplers it dealt with in its earlier years. The read details the WWE’s historic cogs to its mega-wheel: The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Bruno Sammartino. Although it may have seemed like McMahon had “no chance in hell” to bring the company to a place of mainstream success on a mainstream, he did just that by growing and revolutionizing a sport… uh um, sports entertainment.
Missy Hyatt: First Lady Of Wrestling
A 2015 grand theft incarceration or not, no true wrestling mark can deny the verbal juiciness of Missy Hyatt’s mind-blowing accounts that she spills on–both in the ring and in the bedroom. In this rapid read, the “First Lady of WCW” has no qualms about kissing (okay, a helluva lot more than kissing), telling, and sharing several names–in the wrestling biz as well as from other pro sports–from her little black book (no pun intended).
Living with the legendary Jake “The Snake” Roberts and “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert being the love of her life are just a small fraction of the romances she addresses–she even admits to screwing around with Road Warrior Hawk to get back at Roberts. Don’t get it twisted though, this book isn’t just about Missy’s sexcapades (dare I say she gave Wilt Chamberlain a run for his money?), it also examines her career through the Indies, WCW, WWF and more. If you want to hear “real wrestling talk” from a female vet’s perspective, this is your jam!
Eric Bischoff: Controversy Creates Cash
Unlike a brunt of the other reads, Eric Bischoff: Controversy Creates Cash is one of the best wrestling books to get a close and personal look at the business side of wrestling; especially as it pertained to the brains behind the company that did the unthinkable: Defeat Vince McMahon and his corporate machine at his own game.
Whether Bischoff is shooting the shit about the Monday Night Wars, or about his start in the biz as an AWA salesman, he is very upfront about not only his wins, but his shortcomings as well–notably, the firing of Steve Austin (prior to being repackaged as Stone Cold) and making the decision to add Thunder to WCW’s production schedule. Bischoff also dishes on his rocky relationship with Time Warner Cable and about when he threw his hat in the mix for a WCW executive position; this was despite having any relevant experience to do so.
To sum it all up: If you fancy an inside look into what goes on behind the curtains through the lense of a creative genius, then this is indeed your book.
The Stone Cold Truth
You may not have been following the WWE during The Attitude Era (November 1997 – May 2002), but unless you’ve been living under a rock, you surely are remotely familiar with its poster boy, Stone Cold Steve Austin. On a stacked roster with a plethora of talent, Austin–real name Steve Williams–defined that very era.
In The Stone Cold Truth, you learn about the man, the myth (the truth) and “The Rattlesnake.” The book highlights Austin’s his fatherless Texas childhood, his ongoing struggles at WCW, and the twists and turns of his story-booked career. To top it off, there’s also a chapter solely dedicated to Austin’s own opinions and input on wrestling. More specifically, he talks about the art of cutting in-ring promos and his dislike for when they are scripted, a pretty common practice by today’s standards. This stunning read also talks about his termination at the hands of Bischoff and WCW and the “took his ball and went home” WWE incident in “02.” If you want to be keen on the WWE’s roots and the history of the man who made obscenities and turnbuckle beer-swelling cool, then you need to order this book.
The Rock Says
From a pineapple-haired wrestler you couldn’t pay fans enough to cheer to Top Grossing Actor of 2013, it doesn’t get any better than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s story. And… you get to read about it all in The Rock Says!
Johnson–who has a long line of wrestling in his blood that includes his father (Rocky Johnson) and grandfather (High Chief Peter Maivia)–came from humble beginnings upon first entering the business. In Johnson’s inaugural book, his upbringing, not-so-successful days as a Miami Hurricane and monetary troubles are all highlighted, amongst several of his other happenings throughout his life. From the merciless boos he initially received to his repackaging as a mega-heel with groundbreaking catchphrases, you’ll get to play read along with the champ and gain a better understanding of just “what The Rock is cooking!”
The Death of WCW: 10th Anniversary Edition
It was nothing short of a miracle when Ted Turner’s WCW finally surpassed Vince McMahon and the WWE in the Monday Night ratings in 1997. Who knew by 2001 that the Atlanta promotion would find themselves belly up and bought by its competitor? This newly revised and expanded version of its original read takes wrestling marks through an in-depth examination and wrestler commentary of WCW’s demise. Vinny Mac didn’t take Bischoff up on his challenge to duke it out at WCW’s Slamboree in “98,” he just bought every damn thing in and around it instead!
Curtain Call: How An Unscripted Goodbye Changed The Course Of Pro Wrestling
Still not quite sure how much clout Triple H has with the WWE? All you have to do is get a glimpse at his office in Stamford, CT over at WWE Headquarters to fully understand it. However, such wasn’t always the case for the COO, as he nearly threw away his career when he made the decision to pay homage to his soon-to-be departing “Kliq” comrades–Kevin Nash and Scott Hall–by joining Shawn Michaels to take an out-of-character bow with them. Curtain Call argues the point that the respective Madison Square Garden incident had a butterfly effect of sorts on the future endeavors of the WWE. D-Generation X’s commencement and the popularity progression of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s character are two such bi-products of it.
The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Pro Wrestling
Spurning off Deadspin author David Shoemaker’s well-received Dead Wrestler of The Week column, The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Pro Wrestling touches on not only the significance of some of the late great superstars in wrestling, but also the product’s evolution from its early beginnings. The 2014 read also takes fans beyond the complex characters and storylines of their favorite grapplers and into the pure form of art that is pro wrestling.
The Best In The World: At What I Have No Idea
In The Best in the World, Chris Jericho treats his fans to a completely uncensored chronicle of his misadventures within WWE rings and onstage with his band, Fozzy. Written with his trademark self-effacing humor, this memoir is laced with behind-the-scenes looks at the preposterous situations he’s all too prone to get himself into, including incredible stories about his dealings with WWE head honcho Vince McMahon; his feuds with Rey Mysterio and CM Punk; his legendary battle with Shawn Michaels; how he took one on the chin from Mike Tyson and Mickey Rourke; his encounters with pop culture icons such as Ozzy Osbourne, Lorne Michaels, Slash, James Hetfield, and Bob Barker; and his six-week stint on Dancing with the Stars.