I must say, I appreciate all the views and feedback on my listing of the five best and worst wrestling biographies. The biggest flack I have been receiving seems to be that I left out some excellent books simply because they were ghostwritten. I tend to put an added emphasis on wrestlers who actually put pen to paper and transcribed their own life stories, and that was reflected in my top five list.
However, that is not to say that some of the wrestlers who had assistance writing their memoirs didn’t also have excellent accounts of their careers. With that in mind, here are my top five wrestling biographies written with the assistance of a ghostwriter.
5. “Walking a Golden Mile” William Regal with Neil Chandler
William Regal has had a long and distinguished tenure in the squared circle. In “Walking a Golden Mile,” you get an inside look at the unique journey of Darren Matthews. His career, in the beginning, is a bit of a throwback to wrestling’s roots, as he began on the carnival circuit in Great Britain. The book traces his journey from said carnivals to WCW to his WWE glory days. The book is remarkably candid, as Regal has faced substance abuse problems for a good part of his career, and he pulls no punches here, makes no excuses for it. It is a refreshing look at a remarkable career. The book is exceedingly hard to find now, but if you can, pick it up. It is well worth the investment.
4. “To Be The Man” Ric Flair with Keith Elliot Greenberg and Mark Madden
Certainly no wrestling book list would be complete without the tome about, arguably, the greatest wrestler to ever lace up a pair of boots. Ric Flair is generally considered the best wrestler of all time by most knowledgeable fans, and even those who begrudge him have him ranked at least in the top ten. (Maybe not Bret Hart, but still…) “To Be the Man” is a fine book chronicling the 25+ year career of “The Nature Boy.” It is an exceedingly easy read, as the narrative weaves various wrestlers, promoters, announcers, et al opinions and accounts of Flair throughout the book. It is absolutely essential reading material for any so called fan of the mat wars.
As good as the book is, it is not without its flaws. First off, for a career as long and illustrious as Flair’s, it is remarkably short, at just over 300 pages. Just look at Bret Hart or Mick Foley’s books. While both men had excellent careers, they both represent only a fraction of what Flair accomplished. So the book almost comes off a bit underwhelming.
The second problem I had with the book was Flair’s almost obsequious, gushing appraisals of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Vince McMahon. I know its Flair’s book, his opinions and rancor. But it almost comes off like Flair is totally subservient to the whims of these three, especially Triple H. Flair shouldn’t have to be subservient to any wrestler, as his is truly one of the great wrestling careers of all time.
The biggest gripe I have with the book is his opinions on Bret Hart. Listen, I know the two don’t see eye to eye, and I also don’t agree with Bret’s appraisals of Flair as a “Routine Man” in his autobiography. But Flair’s gripes with Bret are almost slanderous in nature, accusing him of using the death of his brother Owen as almost a launching pad, and slagging him for the whole “Montreal Screwjob” incident. He accuses Bret of being selfish in not wanting to job the title to Shawn Michaels, stating he would never do such a thing. If memory serves me correct, Flair himself refused to lose the title to Lex Luger a number of times throughout 1987-88, so his opinions often seem hypocritical.
Regardless of my gripes, “To Be The Man” is absolutely a must read for any wrestling fan. Some of the backstage stories are a hoot to read about, and the good of the book far outweighs the bad. Pick it up, you won’t be sorry.
3. “Pure Dynamite: The Price You Pay for Wrestling Stardom” Tom Billington with Alison Coleman
“Pure Dynamite” was the second wrestling book I ever bought, the first being Mick Foley’s initial offering. Nearly fifteen years after it was written, “Pure Dynamite” is still one of the very best wrestling biographies ever written. The Dynamite Kid has had a long, strange journey though wrestling and life in general, and this book gives us a glimpse into the life and times of Tommy Billington, for better or worse.
Dynamite was a once in a generation talent, a phenomenal worker who helped birth an entire style of high impact, high flying, risk taking wrestling. He was always sure of his life’s career path, as he started training at a very young age with trainer Ted Betley in Wigan, England, a sort of hotbed for wrestling talent. Dynamite would do anything to get himself over with the crowd, as he was a naturally slight man who had to take obscene bumps to get himself noticed. The book chronicles Dynamite’s struggle to reach the pinnacle of his profession, as his style and determination led him to abuse steroids, painkillers, and alcohol just to cope and thrive in his chosen profession.
Dynamite was, and is still, considered a bit of a bully and a prick to industry insiders, and this book does not shy away from that assessment. Does Dynamite attempt to justify it and sugarcoat some of the allegations? Sure, but its his book, and his right. It is a relatively short book, but his career was what some might consider short, as his high impact style eventually took a toll on his body, which has confined him to a wheelchair to this day. But in that short career, Dynamite packed a lifetimes worth of memories into it, and the book, while tragically dark at times, reflects that. “Pure Dynamite” is a quick and easy read, and an absolutely essential read for any wrestling fan. There was never anyone quite like Dynamite, and there has never been a wrestling book quite like “Pure Dynamite.”
2. “Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story” Eddie Guerrero with Michael Krugman
I have to be honest: Eddie Guerrero was my favorite wrestler. Well, he and his best friend who we are no longer allowed to mention. I haven’t been quite able to experience the unbridled joy wrestling used to give me ever since November 13, 2005, when Eddie Guerrero was found dead in a hotel room in Minnesota. That, for me, was truly the darkest day in the annals of my wrestling viewership, for it seemed that for all the demons that had plagued Eddie throughout his tumultuous life, it had appeared that he had defeated them. Sadly, that was not the case.
“Cheating Death, Stealing Life” came out shortly after Eddie’s untimely demise, and it is a tremendous glimpse into the life and times of a tortured genius. The son of Mexican Wrestling royalty in the form of Gory Guerrero, Eddie was almost preordained to be a wrestler if for nothing else than family ties. Eddie was a brilliant in ring performer with bucketloads of charisma and an innate ability to get fans to love him or want to kill him, depending on which character he was portraying at the time. Unfortunately, the pressures of wrestling stardom and the incredibly high standards Eddie placed on himself led to a litany of drug and alcohol addictions that would have destroyed a lesser man at a much earlier time in life. Where William Regal and Dynamite Kid’s books are refreshingly candid in discussing their abuses of mind altering substances, Eddie’s is almost damning. He pulls no punches, gives no quarter in discussing his battles with the bottle and prescription painkillers.
In the book, Eddie weaves his personal demons with his professional triumphs, and, much like his career, throughout the book you can’t help but root for the man. While it is a great story of one man’s battle with, and eventual overcoming of, personal demons, the knowledge of how it all ended in that solitary Minnesota hotel room sometimes makes this book hard to read. Just when it seemed Eddie had finally defied the odds and found peace in his life, he was taken from us. The book is a great tale of Eddie’s illustrious career and is a great story on overcoming the odds. However, his death kind of clouds the narrative of the story for any fan who followed his career. Whatever the case, it is still a phenomenal read.
1. “More Than Just Hardcore” Terry Funk with Scott E. Williams
Ghostwriter or no, Terry Funk’s autobiography is undoubtedly one of the very best ever published. While it is ghostwritten, the author does a tremendous job of making the voice of the narrative uniquely Funk. Terry Funk has had a long, illustrious career in professional wrestling, spanning five decades and innumerable countries and territories. Funk brings a wit and wisdom not commonly found in most wrestling books, which makes this a tremendous read. You’ll find yourself completely lost in it before long.
What makes this book truly great is that it is not published under the umbrella of WWE, so Funk pulls no punches and really lets loose. To be honest, he does not exactly slag Vince McMahon or WWE, but he is honest and up front in his dealings with the company, as well as his stints in ECW, WCW, Japan and every territory in between. Funk has seen it all and been through it all, and this book reflects it. There may not be a more brilliant wrestling mind than Terry Funk, and he gives you a glimpse into that brilliance throughout. This book is not merely one you want to check out of a library; you WILL want to own it so you can read it again and again. His impressions of Dusty Rhodes alone are brilliant and will have you in stitches, and the chapter on Dr. Jerry Graham in and of itself is well worth putting the lucre down to purchase it. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. A thoroughly engrossing read.