Full Book Review: Booker T: From Prison to Promise: Life Before the Squared Circle

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There is no appeasing some people. Generally, the reactions and comments for my book reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. However, one negative one stuck in my craw the other night, one in which the commenter asked why I was reviewing a seven year old book, Sigh, Gotta love them trolls. Plus, it gave me some valuable ammunition. I was starting to get a little weary of these reviews, the process of reading and digesting the contents of the book and then trying to put forth a (sort of) objective appraisal of it. Some of these books are truly awful, with little to no redeeming qualities to them. Trust me, you will be reading about some of the bad ones soon, if my library queue is correct. But, occasionally, you come across one that you are expecting absolute bubkiss from, one that seems to be one of those no redeeming value books. Then you read it, and are absolutely refreshed. Booker T. Huffman’s book is one of those rare gems.

I picked up this book about a month ago. Let me rephrase that…I acquired it through my local library about a month ago. The title I read was “From Prison to Promise,” so I was expecting a book heavy on not only Booker’s backstory, but his wrestling career. Then I physically had the book in my hands after a two week waiting period. One of the first things I do when acquiring a book is to see how many pages there are. This one clocked in at 211. Huh. That seemed kind of short for a man who has enjoyed a long, wildly successful career. Then I turned back to the cover, where the truth was revealed in the title itself: “From Prison to Promise: Life BEFORE the Squared Circle.” I was none too enthused when I saw this. I thought I had read every conceivable wrestler’s life story before they entered the ring, and it always was a couple of pages or paragraphs that revealed, simultaneously, everything and nothing. Rare exceptions were there, like Jericho’s first book or Foley’s first book. I was not optimistic about ole’ Booker’s chances. Boy, was I wrong.

Booker Huffman may have the most unique backstory for a wrestler who has had a modicum of success. While this book is light on the wrestling, it is heavy, HEAVY into telling the story of a man who should not even be living, never mind succeeding. The man should have been a street statistic, not a HHH WrestleMania statistic. (Sorry, had to go there)

Booker was born in 1965 in Louisiana to a stable two parent house. That lasted ten months, as the elder Booker Huffman dropped dead at age 59. Off and running, are we not? Booker’s mother, desperate for work to support eight children, decided to relocate the family to Houston Texas in hopes of finding gainful employment. They settled into a small house in the South Park (no, not that one) area of town. Booker was never a stellar student in schools, being that as he grew older, he had no positive male role model. His mother dated, but almost all of her suitors ended up as wackjobs or losers.

At a young age, Booker became attached to his older brother Lane Huffman, who you may be familiar with. Think Slap Jack, sucka. Anyway, looking for any older male role model he could find, Booker adored his older brother and tried to tag alone with him and the older friends, much to their consternation. It all ended up in a situation where Lane and his friends captured a stray cat in a plastic bag, then tossed the cat off an overpass on to a freeway, where it was promptly run over by an 18 wheeler. Dark stuff, no? It only gets darker.

Booker and his family were living, to a degree, in peace and harmony with mom dukes providing all the support a young King Booker needed. Then, shortly after he turned 13, his mother had a freak fall from the family attic. She recovered initially, but began having nagging symptoms from the fall, including numbing of the leg. Turns out she had remaining fluid in her spine, and needed a quick fix surgery to remedy it. Now, I have long made a joke about surgeries, especially pertaining to sports. You always see on, for instance, ESPN’s bottom line that so and so had undergone successful surgery. When do you ever see UN successful surgery? Well, here is such a case. Booker’s mom’s surgery went about as unsuccessful as a procedure could, as she lapsed into a coma and died shortly there after.

This is where the book just starts to warm up. Booker and his young sister were the only two siblings who still needed raising. Everyone else was over 18 and doing their own thing. An Aunt in Louisiana wanted to help raze Booker and his sister, but Booker’s siblings disagreed, wanting to keep the family united, and they held custody. What resulted was Booker and his sister not going to a loving, nurturing home. Anything but. Instead of his siblings giving a damn, they quickly gave up on the two. Booker and his sister lived in the abandoned house where his mother had, more or less, met her untimely death, without any support from anyone. It is truly harrowing stuff to read. No child should be forced to undertake what Booker and his young sister had to endure. Eventually, some stuff got remedied (for lack of a more fluid way of putting it) and Booker and his sister found better places to live. It is still just an unbelievable reading experience as the facts are presented, and that alone makes the book well worth its salt.

While Booker’s young sister continued her education in High School, Booker became jaded. It did not help that the two older sister’s he stayed with were nothing but hustlers, prostitutes and lived with drug dealers and pimps. It was a true street education, and Booker was experiencing Trial by Fire. It should come as no surprise that young Booker T. Huffman soon began running the streets.

Booker was not exactly a “Street God” by any stretch of the imagination. He was a small time weed dealer, big time pot smoker. He never pimped, although he was exposed to that cultural sub genre through his sister’s “boyfriends.” He dropped out of high school after a series of fracases with other students. In short, Booker T was well on his way to being just another street statistic.

And then the madness truly ensued.

Booker, in his heart, is not a malignant man. He had always had a good moral compass. Unfortunately, even the best of moral compasses can become skewed. In young Booker’s case, it came with damning consequences. Booker was working at a local Wendy’s to earn some pocket cash. His essential indifference with the job eventually found him fired after missing a day of work to smoke pot. Booker started hanging with a shady selection of people, and this group conspired to rob his old Wendy’s one night. The plan was a success in practice, and this group went around terrorizing local Houston Wendy’s, as they robbed nearly a dozen. However, with a $5,000 dollar reward for their arrests, a girlfriend of one of Booker’s cohorts turned them in to the local authorities, and Booker found himself behind bars.

Prison was probably the best thing that could have happened to young Booker T. Huffman.

Booker was a pretty big guy at this point, 6’2″, 195 pounds. He sashayed his way through his first few months of a five year bid. He worked laundry. Eventually, that routine became tired, so he decided to get his GED and also compete with the weightlifting team. Booker took to it like a duck to water, anchoring the prison lifting team. He had no big problems in prison, due to his imposing size and demeanor. His descriptions of prison life are colorful and candid, especially to those of us who have experienced the nightmare, and, again, those descriptions alone make the book totally worthwhile.

Booker also relates his indiscretions with women, including siring a child with a woman he had no plans to settle down with or marry. Unfortunately, that woman succumbed to the pressures of the street and the drugs they supply lost souls. While locked up, Booker was informed that his son was about to go through child protective services, as the mother had given up. Book makes no qualms about being a vacant father once his child was born, but prison changed the man. He did not want his son to experience the absentee parenting that had led him down the road that led Booker to Pack 2 (Prison.). Armed with newly found strength, forged from iron and mind, Booker was released on parole after 19 months, and made it a point to walk the straight and narrow. He initially was staying with his sister and her Rastafarian weed dealing boyfriend. Booker wanted out of the street game, but he had a son he desperately wanted to raise. He stole some weed from the Rastafarian, made as much lucre as he could on the streets, and deposited it into a bank account so the people at Child Protective Services could see the man was on steady ground to support is son. Shady? Yes. Admirable? Fuckin A right. Booker soon gained custody of his son, Brandon, and was also dutifully employed in multiple jobs, most notably as a security guard and a storage facility clerk. Both jobs were made possible by his older brother, Lash.

Lash ended up being the man most influential for 25 year old Booker T Huffman. There is actually a quick, funny aside in the book. Booker was doing EVERYTHING in his power to lead a clean life, and brother Lash was helping. However, Lash and his friend, Tony “Ahmed Johnson” Norris were also kind of bounty hunters hired out by the Houston cops. I won’t relay it here, but the whole scenario almost landed poor Booker back in prison.

Then, one day, Lash came to Booker and said “Let’s be rasslers!” They had both watched the mat wars growing up, and both certainly had a look. Funds were raised and they ended up training with “Polish Power” Ivan Putski, a former WWWF legend. Only problem was, Putski was a shit trainer. He facilitated a great training …um…facility, but was totally hands off. Scott Casey basically ran the camp. Booker and Stevie survived the camp, and were soon wrestling on the Houston independent scene. Putski is portrayed as a total cum dumpster here, just a wicked asshole. His promotion folded, and Booker and the newly christened Stevie Ray were on their own. They quickly landed with Joe Pedecino’s Global Wrestling, and were made into a tag team: The Ebony Experience. Friends, this was when I was totally wrestling mad, and still a total mark. But on the GWF shows on ESPN, I used to remark that the Ebony Experience was the future of pro wrestling. I was half right. The book ends (see what I did there?) with Lash getting a call from Sid Vicious. Sid was trying to make an impact with the WCW brass, and wanted to hire Lash and Booker. Imagine that. Sid Vicious: Booking genius. Sid got the soon to be named Harlem Heat the job, and then…then…

Is where the book ends. I have to say, Booker’s book has got to be in my top ten wrestling books of all time. It is refreshing and different, and offers very little in the ways of the squared circle. Whatever. His journey is truly one of a kind, and this book is one of a kind. I could not recommend a book more than this one. It is a quick, really easy read, but with a compelling story. Trust me, this book is well worth the few hours it takes to read it. And congratulations to Booker T for his WWE Hall of Fame induction. Never has an individual so deserved it. SUCKAAAAAA!

Full Book Review: William Regal: Walking a Golden Mile.

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Over the last few days I have showcased WWE releases from absolute icons of the Federation that were, to put it mildly, sub par. William Regal has not exactly been featured at the top of WWE cards over his career. That is not a knock on the man. He is a unique performer, one with a distinctly different in-ring style. His matches generally do not translate on television. But I think I speak for a good majority here when I say he is among the top talents in wrestling over the last 25 years. He delivers a slick promo, has charisma by the boatloads, and, speaking from viewing experience, his house show matches generally steal the show. Add into that his remarkable comic timing, wit, and unparalleled facial expressions, and you have a truly unique talent.

“Walking a Golden Mile” is, by my estimation, one of the finest publications WWE has ever released. It is the story of a man who was, while supremely talented, so damned by the demons of drugs that he should have been dead ten times over by now. I know that seems like a common thread with some of these WWE releases, be it Eddie Guerrero’s or Shawn Michaels. Both of those men “found God.” Regal, however, is a cut above in his abuse. And, while Eddie and Shawn’s books can come off as a bit superficial at times, Regal’s book is a cold slap to the face on the trials and tribulations of a truly great wrestler who was gobsmacked by the tag team of addiction and despair.

Regal’s story is a departure. Darren Matthews, the man behind Regal, comes from a different background, well, different these days. Wrestling has always been derived from the carnivals, but Regal is one of the last to perform in these domains. He started at a very tender age, 14, and wrestled his way up through the carnival toughman contests and shady British promoters. You meet the Crabtree’s once again in this book (from the Dynamite Kid’s book…review is RIGHT THERE…https://marianosaves.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/full-book-review-pure-dynamite-the-price-you-pay-for-wrestling-stardom/). They are still self serving pieces of monkey feces, and Regal learns nothing while there. He also gets the privilege to team with Giant Haystacks (Loch Ness for those in the States). His anecdotes on Haystacks are excellent, and well worth the price of admission.

Regal toiled and troubled through England, Germany, and some other countries for a while before WCW took notice and signed him towards the end of 1992. This was truly during the time when this fan was watching any and all wrestling on TV, so I have memories of ALL this. Regal debuted in WCW in early 1993 as a straightforward no nonsense straight wrestling babyface. And it sucked. That may have worked in England and the Isles, but not in the States. He was taken off TV for a few months, and repackaged into Lord Steven Regal, one of the better characters seen in the US in some years. At least in this scribes opinion. And Regal was a revelation in the ring, holding and defending the TV title (As Arn Anderson deemed it, the Kiss of Death Belt) in 15 minute draws with wrestlers from Brian Pillman to Eric “Scott Keith’s favorite wrestler of all time” Watts. Actually, Regal is quite positive about Watts, just saying he was turfed because of the usual wrestling nepotism displayed by Bill Watts. I beg to differ, having seen Eric Watts. The dude made Greg Gagne look like an amalgamation of Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. But I digress. At this point, Regal was making great money on American soil, supporting his family. For me, Regal, at this point, was one of the best two or three heel acts in the States at the time.

Regal, however, was miserable. He missed his Blackpool, England roots. It was a total culture shock to the Briton. Never one who was much of a drinker or drugger, although he does admit to steroid use overseas, he soon became the ULTIMATE drinker and drugger. Seriously, this dude had fucking issues. It started with sleeping pills like Ambien and Xanax, and escalated to painkillers and somas. Regal, while professionally at the top of his game, was bottoming out personally. And the man makes no bones about it throughout this book. I will admit, in my not so snow white past, I have had some issues with drugs, namely painkillers. Percosets and Oxycontin. I did a myriad of these drugs for many years, and just two years ago was able to kick them. These book reviews are almost a catharsis for me, my new drug of sorts. This site is the greatest antidrug I could come up with. When I was clean, I wrote for Wrestleline way, WAAAAY back in the day. Back then, it was only weed. Painkillers are a completely different animal, and this guy, me, in his prime, was using anywhere between 8-12 80 milligram Oxycontin’s a day. This will prove a point right here: Regal was using percoset, Nubian (an injectable morphine type drug) and sleeping pills. The man was taking 30 somas, 30 percs, shooting up Nubian, and god knows what else, in addition to heavy drinking. From someone who was heavy into drugs, let me say this about Regal’s abuse: DEAR. GOD. I thought I was bad; this man was on another stratosphere. I have since cleaned out, and blame no one but myself. Mock me all you care to, I deserve it. I considered them performance enhancers, or sorts, and, trust me, they worked. Regal used them outside of the ring as life detractors. He didn’t want to deal with life. Regal ballooned up to 280lbs, and anyone who watched him around 1997-1998 could see there was something terribly wrong. He was fired shortly after an altercation with golden boy Goldberg in ring (This is the one part of the book I don’t believe…I have seen that match, Regal was shooting somewhat).

Regal was still in denial. He graduated to GHB, renutrient. Ladies and gentleman, may I introduce you to the all time biggest heel in pro wrestling history. GHB is the worst drug ever formulated. And it was LEGAL. Available at GNC. Essentially, it is the date rape drug. Take it, feel high for a half hour, black out, and perform unspeakably awful acts. GHB, along with Soma and steroids, are the triple threat of bad wrestling behavior. GHB being the worst. Regal got hopelessly addicted, much like Eddie Guerrero, to GHB. Taken in proper term, the drug was supposed to allow you to sleep four hours a night, make it feel like 10 hours of sleep, and burn excess fat while building muscle. And I am Pope Francis. I have found in my lifetime that anything that seems too good to be true is just that. Its hogwash. And my oh my did Regal learn that. It took many, many rehabs and relapses for Regal to figure it out. He would rehab for weeks, get out, and a voice in the back of his head (its there for all of us addicts) would say, “You know what you need? That renutrient. Helps you sleep it does. Does wonderful things for your body.” Regal would be out on a weekend pass of sobriety and have these thoughts, drive to GNC and buy vats of this toxic shit. If you read this book, you will be absolutely amazed at the amount of times Regal relapses when all seems to be wine and roses for his sobriety. It is a, pardon the saying, sobering reminder of that fact.

Regal’s relapse stories are just ridiculous. He always seems like he has reached rock bottom, only to reach a new chasm. It is unbelievable reading. Case in point: he is arrested in late 1997 for blacking out on a plane towards Atlanta and pissing on a stewardess. This was one of the first things I read on a “smart” website when I was a senior in high school. Wrestling websites were just starting to form at that point, most of them run by the RSPWFAQ group, but, much like today, you had to weed out the legitimate ones from the ones littered with absolute bullshit. I know this book rant is a bit profane, but the subject matter is close to home, and close to my experience following this sport of kings for as long as I have. Regal was probably the biggest mess of a wrestler who has not deceased. Pillman. Eddie. Benoit. Barr. Spicolli. Only HBK may be considered. Its a miracle Scott Hall and Jake Roberts live (GO DDP!). Watching wrestling in the late 1990’s was a truly morbid proposition. Regal fought through.

Regal, at the zenith of his drug issues, was given the gimmick in WWF of the “Real Man’s Man.” It is a favorite of mine, because of its sheer awfulness. His entrance theme is the thing of legend. Regal was not ready for it, and needed another round of rehab. It stuck this time, and seemingly has since.

Regal was reintroduced as “The Goodwill Ambassador” of the WWF. It was ingenious. Regal makes anything work. And that role was pitch perfect. Regal, off booze, off drugs, carried that character far beyond where it should have gone. It was basically “EVIL” Lord Alfred Hayes for the 21’st century. But Regal is a cut above, especially with his facial expressions. There is no one, and the Cucch means NO ONE, who can carry out an angle through facial expressions quite like Regal. He is a savant. Just amazing.

Regal’s other claim to fame is being a great friend to the current COO, a Mr. H’s. Regal gave him some advice when Paul Levesque was a young pup, and it worked for him. I do not agree with Regal’s assessment that the kid was all wine and roses, a total diamond in the rough. He did end up alright, that HHH character. But, for parity, I used to have a game with friends watching HHH matches from 1997-99. Everytime he used his knee in a move, you drank a shot. Suffice to say, we would be pretty loaded after ten minutes.

The rest of Regal’s book, after the drug lust, focuses on some of his medical matters. And they were damn serious. Regal is not a fan of most doctors, which I, MYSELF, am not a fan of. He had a heart problem and was looking for the correct doc to clear him to wrestle. And Regal makes quite clear he does not trust docs. My old man is a Doctor. I go to him for any malady I may be experiencing. And he is generally right. Regal? He is going to WWE hired docs to get the diagnosis he wants. For that fact, I always fear for Regal. I sympathize. He mentions a time where he and Chris Benoit, in their matches, used to see who could win a headbutt contest. In light of the Benoit tragedy, I wonder about the sanity of that, and the sanity and brain function of Regal.

All in all, “Walking a Golden Mile”, while not the best WWF book released, is among the top three. And, if not for the Foley books, it would be the top WWE release. My highest recommendation to this book.

Full Book Review: Heartbreak and Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story

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I feel that I should start this most recent book review with a disclaimer: I do not like Shawn Michaels. I realize that he is a brilliant in ring performer, one of the very best ever. I just feel he is a disingenuous, petulant primadonna. Both on camera and off. I grew up watching Michaels during the 1990’s, and, as a card carrying mark, I didn’t like his in ring persona. It was more gigolo than pro wrestler. I grew up a fan of Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart, two guys who were essentially men’s men. Some will question Hogan’s bodybuilder posing routine, but c’mon now, he was an American idol, a sheer force of nature that kids related to. Bret Hart was a simple character, basically portraying Canadian strength and will. While Bret may have been a heartthrob to female fans, his character was basically an ass kicking, overcoming the odds wrestling machine. For a pre and post pubescent boy/young man, that was a very identifiable character, and one that has stood the test of time for this fan.

Shawn Michaels was the antithesis of this. He was fun to watch, especially with The Rockers. His heel persona as the preening pretty boy was excellent for a heel. He was someone no male fan would want to root for, I get that. And to that degree, Michaels excelled. Then Wrestle Mania 12 approached. The money match, the main event: Shawn Michaels versus Bret Hart, Iron Man Match, WWF title. The WWF seemed hell bent on making HBK the face face of the company. For 15 year old me, that was impossible to swallow. Hart projected this inner strength, especially his background coming from his father’s dungeon. Michaels? He was everything I hated. Was he a brilliant in ring performer? As earlier stated, yes he was. But to push that character as the leader of a new “WWF Generation” was silly. And, as WWF is wont to do, he was pushed down fans throats. Ratings and profits declined. The NWO took over WCW and WCW took over the wrestling world. Everytime Ric Flair opens his mouth and spews WWE rhetoric about how Michaels is the greatest ever, a great draw, a devil grows its horns. Michaels was certainly not solely responsible for WCW defeating WWF for 82 weeks in the ratings and kicking the shit out of them in the PPV market. But he is the face of that period. And with good reason. The man was one of the biggest assholes to inhabit a locker room in any sport. Political backbiting was his forte. He, directly or indirectly, was somewhat responsible for creating Razor Ramon and Diesel, who, as Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, led the WCW takeover in the ratings. He was responsible for keeping good young stars down in WWF during that time period, and also responsible for getting some fired. He was responsible for keeping Bret Hart turfed in the mid card for most of 1995, despite Bret being the most over guy in the company. In short, Michaels was, at that point, everything wrong with pro wrestling. I disdained it then, and disdain it today, many moons later.

I thought it almost karmic that he was injured and put on the shelf in 1998. Especially seeing as once this political nightmare was put on said shelf, the WWF embarked on their most profitable run ever. And it almost seems equally karmic that, since his return in 2002, the WWE has been on a slide.

With all that said, I actually enjoyed Michaels’ comeback in 2002, and was refreshed to see that he was a seemingly changed man. Add in the fact he still displayed a remarkable brilliance as an in ring performer, it seemed almost too good to be true. I was becoming a HBK fan. Until, in 2005, he dropped this steaming deuce of a book.

I wanted to believe, really, really REALLY wanted to believe Michaels was not the same insufferable prick he was in the 90’s. HBK without the somas and political backstabbing. I was wrong. Heartbreak and Triumph put Shawn Michaels very much back into my cynical, jaded crosshairs.

I will say this: for fans of the man, I am sorry for what I have already written, and for what I am about to write. I respect the man’s talents. In-ring, he may be the greatest ever. In ring, he is unparalleled. In-ring, he is better than my childhood hero Bret Hart. There is no way around that. Michaels is that damn good.

Read “Heartbreak and Triumph” though, and you realize he is still that same asshole who fucked the WWF hard in the 90’s.

It starts off innocently enough, with Michaels account of his training and breaking in to the business. To hear it from him, he was great…not good…great, from day one. I can’t deny this. I have seen his early AWA stuff, and he was damn good from the start. We get the stories of meeting Marty Jannetty, their pairing up, and their great series with Doug Sommers and Buddy Rose. We get MIchaels telling us that he and Marty partied WAY past midnight and were abusing alcohol and painkillers and horse tranquilizers and the such. For his early days, HBK is remarkably candid. Its once the book reaches his career in WWF that it takes a downswing.

First off, Michaels maintains that The Rockers were unlike any tag team ever in their double team moves. The Midnight Express and Rock and Roll Express express their differences. The Rockers WERE a tremendous tag team, one of the best ever. But the line of bullshit begins with Michaels over assessment of their worth to tag team wrestling. Influential? Yes, hell yes. The first, the FIRST to incorporate double team moves into their arsenal? No.

We move to the WWF, and we get a brief synopsis of the Rockers split. Still the greatest tag team break up of all time, in my opinion. But Michaels describes it, behind the scenes, as all Jannetty’s fault. I can’t argue too much with that one, but his description of it still comes off as totally self serving.

So Michaels embarked on his singles career. I described a bunch of stuff in my diatribe to begin this review, but, irregardless of what I may say or state, Michaels got himself over as a douchebag heel. The best kind. In the middle of this, the Kliq (or Clique) happened.

This is where the book really becomes a fascinating character study. And it shows how smart Michaels really is behind the curtains. He both accepts and deflects criticisms of he and the clique. He both confirms and denies accusations. I mean, it is masterful, even with a ghostwriter. Just amazing. He says that the clique did not wield the power most say. Yet, as I seem to remember, and as he helpfully unconsciously CONFIRMS in the book, it seemed to be a steady diet of Razor Ramon, Diesel, 1-2-3 Kid and others dominating WWF television while a man like Bret Hart was relegated to side jobs. MIchaels deflects these accusations by stating “WE WERE MORE OVER.” Bull and shit. I watched wrestling then as I still do. HBK was not over, Diesel only got there through eliminating about 55 people in a row during Royal Rumble 1994. It is just stunning that a man who was supposed to be a born again Christian (not Jay Reso) would still, STILL be spewing this nonsense. He maintains that the allure of the clique was farcical. BULLSHIT. Bullshit. I WATCHED that era, I am not a plebeian (thanks Bob) to the wrestling industry and what I have seen. It was the total HBK and Big Daddy Cool show in 1995. No if, ands, or buts about it. MIchaels also states that Bret Hart was not a great wrestler, and that only he, Shawn Michaels, could get a good match out of buddy Kevin Nash. REALLY? Bret’s matches with Diesel were EXCELLENT, both of which I have rated above the WM match Shawn wrestled with Nash. Michaels was only concerned with getting himself over at WM 11, and it showed. Michaels makes a big hoopla over a shitty kick out in that match in his book as a reason why the match didn’t get over. Face facts Shawn, it didn’t get over because your sorry ass was taking advantage of your “best friend.” Trust me, I know all about that scenario.

But the bullshit continues! This article is getting long in the tooth, so I need to hurry here. MIchaels and Bret Hart did not like eachother. That is putting it mildly. Hart says in his book he had no problem putting HBK over in the Iron Man match. I cry bull on that, but Bret did put Shawn over. And then Shawn refused to put anyone not named Sid over. HBK states in his tome that it was just to piss off the smart marks. Bull and shit. Michaels was the epitome of a bad worker. Someone who had tremendous matches but refused the J-O-B. Quick, name me a match Michaels lost in 1997? Took some research, didn’t it? HBK, in 1997, early 1998, was the biggest dick in pro wrestling history. Bar none. It was almost serendipitous that he was forced to retire.

HBK is excellently candid about his drug problems during his “retirement.” He met Nitro Girl Whisper, married her, and had kids. BTW Whisper was absolutely the hottest Nitro girl, so good for him. They had a child, but HBK wasn’t there yet. He still abused painkillers at a Louie Spicolli level, and ws on death’s door in 2001. Until he found God. I admire the full tale of HBK finding God, but I am still skeptical. Someone like Michaels found a new God and seemed to be saved. Yet, I do not remember him losing many matches once his full time commitment became clear. Sure, he did jobs here and there. But Michaels was still the insufferable bastard, albeit in a nicer way, that he always was. Ask Gregory Helms.

All in all, “Heartbreak and Triumph” is a very interesting read. Read it, and know Shawn Michaels is still the insufferable douchebag he has been for years now.

Full Book Review: The Stone Cold Truth

Cover - The Stone Cold Truth

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin is the most successful wrestler of all time. No one drew more money, sold more merchandise, and helped make wrestling as mainstream as it could ever hope to be, more than “The Texas Rattlesnake.” I, for one, was a huge Austin fan, in part mostly because I was privy to his entire career, for the most part. I started watching wrestling hardcore in 1989. I had seen a few events here and there before then, but 1989 was the true nexus of this wrestling beast. Austin began his illustrious career in that same year. And I was fortunate enough at that point to have a channel that broadcast WCCW matches from Texas. I also had all of the Turner networks, and, living in the Northeast United States, certainly had access to WWF programming. It was almost serendipitous that I was lucky enough to watch the greatest draw in wrestling history throughout his decorated career. From Chris Adams lackey to WCW TV Champion; from a member of the most underrated wrestling faction of all time, The Dangerous Alliance, to a member of the most criminally underused tag teams ever, The Hollywood Blonds; from being fired via phone by Eric Bischoff (and the subsequent burial of Austin by Bischoff on WCW programming) to Austin becoming, quite literally, in a wrestling sense, the biggest thing ever. It has been a fun ride.

Unfortunately, his book does not live up to the reputation Steve Austin carved for himself within the squared circle.

It is not that the book is actively awful or anything. Its just not very good. And for a man who reached the absolute zenith of the profession, with awesome matches and incredible promos to match unreal storylines, that is just a shame. “The Stone Cold Truth” should be the tale of, arguably, the greatest pro wrestler in history. Instead, it is just a disjointed mess with some revelatory tid bits spread here and there.

That’s not to say its all bad. Austin’s rise to wrestling is detailed well here. He never met his biological father, but his mother remarried when Steve Anderson was very young. Throughout his childhood and adult life, he never considered anyone but his stepfather as his real father, switching his given name from Anderson to Williams. I find that admirable, but I will leave that to you, the reader to decide if you read the book. Williams was a standout athlete in High School, particularly as a bruising running back. Even though he was recruited by several major Texas college football programs (quick aside: People need to realize ALL football in Texas is considered religion. That is far from hyperbole. Football is LIFE to most Texans) Williams wanted to stay close to home and chose to enroll in a junior college. He spent two excellent seasons there before enrolling at North Texas State. He played linebacker and defensive end there, but something else had caught his attention. The wrestling bug had hit young Steve Williams hard, particularly Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling. Williams, just 17 course hours from his college degree, saw a commercial for Chris Adams’ wrestling school, and decided to enroll.

Williams was Adams’ star pupil, and milked him for everything he was worth. This is where the book gets to its greatest depths, as Williams realizes that Adams was, to put it loosely, a total dickbag. Great grammar and wording, I know. Adams did train Williams, but to the most minimal of extents, never, EVER telling him the secrets of kayfabe. Luckily (and, trust me, I saw young SCSA, and this is gospel truth) the kid was a natural. Williams traveled for some seasoning to Tennessee and encountered “Dirty” Dutch Mantel. Steve Williams was still using his adopted name, but Mantel told him it was too dirty Mexican of a name. Shit, sorry, I was confusing some other shitty storyline there, he said I can’t employ you you dirty state border crosser. FUCK ME. Sorry, bad WWE programming is setting my memory back epochs. No, Mantel (Zeb Colter today, for the unwashed masses) told Williams he needed to change his ring name, as there was already a Steve Williams, Dr. Death, in wrestling at that point. Williams was gobsmacked and could not think of a new moniker. Mantel came up with Steve Austin. Not the Six Million Dollar Man, just from the fact that the newly named Austin was born, well, in Austin. Steve Austin had some middling matches in Tennessee, and Mantel was not happy. He told Austin, in no uncertain terms, one night that the only way to learn was to watch every match on the card. It was a lesson Austin took to heart, and he continued this practice through the majority of his career.

Tennessee was not a monetarily fulfilling territory. Never had been. So with his minimal salary, and out on his own for the first time in his life, Austin had a strange dietary habit. He ate cans of tuna (normal struggling wrestler diet) but he supplemented it by eating RAW POTATOES. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Austin returned to Texas and engaged in a “Teacher vs. Student” feud with Chris “Scum of the Earth” Adams. The feud benefited from the inclusion of Adams’ wife Toni, and his ex-wife, Jeannie Clark, who soon became the wife of one Steve Austin. The feud was actually a lot of fun, and I recommend you check it out on youtube. But bigger things were afoot for Austin. WCW was calling. Center Stage, Atlanta GA was his new home.

“Stunning” Steve Austin (Stunning…also a Dutch Mantel brainchild) took the midcard of WCW by storm. You won’t get that information in the book, as Austin dismisses his WCW career off in about 20 pages. Including non-Austin quotes. I saw it with these two beady little eyes though, and the man was BIG LEAGUE to the bone. The man had that elusive “IT” that promoters drone incessantly about.

I could get into “The Dangerous Alliance” . I could get into one of the longest TV title reigns of all time. I could get into the farce JIm Duggan US title match. But I am reviewing the BOOK, not the career. Austin mentions barely a thing about the Dangerous Alliance, and nothing of the other two incidents. The Ricky Steamboat series? NOTHING. This is the most frustrating part of the book: Austin just glosses over most stuff in his career. I, for one, would have loved to hear his thoughts on the beginning of the Hogan regime and the Duggan 30 second loss, or the end of Steamboat’s career. Nope. None of that here.

What actually does get a few pages is the Hollywood Blonds. But not many. Austin was set to be paired with Harley Race as a single with a main event push. He was pissed when he learned he had been shunted back down the card in an instant into a tag team with Pillman. But, my word, did they make that tag-team work. Some younger fans point wistfully to Miz and Morrison (I weep for the future) as an underrated, underutilized tag team. The Blonds WERE the MOST underutilized tag team EVER. Great promos. Great matches. Great schtick. I was 12 years old through much of their prime, still a card carrying Hulkamaniac, but they were GREAT. Hulk fan that I was (Sorry), I was also a HUGE Hart Foundation fan, and no one, Christ, maybe even the Harts themselves, worked that formula better than the Blonds. This was at the apex of the Disney Tapings, so the Blonds were frowned upon on getting over. Guess what? I am getting too deep here. Austin does not mention jack shit about this era, even though we all know it is a HUGE point of contention with him. He does go into a rant about Pillman that is good, as Pillman was one of his best friends, but even that leaves something to be desired.

Austin was released by WCW after an Austin triceps tear received in Japan. Bischoff fired Austin by phone. Austin was livid (Listen, I have had to fire a person by phone before…not fun, but not the greatest indignity by FAR). He went to ECW and fashioned the “Superstar” Steve Austin gimmick, and began giving these amazing, amazing promos. That was the missing element in his WCW days. Don’t let anyone fool you, Austin was decent on the stick in WCW, but nothing special. Soon after, WWF started calling.

Well, not WWF. Jim Ross. Vinnie Mac had no use for another mechanic. So he thought. WWF signed him, but to a middling deal. He could just as much been Freddy Joe Floyd or Rad Radford. Easily. Once again, these points of the book don’t constitute much. It jumps to his first WM match with Savio Vega (savagely underrated, might I add) and then jumps to the WM13 Match with Bret Hart (The best and most influential match EVER, IMO). Austin had a career that spanned great feuds, great promos, great angles, and great money drawn, but his book just seems to gloss over everything. It is MADDENING. He barely explains the WM13 Submission match, he barely talks about HBK leading into WM14. I mean, it is frustrating.

What he does expound upon is his final match. Literally, that is all he expounds on. The heart problems, the epehdra, coffee, etc. Those are the endcaps of this book. Those stories are entertaining. He has a good chapter about Chris Benoit (book written in 2004)…that lasts 2 pages. There are many chapters that last literally two pages, many that stop short. It is so maddening that you will want to slam the book down like a meth head mother with her first born.

The most redeeming quality of the book is the final two chapters. Austin gives his opinion of the current (2004) state of affairs in wrestling. And these chapters are refreshing. Austin is a brilliant wrestling mind, and he proves it here. Slow the pace, sell, and, most importantly, LET THE GUYS DO THEIR OWN PROMOS. No scriptwriters. I am so sick of seeing some ass wipe like the Miz suspectly serenading us with Stephanie’s succinctly scripted shit. Let guys come with their own awesome, or own suck. Its simple. The final two chapter’s of Ausin’s book come across almost as “Wrestling Booking for Dummies.” Only Burt Sugar and Lou Albano are kept, mercifully, behind the velvet rope of tolerance. Austin comes across as someone who should DEFINITELY be booking, as opposed to any semen Vinnie Mac has dropped, or any man who has wed such human reproductive matter.

All in all, “The Stone Cold Truth” is massively disappointing. If you need proof, check out the 3 page chapter on Mick Foley. But it does offer some good within its pages. It is an easy read, one you can finish in about 2 1/2 to three hours, but, all in all, for a man who redefined the business like Steve Austin, it is massively disappointing.

Full Book Review: Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story

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November 13, 2005: I was at a friends house preparing to watch a TNA PPV that Sunday night on his pirated satellite feed. I had just worked a Saturday 12pm-12am shift, followed by a Sunday 9am-4:30pm shift. I had not had time yet to surf the interweb for wrestling news, as was, and still is, a pastime of sorts for myself. We had just finished getting our pizzas and alcoholic liquid refreshments for the evening at around 7pm when I decided to check the computer for news heading into that TNA PPV, Genesis 2005. I was shocked and saddened when I got to my first site. Eddie Guerrero, apparently, had died.

My first reaction was disbelief. This was Eddie Guerrero, the man who had overcome seemingly insurmountable demons to become one of the WWE’s top drawing competitors. This was a man who had overcome unbelievable drug and alcohol issues to reform his life and reclaim his legacy. This was a man who had become a man of the cloth of sorts, a man of tremendous spiritual faith. He had conquered his demons and was at the pinnacle of his profession. How could he POSSIBLY be dead? It was a gut shot of the worst sort, a total low blow by the God’s of Humanity. How could you possibly take someone who rightfully should have died numerous times over, when he was in the throes of drug related depravity, at a time when he seemingly had gotten his life sorted out? I was in total denial, even when the TNA Genesis PPV opened with a tribute to Eddie. Needless to say, I don’t remember any of that PPV. I was too distracted. I was still in denial. The following evening, I had to work a 5pm-10pm shift (the wonderful world of the restaurant business). I was the acting manager in charge that night, but I had a sort of understudy there: a manager in training. The guy was a total loss, just one of the worst management candidates I ever laid my eyes upon, but that made no difference to me. Finishing my shift at ten o’clock that Monday meant missing the beginning of Raw. I needed to see it, NEEDED to see it. It was the first step of the grieving process. I left the jabroni manager in training in charge of my shift at roughly 8:57pm that night and scurried over to the bar adjacent to my place of employment. The place, as always, was empty. Perfect. No one would question my choice of programming. I turned to Raw, and what followed was perhaps the most gut wrenching few minutes I have ever seen on a wrestling program, and also probably the single best video package the WWE production staff has ever put together. Bar none.

I am a jaded, cynical man. I am also, as an Italian man, born and bred, not prone to show too much emotion, besides rage. I openly cried that night watching that. All out balled out. Hell, just watching that video now, over seven years later, I was almost driven to tears. I share that life experience just to show what Eddie Guerrero meant to my wrestling fandom. There was never quite a man before him, and certainly none after.

Eddie Guerrero’s book, Cheating Death, Stealing Life, was something I avoided for years. Not because I didn’t feel that it would be a compelling story. I was just too emotionally scarred. It was published shortly after Eddie’s untimely demise on that bathroom stool. And you are reminded of that before the posthumous words of the performer are even heard, as Vince McMahon writes a touching memoriam to begin the book. Viva La Raza.

Eddie Guerrero was preordained to be a pro wrestler, if for nothing else than bloodlines. But it was a struggle ever step of the way. Eddie was the youngest son to Mexican wrestling legend Gory Guerrero. All of his older brothers became wrestlers, and Eddie felt the pressure to follow in their footsteps. In the earlier portions of the book, the most illuminating thing that is brought to light is Eddie’s difficult relationship with his brother Chavo (Classic). Considering how it all ended for Eddie, its almost damning to Chavo (Classic) , especially as Eddie got Chavo (you get it) a job with WWE, only for Chavo to piss it away due to substance abuse.

I will say this: Simply put, I believe this to be one of the finer instances of a ghostwriter capturing the spirit of his subject. The book comes off as total Eddie. And that is a great thing.

Eddie started at a very young age wrestling, and from day one seemed to be a natural. Growing up, his best friend was his nephew, of all things, Chavito, Chavo Guerrero Jr. The two would horse around in the ring during intermissions of shows Eddie’s father or brothers would be performing on. Eddie eventually cut his teeth in Mexican promotions, not doing much of note. He did receive a WCW try out match in 1989, at the behest of Terry Funk. Funk made Guerrero look great in a squash match.

The Guerrero name helped Eddie land some overseas gigs in Japan as Black Tiger, but soon he didn’t need any sort of legacy treatment. He was fast becoming one of the best pure wrestlers in the world. In Japan, he met and befriended the two men who would become his best buds and traveling and wrestling life partners: Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko. Those guys would end up having many epic, memorable matches. In fact…

In 1995, Guerrero ended up debuting in Paul Heyman’s ECW. It was supposed to be Eddie and his Mexican tag partner Art Barr, Los Gringos Locos, who were a PHENOMENAL tag team that drew crazy pesos in Mexico. Unfortunately, Art Barr became the first, of many, drug deaths in pro wrestling. Eddie, himself no stranger to drugs at this point, was devastated, but money and opportunity awaited. Eddie won the ECW TV title in his first match from 2 Cold Scorpio, and went on to have a memorable series of wrestling clinics with Dean Malenko over the title. These were some of the finest series of matches seen in the United States since the 1989 Steamboat-Flair matches, and were a huge hit with tape traders in the mid 90’s. (Myself included.)

Eventually, Eddie (then spelled EDDY) became too big of a fish for ECW’s then small pond. WCW came calling, and Eddie jumped, with Benoit and Malenko. The three became the backbone of the WCW undercard, providing great matches while the NWO headlined. Eddie, ever the perfectionist, was dismayed by WCW’s “Indian Caste System” with talent. Essentially, your level on the card did not exceed your paygrade, no matter how over you may get yourself. Eddie started as a virtuous babyface, but soon turned to the role he was born to play: vicious heel, or rudo. And if you were not around to see it, my god, was Eddie ever a great heel. He was so convincing in that role, it was scary. Eddie could naturally portray both a good guy and a villain, but he was just truly amazing as a heel during his 1997-98 WCW run.

Naturally, WCW had no seeming use for him. They gave him the LWO angle, which, by force of sheer will power, he got somewhat over. He had a match for the ages with Rey Mysterio Jr. at Halloween Havoc 1997. The most profound thing in Eddie’s book is his description of Kevin Nash, who he describes as “THE DEVIL. ” My word. But his career was not advancing where someone of Eddie’s talent should have gotten him. I was there that he really fell off a cliff, into the abyss of drug and alcohol abuse. Eddie pulls no punches in this regard in his book. He was a mess, and makes no bones about it. GHB, liquor, pain pills. He did them all, which lead to his car wreck on New Year’s Day 1999. All for the want of some eggs, Eddie, under the influence of a litany of substances, drove recklessly towards a local convenience store, only to wreck his car and wreck his body in a horrific car crash that left him all but for the dead. He recovered, miraculously, but doctors feared he would never wrestle again, at least not for a year.

He was back in six weeks.

WCW as per usual dropped the ball with the good angle gifted them: Eddie returning from near death to continue his career. I can’t say I blame them all that much, because this was when Eddie REALLY amped up the drug dosages. Listen, I am a recovering addict myself, and even I am humbled, Iron Sheik style, on what Eddie was doing. Eddie stumbled along for a few months until his friends, Benoit, Malenko, and Perry Saturn, had had enough, and jumped to WWE.

Eddie went with them, and had an inauspicious beginning. He grotesquely broke his arm in his first match. He eventually came back, and his career would never be the same. He was paired with Chyna, and became “Latino Heat” Eddie and Chyna were one of the WWF’s hottest midcard acts until Chyna got herself turfed from the promotion, while Eddie was still comfortably sedated on a litany of prescription pharmaceuticals.

Benoit and Malenko finally had enough of Eddie trying to destroy himself, and ratted him out to then VP of Talent for WWE, Jim Ross. Eddie had to go to rehab. After two aborted attempts, Eddie was fired. It didn’t help that after one night of one rehab he got all loaded up and tried to ram the fence of the gated community he lived in. Eddie was spiraling out of control, and this book is amazingly candid in that regard. Eddie needed help, and eventually got it, through WWE sponsored rehab, which he completed right around the time the Twin Towers were falling. He was no longer under WWE contract, so he wrestled for a few independents, including Ring Of Honor. Most were expecting him to fall on his face, but he didn’t. He was a model recoveree. Hell, he let people like Lo-Ki beat him on the indy scene, just to show he was recovered and ready for a second run with WWE. The book details his spiritual revival, in great detail, and his career renaissance. Eddie did get rehired by WWE, and made guys like Edge and RVD look like stars of the future through his efforts. Eddie was born again, and it was refreshing to watch, especially as Eddie was a once in a lifetime performer the likes we rarely see in wrestling. Eddie was truly a reborn man who was having the best matches of his life, while simultaneously experiencing a rebirth outside of the ring.

All of this culminated with No Way Out 2004, as Eddie was set to challenge WWE Champion Brock Lesnar for his strap. Yeah, I said it, STRAP. Honestly, I was a huge Guerrero mark at that time, but did not see him winning the title. Brock then, as he is portrayed now, was a monster, an unbeatable entity. It seemed a fait accompli that he would defend that title against Goldberg at WrestleMania 20. Little did we know the off screen rumblings. Eddie defeated Brock that night in one of the most satisfying matches of this fan’s life following the game. Not HHH. Even more satisfying was the Kurt Angle-Eddie Guerrero match at WrestleMania XX. Many deem the Three-Way match with HHH, HBK, and Benoit one of the finest of all time, and I am not one to pick nits. That match was incredible. But Angle-Eddie on that same card was one of the finest WWE Championship matches I have ever seen, completely different to any “WWE Main Event Style” matches you saw during that epoch. It was a fantastic match that is completely overlooked in light of that match, but what cannot be overlooked was the celebration following the match: Benoit and Eddie embracing in one of the most heartfelt embraces wrestling has ever seen. In light of the Benoit debacle of June 2007, I can see how this memory is tainted. But in 2004, with these two guys, best friends, the two best performers in the industry, it was AMAZING.

Eddie’s book pretty much ends here, with him admitting more or less that he was not ready to carry the WWE torch. It was passed to JBL in short order, because Eddie felt on the verge of relapse, which is provided in this book. I only wish Eddie would have lived a little longer. And by that I mean a LOT longer. Eddie Guerrero is a talent you find once in a lifetime. A Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, to use a baseball analogy. We were blessed with Eddie and Chris Benoit. And as inauspiciously as those two men’s lives ended up, we should thank the good lord above for the privilege of being present for the culmination of their lives work.

In short, Eddie Guerrero’s bio is excellent. I would recommend it to any fan of the mat game. Read it and, if you did not live through it, experience it with the man who lived and died it. R.I.P. Eddy. We all miss you.

Full Book Review: Listen, You Pencil Nek Geeks; Classy Freddie Blassie

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Earlier today, I was reading a Facebook post of a wrestling site I tend to enjoy, The Wrestling Roundtable. Most of the posters consider themselves knowledgeable young turks, but their naivety struck hard when I read their replies to this simple quandary: Name the top five heels in wrestling history. Most lists were littered with the normal detritus, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Rick Rude. All good answers, admittedly. Some mentioned Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, which I found almost comical. And those mentioning Triple H, well, that was farcical. None of these pencil neck geeks mentioned one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, heel of all time, “Classy” Freddie Blassie.

Its as if these guys have never heard of wrestling pre-1980. I will not lie, I was not privy to Blassie’s wonder years. Hell, I never even saw his managerial career. You see, I became a wrestling fan in 1989, which came after Blassie had “sold his wrestlers contracts” to the “Doctor of Style” Slick. (Another underrated pro wrestling talent.) But i had ways and means. My local video store (remember them?) was fully stocked with Pro Wrestling tapes. I mean, this place had every fucking tape you could fathom. Jim Crockett promotions? Got it. AWA shitfests? Had them. And the VHS leader of the times, WWF? Had them all. And I mean ALL. Remember those old “Best of the WWF” videos put out by Coliseum Video? You know, the ones with this intro:

Well, my video store had them ALL. And I soaked it all up. Eventually, once that store closed, I bought their full wrestling library for pennies on the dollar. My childhood was in those video cassettes. And one man stood out in particular on a great many of those VHS tapes: Classy Freddie Blassie. Blassie stood out to a young, impressionable fan. While none of his epic bloodbaths from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and sixties were not shown, it was his managerial style that impressed me. The man OOZED with…something. Charisma was not a word I yet understood. Blassie was a cut above, though. During that period of WWF, the mid to late 70’s to mid 1980’s, Blassie was easily the best manager the organization had to offer. Better than The Grand Wizard, better than Captain Lou.

“Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks” is Blassie’s autobiography, ghostwritten by WWF Magazine alum Keith Elliot Greenberg. And may I say, simply put, of all of the wrestling biographies I have read over the years, this one is BY FAR the most vulgar. To call Blassie’s language salty is both an insult to sodium and Blassie.

Freddie Blassie was born to, as he would put it, a saint of a mother and a degenerate fucking alcoholic of a father. Blassie never much cared for his delinquent pops, and this is a theme that permeates much of the book, as Blassie was never one to partake in booze or drugs. No, his vice was women. This is probably both the most discerning and refreshing part of the book. Blassie married at a young age and had three children, but his gimmick allowed for him to sleep with as many women as he could. As someone who has never cheated on a girlfriend, well, knowingly, at least, this fact pisses me off. He admits to his infidelities in graphic detail throughout, even giving some “Freddie Blassie Bedroom Tips. ” And those tips are covered in lubrocaine, if you catch my drift. In case you don’t, a recurring theme of the book is Blassie’s praise of a numbing agent called lubrocaine, which is a hybrid lubricant and numbing agent that allowed him to last longer in bed with ring rats. This is the level of discourse we are dealing with in this tome. And, as a wrestling fan, it is EXCELLENT. You thought Flair’s book was dirty? To quote a movie, sort of, “Ric Flair ain’t got SHIT on Freddie Blassie.”

Once again, I want to state that this book is, in a word, PROFANE. To the nth degree. Blassie pulls no punches. Just look at the marriage that ended up working for him: he met a kimono girl in Japan, talked her up one night, then, TWO YEARS LATER, came back to Japan, found her, wooed her, married her. Sounds to me like someone had to go to great lengths to lay some pipe. That is Freddie Blassie in a nutshell.

Obviously, we get a good look into the trials and tribulations of the man’s career: his feud with Rikidozan, the father of Japanese wrestling. That feud lead to the deaths of a number of Japanese fans, as they were not used to seeing an American staging such brutality on a Japanese opponent. Anywhere from five to fifty fans died watching Blassie-Rikidozan matches on the new technology of television in Japan. I hope to god most fans know of Blassie’s habit of filing his teeth…on camera…so his incisors would be pointed like a vampire when he bit into bleeding opponents. Many may think of CM Punk as quite the dick heel these days (and he is…the man is on the run of a lifetime right now). But no one, NO ONE, was quite as effective a heel as Blassie was in his heyday. I am a big time wrestling geek, guilty as charged, but during WWF’s recent 1999 heyday with Stone Cold leading the charge, a bunch of people asked me “Is there anyone but Stone Cold who could head this ratings surge?” I answered in the affirmative. Freddie Blassie. Transfer the bloodlust of his character with his outstanding promo ability, and he would have been thrust to the forefront of the Attitude era. Hell, Steve Austin and Fred Blassie basically had the same body composition. Only Blassie was better on the stick. Chew on that for a second.

Blassie was a star primarily on the west coast, but had some good runs in New York with Vince Sr. It was with Senior’s son that he would achieve his greatest notoriety. Blassie, who amazingly was still a draw at an advanced age of well over fifty, realized his body would no longer allow him to maintain that type of career. So he became a manager, and, may I say, there was no better manager in wrestling history, aside from Bobby Heenan, in this observers eye. Heenan could talk and bump better than any manager ever, but Blassie had this rare trait of being able to transfer the heat he had acquired through his years in the ring wars to his charges. Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, etc, et al. Ayatollah Blassie, Freddie with the Iranian headdress? That was BRILLIANT for the time.

Eventually, Blassie had to retire, and became a front office monkey. That was not a role suited for a man of his talents, and Vinnie Mac realized it. So, if you were a fan weaned on 1990-2004 WWF wrestling, every package on wrestling’s past included Blassie: This was the only one I could find on youtube or dailymotion. Blassie became a living legend, rightfully so. Classy Freddie Blassie was one of a kind. And, in the spirit of the man, and the spirit of the book, if you know not of the man, you can suck my lubrocained covered cock. Enjoy the video, and Rest in Peace Freddie.

Mariano Rivera

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I was going to wait until seasons end to write this, but some readers are pushing me to it. Far be it from me to not acquiesce to readers will. So here we are.

Mariano Rivera is the greatest player at his position in the history of baseball. There, I’ve said it. That may sound like hyperbole, but its gospel truth. You can debate who is the greatest centerfielder in history.(Mays or Cobb) You can debate who the greatest first baseman is.(Gehrig is the only plausible answer, as far as I am concerned) You can debate who the greatest starting pitcher is. (Walter Johnson or Walter Johnson. Or Clemens or Seaver) But there is no debate over who is the greatest closer in baseball history. Thus, Mariano Rivera must be considered one of the greatest players in baseball history.

Mariano is an anomaly. Most closers in baseball have a shelf life of maybe, if they are lucky, five years. Think Dennis Eckersley. Some really gifted closers last eight great seasons. Think Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, or, more recently, anus mouth himself, Jonathan Papelbon. Rivera has been doing it at a higher level for longer than any closer EVER. Period. Its not even a point of contention. Some people will speak up and say TREVOR HOFFMAN. Really? Hoffman was a damn good closer, one who merits induction into the hallowed hall of Cooperstown. But in a tough situation, a World Series game, a tight game in September, or even the fucking All Star Game, could you be reliant on Trevor Hoffman? No. When the bright lights shined brightest, Hoffman shrank. He was a GREAT, and I do mean great, regular season closer. But when the bright lights hit, he was like Tom Glavine. Don’t get me wrong, I like Glavine and think he is a first ballot Hall of Famer. But aside from one truly great postseason game that he pitched in 1995, clinching the World Series for the Braves, he came up truly small. The 1990’s Braves should have won just about every World Series in the decade, but were stopped short. And Glavine was as big a reason as any on that squad. Trevor Hoffman ranks there as well, a great regular season closer who wilted in the October spotlight.

Rivera was not Trevor Hoffman. The Sandman relished October. He thrived in October. No pitcher has ever quite dominated that month like Rivera. Cold and calculating, Rivera dissected hitters with one pitch. ONE PITCH. The cutter. The cut fastball. Rivera cut hitters apart with one pitch. That seems to be the perception. Perception, though, is not reality. Rivera throws two and four seam fastballs. It is just his cutter is so unhittable that it garners all the attention.

Many people will ask “What is the definitive Mariano Rivera game?” The shrewd answer is none. Most people will remember Mariano for his failures, his foibles. Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Game four of the 2004 ALCS. That is what makes Mariano so great: He fails so infrequently that his failures are magnified. My greatest Mariano memory is Game seven of the 2003 ALCS. After Mike Mussina had stemmed the oncoming Red Sox tide, Mariano came in and pitched THREE scoreless innings, keeping the vastly superior 2003 Red Sox at bay to allow Aaron Boone to walk the Yankees off in the 12th. Mariano was so moved by that victory that he hugged the pitchers mound after Boone’s ball took flight. It is an enduring baseball memory for this Yankee fan, one permanently embedded into my skull.

So where does Mariano Rivera fit into baseball lore? I have been a Yankee fan for many years now, dating back to the awful zenith of Steinbrenner destiny. George got suspended from the game and, all of a sudden, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, and Mo were fostered and became Yankee icons. Gene Michael Ladies and Germs! Rivera was almost traded in 1995 for future Yankee David Wells, but Stick Michael was shrewd enough not to do it. What resulted was one of the greatest baseball careers of all time.

I hope to God people realize what Mariano Rivera is, was, and forever will be. Goose Gossage, himself a dominant, premier closer, stated it best: “When this guy comes in, the other team knows they have no fucking chance. I mean,,the game is fucking over.” Well put. Has Mariano Rivera blown games as a closer? Yes. And those games live in infamy. And there is good reason: Mariano Rivera blowing a game, especially in the postseason, is like the college of Cardinals picking a new Pope. In other words, it happens occasionally, but it is rare.

Mariano Rivera is the greatest player ever, EVER, at his position. People take the man for granted. Has he failed? Sure. But his failures are all time epics, which should tell you what type of player the man was and is. There is a very good argument to be made that Mo is the best ever. I do not agree with this assessment, but cannot detract from it. Mariano Rivera is one of the best who ever wore a glove. And I hope that perception lasts forever.