Like so many young pro wrestling fans, I couldn’t take my eyes off the costumed heroes and villains sprinting about the ring, delivering power slams, drop kicks and backstage interviews promising their next championship reign. Moving forward a couple of decades, I think I understand what kept me glued to the TV. It was the intersection of world-building, theater, athleticism, humor, psychology and generational fandom fundamental to the show and the wrestlers. Whether you call it performance art or sports-entertainment, pro wrestling unites sportsdom and geekdom like nothing else in pop culture.
Step into the ring and explore some of my recommended pro wrestling titles.
You’ll love hearing from the boss himself in Eric Bischoff's Controversy Creates Cash. As the executive producer, and then president, of World Championship Wrestling, Bischoff sat at the forefront of the late 1990s pro wrestling boom. Hear his intimate perspective on the TV battle that pit his WCW's "Nitro" against the WWF's "Monday Night Raw," and how that lost battle still influences the pro wrestling and TV business today. Speaking of the pro wrestling business at large, fans will especially enjoy David Shoemaker's The Squared Circle, a thoughtfully written work commending pro wrestlers as artists and wrestling fandom as a knowing, interactive audience.
With women’s wrestling more prominent than ever, the rich, enjoyable Sisterhood of the Squared Circle by Pat Laprade has become an essential read. This book includes over a hundred profiles, providing diehard fans the depth they'll appreciate and newer fans an introduction to women’s wrestling history. An Encyclopedia of Women's Wrestling by Latoya Ferguson is a vivid and comprehensive read including performers' in-ring statistics. And for an detailed look at a woman's traverse through the industry, try recently retired superstar A.J.Mendez Brooks' Crazy Is My Superpower.
From rolling in barbwire to falling off the highest steel cages, pro wrestling legend Mick Foley has been through it all in the ring. Yet, how much do you really know about the man known as "Cactus Jack," "Dude Love" and "Mankind?" Picking up where his earlier (and bestselling) memoir Mankind, Have a Nice Day! left off, Foley Is Good moves forward in his career, showcasing his personal charm alongside all of the other characters and quirks running amuck backstage in WWF’s "Attitude Era." Finally, pick up Chris Jericho's Undisputed for another behind-the-scenes journey of a legendary career, spanning decades across various wrestling promotions.
Who’s your favorite pro wrestler? What book would you recommend about their career? Let me know in the comments.