Writing for IP has its perks.
There’s the free booze I get in any bar in the country; comped front-row tickets to WrestleMania, along with a four-star hotel suite with Trish Stratus and Stacy Keibler waiting in bed for me with nothing on but a smile; and let’s not forget the police … well, you can’t. Me? What’s a felony, officer? Parking offense, shmarking offense.
Okay, so maybe I made some of that up … it’s Amy Dumas waiting in bed (*rimshot*), but calling that a perk is like calling McDonald’s fine dining. But I do get free books, courtesy of the fine folks at Sports Publishing LLC, with the understanding that I review them for Inside Pulse in a prompt manner, something I’m glad to do. Hey, free books, right? Who doesn’t like that? (Now, if only Widro would hurry up and get shmoozy with the people who publish the WWE books, so I can get those for free …)
So, after reviewing the Terry Funk and Dusty Rhodes autobiographies, Sports Publishing and I had established a pretty good relationship, and I was more or less on their list to get future wrestling-related publishing endeavors. I knew there was one coming out in the fall, but I didn’t know what it was. Imagine my surprise when I get my mail and I see a package from Sports Publishing. It’s quite a large package, much larger in width then the two previous books, like the size of a coffee table book. And deceptively light, which is quite unlike a coffee table book. It took me a moment to remember the project my contact, Maurey, had mentioned … although he’d only mentioned a “project”.
So, I tear it open and there it is … the newest book for me to review.
The Professional Wrestlers’ Workout & Training Guide? Wuh? The cover boasts an impressive triumvirate of wrestling legends as its writers: Les Thatcher (owner/operator of Heartland Wrestling Association, 20 years in-ring experience), Ricky Steamboat (WWE Intercontinental Champion, NWA World Champion), and Harley Race (8-time NWA World Champion, 2nd-ever WWE King Of The Ring). It was compiled by Alex Marvez, and even boasts a foreword by former WWE play-by-play man Jim Ross. Still … huh? A how-to wrestling book?
Suddenly, the prospect of reviewing what had been a mystery book had taken a drastic turn into the unknown. How does one review a book that portends to teach the fine art of professional wrestling through pictures and the written word? How can I, an untrained layman, be qualified to say “Yes, this book achieves the goals set forth” or “No, this book is better used to line a birdcage”? How does one even review a book like this? No narrative, no personal insight … it’s a technical manual.
Only one way to find out … dive in head-first and give it a shot.
So, obviously, this isn’t a book for everyone. This books serves a niche purpose for a niche audience, and that is: educating aspiring professional wrestlers on the proper way to begin their training, some home training exercises and basic maneuvers, and a look at some other fundamentals such as developing a gimmick and how to get bookings. If you’ve ever utilized some industry-specific employment guide such as the annual Writer’s
Market put out by Writer’s Digest, you’ll recognize the format of this book: a broad outline of the essentials for getting into the biz. Even the design of the book itself lends itself to this goal: it’s coffee-table-book-sized, but a paperback. Perfect for getting taken along and used and abused by countless indy workers learning the ropes.
Another person this book isn’t meant for is the hardcore backyard fed retard … you know, the one who thinks wrestling equals breaking fluorescent light bulbs on people and diving off houses, idolizes Necro Butcher and The Messiah and thinks CZW was the greatest fed ever. If you think you’re going to break into the business by letting your buddy Skeeter carve your forehead open with a cheese grater, then you obviously aren’t cracked up to compete like normal people, and I would advise you to turn tail and run instead of paying heed to the advice these road-worn veterans have to offer. For those of you, though, who would honestly like to do it the old fashioned way … through blood, sweat, eating cold tuna fish out of a can in the back of an ’84 Tercel and getting a payoff that barely covers your gas money to the event … then this might be a nice building block for you.
One thing all aspiring wrestlers who are interested in this book should know, however, is that this book will not substitute for real training. Thatcher, Race and Steamboat don’t even try to pretend to assume that it will, and say so right up front that training to be a professional wrestler takes years of constant work. One look at the WWE (well, maybe not Chris Masters) or TNA or Ring Of Honor will show you people in the business anywhere from a year to 20, and the eagle-eyed fan will notice the wrestlers’ games constantly expanding and growing. To that effect, Race, Steamboat and Thatcher provide a list of some 20 or more reputable training facilities with established and honest teachers, and a legacy of hard work and contributions to the business. And if, for some reason, you feel the need to find your own trainer, they even give you a list of nearly 20 different reputable training facilities and open-door indy feds that are always willing to take on newcomers. And you know, with the stamp of approval of Steamboat, Harley and Thatcher, you’re not gonna set some prick who tries to pop your eye out and dislocate your neck as “seasoning”, then takes your $1000 bucks and runs.
Once you get past the introductions and pedigree-displaying, you get to the meat of the book. The bulk of the 120 pages is a picture-enhanced guide (with your models, Ring Of Honor wrestler Nigel McGuinness, and WWE wrestler Matt Striker) wrestler to various work-out techniques for both out-of-ring conditioning, and your most basic in-ring bumps, maneuvers and tactics. The conditioning section details various exercises that they suggest as necessary to build the proper body, build and respiratory conditioning to be a professional wrestler. In addition, there is a short but helpful section concerning diet, with many suggestions on acceptable and unacceptable foods, what kind of diet to do if you’re trying to achieve a certain build, and a sample menu for your average day. Helpful for those who can’t afford to get a personal trainer, and really, many of the exercises would work for Joe Schmoe towards just keeping in shape.
The rest of the pictorial section details many of the most basic maneuvers and holds you see in wrestling, starting off with multiple ways on how to take a proper flat-back bump. Running the ropes, leap frogs, fireman’s carries, vertical & snap suplexes, and even a few cheat-tactics are all meticulously diagramed and explained with detailed notes. Of course, the one problem with this section is that it’ll only help people who have access to a ring to perform these bumps … and that means, odds are, those same said people are already in training, learning how to do snap mares and deliver punches and dropkicks. But still, a good reference source.
The remainder of the book (maybe 25 pages) goes into three sections: the first is entitled Ring Psychology, which gives some general tips and tricks on basic ring psychology, how to play to the crowd, the use of blood, assembling a match, the timing of the comeback and the finish. Interspersed throughout this (and every section) are sidebar tips and very brief road-stories from the three star authors that might illustrate or further illuminate a point made in the main “narrative”.
The second section is on Selling Yourself: designing a character, cutting an interview, the art of kayfabe, marketing yourself, payoffs, safety and other issues. Again, plenty of little sidebar tips from the pros, and probably one of the book’s most useful sections. The availability of training facilities gives many beginners a lot of the tools that are contained in these pages; but the secrets of blending into the locker room, developing a gimmick, the payoffs (or lack thereof) in the indies … this is all stuff that kids get burned on, and can drive potential superstars back to their day jobs. The heads-up this section serves as is quite invaluable.
Lastly, the book wraps up with a glossary of a lot of industry and insider terminology.
Like I said, it’s hard to review this book. Since I’m not an aspiring wrestler, I can’t say “oh, this would be/is going to be a big help to me!”, or “what a waste of money!”. I have to review it for its functionality as an outsider … and based on that, it’s a decent idea. The section on exercises and maneuvers is probably a little long (and, as I said, repetitive, since people in training won’t need pictures to be told how to do a back bump, and they go out of their way to discourage kids from trying this on gym mats at home or in the backyard), and the section on breaking into the industry is woefully short … that seedy, unexplored underbelly, the initial first few months/years is a period in the business that has been somewhat romanticized by fantastic road stories told by wrestling legends, and the next class of wannabe superstars needs to know exactly what to expect when they’ve moved from trainee to rookie, and are putting the serious moves towards turning wrestling from that obsession their parents don’t get to a real career. Perhaps one day … Still, for what it is, the information is useful, presented in a snappy but easy-to-follow manner, and should prove educational to anyone who isn’t already on Raw or Impact.
Final score: 5.0 (for laypersons), 8.0 (for aspiring wrestlers)
The Professional Wrestlers’ Workout & Instructional Guide retails for $24.95, and is available:
At major chain and independent bookstores.
By calling Sports Publishing toll-free 24-hours-a-day at 1-877-424-BOOK (2665) in the continental United States (outside the continental US, please call 217-363-2072).
Or, online at the Sports Publishing website.