You may not know this, but before I became the fight sport pundit you know today, I actually started out writing for wrestling sites under the name Freakboy. But as time went on (and as wrestling started to suck more and more each week) I lost interest, and unlike the other net nerds who complain incessantly yet don’t stop watching, I just stopped. The UFC is more exciting, politics is more entertaining, and anyone who actually cares that much about whether or not Triple H refuses to “do the job” is pathetic and sad.
This is not to say I don’t still have my collection of DVD’s and a subscription to WWE 24/7, because even though I don’t watch now, I still enjoy watching matches and reliving some of those moments that made me such a huge fan in the first place. My two favorites growing up were always Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, but around 1998 I added a third name to the list…Chris Jericho. Everytime he was on my television I knew I was going to be entertained. If it wasn’t a move I’ve never seen before in one of his matches, it was something he said in a promo that left me laughing for a week. After not seeing him on TV for a few years, reading “A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex” was a reminder why I was, and still am, such a huge fan of his.
I was drawn in right away because, as it turns out, Jericho and I both became interested in wrestling at the same time, the glorious rock n’ wrestling era of the early 80’s. As he was telling his story of how he became a fan, it was like he was talking about me. We even had similar stories about how we missed the match where Ted DiBiase paid off the evil twin and caused Hulk Hogan to lose the title to Andre the Giant. The only difference was that he missed the match because he was at work. I was camping.
The “fan” aspect was the most charming part of the book. As he told of his journey, he wasn’t talking to us as Chris Jericho the former world champion or Chris Jericho our role model. He was talking to us as Chris Jericho, who was simply a wrestling fan…no different than any one of us reading. He also invited us to look at parts of his life that you wouldn’t expect, most notably the day when his mother became paralyzed after being beaten by her boyfriend. It was heartbreaking, but it helped fuel everything he did from that moment on, just to make sure he never let her down.
We traveled with Jericho as he traveled the world perfecting his craft, through Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan, Tennessee, Philadelphia, before he made his way to WCW in Atlanta. This was easily the highlight of the book because, if those of us who became fans of the 80’s were not drawn in at the beginning, those of us who discovered the Internet and the wrestling tabloids in the mid 90’s will love reading a first hand account of all the backstage shenanigans that went on – most notably, the meeting with Eric Bischoff and Goldberg backstage at Monday Nitro.
I personally found this interesting because it happened at the Nassau Coliseum, and I happened to be working backstage that night as a runner. As I was sitting on a road case and resting with my back against the wall, I had no idea there was a major argument going on with Bischoff, Jericho, Goldberg, and Hulk Hogan about the direction of an angle. Nor, did I know of the argument when Goldberg wanted to know where my buddy Bart (the other runner) was with his sandwich. I just knew that when I wound up in the production office with the entire production team, Kevin Nash, and the Giant, and watched the angle live, everyone in the room popped and thought it was awesome. The next week, WCW killed the angle for no apparent reason (other than WCW is, or was, stupid), and Chris Jericho was off to the World Wrestling Federation.
The story ends with Chris Jericho making his WWF debut. I guess he wanted to save some material for “A Lion’s Tale Part 2: Electric Bugaloo.” Regardless, I’d extremely recommend this book to anyone who has ever been a wrestling fan. People who are fans now will like it because, next to the Mick Foley books, it is the most honest pro wrestling autobiography that’s out there. People who aren’t the big fans they used to be will love it, simply because it was an enjoyable trip down memory lane, told by one of the best there ever was.