Real quick. Go to THE RING POST and read everything (Low Blow STILL coming, keep your shirts on… unless you’re a gal, then anything goes). And who made me that banner? I stumbled across it cleaning out some files and am pretty sure it’s never been used. Thanks to whoever. Also, I have tried looking everywhere and can’t find yours, 9 pac. Very sorry, please re-send.
Like pretty much everyone who’s ever been there, I’m a huge fan of WRESTLECRAP. For starters, it’s a great concept… because, let’s face it, there has been no shortage of material to draw from during the course of most of our lifetimes. But there have been thousands of sites that have come and gone during WC’s existence that pointed out the folly of many angles and characters. What makes this particular site such an institution is the man at the helm, RD Rynolds. Not only has he spent years painstakingly documenting the worst of the swill out there, but has presented it with his unique style of low-key humor that can simultaniously shred the gimmick itself and still show respect to the performer stuck in it. The reader never loses sight of his overall love of the industry, despite his mocking of the worst aspects of it (unlike those vile “bottom dwellers” that just attack with a bunch of expletives and cheap shots like they do at places such as… um… well, moving on…)
So when the announcement was made that we would soon be treated to “Wrestlecrap: The Book”, ‘net wrestling fans rejoiced, albeit with a little apprehension. After all, there’s a lot of crap to cover, and dealing with editors who might not be as “smart” to the business as the readers he’s used to catering to could certainly be major hurdles to overcome. Still, it’s the “Real Deal”. This book HAD to be a “can’t miss”, right?
Last week it finally came out, and the reviews started to filter in. Overall, the early feedback had been pretty positive, but the one getting the most notice was anything but. And this wasn’t just anyone, this was the almighty SCOTSMAN. Without mincing words, Graeme BURIED it… going so far as to suggest that it sucked so hard he was unable to finish it, and that it made his baby cry. What a dilemma. On the one hand it’s the guy who has consistantly entertained me for years (not to mention links us), delivering the fruits of his labor. On the other here’s my mentor, the fellow responsible for every one of you knowing my name and perhaps my favorite ‘net writer from long before that saying to avoid it like it was a handwritten invitation to the Neverland Ranch for our children. Well, this needed personal resolution. So despite being gang-raped by the all the deposits on the new pad, I dug through the desk drawers and found enough silver to make it to a CoinStar box, and minutes later the book was in my hands.
And it is my extreme pleasure to report that Scotsman is WRONG! Hear me? WRONG! WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! After completing “Wrestlecrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling”, I can only assume that Scots manipulated the baby photo by putting the book up to his chest, getting in position, and saying “It’s time you learned the horrible truth son… you’re Canadian.”
Before getting to what this book is, let’s clear up what it is not: IT IS NOT THE BOOK VERSION OF THE WEBSITE! Reynolds only spent the last six months trying to make that abundantly clear to everyone every single time he shilled it. For starters, being limited to print without the advantage of sound and video clips necessitates changes. But the real difference is in the target audience. Scots suggests that the material would’ve been better covered by a Meltzer, Alvarez, or even Keith. What he’s not grasping here is the market. The version of this book he’s dreaming of would’ve been “smark-oriented” and a great read… and it would’ve been as easy to find as the first editions of “Tributes” you could only buy at the powerbomb website. When you’re writing to a niche audience like wrestling fans and the book is being sold in every major outlet in the country, you can’t skew the potential buying pool down even further by putting out something that leaves the casual fan scratching their heads all the way through it.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to what this book IS. “Wrestlecrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling” is a fun, all-encompassing, breezy walk down memory lane. Like the site, the tone is light-hearted but still very funny. The serious fan will remember almost all the gimmicks mentioned here, but that’s what makes re-living them such a kick. Mentally this was the most visual book on wrestling I’ve read, because there’s so much ground to cover, and because I lived through just about all of them. And every time someone was brought up, I was able to remember EXACTLY how I felt the first time they appeared on my TV screen. Sometimes with fury over wasting television time that the guys I wanted to see already weren’t getting with such blather. Others it was with mild amusement that someone spent all the time necessary to develop such a character without realizing at some point along the way how earth-shakingly bad the idea was. And still others it would be met with a simple roll of the eyes, and internally questioning whether I was actually killing brain cells by continuing to feed my head with this tripe.
The timeline is interesting. In the first half, the focus is squarely on the performers. Yeah, there’s plenty of righteous Ole and Jim Herd bashing, but for the most part we are treated to the characters and angles we most associate with his site: The Bastion Boogers, the Van Hammers, the dreadful WCW PPVs and mini-movie promos for them. There are also full chapters on Hogan’s nose-dive into movies and Ultimate Warriors’… er… well, everything about the Ultimate Warrior (including disspelling once and for all the rumor the guy doing it now is not the original. Within the last month I’ve had to respond to that story on our forum, so it’s not like people don’t still believe it).
While the second half doesn’t completely move away from this trend, it begins to center on the PRODUCT ITSELF being wrestlecrap. As anyone who watched wrestling prior to 2001 can guess, the lion’s share of the mocking goes towards the Bischoff and Russo eras of WCW. We’re taken step-by-step through the history of the nWo, and how it went from being one of the all-time biggest angles ever to winding up killing the company. We (of course) touch on the “that’ll put butts in their seat” line, but unlike most retellings of it RD doesn’t just zoom in on the insane ignorance of the words themselves, but what WCW was offering as competition that night, and the bad taste it left in the mouth of the millions of people who DIDN’T flip to RAW right after Tony mentioned the Foley victory. He also goes behind the scenes to explain WHY so much of that era was awful, and who was responsible for the drek that made it to air by showing their ass and keeping the logical storylines from happening. The bulk of that won’t be news to most net or sheet readers, but would probably be very interesting to the scores of old school NWA/WCW fans who weren’t privy to such info when it was going on, and who were turned off by the choice of switching to the more adult-oriented WWF product so they stopped watching all together.
My favorite chapter is the second-to-last one, entitled “How to Lose $60 Million In One Year”. Why? Because I HAVE THE VIDEO! It truly is shocking to look back at that period and realize how long people kept their jobs when every week it legitimately seemed like the goal of the company was to put out a product worse than they had delivered seven days before. And it should go without saying the book closes with the post-WCW era; the wrestlecrap we are currently suffering through (fittingly, the last angle he touches on is Katie Vick… because really, anything else after that wouldn’t have packed the same “grand finale of crap” punch).
I did have a few issues with it, but in all honesty they’re pretty nit-picky. One of them is a “film geek” gripe (which was probably more of a typo than anything) where he lists Shelley Long (Diane on “Cheers”) as the star of “Suburban Commando” rather than Shelley Duvall (although he did properly identify the co-star as being Olive Oyl in the moviecrap specatular “Popeye”). The other was during the story of Johnny B. Badd. After going through the reasons he was included in the book (sans “The Booty Babe”), we’re asked “who in their right mind would think that dressing a guy up as a 1950s rock legend would create a stir?” Now, since Honky Tonk Man has already been mentioned at length in the book by this time I figured it was simply a cute attempt at irony and moved on. Problem is that the next paragraph begins “Probably the same brain surgeons who thought there should be…”, which makes it read like there really was no chance that a 50s rock legend gimmick could ever get over even though pages of material had been written about one that did only a couple of chapters earlier. But since Honky himself calls it “the most accurate wrestling book of its time”… like I said, that’s probably nit picking. (Heh, I get a kick out of using them in the same sentence, since they’re probably the two biggest sites in wrestling that haven’t blackballed Lethal over our five years or so.)
And some of the things that Scots rails against are valid. The book DOES jump around a lot, but again that goes back to this being written for an all-inclusive audience, including readers who will need some of the blanks filled in. And in almost every story you’re left knowing there’s so much more to say about these guys, but that’s due to the confines of working between a front and back cover and having a LOT of things to squeeze in. I imagine that would be even moreso for someone who has the entire old WC site printed up, so therefore I take back two of the five “WRONGS” from the earlier tongue lashin… er… finger la… OK, let’s try a term that sounds a little less gay, like “felching”. Anyway Scots, you’re down to five capitalized “wrongs” for the review. Now starting reading your baby normal kids’ books like “Goldilocks” or sum shit. Don’t you know the effects The Ding Dongs or Horseman Paul Roma can have on a developing mind? (You may also want to look at it again down the line when you aren’t beholden to reviewing it. Hell, I didn’t like Hyatte’s novella until the second read.)
Bottom line is this book is a blast to take in, much like Heenan’s and Missy’s were (if you want to see what telling the backstage stories is like WITHOUT being an entertaining writer, try making it through the Mooneyhan book. What a total pile of cow dung that was). Take RD at his word and don’t go into this expecting the website and you’ll love it. It’s funny, light-hearted, generally accurate on how things went down, and critical without ever sounding pious or disgusted. In short, it’s everything you love about WrestleCrap. You can trust me, after all I’m the guy who won’t be able to buy weed next week now and was SERIOUSLY weighing the book purchase against that all the way through.
gg, Mr. Reynolds. Bags of Hell for everyone else.
Lacks the attention span for book writing. God knows I’ve tried.