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Friday, June 29, 2007

Wrasslin' Wreview

I just got finished reading The Death of WCW, by R. D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez, and boy, am I ever grateful that I never got into WCW back in my wrestling-enthusiast days. "The Death of WCW" recounts the many ways in which that "sports entertainment" organization screwed fans, disappointed fans, wasted money with neglible benefit to the fans, and behaved, essentially, as if they really didn't even have any "fans."


One thing I am very confident in is my new-found opinion that Wrestling fans should not be allowed to go anywhere near the printed word. And I'm not talking about the two fans who wrote this book - it's fantastic for this age; written by guys who run a Wrestling fansite, their prose necessarily needs to be writer's writing, that is, as simple as possible, while still maintaining a comfortable rhythm. Cudos to these wrestling fans. And there are the wrestling fans who helped along the "WWE Books" subsidiary by buying a bunch of "novels" that strain credulity by being based around the premise that Triple H can pull off a convincing turn as a secret agent, but they're reading, so at least they're trying to enrich their lives. No, the fans that I believe should have to be frisked before stepping into a Barnes & Noble's are the ones who actually read this book - I mean this particular copy of the book. Good lord, it looks like it was carried down the street in the mouth of a Rottweiler that was being dragged behind a rusted-out pick-up. The cover is missing more than one corner, the edges of the pages carry a strange salt-and-pepper pattern where it hasn't been turned completely black, and every third page carries someone's cast-off genetic material (which may turn out to be beneficial, as it means that at least some of this book-destroying neanderthal's genes have been removed from the pool). By the second chapter (fittingly titled, "The War Begins"), I was afraid to continue reading without wearing two layers of gloves and tucking my pants into my socks.

While I did praise the book for it's straight-forward writing style that was obviously nurtured by experience writing for an internet audience, I do have to question it's schizophrenic content: sometimes it's reading as a biography, with straight facts and an insider's analysis, but this will be interrupted by the sudden intrusion of typical web-influenced humour. The ellipsis is used to denote pauses, and unacademic criticism arises with such phrases as "Yes, that's what he actually wanted to do" in reaction to one booker's plan for a pair of hunch-backed tag-teamers. All told, that wouldn't have been undesirable, if the rest of the book had adopted on a similarly informal tone - but it doesn't. Instead of the snarky sarcasm that typically peppers internet discourse, absurd situations (such as an early idea of Eric Bischoff's, a wrestling match that involved combatants competing to retrieve an uncooked turkey from atop a pole) should have been reported simply, and left to the reader to make the reaction of"Really?" There are small interstitials within the text that provide trivial asides, meant to compliment the main history, where the snarkiness actually works well, but the smart-ass shouldn't' be allowed to leave these areas. When it does spill over into the main body, it feels just like a big, awkward, wrongly-played note in an otherwise beautiful symphony.

Technical aspects aside, one of the most surprising elements of the book is the portrayal of Terry "Hulk" Hogan, not as the good-natured, "nice guy" he's always portrayed as, but as an egotistical ass who wanted all of the attention focused squarely on himself - for example, Bischoff's WCW was able to land Hogan because Vince McMahon over at the WWF wanted to push some of the younger talent, and Hogan was promised that he would be champion and center of attention over at Ted Turner's WCW.

In the end, the book is an enjoyable and captivating read, but is more suited toward the fan with a more-than-casual knowledge of professional wrestling. A lot of esoterica is thrown about ( for example, "cut a promo") which limits the books accessibility to the non-fan, so I wouldn't recommend this volume to anyone who doesn't know what "Austin 3:16" refers to, or what "Mr. Socko's" primary occupation was. To the person who not only knows all that, but just ran-off a list of the top-3 matches to include the aforementioned Socko, this book is a worthwhile purchase.

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