Tag Archives: pro wrestling

“Death of WCW” Book Review

From 1988 to 2001, World Championship Wrestling was one of the top professional wrestling organizations in the world, constantly teetering between first place and second against it’s biggest rival, Vince McMahon’s WWF/ WWE. The two companies went back and forth for over a decade, always trying to one up each other to become the main show for wrestling on TV and pay-per-view. Needless to say, most fans know now who won the Monday Night Wars, with WWE still around while WCW is a relic of pro wrestling past. The question is, how come WCW, which had all the cards for a long time, wither and die in the pathetic and often embarrassing way they did? R.D. Reynolds of wrestlecrap.com and Bryan Alvarez of Figure Four Weekly asked that same question, and “The Death of WCW” is the book that answers it.

Reynolds and Alvarez meticulously researched the history of not only WCW, but the companies that it existed as before Ted Turner transformed it into WCW, as well as other very important regional promotions that helped build WCW or tried to compete against it, and a history of WWF, the two companies that fought to be the biggest show in pro wrestling. While many remember the Monday Night War’s as the big battle between WCW and WWF, the battle really began when Ted Turner bought WCW and began pumping tons of money into it. Vince Jr., after buying WWF from his father, was also trying to do a similar plan of attack, but it would take years of work and a ton of mistakes from WCW for Vince to claim top spot.

The book details the rise and fall of many men behind the scenes who helped build WCW, as well as set it back, like Jim Herd, Bill Watts, Vince Russo, and Eric Bischoff. Beyond that, we have the tales of the wrestlers, who were often just as involved as the higher-up’s to book matches and have creative input, including Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and plenty of others. Hearing the inside scoop on their plans and their many follies is great, and written in a humorous and often-sarcastic tone of voice that is sure to please wrestling fans.

There is plenty of non-backstage and business talk too, with explanations and backstory about all manner of WCW matches, like the “fingerpoke of Doom” and the epic fail that was the WCW debut of the Ultimate Warrior, and his consecutive headlining matches against Hogan on pay-per-view that were very underwhelming. Reading all of these stories made me jump right to Youtube to try and dig up some of these matches, although sadly Youtube has not caught up with every moment from the book so I have yet to see the fake belt Lex Luger wore when he won his first title from Barry Windham (because Flair took the actual belt with him to WWF in that era and had not yet returned it). More than the matches are the promos, and finally hearing explanations as to why some of these bizarre and over-funded video packages existed to begin with (hint: Ted Turner is very rich).

I would highly recommend this book to pro wrestling fans, both casual and hardcore. While it is about the death of a company, it’s not too negative on WCW and is pretty fair (although there is an obvious snarky bias against some of the stupidity that happened with the company, but there are plenty of high spots too). If you never thought WCW was a big deal and that WWF was always #1, you need to read this book to truly understand what a phenomenon WCW was, and how depressing it was to see them crumble the way they did.

You can order “The Death of WCW” from Amazon.com for under $13, which is a great deal for a great book on a critical time period in pro wrestling history. Grab it today and relive the good times, the bad times, and the just plain bizarre times!

“The King of New Orleans”, Biography of pro wrestler Junkyard Dog – Book Review

Sylvester Ritter is a name that all old-school pro wrestling fans must be aware of, although chances are they know him better by his stage name. “The Junkyard Dog”, or sometimes just JYD, won multiple single and tag team championship in his career during the 70’s and 80’s, and broke racial barriers along the way. Greg Klein, a student of the civil rights era, grew fascinated with Ritter, enough to write “The King of New Orleans: How The Junkyard Dog Became Professional Wrestling’s First Black Superstar”.

Released by ECW Press, this 180-page paperback tells the biography of Ritter from his early days all the way to becoming the first Black champion in a Southern pro-wrestling company, a big accomplishment in the 70’s. Living in New Orleans, Louisiana had passed many laws to keep Black people from competing in various sports, especially in interracial environments where they might mix with White folk. At the time, the majority of gimmicks given to Black men in pro wrestling were flat-out racist, and the wrestlers were always “heels” (or the bad guys for my non-smark readers).

After graduating from Fayetteville State University with a degree in political science, Ritter had dreams of becoming a pro football player. Fate intervened, as an injury forced him unable to join a team, and he instead was introduced to pro wrestling by a friend. Ritter debuted in the Tennessee territory, and eventually worked with Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Canada and Mid-South Wrestling in America, which is where booker “Cowboy” Bill Watts gave him his famous moniker.

During this time period, Ritter had matches with men like The Dynamite Kid, The Fabulous Freebirds, Ernie Ladd, Ted DiBiase, Kamala, King Kong Bundy, “The Natural” Butch Reed, and a young Jake “The Snake” Roberts before his DDT dropping days. In the mid-1980’s, JYD headed to Vince McMahon’s WWF, where his character grew in popularity and wrestled with some of the top stars before heading to WCW in the 90’s to feud for the world title there against Ric Flair.

Success was not an easy road for a Black man in that era, and Ritter had to battle against all sorts of racist promoters and unsavory characters to get to the level that he ultimately achieved. His hard work paid off, and opened the way for future Black wrestlers such as Booker T, Ron Simmons, Ron “The Truth” Killings, and many more who compete today.

Ritter sadly passed away in 1998, but Klein felt that his story was important enough that it must be remembered in this book, and what a great job he does of commemorating this superstar. Klein conducts interviews with many of the people that knew or worked with JYD, be they wrestlers, family members, friends, or even just admirers of his wrestling who inspired them to fight the good fight in a time where civil rights were still not accepted nationally. His writing style invites the readers in and offers every player a specific voice, and while this book is intended for wrestling fans, one does not need to be to enjoy this story. Klein weaves together these stories into one cohesive and fascinating biography that all wrestling fans should read, along with any history buffs who are interested in the civil rights movement. Entertainment was one of, and still is, the most powerful forms of political change, and JYD is an easily overlooked aspect of the struggle.

You can order The King of New Orleans: How the Junkyard Dog Became Professional Wrestling’s First Black Superhero for $13.43 on Amazon.com, and I definitely recommend it. I am glad that Klein wrote this book to cement JYD’s place in history, as I would have passed up on this book since before reading it, I simply took Ritter for granted. Professional wrestling has always thrived on racially-heated angles in their booking, and JYD was one of the first Black athletes to overcome stereotypes and cliche booking, to be treated just as a human being and not as a color. Pro wrestling fans will not be disappointed with this quick read and will be in for quite an unsuspecting treat and history lesson. Klein has ensured that future generations will not let this barrier-breaking, “thump” dropping, larger-than-life superstar become a forgotten hero.