With only a month left before Labor Day, some of you may be looking for a good book to read the rest of the summer. Achilles Heel, of course, usually finishes a book in two or three days, but I recognize that less intellectually gifted people – pretty much everyone else – don’t process information as quickly as I do.
I have the advantage, of course, of reading in luxurious comfort. Plush hotel suites, exclusive beaches and first-class seats on planes provide me with the quiet and relaxing atmosphere that is perfect for devouring a good book.
Most of you have to read in a cramped hotel room, a beach packed with wall-to-wall people or shoehorned into a seat on a Greyhound bus with an annoying 300-pounder who won’t shut up about his or her uninteresting life squeezed in next to you. Then again, some of you might be that annoying 300-pounder.
The only distraction the Greek god of wrestling has when he reads is the presence of gorgeous women. Being accustomed to being around beautiful women all the time, however, makes them less of a distraction to me than they would be to those of you whose interaction with women primarily consists of your mother or wife telling you to take out the garbage.
Regardless of your circumstances, Achilles Heel is here to help. In addition to encouraging you to read Heel Turns every week, I am recommending wrestling biographies for you to read the remainder of this summer. I haven’t read every wrestling book, but, based on what I’ve read, the following are some books that could make the rest of your summer more enjoyable.
- Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks. Mick Foley’s tale of his long journey to becoming a professional wrestler, which hit No. 1 on the New York Times’ best-sellers list (seriously!) and ignited the pro wrestling book craze. This is an inspiring story that may also appeal to many non-wrestling fans. Foley is a wonderful storyteller, and he’s got a terrific story to tell.
- Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling. Bret Hart’s book challenges Foley’s “Have a Nice Day” as the best book on professional wrestling. While Foley writes with his trademark humor, Hart’s book has a more serious tone, although there’s plenty of humor mixed in. Hart comes across as brutally honest during this intriguing look at the dysfunctional Hart family, the Calgary territory run by Stu Hart and, of course, Bret’s days in WWE and WCW. As was the case in the ring, Hart’s execution is excellent.
- Bobby the Brain: Wrestling’s Bad Boy Tells All. This book, as you would expect from Bobby Heenan, is very funny. What you might not expect, however, is the touching personal tone as Heenan writes about reconnecting with his family and his friendship with Gorilla Monsoon. This isn’t written by “The Weasel” Heenan; it’s written by Heenan the human being. A thoroughly entertaining and emotional book by one of wrestling’s most talented performers.
- Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks. Freddie Blassie’s biography is fascinating because his career spans from the carnival days to the territory system to the modern WWE. Even Achilles Heel learned a lot from reading this book. For those too young to have seen Blassie, he was a feared wrestler in Japan, a villain on the East Coast and a hero in California. Classy Freddie Blassie was also a successful manager who recorded songs, starred in a movie and made television appearances. Blassie even inspired Muhammad Ali’s promotional style.
- A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex. Chris Jericho is, obviously, much younger than Blassie, but this first installment of what appears to be a series of biographies takes readers through the travels wrestlers used to have to make in order to reach one of the big-time organizations. Jericho literally wrestled around the world in order to build his skills so he could succeed in WWE. This tale ends before Jericho’s WWE days, which are detailed in “Undisputed,” which is also a good read.
- Foley is Good: And the Real World is Faker than Wrestling. Mick Foley’s follow-up to his best-selling autobiography, this book is full of Foley’s opinions on a number of subjects, some related to wrestling and some not. Foley mixes in some funny and poignant wrestling stories as well.
- The Hardcore Diaries. Yes, another entry from Mick Foley, the John Updike of the wrestlers-turned-writers. This book is a fascinating examination of Foley’s thought process as we follow the genesis of an idea to its execution on pay-per-view. Written in Foley’s light-hearted yet opinionated style, this book also contains plenty of wrestling stories, opinions and Foley’s caring side as he details his relationships with children suffering from a variety of hardships and diseases. TNA fans might also enjoy Foley’s “Countdown to Lockdown.” Foley has also written two novels, the well-written but very dark “Tietam Brown” and “Scooter,” which uses baseball as the background for the story of a boy growing up in the Bronx during the tumultuous 1960s and early ‘70s.
- Adam Copeland on Edge. This is a quick and enjoyable read about Adam Copeland’s passion for professional wrestling. It’s like “Have a Nice Day – Lite,” which is meant as a compliment. We follow Copeland’s friendship with Christian from school through their days in WWE, his appreciation and devotion to his mother and his pursuit of his dreams. Like his in-ring character Edge, Copeland is funny and entertaining. Given his later relationship with Lita, it’s weird to read about his feelings for his wife. Otherwise, this is a terrific read about a boy pursuing – and attaining – his dream.
This is not a comprehensive list of wrestling books. There are plenty of wrestling biographies I haven’t read. For example, I’ve heard wonderful things about Stan Hansen’s “The Last Outlaw” and Gary Hart’s “My Life in Wrestling.” You also might enjoy “The Rock Says” and Ric Flair’s “To Be the Man.”
As I look at my list, I see two common threads. First, the books were truly written by the author (Foley, Edge), not by a ghost writer who interviewed the wrestler and then wrote in first-person, or the author truly captured the voice of the wrestler (Blassie). The second common thread is honesty. When reading these books, I didn’t feel as if I was being “worked” by the writer or that he was using his book as a vehicle to embarrass or smear someone else.
The most important factor, of course, is the book must be interesting. Take my recommendations, which would be wise, or seek out books by your own favorites. There are plenty of good books to choose from if you’re a wrestling fan.
WRESTLING MATTERS: The jury is still out on RAW becoming a three-hour show, but WWE is 2-for-2 thus far. The 1,000th episode of RAW was almost a “can’t miss,” but this past Monday was also an entertaining show.
I was particularly pleased to see three very good matches. Sheamus defeated Daniel Bryan in a tremendous Street Fight, a stipulation selected by fans via Twitter; Christian and Chris Jericho battled The Miz and Dolph Ziggler in an entertaining tag team match; and John Cena and Big Show put together an intriguing main event. The show also featured the return of Randy Orton and plenty of face time for Bryan, which is a good thing. Furthermore, the Twitter and Tout moments didn’t interfere with the show (as the “trending on Twitter” nonsense did).
I’ll also use this moment for a quick shoutout to Smackdown, which also featured three entertaining matchups last week. The Miz successfully defended his Intercontinental Championship in a rematch against Christian; Sheamus defeated Cody Rhodes, with a Ziggler-Jericho angle thrown in; and Alberto Del Rio won a four-way match with Kane, Rey Mysterio and Bryan to determine Sheamus’ opponent at SummerSlam.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? After consecutive exceptional pay-per-views, we’ll see if TNA can complete the hat trick with “Hardcore Justice” on August 12. The card is headlined by Austin Aries defending his World Heavyweight Championship against former champ Bobby Roode, which should be outstanding. My concern has to do with the Bound for Glory Series matches.
There are three Bound for Glory Series matches at Hardcore Justice, each involving four participants. TNA has differentiated them by making one a ladder match, another a tables match and the third a falls-count-anywhere match. But I’m always a little leery of events with too many matches with similar dynamics. I’ll have a comprehensive preview of Hardcore Justice next week.
I TOLD YOU SO: I warned Phillies fans not to get too excited about the Phillies’ four-game winning streak last week because of the level of competition. Sure enough, the Phillies went down to Atlanta and were swept by the Braves.
To paraphrase Bobby Heenan and Curt Hennig in a famous interview after Ric Flair won the world title in WWE, I’m not the kind of guy to say I told you so … but I told you so.
CATCHING UP WITH CHIKARA: CHIKARA Grand Champion Eddie Kingston successfully defended his title in a 23-minute historic match against Sara Del Rey, who is leaving for WWE, in Maine on July 28. The next day in Everett, Mass., the Young Bucks retained their tag team titles in a best-2-out-of-3-falls match against The Throwbacks. The Mysterious and Handsome Stranger – a play on young Marcus Bagwell’s character in Global Wrestling Federation – won two matches.
The next opportunity to see CHIKARA will be Aug. 12 at First Energy Stadium in Reading in a fundraising event for Baseballtown Charities.
TV TIME: Sara Del Rey will also be featured at Ring of Honor’s television tapings tonight (Friday) in Baltimore, which is headlined by a title match between ROH World Champion Kevin Steen and challenger Homicide. The tag team tournament to replace champions Rhett Titus and Kenny King – King left for TNA – also gets underway. One interesting note is that Titus and Charlie Haas, who usually teams with Shelton Benjamin, are listed as having mystery partners.
Ring of Honor has also announced that its Aug. 11 debut in Providence, R.I., will be an Internet pay-per-view: Boiling Point 2012. The main event will be a champion vs. champion match between Ring of Honor World Champion Kevin Steen and CHIKARA Grand Champion Eddie Kingston. Sara Del Rey, who is certainly keeping busy on the independent scene before joining WWE, will team with Eddie Edwards to face Mike Bennett and former WWE Diva Maria Kanellis.