Beer Blood & Cornmeal
Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling
Author: Bob Calhoun
Synopsis: A behind-the-scenes look at the punk rock/lucha libre tour quite popular in Southern California in the 1990s.
There's an old comedy adage that cancer is never funny. ISW did nothing to change that. The match began with N.A.M.B.L.A. groping The Chemo Kid. Chemo stood there and cried like a lost little child. The crowd around the ring stood slack jawed. I heard people in the audience say "Somebody help that kid - please!"
I turned to the fans to taunt them. I was going to shout something really tasteful like "I'm gonna f*ck you 'til your bones crack!" But then I saw them. There were several kids no older than nine watching the wrestling. I looked at them and froze. It was a rare moment where I was speechless. I went back to dry humping and bodyslamming Chemo Kid as if that was somehow going to comfort those kids.
Just in case you hadn't already guessed.... this ain't your typical wrestling book. Incredible Strange Wrestling isn't your typical wrestling promotion. And author Bob Calhoun - who moonlights as the company's wrestler/announcer Count Dante - does an excellent job of conveying this.
A combination rock concert, wrestling league and freak show, ISW is a campy, ironic production that is based in San Francisco and apparently, has quite a huge following. While they haven't booked many "name" wrestlers on their shows (Vampiro being an exception because of his ties to the music world), their fans would rather apparently watch homegrown heroes such as El Homo Loco and Macho Sasquacho. There are also Scientology-based tag teams, masked chickens and dozens of other gimmicks that would make Vince Russo blush.
Watching some of the company's clips on YouTube (I just had to after reading this book), the wrestling is beyond garbage match quality, with excited fans whipping tortillas into the makeshift ring. Yet it's been popular enough for rockers including Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst to join in on the action.
Calhoun does an excellent job capturing the promotion's bizarre history, its rabid, ECW-like fans, the death threats he received over the Counte Dante name, and even backstage politics ("It's in my contract that I don't get pinned by the guy in the Chewbacca costume unless someone throws a tortilla at me first!"). At times, it reminded me of reading something out of Rolling Stone.
Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! I want to make perfectly clear that this book isn't for everyone, and it may not even be for a lot of casual wrestling fans. But if you enjoy Chikara, PWG or Insane Clown Posse's JCW, for example, or you just want to read something that's quite different, give this one a try.