Shocking Stories From The Squared Circle
Greg Oliver & Jon Waldman
Synopsis: A unique collection of wrestling stories and interviews from one of wrestling's most important websites.
Despite being on opposite sides of the fence (being a reporter who scrutinized the WWF, our relationship was adversarial in nature), Ross paid me several personal compliments, impressed with the "diligence" and "fair manner" in which I did my job. His words, not mine.
For close to two years, SLAM! Wrestling - not to mention other respected websites - went about its business covering the trials and tribulations of the WWF, thinking that as long as we continued to do so in a professional manner, we would enjoy a mutually profitable relationship.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I surfed into WWF.com last Wednesday and read their "Open Letter" to professional wrestling newsletters and internet sites.
Sadly, it now looks like we're back to square one.
I knew it was too good to last.
SLAM! Wrestling has been one of my go-to websites for professional wrestling news for the past 20 years. I even submitted a column to them in 1999 under my "shoot" name back when I was a young-ish freelance writer. Simply put, SLAM! is one of the few sites out there that values good old-fashioned journalism over "newz" and whatever may generate the most web traffic at any given time.... and it's hard not to respect them for that.
The site's book, SLAM! Wrestling Shocking Stories From The Squared Circle, serves almost as a 'best of' for some of their biggest articles, scoops, columns and interviews -- but in many ways, it's much more than that.
The articles, written by Greg Oliver, Jon Waldman and a host of others, date back to 1997 and serve as a kind of modern history of professional wrestling. From the earliest days of The Monday Night Wars right through to 2009 (when the book was published), there's an overview of practically every major aspect of the business, often told in a unique voice that you're unlikely to read elsewhere.
On top of that, SLAM! has a variety of firsts that other sites can't come up with. For example, there's a detailed look at the life and times of Barry Orton, the forgotten brother of Cowboy Bob and uncle of Randy, that gets into what the former Barry O did following his wrestling career. There's an exclusive interview with Corporal Kirschner, conducted the week after WWE.com had declared him dead! And as hinted at it in the blurb above, there's an explanation of the then-WWF's media ban to various websites - a behind the scenes story that a former reporter turned PR guy like myself absolutely loves reading about.
In addition, there are tons of high-profile interviews featured throughout the book, names like Hulk Hogan, Eddie Guerrero, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Chris Jericho, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and The Rock. But beyond that, there are the interviews with people like Kamala, Chris Benoit, Adrian Street and Bob Backlund - perspectives that aren't always avaiable at the click of a podcast button.
Can someone simply visit SLAM! Wrestling's site and read most of the articles presented in this book? Possibly (I'm not sure), but the experience of reading things in a detailed and orderly fashion would be much better than searching through two decades of archives for the best of the best.
The book also contains a really cool photo section that leverages the library of Postmedia (a large Canadian media congolmerate with ties to SLAM!'s parent company Canoe). These pictures include Edge and Christian posing as "Sunshine Boys" (cheesy shirtless pictures that were featured in local newspapers), Mickie James autographing what appears to be a baby's backside inside a Toronto train station and one of the SLAM! reporters interviewing a bloody CZW star John Zandig. The photos not featured in this section but throughout the book are also quite good.
Truly, the only criticism I would have of this book (and it's admittedly a minor one) is the order of articles in the first section. After the foreword by Scott D'Amore and a brief introduction, it goes right into the issue of the aforementioned WWF media ban. Not sure what I'd replace it with, necessarily, but it didn't seem to set the right tone for what is overall a fantastic archive of wrestling journalism.
Overall Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! This has to be one of the best "hidden treasures" out there in terms of wrestling books. When the book first came out, I must have not realized what it contained or else I would have bought it immediately. A must have for wrestling fans who want the "story behind the story."