----This was posted on www.wrestlingobserver.com and I thought I would pass it along. Order your copy today!!! It would make a great Christmas present for a wrestling fan!!
Jeuron Dove talks Joe Babinsack's book Pro Wrestling Intellectual
Professional Wrestling Intellectual
A Compilation of Writings by Joseph L. Babinsack, Jr.
Available from www.amazon.com and www.btpress.net
Reviewed by Jeuron Dove
Intellectual is not a word commonly associated with professional wrestling. To the masses, wrestling is seen as little more than a pastime that is looked down upon as being fake. But along with its detractors, professional wrestling has enjoyed a rich history dating back to over a century in North America and has thrived as a major form of entertainment in other parts of the world as well.
For those familiar with the work of Joseph Babinsack from the Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Weekly website and other publications, you know what to expect. And from those that don’t, lets just say that you are in store for some of the most passionate and logically sound arguments that anyone has ever brought to the pro wrestling debate ranging on a broad spectrum of well…everything that has to do with wrestling.
This book is unlike many currently on the market in that it’s not a straightforward narrative of a personality or fan of the business. As the title implies, it’s a collection of various writings that Babinsack has accumulated over a span of many years. They’re mainly reviews of notable books, DVDs and there is of course plenty of commentary, but the thing that sets his book apart from other mainstream wrestling works is that he’s aiming for the exact opposite of what society perceives as the mainstream wrestling scene. While there is plenty of focus on the two largest mainstream companies, WWE and TNA, there is even more spotlight given to trailblazing independent promotions such as ROH, FIP, Shimmer, Chikara Pro and Dragon Gate.
In many ways, this book is more of a snapshot of the modern history of the business. It goes through many different eras of wrestling and the sheer scope of this book could perhaps be its biggest drawback. A casual fan who may go into this book expecting stories of modern greats like Steve Austin, HHH, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and the like, will be sorely disappointed. They’re in this book, but it always seems as if the main focus is to introduce fans to a little lesser known star, to a lesser known promotion and even to a lesser conventional thought process as it pertains to the history and future of the business.
Of course, the hallmark of any great writer is their ability to connect with their readers through the authority in which they are able to convey their words. In that sense, Babinsack is easily one of the best of the current crop of wrestling writers. For a person whose never worked in the front office of a major (or minor) promotion, his words speak with a certain credibility that lets you know that he isn’t just making things up as he goes along. He’s a rare breed of fan that’s literally watched and studied as many types of wrestling as possible in order to gain the largest and most appreciative base of knowledge he can. After reading a few pages, you quickly come to realize that this is a man who has a pretty good grasp of what wrestling is, was at particular times throughout its history and what it can be again.
As far as mechanics of the book go, be prepared for a journey. It’s a little over
400 pages, so be ready to invest some much-needed time into reading. It’s broken up into ten sections (I wouldn’t call them chapters since they’re very un-chapter like in a traditional sense) and all of the reviews and commentary on each section fits into a certain theme. Perhaps the greatest part of the book comes when he’s discussing the career of the great Bruno Sammartino.
Sammartino is the legendary wrestler of WWWF (later WWF and now WWE) fame who is unquestionably among the most enduring champions in wrestling history. The most important (and really the only) fact that needs to be said about his career is that his two WWWF world title reigns spanned for over 11 years. That is an accomplishment that hasn’t come close to being matched before or since by any major world champion in wrestling. Babinsack comes across as passionate and knowledgeable on every page, but you can tell that he’s genuinely having fun when discussing the career and life stories of man who is clearly his hero. More weight is given to his words on Sammartino than probably any other wrestling writer (with the possible exception of Dave Meltzer), due to the fact that he actually befriended and formed a great relationship with the man whom he grew up admiring. Sammartino’s long title run isn’t the only thing that makes him a rare figure in history, but maybe more so is the fact that he will likely never be inducted into the hall of fame of the company that he inarguably put on the map. The long story short is that without Sammartino, there would have never been that foundation for guys like Hulk Hogan, Austin and The Rock, to stand on in terms of taking the WWE to new heights of popularity.
Aside from the Sammartino section, if there is one other that I would recommend reading, it would have to be the one on women’s wrestling. Unlike hardcore, technical, strong style and light heavyweight, women’s wrestling is the one genre that hasn’t come close to tapping into its full potential in North America. A big reason as to why is because many promoters and others in power (especially of the current WWE) don’t associate women with wrestling, but as eye candy for the male audience. That is quite different from Japan where women’s wrestling is given much more respect and many of their top stars (Manami Toyota, Akira Hokuto, Crush Gals, Bull Nakano, Aja Kong, etc…) rank among the top wrestlers, male or female, in the world. TNA is the largest North American promotion that has ever come close to fully "getting it" as they have a genuinely competitive division of women wrestlers that can go (as in perform well) in the ring as well as continually draw the highest ratings of their weekly television show.
However, there are some groups on the indie scene that are slowly, but surely, attempting to bring some prestige back to the art form. Among them are Shimmer (the sister promotion to ROH), ChickFight and WSU. Each of these groups put on shows that feature intelligent storylines and women who are capable of delivering matches on par with the most elite male wrestlers of today. A review of a Cheerleader Melissa (currently Alissa Flash of TNA fame) vs. MsChif match, in particular, is a stunning read of a textbook example of what perfect ring psychology should be. Other stars given adequate shine in this section include Daizee Haze, Sara Del Rey and Allison Danger. Any wrestling fan owes it to themselves to read this section as you will come away with an entirely different perception of what women’s wrestling can be.
Professional Wrestling Intellectual is quite the read. Everything in the book may not be for everyone, but with such variety of subject matter, there is bound to be something for most to get into. If you’re like me, you will come away with the realization that there is way more to this great sport, than what we see every Monday night on Raw, Thursday night on Impact and Friday night on Smackdown. There is a big world out there of undiscovered talent and under-the-radar promotions, and this book does an exceptional job in getting you prepared for that world.
Jeuron Dove can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.