“Let Me Tell Ya’ Somethin’!” Pro Wrestling’s Greatest Tell-All Autobiographies

Wednesday September 17th, 2014

Two-page chapters. A gigantic font size seemingly nicked from Reader’s Digest Large Print. Narratives that toggle between gossipy insider details and earnest recountings of scripted mayhem. Professional wrestling autobiographies are mostly self-serving apocrypha and always entertaining as hell.

Join us for a literary smackdown as Extra Mustard reviews pro wrestling’s hardest-hitting memoirs.

Side-note: At least two of these books were not even officially registered with the Virginia library branches that contained them, presumably due to embarrassment. Come out of the closet, Arlington Public Library. We know you’re a wrestling fan.

Pro Wrestling's Greatest Tell-All Autobiographies
    Hollywood Hulk Hogan
    by Hulk Hogan, with Michael Jan Friedman
    First Impressions: The 7th chapter starts on page 36 and is called “Kayfabe.” It comes in at a combined almost-one-page. High Spots: Hogan skyrocketed to fame as wrestling’s biggest household name, starring in several “action” “films” and reinventing himself in 1996 by forming the uber-cool New World Order. Bonus High Spot: shaving his chest/belly hair into a sweet-looking tornado during the 1970s.
    Low Blows: Hulk waited until his next book, My Life Outside the Ring, to tell the harrowing story of putting a loaded gun into his mouth and contemplating pulling the trigger. Yikes. So, for this earlier work, we’ll go with, say, the 1990s steroid scandal.
    Tell-Tale Passage: “As I walked down the ramp on the knee Dr. Repicci had cobbled together for me, I heard more than 68,000 people suck every bit of air out of that building, creating a vacuum I thought would pull my damn eyeballs out. Then they let out a scream that made my bones vibrate. It was a rush, brother, the biggest rush I could ever have imagined.” - Hogan, Hulking Up about his classic WrestleMania X8 match with The Rock.
    Shocking Swerve: Hogan spent an entire year training to be a wrestler before promoter Eddie Graham told him that wrestling wasn’t real. Let’s review that admitted truth. The most famous pro wrestler ever spent A WHOLE YEAR training to be a pro wrestler while believing that pro wrestling was real. Following this inconceivable long con, Hogan was also pranked during his very first match. Told that he needed to do whatever it took to beat Brian Blair, Hogan went berserker on his bewildered opponent, who had planned to follow the script and wrestle to the agreed-upon draw.
    Outside the Ropes: Hogan established quite a career as a budding bassist before entering the squared circle. He first played in a band called Infinity’s End, and photographic evidence shows Hulk proudly rocking a white leisure suit during this period. Hogan also divulges that he worked one night bouncing at a bar called the Proud Lion; his tenure ended when a drunk broke his Heineken bottle over the Hulkster’s face.
    Enemies List: Hulk’s biggest “Whatcha Gonna Do!?” challenge is reserved for Vince Russo. The World Championship Wrestling (WCW) booker allegedly announced his plans to fire Hogan before even meeting him, then double-crossed the Hulkster and cussed him out during a live WCW pay-per-view event. Hogan’s public shaming of this man is not remarkable, as Vince Russo is also hated by everyone else.
    Future Outlook: The future was so bright, the Hulkster had to wear shades (indoors and always). Talking about his 2002 WWE comeback, Hogan predicts, “This time it’s gonna be bigger than the eighties, I guarantee you… It’s gonna be bigger this time, brother.” This, brother, did not happen. Hogan lost the championship one month after winning it, then left WWE the following year. The Immortal One did appear on WWE Raw to mark his 61st birthday last month, however, and was honored as a true wrestling icon by WWE superstars and retired legends alike.

    The Rock Says … The Most Electrifying Man in Sports-Entertainment
    by Dwyane "The Rock" Johnson, with Joe Layden
    First Impressions: “The Rock says he can hear them out there, 21,000 strong … 21,000 screaming, rabid fans, the best damn fans in the world.”
    Wait, what?
    “The Rock splits the curtain to a blinding strobe show, a shifting shimmering sea of flashbulbs. Everyone wants a piece of The Rock! … Who can blame them? There’s never been anyone like The Rock, and there never will be again.”
    Oh no. “Within minutes the battle will be joined, and The Rock will commence laying the smack down on this man … this jabroni. His name is Stone Cold Steve Austin, and his candy ass belongs to The Rock!”
    This autobiography alternates between two voices. One voice belongs to Dwayne Johnson, a third-generation wrestler who speaks candidly of his father’s efforts to break down racial barriers in their profession, as well as the pitfalls that can bedevil the men who serve as pseudo-celebrities in his outlaw sport. The other voice is “The Rock”, a smack-talkin’ badass who writes all his third-person passages in character. Guess how long it takes for this format to become intolerable.
    High Spots: The Rock (or, thankfully, Dwayne Johnson) relives his WrestleMania XV match with Austin. He provides a detailed, insider look at how the two men prepared for their match – even comparing goosebumps when the card officially kicked off - and cracked beers together after successfully main-eventing their industry’s biggest show.
    Low Blows: When choosing a ring name, the wrestler who would later be referred to as The Brahma Bull, The Great One, and The People’s Champion selected the moniker Flex Kavana. Looking back, Johnson drolly admits, “in retrospect it wasn’t a great idea.” Neither is the 19th chapter in which he cuts a super-serial promo about kicking some other wrestler’s roody-poo candy ass.
    Tell-Tale Passage: “Later on that evening, The Rock peels off his $500 Versace shirt and his $200 shades, and, once again, lays the smack down on Ken Shamrock. The Rock beats that pile of monkey crap to within an inch of his sorry, pathetic life, proving, once and for all, that The Rock is not only the greatest Intercontinental Champion in the history of wrestling but the coolest thing since the other side of the pillow!” – The Rock describing a March 1998 Intercontinental Championship match with Ken Shamrock. This passage immediately follows the transcript of an interview conducted between The Rock and Gennifer Flowers.
    Shocking Swerve: The Rock gives up the goods on University of Miami superfan Luther Campbell, alleging that the 2 Live Crew performer put bounties on opposing players’ heads. Johnson writes that Campbell made it known that the Hurricane who hit Florida State standout Charlie Ward the hardest would be rewarded $500; cash prizes were also offered for quarterback sacks and outstanding catches. A happier swerve occurs when The Rock and two teammates plot a Caligulan escapade with six girls. They first head to a nearby bar to enjoy its “free drinks for football players” offer, whereupon The Rock meets the international finance and marketing major who would become his wife.
    Outside the Ropes: The Rock played for Miami’s 1991 national championship football team, eventually losing the starting defensive tackle job to a guy named Warren Sapp. He later embarked on an ill-fated Canadian Football League career that led to him and three other Calgary Stampeders practice players “sleeping on piss-stained mattresses in a small, unfurnished apartment.”
    WWE Enemies List: Austin, Mankind, Triple H, and other jabronis all receive their own verbal smackdown chapters.
    Real-Life Enemies List: the San Diego State Aztec mascot, who Johnson once chased through a college football stadium while repeatedly yelling, “I’ll kill you!”
    Future Outlook: Writing in 2000, The Rock boasts of receiving numerous motion-picture offers, and goes so far as to claim that, “when the right opportunity comes along, I’ll probably take the plunge.” Indeed. Last year, The Rock starred in four movies that made almost $1 billion by mid-June.

    Have a Nice Day! A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks
    by Mick Foley
    First Impressions: The back cover is a photograph of Foley-as-Mankind serving as a med school anatomy lesson. The graphic catalogues the exhaustive list of injuries that Foley sustained in wrestling, along with helpful lines drawn to each wounded physical region. The most worrisome ailment is either “Eight concussions” or “Second-degree burns on arm and shoulder.”
    High Spots: Winning the WWE Championship in 1999, then grabbing a microphone and shouting out his two children by proclaiming, “Daddy-O did it!” Or the time he and Austin tortured Diamond Dallas Page during a roadtrip with incessant hotel towel hijinks, which were capped off by placing a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies between Page’s bedsheets.
    Low Blows: Foley getting his ear torn off in the ring ropes while wrestling in Europe, then watching a nurse dispose of it in a medical waste basket because he didn’t know the German word for formaldehyde.
    Tell-Tale Passage: “I would be facing Terry Gordy in the opening round in a barbed wire bat, 10,000 thumbtack match…If I were victorious in the opening match (which I had reason to believe I would be), I would take on the winner of the Nakamaki-Ono contest in a barbed wire board, bed of nails match. Pretty self-explanatory. Then, on to the grand finale, the coup de grace, the big daddy of them all. The no rope, barbed wire board, C4 explosive, exploding ring death match.” - Mick Foley, taking a fond look back at his 1995 King of the Death Match tournament victory in Japan.
    Shocking Swerve: Holy cow, this guy can really write! Far and away the best of WWE’s early autobiographies, Foley’s book showcases a self-conscious wit and gift for storytelling. His comedic chops shine through, presaging his future work as a stand-up comic and fiction writer.
    Outside the Ropes: Back in the 1980s, Foley invented a wrestling hippie persona called Dude Love, who debuted in a home video that he shot with friends. Incredibly, Vince McMahon brought this cool-cat character to WWE for real in 1997, as the Dude befriended and then betrayed Austin. Enemies List: Foley compares Ric Flair to the Fonz, and it is not a compliment. This is small payback for Flair allegedly telling him, “You’ll be in a wheelchair by the time you’re thirty, and nobody’s going to care.”
    Future Outlook: This book concludes with Foley winning the WWE Championship, and telling readers to “buy The Rock’s damn book” if you want to find out how he lost it. He would retire from WWE one year later, and make periodic returns to the company as a wrestler and on-air authority figure.

    A Lion’s Tale; Around the World in Spandex
    by Chris Jericho, with Peter Thomas Fornatale
    First Impressions: The back cover has a positive review from Janet Evanovich, best known as that author your mom reads.
    High Spots: An endless array of hilarious anecdotes that Jericho brings back as souvenirs from his international travels. There’s the time he lost his virginity to a Modelo girl in Mexico during a 20-second bout that concluded with the second party giggling and patting his shoulder, while another wrestler pretended to sleep in the hotel room’s other bed. There’s the geriatric Rene Lasartesse, who wore a Dracula cape to the ring in Germany and finished off his opponents with a cartwheel. There’s the Japanese wrestler el Pandita, whose ring costume was indeed a full-body panda suit and who could only be beaten by an opponent grabbing his tail. And back in the States, of course, there’s the time Jericho recited the names of all his 1,004 wrestling moves (moves #2, 4, 8, and 712 are “arm bar”) live on WCW television.
    Low Blows: A domestic dispute that led to his mother becoming a quadriplegic. Jericho tells a sobering story of visiting his mother in a hospital after the incident, then being stopped by a policeman in the hallway. Sensing bad intentions, the cop advised him not to exact physical revenge on the perpetrator, explaining that Jericho would end up in jail and make things even tougher on his mother. Looking back, Jericho believes that this warning probably saved multiple lives.
    Tell-Tale Passage: Jericho and another wrestler angering the Yakuza in Osaka, Japan by breaking their flower pot. Clearly, no context is required. This story shares a two-page spread with a reprinted page of a Mexican comic book featuring Jericho as a zookeeper who is inspired to become a wrestler by a magical talking frog. Again, no context needed. For the sake of format continuity, however, here is Jericho’s summary of fellow WCW wrestler Hardbody Harrison’s storyline suggestions:
    “First he came up with the idea of painting his face and becoming Sting’s black nemesis, Stang. Then he came up with another beauty that had Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) bringing a special magic diamond crystal to the ring. Hardbody would attack him, steal the crystal, and drop it into a tank of piranhas. This chicanery would force DDP to jump into the piranha tank to retrieve the magic crystal, live on PPV.”
    Shocking Swerve: Jericho on the high level of organization and dedication in WCW: “Here’s a secret. If you were a fan of the (WCW) World Wide show, you watched many matches performed by severely hungover or still slightly loaded wrestlers. I’m talking from experience.”
    Outside the Ropes: Jericho’s father is former hockey player Ted Irvine, who scored over 150 goals in his NHL career. Irvine is also noted for appearing on the WCW Thunder broadcast in the late 1990s and cutting a promo on his son that was better than most of the mic work done by the company’s actual wrestlers. In addition, Jericho shares how he came to sing a few tunes with Stuck Mojo guitarist Rich Ward in his cover band Fozzy Osbourne. This partnership grew into a full-time gig, as Jericho and Ward have since released several albums of original material together. The rechristened Fozzy is scheduled to kick off a U.S. tour this month.
    Enemies List: The Outsiders, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, get a few receipts for their bullying behavior in WCW. Jericho also calls out Vampiro for repeatedly trying to undermine his career through actions such as recommending Jericho wear a loincloth to the ring. These call-outs pale in comparison to the derision reserved for WCW head honcho Eric Bischoff, who Jericho dubs “the Hitler of wrestling.”
    Future Outlook: This book ends with a printed version of the 15-second countdown shown live on WWE Raw before Jericho’s first company appearance in 1999. As the seconds tick by, Jericho reflects on everything that’s gotten him to this point, and how proud his parents were going to be of his success. When the countdown hits zero and the double-force pyro shoots off, he steps through the curtain and fulfills his dream of becoming a WWE wrestler. Fin

    Death Clutch; My Story of Determination, Domination, and Survival
    by Brock Lesnar, with Paul Heyman
    First Impressions: This book gets pretty dickish. The first paragraph summarizes Lesnar’s loss to Frank Mir in his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut as follows: “I handed this guy, who will never be half the man I am, a victory he didn’t deserve.” He later recalls losing to a “pudgy little kid whose name I can’t even remember, and neither can anyone else” at the Junior College Nationals. Lesnar claims that the loss “to that pudgy no-name” was a major turning point in his life, as “the fat kid” prevented his assured destruction of the eventual winner. In his later professional career, he exploited fellow WWE giant The Big Show’s phobia of dwarves by bringing one out to dinner one night and letting the little person take repeated bites of his colleague’s hamburger. OK, that one’s pretty funny.
    High Spots: Lesnar won the National Junior College Athletic Association Championship before claiming the NCAA Division I Heavyweight Wrestling Championship at the University of Minnesota in 2000. Not bad for a competitor who wasn’t recruited by any Division I colleges out of high school. He went on to become heavyweight champion in both UFC and WWE, despite admitting that “I hadn’t even watched five minutes of pro wrestling in my life” upon signing with Vince McMahon.
    Low Blows: Apparently, losing a junior college wrestling match to an overweight competitor was a life-altering event. Coming a close second is his battle with diverticulitis, a condition that caused him to lose 42 pounds and spend 11 days in the hospital being fed intravenously.
    Tell-Tale Passage: “I don’t talk about my personal life with strangers. This one time, and this one time only, you are invited to join me in my private world for a few hours. Just don’t ever expect another invitation.” – Brock Lesnar “promoting” his autobiography. I’m now worried this book is merely a legal ploy for Lesnar to physically assault me on grounds that I’ve seized his personal property.
    Shocking Swerve: As the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Lesnar shares some choice words about the organization which he represents as standard-bearer. He refused to marry his wife, Rena, until she left WWE, telling her that, “We both know the long-term side effects of everything there.” Here’s a direct quote from Brock Lesnar on his current employer:
    “That’s how Vince McMahon ends up owning all these guys… He owns their careers, and their careers become their lives, so he owns them.
    “It’s a vicious cycle. These guys sacrifice and sacrifice and sacrifice. Then they make it, which means they have to work three hundred days a year, in a different city every night. That’s when they lose their homes and their families. They end up working themselves to death, paying for homes they rarely visit, for kids they never see, and for ex-wives and then ex-wives’ homes.”
    On a more humorous note, the Beast Incarnate also admits to getting chewed out by his mom for losing wrestling matches as late as his senior year in college.
    Outside the Ropes: Football connections abound in this autobiography. Lesnar writes that he was the last man cut by the Minnesota Vikings in 2004, but this wasn’t the first time he tested himself against NFL competition. He lost in the 1999 NCAA Finals to future Patriots right guard Stephen Neal, who went on to win two Super Bowls with New England. Lesnar further reveals that fellow Golden Gopher Tony Dungy wanted him to try out for Tampa Bay when Dungy coached the Buccaneers squad.
    Enemies List: Subtlety and minced words. To wit:
    On his WWE colleagues: “”When the time came, I made my announcement and told everyone I was leaving the WWE… I still walked around like I owned the place, because there wasn’t one guy in that company who could even hold my jockstrap. If I wanted to shoot on anyone in that locker room at any time, there wasn’t a thing anyone could have done about it. I could have stretched every single one of them out.”
    On the magic of performing in WWE’s signature venue, Madison Square Garden: “I know all these famous arenas mean something to a lot of people, and there is a lot of history in the Garden, but none of that means shit to me.”
    On his halcyon days with WWE: “I had been popping pills for a while just to kill the pain of being on the road, of injuries that never heal, and I started drinking vodka. Lots of vodka. I can’t even tell you how much for sure, but it seems like a bottle every one or two days, with a couple hundred pain pills each month to go with it. You want to know why there aren’t more stories in this book about my pro wrestling days? Because the truth is, I don’t remember a lot of that period of my life.”
    Ladies and Gentlemen, your new WWE World Heavyweight Champion!
    Future Outlook: Lesnar reflects on losing the UFC Title to Cain Velasquez, writing that he is poised to regain his lost championship. Fortunately for wrestling fans, he instead chose to to reenlist his coauthor Paul Heyman and reclaim another belt.

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