British Wrestling is undergoing a transformation at the moment. It’s taking over our televisions once again on weekend afternoons and is, once again, the talk of the town. However, gone are the days of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks – this is new, different and incredibly exciting. But I’m a wrestling fan, so I would say that. On September 30th, the biggest independent wrestling event in England for 30 years took place at Wembley Arena. We’re not talking WWE here, this is Progress Wrestling – a British company founded six years ago in London. This was the company’s biggest show to date and it proved exactly why there’s so much hype around wrestling in the UK right now.
I understand if you’ve got a few questions after reading that. Like – Why is wrestling going through such a brilliant period right now? What’s the big deal? And how exactly does this relate to books?
Well, if you want to be in the know and understand why British Wrestling is going through such a boon period and why the theatrics, athletic ability and pure entertainment of professional wrestling should be celebrated, here are five books to get you caught up.
I’m Sorry, I Love You: A History of Professional Wrestling
By Jim Smallman
We’ll start with this one. A recent release from Hatchette, I’m Sorry, I Love You is a history of professional wrestling as told by Jim Smallman – a man who just happens to be the co-founder of Progress Wrestling. A former standup comedian and full time wrestling nerd, Smallman obviously loves the sport. His passion and enthusiasm can be found in every page of this book. This is a history of professional wrestling told from the perspective of a fan, but one that is also brilliantly insightful – leading the reader on a journey through the history of the sport, across the United States, the UK and Japan, leaving you with a fantastic understanding of why weirdos like me love wrestling so much.
Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks
By Mick Foley
Mick Foley is one of the biggest names in professional wrestling. He’s had a 30+ year career, wrestling all over the world and becoming a household name (as well as a bestselling author). Those with a passing interest in the sport may know him better as Cactus Jack, Dude Love or – most prominently – Mankind, but Foley is an incredible storyteller as his first autobiography proves. A hard-hitting look inside the sport during its most popular period in the United States – the late 80s and early 90s – this book will make you understand how grueling this ‘fake’ sport really is, both physically and mentally.
Holy Grail: The True Story of British Wrestling’s Revival
By Greg Lambert
To understand the revival of British Wrestling, you have to understand its downfall too. Greg Lambert’s book does that perfectly. This slightly salacious work, gives you a peek behind the curtain at what took wrestling from essential weekend viewing with your gran, to the absolute doldrums and back again. A key read in understanding how the industry got to where it is today.
Andre the Giant
By Box Brown
Andre the Giant is – quite literally – was one of the biggest wrestlers to have ever lived. Born in France, Andre Roussimoff would help change the face of professional wrestling forever and this is his story. Told through the medium of a graphic novel, this easily digestible book tells Andre’s story perfectly. Showing how he broke into the business, regaling readers with some of the amazing stories about him, and letting you understand his struggle.
Walking a Golden Mile
By William Regal
William Regal is one of the few professional wrestlers who has done it all. Although he may never have held one of the major world championships during his time in the spotlight, he is a British icon and the epitome of a journeyman wrestler. In many ways, his story now mirrors what many British wrestlers will be doing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis before hitting the big time. Having teamed with Big Daddy and seen British Wrestling’s hayday, he made his name in America with WWE and WCW. Another brilliant storyteller, Walking a Golden Mile is brilliant and I urge you all – if you’re even the slightest bit interested – to look up some interviews with the man too. A true legend.
And there we have it, five excellent books to check out if you’re even slightly interested in wrestling, it’s history of why thousands of people like me packed out Wembley Arena for Progress Wrestling and do so in venues across the country on a week by week basis. If you want to talk more about wrestling or about anything, find me on Twitter @AntBarlow.