Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book Review: Bret Hart: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling

"To me there is something bordering on beautiful about a brotherhood of big tough men who pretended to hurt one another for a living instead of actually
doing it"
- Bret Hart

"Bret Hart: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling" is a powerful, roller coaster of a book - a journey through hard times, triumph, tragedy and survival. Bret Hart's is a life like few others have ever lived.

The book is based on an audio diary that Bret kept through his entire career starting in his early twenties. The pictures and details aren't always pretty, but they never fail to fascinate. Even at 553 pages, I found it hard to put the book down.

The Bret Hart revealed in this book is a diamond with many facets and unashamed to hide it's flaws. On one hand, you have the wrestling hero - a loyal, dilligent and often brilliant artist of the squared circle. Then you have the troubled husband finding solace in the temptaions of the road, the loving father, the prodigal son at odds with his siblings and the man trying to stay on track while personal tragedy and professional disappointment take their shots at him.

One of the things that comes through in the book is that the greatest love of Bret Hart's life was wrestling. There are those in the business who have criticized him for taking himself and the business too seriously. The book confirms my opinion that most people who are in it today don't take it seriously enough. Bret's book is a look at how pro wrestling has changed and not in too many ways for the better. Bret's example of hard work, loyalty and doing what's right for the business are qualities that both wrestlers and people in any field of endeavor would be well served to emulate.

If you are in the wrestling business or a student of it, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Even if you are not a wrestling fan, Bret Hart's incredible life is a literary adventure well worth taking.

I am still stunned over how well done this book is. Bret wraps his life up perfectly for us and I found much of it very moving. When I was finished with the book, I wanted to shake his hand, thank him and just chat about what I'd read.

As a wrestling promoter, it saddens me that we don't have Bret Hart in our business anymore. He has so much to give with his knowledge and as a personal influence, that it strikes me as so unfortunate that Bret couldn't make himself a presence in wrestling, even if it were strictly behind the scenes. Bret talks in his book about playing a wrestling hero, but in so many ways, he became a very real one and is even moreso in my eyes after reading this great book.

Toys for Tots Signing, Killer Kowalski & more

It was a fun day today for a good cause at West Real Estate in Wilmington, MA, as we participated in an autograph signing to benefit Toys for Tots.

Our Chris Sullivan did a great job putting this together with Frank and Karen West who have been doing these signings for the past several years.

This was a really well attended event that featured the legendary Walter "Killer" Kowalski, and in a rare show of babyface compassion, D.C. Dillinger and Sean Gorman actually signed autographs. If you ever been around NECW shows, you know that Dillinger and Gorman signing autographs is about as common as Haley's Comet making a pass.

A ton of toys were donated and I had fun chatting with some of the folks who come by. We even had a couple of guys from PA who were up in the area and donated a whole box of new unwrapped toys.

Frank had a pretty impressive collection of vintage programs and memorabilia on hand. One woman who came by named Ann had a really impressive autograph book with a ton of autographs from the top stars of the 50's. She talked about going to some of the tapings of the original "Bedlam from Boston" TV show in the late 1950's that aired on WBZ-TV.

It was really nice to see Walter Kowalski and his wife Theresa, whom I hadn't seen in a quite a while.

On the ride home, I thought to myself about how much Walter has done in the wrestling business - not just when he was active, but afterwards as well. Kowalski was always generous with his time and stories and not many men who who achieved so much in their field of endeavor are like that. He could have very well kept his knowledge to himself. Instead, he's touched the lives of hundreds of men and women who have become a part of pro wrestling and unselfishly shared his greatness with all of them, myself included.

The man is a true treasure.

We will be back at West Real Estate, 386 Main Street in Wilmington, MA, next Sunday, November 25 from 12 noon to 2 PM.

For a small fee of $5 or a new unwrapped toy you will receive a signed photo of all the stars at the signing. There will be refreshments, a DVD of different NECW matches going, and a special raffle with some great prizes and all money going to Toys for Tots.

On Sunday, November 25 it will be Antonio "The Promise" Thomas, "Mad Dog" Matt Storm, "The Human Nightmare" Evan Siks and Brian Cairo signing autographs. Please come out and see us and do something great for children who would have no toys this holiday otherwise.

For more information go to (West Real Estate's website)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tony Rumble, More on Moolah, Jericho's Book

It was 8 years ago this week - November 13, 1999 - that "The Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble dies of a massive heart attack at the age of 43.

If you were part of the wrestling scene in this area at that time, you know how much of an impact Tony Rumble and his NWA New England promotion had around here. His passing left a void that will never be filled.

Rumble was a unique character. He made his fame as a wrestler, announcer and producer for Mario Savoldi's ICW in the 80's and early 90's. While, by his own admission, he was not a great wrestler, he was one of the great personalities and a talented booker and TV producer. He was able to take a crew of the good, the bad and the goofy and turn them into an entertaining product. He was also a streetwise promoter who built a solid sold show business second to none. His friendships with guys he worked with in ICW, who went on to become major stars, helped elevate the local business and opened doors for many local talents who went on to work for WCW and the then WWF. He would be as proud of guys he knew who made it, as if he made it himself.

More than any of that, Tony Rumble was a very close friend in a business where few real friends are made. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him and wonder what he would think of what our business has become. I would not be surprised to hear him say in that inimitable way of his, "Wow Goldberg, what a bunch of half-wits."

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Dave Meltzer had a great obituary on The Fabulous Moolah, along with a history of women's wrestling in U.S. in his Wrestling Observer Newsletter last week.
Moolah is not a member of of the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame and in Dave's article he goes into the pros and cons of her career and what works against her for Hall of Fame consideration.
One of Dave's issues is that Moolah was never really a money draw and seldom a main event attraction.
I think you have to see the bigger picture with Moolah. She came around at a time when women's wrestling was simply a special attraction used to spice up cards, much like the midgets and specialty acts like Haystacks Calhoun or Andre The Giant. The women generally weren't booked as consistent acts with programs and angles and that was how the promoters of the day did business. Moolah just provided them with an attraction, keeping herself as the top female star. Had the promoters of the era shown interest in making women consistent pushed characters, there would be more validity to that argument.
I would say that Moolah herself was a solid mid-card attraction. Anytime she appeared on a card and the promoter could bill a World Title match, it added something special to the hype for that particular show. I know as a young fan in the late 60's and 70's, I always had my interest piqued anytime Moolah was on the bill.
Moolah survived and thrived in a mans world and she should be recognized for having kept women's wrestling in business for decades. I have my doubts that women's wrestling would have fared much better without her booking the girls. In that era, most likely someone else would have come along and did the same thing.
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I've been busy with a number of non-wrestling projects these past few weeks and have been getting a fair amount of reading in.
Chris Jericho's book, "A Lion's Tale," is a laugh-out-loud fun read. Jericho is a great writer and storyteller who takes you through his career up to his WWF debut.
Anyone who was worked in the business will appreciate Jericho's story all the more. In fact, younger wrestlers who are just starting out should be required to read it.
Even if you don't like wrestling, it's a great book about one man's journey through a strange and often bizarre world to realize a boyhood dream.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Remembering The Fabulous Moolah

Lillian Ellison, better known to you as The Fabulous Moolah, was one of a kind.

I have been very fortunate to have met and befriended many of the legends of wrestling that I watched growing up. It was a special honor to be able to say that Moolah was a friend.

In the 90's, I started going out to Las Vegas every year for Moolah's LIWA (Ladies International Wrestling Association) conventions. The LIWA was essentially a lady wrestler's reunion, with a banquet and awards and an all girl's show featuring many of the older girls. They were some of the best times I've ever had around wrestling, and Moolah was the ever-gracious hostess.

She loved wrestling more than anything apart from family, and if you loved wrestling and respected the girls, she loved you too and treated you like an extended family member.

She inspired me to promote women's wrestling and I will always be grateful for her insight into the business as well as her friendship.

I will follow this up with more historical insight at another time.