One of the interesting parts of running this website is all the free stuff that gets sent my way for review. At least once a month, some kind of sports DVD, video game or book finds its way to my mail box. What I’ve learned is this: A lot of people feel the need to retell their trivial sports story to the world in hopes that Disney picks it up and makes them rich. And this: Review materials make great stocking stuffers at Christmas.
But the truth is, I have no interest in most of the things I receive. I don’t play video games (except Baseball Mogul – now that’s a plug!) and I really don’t care about the high school boy’s volleyball team whose best player was female that went on to win the South Dakota state championships. I’ve seen that story before; it’s called The Little Giants.
That’s why it was a breath of fresh air to receive an e-mail a few weeks ago asking if I was interested in reviewing Matthew Randazzo’s new book, Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit & the Fall of the Pro Wrestling Industry. As soon as I did an Amazon search about the book, I knew it was going to be, at the very least, a fun read about an interesting topic.
Say what you want about wrestling, but if you were a male growing up in the ‘90s, you either watched WWF (now WWE) or WCW and you begged your parents to take you to see live events anytime they came close to your area. To say I was a huge wrestling fan as a child would probably be an understatement. In fact, when I was five, I made a list of the three careers I’d like to have: 1) WWF Intercontinental Champion (yes, I had to foresight to see that I would never be big enough to wrestle as a heavyweight) 2) Yan Can Cook 3) Sportswriter. Sorry ladies, I picked the one that offers the least fame and no money.
What makes Mr. Randazzo’s book so interesting is that it wasn’t written for the 100 or so people that obsess over wrestling and can read (how would he market such a book?). In my opinion, Ring of Hell is for those of us who have moved on from our wrestling obsession, but still cringe every time we recognize the name of another dead wrestler and ask ourselves, “how come this happens so often and how come nobody seems to care?”
Randazzo takes us through Chris Benoit’s career to give the lowdown on the wrestling business. Of course, Benoit was the wrestler who murdered his son and wife before committing suicide just last year. But while a lot of the book has information specific to Benoit, you never get the idea that this is just some biography of a psycho.
Randazzo, using mostly unnamed sources and those shoot interviews that you can find on YouTube, starts by explaining Benoit’s torturous journey just to break into the business, complete with the pressure to use steroids and drugs, and takes us up through the circumstances surrounding the 2007 tragedy.
I will warn you. Some of the stories you’ll read are shocking and almost too much to believe. One about how the Japanese mob (The Yakuza) covered up the death of a wrestler murdered in training, is particularly disturbing. There are also many tales about all kinds of harassment (sexual, mental, racism, hazing) that still takes place in Vince McMahon’s WWE.
Randazzo is dead-on when he compares wrestling to the porn industry (the taboo aspect, the bodily harm and sadly, the fact that when a tragedy happens, the mainstream’s uniform response seems to be “they probably deserved it.”). Overall, this was an excellent, quick read that will probably change your perception on the wrestling. I hope you take the time to read it!