Crazy Like A Fox: The Definitive Chronicle of Brian Pillman 20 Years Later by Liam O'Rourke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Crazy Like a Fox is the biography of wrestler Flyin' Brian Pillman.
As I've mentioned in other reviews, I've been a wrestling fan through most of my life. I knew of Brian Pillman but didn't see him wrestle until my family got cable sometime around 1991. WCW as a whole didn't impress me but I liked Brian Pillman, particularly his matches with Jushin Liger a year or two later. Anyway, when I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it.
The first thing I noticed was the writing style, more of a journalistic style than most wrestling books. Let's face it, the only time you normally notice the writing in a wrestling book it's because it's terrible. Quite the opposite here.
Actually, content-wise, the book failed my litmus test of not getting to the wrestling part by the 15% mark but that was actually an asset in this case. Most wrestlers predictably come to the industry via the failed jock route. Pillman had it rough coming up, born with throat polyps that threatened his life and his voice, and determined to succeed at football despite being undersized.
Once Pillman started training at the Hart brothers' school, things caught fire. I was glued to the book, reading it in two sittings. I was so enrapt that I bought the ebook so I could sneak read it at work even though I had the physical book sitting at home.
The book is packed with road stories and behind the scenes machinations that I won't spoil here. Suffice to say, the sheer number of times WCW missed the boat on Brian was nauseating. A few times I caught myself getting excited about prospective angles, forgetting that they never came to fruition. So many missed opportunities. I couldn't help but imagine a WCW with Brian Pillman as a headliner instead of the old guard or Brian going to the WWF healthy.
The Loose Cannon parts were some of my favorites. I was watching wrestling heavily at the time but there was still stuff I missed. There were also some stories of an adult nature that would never be included in a book put out by the WWE!
Since Brian has been gone for 20+ years at this point, the stories were cobbled together from interviews with the people who knew him. There's a palpable sadness, especially toward the end, since I knew how things were going to end. In fact, I was at In Your House: Badd Blood in 1997 when Brian's death was announced. Pillman's wife's behavior regarding the memorial shows in his honor were an extra turd in the shit sandwich.
The book ends on a hopeful note at least, with Brian Pillman Jr going into the business to pick up where his father left off.
For the longest time, Larry Matysik's Wrestling at the Chase: The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling was my measuring stick for a wrestling book. Now, it's this one. Five out of five stars.
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