Sunday, June 23, 2019

Review: Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story

Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story by Rocky Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Soulman is the biography of wrestler Rocky Johnson.

Rocky Johnson was on his way out when I first became a wrestling fan so I don't know a ton about him besides his tag team with Tony Atlas and that he's the father of the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, The Rock. ECW Press offered this up for review so I jumped on it pretty quickly.

The book starts with Rocky's humble beginnings as Wayde Bowles, a poor kid from Nova Scotia. The book takes a little longer than I'd like to get to the wrestling but fortunately Rocky's childhood was interesting. Imagine hitchhiking from Nova Scotia to Toronto with only two bucks in your pocket?

Rocky initially trains to be a boxer but gets wrapped up in the wrestling business. From there, Rocky bounces back and worth to every territory on the map for decades, reaching the WWF and gradually sliding into retirement as injuries piled up.

This book has a lot going for it. Rocky comes off as a humble guy. He doesn't make himself sound like the greatest wrestler of all time and is honest about all the mistakes he made along the way. Outside of the chapter devoted to him, he also doesn't spend a lot of time talking about The Rock.

I had no idea Rocky Johnson was as well-traveled as he was, nor how he tried to run a promotion in Hawaii with his father in law, Peter Maivia. Their relationship was touching at time. I also have to wonder what Rocky would have accomplished in the WWF if he hadn't been saddled with making sure Tony Atlas got where he needed to be. Hell, if Rocky wasn't so agreeable for a lot of his career, he might have been world champion at some point.

Speaking of Tony Atlas, the only time Rocky comes across as angry is when he refutes some things Tony Atlas said about him in his book. Rocky didn't care for Mike Graham either but I imagine a lot of wrestler did.

Soulman made me a bigger fan of Rocky Johnson than before I read the book. That's a sign of a great wrestling biography. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019


Yes: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestlemaniaYes: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania by Daniel Bryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes is the biography of WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan.

As I've mentioned in pretty much every wrestling book review I've ever written, I've been a wrestling fan off and on for most of my 40+ years. I was surprised when Bryan Danielson, now Daniel Bryan, was signed by the WWE and even more surprised when his popularity caught fire like it did. I found this on the bargain table at B&N yesterday and devoured it on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Yes is told in two threads: one detailing Bryan's life and career, the other focusing on the week before he won the WWE belt at Wrestlemania 30. Since this is a WWE-produced book, too much non-wrestling stuff was included at the beginning and it feels a little sanitized.

However, it's the best book the WWE has put out in years. Bryan Danielson makes the pilgrimage from Aberdeen, Washington to San Antonio, Texas to train. From there, he's all over the place, from the WWE developmental system to FMW to the ECWA Super 8 tournament to Ring of Honor. Ring of Honor is where I first noticed him. He wasn't big or charismatic but was impressive in the ring.

Anyway, Danielson goes to England, Japan, the West Coast, and back to Ring of Honor before finally getting signed by the WWE and then fired a few months later. After another stint on the independent circuit, he's back in the WWE and eventually becomes champion.

Even though he has a co-writer, it feels like Daniel Bryan played a big part in putting this together. The tone feels like his, a humble guy with blue collar roots. He never goes out of his way to make himself sound great. In fact, quite the opposite. Just like in his wrestling career, I felt myself wanting him to succeed, even though I know he already has.

The Ring of Honor stories in particular make me want to seek out some of his old matches. Unfortunately, a lot of the ROH stuff is out of print so I'll have to make due with what I already have down in my man cave.

Like every WWE book, I wish there were more road stories, particularly from the decade before he joined the company. Thankfully, he's not a kiss ass and doesn't paint the WWE as a great place to work like a lot of people. He's open about his frustration at some of the decisions and things of that nature. He even mentions Chris Benoit, whom the WWE has tried to erase from history for the past decade.

Yes is well-worth what I paid and a must for any Daniel Bryan fan. Four out of five knee strikes.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: A Book of Rather Strange Animals: Highlighting the Wonders of Evolution and the Extraordinary Diversity of Life

A Book of Rather Strange Animals: Highlighting the Wonders of Evolution and the Extraordinary Diversity of Life A Book of Rather Strange Animals: Highlighting the Wonders of Evolution and the Extraordinary Diversity of Life by Caleb Compton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a follower of @StrangeAnimals on the Twitter. Unlike a lot of internet turned book projects, this one was really enjoyable and didn't feel like a waste of money.

The book is a collection of one-pagers about bizarre animals, be they insect, mammal, reptile, or any other motile life form. There are pieces on the hagfish, tuatara, and penis snake, among other things.

The articles read like much longer, more elaborate pieces than @StrangeAnimals posts on twitter so it's a worthwhile read, not just a collection of repackaged and recycled tweets. I highly recommend it for bathroom reading, bedtime reading, or lunchtime reading when you can avoid your co-workers long enough to get some reading done. 4 out of 5 stars.

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