Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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Remembering fallen friends of pro wrestling
Posted Jul 21, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Jul 21, 2013 at 09:29 PM
Without a doubt, professional wrestlers are the best storytellers. To read a book about their careers is like sitting around a literary campfire.
Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Ric Flair, Chris Jericho and Terry Funk all have shared their days on the road, and Lex Luger’s book comes out next month (I’ve already read an advance copy, and it won’t disappoint).
Add Bill Anderson to the mix. The former wrestler, ring announcer and owner of a wrestling school pays tribute to 27 different wrestling personalities who have passed away in his self-published book, “Big Bill Anderson Remembers … His Fallen Friends of Wrestling!” The soft-cover, 173-page book sells for $24.95 and can be ordered online through Anderson’s website, http://www.bigbillanderson.com.
Anderson makes it clear that he is not trying to write a complete biography of each wrestler he profiles. Nor is he judging a wrestler’s lifestyle or how each met his or her end.
“I am merely trying to express my feelings on how they touched my life,” he writes in his introduction.
What follows are warm memories about wrestlers like Red Bastien, the Sheik, Jack Brisco, George Cannon, and John Tolos. I particularly enjoyed Anderson’s story about Tolos, “The Golden Greek” who generated such heat when he wrestled at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles during the 1970s. Tolos, Fred Blassie, Black Gordman, the Great Goliath, Victor Rivera, Mil Mascaras and Raul Mata were mainstays on the television program, “Lucha Libre desde Los Angeles,” which aired on Channel 23, the Spanish station in Miami.
There were very few wrestlers who could cut a promo like John Tolos, and Anderson writes how he was mesmerized by the Tolos-Blassie feud.
The chapter about Brisco also interested me, since he was my favorite wrestler when I was growing up in South Florida. His matches against Dory Funk Jr. (another wrestler I enjoyed watching) were classics.
“I had a lot of respect for Jack Brisco,” Anderson wrote in an email. “I always felt he was an excellent role model for kids and adults during his career.”
Brisco also could improvise, Anderson writes. When Brisco and his brother Jerry wrestled the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff in an outdoors match in Palm Springs, Calif., it began to rain and the ring flooded. No problem. The Briscos removed their leather boots and wrestled barefoot.
One surprise for casual wrestling fans is the chapter on fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who began wrestling professionally in the San Francisco area in 1938.
The foreword was written by “Superstar” Billy Graham, who minces no words and speaks “from bitter experience” when writing about some wrestlers who died too soon, many because of some kind of drug addiction.
“The truth is that the sting of death has been so much sharper and crueler for many members of my former profession than for other members of society,” Graham writes.
Heart attacks would strike down wrestlers like the Big Boss Man (Ray Traylor), Don Ross, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Road Warrior Hawk (Michael Hegstrand). Bruiser Brody (Frank Goodish) was stabbed to death in a locker room in Puerto Rico.
A self-published book can be a daunting project, and while Anderson is to be commended for getting his words in print, there are a few traps that could have been avoided. The biggest problem: misspelled names (Nick Bockwinkel’s name is spelled “Bockwinkle” throughout the book, for example) and some bad punctuation.
The typeface seems a little too bold too, although to be fair, it certainly stands out.
The editing certainly can be improved. The look of the book, for the most part is pleasing. Overall, Anderson has produced a fine, nostalgic look at some of wrestling’s greatest draws, like Dick the Bruiser, Fabulous Moolah, Andre the Giant, Big John Studd and Ernie Ladd.
Anderson bills this work as a scrapbook of memories, and it’s fun to share his interactions with these wrestlers. It is sad that all have passed away, and a Volume 1 implies that there more than likely will be a Volume 2 — a sobering testimony as to how many wrestlers have been cut down at relatively young ages. Some of the Von Erichs come to mind, and I am sure at least one of them will be in the next book.
Anderson has done wrestling fans a nice service, keeping alive the names and careers of some fine wrestlers. I am guessing that the next volume will be just as warm and endearing as the first one.