(Please let the author know about any coverage of the book you see.)
From SLAM! Wrestling
By Rod Desnomie
Over the past few years, the wrestling industry has seen a number of books written and published by current and former wrestlers and personalities. Such books offer readers an intimate look into this unfamiliar world through personal accounts, but most are limited by biased opinions and perspectives.
A British journalist has taken a different approach of reaching and informing readers. John Lister, a well-respected wrestling scribe in the UK, has put together a collection of some of his more memorable works, both from his early days reporting on wrestling to more current pieces, spanning from 1991 to 2004.
Slamthology is composed of articles and columns Lister crafted and, in many cases, published in his fanzine Hulk Who? The British writer, who has been reporting on the wrestling industry for over 10 years, delivers a wide range of pieces, from road reports and events, to humorous and historical bits.
The real strength of Lister's book is his writing style - clear, conversational, and very easy to grasp. Lister, regardless of topic, is able to explain a variety of aspects of this often very complicated subject matter. And in Slamthology, much is explained.
Slamthology begins with a comprehensive and very detailed look at the history of American wrestling, and all in under 1,500 words. As such, Lister packs a lot of facts into a very limited space, but his experience and knowledge of the business allow him to do so effectively.
Lister's focus then shifts to reports he wrote during three trips to America, as published in Hulk Who? During his time in the States, Lister attended a variety of WWF/E, ECW, WCW and independent shows, providing detailed accounts of each trip. Lister's humour make this by far the most enjoyable and easy-to-read section.
Lister, while travelling with a variety of characters, tells tales one would expect more from a grappler than journalist - low-budget hotels, spending countless hours traveling from show to show, press conferences, fast food restaurants, and meeting unique individuals which could only be found at a wrestling show (i.e. the fans).
By his third report, one certainly gets the impression that the British journalist has paid his dues in the business, maintaining a similar lifestyle to that of an ECW performer. However, all is soon forgotten as Lister lives every hard-core wrestling fan's dream by attending a barbecue hosted by none other than Terry Funk. And, yes, it takes place at the Funk Ranch.
The real benefit of Lister's USA road journals is the trip down memory lane he takes the reader on, rehashing some of wrestling's more notable and recent angles, feuds, and shows. In addition, Lister recounts how some of today's stars got their start in the business, working for small, independent promotions before hitting the big time.
Lister then changes gears in the second half of the book, focusing more on his articles, some never-before published, including a selection of very informative historical and opinion pieces. The real value for the reader comes from columns Lister penned on WCW's demise, his argument that journalists can effectively and accurately report on the business (despite what some wrestlers think), the history of British wrestling, and a fascinating piece on Jim Barnett and his impact on the business.
Lister covers a lot of ground in his book, touching on a wide variety of topics. And while this certainly leads to the book's success, it also takes away from any real flow or continuity.
Throughout the book, the one obvious common denominator is wrestling, as it should be. The problem is the articles in the second half seem to be placed using a shotgun approach. Lister explains earlier on that the articles are in a chronological order. Fair enough. But, in cases where articles were produced under a similar theme, heading or series, combining them would have been much more effective.
As such, Lister throws a variety of works at the reader, hitting in some cases but missing in others. Articles such as the No-Show ditties, a bit on Nic Higton , and selections from the "What if..." series, to name a few, leave the readers scratching their collective heads searching for a purpose. At a lengthy 345 pages, some of this 'filler' material could have been left on the cutting room floor. Perhaps the use of a glossary may have helped resolve this problem.
In place of these stories, a very welcome addition would have been the use of visual materials -- event programmes with match line ups, promotional photographs of wrestlers before they were stars, or even ticket stubs. Surprisingly, the book offers text only, which tends to drain the reader mentally. A good collection of images scattered throughout the book would have provided readers with a bit of a break in between sections. As well, when the opportunity presents itself, why say in 100 words what a picture can sum up in one?
Considering the number of events Lister attended during his travels throughout the U.S., surely some memorabilia was attained, especially from the small-town and indy shows. As well, for readers unfamiliar with Hulk Who?, which receives much mention in this book, a cover or two would seem to be an automatic insert. Even a picture of the author himself would have helped readers visualize Lister as he travelled from town to town.
The only other element which readers, mainly Canadian or American, may find distracting is Lister's British English. Terms and phrased used commonly in Great Britain may distract first-time Lister readers, as a majority of North American fans do not speak the Queen's English.
All in all, Lister's Slamthology is a good read for both fans of the business and journalists. Lister's unique and informed opinions, knowledge of the business, and entertaining tales will, if anything, provide fans with a new, unbiased British perspective on the business of wrestling.
By Mark Bright
John Lister's book is a collection of his wrestling writing over the years. After a short article about the history of pro wrestling (mostly the promotional side of things), the first half of the book takes up three road trips detailed in the 'Hulk Who?' fanzine, which were made by him to America in 1996 and '97. It?s mostly for ECW shows, but also taking in a few WWF shows in that time, but the most interesting parts were the bits about the shows he went to in Memphis, for what was then the USWA. It really made Memphis wrestling seem like a throwback to the territory days of the pre-Vince McMahon Jr. era of wrestling - in terms of the crowd reactions being white hot and people being so into the action, what would be called 'marking out' nowadays, but doing it throughout the show, so it's basically just 'marking.' Through going to several of these shows, he also saw the same title change being done in three different towns a quirk of the territory days that you don't really see now. The final road trip was for Terry Funk's 'retirement' match against then WWF Champion Bret Hart. How times change, it must be about time Funk had another one.
The second half of the book is a chronological list of articles that Lister has written, from school essays on the Savage/Warrior classic from WrestleMania VII onwards. It also includes an unpublished article slating Hulk Hogan, which he admits seems really ridiculous now the kind of thing that other writers may have forgotten about and swept under the carpet. That article also gave me horrifying childhood flashbacks of Hacksaw Jim Duggan's appearance on 'Going Live'. The list of articles is taken from various publications, including 'Wrestling Insight', 'Suckerpunch', 'Wrestling Wrap-Up', 'Moonsault Xtra' and 'Pro Wrestling Press'.
It's a good mix of articles, including several 'What If?' scenarios that now everyone does, terming it fantasy booking. The really well written articles are from 2002 onwards in 'Pro Wrestling Press', such as histories of both British and American wrestling, and a debunking of the WWE version of history that is Vince McMahon taking wrestling out of smoke filled piss-holes and making it a big deal, and a look at the details that are in WWE contracts nowadays all of which are excellent reads
Overall, the book is an excellent look back at wrestling over the last decade or so, and reading the articles here did inform me on a lot of stuff I had missed out on and bring back memories of things I'd forgotten about. The writer's love for wrestling really comes across a lot, especially in the road trip stories, and I do learn a lot of stuff about the things that happened before the era where wrestling gained it's worldwide fame in the articles.
This is definitely recommended reading for any wrestling fan.
By Derek Burgan
Lister is a wrestling columnist from 'across the pond' over in England and Slamthology is a collection of some of his best work from the past 15 years. The front end of the book contains my favorite part by far, an in-depth recap of three different road trips to America to see wrestling shows. The road trip stories were written by Lister for a fanzine he was writing at the time called 'Hulk Who?' Get this, Lister gives a first person account of traveling to ECW Arena, down to Texas to see the 50 years of Funk show (which was spotlighted in Beyond the Mat), Memphis and a WWE pay per view event. I'm a big fan of road stories, and Lister's are better than most as he describes how insane some wrestlers and wrestling fans can be from a different perspective. Lister has some great stories while sitting in on Q&A's with ECW wrestlers, including Perry Saturn seemingly wanting to kill every fan in attendance.
Along with the road trips, the book has other articles written for the fanzine, including several 'what if' fantasy booking type columns that are much better than the usual fan saying what he would do, along with published and unpublished columns for other UK magazines. Lister knows his stuff and his love for wrestling comes across throughout the book. While there are several references that will make no sense to American fans, they do not interfere with the enjoyment of the book and probably make it even more attractive to a buyer in England. The book starts off with Lister given a seemingly impossible task: give the history of pro wrestling in America in exactly 1500 words. Lister does a fantastic job with that and his excellent work continued throughout the book in spotlight pieces that analyzed wrestling in England, wrestling mainstay Jim Barnett, the differences between wrestling 'then' and 'now,' and a very intriguing look at the history of wrestling's worked-shoots, which is relevant again thanks to the entire Matt Hardy/Lita/Edge situation.
In a way, Slamthology is most likely the type of book I would do if given a chance to write about wrestling, except without any comic strips starring wrestling action figures. It mixes humor and a solid look at wrestling seamlessly and makes the pages fly by. The only noticeable problem was the lack of editing, as even I noticed several typos. I can understand mistakes in an original draft, but when something is being reprinted there should be plenty of time for all the minor mistakes to have been caught and changed.
Reader comments from the UK (wrestling) Fan Forum
"My copy came last Tuesday, didn't start reading it til Thursday night- im now about 200 pages in. The first 3 articles about the USA trips were excellent- a great insight into the weirdness that is America, and also very funny, laughed so much reading them. The What if? parts have been really good so far too- very impressed with the amount of thought that would have to be put into an idea like this to put it on paper. So far a fantastic read- more than worth the cost."
"It's up there in my personal top 5 wrestling books, along with Have a Nice Day, Chokehold, Pure Dynamite, Ole Anderson's Book and Flair's book."
"Can I just confirm that this book is one of the best wrestling books I've ever read."
"Finished reading the book last night, excellent overall, some real good insights into wrestling, as well as lots of humour! One of the best wrestling books I've read."
"After a whole evenings's read I can say this is an awesome book. Reading about JL's exploits in Tennessee, meeting WWE Superstars up and down the road and having them recognise him just bought back a flood of memories of the trips I made with Kash in 2003 following WWE, NWA-TNA, ROH etc. I only wish I had the chance to go in the era of Extreme and WWE Attitude! His explanations of places like the ECW and the Nashville Fairgrounds were so spot on its scary and I even made the same assumptions when I was there. I seriously urge people to purchase this book, its well written and its so essentially "British". I love it and I'm sure many people here would also."
"This book is the voice of this generation's wrestling fans. It's great. If you love Lister's posts, if you love old-style US indies, if you love ECW, if you love WWF/E, this book will contain something to interest and amuse you."
"Fantastic book. I've always enjoyed fantasy booking and the 'What if' sections of Slamthology are some of the best FB I have ever read. The road trips just made me insanely jealous."
By Scott Swift
Once upon a time, the UK's own resident grappling publication 'Powerslam' (earlier known as 'Superstars Of Wrestling') was a joy to behold every month. In time however the quality of said magazine has dipped. Sure, it's still a must have for any wrestling fan, more so because the United Kingdom is not exactly teeming with monthlies dedicated to this very site's inspiration, but for me the slight decline in 'PS's' penmanship can be traced to the departure of one John Lister who 'back in the day' was a member of their writing squad.
John's intelligent, but completely accessible style was a Powerslam consistent, and sorely missed when it came to an end. So hearing of John's first 'proper' job endeavor, I just had to get a hold of it. First impressions were of minor disappointment, where upon scanning the paperback for the first time, I realized that over half of the book I held in my palms I had already had possession of.
In 1994, John headed a fanzine called 'Hulk Who', that attracted a cult following with-in the hardcore (loyal die-hards, not barbed wire to head 'hardcore'!) wrestling community and even peaked with a homemade video which is worth tracking down if you can. Some of the material featured then, is included in this book. However when reading it all again, it became clear that it was great to have it in book form-all together in one package. It's maybe dated, it is 11 years old in parts, but the creative juices where flowing at that time, with key angles in wrestling history modified somewhat in Lister's 'What if...?' token example being "What if...Ric Flair had made Curt Hennig retire in 1993?"
The prize jewel however is the epic journeys he and his wrestling mad mates made around the states, blowing the student loan to catch as many wrestling shows as humanely possible before the money ran totally dry. Too many great lines to quote here - it's my personal favourite piece of wrestling fanzine work ever. In the book you will read about 3 separate trips, including numerous ECW shows, WWF pay-per-views, the Terry Funk retirement (ahem..) show where he squared off with Bret Hart, and many great stories along the way. A must read.
The 2nd half of the book is articles by Lister, some published previously, some never released, covering such topics as the state of British Wrestling, the differences between WWF and WCW UK tours, constant digs at Nic Higton (you'll see...) and an amusing game of drunken slang for unreliable performers in the business ("you must be unstable if you trust King Mabel") . Much of the pieces on display aren't relevant in today climate, but it's never the less an interesting look at how the business has quickly developed.
Where Lister comes up trumps is that it's plain to see that he truly loves the business. Though insightful and clearly knowing his stuff, John never loses sight of why he fell in love with Wrestling in the first place. Not afraid to get over-excited or 'mark out', John remembers what many journos fail....you're meant to enjoy it. Never so much as a job, more business with pleasure, John Lister's 'Slamthology' is a perfect example of why he was, and still is, regarded in such high acclaim.
For info on the book, and to order a copy, please visit www.pabd.com.
From the Two Sheds Review
By Julian Radbourne
Wrestling fans in Britain will know of John Lister. A wrestling fan since the age of 14, John has written for a number of publications over the past few years, most notably for the sadly departed and dearly missed Pro Wrestling Press.
Recently, John put together a collection of his work, Slamthology, an edition of collecting wrestling writings, some of it dating back to 1991. Part travelogue, part history lesson, part opinion, it's a hell of a read.
A great deal of writers who try to ply their trade on various wrestling websites all seem to make a common mistake these days - they don't do any research. This is something you can't say of John though. The history portion of Slamthology makes for compelling reading, and it's good to know that there are still people out there in this day and age who are more than willing to delve into professional wrestling's rich and chequered history. Did you that Antonio Inoki started off his angle with Tiger Jeet Singh by having the Indian attack him in a Tokyo street? Or that there was once a wrestling match that lasted over five hours? I didn't until I read this book.
John's opinion pieces are also a good read. His thoughts and views come across really well, and are a sign that he truly loves the wrestling business, as well as writing about it.
But the jewel in the crown as far as this book is concerned is John's travelogues, documenting the events surrounding his journeys across the pond, to venues such as the ECW Arena and the Dallas Sportatorium. John's done more travelling to watch wrestling than most smart marks would do in a lifetime. The tales of his encounters with wrestlers and fans are great, especially when one Brian Christopher, then working for the USWA, gave John advice on how to get a lift. It was nice to see that John got a measure of revenge on the future Grandmaster Sexay just a few days later.
In conclusion, Slamthology is a hell of a read, and well worth the price. If this book only contained the stories about John's travels, then it would still have been worth the read. The only criticism I have of this book is the spelling mistakes which seem to crop up with great regularity every few pages or so. (Author note: These are uncorrected typographical errors and are the responsibility of the author.) But the fact that the only thing I found wrong with this book was the spelling mistakes say it all. A good read here, and hopefully, we'll see Slamthology Volume II someday.
Slamthology, by John Lister, is available in paperback and priced at £9.99, or $18.99 for U.S. customers, and can be ordered by logging onto www.slamthology.co.uk.
By Kenny McBride:
Since the success of Mick Foley's "Have A Nice Day!", the market has been swamped with wrestling books. Most have been autobiographies - some good, some very bad - but there have also been the historical works like Dave Meltzer's "Tributes", rehashes of old match reviews like Scott Keith's books, novelties like RD Reynolds' "Wrestlecrap", and the ultimate guide to destroying a wrestling company that is Reynolds' and Alvarez' "Death Of WCW". But there's never been a book quite like John Lister's "Slamthology".
In case you don't know the name, John Lister is one of Britain's most respected wrestling writers. Starting his writing career at the tender age of 14 with his own newsletter "Spiked Piledriver", he progressed through another of his own sheets "Hulk Who?", before earning a spot with British news-stand magazine "Powerslam". While working his way through his journalism degree, he continued to write for several other sheets including "Suckerpunch", "Wrestling Insight", and former British WON distributor Mo Chatra's "Moonsault". On graduation, he moved into a role as press officer for the Plain English Campaign, and though he quit writing for "Powerslam", he continued to pen articles for various sheets and websites. He is the resident British wrestling expert at the Wrestling Classics message board (amongst the many message boards he frequents) and is also the curator of the ITV Wrestling project (www.itvwrestling.co.uk). And now, he has collected the very best of his work in this fascinating book.
As I said, the book cannot easily be categorised, as this is a collection of pieces spanning almost 15 years, from a one page opening of a long-abandoned attempt to write a wrestling novel to an 83-page travelogue of a wrestling trip around the USA. What unifies the work is a consistently sharp, witty and insightful writing style underpinned by a deep knowledge of and passion for the art of professional wrestling.
This style is best demonstrated by the first article in the book, a history of American pro-wrestling. Written using exactly 1500 words (as a challenge by the editor of "Pro Wrestling Press"), it is about a 1500 times more accurate and easy to follow than anything you'll hear in the world of "serious" journalism, let alone from Vince McMahon. The other historical pieces in "Slamthology" are equally interesting - readers outside the UK may be particularly interested is the 13 page history of British wrestling, which serves as a potent reminder of what a powerhouse territory this sceptred isle once was, and how much has been lost since the end of televised British wrestling in 1988. This article sits snugly alongside a number of other historical analyses, including a comparison between wrestling today and the "good old days" of the 1930s, a biography of Jim Barnett, and a 12-page study of the history of worked shoots entitled "20th Century Fakes". ]
The historical pieces are only one element of this book, though. Indeed, the first half of the book is entirely made up of three travelogues, first published as "Hulk Who?" special editions. These cover three trips Lister made to the United States to watch professional wrestling. The first, "Hulk Who? Goes Extreme", covers the ECW fan convention in August of 1996 (The Doctor Is In), and serves as a great introduction to John's attitudes to wrestling. The second, "Hulk Who? Beyond The Extreme" goes somewhat further. The tour, in February 1997, takes in the USWA TV tapings and shows in Nashville, Louisville and Forrest City, AR, the WWF's Final Four pay-per-view and live Monday Night Raw the next night, concluding with the ECW Cyberslam convention in Philadelphia. "Beyond Extreme" is as much a travel diary through a foreign land as it is a wrestling journal, and as such, American readers are sure to be charmed by Lister's "innocent abroad" demeanour as much as they are entertained by his reaction to the varied wrestling on display. I should probably declare my interest at this point - I was on this trip too. It is a sad coincidence that this book should be published now, as some of the defining moments of this trip (and the next, which I also took) were our encounters with Chris Candido. John's review of the match with Sabu at the ECW Arena forms one of the best obituaries I've read:
"There have been very few truly emotional moments in my years following wrestling, but seeing Chris Candido main eventing was enough to bring the proverbial lump to my throat. Suddenly it came home just how ridiculous, how insipid, how downright offensive the entire character and use of 'Body Donna Skip' really had been. Candido more than proved my gut reaction right here, thoroughly deserving top billing...Being a hardcore fan is inherently masochistic, but moments like this make it all worthwhile."
The third (and absolutely, definitely final...well, until the one that comes later in the book) travelogue, "Hulk Who? The Final Frontier", takes in an indy show at the Sportatorium and more USWA and WWF (IYH: Ground Zero), before looping back to Texas for Terry Funk's Wrestlefest. If you've ever watched "Beyond The Mat" and wondered who those two Brits sitting out in the sun at the Amarillo Fairgrounds were - that's John Lister and me. The travelogues tie in with one of John's other pet hates - wrestlers who criticise wrestling writers. While it's not mentioned in the article that covers this topic, a wrestler may be able to say that Lister has never had a match, but no-one can say he hasn't done the long drives on little or no food to get to shows.
The rest of the book is filled with an eclectic mix of writing. There's a selection of the "What If...?" features in "Hulk Who?", including a worrying prediction of what might have happened if Bob Backlund had regained the title from Iron Sheik, and a spectacularly clever angle to protect Tony Anthony from the KKK in Smoky Mountain. There's a love letter to the wrestling of 1994. There's "The Truth About Smoke Filled Halls", a critique of McMahon's claim to have rescued wrestling from obscurity. Demonstrating the skills learned from his day job, there's a "Plain English" guide to WWE contracts. And there's "The Art Of Booking", in which John demonstrates how he earned his role as a booking adviser for both UCW and the FWA.
There are also some more personal pieces. There's a personal attack on unscrupulous tape-trader Nic Higton; a column on how wrestling compares to John's other love, soap operas, and another showing how other sports steal angles from wrestling; there's even a copy of a story entitled "The Match", written for a high school exam, and bearing only a coincidental resemblance to the booking of the Savage/Warrior match at Wrestlemania VII.
"Slamthology" is not an autobiography, although in reading it you will learn a great deal about John Lister's life as a wrestling fan, nor is it a history book, though nearly every reader will learn something new from it. It is a collage of the experiences and thoughts of someone who has spent half his life watching and writing about the sport/art/business we all love. It is a collection of articles, stories and journals that, with its mix of passion, enthusiasm, hope, humour, cynicism and frustration, encompasses all the emotions we all experience as wrestling fans. It just phrases them better than we can.