Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Review: WWE Encyclopedia, The Definitive Guide to World Wrestling Entertainment

By John McMullen
(The Phanatic Magazine) - As a long time professional wrestling fan, who actually toiled in the industry for a short time (as a writer), the title of this book left me skeptical.

In order to publish the definitive guide of World Wrestling Entertainment, a company that has roots dating back to the 1950s, you would first have to overcome the massive ego of the company's chairman, Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
In the wrestling industry, McMahon is notorious for ignoring history and loathe to give credit to others.

His forward called this project the “first ever official documented history of the WWE.”

To prove his thesis, I immediately went looking for three individuals McMahon probably wouldn't have wanted in the book -- Bruno Sammartino, Randy Savage and Chris Benoit.

Sammartino, the two-time WWWF champion during the '60s and '70s and one of the five biggest stars in company history, doesn't like McMahon and never passes up an opportunity to criticize him. But, sure enough, Sammartino was not only listed but given the reverence he deserved.

Same for Savage, who McMahon detests, and the company's biggest pariah, Benoit, a brilliant wrestler that surrendered his legacy by murdering his family and killing himself in June of 2007.

This book delivers but understand it's the story of World Wrestling Entertainment and authors Kevin Sullivan and Brian Shields stuck to the storyline. There are no real names, no behind the scenes info or post-WWE career information. E-mail me for that stuff.

Nonetheless, this book is an invaluable source for any WWE fan looking to become more well-versed on the company's storied history.

A title history for every single WWE championship is featured in the book, from the little known World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship, a vehicle for legendary Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki, to the more obvious WWWF/WWF/WWE Championship.

The company's impressive television, pay-per-view and merchandising history are also captured and a complete history of the wrestling's biggest event, Wrestlemania, caps off the book.

The book is a hardcover gem with 350 large full color pages measuring 12"x9" and has a suggested retail price of $45 but is available for as low as $30 on

As with any encyclopedia, the book runs from A to Z and profiles nearly 1,000 stars and includes over 1,500 images from the WWE and Pro Wrestling Illustrated archives.

The Phanatic Magazine gives the book its highest recommendation.

In celebration of the release of DK Publishing's WWE Encyclopedia, The Definitive Guide to World Wrestling Entertainment, The Phanatic Magazine gives you its top 20 WWWF/WWF/WWE superstars of all-time.

1. - "Stone Cold" Steve Austin - The top draw in the history of pro wrestling. Retired as a regular in-ring performer in 2003 due to neck, ankle and knee injuries. Reportedly made $13 million dollars in his best year, the most ever for any pro wrestler.
2. - Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) - Helped McMahon go national.
3. - Bruno Sammartino - Champ for eight years during the '60s and '70s. Sold out Madison Square Garden 45 different times.
4. - Andre the Giant (Andre Roussimoff) - Biggest worldwide star of the '70s and '80s.
5. - The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) - A true crossover Hollywood star.
6. - Antonino Rocca (Antonino Biasetton) - Biggest company drawing card before Sammartino when it was known as Capitol Wrestling Corporation.
7. - Randy "Macho Man" Savage (Randy Poffo) - Hogan - Savage was magic.
8. - The Undertaker (Mark Calaway) - 16-0 Wrestlemania mark is like wrestling's home run record.
9. - "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (Roderick Toombs) - Hogan's top foil during national expansion.
10. - Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) - The best pure worker I have ever seen.
11. - Bret "Hitman" Hart - Bret will kill me when he sees he is below Shawn.
12. - John Cena - Hard worker who is the WWE's biggest current star by a wide margin-- sorry Triple H. Cena is trying to cross over to the mainstream like Johnson and has been hired as a pitchman by both Subway and Gillette. His first movie, The Marine, grossed $18.7 million in the theaters and an additional $30 million in DVD rentals. His second film, 12 Rounds, opens Friday. Meanwhile, his rap album, You Can't See Me, reached No. 15 on the Billboard charts.
13. - Bob Backlund - Former NCAA Division II wrestling champ tied Sammartino's record for most MSG sellouts.
14. - "Superstar" Billy Graham (Wayne Coleman) - Awesome drawing card that was way ahead of his time. Inspired a whole generation of wrestlers like Hogan, Jesse Ventura and our next selection...
15. - Ultimate Warrior (Jim Hellwig) - Worst wrestler on this list by far but the fans loved him. Now a right-wing lunatic.
16. - Triple H (Paul Levesque) - The chairman's son-in-law is a legitimate superstar and will be headlining his seventh Wrestlemania on April 5, second only to Hogan.
17. - Mankind/Dude Love/Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) - Brilliant promo guy that overcame a bad body to headline.
18. - Sgt. Slaughter (Bob Remus) - Probably the most controversial pick on the list but was McMahon's first merchandising superstar.
19. - Ric Flair (Richard Fliehr) - Would be much higher but did most of his best work in the rival National Wrestling Alliance.
20. - Buddy Rogers (Herman Rohde) - First WWWE champion and the original Nature Boy.

UPDATE: In the first week of its release, the WWE Encyclopedia entered The New York Times Bestseller list at Number 10 for April 5th, 2009.

WWE Encyclopedia is the only official encyclopedia to chronicle WWE. In addition to its debut on The New York Times’ Advice, How To and Miscellaneous bestseller list, it was also Number One on the Sports & Recreation Charts, according to Nielsen Bookscan week ending 3/22/09.

DK Publishing CEO Gary June commented, “When WWE came to us looking to publish a reference that stood up to the energy, visual impact, and drama of WWE’s storied history, we knew we would have to produce a book that surpassed the available information online. DK’s distinctive visual treatment was a perfect match, and the fan response is proving that.”

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