Book Review: The Wrestlers’ Wrestlers
I’m always up for a good book about professional wrestling, and a new one is coming out on April 27, The Wrestlers’ Wrestlers: The Masters of the Craft of Professional Wrestling by Dan Murphy and Brian Young. Unlike other wrestling books, this isn’t focused on one particular individual or promotion. Rather, it’s a collection of profiles of elite performers, analyzing what made them your favorite wrestlers’ . . . favorite wrestlers. So, instead of simply being a list of the greatest wrestlers of all time, according to the fans, this book is about the wrestlers that other wrestlers admire. It’s an interesting concept.
I spoke with Dan Murphy about the premise of this book and he said, “A lot of the guys weren’t necessarily the top guys, but every time they went in the ring they delivered just a great match, regardless the opponent.” He went on to explain that being a wrestler’s wrestler often meant presenting your work as believably as possible. Dan told me that his Dad was the perfect test for this. Since his father didn’t care for wrestling, if he was able to sit down and watch a match and suspend his disbelief because the wrestler in the ring was putting on a clinic that even had him enraptured, then chances are he was watching a wrestler’s wrestler.
For this project, Dan and Brian interviewed more than 40 in-ring veterans, historians, referees, and promoters. I appreciate this because it provides the reader with a well rounded point of view on a particular individual, rather than simply being a book where the authors let you know how they feel the entire time.
Certain living legends like Hulk Hogan are not listed among the wrestlers’ wrestlers because people Dan and Brian interviewed referred to him as a “novelty act” and “not someone whose matches I watched to learn how to be better at my craft.” Hulk Hogan was an attraction, not a highly skilled technician.
I asked Dan about Diamond Dallas Page because DDP went from being green at 35-years-old to fans voting for him as Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s “Most Improved Wrestler” years later. He also won Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s “Feud of the Year” award in 1997 for his epic battles with “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The reason why Dallas improved so much over time is because he taped all of his matches and watched them back. He was a student of the game. While Dan told me that DDP didn’t come up in his discussions with those he interviewed for this book, I certainly think DDP is worthy of consideration based on his dedication to continually improve and expand on his repertoire. In response to my assertion Dan said, “I see a case can be made for Diamond Dallas Page.”
I particularly like how this book isn’t just about modern day combatants. It features the stars of the 1920s, today’s ring generals, and every era in between. This gives the book a comprehensive and thoughtful feel. Clearly, the authors took their time with this project and went to great lengths to ensure that the final result was a top-notch book. I’d argue that not including Gail Kim, who is arguably the most influential female wrestler of the past 20 years, is a glaring omission. After all, without Gail there wouldn’t be a Knockouts Division in IMPACT Wrestling (formerly TNA), and without the Knockouts we wouldn’t have the women’s wrestling scene we see today. The women’s wrestling revolution started in TNA, not WWE, and it’s all because of Gail Kim. For this reason alone, she should have been profiled in this book . . . but she wasn’t. That’s OK, not everyone is going to agree on topics like this, and my books about the history of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling will cover this in great detail.
Growing up, I loved watching Bret Hart, William Regal, and similar grapplers work because of the finesse and ability they routinely displayed. While the term wrestler’s wrestler is a bit ambiguous and open to interpretation, it’s an interesting notion. I’m glad the authors decided to tackle this topic, as they produced a solid read that made me think, question, and debate their choices. I can’t ask for much more than that from a book. With this in mind, I wholeheartedly recommend buying The Wrestlers’ Wrestlers: The Masters of the Craft of Professional Wrestling by Dan Murphy and Brian Young. It’s unique, smart, and well written.