Sunday, July 8, 2012

Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling by Jonathon Snowden review

From William Muldoon to Brock Lesnar, this history covers those who have divided themselves as tough guys on the professional wrestling circuit and legitimate confrontations. From catch wrestling master Billy Robinson to the Japanese professional wrestler who gave birth to the global phenomenon that is modern mixed martial arts (MMA), this investigation travels from the shadowy carnival tent and the dingy training hall to the bright lights of the squared circle and the Las Vegas glitz of the octagon. Billy Riley's legendary Wigan Snake Pit and the rigorous UWF Dojo in Tokyo are explored, revealing the secret history of both professional wrestling and the rising sport of MMA. Squared circle icons Strangler Lewis and Lou Thesz and Olympic heroes Danny Hodge and Kurt Angle are also featured.

5 stars

First off I'll give a quick disclaimer, I don't care for professional wrestling at all.  I watched it in the late 80's early 90's but since then it hasn't held any interest for me.  I got a copy of this book based on a review I saw on it on MMATorch.

This book gives a great look at the history of wrestling back in the days when some contests were real and there were a lot of promoters running their own smaller shows.  Starting with the first big name pro wrestlers in the late 1800's the book takes a trip all the way through the days of Brock Lesnar having to leave the UFC due to his illness.

I found the stories of the old school wrestlers pretty incredible.  While the winners and losers were mostly chosen through internal promotion politics there was always a chance your opponent wouldn't be happy to take a fall and would actually fight back for real.  The days were men were fighting many times a day in carnivals, taking all challengers with survivors earning a cash prize.

All of those stories were interesting, but the book really drew me in with the stories of the pro wrestling in Japan.  That was where I started to see more names that I recognized due to being an MMA fan.  There is a lot of great info on a lot of the names that currently are spoken of on a regular basis.  Sakuraba was especially cool to learn about for me.

If you currently follow MMA, were ever a fan of pro wrestling, or appreciate the stories of the men who pioneered popularity of some of the combat sports this is a great book for you.  It will really bring into focus the fact that, while the outcomes are predetermined, there is nothing fake about the athleticism of the men who dedicate their lives to entertainment wrestling.

Check out this book on Amazon.


  1. I'm surprised that a book like this can be released without a major mention of Chris Benoit, whose 2007 suicidal/homicidal meltdown nearly sank professional wrestling thanks to his psychotic devotion to shoot methods, which incredibly had no impact on the popularity of MMA, even though this book clearly makes the necessary connections. Not to bring this review into unnecessary musings, though.

    1. Benoit was mentioned in the book, but since it primarily focuses on the men who has a positive effect it is not a huge portion of the book. I believe this author has actually written a book that is dedicated to what happened to Benoit.

  2. It's just surprising, refreshingly so, because for a while, even before 2007, it seemed every book about wrestling took a negative stance, and it seemed like after 2007, that was always going to be the case.

    1. I can't guarantee anything, as I haven't done a detailed search, but the publisher ECW Press has a lot of books that seem more nostalgic/silly than negative. They have books of greatest wrestlers of all times, strangest storylines, etc. I'm looking at checking some of their other stuff out at some point.