Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The squared circle of death, as seen by a jackass

RING OF HELL ● Matthew Randazzo V
When pro wrestling great Chris Benoit killed himself after murdering his wife and son in June 2007, it was a given that someone would eventually be compelled to write a book about it. While there is already a book that attempts to chronicle those events, Ring of Hell is the better of the two…but not by much. Author Matthew Randazzo may consider himself an expert in organized crime and political corruption, but if his stab at a wrestling book is any indication, I’d suggest finding a different way to make a name for himself. What Randazzo does over the course of 341 pages is come up with could be the most tasteless, exploitative wrestling book since Diana Smith’s autobiography was pulled off the shelves in the earlier part of this decade.

Don’t think for one minute that Randazzo has any interest in writing about wrestling’s positive aspects. To read this book, you’d think there weren’t any at all. He almost seems to revel in his exposure of what goes on behind the scenes, as if a lot of this stuff hasn’t already been public knowledge for at least a handful of years. When I looked at his bibliography, I had to chuckle. Virtually all of his information is culled from books and DVDs that resourceful wrestling fans probably already have. For instance, there are only four of the 22 books listed that I don’t already own. And a lot of these books were published by WWE, the promotion which Randazzo has the biggest axe to grind. That’s not the only credibility issue here either. The one thing that Ring of Hell does bring to the table is being the first book that gets an insider view of the wrestling dojos in Japan. Without going into detail, whatever horror stories you’ve read about American wrestling training pale in comparison to their Japanese counterparts. When it comes to understanding the wrestling industry, Randazzo’s view is admittedly more clear than that of your average hardcore wrestling fan on the Internet. He’s willing to admit to truths regarding what draws the most money in wrestling that most fans or writers often refuse to acknowledge. It’s too bad he sucks at writing about it. Okay, let’s be fair: if this were somebody’s blog or a Wikipedia entry, it wouldn’t be so bad. But Ring of Hell is a 341-page hardcover book for $25, and that commands a higher standard of research and writing, at least to me. At these standards, I and every other self-respecting hardcore wrestling fan with Internet access and a flair for the written word should be getting book deals any day now.

The impression I get throughout the book is that Mr. Randazzo would rather write about himself, but knows that he wouldn’t sell half as many copies as an exploitative book about a toothless dead guy who pretended to fight for a living. That’s why I’m writing more about him than Chris Benoit. It’s apparent in the style the book is written in, where the author almost makes fun of their subject in a pointless effort to convince their readers that they don’t actually enjoy whatever it is they’re writing about. Why would you write about a subject you’re not interested in, or expect people to read about it if that were the case? Randazzo also has an annoying propensity for injecting his opinion at times where it’s irrelevant at best. Nobody is going to read this book for this guy’s opinion on Kevin Sullivan’s wrestling ability. Or the line about current WWE main eventer Randy Orton having a look more suitable for gay porn than pro wrestling, which had no place here at all. The book’s final chapter just made me laugh—it read like a prosecutor’s closing argument in a cheesy TV courtroom drama. Or maybe a bad wrestling interview. Maybe that was the point. But the best part is when Randazzo does a hatchet job on Kevin Nash and Scott Hall for their backstage antics towards Chris Benoit in WCW, before using quotes from both wrestlers to substantiate his story just a couple chapters later.

To think that this book was supposed to be in the true crime section of your nearest bookstore, and considered a hard-hitting piece of journalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your money would be better spent on Heath McCoy’s Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling, or Bret Hart’s autobiography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling. Neither of those books pull their punches, nor do they aim to make their readers feel ashamed to be wrestling fans.

No comments: