Finally there's a book on the over-flowing wrestling literature market dedicated to the wrestlers that we, the enthusiastic legion of marks, absolutely love to hate. We call them bad guys, villains, or evil-doers, but in the carnival world of professional wrestling, they are known as "HEELS." The purpose of a wrestling heel is to create a buzz around a match or a storyline and influence the marks (fans) to buy tickets and maybe a little merchandise too - this "buzz" is called "HEAT." The heat generated by these sultans of immorality is ultimately the catalyst that builds up our favorite wrestlers, the ones we cheer for, into bonafide heroes. So in essence, the heel is the most important responsibility in a professional wrestling environment.
Established wrestling journalists, Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson, hit the road to conduct hundreds of interviews with wrestlers, managers, promoters, historians and many others to piece together mini-biographies of about seventy-five of the most hated grapplers of all-time. Starting with a top twenty, and then cycling through several categories such as Pioneers, Madmen, Monsters, Technicians, Foreigners and several others (I'm not going to spoil it for you!). All of your favorite bad guys are found in the latest publication in the "Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame" series. Previous Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame books featured compelling stories about Canadian wrestlers, and Tag Teams - both highly recommended.
My personal favorite heel of all-time, The Sheik, did make it to the top twenty but did not place first as I would have prophesized; however the top twenty is a veritable who's who of wrestling villainy.
Some other Hall of Fame heels you can look forward to reading about are (in no particular order); Randy Savage, George "The Animal" Steel, Gorgeous George, Fred Blassie, Gorilla Monsoon, Eddie Gilbert, Nick Bockwinkel, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Mr. Perfect, The Iron Sheik, Jake "the Snake" Roberts, Ted DiBiase, Bad News Allen, JBL, Rick Rude, Bulldog Brower (featured on the cover photo), Johnny Valentine, Terry Funk and that is only the tip of the blood-soaked iceberg. There is a perfect blend of old school and new school incorporated into this book and there are several chapters covering some very obscure wrestlers, who nevertheless are deserving of a mention in this book. All the many heel philosophies are covered in this book, from guys who use fear to manipulate the audience, to the connivers who use their superior intellect to outsmart their opponents, to the guys who pride themselves on being bar-room brawl specialists - you really get a feel for the art of being a wrestling bad guy in, and sometimes out of, the squared circle. It's a fascinating journey that manages to maintain a positive twist despite the focus on debauchery that occurs within the professional wrestling realm.
The wrestling industry has always been build on the philosophy of good vs. evil - but the truth of the matter is one cannot survive without the other. To quote my old pal, Diamond Dallas Page (who is not featured in this book), that's not a bad thing, that's a good thing!
Reviewed by Brad Dykens of OnlineWorldofWrestling.com