Usually, when I receive a package with a book to review James doesn`t show lots of interest. As my regular readers know, James lives with autism and one of his long-term; abiding interests has been wrestling – of the WWE kind. Every year from the time he was seven until he was 15 he asked for a wrestling ring for Christmas & collectible figures for his birthday. He cried when Eddie Guerrero died and smiled when he & his dad lined up for 5 hours to meet Batista and when I took the copy of WWE 50: Celebrating 50 years of Sports Entertainment out of the packaging and held it up for him to see, he was ecstatic.
He and the book promptly disappeared to James` room with them both appearing at regular intervals to share some hitherto unknown nugget of WWE information. I told him that if I couldn’t see the book, he would have to write the review – which caused him to disappear and pretend he hadn’t heard me. When he fell asleep, I retrieved it briefly, to write the review!
The first thing that you will notice when you pick up this book is that it looks fantastic. The layout is slightly different from the signature Dorling Kindersley `beautiful photos on a white background’ look, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful to read through. These 224-pages take you behind-the-scenes of every significant development since the birth of Capitol Wrestling and go on a journey through Hulkamania (the WWE of my childhood – and I’ve just aged myself there haven’t I?), the rise of PPV, the Monday Night Wars with WCW, all the way through the WWE’s global expansion and James’ new found love – the Divas!
This thoughtfully laid out book is filled with beautiful action shots from throughout the generations. Close ups of past championship belts, WWE memorabilia and rarely, if ever published photos make the pages jump out at the reader.You can take a look back at every Wrestlemania event – featuring the locations, results, and images from each as well as quotes from the leading wrestlers at each event.
Something else that will be of interest for many fans will be the section on the attitude era. There is that section, with stories on the birth of the era, and fun things like the original concept art for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Then there is the section of the “Memorable Moments of the Attitude Era.” Austin stunning McMahon, DX invading WCW, Brawl for All, the Stone Cold Beer Bath, This is Your life Rock and many more are all covered.
One of the things that impressed me most was that the book does not shy away from mentioning anything negative. For example, Gene Okerlund states that “Mr. T was the most unprofessional piece of work that I have ever had the displeasure of being associated with” and we also get to read about some of the companies failures such as WWE The World, WBF, and XFL.
One thing I was especially interested to see was that they hit the exact, right balance with Chris Benoit. He was, of course, mentioned in results and in the section for the “New Era of ECW” there is an image of Chris Benoit accompanied by the following:
“After Chris Benoit failed to appear at Night of Champions, WWE contacted the Fayetteville County Sheriff’s office requesting that they check on the Benoit family. Upon arrival on June 25th, 2007, authorities discovered the tragic double homicide-suicide involving Benoit, his wife Nancy, and son Daniel.”.
I feel that they didn’t take the easy way out & gloss over by not mentioning him, but they did manage to include him without being too positive either – something challenging to pull off – and in this case, very well done.
The Monday Night War between WWE Raw and WCW Nitro is covered with 14 pages detailing the weekly ratings in a graph format along with pictures connecting to the key moments in the fight for wrestling supremacy.
There are a great number of little but well-produced details in WWE 50, such as the map that outlines the territories that once dotted North America providing the names of the organizations and promoters who ran them. Each era has a section featuring the prominent WWE stars of the time and a brief biography. You are reminded of the star power of these wrestlers that you may have forgotten about such as Junkyard Dog, Big John Studd, Pedro Morales, The Fabulous Kangaroos, Red Bastien and many more.
Also enjoyable was the look at the WWE’S office building in Stamford -Titan Towers. It is fun to see that WWE employees decorate their work stations with exciting WWE products and the life-sized statue of Andre the Giant that greets guests as they enter the building is awesome – I want one for our house.
I pressed James for a quote about WWE 50, and he told me it was “The best book I’ve ever seen about Wrestling” high praise indeed from the young man who has devoured all things WWE for the last ten years.