If you aren't old enough to remember the first WWF boom period in the UK, with its peak years in 1991 and 1992, you will have to forgive this author for writing in a haze of nostalgia.
As detailed in Issue 88, The Complete WWF Video Guide: Volume I was a look back at the WWF video releases up until 1989, but Volume #2, covering 1990-1993, is a reminder of a time when you could barely find a shop that did not sell World Wrestling Federation merchandise.
The first tape I can recall owning is Survivor Series 1990 - latterly famous because it featured the television debut of The Undertaker, who, to fans at the time, was just WCW's "Mean" Mark Callous with extra make-up and less selling.
But the joy of this book is not in recalling the pay-per-view releases, but rather the compilation tapes that most of us picked up in Woolworths. One of my earliest tapes, indeed, was Battle Of The Superstars, which featured a No Disqualification match between Ted DiBiase and Jake Roberts from Madison Square Garden. The bout had a surprisingly clean finish, which is perhaps why it became one of the most-watched WWF matches of my early viewing.
Several other bouts evoke thoughts of excitable days of yore. WrestleFest '91's Hart Foundation versus Legion Of Doom match was a one-off non-title affair that was again remarkable for its clean finish; U.S Rampage '91 (known simply asRampage '91 in the U.S) had the tease of the sole offically-released Ultimate Warrior versus Undertaker bout, only for the match to be seven shades of awful; Hulkamania VI was an introduction for many fans to the mercurial Stan Hansen, who battled Hulk Hogan in one of the best matches in the career of "The Hulkster"; Invasion 1992 saw Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels square off nearly 17 years before WrestleMania XXIV, in a bout that foreshadowed Michaels' heel turn; and Smack 'Em Whack 'Em featured the full Flair versus Bret Hart WWF title change of October 1992, and the first WWF Ladder match in Hart versus Michaels.
Notwithstanding the nostalgia, or even the fantastic research document thatVolume #2 certainly is, there's still a little to learn for even the hardcore fan of the period. For example, it's interesting to note the exclusive releases, such as Germany's Super Video: WWF Deutschland Tour '92, or German Fan Favourites, which features outstanding and utterly dire bouts in equal measure. Also noteworthy is that one of the best tapes of the period, Year In Review 1992, was not released in the U.S.
This really was a great time to be a wrestling fan, and The Complete WWF Video Guide: Volume II brings back every priceless memory.
- Brian Elliot, Fighting Spirit Magazine #90, February 2013
One imagines that it's just a coincidence, but The Complete WWF Video Guide: Volume #1 comes on the heels of the announcement that Freemantle Media will take over the production and distribution of WWE DVDs in Europe. This has tapped the nostalgia bone of fans who remember the plethora of SilverVision VHS tapes that used to be available in seemingly every shop and rental outlet on the UK high street. As the title suggests, this 322-page book recaps every Coliseum Video (the U.S tape distributor) release up until 1989. It does, therefore, feature some of the early UK releases, including the three that SilverVision put out at the same time: WrestleMania's Greatest Matches, Hulk Hogan Real American, and High Flyers.
With at least two pages dedicated to every release, each VHS (illustrated with a black-and-white image of the cover) is reviewed match-by-match, going into the details of the bout, and how it ended. While this is largely written from a general perspective, occasionally the details come in the form of a conversation between the book's five contributors. This format is very informal, and censored swear words do appear - perhaps justifiably! - when it comes to several poor-quality bouts. Though a pure research book would have surely seemed too dry, the swearing goes too far in the other direction, detracting from what is a fine information resource.
Still, there is a lot of good information here, both in the reviews of the tapes, and the boxouts that take a few paragraphs to provide a biography of one of the performers. While not all of these provide as much insight as they might - the Butch Reed bio, for example, begins with the off-putting line, "Butch Reed is an idiot" - for those who perhaps have never heard of late-'80s announcer Craig DeGeorge, or the infamous "next big thing" Tom Magee, they will be very interesting indeed.
On occasion, the in-depth match reviews are not just limited to that, as a back-story is also included. For example, it is explained that after Bret Hart'sWrestleMania IV babyface turn, The Hart Foundation continued to be managed by Jimmy Hart on television, with the WWF taking three months to properly switch the tandem from heels to babyfaces.
Overall, The Complete WWF Video Guide: Volume #1 is fascinatingly nostaligic for those of us who were around in the early SilverVision days, and it's also a fine research resource. Volume II is now being prepared, and will encompass the tapes that came out during the early-1990s UK boom period that so many of us recall fondly.
- Brian Elliot, Fighting Spirit Magazine #88, December 2012
This is one of the very rare self-published books that is significantly better in print than e-book format. That's not to disparage the Kindle edition (and if cost is a factor it's likely better value), but it's a much easier read in print thanks to the great layout, formatting and artwork.
The book itself is very comprehensive and a genuinely useful reference guide, even if choosing between vintage WWF tapes is (thanks to the likes of YouTube) now an issue of time rather than money. There are some very neat touches like a complete ranking of all the tapes and a listing of the highest rated individual matches, plus some fun capsule bios.
The writing style won't necessarily be to everyone's taste. From a literary perspective it's fine - it all reads smoothly and flows well. However, with a review project like this there's a fine line between being dry and dull, or being too outlandish. The style varies as there's a panel of authors, but on several occasions it verges too far into a forced personality with too many of the "smart fan" clichés such as excessive swearing, repetitive jokes about bookers being on drugs and the like. I understand these will be refined in Volume 2, which will be a welcome improvement. One particular issue is the repeated references to individual wrestlers' motivation going into a bout (in reality, not storyline) which is clearly little more than speculation.
All that aside, it's definitely worth a read whether you are coming to this as nostalgia or its your first exposure to some of these classic - and not so classic - video releases.
- John Lister, Fighting Spirit Magazine, Power Slam
A really great book! The "roundtable" style discussion on tapes is great, and the rationales for the ratings are all very well thought out. It's an incredible resource for our generation of wrestling fans.
- Blake Norton, WOW Magazine, The Bagpipe Report
As a longtime wrestling fan and owner of a lot of these these videos, I am glad that someone finally took the time to not only catalogue them all, but also to review each match in an informative, humorous manner. There was nothing negative I can say about this book, and I look forward to reading future editions. If you are a fan, a collector, or just looking for a good read, pick this up.
- Amazon Customer
This is a wrestling book for real wrestling fans. Makes you laugh, great read, great cartoons and takes you back to the time perfectly. If you're thinking about buying this, it's worth it. Great series of books, can't wait for the next one.
- Amazon Customer
These guides are perfect! Please make Volume #3!
- Lulu Customer
Following on from the excellent Complete WWF Video Guide series, the writers at the History of Wrestling website have begun a new and ambitious project: to review every episode of Monday Night Raw, in detail, in yearly instalments. For FSM, 1994 seems as good a place to start as any.
Following a brief introduction and an explanation of the famous five-star scoring system, the book opens up with the January 3 programme. Accompanied by details of the venue, the date of recording (in the days before every Raw was live, three shows were recorded at each taping, with the first going out live), and the U.S TV rating, each segment is reviewed in an informal style - a manner which has its ups and downs. In general, the comments display a fine knowledge of the period, and are in good humour, though it is a little tough to take the opinions seriously when writer Arnold Furious plays drinking games half-way through, and his lack of sobriety is reflected in the text.
Even if that kind of thing is to be considered a drawback - and there are genuine laugh-out-loud moments, in any case - there's little argument as to how many joyous memories the book recycles. If you watched Raw back in the day, you'll delight in the nostalgia of squash matches, impeccably hyped pay-per-views, and enticing main events, such as IRS versus Major Yates (April 18). There's little denying that today's is a different business.
Still, this is not to suggest that the book is only for those who remember the '90s through rose-tinted glasses. YouTube has many matches, angles, and even full shows up to watch, and you could easily spend weeks with this book, discovering what takes your fancy. If you haven't uncovered gems like Bret Hart versus The 1-2-3 Kid (July 11), then you're in for a real treat.
The book concludes with a "best of the rest" that highlights 1994's non-Rawclassics, including the stunning Shawn Michaels and Diesel versus Razor Ramon and 1-2-3 Kid bout (aired October 23 on The Action Zone) that is unquestionably one of the top matches of the year, anywhere.
Just like their previous releases, the History of Wrestling crew have compiled another fun book, that also serves as an interesting research document. If you have a soft spot for 1994, or you'd like to expand your knowledge, you'll want to pick this up.
- Brian Elliot, Fighting Spirit Magazine #95, July 2013
1PW. A company earmarked for success from the very beginning, especially with the first show doing incredible numbers by debut standards. The approach that owner Steve Gauntley took was to use as many imported names as he thought he could afford, but seemingly mixed up his calculations somewhere along the way. It ended up costing him both 1PW and its sister company 1UP Games.
All or Nothing’s greatest strength is the the author plays no real part in the dialogue and leaves it to the key players of 1PW to hash it out between themselves. Not only was it refreshing to see the author take a back seat and leave his opinion at the door, it was also the perfect way to structure the book given how much everyone involved had to say on each subject. This allows us to easily feel like we are sitting in on private conversations at times.
The book runs in chronological order, from the planning and execution of 1PW's very first show, right up to and even after the demise of the promotion. The show reviews that appear throughout the book are thorough, and complete results for every 1PW event are helpfully included.
The most telling part of the book in regards to the wrestling industry as a whole is the final section, aptly named Discussion Points. All of the talent interviewed are asked a series of questions about the viability of 1PW's survival had certain things been done differently. The answers given tell you everything you need to know about how hard it is to survive as a wrestler or promoter, all of them struggling to agree on any of their answers aside from unanimous agreement that they all took advantage of a good situation.
All or Nothing is invaluable to anyone considering joining the crazy world of wrestling, either in front of or behind the camera. It perfectly highlights the true nature of some of the most uniquely minded people in one of the world's most competitive and misunderstood 'sports', and it isn't simply limited to wrestling fanatics either - anybody could pick this book up and be shocked and entertained by some of the mistakes and crazy stories contained within.
- Michael Owen, The Wrestling Mania
The story of the rise and fall of 1PW is beyond captivating. Indeed, All Or Nothing was originally envisaged as an overview of the entire British wrestling scene (with 1PW to be covered in one chapter), but the shear enormity of the story evolved into over 300,000 words of jubilation, heartbreak and everything in-between. The book no doubt benefits from this about turn, as the legend of 1PW is something that deserves to be told.
Without giving too much away – as many of the stories need to be read to be believed – 1PW was fast tracked to the top with a combination of good intentions and bad business decisions. The goals of the promoter Steven Gauntley are often criticised in the book, and hindsight does clearly show the cracks in the business plan, but his desire to not only meet but to also exceed the expectations of what a British wrestling company could be starts out as a noble endeavour.
If All Or Nothing can be summed up in one word, that word would be “exhaustive”. In fact scrap that, because All Or Nothing would never use one word to describe anything. Why use one word when you can explain why you’re using the word, review the word, disagree with the word, change the word at the last moment then complain that the word underpaid you? What I'm rather glibly getting at is that this is a very long read. The layout of the A4 sized tome resembles a chemistry textbook, with each page split into two columns. The story is told almost exclusively in interview form, ranging from former 1PW promoter Steven Gauntley to competitors such as Abyss and Doug Williams.
What is interesting is that several of the interviewees have been re-interviewed, allowing them to respond to comments and criticisms made in the book. Whilst this luxury was not afforded to everyone it does add an extra layer of depth and really shows how fragile a lot of relationships within the wrestling profession can be. As perhaps expected, the book contains a lot of contradiction, with certain contributors remembering events differently than others. This could have led to a somewhat confusing read, so it is to the author’s credit that the book never feels disjointed and remains easy to read throughout. Each interview is reduced down to paragraph sized segments meaning that despite its length the book never feels overly daunting.
The book is roughly split up into one chapter per event, with the run-up to and aftermath of each show bookending the shows themselves. Included within are full reviews of each show, a nice addition to the completist nature of the book.
All Or Nothing really is an essential read for anybody who has even a passing interest in the British wrestling scene. The length of the book never feels too daunting and everybody involved speaks with refreshing honesty about their time with the promotion.
It’s equal parts shocking, engaging, and also a warning to the pressures and pitfalls of this unique industry. A must read.
- Chris Pilkington; Collar and Elbow