Includes foreword by Jim Cornette! Throughout the history of the WWF, there have been times of prosperity and times of hardship, cycles that shape the ethos of the company by forcing changes to its infrastructure and on-screen direction. The one constant throughout three decades of change is Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the stalwart puppet-master who captains the ship. Unflinching, thick-skinned, and domineering, McMahon has ultimately outlasted all of his competition and come out on top of every wrestling war he has waged. In 1995, he very nearly lost. Titan Sinking tells the tale of one of the most tumultuous, taxing and trying years in WWF history. Vince was reeling from a nightmare first half of the decade as the year commenced, but having seemingly steered the company through an image-shattering five years, he looked to rebuild his ailing brand and rediscover the magic formula that made his promotion such a juggernaut in the eighties. As each week passed, more and more problems behind the scenes began to unfold, plunging the WWF on the bring of crisis.
This book gives the inside story of all of it: with detailed accounts of incidents from Syracuse to Montreal, from the Kliq to he BSKs, Vince's new hope, to his various creative flops and failures. Find out the real story of the year, and learn how 1995 brought WWF to the brink.
THE DEPARTURE OF RANDY SAVAGE
"Randy didn't show up at the Fernwood Resort in Bushkill, PA, the venue for that evening's RAW tapings. He really had quit, and he wasn't even going to let McMahon give a counter offer to convince him to stay. Vince thought back about how Randy had manipulated the situation, and he realised that it was pre-meditated. Savage had wanted out, and nothing Vince could have said or done would have changed that..."
"The fraught tensions between many of the performers and the coming together of various rival cliques and factions, both as partners and opponents, made for a potentially volatile situation. For the road agents dealing with structuring the bout, keeping the egos of everyone involved happy was like being asked to solve the riddle of an international crisis..."
While FSM has reviewed books from the History of Wrestling group that includes James Dixon, his first solo effort, Titan Sinking, is a different format. Rather than a collection of show reviews with often-snarky opinions, it's a history of one year of one promotions: The WWF of 1995.
On the face of it, that's an unlikely subject. 1995 was not only among the worst creative years for the company but, with the exception of the XFL debacle and the recent costs of setting up the WWE Network, 1994-5 appears to the only financial year in which the company lost money.
That was because the WWF drew badly at live events, while attempts to make up for falling buy-rates by adding cut-price In Your House events failed when viewers saw them as second-rate rather than a bargain.
But that creative and financial meltdown, and Vince McMahon's reaction to it, makes for an intriguing story, and one that Dixon covers by bringing together multiple sources. For example, he mines numerous interviews and autobiographies to try and get different perspectives on events behind the scenes. He has also conducted original interviews with insiders such as FSM's own Jim Cornette and Tom Prichard, who lend valuable insight into the creative process and political manoeuvring of the time.
The book also features several obscure interviews,. Some aren't that illuminating, such as with WWF Mania host Stephanie Wiand, but others bring valuable, fresh information, including extensive details from the files of the lawyer who represented Douglas Griffith, the marine involved in an infamous bar brawl with Shawn Michaels.
Dixon turns into a compelling narrative. At times it becomes a little too literary, with what appears to be supposition about the private thoughts and reasoning of those not interviewed for the book, but Titan Sinking avoids being a dry read. There's also plenty of detail about the in-ring product, told in a way that directly relates to the bigger picture. For example, a lengthy run-down for the competitors in the Royal Rumble manages to be both amusing and depressing in demonstrating the creative mediocrity of the roster at the time.
The era of Tatanka main events and Mantaur matches may not be an obvious choice to revisit on the WWE Network, but the story of just how low the promotion had sunk only a couple of years before the biggest ever wrestling boom began is one worth telling, and indeed, told well.
Total Wrestling Magazine
Not many fans look to 1995 as a stellar year for the then-WWF's television product, but there was certainly enough going on behind the curtains to make James Dixon's new book Titan Sinking a gripping read for anyone with a desire to know more about the machinations of the industry.
Compiling information from shoot interviews, WWE-sanctioned documentaries and his own research, Dixon manages to paint a broad picture of an often-overlooked time in the history of sports entertainment.
The work that Dixon has done on the events surrounding "Macho Man" Randy Savage's departure from the WWF is particularly impressive, and is perhaps the most thorough analysis of the subject to date.
If you're planning on a rewatch of 1995, there's no better companion piece than this book. Titan Sinking is the comprehensive look at the WWF of 1995.
The research and resulting writing are both excellent, based on a wide range of sources such as “shoot” interviews along with some original research ranging from lengthy conversations with Jim Cornette, Tom Prichard and even the lawyer for Douglas Griffith, the solider who got into an infamous brawl with Shawn Michaels outside of a nightclub, which is explained at length here with information that both boosts and weakens Michaels’ side of the story.
The focus on a single year allows Dixon to cover the pay-per-view events at length, putting the in-ring action into its backstage context. Examples of this approach include a lengthy look at the roster in the Royal Rumble that shows just how dire the talent pool was, and an explanation of why the Wild Card match at Survivor Series was so politically charged.
Dixon has clearly made every effort to cover specific incidents as broadly as possible, telling all available sides of the story.
Scott Keith - rspwfaq.com
Better to read about it than watch it! I've been watching the trainwreck that is 1995 WWF on the Network lately, and this was a great overview of what was happening behind the scenes at the time.
Very easy to read (I blew through it in a day), Dixon gives backstory on all the players and happenings leading up to the major events. The detail on the Shawn [Michaels marine attack in Syracuse] was crazy good. Highly recommended!
Brandon Sears - Every Read Thing
You know that old saying, “the night is always darkest just before the dawn”? Nothing could be closer to the truth when analyzing the year that was 1995 within the World Wrestling Federation. Prior to their massive spike in popularity that would arrive in 1998, Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire was crumbling in the face of a determined young upstart by the name of Eric Bischoff with his Ted Turner financed wrasslin’ company, WCW. Author James Dixon looks at the budget cutbacks, decreased wages and stagnant programming that plagued the global entertainment juggernaut as its promoter Vince McMahon struggled to find a way to compete as well as increase the company’s fledgling audience.
While mainly concentrating on 1995, the book also delves into the WWF’s various lawsuits of the early 1990s, the steroid trial initiated by the United States government and McMahon’s struggle to compete with WCW signing away his brightest stars. There’s even a portion dedicated to the long rumored Randy Savage/Stephanie McMahon scandal, calling attention to whether or not anything actually transpired between the two. Hard evidence is given through quotes from those who were backstage during the time and an eerily specific rant given from Savage himself seemed to give it credence.
For hardcore fans like myself, there may not be much in here you don’t already know. However, it does reinforce how horrific the morale was among the workers backstage. A group known as “The Kliq” comprised of top stars Shawn Michaels, Kevin “Diesel” Nash, Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, Sean “1,2,3 Kid” Waltman and Paul “Triple H” Levesque continually occupied the top of the card, thus receiving large payouts and creating a glass ceiling of sorts for those hoping to ascend to main event status.
Of those comprising The Kliq, Shawn Michaels was without a doubt the worst of the bunch. If the man hadn’t been so undeniably talented, there’s no way he could have gotten away with half of what he did. Seemingly all of the events that occurred within the company during that period either ended or started with Michaels “losing his temper”. The gang would terrorize others backstage, sabotage matches if they happened to be working with a performer they didn’t like as well as constantly having the ear of McMahon lobbying to remain on top. The atmosphere became so bad that a rival group was formed under the guidance of locker room veteran Mark “The Undertaker” Calaway, whose chief job would be to police the Kliq making sure things never came to the point of violence.
Dixon’s book is tightly researched taking content from shoots (interviews with a performer out of character), podcasts, memoirs and documentaries (all of which are cited in the rear of the book). Dixon even had Jim Cornette, a man at the forefront of the madness in 1995, write the foreword. Recommended to me through what could be considered an excellent companion podcast, The New Generation Project Podcast, “Titan Sinking” is a great look at a difficult time for what is now the gold standard of wrestling.