DVDs - VGames - Books Book review: Radican reviews Tributes 2 by Dave Meltzer-Hawk, Henning, Miss Elizabeth
Apr 4, 2005 - 4:17:00 PM
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By Sean Radican, Torch contributor
Torch book review
Tributes 2 by Dave Meltzer
By Sean Radican, Torch contributor
Tributes 2 is a collection of tributes from Wrestling Observer Newsletter editor Dave Meltzer. This book recounts the lives and deaths of several recently deceased wrestlers and managers. Meltzer provides several stories for each wrestler or manager that he covers in this book. He often paints the career of each wrestler or manager in encyclopedic fashion. At times, the recounting of each wrestlers career can seem like an overwhelming amount of information crammed into a short amount of space, but ultimately the most rewarding aspects of this book are the first hand accounts of the person behind the wrestler provided by Meltzer. The stories of life on the road, backstage, and accounts of what went on inside the ring are truly fascinating.
Why you should read Tributes 2
Bret Hart’s forward: In his forward to Tributes 2, Hart recounts the amount of trouble he went through to protect kayfabe. While feuding with his brother Owen, he went out of his way to stay away from him while going through airports and customs. Hart eventually goes on to recount how he came to respect and trust Meltzer, who he thought was damaging the wrestling business by exposing aspects of the business that had never leaked out in the past. Hart goes on to describe how he sought out Meltzer to give his account of the infamous Montreal screw job.
“I did. I believed, and I still do, that it was in the best interest of all the boys that the truth be told-if the biggest wrestling organization in the world can screw the world champion, the it was a powerful head’s up to every wrestling in every dressing room everywhere.”
Hart’s forward is an interesting read, which gives the reader a glimpse into the amount of trouble wrestlers went through to protect their business. The forward is also an informative glimpse into what happened in the aftermath of the Montreal screw job that readers will enjoy.
Stories from behind the scenes: One of the most rewarding parts of reading Tributes 2 is the stories from behind the scenes provided by Meltzer. From Owen Hart’s legendary ribs to the sad recounting of the way Davey Boy Smith abused his body, Meltzer provides a behind the scenes glimpse of the real persona behind the wrestler we all saw on television. One of the most depressing parts of Tributes 2 is when Meltzer writes of how Smith’s death did not come as a surprise to those close to him.
“The stories got worse and worse. They were surreal by 1999, and well past that over the next year. Those close to him, and for that matter to many in wrestling, very much like Brian Pillman, his death was not a surprise.”
While reading Meltzer’s tribute to Smith, I couldn’t help but wonder if there could have been something done to save his life. It is truly shocking and powerful to learn that the people closest to Smith fully expected his death. The last years of his life were some of the most miserable years I could ever imagine someone living through.
As much as Tributes 2 covers the dark realities of the lives of some of these wrestlers, not every tribute is a sad story. Freddie Blassie’s tribute was one of the more interesting tributes to me because I had only previously known him in a MOJO-like way as the disturbing old guy in those video montages that the WWE used to put together to promote PPV’s. Imagine reading a MOJO recap that went something like Disturbing Old Guy came out with Triple H and Suit Guy! Well that’s exactly what I thought of Blassie until I read his tribute.
“Blassie’s ability to rile up a crowd and get people coming back for more became legendary in the South during the 50’s, when he would wrestle in the same cities ever week, against largely the same oppoenents, and had to keep inventing new ways to keep the crowds coming. His ways were both effective, and often dangerous, and fans came after him regularly. He was stabbed on more than one occasion.”
I was fascinated to learn more about Blassie, who performed in front of the same crowds week after week and was able to turn the crowd against him to such a degree that he was actually stabbed several times after reading his tribute.
Tales from the road: Have you ever wondered how wrestlers end up pouring drinks on each other while they sleep or ended up strutting down the aisle with nothing on but their robe on an airplane? Well this type of behavior isn’t limited to the wrestlers of today. Tributes 2 also tells a tale from Terry Gordy’s days with the Fabulous Freebirds, which actually foreshadowed the behavior of many modern wrestlers on the road.
“Gordy and Hayes first thought of Roberts as a veteran office stooge, but on a trip from Jackson, Mississippi to Shreveport, Louisiana, after shaving cream and pissing on each other (literally, as the Freebirds were known for giving people they liked-and sometimes didn’t like as well-golden showers) for 220 miles, Roberts was officially a Freebird for life, even if Hayes and Gordy at that time thought it was only temporary.”
After I read this, I thought to myself that this was a story like this would even make Randy Orton blush. Wrestlers certainly live a different lifestyle from everyday people, but pissing on someone you like isn’t my definition of fun.
Drawbacks to Tributes 2
Difficult to read for more than a few chapters at a time: One drawback to this book is the difficulty I had reading it for long periods of time. I often found myself jumping from era to era while reading the different tributes in this book. Perhaps if the tributes had been grouped together by era, it would have made for a smoother read. When I read, I like to get lost in the world of the book, but I found myself constantly distracted as I went from wrestler to wrestler and era to era. I feel if the book had been edited together differently, it would have made for a smoother read.
Information overload: At times, Meltzer tries to cram too much information into one tribute. All the various matches and match times seem to all become scrambled after awhile. I feel it would have been better if Meltzer just stuck to telling the story of each wrestler, rather than cramming together as many facts as possible into a short space. If you present too many facts to the reader, they are just going to be forgotten. The lasting memories I will have from this book are the stories it tells.
Mike Lano’s name is on every page: As nice as the pictures are in Tributes 2, I had to see Mike Lano’s name under every picture. I’ve never seen anything like this before in a book with pictures, but there was Lano’s name next to every picture, save for a couple. It would have been nice if there had been an index in the back of the book that listed the page numbers on which Lano’s photos appeared, but that may have taken up too much space since they appear on every other page in the book seemingly.
Overall thoughts: Despite being difficult to read for long periods of time, Tributes 2 is an interesting and informative book that all wrestling fans should read if they haven’t already read the individual tributes in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. The presentation of the book is very slick with nice looking graphics, photos, and easy to read text. This is definitely a book that all wrestling fans should read at some point. As a great bonus, there is also a DVD included featuring an interview with Dave Meltzer.
You can pick up this book at any bookstore or by visiting Amazon.com.
Sean Radican has contributed to the Torch since June 2003. He mainly covers Ring of Honor news and occasionally stops in to the Lounge for some strong words about a current event in wrestling. Contact him at S_Radican@Yahoo.com.
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