It's nearly impossible to read every single wrestling book available out there. Before Mick Foley made it "fashionable" for wrestlers to write, you could've easily devoured every book written about the squared circle in less than a week. For the past decade it seems that grapplers from all eras and levels of stardom have thrown their hats into the literary ring.
While some have been very good and others pure rubbish, it's good to know in advance just which ones are going to be worth investing your time into. It's become widely known that wrestling books published by Scott Teal's Crowbar Press are by and large going to be worth every penny you pay for the book as well as each second you devote to reading it.
With books written by such names as J.J. Dillon, Ole Anderson, Tony Atlas, and The Assassin, Crowbar Press has carved a reputation for publishing books that tell good stories and the honest truth. Well, we all know that wrestlers have the reputation to embellish stories just a bit, but you can rest assured that the tales are told without any agenda or edits due to "company policy." While the WWE has released many good titles under their publishing umbrella, most of the company's books leave you wondering just what stories the higher-ups simply didn't want told. In other words, a book by the infamously frank Ole Anderson would have never seen the light of day if it weren't for publishing houses such as Crowbar.
The Crowbar Press books also, largely in part due to their individual authors, usually take you back to a specific point in the history of the wrestling industry. Obviously the wrestlers entire stories are told, but most of these stars spent large portions of their career in a certain territory or era. In many of these cases, stories from these particular vantage points have rarely been told. For example, while stories from the mid-'80s Jim Crockett Promotions era have been told far and wide, Ole Anderson's book spends a lot of time covering his ownership of Georgia Championship Wrestling. Similarly, James J. Dillon's book details his time working side by side with Vince McMahon in the late '80s and early '90s covering a time period rarely documented to fans.
The latest effort from Crowbar Press is no different and may just be their best book yet. Earlier this month at NWA Fanfest in Atlanta, fans were treated to an exclusive early release of "The Last Outlaw" by Stan Hansen. Hansen, who was on hand to sign the books, seemed just as excited about the release as the fans were.
At over 400 pages "The Last Outlaw" is no short read, but you may not be able to pry yourself away. Similar to the books described above, Hansen's story does indeed cover his entire career, but also covers an area never described in so much detail before: the life of an American wrestler in Japan.
Hansen's career as a "gaijin" (the Japanese word for foreigner) makes this book different from any other wrestling book from the start. The fact that he may have been the most successful gaijin wrestler of all-time takes it to a whole different level. Hansen wasn't just another wrestler in the Land of the Rising Sun, "The Lariat" was a bonafide star. Dealing with the mysterious fathers of puroresu (Japanese wrestling) such as Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba are things that many wrestlers were not privy to, much less fans.
Hansen takes you inside the exciting, glamorous, and sometimes very lonely world of a wrestling superstar in Japan. From touring the country to interacting with fellow wrestlers and fans as well as food and culture, the book explores a world unknown to most of us. And if you've ever had the opportunity to consume Japanese Sapporo beer in the past, you'll be craving it again after finishing this book.
Hansen's journey has many turns outside of Japan as well, including a promising football career at West Texas State (meeting The Funk's, Ted DiBiase, and longtime friend Bruiser Brody) and stints in the wrestling territories including the WWWF, WCW, and AWA.
What about the story of Hansen and the AWA belt? The "tobacco juice" run in WCW? Breaking Bruno's neck at MSG? It's all here. Fans of late stars such as Brody, Terry Gordy, and Steve "Dr. Death" Williams won't want to pass this one up either.
Although Crowbar Press books are usually tightly edited, perhaps an approaching deadline or wanting to keep a "stream of consciousness" in the book causes many things to repeated as much as four times. I enjoy getting more bang for my buck, but the book probably could've shed about 15 pages had some sentences (and a paragraph at one or two points) not been repeated. It's a minor complaint overall and doesn't detract from this book's place in the list of "Best Wrestling Books."
Overall, Hansen comes across as a very level-minded and likeable guy. Each time that I've had the opportunity to meet with him, he's come across this way as well. What's not to like about a man who became a star in his profession in two countries and knew just the right time to leave it behind? Two thumbs up for "The Last Outlaw" which can be purchased (and probably autographed like most of their publications) at CrowbarPress.com.
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