Thursday, June 14, 2012

Goin' "South" In Book About Wrestling, Faith, & Life

For better or worse, Mick Foley can be thanked for a lot of trends in professional wrestling.  One of the better things would be the wrestling book boom.  Well, as long as we ignore books "written" by Chyna and The Rock we can thank him for it.  Of the dozens and dozens that have been written, very few are truly "bad."  Many have at least a few stories that make the reader glad that they invested the time.

The best books seem to be from those wrestlers that did some major traveling and/or relocating.  Not only do you get a wide variety of stories spanning the wrestling world, but you're often surprised at some of the other names that have crossed into the life of the author.  If you're looking for a book where names like "Number One" Paul Jones, Ted DiBiase, The Italian Stallion, and Jesus play a big part, then George South's "Dad You Don't Work, You Wrestle" is the book for you.

Any wrestling fan that grew up in the 1980's has seen George South's work.  From almost every Saturday on TBS to the various shows that were part of the WWF "Television Network," South definitely made his rounds in the hotbeds of wrestling.  From Flair and Rhodes to The Warrior and The Snake, South had a major part in making us, the wrestling-hungry fans, see the aforementioned superstars in a larger-than-life light.  Whether he was Gladiator #1, one half of the Cruel Connection, or just plain old George South, you enjoyed his work even if you didn't realize it.

South's book chronicles that long, and still active, career in the ring as well as a life that revolves around three things: George's faith, George's family, and George's wrestling.  "Number One" Paul Jones would be somewhere in there as well.  I first learned of South's love for Paul Jones during a question and answer session starring the latter at the NWA Fanfest held during Thanksgiving weekend 2004.  South unofficially co-hosted the session, peppering Jones' own stories with tales of how South grew up idolizing the southern wrestling legend.  Those stories and many others are present here in the book and obviously made South's journey from childhood to adulthood all the better.

South admits in the book that it took quite awhile to finish.  Considering that one portion of the book is written just after Road Warrior Hawk's death in 2003 and another following the death of Joe Blanchard earlier this year, it's easy to see that the book was a long labor of love.

My experience at NWA Fanfest mentioned above makes it easy for me to declare that the book reads just like hearing South tell the stories himself.  While there is a general direction to the book, South's stories are recollected from countless memories written down here and there on any kind of writing surface that you could imagine.  You may get a story from the NWA at the top of the page and a WWF story at the bottom, but often such unsystematic storytelling is what makes the reader unable to put the book down.

If you're looking for "juicy" stories from the wrestling world you really won't find it here.  To me, that's a bit refreshing.  I don't necessarily want to feel that I have to take a shower after reading a chapter of a wrestling book.  Instead, George's words and the obvious passion that he has for the business will leave you wanting to take in a bit of old school wrestling.

The kind of stories that you will hear is how those "preliminary" or "journeymen" wrestlers got the spots that they did.  How did the "bigger" stars treat them?  How were the promoters like Jim Crockett Jr. and Vince McMahon?  George has those answers as well as countless stories of promoting wrestling cards both on his own and with PWF co-owner The Italian Stallion.

As I mentioned before, George has a passion for the wrestling business that even the current state of the industry can't kill.  In addition to tales from his own career, George also includes many tidbits of trivia and minutiae that will be fresh and new for the reader.  While I have no desire to give those facts away, one trifle about George is of special interest to the readers of this blog: George South is the unfortunate victim of The Ultimate Warrior in the picture emblazoned on the box of the Hasbro WWF figure ring.

Dozens of photos illustrated the many people that have crossed into George's life over the years.  It really is amazing to think that George has been in the ring with everyone from the original Sheik to Lou Thesz to Wahoo McDaniel.  Is it any wonder that the man has not lost his love for the industry with a personal history like that?  Of course, his relationship with Jesus and his family take an even higher importance in his life.

From being the "Number One" fan of Paul Jones to visiting Texas Stadium and the Dallas Sportatorium to delivering the word of God to thousands of people, George delivers it all in a verbal scrapbook of memories.  Where other books are filled with authors bashing this and that, George instead looks for the good in almost everything.  Some would view that take on things as being untruthful.  With George, you can't do anything but believe him.  Instead of dwelling on the bad, George takes the good in situations and people and maximizes it.  This was obviously instilled in the man from his faith, something that George provides a high dose of in the book.  It's very interesting to learn just how that has worked out in the often hedonistic world of professional wrestling and how he has used it to help others.

From glancing at his website, George seems to be planning on bringing copies of the book with him to all of his upcoming appearances, but you can also check out for more information.

Fans with an appreciation for wrestling of any era will want to give "Dad You Don't Work, You Wrestle" a read through.  A great summer read, you may just be inspired to take a road trip and catch some great southern wrestling, hopefully with George South on the card.  In the meantime, sit back with a glass of Mountain Dew or sweet tea, crank up some Journey, and get ready to "Go South" with this newest solid addition to the wrestling bookshelf.

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