Thursday, February 28, 2013

We The People...Of Dutch's World

"We The People."  For the past 2 1/2 weeks, these three words have dominated the wrestling world.  Who knew that, in an era in the industry where youth is king, a creative veteran would become not only a focal point of a company but also a mainstream news talking point?  It's happened.  In WWE.  In 2013.  Monday Night Raw has, for the moment, become a very entertaining show for the "WWE Universe" and wrestling fans alike, but that's another story for another time.

After nearly forty years in the wrestling business, "Dirty" Dutch Mantell is not a household name.  Wrestling fans such as myself have long revered the man for his work both in front of and behind the curtain.  Unfortunately, rather short national runs in both WCW and WWF have denied many fans the opportunity to take in the Dutchman's talent.  WWE has suddenly changed all of that.

In a creative move right out of my own heart, Dutch Mantell recently returned to WWE seconding Jack Swagger.  Shortly thereafter we learned that Mantell is now known as Zeb Colter.  While the name Zeb is an obvious nod to his Uncle Zebekiah character from 1995-1996 WWF, the character is no longer a mountain hillbilly.  Zeb is now a Vietnam veteran (a fact mirroring Mantell's real-life history) with a staunch and vocal stance against illegal immigration.

The Colter character and angle pitting Swagger against Alberto Del Rio have picked up quite a bit of controversy, but Mantell is no stranger to being in the center of the action.  Most in the current audience have no clue that Mantell has been a key figure in wrestling history.  Thanks to a blog started by Mantell a few years ago, fans were finally able to take an entertaining peek into his rich career in the business.  That blog eventually evolved into two different books.  We're taking a look at the first of those books, titled "The World According to Dutch."

Although you could categorize the book as an autobiography, I would be more inclined to simply call it a wrestling book.  A very good wrestling book at that.  While there are some amazing autobiographies by wrestlers available, more often than not the early years of the individuals are less than interesting.  Those early years are often followed by college football stories that simply don't resonate with someone like me who has no interest in that sport.  In this book, Dutch dives into wrestling after a paragraph or so of background.  You can't argue with that approach.

Dutch's book, while definitely full of memories from his own career, also features stories that were told to him in his early days in the business.  The Dutchman points out that he may very well be the last living person that knows these stories, so we are indeed fortunate that they are told here.  The book rarely delves into Dutch's personal life outside of the wrestling world, but still manages to keep a rather steady flow from the beginnings of his career to more recent happenings circa around three years ago.

Mantell spent time in many of the most beloved territories and promotions of the past thirty years including the aforementioned "big two," Memphis, Smoky Mountain, and Florida.  One area that many fans associate Dutch with is Puerto Rico.  It seems that no one leaves that particular island without some crazy stories.  With as many years as Dutch spent there, the craziest of those tales are right here in the book.  You'll also learn why Mantell made just two trips to Japan, a country often revered by wrestlers from that era.

Books by those who spent time changing the wrestling industry behind the curtain are often a level above publications by talent that was simply in-ring.  J.J. Dillon's book is a great example of this.  Mantell's book easily places in the ranks here as well with a history as a booker and a more modern "member of creative."  Not only will you learn the story of the creation of TNA, but also the birth of Dutch's own brainchild within the company that evolved into one of their most popular brands.  It stands to reason that Mantell has much creative input in his current Zeb Colter character based upon his track record.

Other highlights are chapters dedicate to stars in the business who Mantell considers to be "graduates" of "The University of Dutch."  These are talents that you definitely know but may be less aware of what an impact Mantell had on their formative years in the business.  Fans of The Undertaker will want this book.  I shall say no more on the subject, but it's interesting to think what tidbits of knowledge Mantell may still be passing on to these talents in today's WWE locker room. 

Since many of these stories were edited from Dutch's blog, it's surprising as to how well the book flows and rarely repeats itself.  Notations of stories that can be enhanced by footage present on YouTube are included with the caveat that the footage could be removed at anytime.  Thankfully, the ones that I felt the urge to check on are still there. 

One chapter that I could've done without is a somewhat confusing tale entitled "The Ballad of Dirty Dutch."  This seems to be a history of the character, but really didn't make much sense to me.  I was also disappointed by the chapter on Bruiser Brody's murder.  Many are aware that Dutch was one of the wrestlers present for the tragedy thanks to a story Mantell gave to an Internet journalist over a decade ago.  Mantell references that piece and offers little new to the story.  I understand that it would be a difficult topic to discuss, but the chapter should have instead gone to another of Mantell's entertaining stories.

Because this book was self-published, I think it unfortunately slipped through the cracks among many fans.  It's an amazingly entertaining book that will hopefully get more attention now that Dutch has been reborn as one of the top characters in WWE.  I know that I'm anticipating eventually getting my hands on the second offering from Mantell.

There's never been a better time to take a look at the career of "Dirty" Dutch.  With a horrific family tragedy occurring in Dutch's life in 2012, there has also never been a better time for Dutch to come back into prominence in an industry he has loved and nurtured for decades.

Personally, I'm hoping for a long and fruitful run for WWE's new top mouth, Zeb Colter.  Just in case there is ever a need to find a new talent for Zeb to lead, I think I have the answer...WE THE PEOPLE!


Anonymous said...

Dutch wrote some great stories in the old WOW magazine in the late 90's and early 2000's. It was always on the last page and was easily the highlite of the magazine for me. The pieces ended abruptly. Always wondered why?

J\/\/ said...

I wasn't a big WOW guy but I'll have to check the issues that I do have. I'd love to read those. No clue why they ended.

Loneman1 said...

Interesting entry. I never knew of the guy, so when he came out with Swagger it had me scratching my head wondering who the old guy was, and I am pretty familiar with wrestling history. Good to hear a little bit more background, I'll have to seek out some of the stuff you mentioned.

Brad said...

I have both of his book and they are both very good in my opinion and I to enjoy the way he did it. I will never forget the Macho Man story.