In 2003, my first book came out, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. How did it come about? I was running SLAM! Wrestling, and Michael Holmes, an editor at ECW Press, was a fan. He called one day and asked me what I wanted to write about. I said Canadian wrestling, and it grew from there. Michael has been a huge supporter of myself, my work, and a trusted friend. Jacques Rougeau Jr. wrote the foreword, and we even drew up a rudimentary graphic to explain his wrestling ties.
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians
There was no plan about more books in the series, and then, out of the blue, Steve Johnson got in touch. He’d gotten a copy of The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians, liked it and wondered what I had planned next. It turned out that Steve had grown up on wrestling out of Buffalo, was almost a decade than I was, but, most importantly, was a veteran, award-winning journalist. When we decided to work together on what ended up being The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams, I can say that he made me a better writer, researcher, and more determined to make that next call.
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams came out in 2005, and the best compliment that maybe I’ve ever gotten was when Bobby “The Brain” Heenan — probably the greatest pro wrestling manager ever — said he kept his copy in his bathroom. Steve was the conduit to having Bobby Eaton write the foreword, and that’s Eaton hanging under the scaffold during a Midnight Express versus Rock ‘n’ Roll Express scaffold match. Note, you can tell if you have a first printing very easily, as the black ink ran over our names on the cover, so we’re not visible.
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels arrived in 2007 — somehow I’d always envisioned Bulldog Brower and his bulging eyes on a cover of one of my books (he’s mauling Carlos Belafonte, later known as Carlos Colon). It’s that much better than the previous books, if only because we’d set a high standard for our work, and had accumulated so much material. Rick Martel wrote a great foreword talking about always wanting to be a villain since it looked like they were having more fun!
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels
In The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels, critically acclaimed authors Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson take readers on an informative and entertaining ride through mat mayhem. With their signature mix of original research, interviews, and anecdotes, they describe the rise and development of wrestling’s bad guys, from riots in small-town arenas in the 1920s to the mega-event pay-per-views of today. The Heels explains how a barrel-chested Milwaukee brewer became wrestling’s first Nazi, then served his country with distinction in World War II, as well as how bleached blond bad guys like the legendary Ric Flair trace their lineage to Gorgeous George ― and about the little-known Ohioan that George himself emulated. And of course, Oliver and Johnson’s list of the most influential heels in history is sure to spark debate.
Like its predecessors in the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series, The Heels features more than a hundred rarely or never-before-seen photos of wrestling’s most despised characters. From the casual fan to the wrestling historian, anyone interested in the unique world of sports entertainment should have this on their bookshelf.
In October 2012, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes & Icons hit the shelves. Steve and Greg added respected wrestling journalist Mike Mooneyham to the gang, helping cover even more names. It’s a huge book, biggest of the bunch, and, for some reason, it didn’t sell as well. Do people just like bad guys better? It’s an amazing collection of writing and photos. JJ Dillon wrote the foreword for the book, and has been a great supporter of our work through the years.
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes & Icons
At its core, professional wrestling has always been about the forces of evil trying to undermine everything good ― and a red-hot heel needs a valiant hero to battle against, someone fans can root for, identify with, and look up to.
Wrestling heroes like Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes, The Rock, and André the Giant are celebrated worldwide. But in Heroes & Icons, Oliver and Johnson dig deeper to include more than just the household names, telling the stories of forgotten heroes and regional stars, like Tiger Jeet Singh, who has an elementary school named after him, and Whitey Caldwell, whose gravesite still sees flowers from fans 40 years after his passing.
Based on the comprehensive research and numerous in-depth interviews for which their acclaimed Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series is known, authors Oliver and Johnson lead readers through the 1930s to the present day, as they examine what truly makes a great hero.
The longest wait for a Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame was seven years, as that was when Steve and Greg finally had The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Storytellers (From the Terrible Turk to Twitter) published in August 2019. It’s epic in every sense, with so many stories covering all kinds of things we never worked into the previous four books. In a way, it’s a spillover book, since we had all kinds of threads we never worked on earlier … but there were plenty of new discoveries where we went down a rabbit hole and just came up with something else!
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Storytellers (From the Terrible Turk to Twitter)
You can’t escape pro wrestling today, even if you want to. Its stars are ubiquitous in movies, TV shows, product endorsements, swag, and social media to the point that they are as much celebrities as they are athletes. Pro wrestling has morphed from the fringes of acceptability to a global $1 billion industry that plays an everyday role in 21st-century pop culture.
In this latest addition to the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series, Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson explain how the sport’s unique take on storytelling has fueled its remarkable expansion. Hundreds of interviews and original accounts inform this exploration of the imaginative ways in which wrestlers and promoters have used everything from monkeys to murderers to put butts in seats and eyes on screens. From the New York City Bowery in the 1890s to a North Carolina backyard in 2017, readers will encounter all manner of scoundrels, do-gooders, scribes, and alligators in this highly readable, heavily researched book that inspires a new appreciation for the fine (and sometimes not-so-fine) art of storytelling.