Book Review: The WWE Championship: A Look Back at the Rich History of the WWE Championship by Kevin Sullivan
So what does one do after writing 100 columns of “Wrestling Rumblings”? Try to duplicate the feat of course with another type of column. Welcome to the premiere installment of “The Eye Gouge” which will be a column I will randomly write from time to time that will be devoted strictly to reviews whether it is book reviews, DVD reviews or well anything else related to wrestling. Like most review columns this column will have its own unique rating system with the ratings being appropriately enough eye gouges with five being the worst rating you could get and 0 being a perfect rating. After all who wants to be gouged to the eyes right? Well anyway here we go let’s kick it off with my review of “The WWE Championship: A Look Back at the Rich History of the WWE Championship by Kevin Sullivan.”
At first I thought this was going to be a coffee table type of book but at 296 pages this is a very excellent read even for one such as myself who is an avid wrestling historian and very familiar with the lineage of the WWE Championship this book still kept me heavily interested to the point where I was able to finish it after one day of reading. The book is a detailed almanac of sorts profiling every championship reign and most major championship title defenses, specifically those on PPV with the omission of Chris Benoit’s three PPV title shots at the WWE title at Fully Loaded 2000, Unforgiven 2000, and Royal Rumble 2003 which I guess was to be expected given WWE’s recent history of not mentioning Chris Benoit when they can avoid it.
Like all almanac’s should it starts at the very beginning with Nature Boy Buddy Rogers and educates fans about how WWE’s title really spawned out of the NWA World Title explaining in great detail the partnership with Vince McMahon Sr. , Toots Mondt and Buddy Rogers to keep the NWA World Title exclusively in their territory and how after gaining enough legitimacy with Rogers as champion when the time came for him to drop the title had Rogers lose a one fall match to Lou Thesz (NWA World Title matches were two out of three falls back then) so that they could stake a claim to Rogers being champion when they created the WWE Championship. Sadly enough the book still holds onto the claim of Rogers defeating Antonino Rocca in a tournament in Rio de Janeiro to win the initial championship despite the fact that it can be assumed most fans reading the book would recognize that claim to be false but I guess that’s to be expected also from WWE.
It really goes onto showcase Bruno Sammartino putting him over as a guy WWE had to have when Rogers displayed health complications early on in his title reign. They omit the part in history where they were the ones who had Sammartino blackballed in several territories for defecting to work for Roy Shire. They ignore that fact and instead reference him being suspended by the athletic commissions and going to work in Toronto and babyface the company by saying how McMahon paid Sammartinos fines to the commission to get him reinstated. While they then went onto sort of cheap shot him by saying he didn’t have the charisma of the Rock nor the technical ability of Bret Hart it did go onto praise him for having an “uncanny ability to draw the fans support” (isn’t that sort of being charismatic?).
The book goes onto mention all other reigns in great detail with little side anecdotes and comments from wrestlers such as Bret Hart who the book says got his initial run as champion due to the inner ear balance condition of Ric Flair which surprised me as Hart sort of has always gone out of his way to bury Flair’s run as champion saying on numerous occasions how Vince Mcmahon was unhappy with his work and had him go out and redo the match with Randy Savage that netted Flair his second WWE Championship. I thought for sure the company would sort of cheap shot Flair with him being in TNA by mentioning something along those lines but it stayed very loyal to Flair and mentioned how Hart had a tough going initially as champion due to not having the same quality of opponents and being a different kind of champion then fans were previously used to. One of the funnier comments of the book is Bret Hart referencing Hulk Hogan being “uncomfortable to face him” after winning his fifth WWE Championship at Wrestlemania IX over Yokozuna and goes onto sort of bury Hulk Hogan by using a a reference in his own WWE release booked “Hollywood Hulk Hogan” where Hogan said he saw this title run as little more than a payday. Upon reading that line I pulled up Hogan’s book and the quote they are referring to is “Boy I just stole me a couple of more paydays” and that quote was in response to Hogan suggesting that he defeat Yokozuna for the title after he won it from Hart to drop the title back at King of the Ring. So while it was a cheap shot at Hogan it was really coming out of Hogan’s mouth so I have no problem with this one.
The book takes digs at The Ultimate Warrior through others such as Ted Dibiase who refers to the Warrior as “the one guy who didn’t deserve it” and Sgt. Slaughter who describes his WWE Championship victory as “a tremendous match with somebody who couldn’t have that good of a match”. It also references things like Slaughter receiving that run because of injuries to Randy Savage who would have had the run against Warrior (and in my opinion would go onto have a much better match than the one Slaughter references with Warrior at Wrestlemania VII). Slaughter references the main event of Wrestlemania VII being moved from the L.A Memorial Coliseum due to “Security Concerns” and even mentions how “we were going to have “104,000 fans there” when in actuality it was due to low ticket sales as the L.A Memorial Arena which is where that years Wrestlemania was held wasn’t even sold out to capacity that year.
We get some interesting notes such as how The Road Warriors were in fact the ones who came up with the idea for the Smoking Skull Championship that Steve Austin used as champion, Kevin Nash talking about putting on the title nude for his wife and mentioning how he wasn’t happy with the match he had with Shawn at Wrestlemania XI, to Sid who mentioned he didn’t even want to be champion and didn’t wish to be bothered with carrying the title from arena to arena and tried to get the ring crew to transport the title for him.
One of the things that really bothered me about the book was it’s mentioning Antonio Inoki’s title win over Bob Backlund in it. The book mentions Inoki beating Backlund and Backlund’s controversial win over Inoki which led to the title being declared vacant (the first time in history that happened with the WWE Championship). Despite mentioning this it does not validate Inoki as a champion in the almanac section at the end of the book nor does it mention who Backlund defeated to fill the vacancy on the title (Bobby Duncum Sr. for all you history buffs). It also does not mention the one month vacancy in 1981 that was really only acknowledged at the time in NY after a disputed match between Backlund and Greg Valentine. These things I thought would have really gone a long way towards making the book really legitimate and not just a piece designed to put over the title.
I could go on and on but I don’t want to give the entire book away. Needless to say although it revised and forgot some things that I wish it didn’t I really enjoyed the book and it’s fairly current as it was completed following Sheamus last title reign. Between the book and the recent mentions of the title on TV I am almost starting to feel like the WWE Championship is important again and considering the amount of time that has transpired since I could say that I had to give the book 1 Eye Gouge as I really enjoyed it. So go out and pick it up as it’s highly recommended and well until next time, I am out.