In the bookstore last week, I was initially intrigued by Ring of Hell. By Matthew Randazzo V, it billed itself as an authoratative look at the sadistic business of pro wrestling, and what led to the downfall of "The Crippler" Chris Benoit. I flipped through it a bit at Barnes and Nobles, and since it was only $12, I took the plunge.
However, actually reading the book reveals it to be a pretty sub-par hit piece. Randazzo's background is as a true crime writer and historian, according to his Wiki page and the back of Ring of Hell, but the book is long on hyperbole and short on original reporting and facts.
I know this because I'm a wrestling geek. I'd estimate that 60 to 75 percent of the information in the book is recycled and slanted from other sources. This includes shoot interviews with Kevin Sullivan and Kevin Nash, information from Chris Jericho's much better book Around The World In Spandex, and various dirt sheet publications and books. Frankly, all of these individual sources of information are better than Randazzo's collection.
The main problem stems from his point of view and writing style, which oozes off of every page. Randazzo clearly detests the wrestling business. Now, this doesn't necessarily prevent him from writing a great wrestling book, but he injects the personal opinion into every paragraph. As a result, the entire text reads like an angry pulpit delivered by a preacher as opposed to well-researched material.
Frankly, the facts of the case speak for themselves. Benoit was a loner who was so obsessed with making it in professional wrestling, and so addled by concussions and other brain damage, that he never scaled back his own steroid usage despite watching his idols be turned into monsters and corpses. All of that is indisputable from the factual record, therefore, you don't need to embellish and demonize the wrestling business on every page.
Randazzo also has a severe problem with sourcing. At various points, he attacks Nash and Bobby Heenan, only to later rely on them as information sources. If you're going to tear at someone for being dishonest, it seems silly to then turnaround and use them as a source five pages later. Also, because of my knowledge of the source material, I know that Randazzo is picking and choosing what parts to use in his own text. He has no problems quoting Nash about drug usage, but then rips him apart for his booking, without any defense from Nash.
The book is at its best when it simply reports as opposed to moralizing. For example, it points out that Benoit was using steroids since he was 17 or 18, and it also detailed his path through the Hart Dungeon, Stampede Wrestling and New Japan before ending up in WCW and the WWF. All of this I found interesting, and it would have been better if I didn't have to pick at the good parts through seething hate.
With all that in mind... If you want to buy my copy, it is up on Half.com. The entry is here. Like with my past auctions, if you win, I'll throw in something small and silly as a bonus.