Methinks I better tread lightly here...
Let's dispense with all the pleasantries and ball slurping right out of the gate. Obviously, as a writer on this site, I am a longtime fan of the grand poobah of this blog. I have been reading Scott's rants since way back in the WrestleManiacs years, starting with his WCW Thunder rants many moons ago. I was a loyal CRZ guy at the time I discovered Scott's, uh, unique outlook on one of my favorite pastime. I believe it was a line referring to Van Hammer's "Leather Jacket of Extreme Discomfort" or someone using "The comfy cushions of death~!" that really dialed me into his writings, and since early 1998, I have been a loyal and devout Keith follower. Much of my early writing styles attempted to ape Scott's style, until I realized a few things: That there is only one Scott Keith, that I was not a very good imitation of Scott, and I needed to find my own voice. While I still do keep some elements of Scott's writings in mine, its amazing going around the interwebs, reading a review by some new cat on the block, and within about 100 words, know that the author is clearly trying to imitate Scott. Usually poorly.
With that said, obviously I have read all the man's books. I bought "Buzz on..." the day it came out. Same goes for "Tonight in this Very Ring" and "One Ring Circus." However, where I live is not blessed with a good amount of book stores to peruse through (and I have shitty credit, so Amazon was out of the question...plus at the times of their releases, my money was going towards some more mind altering substances)...so I only just read "Dungeon of Death" about a year ago, and just today received, from Amazon, at a cost of four cents plus $4.99 shipping, "Wrestling's Made Men." I devoured it in about two hours (trust me...after slogging through that shit that is Dusty Rhodes book...this was a fucking cakewalk) and loved it.
Which got me to thinking: I generally like all of Scott's books, and the last few all generally follow a simple formula: describe what is wrong with the WWE, elaborate on the problems, throw in some match reviews, voila. So reviewing one of them is basically like reviewing all of them, so I figured I'd do something different here: quickly run down each book, discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of them all, and give a somewhat objective ranking of each work of Scott. So let's do this.
Scott's first book was "The Buzz on Wrestling", which was a popular book series around the turn of the decade roughly akin to the "(Whatever Subject)...for Dummies" series. It was meant to be a quick tutorial for the uninitiated to the mat wars at a time when wrestling was at its zenith popularity wise. It is a quick and concise history of the modern era of wrestling that has sections dedicated to certain wrestlers and promotions in an attempt to give the less astute fan an idea of what was REALLY going on with said performers or promotions at the time, and in that sense, it is a success. Whenever I would have a friend or co-worker ask me questions about wrestling and how they could gain some more knowledge, I always referred them to this book, because it is easy and quick to read, and is filled with some great knowledge that alot of us smarter fans had already discerned from Scott's online writing.
However, reading it today is very much reading the portrait of the artist as a young man. That is what is going to make this review interesting hopefully. It more or less really gets going around Hogan and the AWA and reaches the year 2000. Don't get me wrong, its a good book, one I will still pick up as I am rushing towards the bathroom and in need of something quick and easy to read. (I can recount most of the book offhand without even glancing at it...even the typo's, like Dynamite Kid's style and drug use causing him "dearky."), but it was really just scratching the surface of what was to come. It had some snark to it, but not nearly what was to come. It did not feature any match reviews, which were to come. Which leads us to...
"Tonight in this Very Ring" was what I considered the genesis of the more modern, scathing Scott we have come to know and loathe. I mean love. Consider "Buzz" the end of the Netcop years, and this book as the genesis of the smark rants. It is basically dedicated to the years 2000-2001, and reading it now is very much a trip, having experienced that wonderful WWF period live and in living color, if you will. The snark is turned up. The match reviews are there. And so is a phrase Scott rues to this day, in print: "HHH is God." To be fair, in 2000, HHH really WAS Godlike, as he and Rock, with Austin sidelined, drew obscene amounts of money together, and it also didn't hurt that the mid card had been revamped with additions like Benoit, Guerrero, Jericho, Malenko, et al. In short, it was, for this fan, one of the best years of wrestling I have experienced. Add in the fact that Russo had left for greener pastures in Turner Land, phew, buddy, it was a fun year, especially for PPV's.
Well, except for King of the Ring 2000, the one PPV I had the privilege of attending live that year. That PPV was a steaming pile.
Anyway, "Tonight..." began a killer run for Scott, as he was well ahead of the curve on what precisely was going wrong with the WWF product even as it reached its pinnacle. He foresaw the growing HHH problem. This book introduced many to the term "Glass Ceiling." It featured the Scott we all know and love (phew...got it right that time) right as he was reaching the peak of his powers. Without a doubt one of Mr. Keith's better offerings. But the best was yet to come, with...
"Wrestling's One Ring Circus." This is, in my mind, without a shadow of a doubt, Scott's best work to date in print form. It details a very tumultuous time period in the history of WWF/E, 2002-03. HHH becoming the egomaniac we all deride to this day. Austin walking out. WWF losing its name. It takes the blueprint Scott laid out with "Tonight..." and turns the volume up to 11. Scott was a very jaded viewer at this point...as were many of us...and it is reflected in this book. It also seems to mark where modern Smark Scott shows up for good, filled to the brim with sources deep within the industry, as evidenced by the remarkable chapter on the walk out and demise of Stone Cold Steve Austin, which, if you have never read, in my mind is the definitive chapter on what he was experiencing at the time. A total slam dunk ***** classic chapter that may or may not be Scott's definitive MOTY. Unreal stuff. Those last two words actually accurately describe the whole book, as it is just spot on from beginning to end, showing uncanny prognostication powers that I remain in awe of. Still a book I very much read to this day when I have time.
A quick life experience side note here: After this book is where I very much fell into the vices that basically destroyed my life for the better part of a decade. 2003-2011 were very dark times for me, so while I read Scott's sporadic online contributions...and they were beginning to become very sporadic, reflecting his distaste for the product...his books became afterthoughts. It was only this afternoon I received, and read, "Wrestling's Made Men."
My thoughts on this chapter of Scott's book writing is that it is a very good book, his second best. But in light of some events over the last few years, the two star players of the tome, Eddie and Benoit, make it almost tragic to read in retrospect. If I had read it when it initially came out, that Chris...in a druggie haze, no doubt...would have screamed "RIGHT ON!!! BENOIT!! EDDIE!! FUCK THE WORLD (Wrestling Entertainment)!" Reading it today though more or less made me feel a little melancholy, because I can recall experiencing the same joy as Scott relays in the book when Benoit won the Rumble in 04, when Eddie won the title at No Way Out in the Cow Palace, Mania 20...honestly, that was the pinnacle of my fandom, and its all been downhill ever since. It was a fun read because, honestly, I was so messed up at that point I was not seeing Raw week to week, let alone Smackdown. And to be honest again, reading this book, I am glad I wasn't! There were some horribly illogical things going on with the WWE product at that time. Nathan Jones. Heidenreich. Mordecai. Kenzo Suzuki. Luther Reigns. HHH. The babyface push of Randy Orton. Ugh. Just...so...bad. Yet the book also describes WWE starting to finally push new guys towards the top, in the form of the (soon returning) Batista and John Cena, which at the time was a fresh idea that Scott was skeptical about. Wonder how he feels about that now, what with Cena being pushed and pushed and PUSHED down fan's gullets (he was remarkably prescient on how Cena would go down well with younger fans) to the point of nausea. All in all, almost as brilliant as his prior book, but the main body of work showed an author who was growing weary of the product, on the verge of total wrestling breakdown...and Scott seemingly did, as did many of us fans as well. WWE had hit a corner here where Johnny Ace had taken over as head of talent relations (lowercase for a reason) and Steph and Trips were gaining more and more power. Honestly, the highlight of the book is Scott and friends attending Backlash 2004 and the Raw the following night, and their interactions with Shane O Mac.
"...Made Men" ends with a very somber afterword, as in between finishing the book and its publish date, the wrestling world lost Eddy Guerrero. Any fan worth their salt knows how great Eddy was in the ring, and what a spectacular fuck up he was outside of it. If I had to compare my life, my experiences, to a wrestler, its Eddy. Total perfectionist fighting the odds and a huge family influence trying to find his way to the top. In that process, he finds every pratfall known to man in an effort to remain at the top while slowly and surely descending into every abyss he attempts to jump. It is almost sort of ironic that Eddy's death closes out "Made Men" with little mention of Chris Benoit. The afterword by Scott is written in February of 2006. 18 months later, the landscape of wrestling would change, and it would involve the very man Scott worshiped at the altar of.
Chris Benoit murdered his wife and child on the weekend of June 25, 2007. Chris Benoit was the lord and savior of the internet wrestling fanbase, a man most championed by Scott Keith himself. I can remember how I felt once I learned the grim reality of the situation: I felt like my balls had been stretched out and Benoit had thrown his hardest chop right down the middle of my sack. How could the man we had been led to believe was the ideal wrestler, salt of the earth, just a great guy who provided us hours upon hours of amazing wrestling, be this cruel and sadistic madman? I remained in mourning for many years, refusing to analyze the hard facts, just because it hurt too much. It was only within the last two years, when I really got clean, that I figured I would determine if I was being irrational in defending the man because of the concussive nature of his line of work, which leads us to "Dungeon of Death."
In my opinion, "Dungeon of Death" is Scott's lesser work. We all know Scott was a HUGE Benoit guy, to the point of obsession (just for the record, so was I), so I was expecting huge things from a Canadian who experienced more or less the entirety of Benoit's career. It was a slam dunk for Mr. Keith to really, really, REALLY fashion a name for himself in the literary world. Who better than SCOTT KEITH to write the definitive story on Benoit and his ascension and demise? Well, I read the book about ten months ago, and was totally underwhelmed. I got a section that described Benoit's career in about 70 pages, and then the book moved into this morbid death march of wrestlers who lost their lives due to drug abuse...quick little snippets that never really scratched the surface, much like Scott's description of Benoit's career. I was expecting so much more, but was left totally deflated by it, and consider it Scott's worst work. Muschnick's book on Benoit was better. As was Randazzo's. And those two can be described as a skeptic and the other as a total outsider who did damned good homework. Was Scott too emotionally scarred to write the definitive Benoit tome? (Ring of Hell is it, by the way, for all the guff I gave the author.) I do not know. All I know is that Scott's Benoit book left me with more questions and skepticism than any of the ones that have been produced to this date.
So then. We all frequent this site, so we are all Keith-ists to a degree. Here is where I have his books ranked:
1. One Ring Circus
2. Wrestling's Made Men
3. Tonight in this Very Ring
4. Buzz on Pro Wrestling
5. Dungeon of Death
This post was meant as less review and more of a discussion starter. How far off base am I? Delusional? What are your favorite Scott Keith books and why? Have at it.
And yes, Missy Hyatt is coming. I just received the book via mail today, and not even 30 pages in and she is giving Tommy Rich road head. Its next...