Welcome to a very special edition of the WRATH of TITO. Today, I have a very special book review lined up for you, as I'll take a look at Scott Keith's Tonight... In This Very Ring, which is a look at the WWF/WWE's rise and fall, then rise and fall of the promotion, mainly focusing on 1993 until early 2002, i.e., the GOOD STUFF. There are several books out there, already, that discuss the old 1980's WWF, so this one shows how the WWE fell from grace in 1993, got its shit together in late 1997, and began to seriously fall in 2001.
Oh man, I'm extremely upset that Kurt Angle is injured and unable to perform at Wrestlemania 19. Angle looks to have the same bad neck injury which Edge, Rhyno, Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, Scotty 2 Hotty, and Lita all suffered from, which is a borderline broken neck, leading to nerve damage and a possible deterioration of the spinal cord. Angle is likely to go see Dr. Youngblood, the man who did the other wrestlers' surgeries and will be out for a year. This ends a possible Match of the Year candidate in Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle, and even worse, Smackdown is without its star. He's one of the few and proud reasons that I call myself a wrestling fan, and now he's gone for a year.
It sucks. This injury cripples the WWE product in so many ways, as Angle was the most dependable guys in terms of having a good match or just being an all around great talent to have on a show. Now, he's gone for a year, and Smackdown will definitely suffer without him. What heel will be there to make guys like John Cena or Brian Kendrick look decent in their first matches? For the past 3 years, Angle never let success ever go to his head and did everything that the WWE management told him to. Guys so generous, yet being all around bests in American pro wrestling, are hard to find in this day and age. Goodbye Kurt, as at least you have some free time to spend with your new born at home, and this injury ends any possible Olympic comeback, as if it would have happened anyway.
(I HAVE NOT READ THE SMACKDOWN SPOILERS!!!) So what can you do? Brock Lesnar is now left without an opponent and the Undisputed Title is now probably vacant. I would hold a mini-tournament on Smackdown to determine who Brock Lesnar wrestles at Wrestlemania. Chris Benoit would be a PERFECT replacement for Angle, as he'd put up a great match against Lesnar, possibly an equal, if not better, than the match with Angle. But hey, knowing the hard-on Vince has for taller guys, I'm willing to bet that the Undertaker gets shoved back into a feud with Lesnar, leaving us with a shitty excuse for a Wrestlemania match over the Undisputed title.
It's a very, very sad situation and it happened to a very respectable person in the business.
Alright, on a good note, let's review Scott Keith's book.
For those who don't know Scott Keith, he's been a longtime internet writer, much longer than yours truly. He was one of the originals of RSPW (Rec. Sports Pro Wrestling, or something like that), a type of message board system from the early to mid 1990's before the Internet boomed, especially regarding professional wrestling news and rumors. I first caught his work on Wrestleline from his Pay Per View and tape reviews, and later on his own sites (Rantsyvania and TheSmarks), to the location of which he's currently at, 411Mania.com, which was 411wrestling.com. Right now, he writes RAW, Smackdown, Pay Per View, tape, and DVD reviews there, which I hardly ever miss. Yeah, another columnist can be a fan of someone else's work, too.
Anyway, Keith's in the know when it comes to insider news, as seen in his show reviews. His new book, "Tonight... In this Very Ring" is an in depth look at the WWF's fall in 1993 to the slow build up in 1997 to the success of the WWE in 1998-2000, and finally to the downfall of the WWE's big boom in 2001 with the badly botched Invasion angle. At first, he gives you a brief run through of the WWE's history before 1993, as the main focus of this book is the rise to the top in the 1990's to early 2002. The book's chapters go from an introduction of sorts for the wrestlers, the history of the WWE before 1993, the WWE's downfall during 1993-1996, and after that, it's a year by year analysis from 1997-2001, along with a brief look at the early events of 2002.
The book, in general, is MUCH better in the editing department than the first Keith book, "The Buzz on Pro Wrestling". The Buzz suffered from goofy pictures and out of order chapters, but this one goes from 1963 until early 2002, instead of jumping back and forth. Keith goes in order of every significant television event and Pay Per View, even adding his own match recaps, along with some really good footnotes with additional information. Plus, this book is LOADED with insider information, much of which even longtime readers of Keith's work or even a former suscriber of the Observer newsletter never read about before. Everything from backstage politics to how certain incidents occurred, it's very informative. Not only that, but Keith is very discriptive of the current storylines occurring at the times, mixing insider stories with what you saw on television.
And yes, this book is loaded with opinions, but they are sensible ones. Keith's explanation of the WWE "glass ceiling" of the late 2000 and beyond is very good, citing many examples or matches where a Triple H or an Undertaker was overly protective of their spots at the top. Secondly, his analysis of Vince Russo is very top notch, showing how Russo's booking style has ultimately put the WWE in bad shape in the long run through the storylines.
The book's content is pretty consistent on the events of the last few years and doesn't have any contradictions on stories. Keith put together a great tale of the WWE's rise through "sportz entertainment", and the editing is 100 times better this time around. Aside from the history in the book, you also get a few added bonuses. Besides a brief definition of terms up front, we get a glossary of ratings and buyrates. I've been looking for a good list of buyrates for a while, so this is a plus. You also get a title history of the World Title and Tag titles. Good stuff.
LAST WORD: Excellent 2nd effort by Scott Keith on this book. It's like a history book in terms of the WWE from 1993-early 2002. It's highly recommended, especially if you want to know the backstage stuff during these times or just need a collection of what happened in the WWF/WWE during their rise of "sportz entertainment". In Scott Keith grading terms, I'll give this a ****1/2, but in my gradebook, I'll give this book an [ A ], and give it the rank of highly recommended. Bravo to Mr. Keith for a great bounce back from the first book, and I hope it does well, especially during a time when professional wrestling isn't too profitable of a market these days.
You can purchase Scott Keith's Tonight... In this Very Ring by CLICKING HERE or by CLICKING HERE. You can get it really cheap at Amazon.com right now!
And to read Scott Keith's current work, go to 411Mania.com.
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Take Care, and Thanks for Reading.