Imagine that This is Spinal Tap was about wrestling—and true.
Heavyweight champion Jericho recounts his bumpy rise to the top of professional wrestling in brash, funny, compulsively readable prose. He gives a rambunctious tour through bargain-basement wrestling “schools” that function more like medieval torture dungeons; the rough-and-tumble Mexican and German circuits, where his life was repeatedly threatened at gunpoint; the bizarre Japanese wrestling culture, with its silent audiences and fondness for outlandish gimmicks; shady promoters more interested in copping feels than paying guarantees; and a gut-churning selection of the world’s worst hotel rooms. Nicknamed “Lion Heart,” Jericho exhibited from childhood a ferocious drive to wrestle, and his single-minded pursuit of this demanding, dangerous, often seedy and always ridiculous career is inspiring and frankly amazing—ripped-off, injured or disillusioned, he never lost faith in his beloved sport and, more incredibly, retained his sense of humor. Jericho differs from many of wrestling’s other top performers in his seemingly complete lack of ego. With self-deprecation and mordant wit, he admits to sexual snafus, humiliating gaffes in protocol (pro wrestling is governed by an unspoken code of conduct as Byzantine as that of a Regency court) and at least one horrific bout of diarrhea. The cheerfully crude author clearly enjoyed the sybaritic excesses of life on the road, but his essential decency and humble gratitude are detectable throughout, particularly in passages addressing his mother’s paralysis—ironically the result of just the sort of bad fall Jericho risked daily—and the tragic accidents that ended the lives of friends and peers. The cannily structured memoir focuses on Jericho’s early career in various small-time outfits. He saves the story of his joining wrestling’s major leagues for the book’s final pages. A born storyteller, he understands that losers are funnier than winners, struggle is more compelling than success and a happy ending is all the sweeter after a miserable beginning.
Low-down, funny and as bracing as a body slam.