Pricey WrestleMania book not worth it
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Wrestling
WrestleMania: The Official Insider's Story
By Basil V. Devito Jr., Joe Layden.
$74.00 Cdn, $49.00 US
At first glance 'WrestleMania: The Official Insider's Story' looks
impressive. Its colour photographs, graphics and listings are positively
eye-catching. It sure is an attractive tome. Nevertheless, when one sits
down and actually reads the content written by Basil V. Devito Jr. (XFL
President and longtime WWF employee) and Joe Layden ('The Rock Says...'),
we soon realize that the inflated book is all style and no substance.
With a title like 'The Official Insider's Story' we assume that we'll get
the scoop on all the behind-the-scenes happenings that surrounded each and
every WrestleMania. That doesn't happen. A better title for the book
would've been 'Basil V. Devito's Official Story'. Serving as the WWF's head
marketer for many years Devito recounts his personal endeavors to promote
the WrestleMania events.
He details his closed-door meetings with
interested partners and companies: The site problems the WWF encountered
with several of the venues (eg. How they outfitted the Pontiac Silverdome
with viewing screens.); The publicity stunts he masterminded such as the
gag weigh-in session for Mr. T and Roddy Piper prior to WrestleMania 2.
All of this is very interesting if you are planning a career in marketing
or publicity but for the hardcore wrestling fan, Devito's fond recollections
are for the most part neither interesting nor compelling. Devito's approach
is way off base. 'WrestleMania: The Official Insider's Story' would've been
fascinating if it was told from a booker's point of view or someone who was
privy to the reason why crucial decisions were made. We don't care what
type of attractions were available at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, the
site of WrestleManias 4 and 5. We want to know how Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant were
persuaded to let themselves be eliminated from the WWF World Title
tournament or how Randy Savage reacted to the storyline involving his wife
Elizabeth and Hogan.
Speaking of Hogan, a large portion of the book is concerned with Devito
describing how Hogan changed from the loyal "company man" to a distant
loner the longer he remained in the World Wrestling Federation. As he tells
it, Hogan was an agreeable personality to work with for a time then as his
attention was diverted to projects outside the wrestling ring and as his
relationship with McMahon soured (possibly over the '80s WWF steroid
scandal which isn't alluded to) until Hogan was routinely shrugging off his
obligations to the company. To illustrate his point Devito describes a
special company party held to commemorate Vince McMahon's contributions to
the industry. Wrestlers such as Roddy Piper and Randy Savage prepared long
and involved speeches praising and roasting McMahon. When it was Hogan's
time to say a little something he brushed away the mike and sat silent
shocking everyone in attendance.
Roddy Piper throwing some real punches at Mr. T during their WrestleMania 2
boxing match, the fact that the WWF imposed a pay-per-view blackout across
Michigan to make sure the Pontiac Silverdome was filled for WrestleMania 3,
Hogan becoming involved in a jet-ski accident the day before WrestleMania
IX and a WWF Magazine hitting the newsstands declaring Savage the champ
before WrestleMania IV was held are the only real eye-opening pieces of
information found in the book's 190-plus pages. Even with the inclusion of
a special DVD video inside (containing WrestleMania highlights fans have
either seen before or have in their collection already), the $74.00 Canadian ($49.00
in America) price-tag isn't justified. It's far too much for far too
little. A book chronicling the history of WrestleMania is a great idea.
Having a publicist-marketer write it from their point of view, is not.