I’ve been a loss on where to begin in regards to reviewing books. I couldn’t decide where to start: I was considering “The Hitman,” Bret Hart’s excellent autobiography or Mick Foley’s renowned “Have A Nice Day: A Tale Of Blood and Sweatsocks.” I ultimately decided that it would be fitting to start with the first wrestling autobiography that I had the privilege to read, Chris Jericho’s debut autobiography: “A Lion’s Tale: Around The World In Spandex.”
“A Lion’s Tale” covers the beginnings of Jericho’s career. From being a hockey loving, Beatles obsessive ten year old through debuting on Raw interrupting undisputedly one of the biggest superstar’s the wrestling business has ever known, “A Lion’s Tale” covers the rise of man known as Chris Jericho.
The tale begins in Winnipeg, Canada where Chris Irvine (yet to become Chris Jericho) spent his formative years. From there the book follows him through school, the beginnings of love affair with music and of course and the development of his love for wrestling. From there we follow Jericho through triumph and tragedy as he learns his trade (and many a personal lesson) across the world. We see his career begin in the indies in Canada before passing through Mexico and Lucha Libre, Germany and the “Catch” style of wrestling before returning to North America to work for “Smokey Mountain Wrestling” and reuniting with his fellow “Hart Brother’s Wrestling Camp” alumni, Lance Storm, as “The Thrillseekers.”
From Smokey Mountain Jericho achieves a long term aim in getting to wrestle in Japan. In his time in the land of the Rising sun, Jericho was given the opportunity to work with luminaries such as Super Liger, Ultimo Dragon, Jado & Gedo (who he formed a stable called “No Respect” with) and Wild Pegasus, the man better known as Chris Benoit. From Japan the book follows Jericho to the land of extreme, the much fabled and talked about “Extreme Championship Wrestling”, before following him to the polar opposite, the land of the Turner Corporation: “World Championship Wrestling” before the novel reaches its’ finale in the “World Wrestling Federation” (to those of you that hold the name dear, you’ll be happy to note that it is always referred to as being the WWF as opposed the WWE), just as the millennium clock wound its’ way down to the unveiling of the debut of Y2J on “Raw Is War”.
This book is as equally comical as it is heart breaking. You get a real sense of what life was like on the road for wrestlers through this book. There are some stories are insanely funny and have to be read to be believed, such as Eddie Guerrero, Jericho and others playing a game of bowling while on Helcion, a strong sleeping tablet. One the other hand however, there are other stories that pull at the heart strings where he recounts the deaths of some of his colleagues. Jericho wrote a poem which was on the front of “The Wrestling Observer” which does a superb job of conveying the camaraderie and relationships that wrestlers’ enjoy to the reader.
The book also has a sense of authenticity which is rare with autobiographies. You can hear Jericho on every page of the book, which is evident from the opening pages that this really has been written by the man himself. This is opposed to the opposite situation where a writer scribes down pre-recorded tapes by an individual unable or unwilling to put the time into writing their own autobiography, as many wrestlers have been guilty of doing over the years. I guarantee you, this is not the case with “A Lion’s Tale.” Because of the obvious authenticity of the book, it makes the emotions and stories all the more genuine because they are being recounted first hand, nothing has been lost between the subject and the ghost writer.
Another thing which is commendable in the book is Jericho’s ability to be honest about himself. He isn’t shy in praising himself but at the same time he doesn’t hold back in criticising himself either. It’s pretty self-deprecating and the author comes across as a down-to-earth guy well aware of his own flaws. If others deserve praise he’ll give it, but at the same time if they don’t then he tends not to pull his punches. One of my favourite sections in regards to this is the section where he goes back to North America after Japan. Some of the stories about Paul Heyman and the stunts he pulled in running ECW really have to be read to be believed! By the same token, his account of WCW and the individuals running that give a fascinating insight into why that company was fatally flawed. And yes, he does recount his infamous run in with Goldberg which was a precursor to the heat that there was between them when Goldberg eventually turned up in WWE.
One of the things that makes the book truly special is that Jericho is one of the last wrestlers to come through this way. He started in the territories in Canada before learning his trade around the world. In the days of a one promotion monopoly, this is potentially the last book that will chronicle the experiences of a young man learning his trade over North America and all over the world. By buying everything, ironically the one thing Vince McMahon has eradicated is the opportunity for his future employees to develop and grow to what they could do.
Instead, what we have is a machine churning out fairly uniform young wrestlers who are much of a muchness. They simply do not have the same opportunities to develop and grow as performers if they’re spending years in developmental. I pose you a question: if some of the young WWE performers had the opportunity to experience even half of what is in this book would they, and therefore the wrestling business, be in better shape? A relevant question to end this article on I feel.
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