When there's a death of someone in the industry that I admired or am curious about, I usually do my best to get the Wrestling Observer's obituary edition. If I manage to get one, I'm never disappointed, often discovering new things even about people I followed closely.
It's these obituaries, twenty of them, that make up the text of Tributes.
The writing is what you expect from Meltzer. Meltzer will never be known for his florid prose or emotional charge. What you expect from Meltzer is facts and that's what you will get from this book. What emotion there is comes from the interviews. The paragraphs that appear to have been added for the book are generally drier still.
However, I also got something from Tributes that I didn't expect: lots of pictures. Tributes is a coffee table book and, as such, shows attention paid to layout and numerous photos of the subjects both in action and out of the ring. This feature makes it a bargain at its price.
If you're the kind of wrestling fan who studies wrestling as much as possible, this book will be a handy reference for the twenty departed wrestler. Even if you already have a complete archive of the obituaries, the photographs will make it a good addition to your collection. If you're unsure, put it on your holiday wish list and you won't be disappointed.
To the casual wrestling fan it may have use as an oddity. They probably remember people like Owen Hart if nobody else and the remainder of the biographies could be a nice read. If nothing else, the pictures of a bloodied Bruiser Brody or Eddie Gilbert will delight the kids who still chant "ECW".
It's the fan in between should definitely get this book. This book will have the stories they know. How Owen died an untimely death, never escaping Bret's shadow in his lifetime. How Brian Pillman changed the way wrestling angles were done and was found dead in his hotel room. The charmed life of Andre the Giant who ultimately died for the same reason he was famous.
It has the stories they always hear about but have yet to learn. Stories about how Bruiser Brody turned red to green all over the world until he wound up on the wrong side of a knife in Puerto Rico. How Art Barr thrilled audiences wherever he went but never escaped his demons. The Von Erich curse and how it caught Kerry.
Most importantly, it has the lives of men they should study and study hard. Anyone who ever whoo'ed at a chop should study the obituaries of Ray Stevens and Buddy Rogers.
For me, it's the obituaries of the old-timers that I like most. I always am happy to read about how a certain wrestler popularized a particular hold or match style. If I can get some information on why they became wrestlers, it's a delight since in their time this kind of information was rarely discussed.
The biography of Professor Boris Malenko is a particular favorite. While he's most likely included because his name is recognizable, being the father of Dean Malenko, I enjoyed reading about an old-time heel who rarely left his territory. The wrestlers who worked and were loved all over will almost always be remembered, but those that were almost more important, just in one particular place, are more easily lost.
My one real quibble with this collection is the lack of Mexican stars. Japan has representation in Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta, but the closest to a Luchador is Art Barr. While Barr may have hit the height of his career in Mexico, he also spent plenty of time in the Oregon area and even had a stint in WCW. A previous version of Tributes had the biography of Oro, whose high expectations ended in-ring. His was one of the five obituaries that were removed to make room for five more recent ones.
I enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy, this book. Perhaps a second one can come out. This year alone has seen the death of a national figure in Blue Demon, an American legend and revolutionary worker in Johnny Valentine and the end of one of wrestling's biggest tragedies in Terry Gordy.
The only thing better than remembering those who died, is appreciating them while they are alive. If one gets nothing else out of this book, a greater love for those who devote their lives to our entertainment is unavoidable.
- Owen Hart
- Brian Pillman
- Rick Rude
- Andre The Giant
- Bruiser Brody
- Fritz Von Erich
- Kerry Von Erich
- Junkyard Dog
- Giant Baba
- Buddy Rogers
- John Studd
- Ray Stevens
- Louie Spicolli
- Art Barr
- Eddie Gilbert
- Boris Malenko
- Dino Bravo
- Jumbo Tsuruta
- Gordon Solie