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Coming Soon: Bluegrass Brawlers, 10th Anniversary Edition

It’s been almost 10 years since I started writing about pro wrestling in December 2012. Okay, so that’s eleven months out, but what’s pro wrestling without a little exaggeration?

The book that started it all, Bluegrass Brawlers (2014), is no longer available on Amazon or Kindle. That’s because I’ve gone back to the beginning to create a new edition, a 10th anniversary edition, if you will.

Bluegrass Brawlers is getting a major overhaul. I spent the last several months compiling every wrestling result from 1880 through 1966, when Louisville went dark before the Memphis era. I also conducted more than a dozen new interviews including Jeff Van Camp, Al Snow, Billie Starkz, Bryan Kennison, Charlene McKenzie, Hy Zaya, Cash Flo, Josh Ashcraft, Judi-Rae Hendrix, Maria James, Haley J, Ryan Howe, and Doug Basham. And I still have a few more to go.

The original book covered four distinct eras: The Pioneers (1880-1920), The Allen Athletic Club (1935-1957), the Memphis era (1970-1997), and the OVW era (1996-2014). All four of those sections have been expanded, some by a little, some by a lot. I also expanded on the Dick the Bruiser era (touched only briefly in the 2014 edition), filled in the time gap between 1920-1935, and told the story of Louisville since 2014.

New stories covered in the new edition include:

Steve Callaway, a long forgotten African American wrestling hero from the turn of the 20th century.

Promoter Abe Finberg, who booked wrestling at the Gayety Theater and later created a heavyweight promotion.

C.B. Blake and the Savoy Theater.

The feud between Blake, booker Heywood Allen, and the Kentucky State Board of Athletic Control, the first state institution that attempted to regulate wrestling.

Louisville fan favorite Jack Reynolds.

Gorgeous George comes to Louisville – and to dinner.

Wahoo McDaniel in Louisville in the early 1960s.

Phil Golden’s All Star Wrestling.

New Albany native Jeff Van Camp, better known in the ring as Lord Humongous.

Tales from the first students at OVW including Doug Basham and Nick Dinsmore.

The sale of OVW to Al Snow.

The rise of the Legacy of Brutality.

The growth of the indie scene in Southern Indiana.

Crazy Mary Dobson becomes Sarah Logan in the WWE.

And the rise of women’s wrestling in Louisville and beyond.

The new book includes a lot more photos and 50% (and counting) more written content. Thanks to a more professional layout, it’ll still be around 330 pages.

Last but not least, the book is getting a brand new cover. Artist Adrian Johnson, who did covers for Tracy Smothers and The Black Panther Jim Mitchell, is working on something really special.

The target release month is March. So far, it’s on schedule. I’ll announce more here and on my social media in the coming months!

This new edition has been a long time coming. It’s going to be special.

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Signed Copies Now Available!

For those who like their books signed, Wahoo’s is now in stock.

Wahoo tells the life story of one of football and wrestling’s greatest legends. From his childhood years to the Sooners to the AFL to the ring, you’ll hear it all from his family, his friends, and his colleagues. The stories from sisters Margaret and Dana are worth the price of admission!

I also still have a handful of signed Tracy Smothers books. Once they are gone, they are gone. Candido, Princess Victoria, the Black Panther, Mad Man Pondo, and more are also in stock.

Click the link above to order now. Or click here to see the full shop featuring books, trading cards, and stickers.

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Wahoo and Happy New Year!

We told everyone it would be January.

We got done early. So we released it early.

Just under the gun, the new Wahoo McDaniel biography is now available on Amazon. I partnered with Karen McDaniel on this one, and we gathered stories from dozens of friends and family. You’ll read tales from Greg Gagne, Baron Von Rashke, Jim Cornette, Wahoo’s sisters Dana and Margaret, and many more as we unspool the legend of Chief Wahoo.

Wahoo is already the #1 new release in Wrestling Biographies. You can order your copy by clicking here.

This was a busy year for Eat Sleep Wrestle. In addition to Wahoo, we published books by Chris Michaels and Mike Rodgers. We also released the biography of Chris Candido and Princess Victoria.

Coming in the first half of 2022: a new “top secret” book from Mad Man Pondo and a new edition of Bluegrass Brawlers. This second edition of the history of wrestling in Louisville will include expanded looks at the Allen Athletic Club and OVW as well as new stories about Phil Golden’s All-Star Wrestling, the Savoy Athletic Club, Abe Finberg and the Gayety Theater, long-forgotten African American hero Steve Callaway, New Albany’s own Lord Humongous, and many more.

The amazing Adrian Johnson, who did Tracy Smothers and Jim Mitchell’s book covers, is drawing a brand new cover for Bluegrass Brawlers version 2. It’s going to be amazing.

Not sure what shows I’ll be hitting yet, but I hope to do some events with Hurricane JJ Maguire, Mad Man Pondo, and Princess Victoria before this next year is out.

Happy New Year, everyone. And happy reading.

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Deathmatch Worldwide Serves Wrestlers and Fans the World Over

Corey Higdon was ten years old when he saw his first deathmatch on a VHS tape. From that moment on, he could not get enough.

The road to Deathmatch Worldwide was a difficult one. For many years, he wanted to do something to promote and support the extreme side of pro wrestling. A few years ago, he was out of work, needing back surgery, and struggling to make ends meet. “I had wanted to do something like Deathmatch Worldwide since I was sixteen years old,” he says. “It got to a point where I didn’t have a choice. It took me almost twenty years, but I knew if I was ever going to go for it, I had to do it now.”

Higdon, now 35, opened a company called Double Hell Wrestling Club in 2018, producing one off custom shirts via pre-order. At the time he offered shirts that appealed to a wider audience than just the deathmatch crowd. The company was a hit, but his long term goal remained the same: a platform for deathmatch wrestlers to sell their own merchandise.

After Double Hell became a success, Corey invested a great deal of money in his own T-shirt printing equipment, building a T-shirt shop in his own house. “It was a big investment, but the people I bought it all from were going fly someone in to train me and everything. Then Covid hit, and that all went away.”

Corey didn’t let the virus set him back. Through trial and error, he taught himself how to use the new equipment, all while keeping Double Hell Wrestling going. Finally, in February of 2021, he opened the Deathmatch Worldwide store. “It got so busy so fast, I couldn’t keep up with both companies,” he says. “Both companies were run very differently, but I couldn’t keep up with both. Double Hell was a big success, but I had to shut it down to focus on Deathmatch Worldwide.”

Deathmatch Worldwide began with just a handful of stars attached, guys Corey personally knew like Mad Man Pondo, John Wayne Murdoch, and Reed Bentley. In less than a year it’s grown to more than 80, and it truly has become worldwide. “I ship all over the world, and I sell shirts for wrestlers for all over the world. Guys like Mad Man Pondo had a lot to do with that, opening doors for me.”

The hardest part has been earning the trust of the wrestlers, especially the guys from overseas. “The Japanese wrestlers don’t want to do business with guys in the US because they’re used to US fans stealing from them. People do it all the time. They steal openly. They bottled everything. I’ve never understand that mindset of, ‘I’m such a fan of this guy, I’m going to bootleg his stuff and pocket all the money.’ I just don’t get that.”

Corey admits he had done the same thing with two wrestlers at the start of Double Hell Wrestling, Kevin Sullivan and Bruiser Brody. “I realized I was doing the same thing that I got pissed at the people for doing. I decided that, if it took me ten years, I was going to track them down and pay them what they were owed.” Corey was able to contact both Kevin Sullivan and Barbara Goodish, Brody’s widow. “I paid them what I would have paid any other wrestler. I told them I was sorry and that I wanted to do right by them. As a result, I became friends with both of them. I sold Brody’s shirts when I was doing Double Hell, and I still sell Kevin’s shirts on Deathmatch Worldwide.”

Corey knew that hard work and honest business would win people over, and it has. Word of mouth from the wrestlers continues to grow his platform. He recently open stores for FMW-E Wrestling and Atsushi Onita. He’s also running shops for Mitsuhiro Matsunaga and, with the blessing of his family, the late Mr. Pogo.

Doing right by the wrestlers remains paramount every day. “Every wrestler in my store is there by request, and I pay the wrestlers as much as I can.” He makes enough that he’s now running the shop as his full-time job, and it’s still growing.

Corey does right by the fans too, in ways most companies don’t. He’s been shipping worldwide since the store started, and he also offers shirt sizes all the way up to 5X.

Deathmatch Worldwide is open 24/7 and offering new shirts every day. Each shirt is custom printed to order. With the shop being a one man operation (for now), it may sometimes take a while to get your order. Rest assured, it will be printed and shipped with the utmost care and attention to detail. You can find shirts from Akira, Alex Colon, Dale Patricks, G-Raver, Manders, Mance Warner, Matt Tremont, Mickie Knuckles, Necro Butcher, Sage Sinn, Shlak, Tank, and dozens more.

Deathmatch Worldwide is also open to new deathmatch wrestlers looking for a place to sell to their fans. You can find information on how to apply, as well as shop their ever growing selection at www.deathmatchworldwide.com

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Why Wait? It’s Black Friday Now!

The Eat Sleep Wrestle office Christmas tree went up two weeks ago. So why wait to order wrestling books for Christmas?

Our website is the only place online to get these books signed. Click here to visit the book shop, and use the coupon code blackfriday to save 20% on your order.

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Dead Park Plaza

For those of you who like to read more than just wrestling books, here’s your reminder I write more than just wrestling books!

Dead Park Plaza is a compilation of eight short stories. All of them are creepy. All of them are funny. And all of them take place in a seemingly innocuous office building.

Fans have described this one as The Office meets Tales from the Dark Side. If you’ve ever dwelled among the cubicles as I have, this book is a treat.

Watch the trailer below, then go to www.johncosper.com to find out how to order.

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Stayin’ Alive

I heard from Tracy Smothers today. He told me it was gonna be all right.

A year ago, when Tracy passed, I was in the midst of writing Chris Candido’s biography. Tracy’s the one who told me I had to write a book about Candido, and whenever we talked, I’d give him an update on the book. About a week before he passed, Tracy told me he kept hearing Chris’s entrance theme “Back in Black” in different places. He felt like it was Chris talking to him, telling him everything was going to be okay. Two days before he passed, he left me a voice mail telling me he’d just heard the song again on ESPN. “I told you,” he said. “It’s Chris!”

This morning I went in for an EGD and a colonoscopy. Both were first time, preventative scans, but they were prompted by my father’s death in March. He went into the hospital on February 19 not feeling well. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer on his birthday, February 28. He passed on March 7.

The scans found nothing urgent, but the doctor confirmed I’ll need to get scanned a little more frequently. As I waited for them to unhook me in recovery with my wife, I heard a song coming from the radio at the nurse’s station. It was “Stayin’ Alive.”

No, it wasn’t the N Trance rap version Tracy used, but it was enough for me. I told my wife, “It’s Tracy. He’s saying it’s all gonna be all right.”

I miss him every day. I miss my father too. Tracy was in my life only a few years, but both of those men left a big hole. It was good to hear from him and to know, it’s all gonna be okay.

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How Do You Remember Tracy Smothers?

I’ve been dreading this day for a while. As fate would have it, I ended up this morning in the same building I was in a year ago, when Mad Man Pondo called and told me the news. Tracy Smothers was gone.

I only knew Tracy for two years, and just one when we were close. But the man left an impact on me as he did everyone else he met. Tracy had the biggest heart. he was an encourager. He was a teacher. He was a father figure to many. He was a true friend.

The question I started asking after lunch today was how can we best honor his memory? Sharing stories? Heck yes. Sharing videos? Yes, please! But here’s one thing more we can all do: do as Tracy did.

Tracy was always there when someone wanted advice. He never hesitated to teach those who wanted to be taught. He was an encourager. He was a counselor. He was a friend. Even with all the chair shots he took, he never forgot anyone. He followed up with people. He texted to lift people up when they were down. He’d call just to say hello.

For everyone that new Tracy, here’s the challenge. Let’s love like he did. Let’s share our wisdom. Let’s share knowledge. Let’s do so in the same positive, encouraging way he always did.

Let’s reach out to people who are down. Let’s give them a laugh on text or their voice mails. Let’s let them know we are thinking about them.

Let’s make connections too. Give a ride to someone. Introduce someone to someone who can help them. If you’ve read Chris Candido’s book, you have Tracy to thank. Without him, I’d have never met Jimmy Shoulders and Jonny Candido.

We miss his work. We miss the way he wrestled and the way he made us laugh. But I think we can all agree, we miss the way he loved us and everyone he met. Do something good for someone today. Teach. Encourage. Inspire. Or just love on someone. Do it for Tracy. Lord knows he did it for us every day we had him with us!

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Excitement In The Air for Mike Rodgers’ First Book!

I got a small taste of the Pacific Northwest’s wrestling history when I co-authored Princess Victoria’s autobiography. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to convince me the territory had a rich and wonderful story. Now, thanks to Mike Rodgers, fans like me can get an even bigger sampling of that story.

Mike Rodgers has been chronicling the history of the Northwest territory for a long time. He’s a Cauliflower Alley Club honoree, having received the Jim Melby Award, and he’s just written his first book.

“Just written” is actually a misnomer. This is a book many years in the making, a compilation of interviews with the people who lived the story: Don Owen, Dutch Savage, Bryan Danielson, Lou Thesz, Tim Brooks, Ed Moretti, Nick Kozak, Don Leo Jonathan, Stan Stasiak, Red Bastien, Pamperi Firpo, and so many more. Even this is just a small sampling of the treasure trove Mike collected over the years, and if it does well, there will be more to come.

Eat Sleep Wrestle is proud to partner with Mike on the release of Excitement in the Air: The Voices of NW Wrestling, Volume 1. It’s available now on Amazon in paperback, and it’s a must read.

Order your copy on Amazon now.

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Lady Wrestler Unveils an Unforgettable Tale of Wrestling Pioneers

When the largest wrestling company in the world tried to honor the second African American woman to lace up the boots, they made three mistakes. One, they didn’t not contact her family. Two, they got their facts wrong, claiming she was the first. And three, they used footage of the wrong wrestler in their video packages.

Ouch.

When you rely on one company that held a monopoly on pro wrestling for more than thirty years for your history, you’re not going to get the full story. Fortunately for us, filmmaker Chris Bournea went to the source in creating the documentary Lady Wrestler, a wonderful tribute to the first African American ladies of the wrestling ring.

Ethel Johnson was not only the second lady wrestler to enter the business, she was the second of three sisters to do so! Lady Wrestler centers on the story of Johnson, older sister Babs Wingo, and younger sister Marva Scott. Through interviews with Ethel Brown, Ramona Isabel, family members, and Johnson herself, it tells an uplifting and inspiring tale of three black women who dreamed big.

All in all Lady Wrestler is a much more positive look at women’s wrestling than its predecessor Lipstick and Dynamite. Even its portrayal Billy Wolfe, whose seedy business practices have been well documented, focuses on the good. Wolfe took note of how Jackie Robinson changed professional baseball and opened the door for black women to try pro wrestling. Johnson, Wingo, and Scott were willing to give it a try, drawn in by the public image of the world champion Mildred Burke with her furs and diamonds.

Johnson and Isabel truly shine in the film as the ladies share how professional wrestling allowed them to make a better life for their families. It’s incredible hearing how they devoted themselves not only to traveling the world and working but raising their kids. One of the funniest moments comes when Johnson’s kids tell the stories of how they discovered their mom was “someone,” including coming home from school to find The Incredible Hulk’s Lou Ferrigno in their living room!

Bournea doesn’t shy away from the hardships the ladies faced. Jim Crow laws and systemic racism made life hard for the lady wrestlers in and out of the ring. A particularly heart-breaking story took place in Japan, when the jeers and racial slurs of the Japanese fans caused Marva Scott to have a nervous breakdown.

In the end, the African American ladies got what they wanted from pro wrestling. They made a good living, they provided for their families, and they left an incredible legacy for their children and grandchildren. The descendants of these ring pioneers know beyond a doubt they can be anything they want to be. not only did they see an African American become president, their mom/grandmother/great-grandmother was a professional wrestler!

Lady Wrestler is a must see for lovers of pro wrestling. Ethel Johnson was able to see the completed film before her passing, and it has the full endorsement of the families featured. It’s important to the survivors of these ring pioneers that their beloved mothers and grandmothers are not only remembered but remembered accurately. Lady Wrestler is the kind of tribute such wrestlers truly deserve.

Click here to watch Lady Wrestler on Amazon Prime.