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War Chant Eddie, featuring JJ Maguire

Before JJ and I wrote his book, before we ever met in person, we collaborated on this short film. It’s a comedy bit about the origins of wrestling chants, but it was also a place to introduce JJ to people who might not know who he was.

JJ Maguire made a lot of great music. He created themes for Shawn Michaels, The Honky Tonk Man, Demolition, and Hulk Hogan. JJ also had a great sense of humor.

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My Friend the Hurricane

I almost didn’t answer the last time JJ Maguire called me. I was at Planet Fitness and had just stepped onto the treadmill for my hour long walk. The phone rang as I was trying to turn on a podcast. I would have called him back. I always do. But I decided to answer it. I walked and talked for 27 minutes that day, just catching up on life. JJ told me who he had spoken to recently, how he was hoping to make new music with Hillbilly Jim and Jimmy Hart among others, and he asked me how my family was. I told him my daughter was playing ice hockey and my son Sam was in a band.

“How old is he now?”

“He’ll be thirteen in two weeks,” I said.

“That’s about the age I started.”

We talked about getting together to do a show at some point, hopefully one where we’d make more than we spent to get there, and we hung up.

JJ and I caught up like that every month or two. We had done so since before we ever sat down to write a book together. We traded texts and Facebook messages too, sometimes every week, depending on what was going on with us. Earlier this week I sent him a text asking if he might want to join me for a show in Ashland, Kentucky. He didn’t answer back, but I didn’t think anything of it. Sometimes it took him a while, but he’d always get back to me with a text of a call.

I was out with my son and my brother-in-law today when Jamie Hemmings messaged me her condolences. I asked her what for. That’s how I found out my friend JJ Maguire was gone.

Heart sick. Those were the first two words that came to mind because that’s how I felt in that moment. Soon those words were followed by others. Generous. Gentle. Kind. Three words that encapsulate who JJ Maguire was to me and to everyone who called him a friend.

Like many wrestling fans, I didn’t know who JJ Maguire was during the years he worked with the WWF, WCW, and Hulk Hogan. I sure knew his music, though, and not just the WWF themes. In the summer of 2004, Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Band became the soundtrack for me and my friends Randy and Jamie. We knew every word to “I Wanna Be a Hulkamaniac” and “Beach Patrol,” and we blasted those tunes loud and proud in Randy’s Pontiac Grand Am.

I first heard of “Hurricane” JJ Maguire from Kenny Casanova, when he reached out to let me know that JJ was looking to write a book. Some time later it was Robbyn Nelson of the Wrestle Pop Podcast who introduced us, giving me JJ’s phone number. Robbyn knew JJ and I would click, and he was right. I called him one Sunday, and we talked for an hour. JJ was friendly, engaging, and a great storyteller. He was also very excited to be working with my fellow wrestling journalist Jim Phillips on his autobiography.

JJ and I kept in touch, and we got together in person to work a comic con in Richmond, Kentucky. My son Sam, who was just starting to play piano, came along, and Robbyn Nelson joined us for the day as well. We didn’t sell much, but we had a great time hanging out and sharing stories.

JJ and I had a lot in common beyond music and wrestling. We shared a common obsession over James Bond and The Avengers – not the Marvel Avengers, mind you, but the British TV series from the 1960s. JJ grew up on the series, which we agreed was at its best when John Steed paired up with Mrs. Emma Peel. One of the many thrills JJ had in his life was working with Patrick Macnee while shooting the TV series Thunder in Paradise. We became friends before we ever became collaborators, and when the opportunity to work together came up, we were both excited.

JJ knew exactly what he wanted in a book. He wanted to share the story of how a talented musical prodigy from Kentucky lucked into a life story greater than he ever imagined. He talked with great pride about the music he made with the Gentrys, the work he did at Glen Glenn Studios in Hollywood, and the adventures he had in wrestling. He loved to share his tales with famous people like Gene Simmons, Henry Winkler, and a very young Prince, and he was particularly fond of sharing the story of how Farrah Fawcett kissed him.

But you know what? JJ took just as much pride in his days as an amateur magician and his experience as a teenager playing high school dances as he did Wrestlemania. JJ lived every moment to the fullest. He cherished his experience in every band, in every club, and at every gig.

If there’s one thing that made him prouder than his professional life, it was his family. JJ loved to tell the story of how his father saved Strangler Lewis’s life when he choked on gum headed to the ring one night in Lexington. He was proud of his father John, who played basketball for Adolph Rupp and appeared in a few Kentucky-filmed movies. He was proud of his brothers Walter and Philip, and he was very proud of his children.

Working together on the book brought us closer as friends. We talked on a regular basis after the book came out. I shared the latest projects keeping me busy. JJ shared the latest news on potential musical gigs. And we always enjoyed getting together in person. JJ invited me down to Somerset, Kentucky to sell books at a show where he was acting as master of ceremonies. I took JJ to Fort Wayne, Indiana for Heroes and Legends.

One of my favorite memories of JJ was that night before in the hotel, listening in as JJ spoke with his lifelong pal Jimmy Hart about the big event.

“Now, Maguire, you have to dress up for this thing.”

“I know, Jimmy.”

“You gotta look nice. Now what are you wearing?”

“I have my blue coat, and my shades, and my hat.”

Yep. Like an old married couple. Or a long-term tag team.

If JJ had one wish, it was to receive some acknowledgement from the WWE for the work he and Jimmy did creating the soundtrack for a generation of wrestlers. He told me on more than one occasion he would have loved to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. I certainly feel he and Jimmy (and yes, Jim Johnston too) deserve that nod. After all, what would our memories of pro wrestling from that era be without the iconic songs like “Sexy Boy” and “Cool Cocky Bad?”

JJ and I always hoped we’d get back out on the road post-pandemic. He wanted to get something together with some of the boys like Jimmy, Koko B. Ware, Hillbilly Jim, and The Honky Tonk Man to play some music. I just wanted to be there the next time he and Jimmy got together in person to watch them interact. In fact I was hoping to get that chance this spring.

JJ has had some health issues in recent years, but as far as I knew he was doing well. Jim Phillips just talked to him last week, and Jim tells me Jimmy Hart did as well. Word I am hearing from his family was that he went peacefully in his sleep. I know JJ was a man of faith and I take comfort in that, but it’s so sudden. Even after writing all this, I am still in shock.

I’m gonna miss my friend. I’m going to miss the texts and the catch up calls. I’m going to miss there dreaming we did, talking about future projects we both had on our minds. I’m gonna think about him every time I hear “Sexy Boy” and “Demolition” and “Super Fly” and “Cool Cocky Bad” and yes, even “Beach Patrol.” I’m gonna remember how very aware he was of the blessings he had been given, and I’m going to take time to be thankful for my own blessings.

Thank you, JJ, for the music and the inspiration, but most of all, for your friendship.

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Upcoming Events

Spring is on the way, and I have a few events added to my calendar. Here’s where you can meet me starting in April.

Girl Fight Wrestling – April 12 – Jeffersonville, Indiana

Girl Fight returns to the Jeffersonville, Indiana Arena on April 12 with a stacked card featuring Mickie Knuckles, Masha Slamovich, Ella, Big Mama, Sawyer Wreck, and Girl Fight champion Billie Starkz. As if that wasn’t enough to get you out to see wrestling on a Tuesday night, the legendary Princess Victoria will also be in the house signing autographs, taking pics, and selling dream catchers, photos, and books. I’m looking forward to meeting her in person for the first time myself. Should be a great night of action. Visit Girl Fight’s Facebook page for more info.

Bluegrass Wrestling Con 2 – May 7 – Ashland, Kentucky

Thanks to my friend Bobby Blaze (whose books you should be reading!) I will be in Ashland, Kentucky, for the second Bluegrass Wrestling Con. The guest list also includes Sgt. Slaughter, DDP, Jimmy Hart, Ron Simmons, Ricky Steamboat, Shane Douglas, Gangrel, and Buff Bagwell. Visit the official Facebook page for more info.

Imaginarium – July 8-10 – Louisville, Kentucky

Not a wrestling event, but I’ll be attending my first Imaginarium as a guest this summer in Louisville. This is a great event for lovers of fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, and more. I’ll be featuring my fiction books including Dead Park Plaza, Die Alan Die, and two new releases, but I will have wrestling books as well. Visit their official website for more info.

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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.

A hilarious fan story about Flex Kavana, aka Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

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.