Since the fall of WCW and the end of WWE’s Attitude Era there have been countless books, podcasts, documentaries and shoot interviews (interviews with wrestlers out of character) about the last great boom period in professional wrestling. With his book NITRO, author Guy Evans enters an already crowded marketplace. Did he succeed in his goal of putting together what he considers the most comprehensive look at the rise and fall of Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling?
What sets Guy’s story apart from his contemporaries is in his tireless effort to track down and interview many of the former Turner executives that surrounded WCW during this period rather than purely focusing on only the creative teams and the company’s on-screen performers. Given the wealth of material out there, he had to know he would need to bring something different to the table – so a heavy focus on the corporate side of the story rather than the hopelessly inept product. One of the more interesting things to come from the interviews is that during WCWs rise from mid-1996 through to a crescendo in December 1997, Turner executives wanted no part of wrestling on their networks. If not for Ted Turner himself, it’s unlikely WCW would have seen the level of success it did.
Interviews aside, Evans had access to format and run sheets (basically the time stamps/summaries for events within the body of the show), scripts, internal emails, contracts and behind-the-scenes photos. This is pretty comprehensive stuff. He even talked to folks who worked on the WCW/nWo: Revenge video game for the Nintendo 64! You name it, Guy covers it.
One of the criticisms of the book that I had seen regarded Guy’s neutral stance when it came to some of the more questionable quotes he received from interviewees. I don’t really see a problem with that decision as you can leave those quotes as they are and let your audience come to their own conclusions based on information that is already out there. Eric Bischoff can be overly defensive when it comes to many of the problematic decisions he made as WCW boss and pointing that out to Bischoff is not going to change that. We’re over twenty years removed from the botched Hogan/Sting match at Starrcade ‘97 – I don’t think Eric cares to discuss that anymore. He even goes so far as to say, “people can believe me or not, I don’t give a shit.”
Without a doubt, Guy Evans’ NITRO is one of those special books about the wrestling industry that rarely comes around – in fact, I would go so far as to say this is one of the best wrestling books ever written. In a marketplace flooded with biographies, memoirs and retrospectives, it’s hard to stand out but the amount of work put into this book is second to none which helps put it in a class of its own.