Writer, podcaster and big-time wrestling fan Aubrey Sitterson joined up with artist Chris Moreno to take on the herculean task of producing a comprehensive yet constrained history of professional wresting within the medium of a comic book.
The duo begins in the very early days of the art form by exploring its roots within traveling carnivals. They explain that while it may have been a “shoot” (real) in the beginning, it didn’t quite find its legs until promotors began fixing the fights for maximum entertainment value. This all exploded with the invention of television drawing in even more viewers across the world.
While Sitterson and Moreno could simply be content to stick within the realm of North America where wrestling enjoys easily its highest popularity, the book branches out to explore promotions in Mexico, the U.K. and Japan, to name a few, examining both their unique presentations and original styles. Focus is given to pioneers like UK-based performer Big Daddy as well as the fracturing of the Japanese landscape that led to the creation of All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling. This helps make the book even better, although I have read a few reviews stating that it seems disruptive to the flow while bogging down the narrative. In my opinion, I’d disagree with that. Personally, I have a pretty vast knowledge of the North American scene, so it was interesting to explore other regions and styles – plus it’s hard to present a history while narrowing your focus on one region.
The book also delves into the seedier parts of wrestling, which honestly, are all too frequent to avoid. Chris Benoit, the steroid trial, as well as the deaths of Owen Hart, Bruiser Brody and the Von Erich clan are also explored. For those who enjoy Vice’s The Dark Side of the Ring, you’ll recognize a lot of the subjects profiled in their two seasons.
The artwork here is on point with Moreno staying both realistic as well as drawing on wrestling’s natural tendency to exaggerate and inflate its own presence. Moreno’s entertaining style is definitely appreciated considering the book is extremely dialogue-heavy for a comic book, although it does need to be given that it’s technically a history book.
My only knock against the book is the lack of history surrounding women’s wrestling. There is time devoted to it near the end of the book, but in trying to compress a comprehensive history of the sport into just over three hundred pages, you’re bound to either leave things out or short-change topics. I’m not defending it, but it could have been expanded on.
All in all, the tag team of Sitterson and Moreno have produced an informative and entertaining look at the wrestling industry. It’s not often I’m able to come away from a book like this one where it’s filled with so much information that I already know and can say that I was engaged throughout. Top marks for The Comic Book Story of Pro Wrestling.
**Note: this book was released in late 2018, so while it is as up-to-date as possible, you’re not going to find anything in here about AEW and the monumental changes implemented over the past two years.