Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America by Abraham Riesman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ringmaster chronicles the rise of Vince McMahon, from his early life in poverty to working for his father to taking the WWF national and beyond.
I thought Riesman's book about Stan Lee was great so I got myself on the ARC list when the call went out. I read it in three long sittings.
First off, the Unmaking of America portion of the title is sensationalistic. Sure, Vince and Trump are friends and the McMahons worked to get pro wrestling deregulated and Vince manipulates the media but that's about all the Unmaking there is.
The format is similar to Riesman's Stan Lee book. Vince's early life as Vinnie Lupton is detailed, both from Vince's words and from the people who knew him, generating some conflicting stories. Vince didn't meet his biological father, Vince McMahon Sr, until he was 12 and took his name sometime after.
I've been a wrestling fan off and on for most of my life so I knew a lot of stuff about Vince's early days in the wrestling business but not nearly all of it. I didn't know the McMahons owned a hockey team or Vince was involved in Evel Kineval's Snake River Canyon jump, for instance.
Vince running the other promoters out of business is a well trodden road so there aren't a ton of pages spent on it other than the Georgia Championship Wrestling timeslot debacle. The sex scandals were detailed, like Vince allegedly raping female referee Rita Chatterson and all the ring boy unpleasantness. The death of Nancy Argentino was also detailed, forever derailing whatever Vince had planned for Jimmy Snuka in the longterm.
Once the first Wrestlemania hits, things are in full swing, including drug scandals, Vince and Hogan falling out, The Ultimate Warrior being a dick, Vince's various trials, and all that stuff. Vince's stint as a heel in the USWA was covered, something I've always wanted to know more about.
From there, the late 1990s and early 2000s are covered, Montreal Screwjob, Monday Night War, and Vince eating his two biggest competitors.
So what did I think? This wasn't exactly the book I was picturing, focusing primarily on Vince McMahon the person. I wouldn't have minded more backstage stuff or road stories but that's how I feel about most wrestling books. My opinion of Vince McMahon hasn't changed. I don't think he's a genius and the last good idea he had was turning heel in 1997. I also don't think he's a particularly good person. He does keep the wrestling business going on a national level, though.
It's a very well researched book. Riesman didn't skimp and consulted multiple sources on almost ever morsel of information. I don't feel like Riesman had an axe to grind and explored everything fairly. There was a lot more Bret Hart material, which is a plus in my book, and even that wasn't just shots at Vince. Like I said, I would have liked more backstage stuff but that's not the book Riesman was writing.
Anyway, this is an interesting look at Vince McMahon and his rise to power. Like the Stan Lee book, if you think Vince McMahon is a benevolent wrestling genius, you probably won't enjoy finding out about the realities of his rise to power and all the stuff he swept under the rug. Four out of five stars.
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