With nearly 1,000 superstars profiled, over 360 pages of in-depth analysis and hundreds upon hundreds of exclusive photos compiled, DK’s Publishing’s WWE Encyclopedia is perhaps the most comprehensive look into the history of Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment mega power. It’s a distinction co-author Brian Shields is very proud of.

“The Encyclopedia exceeded any expectations I had,” said Shields in an interview with SLAM! Wrestling. “I knew it was going to be awesome, but I didn’t expect it to come out the way it did. When we (Shields and co-author Kevin Sullivan) first saw the early layouts, we though everything looked incredible.”

The 350-page book features superstars from Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz all the way to Zeus; however, some grapplers didn’t make the cut. “The criteria for Encyclopedia inclusion was if the individual ever performed or worked in what’s known today as WWE,” said Shields. “Then it was broken down by priority based on their success or impact in the company. The challenging part in putting together a work of this nature is that it’s a project with a deadline and unfortunately at some point we had to draw a line and set an end date. Everyone who worked on the project wanted to get in as many Superstars as possible.”

Interestingly enough, Chris Benoit, who has been edited out of WWE programming after the double murder/suicide in June 2007, gained entry into the coveted book. Shields said of his inclusion, “The thought was that this is a tribute to the history of the company and the Superstars who performed in it, so to be historically accurate, he (Benoit) was included in the book.” There is no mention of the killings.

While WWE had the final say on which names made the master list, Shields and his team were given liberty to make other crucial decisions pertaining to the book and its appearance. “WWE and DK were great in giving me and co-author Kevin Sullivan creative freedom in terms of helping shape the style, format and entry order of the Encyclopedia,” said Shields. “Our editor, Ken Schmidt, led weekly conference calls where we had great team brainstorming sessions.”

Of the ideas put to paper by the group, Shields recounted his fond memories of putting together the Championship timelines. “It was a lot of fun,” said Shields. “I especially enjoyed learning about the championships in the early days of the company,” he continued. “The research element took a few weeks because co-author Kevin Sullivan and I had the different championships divided between us.”

Left to right, standing, are DK Publishing’s Mike Vaccaro, Batista, co-authors Brian Shields and Kevin Sullivan and DK’s Therese Burke; kneeling are DK Publishing’s Susan Stockman and Rachel Kempster. Courtesy Brian Shields.

It was a year-long project to make The WWE Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide To World Wrestling Entertainment. Sullivan has spent 10 years working for WWE, after first serving as an intern. Today, he is Director of Content Development for WWE.com. The Encyclopedia is Shields’ second book for the company, following Main Event: WWE in the Raging 80’s. Shields works full time in marketing, and also runs a consulting agency, Mighty Pen and Sword.

The Encyclopedia, which is already in its third printing, made The New York Times Bestsellers List for four weeks. “I still can’t believe it,” Shields admitted, also mentioning that the feeling is “indescribable”.

“I’m glad that everyone enjoyed the book … it was a labor of love for all involved.”