When it came to reflecting on writing the book Tortured Ambition: The Story of Herb Abrams and the UWF, I discovered that I’d rather leave many of the memories pushed so far back in the depths of my mind that I can’t recall them. Much of the book was written during various difficult parts of my life and reminiscing about its creation often transports me back to the still-unresolved issues.
I had the idea for Tortured Ambition back in 2002, although I never thought to pursue it then. It was at a time when I had yet to write anything of any real merit. Years followed as I attended college, keeping the idea alive but knowing that my severe social anxiety prevented me from even talking to my fellow students, let alone the thought of interviewing anyone from the wrestling world. Writing the book was like finding Bigfoot or winning the lottery. In other terms, it was unrealistic.
Then in 2010, after several bouts of extreme depression that led to two suicide attempts, I decided that I needed to get my mind off my life and onto someone else’s. Writing a book could potentially achieve that. There were a few ideas for subjects, such as Bam Bam Bigelow, but the Abrams story was always the one concept that remained with me. It seemed so difficult, though. So little of his life was chronicled.
Fortunately, I found David Sigman, Herb Abrams’ cousin, on a UWF website’s guestbook (remember those?). Sigman ended up being a supporter of the book up until his death in 2021. I pestered him with questions about Herb Abrams. Sometimes they were just friendly messages. But, in my lowest point, I did annoyingly post a letter on his Facebook, accusing him of intentionally withholding information. Surprisingly, he didn’t hold this against me and eventually sent me the answers that I requested. My anxiety can turn me into a nervous wreck where I’m certain that the sky is always falling. It was one of many regrets regarding the book.
The first actual interview I conducted for the book was Sunny Beach (Rick Allen), who, to his credit, was the first person I asked and the first person who agreed to talk to me. From there, the chronological order of the interviews blur together, although I believe Bill Anderson, who wrestled as The Black Knight in the UWF, and Missy Hyatt, who appeared on the Blackjack Brawl, were part of the book’s early days.
It didn’t always come easy. One of the first major setbacks occurred when a close companion to Abrams originally accepted my invite for an interview, only to change his mind over the course of several emails. The final reason given was that he didn’t know how I would use the information.
This killed me. Not only was it disappointing to miss out on the information, but I had (and have) a great deal of respect for him. It stung. And while I didn’t know this individual well enough to form a bond, it certainly hurt to know that he viewed me as a writer whose sole intent was to spread a negative narrative about Abrams and the UWF.
Other problems arose. Members of Abrams’ family were convinced that I would desecrate his memory and the legacy of the UWF. I was threatened with a lawsuit. Nothing ever came of it, but now I was being accused of making up stories for a book that I hadn’t begun writing yet. I wanted the trust of the family. I had no way to convince them otherwise.
If I had been making up material for the book, then it would have been pretty pointless to interview anyone. Why bother with the time and effort of talking to someone when I was just making up the book anyway?
Still, this depiction of me persisted, but thankfully it persisted behind my back. I’m a notoriously thinned-skinned individual. Words, along with sticks and stones, do hurt me to the point that I agonize over it for days, weeks, and sometimes longer. Friends wrote me, informing me of comments that had been made. I told those people to never tell me what was being said. Thankfully they never did. Ignorance can be bliss.
Not that this had been an entirely miserable experience. Lisa Moretti, better known as “Ivory” in WWE, was beyond nice. I spoke to her around the time that she was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The fact that she agreed to speak to me during such a busy time in her life was nothing short of a miracle. It took years to convince Brian Blair to be interviewed, but the persistence paid off, and I was able to talk to him years after first asking him. It took me ten years to locate Larry Sampson, the black referee whom Col. DeBeers harassed on the early episodes of the Fury Hour, but I finally found him. It was a divine moment when he responded to my email.
In my luckiest moment, a friend of Abrams’ who declined to go on the record but still wanted to help, sent me a box of UWF documents and promotional material. Without this, I would have never been able to chase Abrams down his rabbit hole. Life works out. Not always. Not even most of the time. But it can.
Luck played a good part in my other research, as well. For years, I tried to uncover the episodes of the Fury Hour. I ended purchasing a handful of bootlegged UWF DVDs from an online seller. Those episodes were not ripped from the original SportsChannel America broadcasts, but from the edited ESPN Canada Classics showings.
A couple years later, I managed to buy a VHS tape on eBay of the first four unedited episodes, complete with in-house commercials for limo services and weight-gainer powder. Then, serendipitously, most of the original SportsChannel America episodes ended up on YouTube. I watched every episode at least twice. The book would have been considerably shorter without the recap of the episodes, which, perhaps, might have been a positive to some.
Fearing that would lose motivation, I made a Facebook page for the book in 2015. The amount of support I received from the followers was a blessing. I don’t know how it exactly happened, but some of the them became as invested in me as they were in the book.
After Tortured Ambition was released in September 2021, I received a number of posts and messages about how happy and proud of me they were that it finally got published. Something like that can’t be manufactured. It has to be organic. I don’t see that happening again with anything else that I’ll ever do.
In the end, even after Tortured Ambition was written and released, I’m still not sure how people write biographies. I’m sure they follow some sort of etiquette. There’s probably a list of things to do and not to do. I just did what I felt was the next step and hoped for the best.
I quit writing the book several times only to resume because I, to be honest, didn’t have much else to look forward to. If I had to be alive then I needed a purpose. And Tortured Ambition was as close to a purpose as I could find.
- May 6, 2020: Cookies, coke and cowboy boots aka the latest episode of Dark Side of the Ring
- Buy Tortured Ambition: The Story of Herb Abrams and the UWF on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca
- SlamWrestling Master Book List