Vinny Berry’s Wrestleville: Where Wrestling Lives Volume 2 is exactly the kind of book that needs to be produced by writers and photographers outside of the big, corporate entities. These tomes express the love and admiration of the squared circle, and come in easy-to-read, tidy chapters.
Volume 1 was released in 2021 and featured the likes of Harley Race, the Rock n’ Roll Express, and Bobby Fulton, along with a couple of wrestlers that only die-hards would know on the cover. It featured some 400 photos and nearly three dozen bios of brand new wrestlers and legends alike. At 222 pages, the first book is slightly smaller than the 2022 Volume 2 that has 45 interviews at 257 pages.
Volume 2’s cover features Jazz front-and-center, Thunder Rosa on the left, and the late, great Beautiful Bobby Eaton as well as Kamala (along with another two guys you’d have to read the book to identify).
The paperback book is breezy to read, and none of the biographies drift into boredom.
The foreword is provided by photographer Jon-Paul Le Blanc, whose work is prominently featured in both books (other photographers, like T and T Photography also provide excellent shots). Le Blanc also gets his own chapter!
In the preface, author Vinny Berry expertly details how the book has information about “household names while some are known by a small number of fans.” As a writer who details the same kind of “regional names” myself, I can tell you this is important.
The book also has a nice feature on the Northern Wrestling Federation, one of countless smaller promotions that dot the country. NWF has similar stories outside of Elmwood, Ohio, however, it’s cool to see a writer tout the neighborhood success of a long-running federation.
The interview with Jazz took place in 2018, and are placed in the book in chronological order. The Q&A took place with Saraya Knight in April 2022. It’s the most logical way to feature the interviews or select Q&A inclusions, like with Bill Apter.
There are a few surprises in the book, like an interview with Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, East Coast hand Andrew Anderson, Susan “Tex” Green and my personal favorite in the project, Marc Lowrance.
The interviews with Beautiful Bobby Eaton and Kamala the Ugandan Giant acknowledge their passing at the end of their chapters.
The book gives a lot of credence to Thunder Rosa and her Texas-based independent Mission Pro Wrestling. The book features some of their wrestlers and puts over the former AEW champion in the process.
While the book admittedly focuses more on independents in southern states, there are a few that rang close to home for me. Bill Collier, the pride of Johnstown, PA, has wrestled in and around Western Pennsylvania for many years, and had a taste of action in AEW. Collier, who had been shelved due to injury a few years ago, was almost Wardlow before the current AEW star, at least in the Keystone State.
Nikita Knight, who at the time of the interview, had come out of nowhere to get a match with Thunder Rosa in AEW. In reality, she is a Pittsburgh gal who trained for a handful of months who had the look, cheerleading and gymnastics athleticism and spunk to get a shot against Thunder on AEW Dark “two days after she became legal to compete professionally.”
Stories like Knight’s, are important to tell. Shot out of a cannon with nary a “due paid,” she was sent to NXT and works on Tuesday nights as co-ed Thea Hail. She seemingly has a world of promise, but here, she was a 17 year old. Her real-life high school graduation video was shown on television with Wade Barrett screaming compliments. Berry does a great job in getting information on these wrestlers before they make their mark.
Looking at both volumes, the newest addition is more polished. The first volume, again, featured 400 photos, and looked padded. This edition is very professional, even down to the choice of font.
Let’s hope Berry continues to keep adding stops to Wrestleville because it is “Everywhere. It is Where Wrestling Lives!”
The book is available for purchase at www.wrestleville.com as well as Amazon.com.