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‘WWE Championship: The Greatest Title in Sports Entertainment’ (review)

Written by by Jeremy Brown,
Ian Chaddock, Richard Jackson

Published by Hero Collector

 

Many fans would agree that pro wrestling is, right now, hotter than it’s been since the late ’90s.

Companies such as Impact Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling have experienced a boom in popularity, while newcomer All Elite Wrestling is driving the sport back into the broader cultural conversation with engaging characters, hard-hitting action and a more thoughtful approach to storytelling.

So where does that leave WWE?

The worldwide leader in pro wrestling has done its damndest to remain on top as it faces true competition for the first time since 2001. But while revenue is as high as it’s ever been for the company – thanks in large part to record television licensing agreements and an inscrutable deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – WWE is struggling with all-time low ratings, a dearth of bankable top stars and a creative nadir. All of that is to say it isn’t as relevant as it once was.

But the WWE Championship continues to be a career goal for many aspiring pro wrestlers – or sports entertainer, in the Stamford parlance. With a lineage that stretches back to the days of “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers and Italian icon Bruno Sammartino, the WWE’s top prize has captured the imagination of fans for decades.

While it’s been the subject of a WWE-produced documentary before, the new WWE Championship: The Greatest Title in Sports Entertainment book is easily the most exhaustive look at the title. It begins with the company’s split from the National Wrestling Alliance and its decision to crown Rogers as its own world champion.

From there, it’s a whirlwind tour of champions, moments and eras, profiling each man to (officially) hold the title, and the pertinent details of their reigns. The giant-sized story is made even more palatable with beautiful photos, transporting readers back to those bygone days.

But while the book is a great exercise in nostalgia, it’s also a somewhat frustrating experience. The entire book is written in kayfabe, within the fiction of the WWE product. While it’s foolish to expect a particularly deep look behind the scenes of WWE here, the book is, for the most part, an extensive recap of the bulk of the company’s history.

It also follows the company’s on-air tendency of revising its history, presenting events and characters in ways at odds with the actual happenings, and omits key details for certain people like Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart. It also bends the truth in a few instances about how fans reacted to certain moments, e.g. Hogan’s title win over Yokozuna at Wrestlemania IX.

Even worse, it almost never uses the words “professional wrestling.” It’s always the irritating term “sports entertainment.”

Nonetheless, “WWE Championship” is a handsome coffee table book with a wealth of great photos punctuating its perfunctory prose. For longtime WWE fans, it’s a pleasant trip through time. But for lapsed fans, or as an actual source of information, you’d be better off consulting title histories on Wikipedia.

 

 

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