“The Pro Wrestling Vault Volume 1” by Vinny Berry is a collection of essays originally published on Wrestleville.com between 2017 and 2018 that tells the stories of up-and-coming pro wrestlers and veterans. Many of them are from the NWA when it was run by Bruce Tharpe. This is a beautiful picture of what was happening on the independent scene and I could not help but feel warm while reading each essay. You get stories from wrestlers, promotors, managers, and even a profile of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum which is in Wichita Falls, Texas.
What is really cool about the profiles is that you don’t only get famous wrestlers, but you get more of what I would call journeymen wrestlers and rookies. What I mean by journeymen wrestlers is those that have been at it for years in their respective independent promotions and territories and are veterans. Some of these names are Van Van Horne, Chaz Taylor, Vordell Walker, Chris Michaels, Alan Steel and many more that have been going down the road and have tons of stories and experience. These are wrestlers that might not be known to mainstream wrestling audiences, but they have been going at it for years and some have even worked on major promotions doing job duties or on short stints. It is cool to read their experiences and why they keep being in the business, and most importantly, it shines a light on veterans that aren’t that known. This was one of my favorite aspects of the book.
A lot of the profiles and interviews are based on the NWA in 2017 and 2018 in the transition of it being sold to Billy Corgan. You get the stories and progression of the NWA titles during this time period, something that I had no idea how it was going besides knowing that Tim Storm was the champion. You get to read interviews of wrestlers like Greg Anthony, Barret Brown, Arrick Andrews, Mr. USA, Damien Wayne, and Drop Dead Dale Wylde where you get to know of their pride of winning or wrestling for some of the NWA different titles and their story, and some of the interviews are in kayfabe since at the time the profiles were written they were trying to move tickets. You will get to know how the NWA National and Jr. titles were being worked with during those years and the names involved.
Some of the famous wrestling stars profiled are Tim Storm and his run as NWA champ and Chase Owens when he was starting to gain notoriety with his first trips to Japan. Some of the legends profiled are Bobby Fulton, Tracy Smothers, Bill Dundee, Harley Race, Ricky Morton, and Bushwacker Luke. The bulk of these interviews feature wrestlers talking about their careers and their opinion of current pro wrestling. It is fun to read how Bill Dundee and Ricky Morton see pro wrestling now and the big influence that Tracy Smothers had with the younger wrestlers that were lucky to meet him. Other known faces are Hernandez, CW Anderson, and Sir Mo of Men on a Mission, which was one story I did not know. It is good to read about all of these known faces during this period.
Outside of wrestlers, a fun interview is with manager Big Ramp, which had me laughing and looking for more information. There is an interview with former NWA President Bruce Tharp from when he sold the company to Billy Corgan. The experience of referee James Beard in WCCW is told in full and tells a short version of what happened to that territory.
I think books like these are important because they capture part of the history and love of pro wrestling from other angles. Not all of pro wrestling is just the big promotions, the indies and these journeymen wrestlers and legends need their word and say in this space. The essays are really well written and they are a fun and fast read. You can open the book and read like three stories and continue with your day. This is why it is successful: it tells part of current pro wrestling history in an easy-to-digest way.
Vinny Berry wrote the really cool “Lance by Chance”, which is another important lesser-known pro wrestling story that was captured and detailed for history. “The Pro Wrestling Vault Volume 1” is another great book full of profiles of the 2017 and 2018 indy scene, mostly from the Gulf Coast and the NWA, and the most important thing is that it’s fun and it’s a snapshot of different wrestling personalities during the period. There are over 400 photographs here of different wrestlers and promotions.
It is good to know that there are tons of wrestlers out there that have been doing the job for years even if they don’t reach WWE or another major promotion and they do it with pride just to make pro wrestling fans happy and because they love the business. It is good that wrestlers still had pride in wrestling for the NWA and their titles even as far back as 2017 and 2018. They deserve our salute and respect. This book is a labor of love for all of them.