“Wrestleville: The Pro Wrestling Vault Vol. 2” is another collection of over 40 short bios of pro wrestlers, managers, promoters, and anyone that has made a contribution to pro wrestling, focused on those involved in independent promotions. There are profiles for familiar faces like Jazz, Thunder Rosa, and Kamala, there are profiles of wrestlers from before they gained prominence like Blake Christian, and of wrestlers that have been going at it and are waiting for their opportunity, like Mac Daddy Duds and Jordan Jaa. The profiles are from the years 2018 to 2022.
The beauty of a project like Wrestleville is that there is a focus on honoring those in pro wrestling that aren’t in the major promotions, yet are working hard every week at it because they love it. There are profiles here of wrestlers who had their time in the spotlight but moved on to other facets of their life, like Mike Droese becoming a lawyer and still doing the occasional gig. Long-time WWF 80s jobber (not an insult, that is what he calls himself) Mario Mancino telling tales of his days as enhancement talent and now training the next generation. There is the interesting story of Susan “Tex” Green, who still wrestles and trains at the age of 60, who in a male dominated sport even had to ask the governor of Texas for permission to wrestle when she was starting out. The book is full of stories of old-timers like them that are still going at it hard because they love this.
When reading the tales of the younger indie talent, there is the theme of how hungry they are and how all of them are just waiting for that opportunity in the spotlight. An interesting development while reading the profiles of the younger wrestlers is how the 2018-19 pieces have people just waiting for some kind of opportunity at WWE or one of the second biggest promotions, while the 2020-2022 ones are full of wrestlers who got their chance at AEW Dark and Dark Elevation. The evolution of how independent talent is developed and their opportunities can be seen in those few short years. Some of the talent that got major opportunities on AEW Dark include Madie Wrenkowski and Bill Collier.
When reading books of wrestlers that got to the top, you see how their rise worked back in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. The territory system and the ’90s have had their rags-to-riches stories told, but this book is an example of how the newest wrestlers are working at it in this new world and generation. It is clearly a different world, and reading how the wrestlers of this generation try to do it is an interesting perspective.
There is also love for independent promotions. There is a whole feature about the Northern Wrestling Federation, the history of how it started and its school. Mission Pro, Thunder Rosa’s women’s promotion, gets its share of love. From NWA to Memphis Championship Wrestling to New England Championship Wrestling (a place where John Cena, Kofi Kingston, and Sasha Banks had an opportunity in), there is an insane amount of independent promotions that have been going at it for long years. They may not have the notoriety of a GCW or AAW-like promotions. Still, they have entertained audiences and given new wrestlers opportunities for years in their respective states.
Most interesting are the profiles of the non-wrestlers.
There is Jean-Paul Leblanc, a photographer who has been shooting for promotions in the south for nearly 25 years. Most of the pictures in the book are his and he explains the evolution of shooting back in the 80s and ’90s compared to now. We get a very entertaining profile of manager Chazz Morreti, where you’ll get a little bit of the history of managers. Sheldon Goldberg, the New England Championship Wrestling promoter, explains how he has run a territory since 2000. The profiles of the non-wrestlers will be fascinating for those who want to know how the wild world of pro wrestlers works on the independent level.
Each profile ranges from four to five pages and is very easy and quick to read. What works with the profiles is that, even with the known wrestlers, you get a sense of where they come from and why they keep doing this, even if they aren’t involved in a major promotion. This is a tribute to those that keep working hard for the love of the business and to those that are instrumental in the development of the wrestlers that we see on TV every week. There is a sense that all of this work is addictive, fun, and adds to their lives. What all of the profiles have in common is a sense of accomplishment and passion, which is something a lot of people aspire to.
As a trip through time and the independent scenes in all of the facets, this is a fun book, especially if you would like something that you can read quickly, set aside, and continue at any time without getting lost.