Once in a while, I read something that leaves a smile on my face, and “Total Suplex of the Heart” by Joanne Starer was the latest book to do that.

This graphic novel is the story of freelance journalist Georgie, who decides to go undercover into the world of pro wrestling and falls for its allure and people in the world. A lot around it might suck, some people who work in it are assholes, but the roar of the crowd is something that is hard to not want to experience again. Once she leaves journalism to be a part of this world, she becomes very good friends with a female wrestler named Cassidy and, through her, meets Steve, a geeky wrestler who connected with Georgie on their love of comic books and pro wrestling.

Eventually, Georgie gets into a romantic relationship with Steve, and she becomes the center of his life: moving to Pennsylvania, helping him open up a pro wrestling school, then a pro wrestling promotion, and doing everything he wants to do with barely getting anything back. She is not receiving the support she needs from her partner until it eventually breaks down. It is a story full of hurt and backstabbing, and it deals with tough topics. But alongside that, there are laughs and good times.

It presents the world of independent wrestling as it was in the early 2000s, from the weekend warriors to those doing it as a career to the different gimmicks that were part of those years. There is also commentary on the state of women’s wrestling at that time since Georgie eventually becomes a wrestler and her best friend is in the same world. Those who were watching during that time will identify the character’s inspirations.

It talks about insider terms but does not over-explain them for the nonfan: they will pick it up as they read along. It has booking meetings, how little money there is, and the classic locker room drama. All of this comes from a female perspective, which is a different and interesting experience compared to watching shoot interviews with male wrestlers. There were clearly different worlds.

The pro wrestling portions of the comic reflect a specific time in independent wrestling, and I really appreciated it. It even has panels with the wrestlers doing laundry, hanging out at strip clubs and bars, and driving hours upon hours while talking to their fellow people doing this impractical weekend job. Those minutiae are interesting to me.

But this book is more than pro wrestling. Wrestling is part of the world, but this is the story of Georgie and her growth in the world. It is a character that I really took to heart. Her mother was abusive and constantly put her down, which made her seek validation from the world. She suffered from anorexia and binge eating at other times. She did not feel the love from her boyfriend Steve, who basically forced her to live a specific lifestyle. The difficult themes and topics were handled perfectly.

But through it all, Georgie is funny, loyal, friendly, and really gets into this world of pro wrestling and gets satisfaction and enjoyment from it. Some parts might suck, but she made friends and there was good through the bad. She even created at one moment her own show with her own roster of female wrestlers. All I’m thinking about while reading this is “Georgie is cool as hell and I hope that she comes out of this happy”.

This book is partly inspired by Joanne Starer’s real-life experiences in the pro wrestling business, and it shows. You can just identify the characters with real-life counterparts, and there is a feeling of authenticity through it. It is not surprising since she also wrote “The Gimmick,” another pro wrestling coming book that feels authentic.

Total Suplex of the Heart” is enjoyable, funny, nerve-wracking, frustrating, and sad, but in the end, you are just happy because everything does get better. At least it left a smile on this reviewer’s face, and I hope that by touching the themes of abuse and eating disorders, it helps someone else know that they aren’t alone. That is also one of Starer’s notes at the end.

This book is a winner and I recommend checking it out.