Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, & 'Rassling

Curled up with a good book
By Kevin Hunsperger 
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I'm glad to see that the WWE has been doing a public service in trying to get more kids to read.  I know the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge has been going on for years, and I would imagine it's turned some kids on to books who may have never had much interest in reading in the past.

I'm one of those kids.  Despite having to read EVERYDAY for my job, I HATED reading with a passion growing up.  I rarely read for pleasure.  It was always a choir to read and then make a book report on the topic at hand.

Just some of the collection
Whenever there were Reading Days at school, (that was when they devoted a 30 minute chunk of time when EVERYONE in the school stops what they're doing and picks up a something to read), I always brought one of the many wrestling magazines from my collection.  Back then I got Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, and WWF Magazine on a monthly basis.  Then I would add to my collection with special issues and quarterlies like Wrestling Superstars (I loved the dream match features they'd do).  So while my class mates were reading actual books or things like People or Time magazine, I'd be thumbing through PWI and catching up on an article I may have overlooked previously.

College was bad too.  Reading for class was a huge choir.  Reading books for pleasure never happened.  But I did continue to grow my collection of magazines. I had brought a milk crate full of them with me and had them on hand in the dorm for backup reading.  I became a lending library of sorts to the other wrestling fans on my floor who wanted to relive some part of the past.  These were the days before the Internet, so it was the best way to find out some forgotten nugget of information.

My "wrestling book" library
Into adulthood and the evolution of the Internet, I stopped buying the magazines.  But then wrestling books became popular.  In all seriousness, the first book I read cover to cover as an adult was Mick Foley's "Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks"  I followed up with "The Rock Says" and then became addicted to stories written by wrestlers.

They didn't have to be biographies either.  I bought a copy of Foley's "Christmas Chaos" for my young son after it was released.  A couple of years later I read his fiction story "Tietam Brown."

It seems that the success of Foley and the Rock's books opened the flood gates for more autobiographies to be published under the WWE banner.  I'm sure they weren't the first wrestlers to write their memoirs, but they were certainly the two who got my attention to reading.  It wasn't just WWE wrestlers churning out their live stories either.  I read "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase's first book as well as Bobby "The Brain" Heenan's "Chairshots", both published away from the WWE banner.  I even bought and read Missy Hyatt's "First Lady of Wrestling."  It's a great read, especially if you grew up watching Missy.  If I wasn't buying the books, I was heading to my local library to check them out, which for a small town, the Tippecanoe County Library had a surprising number of titles written by wrestlers.

All this reading did lead me to read other books as well.  I started reading bios by my favorite journalists and other entertainers.  Then I dove head first in the my first series, Harry Potter.  Those stories captivated me in a way I didn't think possible.  I started the series after JK Rowling had finished writing book seven, so I never had to wait for the next book to be released.  I would also finish a book before watching the movie.  It's just better that way.  Then I got a smart phone and my reading interest plunged because of my obsession with social media, Words with Friends, and now blogging.

Just a few of the covers
When it comes to the wrestling books I've read, I have to say Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, and Bret Hart are my favorite authors.  I think reading Bret's "Hitman" tainted me when I tried reading Shawn Michaels' book.  I just couldn't believe anything Shawn was saying, which isn't fair to the Heartbreak Kid, but what are you going to do?

I know this probably sounds weird, but thank you WWE for opening my eyes to reading, and for continuing to encourage children to read today.  Heck, if there was a chance to go to Wrestlemania on the line when I was a kid, who knows how many stories I would have been introduced to back then?

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