Ring of Hell

June 30, 2008

For those of you who haven’t heard about Ring of Hell yet, it is a recently released book that covers the life and death of Chris Benoit, as well as offering a rather scathing expose on the wrestling business as a whole. Ring of Hell is the first book written by one Matthew Randazzo the 5th and based on this offering I hope his last.

When I originally heard about the book I had no intention or interest in reading it. I seldom find books like this offer me anything I don’t already know, or more often than not, tell stories I know to be inaccurate. The only reason I picked up a copy was because a fan I regularly correspond with on my website asked me to read it because the book disturbed him and he wanted my opinion of the book and it’s over all accuracy.

The book arrived last Wednesday in the mail and by the second chapter I was ready to throw the thing in the trash. If not for my desire to offer my online friend a complete review and the encouragement of Bryan Alvarez to finish the book (which he has HUGE heat with me for now that I’ve finished) I would have never bothered to finish reading Ring of Hell.

Before I get into specifics let me offer this quick over view. Ring of Hell is the Jerry Springer Show of wrestling books. In my opinion it is a complete waste of paper and a HUGE load of crap. Matthew Randazzo the 5th (MR5) is in my opinion a pathetic researcher, a terrible writer, and in several instances, throughout his book, guilty of the same things he condemns the wrestling business for. What I find even more disappointing than the $18 I wasted on this book is that there is in fact a darker side to the wrestling business that can and should be improved upon, but instead of writing a serious expose of the businesses legitimate shortcomings, MR5 seems to sell out and write a sensationalized load of crap in hopes of shock valuing his way into a writing career.

I am not saying that there is no truth in this book. There is in fact a fair bit of truth in it, but it is presented very unprofessionally, and in conjunction with a lot of exaggerated, overly sensationalized, and in some cases outright fabricated stories. Had MR5 put in the due diligence to ferret out the real truth and presented it in a professional manner, this could have been a very good book. As it stands it is about as factually based and professional presented as many Jerry Springer episodes.

There is one rather scathing story in the book that I know for an absolute fact is incorrect, several that I have heard told by numerous first hand sources that vary wildly from MR5’s accounts and countless tales that are so obviously “bull shit wrestling stories” that the boys always tell, to put over how tough they are or how rough it was when they broke in.

I was often reminded, while reading this book, of my favourite Monty Python skit. The skit features four rich guys sitting in a cabana bar drinking cocktails with each trying to top the hardship stories of the other. The climax is a rant by Graham Chapman that goes like this, “Right…. We had to get up in the morning at 10 o’clock at night, half an hour before we went to bed. We had to eat a lump of cold poison, work 29 hours a day down Mill, and pay Mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home our dad would kill us and dance about on our graves singing hallelujah.” To this they would all respond in unison, ”You try and tell the young people of today that, and they won’t believe you.” I guess they should have told their stories to MR5 because if Ring of Hell is any indication, he’d have not only believed their stories but wrote a book about how terribly run the Mill industry was in England.

I could go into far more detail about things I hated in this book but I fear to do so might actually create enough interest for you to buy this book, which I whole-heartedly encourage you not to do. If you want to read an accurate wrestling book pick up a copy of “Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling” by Heath McCoy, which is my next Book Marks book club selection and is a far better read than Ring of Hell.

Before I wrap this up I want to point out one last specific flaw which bothered me the most and I think best represents how poorly researched this book was. Throughout the WCW portion of Benoit’s career MR5 talks endlessly about how horrible and unprofessionally run WCW was and for the most part dumps that blame on Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan. MR5 goes on quite a bit during those chapters documenting how self serving, unprofessional, dishonest, and unreliable both Hall and Nash were. Then in the WWE portion of Benoit’s career when MR5 is burying WWE and what goes on there, he uses endless quotes by Hall and Nash to support those claims.

How can an author spend several chapters in his book burying the credibility of two people he actually quotes and uses as major sources of reference in that very book? If I were his editor I’d have thrown the book back at him so fast and so hard he’d still be rolling from the impact of catching the book. Perhaps much like MR5 his editor realized that if he did that they wouldn’t have been able to get this on bookshelves in time to best financially benefit from the Benoit family deaths. I could have sworn that was something MR5 was very critical of the WWE for doing.

MR5 or even MR #1 thru #4 are welcome to direct their hate mail to me at: StormWrestling@shaw.ca

Lance Storm