What’s not to like about two grown men in their underwear pretending to hurt each other? Or, as I know it, professional wrestling. My latest book from Lerner, The Main Event, is indeed about that very sport, and for me, it represents the pinnacle of my wrestling and writing career. From the first time I saw “Big Time Wrestling” on television back in Michigan, I was obsessed. When the Flint Journal didn’t cover a big match (The Sheik vs. Bobo Brazil for the US Title), I was angry. My mom said I should write the story myself, so she taught me to type. With her help, I wrote the story. The Flint Journal didn’t publish it, but somehow I found a wrestling newsletter (In This Corner) that did. So at age eight, I became a full time correspondent until my interest in wrestling waned in high school, in part because I was the world’s worst high school wrestler (I won once; the other guy didn’t make weight!).
Years later, after college and getting a Master’s in library science, I started my career as a librarian and very soon started working as a young adult librarian. Working with teens re-energized both my interest in wrestling (this was 1987, the peak of the WWF / Hulk Hogan era) and writing. I wrote my first article for librarians (“Wrestling with Magazines for Young Adults”), and I was off and running. I continue to follow wrestling, write articles about teens and libraries, and even wrote my own novel (although written in 1988, Things Change wouldn’t find a home until 2004).
This is all very odd when you consider that I wasn’t a reader growing up, which I blame in part on a bad library experience which I recounted in the collection Guys Write for Guys Read. Then in the early 1990s, I served on an American Library Association (ALA) committee that looked at books for reluctant readers, and I recall we had a wrestling book up for inclusion on the list. People hated it. Now, years later, ALA teams with WWE (the former WWF) for a series of programs, including the WrestleMania challenge. One of the early steps in this partnership involved me interviewing wrestler/ writer Mick Foley at an ALA conference. A later step found me earning a lifetime achievement award from ALA and noting that wrestling magazines in libraries were my legacy. My connection with the squared circle was so well known that they put me on the cover of School Library Journal in wrestling trunks!
By 2006, I’d stopped focusing on libraries and put my energy into writing. After writing a series of successful novels for teens, I jumped at the chance to write this book for Lerner’s Spectacular Sports series. Now, is pro wrestling a sport? To paraphrase The People’s Champ, The Great One, The Brahma Bull, The Rock, “It doesn’t matter.” If you like it (or love it like I still do, never call me on a Monday night or a Sunday when there’s a pay per view) then the whole real vs. fake issue doesn’t matter: it is entertaining. If you don’t like wrestling, then no amount of explaining it will make a difference.
There’s just something about it: two characters, one good (John Cena) and one bad (C.M. Punk) telling a story using interviews, and then their bodies. That’s drama, that’s exciting, that’s a main event.