Synopsis: A follow-up to Keith's "Tonight… In This Very Ring", picking up on the turmoil that followed the WWF/E between 2001 and 2003.
Scott Keith, of course, is well known for his "rants" on sites such as Inside Pulse, 411 Mania, Wrestleline and Online Onslaught.
First -- understand that I do enjoy reading Scott's rants, and that's kind of an important disclaimer here. Do I agree with everything he says? Of course not; but hopefully none of you out there allow someone else to decide what you think of something anyways. It's one person's view, and it doesn't make yours any more or less valid.
As I said, though, that's an important thing to note because if you dislike his rants to begin with, this probably isn't the book for you. However, if you appreciate his style of match reviews, the cynicism and humor, then it's definitely worth a look.
One of the things I really like here is that Scott doesn't waste time explaining wrestling as though you'd never watched a show before. Seriously -- I've read enough books by now that take me through the history of the business (one of which we'll look at shortly), and Scott's earlier book does some of that anyways.
While "Circus" isn't nearly as comprehensive as "Tonight...", it does actually cover a lot of ground. Those three years were such a terrible time for the business that I'd forgotten a good chunk of things from that era. For example, Scott gets into the InVasion angle, nWo, the rebirth of Hulkamania, Austin quitting, Billy and Chuck's wedding, Raw X, HHH gaining backstage power, the return of Shawn Michaels, Eric Bischoff, HLA, tons of wrestler deaths, and more. Scott analyzes what went wrong, the logic behind the mistakes and what the company could have done to improve on its product.
A major criticism of "Tonight" is that it was too dependent on republished match reviews. That situation is rectified this time; the reviews are certainly still here, but there's far more original analysis and follow-up in between them. There aren't a ton of factoids I hadn't already read on the Internet at some point or another, but it's a nice compilation nonetheless.
The only thing I wasn't crazy about in the book was the photography. While I can appreciate that you have to have graphics in a book like this (and I can't imagine WWE folks were willing to pose for portraits, given the topic), the photos look like something I could have snapped myself at a house show. No offense meant to the photographer at all - it's just that the photos take away from the book's overall image. At the same time, I'm not sure what anyone could have done to improve that.
Rating: Transitional Champion. As I'd said before, you have to enjoy Scott's writing style and be able to handle some debate about the product to enjoy this. It's a fun nostalgia piece (even though it's odd to think of 2003 as "nostalgia") and will be interesting to see how much the business has changed in the coming years.
Wrestling's One Ring Circus
The Death of the World Wrestling Federation