Synopsis: A comprehensive, coffee-table style book outlining highlights from World Wrestling Entertainment's first 50 years.
"I begged my dad to be in the business, but he did not want me to be in it. He wanted me to be an accountant or an attorney," recalls McMahon. "He wanted me to have a 'legitimate' job with a pension. Back in those days, there was no security. The promotion business was a very volatile business. And actually the word 'promoter' back in those days was not a good word. If you were a promoter, people would run from you. Promoters were thought of as conmen and things of that nature. So my dad wanted something better for me, which in hindsight, I appreciate. But all I ever wanted was to be in this business. I just loved it."
Right off the bat, let's not confuse the book WWE 50 with the DVD of the same name. Sure, the theme is somewhat similar, but it's not like The Rise and Fall of ECW, where both the DVD and accompanying book were pretty much identical.
What you're getting with this version of WWE 50 is a thorough, well-researched resource of many aspects of wrestling history, condensed into mini features and photographic history. Literally every wrestling-related enterprise the McMahon family has entered into over the years, from Capital Wrestling Corporation to the WWE Performance Center, is covered off in great detail. If you want to find out about, say, WWE's purchase of WCW or the backstory behind Saturday Night's Main Event, it's all here.
And while the stories naturally conform to WWE's version of history, there are dozens of examples of where it strays slightly. For example, you have JBL criticizing WWE's decision to put Batista-Triple H ahead of his World Title match against John Cena at WrestleMania 21. You have Paul Heyman, Joey Styles and others ripping apart the ECW relaunch in 2006. Gerald Brisco speculates on why McMahon changed his mind about a Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair main event at WrestleMania 8. And the book openly admits that the Intercontinental Title Tournament in Rio de Janiero was, in fact, a hoax. Vince McMahon said the tourney happened there because he got a laugh out of Pat Patterson trying to pronounce the island's name.
In another interesting development, there's a full explanation of the term 'kayfabe' and how it's used in wrestling. Business ventures including the XFL and WBF are documented, plus some of their successful ones as well. And everyone from George Steele to Edge and Vince Russo to Bruno Sammartino is quoted on various aspects of WWE and its evolution over the years; some with positive things to say about certain developments; some, less so.
But perhaps the most surprising admission in the book is how much detail they go into about the Chris Benoit murder-suicide. Unlike past WWE projects that either half-acknowledge or brush past the tragedy, WWE 50 dedicates a half page to it and doesn't deny how terrible the events were. I don't mind telling you, I was shocked to see this level of detail in a WWE-published book.
Beyond the surprising, there are biographies of many of the key players over the past 50 years, ranging from Buddy Rogers to Batista and going over their biggest accomplishments. There's a full recap of the Monday Night Wars, including ratings inflection points during the rivalry, significant main events and comments from many of the participants.
One other highlight: the inside front and back covers are decorated with every PPV poster from the first WrestleMania to Extreme Rules 2013. It's an interesting look back at the many names and faces the company has highlighted over the past 30 years and even though I'd seen most of them in some form before, it was definitely worth another look.
Overall Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! This wasn't what I was expecting from a WWE-authorized version of history, which was part of the pleasant surprise. But beyond that, it's the kind of book I can keep coming back to as a reference, which gives it incredible re-read value. Highly recommended.
Celebrating 50 Years of Sports Entertainment