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Summer Pro Wrestling Book List: 'Six Pack' and Jim Ross Bio
gvw_david_taub
By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 2 weeks ago on
June 5, 2024

Off the Bottom Rope reviews two books for summer reading consideration. (GV Wire/David Taub)

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For me, the quality of a book on pro wrestling is if I learn something new.

“The Six Pack: On the Open Road in Search of WrestleMania” by Brad Balukjian compares a wrestling hero’s persona against the real life person.

The story about Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka going nuts on an international flight could be a main event anywhere in the country.

Balukjian used a similar concept for his prior book, “The Wax Pack : On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife,” (available at the Fresno County library). In that book, Balukjian opened up a pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards and found as many of those players as he could.

“The common theme in these books is … just wanting to understand at a deep level who my childhood heroes are (as) real adults in a real life, sort of the real person behind the athlete or the persona,” Balukjian said in a phone call while on the road in West Virginia.

Like the baseball book, “The Six Pack” is as much about Balukjian trying to find the wrestlers, as it is about the wrestlers themselves. Instead of opening a pack of wrestling cards, Balukjian sought to find wrestlers appearing on WWF cards at Madison Square Garden in December 1983 and January 1984.

Those dates are significant. The Iron Sheik — Balukjian’s childhood favorite — won the WWF Heavyweight title only to lose it a month later to Hulk Hogan.

Balukjian didn’t want to repeat the exact format of “The Wax Pack,” saying it would be too similar.

“There’s a lot of stuff (on) the extent to which these guys became (their) characters and that line between fact and fiction and how that affected their families and their loved ones,” Balukjian said.

No McMahon? No Problem.

“The common theme in these books is … just wanting to understand at a deep level who my childhood heroes are (as) real adults in a real life.”Brad Balukjian, “The Six Pack” author

Some personalities fell beyond Balukjian’s reach. Then-WWE chairman Vince McMahon no-showed. So, the author did the next best thing — talk to some of the more obscure, but interesting behind-the-scenes company executives.

In an effort to earn extra income, McMahon booked tours of the Middle East, specifically Kuwait. Snuka, the ever-popular but volatile superstar, took out a perceived slight on referee/office employee Mike Breen (not the NBA broadcaster, FYI). Snuka’s behavior nearly caused an international incident.

Another executive on one of the Middle East tours was locked up for two months in a Kuwaiti jail over a pay dispute with a prince.

Balukjian did find the likes of Tito Santana, Demolition Ax, and Tony Atlas.

“First you got to find the guys, then you got to convince them to talk to you. And that’s not easy,” Balukjian said.

Balukjian tracked down Santana, who became a New Jersey Spanish teacher after leaving the ring. At times, the interview gets real personal, with Balukjian asking about Santana raising his own children.

The chapters are more than just wrestler’s biographies. Traveling to Santana’s hometown of Mission, Texas, Balukjian interviewed Santana’s cousin, learning about Tito’s upbringing.

Using interviews with insiders and pouring through court records, Balukjian details facts and figures never disclosed in a book before. The author discovered Hulk Hogan’s first WrestleMania payoff, and busted the myth of who really came up with the “WrestleMania” name.

From Journalist to Professor to Wrestling Author

After graduating from Duke, the Providence, Rhode Island-raised Balukjian traveled cross-country to work at Islands Magazine in Carpinteria. A wrestling fan growing up, Balukjian left his job as a fact-checker to pursue a biography of his childhood favorite wrestler, The Iron Sheik.

“I’ve managed to make a career out of all the things I loved when I was about six years old. So it’s been kind of neat to hold on to those passions and figure out how to continue to make them work. So I never grew out of baseball or wrestling or insects,” Balukjian said.

Unfortunately, the Sheik bio never worked out, a story told in the book.

Balukjian returned to the West Coast, earning his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. Just finishing his last semester, Balukjian taught biology and environmental science at Merritt College in Oakland.

Balukjian also freelanced writing science articles.

Now Balukjian is on the road promoting his book. He wants to write again, with a topic to be determined.

He does call Fresno one of his favorite cities for an admittedly silly reason: his favorite childhood letter was “f.”

“I used to scan the box scores of the local paper for college football scores and when I saw the name Fresno I loved it because of the F. Later on when I moved to California after college, I wanted to check out the city for myself, and ended up having a great time on multiple visits, to see Grizzlies games, saw Tool in concert there, had some outstanding food, and explored the Tower District. A lot to do and friendly people!” Balukjian said.

Jim Ross Back With Another Memoir

Another book to check out is “Business is About to Pickup!” the third memoir from Hall of Fame wrestling broadcaster Jim Ross.

In his first book, Ross wrote broadly about his career. His second book focused more on his relationship with McMahon, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

His latest effort is divided into 50 chapters, to commemorate his 50 years in wrestling. Ross started in the business in 1974, helping market the local promotion in Oklahoma. He eventually cracked the mic, and established himself as the one of the greatest ever.

His longtime partnership with Jerry Lawler, calling matches on WWE’s “Monday Night Raw,” is among the greatest pairings in sports broadcasting, not just wrestling.

Ross picks 50 memorable moments, from his most famous — “As G-d as my witness, he’s broken in half,” to describe Mick Foley’s 1998 Hell in a Cell fall — to a more obscure call of a Butch Reed vs. Dutch Mantell match from 1985 Mid-South Wrestling.

The chapters are rather short and simplistic. Maybe too simple for the discerning wrestling fan.

 

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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