As featured on SiriusXM Busted Open Radio
Wrestling industry expert Keith Elliot Greenberg chronicles the growth of indie wrestling from school gyms to a viable alternative to WWE and speaks to those involved in the alternative wrestling league with remarkable candor, gaining ... Read more
As featured on SiriusXM Busted Open Radio
Wrestling industry expert Keith Elliot Greenberg chronicles the growth of indie wrestling from school gyms to a viable alternative to WWE and speaks to those involved in the alternative wrestling league with remarkable candor, gaining behind-the-scenes knowledge of this growing enterprise.
As COVID-19 utterly changed the world as we know it, only one sport was able to pivot and offer consistent, new, live programming on a weekly basis: professional wrestling.
In 2017, after being told that no independent wrestling group could draw a crowd of more than 10,000, a group of wrestlers took up the challenge. For several years, these gladiators had been performing in front of rabid crowds and understood the hunger for wrestling that was different from the TV-slick product. In September 2018, they had the numbers to prove it: 11,263 fans filled the Sears Center Arena for the All In pay-per-view event, ushering in a new era. A year later, WWE had its first major head-to-head competitor in nearly two decades when All Elite Wrestling debuted on TNT.
Acclaimed wrestling historian Keith Elliot Greenberg’s Too Sweet takes readers back to the beginning, when a half century ago outlaw promotions challenged the established leagues, and guides us into the current era. He paints a vivid picture of promotions as diverse as New Japan, Ring of Honor, Revolution Pro, Progress, and Chikara, and the colorful figures who starred in each. This is both a dynamic snapshot and the ultimate history of a transformational time in professional wrestling.
Keith Elliot Greenberg
Keith Elliot Greenberg is a New York Times bestselling author and television producer. A columnist for wrestling magazine Inside The Ropes, he previously co-authored the autobiographies of Freddie Blassie, Ric Flair, and “Superstar” Billy Graham. Follow the Buzzards picks up where Too Sweet: Inside the Indie Wrestling Revolution left off. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
I first subscribed to Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer newsletter in the 1980s, after I began writing for WWF Magazine, before the lawsuit with the World Wildlife Fund that forced the World Wrestling Federation to become WWE. Although the Wrestling Observer has a significant online presence, I still look forward to the paper edition each week, an exhaustive collection of wrestling history, match results, business analysis and gossip in single-spaced seven-point type. Meltzer, who has lectured at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, also popularized a star rating system for major matches, one that even the performers who claim to hate him take extremely seriously. While I was working on this book, Meltzer and I were guests on a public access show in which he was asked about his taste in movies and bands. He paused and fumbled for words. A movie? But when it comes to professional wrestling, not to mention MMA and old-school roller derby, nobody knows more — or ever will.
In May 2017, Meltzer was asked on Twitter about whether Ring of Honor, the primary American indie league at that time, could draw more than 10,000 fans. “Not any time soon,” he responded. Cody Rhodes — the youngest son of the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and an indie prince since he parted ways with WWE the year before — then tweeted, “I’ll take that bet, Dave. ”
For the next 16 months, Cody and the Young Bucks, brothers Nick and Matt Jackson, worked to prove that Dave Meltzer was wrong, as well as to create All In.
The effort became “a worldwide movement for professional wrestling [and] everyone that wants an alternative,” Kenny Omega, who went into All In wearing the vaunted International Wrestling Grand Prix (IWGP) Heavyweight Championship for the New Japan Pro-Wrestling promotion, told the group’s website. “Especially in America because in America, you’re kind of forced to believe that WWE is the best. ” All In, he continued, was “a rally to show support for people who have a different vision. ”
Initially, the three men rejected outside efforts to fund the experiment and relied on their families and friends. Cody’s sister, Teil, created the name All-In, the Bucks’ father, Matt Massie Sr. , the musical score. Alabama mortgage broker Conrad Thompson, a wrestling podcaster who married the legendary Ric Flair’s oldest daughter, Megan, coordinated Starcast, the fan convention surrounding the event. Cody’s wife, Brandi — a WWE-trained wrestler herself — and Matt Jackson’s wife, Dana, were deeply involved in organizational decisions.
Like Cody, WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett had grown up in the wrestling business, learning promotion from his father, Jerry Jarrett, and step-grandfather, Eddie Marlin, in the old Memphis wrestling territory. “I love to see guys take risks,” he observed. “Sometimes, that gets you into big trouble. Sometimes, it pays off. Reward is always measured by your level of risk. But when I saw All In lining up, I felt they had a pretty good chance. The concept was good. The independent wrestling revolution started quite a few years ago. Now we were on the cusp of a wrestling boom. ”
“Indie wrestling has been nothing short of the revolution Greenberg suggests, and his book burrows deep inside its genesis, gestation and still-evolving future. ” — Kenny Herzog, writer, Rolling Stone, The Ringer
“The elegant prose I grew up reading (in Greenberg’s wrestling articles) is back on display here, as he shines a necessary light on a remarkable time in the indies. ” — Justin Barrasso, Sports Illustrated
“Professional wrestling fans and historians will be gratified. ” — Library Journal
“Too Sweet is a great dive into indie wrestling … it is a great guide to those that want to learn about this topic. ” — Voices of Wrestling
“Greenberg says he spent a year researching and writing Too Sweet and the result is the ultimate exploration of indie wrestling … Along with enlightening readers on some international indie promotions, Greenberg shows an obvious commitment to making his book a comprehensive history and guide. ” — SLAM Wrestling