Kindle edition: 299 pages
Publisher: Crowbar Press
Item #: cbp03-jh-kindle
Excerpt from "Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask"
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
When Barnett told (Ric) Flair that (Rick) Rude was really angry, Flair didn’t want to go. He tried to talk his way out of it until Barnett just about pushed him into the dressing room. We were in the room next door and heard everything that was said. When the door shut behind him, we could hear Rick Rude cussing and calling Flair everything but a human being. "Don’t just sit there with your head down, you gutless mother fu—er! Get up out of that chair and do something about it, you yellow son-of-a-bitch!"
The abuse went on for several minutes, with Rude relentlessly screaming at Flair, telling him to stand up. Flair just sat on the chair with his head down. Of course, if Flair had done as Rude asked, Rude would have killed him.
Get behind the mask and into the head of one of professional wrestling's most famous masked men. This autobiography of Joe "Jody" Hamilton takes the reader behind the scenes for a personal glimpse behind the mask of one of pro wrestling’s hottest attractions:
When Joe Hamilton was just 19 years old, he and his brother, Larry, headlined a show at Madison Square Garden, drawing a record 20,335 people to see them wrestle Antonino Rocca and Miguel Perez. To this day, Joe remains the youngest wrestler to ever headline a main event in the Garden.
In 1961, Joe hooked up with veteran wrestler Tom Renesto to form a team called the Assassins, and for the next eleven years, they were considered to be one of wrestling’s hottest attractions, drawing sellout crowds to arenas in California, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, in addition to foreign countries like Japan and Australia.
Joe takes readers on a journey as he tells about life both in and out of the wrestling ring—being attacked, stabbed, and shot at by angry wrestling fans; wrestling under a mask and trying to keep his identity a secret; legitimate fights and confrontations behind the scenes in the dressing rooms; a war between two wrestling promotions in Atlanta, Georgia; and never-before-told stories about legends like Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, Giant Baba, Toyonobori, Pedro Morales, Bill Goldberg, Ray Gunkel, and their biggest rivals, the Kentuckians.
BOXING IN THE SEMI-PROS
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
After he recovered from the accident, Bucky came up with the brilliant idea of promoting semi-professional fights in the St. Joe area. He offered 25 dollars if you won and 15 dollars if you lost. I thought that was a great idea, so I entered and had about 20 professional fights in the area. It was called semi-pro, but there wasn’t a whole lot of finesse about what we were doing. We were just a bunch of kids beating the hell out of each other.
What I didn’t know was that if you got paid for competing in any professional sports, then you were no longer eligible to compete in any amateur sport.
My brother was in Canada during that time, but when he came home for a visit and heard about what I was doing, he blew his top. "You stupid, little bastard! Don’t you know what they’ll do if they find out you were out there gettin’ paid for that sh—? You’ll be kicked off the high school football team if anyone finds out. Don’t tell anyone about it. Keep it a secret and don’t do that again."
JOE'S FIRST PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING MATCH
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
One day in the summer of 1956, we took the ring to Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. We set up the ring, worked out in it for a couple of hours, then went to the dressing room and took a shower. An old carny named Bob Craddock, who ran most of the spot shows for Gust, was promoting the show that night. Craddock always talked in carny. About 8:15 p.m., Craddock walked up to me and said, "Hey, Slick. You got your gear?"
I always took my gear with me because I never knew when I would have an opportunity to work out with the guys. "Yeah, I’ve got it."
"Well, get it on," he said. "We’re gettin’ your cherry tonight."
One of the wrestlers didn’t show up, so I had to go out and wrestle Rip Hawk. That was how my first match came about.
WRESTLING IN MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
There is no way that I could have prepared myself for the feeling that washed over me when we walked down the aisle. It wasn’t too bad at first because they had turned the house lights out and had the big spotlights shining on us. The rest of the building was in pitch blackness, so we couldn’t see anything until we got into the ring. I could see the people on the floor at the end of the aisles out of the corner of my eye, but I couldn’t see the interior structure of the building. When Larry and I climbed into the ring, the house lights were still down. The only lighting was the spotlight on the ring, so I still couldn’t see anything outside of the ring. Of course, the house lights stayed down while Rocca and Perez made their grand entrance to the ring.
I didn’t see the people until they cut the spotlights and brought the house lights up. This is no exaggeration. I’m not just saying this. My jaw actually dropped and I stood there with my mouth open. I thought, "My God! I’ve never seen this many people in one place in my entire life."
There were more than 20,000 people there that night, and if the Fire Marshal had let them pack more in, there would have been a lot more. To me, it looked like there were almost as many people in that building as there was in St. Joe, Missouri. I was absolutely awestruck. I stood there like a dope and gawked. I had been to professional baseball games when the Kansas City team was still called the Kansas City Athletics. They didn’t have that many people at the baseball games, and that was outdoors. Here I was, looking at over 20,000 people, on the inside of a building. It was unbelievable. From that point until the match was over, and I was back in the dressing room, I never gave my ankle another thought. It was such an adrenalin rush.
DORY FUNK SR., ONE OF JOE'S MENTORS
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
Dory had a body that looked like a sack of broken doorknobs. He had no hair on his head and he resembled a grizzled, broken-down, old cowboy. But he was a good worker who had great timing, personality, and a ring presence that won the hearts of the fans in west Texas. The fans in that part of the country just loved Dory. One of the principal reasons he was so popular is that he had joined up with the former Amarillo promoter, Cal Farley, to make the Boys Ranch in Amarillo a going concern. Dory always had a big, big civic presence in Amarillo.
In addition to all of the above, Funk was as tough as nails. I saw him beat the hell out of more than one cowboy in the bars.
Dory never sat down with me and talked wrestling, but I learned so much just by watching him. He never did anything fancy in the ring, and I don’t remember him ever throwing a flying drop kick, but he did a good bit of close wrestling. He wasn’t much for teaching, although I’m sure he spent a lot of time working with his kids, but he had flawless timing in the ring. The things he did in the ring were very convincing.
Funk would sell in a manner that made his matches undeniably believable. He taught me that there’s a difference between selling and dying. Funk would sell and sell for his opponent, and yet he would never be completely dead. Just when you thought he was on death’s doorstep, he would throw a desperation punch, or he would double leg dive his opponent, just to show some sign of life, or work into the spot they were going to use for him to make his comeback. I can’t say enough that I learned an awful lot about timing from him.
THE BIRTH OF THE ASSASSINS
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
Before I left Eddie’s office, he told me that I would be working in Atlanta as the Iron Russian. I talked to myself all the way up to Atlanta, trying to come up with some semblance of a Russian accent. My grandparents came to the United States from Russia, but I couldn’t speak a word of Russian.
I didn’t know anything about the City Auditorium in Atlanta, and nobody had bothered to tell me anything. I didn’t know what door to use, where to park my car, or anything else, so I walked directly to the front entrance. That was my first mistake. In the old downtown City Auditorium, the wrestlers always entered through the back door.
I walked into the Auditorium wearing a black mask that sported a small, red star in the center of the forehead. In my best Russian accent, I growled, "Vere ees dressink room?"
The old man at the door looked at me like I was a nut and pointed towards the back. I had to walk all the way through the auditorium. Of course, those country boys taking tickets were like, "Guddam! Hooz this dum bastard here?"
When I walked into the dressing room, I learned that the Atlanta office had changed the name they wanted me to use. Instead of the Iron Russian, they were going to call me the Assassin.
The date was October 13, 1961. It was, without any doubt, the most important night of my career.
It was the night the Assassin gimmick was born.
SETTLING REAL-LIFE PROBLEMS IN THE RING
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
There were several combinations of Von Brauners in wrestling, but the team we worked with consisted of Jim Brawner and Doug Donovan. They were managed by Gentleman Saul Weingeroff. Doug and I had been friends since Amarillo, so up to that time, I had never had any problems with him. I liked both Doug and his brother, Red.
Unfortunately, Jimmy and Saul were jealous of the Assassins and they let their feelings get in the way of doing business. They also kept Doug stirred up.
Before we went to the ring, Ray (Gunkel) told us the match would have a one-hour time limit, and he wanted us to wrestle to a draw. The Von Brauners were really pissed because they wanted to beat us. Gunkel looked Brawner in the eye and said, "You guys ain’t beating them. If anybody gets beat, it’ll be you mother fu—ers."
It was obvious from the moment we stepped into the ring that they had made the decision to manhandle us. When Brawner hit me, I gave him a shot to the stomach. It looked good, but it was a working punch. He came back with a stiff punch to my jaw and said, "Dammit! When I tell you to hit me, fu—ing hit me."
He didn’t have to tell me again. I buried my fist so far into his solar plexus that I thought I could feel the ridges of his backbone. Brawner’s eyes bugged out and he went down, gasping for breath. He was selling, but this selling job wasn’t a work. He was struggling to get air to his lungs. I snatched him in a headlock and tagged out with Tom. As Tom got into the ring, Brawner jerked away from me and stood facing Tom in a fighting stance, like he was ready to shoot. When Tom closed in, Brawner shot in on him ...
WORKING WITH THE KENTUCKIANS
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
A few weeks after we arrived in Charlotte, we made a deal with Crockett to bring Grizzly Smith and Luke Brown into the territory. I didn’t know it at the time, but Tom had to talk like a Dutch uncle to get them in there because Crockett hadn’t been too impressed with them when they were there before, and Crockett was very opposed to bringing them in. He didn’t want them back. His exact words were, "Aw! Those guys won’t draw a damn dime."
Tom said, "Oh, yes, they will. You guys just didn’t know how to use ‘em right. Give us a chance with them. If you let us do things our way, they will draw."
And that was true. When Griz and Luke wrestled in Charlotte before, the bookers didn’t know how to use them. They didn’t know how to utilize their gimmick. They didn’t know how to get them over. And the wrestlers didn’t know how to work with them.
The problem was, the bookers were trying to take two giant men and make average workers out of them. They told them to work a regular match, just like the normal-sized workers. Griz and Luke were doing headlock takedowns, arm drags, and stepover toe holds. Luke could work that style, but Griz couldn’t. Their opponents did nothing to make Griz and Luke look outstanding. They were taking them off of their feet and doing all of the normal things that wrestlers do to their opponents.
The way Tom and I worked with them was to make super-strong giants out of them. We never took them off their feet. Never!
They didn’t punch anybody. They didn’t kick anybody. All they would do was manhandle their opponent. Since they were so tall, we could emphasize their size and strength by putting them with shorter guys. They could stand in the middle of the ring, put their left hand on their opponent’s head, and hold them at arms length. Their opponent could swing their fists at them and never touch them. When it was time for the finish, Griz would use the upside-down bearhug. Luke would hit the ropes and come down on top of them with a big splash.
Crockett let us do it our way, and he told everybody else who worked with the Kentuckians: If they deviated from that formula, their ass was gone. Needless to say, nobody took them off their feet from the day they arrived in the territory.
RIOTS, GUNS, KNIVES, AND A NOOSE
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
When you left the gym, you had to walk along the back wall of the gym. It was like we were in a valley. The wall was on our right, and to our left was a grassy area that sloped upwards for about 20 yards, with a sidewalk at the top. Just as we reached the halfway point along the building, Tom looked up at the sidewalk and said, "Uh, oh."
That was the only thing he said.
When I looked at him and turned my head to follow his gaze, I saw what had to be at least a hundred people clustered on the sidewalk. I suddenly knew how General George Armstrong Custer felt when he was surrounded by the Indians. All of a sudden, the people started to chuck things at us — rocks, clumps of clay, and coins.
I owned a 1962 Oldsmobile 98 at the time. Just as we slid into the car and shut the doors, a rock the size of a softball smashed through the window and landed in my lap. Shards of glass flew everywhere, including through the eyeholes of my mask. Fortunately, none of it got into my eyes. I turned the ignition key to start the engine and we drove away with the tires squealing. As we put some distance between ourselves and the crowd, we heard two loud pops. It wasn’t until later that we discovered two bullet holes in the trunk lid.
It was then that we decided to tell Mr. Crockett that we wouldn’t be making any more of his spot shows. And that’s exactly what we did. We walked into the office the next day and told him, "Look, no more spot shows."
STANDING UP TO PROMOTERS
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
The Vancouver territory wasn’t doing all that well. Sandor Kovacs was Fenton’s booker, but he couldn’t book the library. Tom and I would go to Fenton with ideas and scenarios that the Assassins could do with different guys, but he wasn’t interested in taking our suggestions. He wouldn’t listen.
It all came to a head when I went to Fenton’s office one Monday afternoon to pick up my mail. While I was there, I said, "Rod, tonight would be a good opportunity to shoot an angle for next week in Vancouver with us against Don Leo Jonathan and Don McClarity."
Fenton stood in front of me with that big cigar stuck in that little face and said, "Nah, we can’t shoot anything tonight. We got the damn Academy Awards being shown on TV next week. Next week’s house will be the sh—s. We don’t never draw nothin’ on that night. There isn’t any sense in shooting any angles or doing anything important when people won’t be watching our show."
"Now wait a minute," I interjected. "This week’s house was the sh—s. Are you saying it’s gonna get worse than this?"
Before he could answer, I plowed on. "If you’re bucking the Academy Awards, don’t you think that would be the reason for us to shoot something hotter than normal? We need to give the people something that will make them forget the Academy Awards and come see our product."
When he stood his ground, we had some heated words. He got really pissed because I had pinned his ass to the wall. He said, "Well, by God, you guys aren’t as fu—ing great as you think you are. In fact, you’re the sh—s!"
I responded in kind by telling him that he sucked as a promoter. "If you aren’t going to utilize us to our potential, then there’s no sense in us wasting our time here. We’d rather be in a territory where they appreciate our talent and will give us an opportunity to make some money. Since we’re the sh—s, and we can easily be replaced, then you shouldn’t have any problem replacing us by tomorrow."
"What do you mean by that?" he asked.
"Under the circumstances, I think the best thing for us is that I give you our two-week notice." He got mad and said, "You don’t even have to give me that. You can give me your notice right now."
I said, "Fine. I’d love to leave right now. Consider this to be our last fu—ing night."
I went back to the dressing room and told Tom what had happened. "I just gave Fenton our notice."
THE WAR FOR CONTROL OF THE ATLANTA TERRITORY
Copyright © Joe Hamilton and Scott Teal
I didn’t go to Ray’s funeral. Tom and I took good care of our gimmick and we would have been spotted. I would have stood out like a sore thumb. Beyond that, I didn’t want to be labeled as one of the hypocrites.
An hour or so after Ray’s funeral was over, Tom called to let me know who was there. His first words were, "The vultures are beginning to descend on the carcass."
On the afternoon of the funeral, Buddy Fuller, Eddie Graham, Lester Welch, and Paul Jones were in Ray’s office, plotting their plan of action. The following day, they closed down Ray’s company, ABC Booking, and started a new company, Mid-South Sports, Inc. The four of them had majority control and ignored the fact that Ann, as Ray’s survivor, owned Ray’s percentage points. In fact, they neglected to put those percentage points into the new corporation.
When Ann walked into the office, Lester Welch was sitting in Ray’s chair with his feet on Ray’s desk, and the partners were sitting around laughing and carrying on. They told Ann that they were going to run the company and that she didn’t have a thing to worry about. In their words, "You can go home, tend to your children, and we’ll send you a check each week for your percentage."
They never offered to buy her out or suggested any other deal. It was a power-play and a conspiracy to rob her of what was rightfully hers.
The promoters all had their personal "bag men" who would skim money off the top in the box office. The bag men went to the towns and collected the money from the box office, but skimmed off a percentage of the proceeds for the promoter before reporting it to the commission. Ann knew that by the time the partners got through with the count, whether it was in the box office or in the wrestling office, there wouldn’t be anything left for her.
Charlie Harben, who worked in the office, had been the "bag man" for Ray Gunkel for years. Charlie took it upon himself to stand near the door of the City Auditorium one night and use a clicker to count the number of people coming in. The next morning, when he read the report of the box office take, he discovered that they had skimmed nearly two grand. When Charlie told Ann about it, it led to a confrontation between Ann and the partners.
Ann knew that Buddy Fuller, Eddie Graham, Lester Welch, Paul Jones, and even Fred Ward, all hated Ray Gunkel. When I say hated, I mean it was a real, passionate feeling. They weren’t going to do anything to support Ray’s family. In other words, even though they were all in business together, when he died, they weren’t going to recognize any member of his family as being a part of it. They were going to take it all.
To put it in as few words as possible, what they wanted to do was push Ann Gunkel out and steal the territory. If anybody says anything different, they’re either a liar or they don’t know what they’re talking about. I was there and I know what was going on. I didn’t trust them, either. I knew many of the boys that they had dealings with, and I knew how the partners had screwed them over. I had experienced it first hand in 1959. Buddy Fuller enticed me to come into Memphis by promising me the moon, but when I got there, the sun was already up.
Legacy. The word legacy is used a lot in professional sports, especially in professional wrestling. When one reads an autobiography, we typically think of it as reading about the legacy of the superstars we admire and have enjoyed watching throughout the years. Many times books by professional wrestlers are spit out at an alarming rate, leading one to seriously consider their purchase of such books, one needs only to look at the printing schedule of the WWE at one time, to see that legacy is an almost meaningless term in their vocabulary and most certainly is in regards to the majority of the books they've printed. However, Mr. Scott Teal and Crowbar Press have set a new standard for professional wrestling publishing and allowing fans to experience the legacies of many superstars firsthand.
One of the paramount ways is with the publication of "Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask". For many fans, the name Assassin might not ring a bell, many middle aged WCW fans will remember him as the short lived manager of Paul Orndorff & Paul Roma, collectively "Pretty Wonderful" and also being inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame. So if you are younger fan, I suggest you do a simple web search or video search for the man Jody Hamilton, known as The Assassin and also as The Flame. Trust me my friends, you will thank me that you did.
Some wrestling books have a tendency to go on with a lot of nothing, there is very little of substance in many of them. Many talk about contemporary issues and make the books irrelevant within months of their printing, this is not so with "Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask". This is so much more than an autobiography. It could actually be construed as three books in one. On one hand you have a magnificent collection of photographs and programs from nearly every era in professional wrestling courtesy of Chuck Thornton's vast collection. The fact that many of these photos still exist is amazing and adds an air of depth to the historical significance of the book. Secondly, you are privy to the inner thoughts and insights into the business of professional wrestling of a man who can say "been there, done that" in every instance. Last, but definitely not least, you have the story of Jody Hamilton the wrestler and the man.
Reading about Mr. Hamilton's early life, I feel that had he achieved just a normal existence it would have been a great accomplishment. Many of us hear stories of coming from a rough upbringing, but this man not only overcame adversity, he thrived from the experience. The old adage "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" is never more apparent than in the life story of Jody Hamilton. Many people become depressed or bitter or derelict at life, love, and responsibility from early life experiences like Mr. Hamilton had to live through, but one thing that The Assassin teaches us is that we can either choose to be lead by our fears or we can draw on our inner strength and become what our passions endeavor us to become.
Many readers will be amazed to learn that Mr. Hamilton is the youngest person to ever headline Madison Square Garden, a feat that still stands to this day. With a career like "Silent" Joe Hamilton, many people would've simply rested on their laurels and called it a day, but not Jody Hamilton. Many fans will not realize the consistent reinvention that Mr. Hamilton went through in his professional career. From The Assassins, The Bolos, to The Flame and that's just his in ring career. Jody Hamilton got over and stayed over wherever he went, whenever he went. This man is a testament that skill, passion, and determination are always our greatest allies and that actions speak louder than words. In this book never once does Mr. Hamilton whine, moan, or complain about anything that happened to him, he takes it all in, in typical Assassin style and destroys any doubters through his abilities and his mental acumen.
I won't give too much away, but Jody Hamilton has lived enough experience to cover several lifetimes, so I am greatly looking forward to a suspected follow up, which Mr. Hamilton alluded to on my final radio broadcast for the online archived version of the show). Mr. Scott Teal has also outdone himself, and allowed Mr. Hamilton's story to emerge as though it were being told first hand, in that all too familiar gravely Assassin voice. My advice to wrestling fans young and old regarding this book, definitely pick it up. If you have been jaded by bios of kids without enough life experience to warrant a book, or the market of jaded and angry former wrestlers, then "Assassin: The Man Behind The Mask" is a breath of fresh air and will reinvigorate your interest in wrestling biographies. Moderately priced at $19.95 and available from Crowbar Press, "Assassin: The Man Behind The Mask" is far more entertaining than a wrestling pay per view and half the cost. It takes you back in time not only to a world of great professional wrestling, but also shows the true grit and determination of a man, who although he portrayed a villain, should be considered nothing less than a real life hero.
I finished reading Joe's book, "Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask", a short while ago.
Despite the anticipation for the Bruiser Brody book, in my heart, I have to say the Assassin book was the one I enjoyed the most. I have all the typical wrestling books and consider myself a knowledgeable person in regard to being a fan of old-school wrestling, i.e., the days of territorial wrestling/the NWA. I felt Joe really gave good insight to the travels, troubles and experiences of pro wrestling in the days before cable TV and the WWE. With the details, dates, and names Joe remembered and provided, I really had a good mental picture of what his life – and that of the other wrestlers/promoters/refrees – was like. I think Joe's book is one of the best wrestling books I have ever read. My thanks to the both of you for the content and production of the book.
I do have to note that one of my favorite parts of the book was the description of the use and making of the original Assassin wrestling masks. Thinking of Dick Beyer trying on women's girdles on his head, with his wife in Woolworth's, makes me realize we would have fewer wrestlers from "parts unknown" if it had not been for there wives !!
Please pass along my appreciation to Joe for sharing his life's history with "old fans" like me.
Sometimes it just can't be helped. You can't live in every era. You can't see every match or performer at his peak. Even for a seasoned wrestling fan (or old fart, take your pick) like myself, the name of Joe Hamilton and The Assassin doesn't instantly provoke memories of matches or times gone by. I was but a mere babe when Hamilton was one half of the hottest touring tag team of the 60s, The Assassins. Yet when I did first see him on TV two decades later, he left me with a twitch that'll never be cured.
It was during a WCW PPV that had a legends theme with vets coming back and doing some matches. Hamilton was wearing his classic US style wrestling hood, incredibly plain compared to the stylish Lucha masks we see so much of today. All he did was cut some promos on Dusty Rhodes, constantly referring to him as Jellybean. But to this day, whenever one of my closest friends and I refer to Dusty, we still call him that. We might not have been around for the heyday of the Assassin, but he was still able to make an impression, even in the final stages of his career.
Well, I'm happy to say that even if you have no connection or perception of the Assassin as a character, as a wrestling fan, you can't help but both enjoy and be somewhat awestruck by parts of his story. This book chronicles an era of professional wrestling that almost seems like it was 1000 years ago rather than just 40. Back then, there were no wrestling schools, so anybody wanting to get on board had to gain the confidence of veteran workers and then get stretched and beat on for months before that first match. Then they worked their way across North America, staying in territories guided by a promoter of, more often than not, dubious character until they were burnt out and moved on.
Like JJ Dillon's and Ole Anderson's books (also co-authored by Scott Teal), Hamilton offers up glimpses into every side of the business since he too has done it all from worker to booker. It's almost become sad to read some of these veterans' autobiographies and seeing how solid their booking minds are in comparison to those of today. Sure wrestling is a completely different beast than it was in Hamilton's time, but there are some basic booking principles that needed to be remembered, even in 2006.
Although you may be shaking your head in disbelief at the stupidity of modern booking after reading Hamilton's approach, the stories he weaves about his run-ins in with fans are even more mind-boggling. He was a prime heel in the era when people were convinced that these guys lived the dastardly life 24/7 and fans weren't afraid to show how much they hated them by physically attacking their person or smashing up their car. Many heels from the past casually mention this kind of stuff in passing and may have one or two stories to tell. Not the Assassin. He devotes a whole chapter to these crazed fanatics that would trash their cars, challenge them to fights or just try to stab them.
It really does seem like a whole other world. But on the other hand, look how effective it was. There probably isn't anyone showing up to stab Edge at the next WWE show. It's a perfect example of the Catch-22 of pro wrestling: it has to be realistic enough that fans can get emotionally involved, yet still maintaining the showbiz side that separates it from anything else. Even more than the story of Hamilton, that seems to be the real message here.
This really is a book that should be read by all wrestling fans, especially the younger ones who grew up on the 80s and 90s product just so they can see how different it really was. Even more important, maybe it will finally show some of those that were so excited to break kayfabe just why it was there in the first place.
Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski
A compelling read from start to finish, and the way it flows, it is very easy to hear Hamiltons voice telling the stories as your eyes follow the words. He goes very deep into his past, sparing very little. The only thing lacking is details into the early version of Deep South Wrestling, and I felt more could have been said about the Power Plant days. However, as a bigger fan of the old days than the more recent ones, he didn't disappoint. Hamilton's best partner may have been Tom Renesto, but co-author Scott Teal is perhaps close behind.
I received the book on Tuesday and immediately delved into what I consider one of the best autobiographies written by any wrestler. I loved the stories about he and Tom Renesto and the various territories they worked, and since I'm a big Missouri Mauler mark, I especially loved seeing the pics of Larry Hamilton in his youth. I've always considered Joe tremendously underrated (one of the best interviews and kneedrops ever in the business), but hopefully with this book, he'll get exposure with a whole new audience and get the due he so justly deserves. This ranks up there with Seagulls as one of the top five wrestling related books published in the last two decades.
I had to fly from California to the East coast today and instead of starting with client work on the plane, I began reading just a little bit of "Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask." That little bit turned into reading the whole book, word for word and cover to cover, as I flew from Los Angeles to Columbus, Ohio via Houston. I found this read to be the most enjoyable of the Crowbar Press series and I believe I have read them all.
With the large cast of names continuously woven into Joe's story, I felt like I had a ringside seat through one of the most formidable eras of professional wrestling history. I gained both new insights, as well as confirmations of existing perceptions, by looking at wrestling though the eyes of the Assassin. I especially enjoyed the candid comments on the many names that have been instrumental to the sport the past fifty years. I also appreciated the detailed index with a list of who who's in professional wrestling to allow me to quickly revisit interesting quotes about some of my favorite wrestlers. Overall, a great book both in terms of content and style.
Being an attorney, I tend to look subconsciously for typos and gramatical errors. I found the book to be very professionally edited. However, I believe a word may have snuck by the sensors on page 263. (grin) I was looking for a little tear in my eye as I approached the end of the book, but it ended a little too soon for me to work up any residue. If I could have asked for my content, I would have liked to have heard Joe's thoughts on the passing of Tom Renesto and the circumstances surrounding the Assassins' participation in the Andy Knaufman/Jerry Lawler incident.
Overall, a great book, written with conviction. Thanks for such a professional product.
Robert K. Oates
Just by reading its table of contents, and knowing that Joe Hamilton has been in the wrestling business for a half century, I knew going in that this book would have plenty of insight, and sure enough, it did not fail to deliver. Scott Teal, the Tennessee Titan, has brought forth yet another fine effort when it comes to wrestling history — "Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask" (not to be confused with Alice Cooper's rockin' tribute to mad slashin' Jason).
Mr. Hamilton's autobiography is a fantastic look at wrestling history and history in general. I enjoyed reading about some of the regional territories that didn't exactly get a whole lotta ink in the old Apter mags, like Vancouver, Knoxville, and the short-lived 1970s Tennessee version of the UWA (which Lou Thesz was involved in).
The "ribs" and road stories are fun comic relief (such as graceful Tex McKenzie having a true case of the "blues"), but for me, the real meat and potatoes in this book involve Hamilton giving us a behind-the-scenes look at his tenures as a booker, ring crew leader and wrestling school teacher, as well as his valuable lessons regarding the psychology of wrestling (which some of today's young wrestlers should learn more of). He also offers his views relating to the downfall of WCW.
It's great that an old school main eventer, who truly paid his dues and survived some personal hardships growing up, is still involved in the wrestling business today. These days, I can just picture Hamilton as Yoda, passing along his wisdom to many young Luke Skywalkers ("May The Flame be with you!").
A straight up "thumbs up"!
I just finished reading the book and it was excellent. Jody's stories were great and there were a lot of super photographs from his glory years. I learned alot about the Hamilton and Renesto team (I never saw that version of the Assassins). Also, Jody was funny as hell many times during the book. I got the impression as I was reading that I was being directly talked to by the great Masked Assassin, as opposed to reading a book by him. Just an excellent read.
His feelings about certain people in the business now would probably surprise a lot of people, but his honesty is a great part of the book. As a person who only saw him in a team as the Assassins with the late Ray Hernandez, I really enjoyed the history and stories before then. Again, excellent job, Scott, and send my best wishes to Mr. Hamilton, a definite true legend in this business.
"Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask" is the latest book to come from Scott Teal and Crowbar Press. As usual for Teal and company, this book is an enjoyable and excellent account of the days of old-school.
The Assassins were one of the greatest tag teams of the 1960s and 1970s-arguably of wrestling history. The one constant through all the various incarnations of the Assassins is Joe Hamilton. Hamilton narrates his life in an easily readable fashion. His stories are compelling and his opinions are blunt, honest and always entertaining.
This book can be summed up in one word: sincerity. Sincerity is a major component of Hamilton's philosophy about wrestling, the wrestling business, and life itself. Joe Hamilton's sincerity comes through on every page. You may, or may not, agree with his opinions, but at no time will you ever get the feeling that Joe Hamilton is anything but a sincere man.
The book gives ample space to Hamilton's life, career and adventures in wrestling. The road tales are highly enjoyable, and at no time do Hamilton's criticsms of his fellow workers come off as vindictive. As a matter of fact; when Hamilton does have something nasty to say about someone, he always prefaces the statement as his opinion, not as a statement of fact.
The book gives ample space to the people who worked with or battled against Hamilton in the ring (and out of the ring — his half-brother Larry (The Missouri Mauler) Hamilton; Tom (Assassin #2) Renesto; Eddie Graham; Mr. Wrestling 2; The Kentuckians; and dozens of others are all given their due. The most interesting part of the book for me was the amount of time Hamilton devotes to explaining the business of wrestling, and how egos can destroy good business.
If you read nothing else, you MUST read the Foreword to the book. Joe Hamilton states his opinion of "smart marks." In my view, he hits the nail directly on the head. This is the story of a man who lived the business.
Read this book.
Another great story. I guess the most striking thing about his career was his ability to focus on business and not get caught up in politics — the mark of a true professional. Obviously, he was confident that his ability would make the next venue a successful venture.
The fact that this book does not come off as being ego-driven makes it an enjoyable read.
It is nice to hear credit being given to his mentors, and about that desire to learn along with attention to detail. A "roll with the punches" attitude definitely served him well.
What an incredible and unique experience to be 19 years old and on top at Madison Square Garden in an era when the business was so over with the fans!
I particularly enjoyed the Don Leo Jonathan tales. He was truly awesome. When he came in for his title shot against Pedro Morales in the early seventies, I said, "This is it for Pedro." Even though I realized that match results were predetermined, I saw no way that the powers in control could expect the fans to buy any other outcome. When Pedro prevailed, I began to lose interest. At that point in his career, Don Leo may not have wanted the burden of being champion, however, to many, he was a world beater. It was no surprise to hear Joe Hamilton say that Don Leo wasn't intimidated by a bear. Given his physical prowess and Judo background, it is difficult to imagine him being taken in a valid contest. I have read that Lou Thesz respected him, but I would have loved to asked him about DLJ in person.
I could go on and on, thanks again the entertaining book.
I look forward to the Russian Bear's book.
The best wrestling book thus far. Growing up in Florida from age 13-26, the Assassin was a mainstay on West Palm Beach cards. I found the Gunkel war very interesting, and as another reviewer said, it was almost as if I could hear Jody's reading the book to me. So many tidbits, and I thought I had heard it all.
I started the book here in Canada, took it on the plane to Germany, then Italy. I finished it up in Rome. I will be re-reading soon, just in case jet lag made me gloss over a few spots.
All in all, a fantastic read. I keep all my books in great condition, but Jody's looks like a dog-eared relic, due to travel. I even thought I was getting in trouble on the plane, as I got a couple of strange looks due to the cover!
Pete Jarvis, a proud 40-year wrestling fan