Book Review: Grappler - Memoirs of a Masked Man
By Jim Valley
A Self-effacing Story of A Man Who Did More in Wrestling Than You or He Realizes
You may or may not have heard of Lynn Denton, The Grappler. For people like me, who grew up on the magazines, I remember pictures of the masked man feuding with Junkyard Dog and, along with The Super Destroyer (Scott Irwin), somehow beating the megastar team of Dusty Rhodes and Andre the Giant in the Superdome. I saw pictures of him as Texas heavyweight champion when World Class still had a little prestige. I saw him on TV as The Pacific Northwest heavyweight champion for Don Owen. On his own, and working with Roddy Piper, he booked the promotion and gave one of the last surviving territories a final great run. In the new book, Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked Madman, you will see he was much more, even if Lynn himself doesn't realize it.
Here are just a few of the highlights from the book:
• New to the business, a young Lynn Denton drove Ric Flair around the Carolinas. You'll read about Flair's philosophy and interview tips he gave to Denton
• The world famous heel who showed compassion backstage and offered Lynn advice
• The Mid Atlantic stalwart who invented The Grappler gimmick for himself and why he gave it to Denton
• Fights, confrontations, struggles with fans, Jerry Blackwell, Bill Watts, Don Owen, and The Oregon Boxing and Wrestling Commission.
• What it was like to be the top heel and North American Champion during Junkyard Dog's historic run in Mid South Wrestling
• How that run in Mid South ended and why it may be his biggest regret
• He is still relevant today. A young Chael Sonnen watched The Grappler on TV in Portland. Years later, he copied The Grappler's style, interviews, and catchphrase to make millions in UFC
The book is packed with many more stories like teaming with Tony Anthony as The Dirty White Boys, working for Harley Race, the death of Gino Hernandez, Southwest Championship Wrestling on the USA Network, The Von Erichs, helping the careers of The Rock N Roll Express, Ultimate Warrior, Raven, and so much more.
This book is a true wrestling book, filled with great road stories and the ups and downs of being a wrestler in the territorial era. Lynn Denton was a young kid from a Houston suburb who saw wrestling on TV as a teenager and decided that's what he wanted to do with his life. In the 1970's he paid $3000(!) to learn the craft. In those days, going to wrestling school meant weeding people out by being worked to exhaustion and beat up by your trainer. Lynn Denton survived training and the wrestling business for 35 years. Unlike most wrestling books, his early years are a very compelling part of the journey. You will travel the roads, enter the locker rooms, and gain knowledge as veteran wrestlers sit Lynn 'under the learning tree' of the wrestling business.
Another thing that sets this book apart is the humble nature of Lynn Denton. Recently, The Fabulous Ones' 80's Memphis Wrestling video became something of an internet meme. Around this same time The Dirty White Boys made one that makes The Fabs look like Brock Lesnar. Denton says, "we tried to imitate the Hell's Angels but ended up looking like The Village People!" Despite drawing big money in Mid South and other places, an older and wiser Denton keeps everything in perspective and is often very funny.
If you are one of those people who love wrestling dirt: who slept with whom and who did drugs, you're not going to find that here. What you will find is page after page of what wrestling was like for a smart, determined, realistic man from Humble, Texas. There are some wrestling books that are so inside that only fans should read them. I find his story to be so relatable that I would recommend this book to non wrestling fans. It is filled with great stories, anecdotes, and life lessons. I believe most anyone can empathize with The Grappler.
When I first heard about this book, I did not expect much. The Grappler I knew was an old school guy who, understandably so, protected the business. Here he openly talks about his highs, lows, self doubts, mistakes, and regrets. I find this book to be honest and endlessly entertaining. I always respected The Grappler for his wrestling mind and accomplishments; now I respect Lynn Denton the man.
Writer and Portland TV reporter Joe Vithayathil along with Lynn Denton have produced one of the best written wrestling books I have ever read.
They got a name for it when you're a great wrestling book. They don't call it a great wrestling book. They call it Grappler: Memoirs of A Masked Man. Read it, if you can.
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