While some, like the aforementioned Foley’s or Ric Flair’s books are fascinating insights into the strange and bizarre multi-million dollar carnival of pro-wrestling, others are clearly cash-ins that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
So where does Jericho’s book come in this scheme?
Thankfully it’s nearer the caliber of Foley’s work than say, The Hardy Boyz, as it takes us largely through the Lion Heart’s time working through the 90s indie wrestling world and in Europe, Mexico and Japan, as well as his time in WCW.
Written while Jericho was on a break from WWE in the mid-2000s the book pulls no punches in its discussion of pro-wrestling, this gives us a truly interesting look at the much misunderstood industry and points out its flaws as well as its good sides from training right through to the big time – although as it ends with Jericho’s WWE debut it does, potentially, let Vince and co off the hook.
That aside we get to see how ‘The last survivor of the Hart Dungeon’ made it from a bowling alley in Calgary to the biggest arenas in the world.
For me the most interesting parts were hearing about how the industry differs from one country to another. While Canada and the USA have all but merged in terms of pro-wrestling the stories from Mexico, Germany and Japan show very different ways of doing things and explain a lot about the different matches I have seen from each region – particularly the European approach where many of wrestlers mentioned have visited Guernsey over the years to flog their shtick of ‘homage’ of famous guys from the US.
What we also get an insight into is how the characters of wrestlers are created, or at least how it worked for Jericho.
Having established himself as a heel (bad guy), Jericho angled to work that role whenever possible but, depending on the bookers (the guys who put the matches and shows together) they would either work with him or impose their ideas and if Jericho didn’t follow he’d be out of a job.
This led to some interesting moments that have been left out of WWE’s official history of “the Ayatollah or Rock and Roll-a” including The Phoenix in Mexico and the one time only appearance of Super Liger in New Japan and how such things effected his journey.
The last chunk of the book deals with the time in WCW and again gives an interesting view of how things were working there as, while it doesn’t exactly paint the likes of Bischoff, Hall, Nash and Hogan in the best light, it doesn’t do a complete hatchet job on them either as it draws a picture of a company running totally off the rails, which cleared up some of my questions about how WCW hit such a peak and then so quickly collapsed before it was taken over by WWE in 2001.
On top of all the wrestling stuff we also get to find out about Chris Irvine, the man who is Chris Jericho, and see how his life has panned out from being a young wrestling fan onwards.
This is something that doesn’t always come across as, for some, its something that they don’t want to put across (or would spoil their in-ring persona) or there seemingly isn’t that much to tell – here though, much like in Foley’s story, we get a balance of the two that really made me connect with Jericho in a way that the best autobiographies (on any subject) do.
While I’m not going to claim A Lion’s Tale would be a fascinating read for non-wrestling fans, it is one the books on the subject I’ve read which would at least be accessible and, for any ‘Jericho-holics’, is a must, while there is certainly something in there for both more casual fans and even some non-fans to find out more about both the man and the multi-million dollar sideshow world he lives in.
And here’s a little bit of Jericho himself talking about the book: