Grappler: Memoirs of a Masked Madman is the biography of pro-wrestler Lynn Denton, aka The Grappler.
Unlike most of the wrestling bios I've read, I've never actually seen The Grappler wrestle. What I know of him, I gleaned from wrestling magazines back in the day. This book makes me wish I'd seen him in action during his prime.
The way I normally gauge how much I'm going to enjoy a wrestling book is by how much time is devoted to his pre-wrestling life. I think this one went less than 3% by the time the Grappler was in the ring. My attention was bear-hugged almost immediately.
This book is surprisingly funny. Denton's self-deprecating sense of humor sets this appart from most wrestling books. Lines like "After a year of lifting weights, I put on fifty pounds of muscle thanks to Porkchop's training methods. That and the steroids" pepper the text. I don't think I would be exaggerating by saying every page has at least one smile- or chuckle-inducing line.
The book covers The Grappler's humble beginnings as plain old Lynn Denton, to his days with Bill Watts, the Funks, the Crocketts, and the Stampede territory, to his transformation into The Grappler and making $3000 a week headlining for Bill Watts at age 22. And then quitting Watts' territory when he found out how much more The Junkyard Dog was making per week.
From there, The Grappler was on the road again, eventually making it back to Bill Watts' Mid-South, then to World Class to work with Bruiser Brody, the Von Erichs, and Rick Rude, to Kansas City with Harley Race, eventually ending up in Portland, where he would finish his career.
Unlike a lot of wrestling books, Denton doesn't make himself sound like the best thing to come along since sliced Lou Thesz. He freely admits to some bonehead moves that hurt him personally and/or financially in the long run. The honesty plus the sense of humor makes this wrestling book several cuts above all the rest.
It's hard to pin down what my favorite moments in the book were. His reaction when he found out he and his partner were going to win a tag match against Dusty Rhodes and Andre the Giant, his final match in Kansas City with Harley Race, and working with Bruiser Brody are all pretty memorable. I also loved how free he was when talking about where he borrowed the various bits of the Grappler persona from.
For my money, Grappler is now the measuring stick against all future wrestling biographies will be measured. Five out of five loaded boots to the head.