Ever see Paul Newman’s Slap Shot?
The action of the 1977 film directed by George Roy Hill all takes place in the confines of the fictional Charlestown, NY hockey rink in which the local team Chiefs (literally) fight for their livelihood to remain a franchise in the blue-collar community. It’s a classic among us hockey fans, but it so happens it’s very pro wrestling at it’s heart. Sure, technically not a wrestling movie, but if you drop the gloves you’ll realize that it is in every sense of the word, so much that the Dudley Boyz adapted their signature spectacled look from the Hanson Brothers and CM Punk fully embraces Newman’s player coach persona on social media. The very same can be said for Paul Lazenby’s When We Were Bouncers books, but in this case they actually do include stars of the squared circle (and octagon, and silver screen) that will certainly pull the sweater over your head and get you in on the action.
The bars may be currently closed for all patrons at the moment (“Hard times, daddy”) but When We Were Bouncers Volume 1 & 2 will saddle you right up to the well like you’re Norm at Cheers. Instead of Frasier coming in to gripe about Lilith, however, you’ll have familiar faces of the “one true sport” restoring Roadhouse order.
Actor Lazenby who stars in the WWE’s newest Netflix film The Main Event, has strong ties to pro wrestling as he actually trained under Lance Storm and Chris Jericho at the Hart Dungeon, and in the two books he authored, both of his teachers have some spun some yarns of their days at Malarkey’s in Calgary.
The mid-90’s Canadian craze of blue jeans tucked in cowboy boots runs wild in WWWB because in addition to “Le Champion” controlling chaos, Lazenby has fellow “Great Northerner” Edge share a story about his time at Orangeville, Ontario’s O’Toole’s and the time “Jay The Dick” (aka Christian) made a run-in for the ages to help out his future tag team partner.
In Volume 1, Diamond Dallas Page explains in pro wrestling terms the hierarchy of the bar-keep bar scene while Shayna Baszler learns a hard lesson as to why a woman’s has to be ready for any kind of confrontation in the ladies’ restroom. The legendary “Judo” Gene LeBell’s shares his security experience with mobster Mickey Cohen and catching a fat man who “drank too much and fainted” in his presence (the quotations are there for a reason, people). You’ll also have stories from a “fiery” Samoa Joe and Adam Pearce questioning the power of his punch.
Volume 2 features a foreword from Steve Austin (who says the books make up two of the four he’s read in the past 10 years), the wild and scary story of Ken Shamrock (pre-MMA days even) putting a BYU tight end in a coma after being on the defensive side of matters on two separate occasions. Plus AEW’s Frankie Kazarian talks dealing with “frat bastards,” MVP reflects on bouncing with the late Kimbo Slice, WCW’s Scotty Riggs shares giving lead singer of The Scorpions an inadvertent mic check and MLW’s King Mo makes haste after experiencing a mosh pit for the first time, but not before getting paid his $25.
A former bouncer himself, Lazenby is quite attune to the nightclub lifestyle and shares in his own story in Volume One that has to be read to be believed (let’s just say Jack Torrance’s “Heeeere’s Jonny” will have an added creepy layer to it’s cadence when you hear it going forward).
The layout of each book is tailor-made for the casual reader as each story is segmented off for it’s respected storyteller. Lazenby took every take straight from the bouncer’s bark as he transcribed each story via phone or in-person interview, so the voice you’re reading is the voice of that very person.
The wrestler stories are only about one-third of the two volumes so there’s plenty of content to get you charged up during this time of quarantine in which actors and fighters alike tell you their times of playing security for KISS’ Gene Simmons or Sir Patrick Stewart and even warding off a “too-close-for-comfort” Jean Claude Van Damme.
Whether you savor it like a pint of Guinness straight from Ireland or slam all down it like a shot of Johnnie Walker, When We Were Bouncers will provide you with plenty one-of-a-kind stories to share, without the hangover to boot.
Follow Dominic on Twitter @DominicDeAngelo and read his latest review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by going here.