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Killing The Business: From Backyards to Big Leagues Review

December 19, 2020 | Posted by Tony Acero
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Killing The Business: From Backyards to Big Leagues Review  

The 2000s era of wrestling really is a tale of two landscapes. On one end, the WWE was going through a drastic change, being the only big dog and not knowing what to do with all the space, and on the other end, the indys were taking off as a force to be reckoned with. A large part of that growth, whether you enjoy them are not, is undoubtedly The Young Bucks, and just like they felt the time was right to start an entirely new wrestling organization and take the wrestling world by storm in 2018, Matt and Nick Jackson took to their iPhones to write their memoir in 2020.

Wrestling memoirs, like wrestling itself, is a bit of a niche market of an already niche market, and yet they carry such a wide range of quality. On one end of the spectrum, you have the engrossing Chris Jericho and Mick Foley memoirs that gave an in-depth look into their own personal growth, the business itself, and carried the skill of writing that engulfed the reader. And, on the other, you have the WWE-produced books like Lita’s memoir, or even The Rock’s, whose books were mostly ghost-written, or co-written, and usually error-laden and somewhat rushed. It’s safe to say I’ve read them all – yes, even Titus O’Neil’s book, which – as inspiring as it may be – was the book version of tripping and sliding under a ring.

Perhaps the most difficult job of a wrestler writing a book is staying true to the artform while being fully aware that you may want this to reach a wider audience, even if just for sales. Some wrestlers handle this well, while others come off as if they pause their entire narrative just to define a term and make sure you understand, then continue on with their story. A sloppy breaking of the fourth wall, if you will. Unfortunately for Matt and Nick, they take time to define nearly every wrestling “term,” from “heel” to “blading” to a “moonsault splash,” and it’s distracting at least, unimportant at most. Of course, this is coming from a wrestling fan’s standpoint, so the outlook may be biased.

This biased view is only enhanced by the fact that I live in California, and saw the rise of The Young Bucks firsthand, and its perhaps when they regale these stories that I felt the most compelled to dive deep into the book, revisiting the matches they were talking about, and damned near smelling the sweat and heat in that damned PWG arena in Reseda, CA. Going back to Kevin Steen’s last match, damn near feeling the blood droplet’s from Candice LeRae’s crimson face being superkicked, these are visited in great detail, and it was pure joy to be taken back there and get a glimpse of the boys behid the curtain. These tidbits should be any wrestling fan’s joy, and it’s a strength of the book.

Another strength, and to be honest, my most positive thing to say about the book, are the moments when the boys express how much their family means to them. From their parents always believing in their dreams, building a wrestling ring in the back yard, to their undying love of their wives and children. Particularly Matt, who takes a lot of time to assure us, himself, and his wife that he loves her and his kids more than anything. It’s refreshing and not at all pandering. You could feel how much he believes it. Similarly, Nick expresses fatherhood and being a husband as crowning achievements that just comes off as real.

It is perhaps so upsetting, then, that surrounding all of these feel good moments and notes of humility, humanity, and relatable, raw emotion, the Bucks still find ways to pat themselves on the back more than necessary. If we are to believe everything that they lay claim to, then we have them to thank for: AJ Styles debuting at the Royal Rumble, Adam Cole’s rise, placing Adam Page in The Bullet Club, bringing Matt and Jeff Hardy into ROH, Matt and Jeff returning at Mania, and a few other “key moments” in others’ careers. And while I am not saying that all of this is untrue, it just came off as unnecessary information in the grand scheme of things. In the same vein, they seemed to have “great chemistry” with nearly everyone. Again, perhaps not untrue, but it gets a bit tiring to read that these pioneers simply weren’t getting their just due, even after being so amazing. These turns in arrogance kind of took away from the moments where they (especially Matt) expressed just how rough they had it.

Make no mistake about it, The Young Bucks are an amazing talent. They truly did usher in a new era, and with that amount of clout, and being a part of an entire change in the landscape of wrestling, there is a particular air of arrogance that comes with this. I also would go to bat for them and argue that they’ve grown significantly as performers, particularly on AEW television, and especially when compared to what I’ve seen them do on the indys. So, it’s difficult to truly admonish them for being proud of themselves in a world where so many others weren’t. Still, it seemed like nearly every other page was a self-fellating episode.

From a purely writing standpoint, I’ve seen The Bucks continuously express that they wrote this on their iPhone in the middle of travel, booking, and wrestling, and while I’m sure they are touting this as an impressive feat, there are plenty of moments where this shows, and it’s not a compliment. Grammatically, it could have used another polish, and there were a few errors riddled within. However, I feel that this honestly makes it more real (at least in tone; spelling errors, I blame the editor). The book bounces back and forth between Nick and Matt’s POV, spending ample time with each, and it’s the conversation-like writing that really allows you to understand who you’re reading almost immediately. Matt takes a methodical approach, only boasting when he feels he needs to compare it to how he and his brother were treated, almost in an attempt to prove to himself and the reader that they did deserve better, and they worked hard for it. Nick, the not-so-confident behind the scenes, juggling with a “happy to be here” attitude and an “act like you belong” persistence, yet also ready to bang his chest in triumph over how good he was. The disparity is apparent and enjoyable.

The final chapters are saved for the introduction, creation, and expansion of AEW, and it is during these moments where the clout finally matches the portrayal. The ushering in of a new era IS huge, and it should have came off as such, both from the people involved, and the act itself.

The final score: review Good
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In a lot of ways, reading the book is like watching a Young Bucks match; while they’re so adamant on focusing on the high spots, the clout, the arrogance, and the skillset we know they have, we are more interested in their humanity and the story they are trying to tell. When Matt speaks of eating Taco Bell burritos after a PWG show, peeking through the curtain, waiting for his care to be repo’d, and being time spent by the pool with his kid, is when the writing is its most raw and most impactful. When Nick talks of meeting his wife, a former wrestler in her own right, you get the impression that Nick’s entire life is wrestling, and watching him attempt to narrate his growth in the product is great. Revisiting some high spots in their career and realizing they are also high spots in a wrestling fan’s history was enjoyable.