St. Louis native Irvin Muchnick grew up just outside the "square circle" of professional wrestling. In the 1960s Muchnick's late uncle, Sam Muchnick, served as president of the National Wrestling Alliance. Later, as a young reporter, Irvin Muchnick covered the "sport" for such publications as Penthouse, People and the New York Times.
This year he compiled several of those articles for the book Wrestling Babylon: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death and Scandal. Unreal recently caught up with Muchnick between diaper changes at his California home.
Unreal: What is it about wrestling that makes your stories and anecdotes from the 1980s relevant today?
Muchnick: History is written by the victors. Vince McMahon controls wrestling, and he's written the history as he sees it. That said, I think there's a real hunger for the unadulterated, behind-the-scenes truth.
What's this? Our hero Hulk Hogan is a steroid abuser?
Hogan had a tremendous impact on wrestling, no doubt. The steroid allegations had him on the ropes for a while in the early '90s. But he slipped away. [Pause] Hold on a minute. My daughter needs her diaper changed.
Speaking of undergarments, when did the physiques of wrestlers transform fat men in Speedos into the chiseled, steroid-sculpted specimens they are today?
Superstar Billy Graham was one of the first in the late 1970s. Then Hogan and the Road Warriors came along in the early 1980s, and that's what the public wanted. [Pause, again. ] Wait a second, Leah, you're not poopy!
The appendix of your book lists some 87 wrestlers who've met early deaths from suicide and steroids. What about figure-four leg locks?
Wrestlers have always lived on the edge, and there's no question there is a terrible drug problem with steroids, growth hormones and cocaine. The difference is when a baseball player like Ken Caminiti dies, it makes headlines. When a wrestler dies, no one seems to notice.
How about when a wrestler loses a foot?
As I write, Kerry Von Erich wrestled most of the last decade of his life with an amputated foot. He tried to hide it from everyone. He even showered with his boot on. Eventually he blew his brains out.
It's a Write-Off
Good news! The St. Louis literary garden has sprouted yet another varietal: Edward Philip White. White recently self-published Song of Sherwood, which imagines the adventures of Raven of Locksley and her brother, Roger, as they embark on the Fifth Crusade.
The siblings are the offspring of Robin Hood and (apparently a maiden no longer) Marian. It is a work of fiction, notes White, filled with "daring rescues, narrow escapes and mighty battles....but the greatest adventures happen in the hearts of Raven and her friends as they come of age together and wrestle with their faith in a world consumed by darkness."
But before we give Ed the Unreal Seal of Approval, you, dear reader, must distinguish White's work from Unreal's drivel. So without further ado, let the write-off begin! 1) Why does sixteen-year-old Raven find herself en route to Jerusalem, determined to liberate the Holy Land from its heathen occupiers?
A) Raven, a proto-feminist, lobbies Pope Innocent III to allow her to join the Crusade as part of Innocent's Innocents, an avant-garde cadre of female holy rollers.
B) After breaking his leg in a drunken stupor, Roger prevails on his younger sister to take his place in the name of all that is Holy.
C) Raven, a mystical ancestor of St. Joan of Arc, disguises herself as a man because....well, because Jesus told her to. 2) Believing that Raven is a pagan witch, Antonio Zola of Milan, Grand Inquisitor, imprisons and tortures the young crusader. Once Raven escapes the cruel bishop's clutches, what do we learn about the Grand Inquisitor?
A) "[H]e placed an extremely high importance on privacy; particularly when relating to the matter of certain bodily functions, namely defecating."
B) "A connoisseur of all earthly indulgences, he concealed his carnal appetite with a righteous abstention best delivered by a cat-o'-nine-tails."
C) "He liked his altar boys the way he liked his honeyed toast in the morning: bronzed and sweet." 3) While ministering to wounded crusaders during the siege of Damietta, how does Raven relieve their pain?
A) She washes their wounds with pure spring water before binding them with an herbal wrap fabricated from immature olive flesh, wild rosemary and the ground tarsus of a hyena.
B) She gives them each a hit of really killer weed.
C) She prays to her Creator, asking that he relieve his servants' pain. 4) What three things happen to Cuthbert, Raven's childhood friend, on the same day?
A) He loses his kingdom, finds out that his wife is really his mother and commits suicide.
B) He finally returns home, takes a bath and is murdered by his adulterous wife.
C) He is knighted, becomes a noble and asks Raven to be his bride.
Whites actual work: B, A, B, C
Somebody Buy My Crap
Item: Bear Trap
Location: De Soto
Issue: June 17
Unreal: Is that trap for catching mammals of the Ursidae family, or overweight and hairy homosexual men?
Cathy: Oh, no. Im pretty sure its for the kind of bears you find in the woods.
Did you know that a black bear was spotted last month in Festus? You may not want to get rid of that thing.
Really? No, I didnt know that. But I dont think Ill ever use it. It belongs to my husband. We were married for twenty years. Now hes found himself a girlfriend and left me.
Guess that explains why your cell phone rings to Whitesnakes Here I Go Again on My Own.
Yeah, my daughter and I thought that would be a good joke. He left me with six kids.
So youre taking your revenge by selling his bear trap?
The proceeds will go to the children. Were getting rid of all his old necessities.
Have you ever thought of setting that bear trap in his seat? Now, that would be sweet revenge!
Oh, dont think I havent thought about it. Id like to set it on him or the girlfriend. The trap has three big iron teeth on it. When those babies clamp down, its going to hurt like hell. Yes, its very tempting indeed!
From time to time Unreal trolls the St. Louis Post-Dispatch classified section's "Bargain Box." We cannot guarantee any item remains available for purchase at press time.