Beer, Blood, and Cornmeal
Incredibly Strange Wrestling
Reviewed by alan wojcik (www.alanwojcik.com)
Chango Loco, Macho Sasquatcho, the Poontangler, Count Dante of the Black Dragon Fighting Society. Never heard of them? Ok how about James Hetfield, Fred Durst, Vampiro or Billy Joe Armstrong? I hope so because they are nationally known names who watched the first names listed wrestle for the California based Incredibly Strange Wrestling during the mid-1990’s until early in this decade. Writer Bob Calhoun used to be part of ISW as the aforementioned Count Dante. He recently published a book on his time with ISW called Beer, Blood and Cornmeal (ECW Press, 366pp, $19.95 US) which is quite possibly the funniest book on wrestling not written by a current WWE superstar.
Calhoun takes the reader back in time to his days as a musician and holder of many part-time jobs in San Francisco when the music wasn’t coming out of Seattle or a teen pop music star factory. Thanks to his costume maker Calhoun attends an ISW event and the rest becomes a journey few would ever take around the world of music or wrestling. He learns that in a world then run by WWF, WCW and ECW his new friends in ISW are as close to backyard as you can get without going there. Seems ISW was a punk rock show that happened to have wrestling matches in between sets. The outfit was run by Audra Morse and some other names that aren’t important in this review. Calhoun’s book follows him from just being a manager to becoming a competitor, ring announcer, commentator and eventually booking the events with Morse. Unlike the current WWE, ISW had some stranger then believable characters like 69 Degrees, a boy band inspired by the Church of Scientology or a chicken suited wrestler called El Pollo Diablo.
Calhoun mixes in some dark comedy in describing how the locker room rivalries, broken relationships and egos threatened to destroy ISW even as they toured America as part of the 2001 Vans Warped Tour which should have gotten them on the national level. He paints Morse as the typical tyrant promoter who ran punk shows in the next door night club along with ISW. From clubs closing due to the dotcom boom of the 90’s buying them out to wrestlers getting injured or just flat out leaving the promotion, Calhoun’s writing makes you care about ISW and the people that were part of it. Buy it and enjoy it, it will make you appreciate the art of professional wrestling.
The book is available in stores or through www.ecwpress.com