Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: Hot Shots and High Spots

The name George Napolitano may or may not ring bells with some wrestling fans. While the man has been affiliated with professional wrestling for more than 40 years, he is not someone instantly recognizable as a known television performer or personality.

Breaking into the business as a photographer when it was comprised of smaller, frequently self-contained territories, Napolitano’s extensive career includes authoring and co-authoring nearly a dozen books on the subject. In the grappling industry, he has long been regarded as THE premier professional shutterbug. And I’m here to say that any doubts of that lofty designation are quickly dismissed with the release of Napolitano’s latest effort, Hot Shots and High Spots, available this month online and in bookstores.

The book is large, over-sized as it is with photographic tributes, lovingly presented and identified to unabashed wrestling fans, covering every decade since the 1960s. Limited in text, an abundance of words are not necessary to convey the emotions that go far beyond the ordinary. (That noted, there are also some lengthier passages that enhance the accompanying photography). Both the posed photos and those taken at the height of in-ring action are identified and beautifully rendered without compromise. It’s not difficult to state that any wrestling fan with a true love for the art of pro wrestling will be enthralled with the turn of every page.

Mind you, while most every sumptuous picture will likely cause the reader to experience a reaction, be it a large or small one, the difference mainly depends on where said reader’s wrestling frame of reference is centered. In the case of this reviewer, who discovered the uniquely American art form in 1958, that time period would be the 1960s through the 1980s. As such, there is a wealth of material to capture the eye. Without exaggeration, taking the time to study an image can give one something of the “emotional feel” that oozes from just about all of the images found in this boundless collection.

Divided into 17 chapters, each focusing on a specific individual or topic, the presentation is very well organized. If one prefers to go from, say, Classic Hogan to Hardcore to Tag Teams, the Table of Contents makes it easy to move accordingly. There are a handful of photos that include Napolitano and members of his family, often with brief descriptions of the occasion.

As such, I give this voluminous production the highest recommendation possible. ECW Press, the publisher, has a well-deserved reputation as producers of some of the most complete and professional books on the subject of wrestling. Their long string of successes continues here.

As someone who has been a pro wrestling fan for 53 years (and has been participating in one form or another for 21), I’m occasionally given to grouse about the current state of the business. Hot Shots and High Spots has effectively worked its magic on me. While my opinions haven’t been altered, my feelings of admiration and respect for most of the pictured participants have been greatly heightened. Through this effort, George Napolitano has succeeded in reminding me all of the reasons why I became a fan the very first time I saw professional wrestling. I can think of no greater gift an author can give his readership.