Tuesday 20 November 2012
WLH Book Review By Jimmy Wheeler: The Last Outlaw (Stan Hansen With Scott Teal)
By Stan Hansen, with Scott Teal, published by Crowbar Press, released August 2011, 420 Pages, paperback.
A legend in the world of wrestling who many current fans may never have seen or heard of, with exception of his introductory speech for Antonio Inoki's WWE Hall of Fame induction. None the less Stan Hansen is an icon in the professional wrestling business who made a legacy for himself in the territories of Japan. Finding his start through the Funk Family scouting him at the almost famous 'wrestlers breeding ground' the West Texas State football team. He would go on to develop his craft and character around America before settling with at first New Japan Pro Wrestling and then All Japan Pro Wrestling for the majority of his 27 year career making only occasional appearances in America. Even with his limited showings in America. Hansen would wear gold 14 times and a further 30 times in Japan, compiling a list of awards from the Wrestling Observer and Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
Through-out the reading of The Last Outlaw you can not help but to think of the psychology which was used inside the squared circle by Hansen, unpredictable, erratic, spontaneous and for the moment, the book could not be written any other way. One topic may lead on to an entirely different trail of thought before coming back around to the original focus of the chapter, you can't help but feel what you are reading is exactly what Hansen was thinking. You can almost imagine the co-writer Scott Teal having to pull Hansen back by the reigns at several points to keep some form of order. Starting with his West Texas State football path and his early days breaking in to the business through Amarillo with the Funks, being sent to several other American territories, contemplating retirement before hitting it big in the World Wide Wrestling Federation with Vince McMahon Sr., before finding his own personal niche in NJPW, until moving on to AJPW where Hansen would find his second home with 'Giant' Baba, covering highlights up to his own retirement ceremony. Each subject is covered with detail, recounting stories regarding the decisions that were made giving a unique insight to the way a 'gaijin' (or foreigner) is treated in Japan and the life that would be lead living as an American wrestler in the land of the rising Sun. Providing many stories along the way that reads as a who's who of western stars making the tours over there, what feels as an objective outlook of many situations which arose between himself and promoters, various wrestlers, with a handful of 'ribs' (or jokes) thrown in to keep the mood light-hearted. Of course no book recalling the life of Stan Hansen would be complete with-out Frank Goodish A.K.A. 'Bruiser' / 'King Kong' Brody, Stan talks openly of discussions with Brody, writing an emotional chapter on his last memories of Brody, life in Peurto Rico, ultimately just glancing over his actual death. Stan's book offers something most other wrestlers can not, a story of continuous employment at a main event level in an era where wrestling was no harder anywhere else than it was in Japan, a thorough look in to the workings of a lifestyle little is know about outside of the country.
Stan Hansen with Scott Teal have worked together to form a book that is entirely different to any other wrestling book on the market today with the detail given on Hansen's life in Japan. Although the book is a long read some of the time due to the repetition Hansen uses, it is often necessary due to the way the story is told and helps solidify the importance of certain key parts in to the readers memory. The tone itself comes across mainly serious, even with several funny stories included and Hansen as a man who wants to share his experiences in the wild world of professional wrestling, towards the end it almost feels as though the book has been written more because Hansen needed to write it, to make peace for some of his past actions or decisions. He comes across very down to Earth for the entirety, a man who wanted one very simple thing, to make a living for his family, which ended up taking him to Japan and back encountering a whole new culture to fall in love with and many fantastic personalities along the way. Complete with 203 black and white photo's through-out the book, a 6 page photo gallery at the rear of the book and a 2 page list of his Japanese tours, this is an informative as an autobiography you can ask for. If you're a Stan Hansen fan, this is a real treat not just another wrestler cashing in on the biography scene. If you have never heard of Stan Hansen or have just never seen a match of his but are interested in the Japanese wrestling culture of the 80's and 90's this is still a purchase you should definitely make.
By Jimmy Wheeler @MadDepth