Self-Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow

Self-Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre Wrestling Career of Al Snow


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Professional wrestler Al Snow delivers highlights from his onscreen antics and never-before-heard tales from the road in this high-flying memoir spanning 30 years in the ring

In the late 90s, wrestling journeyman Al Snow looked in the mirror and saw a man who needed help. A man whose reputation within the wrestling industry was excellent but whose career was going nowhere. Channeling his frustration into the gimmick for which he would become best known, Al began talking to (and through) a mannequin head. With Extreme Championship Wrestling, Al reinvented himself as an unhinged neurotic and became one of the hottest acts in the most cutting-edge promotion in America when wrestling’s popularity was at its peak. This led to a journey back to the industry’s main stage, World Wrestling Entertainment, during the wildly popular Attitude Era, and in the central role as a trainer and father figure on the MTV reality show, Tough Enough.

Now, after 35 years in the industry, Al Snow tells the stories of the unbelievable yet true events that formed his career, from his in-ring recollections to out-of-ring escapades, including drunken midnight journeys with a vanfull of little people, overuse of Tasers at autograph signings, and continual attempts on his life by assorted members of the animal kingdom. Self Help is Al Snow at his best, delivering what everybody wants and needs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770414396
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 783,134
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Al Snow is a professional wrestler, color commentator, training coach, and promoter. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Ross Owen Williams is a writer, actor, and business consultant whose work includes The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story, the RecruitMentor series of training guides, and the feature film Winter Ridge. He lives in Somerset, U.K.

Read an Excerpt


How to Make Sound Career Decisions

The Sheik terrified me.

I grew up in Ohio, halfway between Dayton and Toledo. That was part of the Original Sheik's territory, which covered Michigan, all of Ohio and parts of Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana. There was a weekly show on local TV, and that's where I was introduced to wrestling — and the Sheik. I liked it enough that when I found out that a wrestling event was coming to our local ice arena, I begged my parents to take me to see it. After they grew tired of hearing an eight-year-old's constant pleading and finally bought tickets, I realized the Sheik was going to be there. He wasn't a physically big guy, but he believed in his character so completely that I believed too. He was one of the first wrestlers to throw fire in the ring, using flash paper to create fireballs, and his matches would invariably be gory. It's no wonder I was terrified. At the last minute, I decided that I didn't want to go.

My friend Victor Lewis wasn't intimidated. He got to go to the show because his dad was a deputy sheriff who worked security at the arena. Victor didn't mention it the next day, but years later, when we were in high school, he told me how, that night, a wrestler named Mickey Doyle had ripped his arm open on the ring post. When Victor said "ripped," he meant it — the meat inside Mickey's arm had been visible. If even being in the same arena as the Sheik was too much for me, it's probably best that I hadn't seen Mickey's mutilation in person.

By the mid-1970s, the Sheik's promotion was starting to struggle and went off the air. That was before cable, so it was the end of wrestling on TV in my area for a few years. When we finally did get cable, one of the 13 channels we got featured Georgia Championship Wrestling.

I'd enjoyed the wrestling I'd seen when I was younger, but none of it had struck a chord with me emotionally. Everything on TV had been short matches to promote the stars and sell live event tickets (apparently to kids who would get scared and not show up). Now, with Georgia Championship Wrestling, I had access to something totally different. I'll never forget flipping the channel and seeing footage from the Atlanta Omni. A man with a ripped white shirt and white hair was stumbling through the crowd — and he was bleeding. He was gushing like a stuck pig, hair and shirt turning red, but he was determined to get to the ring. The fans around him were going absolutely insane. I was hooked. I'd find out that the hero with the white hair was Dusty Rhodes, and the bad guys who had bloodied him in the parking lot were Ole Anderson and Ivan Koloff. The more I watched, the more I loved it. I'd go on to become a huge fan of Tony Atlas, Austin Idol and Mr. Wrestling II as well as coming to hate Ole Anderson and Buzz Sawyer. They were just so believable as heels — in-ring bad guys — that you couldn't help but hate them.

I was obsessed. I couldn't get enough wrestling and, by the age of 14, I'd decided it was the career for me. I remember telling my Grandmother that I was going to be a wrestler, and she said, "Why do you want to do that? Don't you know it's all fake?" I wasn't accepting that. I bought it all, and no one could smarten me up. I started "training" with Victor. We would put mattresses in the yard, then wrestle for real, putting each other in holds and executing moves that invariably ended in one of us getting hurt.

More and more wrestling started appearing on TV, other territories like Dick the Bruiser's group from Indiana, and Memphis Wrestling. During my teenage years, wrestling started getting so popular that you'd see signs of it in day-to-day life. A long time before Austin 3:16 and nWo shirts were everywhere, you'd see everyday guys wearing sweatpants with their names down the side like Junkyard Dog was doing in Mid-South Wrestling. I don't remember any of these guys having "THUMP" on the ass like JYD, but, then again, I don't remember looking.

Even though wrestling was taking off nationwide, there wasn't a lot of activity in my part of Ohio after the Sheik's territory dried up. Because of this, I didn't get to go to a live event until I was 16, when the Fullers ran a show at the UAW Hall in Lima, with names like Al Perez and Ric McCord in action. For me, going to that show was like homework. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was going to be a wrestler, so I was watching from a different viewpoint than the rest of the audience. I was there to learn, to pick the show apart. Even then, I still believed — I still wasn't smartened up.

School was boring. I didn't care about making any effort because I was going to be a wrestler. I took an electronics class for two years in high school and couldn't have told you much about resistance, amperage and ohms, but I could have told you about every single wrestler from the 1920s onwards: their height, weight, win-loss record, where they wrestled, what their greatest match was ... I started working out at the local YMCA to put on weight because the belief back then was that you had to be over 200 pounds, and I was maybe a buck sixty. Working out was the only physical activity I was involved in because it had a clear link to wrestling. I didn't participate in any organized sports at school. I'd been doing martial arts since I was 11, but I'd lost interest in that just because it wasn't wrestling.

Wrestling was my sole reason for existing. I knew it was what I was meant to do with my life. I just needed to find a way in. I didn't realize just how many hurdles I would have to jump to get started — but even if I had, they wouldn't have stopped me. There was no plan B. It was wrestling or nothing.


How to Get Your Foot in the Door

By my mid-teens, I was beyond certain that no matter what, I was going to be a wrestler.

My parents had pretty normal jobs, with my mom working in an office and my dad working at the grain mill. This talk of me running away to join the circus was a big joke to most of my family. I had two stepbrothers, Dave and Rod, a stepsister, Donna, and a biological brother, Chris. The only sibling I had who didn't laugh at me for my ambitions was my half-brother, Conley, and that was only because he was 13 years younger than me. Many years later, Conley actually went into the industry for a while and told me I was one of the reasons he'd done so, but when I was trying to break in he wasn't even at school. My parents were supportive but had their reservations. Given what they saw me go through to even try and get into the industry, those concerns were understandable.

The first part of paying your dues back then was finding a way to get started, and it was virtually impossible. It was like the Mafia: you had to know someone who would vouch for you and, once they did, that person was forever held responsible for your actions. People weren't often willing to do that because it could affect their own ability to make a living. Over the years, as my obsession grew, I'd started buying every wrestling magazine I saw. Pro Wrestling Illustrated,] Inside Wrestling, The Wrestler — all the Apter mags, as well as anything else I could find. I read them like I was a detective, looking for clues that could give me a lead. It was far more difficult to come by information before the internet. You had to make some serious effort to uncover even relatively simple information. For example, once I'd found out that Crockett Promotions had a head office in Charlotte, North Carolina, I walked several miles from my house to the nearest public library, which, for some reason, had a phone book for every major city in the United States. I looked up the number for Crockett's company and headed back home to call. Repeatedly. I did the same with Verne Gagne's office in Minneapolis, Eddie Graham's office in Florida, Don Owen out in Oregon, Fritz Von Erich down in Texas ... I'd call them all.

Most of those conversations wouldn't last long, but now and then I'd get through to some guy who would put me on hold and walk away. I'd hold for 20 minutes and then the guy would come back and hang up. My dad shit a brick when he saw some of the phone bills. "Who the hell do we know in Minneapolis, and why were we talking to them for 20 minutes?!" I had to mow a lot of lawns to pay him back for my monthly round of phone calls.

Despite my persistence, I was no closer to finding someone to train me. Some of the people I spoke to were verbally abusive and cussed me out. The second time I got through to Gene Anderson, he threatened to come out to my house and beat the shit out of me for bothering him. After a while, a lot of the people I was calling started to recognize my voice and would ask, "Is that you again?" When I would admit it was, they'd tell me I didn't want to do this and I should go find a real job. I wasn't prepared to accept that, so I'd make a note on my calendar for a couple of months later and then try them again. This cycle of frustration (for everyone involved) went on for years.

As I was about to graduate, my bimonthly call to Crockett Promotions was picked up by my old friend Gene Anderson. Fortunately, he didn't remember me and started telling me about a tryout they were going to have. He said that if I could get to Charlotte, North Carolina, in October with $250 in my pocket, I could try out. I told him I'd be there, even though I had no idea how I was going to get my hands on 250 bucks plus the cost of a bus ticket and hotel.

While I was trying to figure out how to get to Charlotte, my high school's distributive education department ran a fundraiser and — of all the things it could have been — they decided to book a wrestling show. By the time the show came around, I had graduated, but I still went. It was run by Dick the Bruiser, and he brought all his regulars along with him, including Bobo Brazil, Dr. Jerry Graham Jr., Spike Huber and Jim Lancaster. Jim was a big guy at six-foot-two and 375 pounds, but he could move. Since everyone at the school knew I was into wrestling, word got back to me that Jim had given his business card to the school's distributive education teacher, Mr. Garber. Before too long, I had acquired that card (bearing the name Jim Painter — his real name — not Jim Lancaster) and found out that Jim had said he was looking to semi-retire from the ring in order to focus more on promoting his own shows. I called Jim to introduce myself and asked if I could meet him at his office in Lima to talk about him training me. He was polite but brushed me off and told me to try Al Costello (without giving me any contact details). Before we hung up, I mentioned that I might be going down to try out for the Andersons. Jim used to wrestle for Crockett Promotions, so he said I should tell them "Jim said hi" and then to call him when I got back.

Knowing I had to find a way to get to Charlotte, I got a job washing dishes in a local Italian restaurant. I had Victor to keep me company there, as he'd decided he wanted to try out as well. As the date got closer, it became clear I wasn't going to get myself to Charlotte by washing dishes, so I sold my car, a 1968 Dodge Monaco, for $500. It was the first car I'd owned, but I figured the chance to be a wrestler was worth the sacrifice.

The bus ride to Charlotte took a full 24 hours. When we arrived at the Coliseum, we found 35 other guys waiting to try out, as well as six guys the Andersons were already in the process of training. Gene Anderson came over to me and asked if I had the $250, so I signed him over my traveler's checks. He also made me sign a "hold harmless" release, covering the trainers' backs in case I got injured during the tryout.

The Andersons told us we were going to warm up with a little run. Their idea of a "little run" turned out to be five miles up and down the hill that went around the Coliseum. As soon as we were done, they told us to do 500 free squats. They didn't care how long it took, but they weren't even going to look at us until we'd done all 500. Once we were finished, they ordered us to run up and down a flight of steps inside the Coliseum, then run over to the next set of steps, up and down, then on to the next set until we'd gone around the whole arena. By then, my legs were like rubber and I was ready to collapse, but they weren't done yet. Next, it was push-ups. Four hundred of them, to be exact. As I struggled through the push-ups, the Andersons had started taking some of the guys into the ring and putting them through their paces, but I was only vaguely aware of that because I was just trying to survive.

When I got done with the push-ups, they told me it wasn't my turn in the ring yet, so I had to pair up with another guy and run across the Coliseum. First, the guy would run with me on his back, then I would run with him on my back. At this point, running at all was borderline impossible, but the guy they paired me with weighed about 300 pounds. After we'd made several trips back and forth, they told me it still wasn't my turn, so I should do jumping jacks until they told me to stop. I wasn't paying any attention to anything other than what I was doing until a guy with long blond hair staggered past me with blood dripping from his mouth. I looked around and noticed that there weren't as many people in the arena as when we'd started. People were dropping like flies, unable to keep up with the physical torment. The guys who had somehow made it through the cardio were getting in the ring to be stretched and beat up by the Andersons. The blond guy had been in the ring when Ole Anderson had been teaching how to belly-up your opponent, grapevine him and apply a rear chinlock. Ole had demonstrated it on Blondie, really applying the pressure and asking if he wanted to give up. The kid hadn't been able to say anything because Ole had his mouth clamped shut. Ole thought he was being a smartass, so he applied even more pressure and broke the guy's jaw. Victor was asked to climb into the ring and was back out again in less than three minutes, limping past me and shaking his head. Gene had legitimately choked him out on the rope while repeatedly crossfacing him. The weird thing is that, despite all this, I never for a moment thought, Maybe I shouldn't get in the ring ...

Finally, it was my turn. I grabbed the ropes to pull myself up to the apron and found they weren't actually ropes — they were aircraft cables. I climbed through to join the six guys already in training. The smallest one was about my size with the biggest one being 270 pounds and jacked. Intimidating as hell, Ole barked, "How old are you, where are you from and have you ever wrestled?" I said I was from Ohio, 18 (I was 17) and yes, I'd wrestled before — and that Jim Painter said hi. Ole just stared at me and said, "Who cares?" He didn't know Jim Painter, only Jim Lancaster, so that didn't get me over one bit. Ole got one of his trainees to attempt the belly-up and rear chinlock on me. "Down on all fours, Columbus," he growled — Columbus being the only place in Ohio he knew. My legs and arms were trembling from everything I'd done already but, when the first trainee tried to flip me, I somehow got out from underneath him. Ole barked at his next guy to try me, and I got away from him too. The same went for the third and fourth, and Ole was getting pissed. He sent the big guy after me, and I couldn't do anything. I was exhausted and quite probably in shock. The guy grapevined my leg and chinlocked me, and Ole got right in my face, screaming, "Do you want to go home yet, Columbus?" By now, I wanted to say yes, but the guy had me wrapped up so tight, I couldn't answer. Somehow, I got my leg unhooked and got back on all fours. Ole told us to go again, the guy tied me up and Ole got back in my face. "How bad do you want it, Columbus? Are you a pussy?" I still couldn't say yes because I couldn't move my jaw. Ole got even angrier, kicked his trainee in the ribs, yelled at him to get up, then told me to stay down. Then, Gene slid into the ring. The moment Ole screamed go, Gene was mauling me, fish-hooking my mouth and pulling my hair. As I was wondering what the hell was going on, Gene tried to grab my testicles. I shifted to stop him getting a grip and reached around to grab his balls instead. We were rolling around the ring, trying to grab each other's nuts, and ended up by the aircraft cable ropes. Gene grabbed my head and slammed it into one of the cables, breaking my nose. Then he stuck his thumb in my eye and screamed, "Do you want to lose it?" I still had his balls in my hand, so I squeezed harder until Ole suddenly became the voice of reason and said, "That's enough, let him up." I staggered to my feet, blood gushing out of my mouth and nose. Gene kicked me in the ass and told me, "Get the fuck out of the ring."


Excerpted from "Self Help"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Al Snow and Ross Owen Williams.
Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin,
Chapter 1 How to Make Sound Career Decisions,
Chapter 2 How to Get Your Foot in the Door,
Chapter 3 How to Get on a Treadmill,
Chapter 4 How to Learn Your Trade,
Chapter 5 How to Survive on the Road,
Chapter 6 How to Fight for Questionable Fun and Varying Levels of Profit,
Chapter 7 How to Get off a Treadmill,
Chapter 8 How to Stay under the Radar — or Not,
Chapter 9 How to Make the Wrong First Impression,
Chapter 10 How to Make an Entrance,
Chapter 11 How to Rock and Roll,
Chapter 12 How to Go It Alone,
Chapter 13 How to Get a Head,
Chapter 14 How to Go Crazy,
Chapter 15 How to Rib and Be Ribbed with Varying Levels of Dignity,
Chapter 16 How to Get into the Doghouse,
Chapter 17 How to Cut Cheese and Go European,
Chapter 18 How to Raise Kids,
Chapter 19 How to Pick a Winner,
Chapter 20 How to Be Heard and Not Seen,
Chapter 21 How to Give Back to the Next Generation,
Chapter 22 How to Learn from People with Disabilities,
Chapter 23 How to Make the Most of the Indie Wrestling Experience,
Chapter 24 How to Electrify the Fans,
Chapter 25 How to (Unwittingly) Get into Films with the Mob,
Chapter 26 How to Deal with Disaster,
Chapter 27 How Not to Run a Business,
Chapter 28 How to Move On,
About the Author,

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