John Crowther writes for Bleeding Cool about his Comic Book Encyclopedia of Pro Wrestling. he writes;
There are pro wrestlers, and there are all-time-great pro wrestlers. Right now, over on Kickstarter, a brand new type of book, The Comic Book Encyclopedia of Pro Wrestling, is rushing through Stretch Goals and adding pages of content after blowing up its initial funding goal in less than 24 hours, and it's full of complete comics (20-32 pages in length) about all-time-great pro wrestlers.
There is something else unique about this book: I personally interviewed every single wrestler to get their story. Every story is fully authorized. As the writer of The Comic Book Encyclopedia of Pro Wresting, I had the pleasure of working closely with several legends of the squared circle, namely Nikolai Volkoff, Bruno Sammartino, and Rocky Johnson; and, as you can imagine, I have been blessed with some very memorable experiences.
The first that comes to mind is my initial in-person encounter with WWE Hall of Famer, Nikolai Volkoff. Since 2015, I had been interviewing Nikolai telephonically for his 3-issue biographical comic book series, which was later published by both Squared Circle Comics and Antarctic Press. As luck would have it, Wrestlemania 33 in 2017was scheduled for Orlando, Florida, which happens to be in my neck of the woods, and Nikolai was scheduled to appear as part of WWE's Fan Axxess event. Anyone who has attended a Wrestlemania event can attest to the enormous crowds, which make finding any one individual akin to finding a needle in a haystack, so Nikolai arranged to have me meet him at his suite at the WWE hotel.
Upon entering the hotel, I was directed to the elevators; and, as luck would have it, proceeded to take the elevator to Nikolai's room accompanied by WWE Superstar Roman Reigns. Yeah, I got a selfie. As I approached Nikolai's room, I was spellbound. I was about to finally have an in-person private meeting with one of the greatest heels in professional wrestling history, albeit one who had become a friend over the past couple of years. I knocked and a voice bellowed, "Come in!"
I entered the room, and there stood Nikolai, a grin from ear-to-ear. I was at a loss for words, but the big man wasn't. He said, "Come over here, John. You're much fatter than you sounded on the phone."
I sauntered over.
"Get down on the floor. I'm going to show you how to burn off that gut."
I complied; and, for the next 15 minutes, I had an abdominal workout with one of the greatest and funniest wrestlers ever to get in the ring.
The next memorable encounter was with, in the minds of many, the greatest champion in the history of the business, Bruno Sammartino, and it also involves the first time I was ever ribbed by one of the boys. While visiting with Nikolai in Orlando, we were visited by Darryl Sammartino, one of the younger sons of Bruno. We discussed the possibility of me working on a series for his father, and we exchanged phone numbers, including Bruno's.
One night, a few months after WrestleMania and while in full REM sleep mode, I was startled out of bed by a loud buzz from my cell phone. I grabbed my phone, looked at the screen, and the name "Bruno Sammartino" was flashing at me. It was 4:00 a.m., but it was BRUNO SAMMARTINO. Never before had I spoken to Bruno, but I knew, if Bruno calls….you answer. "Hello, this is John," I said.
"Hey, John. It's Bruno. Nikolai gave me your number and said I can call you anytime. Is now okay?"
"Sure, Bruno," I replied.
"Okay. Goodnight." And he hung up on me. What an oddly funny introduction to the Living LegendI'm happy to say we had many lengthy and more serious conversations in the following weeks, culminating in the first issue of an in-production biographical comic series.
2008 WWE Hall of Fame inductee Rocky Johnson (father of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) was another legend I had the privilege of working with, as we released his comic in early-2020, just before he passed away. Leading up to his comic's release, Rocky and I became quick friends, and were a common sight together at numerous comic book and wrestling conventions around the state of Florida.
Those who knew Rocky, know that he was a jokester, who loved messing with friends and fans alike. And Rocky was never shy about putting himself over. The first time we met was at a Legends Luncheon event in Tampa, Florida I attended on the invitation of B. Brian Blair, best known for his run in the WWF as one-half of The Killer Bees, along with Jumping Jim Brunzell. As I was talking with some folks at the Luncheon, I heard, in a now familiar voice, "Hey….yeah you. Are you the comic book guy?" It was Rocky Johnson.
"I guess that would be me," I replied.
"How come you haven't done a book on me, yet? What's the matter? I'm not famous enough?" he said.
Chuckling, I answered, "Of course you're famous enough, Rocky. But you never asked."
"Well, I'm asking now."
He reached into his pocket and leaned toward me, "Take my card and call me. Let's make a book. And be sure you put me over."
As history can attest, we did do that book and I did indeed put him over.
The unfortunate part of working with these wrestling legends of yesteryear is that they were each well up in age when I met them, and we lost all three soon after or just before publishing their comics. It's been simultaneously astounding and humbling to get to know them, to earn their friendship, and to mourn their loss as a friend. And it's an absolute honor to preserve their history and their memory in their individual comics and in The Comic Book Encyclopedia of Pro Wrestling.
So, I hope you'll take a moment to visit the Kickstarter page, take a look at the story and art based on the lives of these sports entertainment luminaries, and reserve a copy for yourself and, in the process, assist us with the production and printing of the book. When you make your pledge, message us with a note that you read my article on Bleeding Cool, and we'll add a bonus reward kit of unique trading cards and stickers we created just for our wrestling comics readers.