Bob Holly isn't going to lose sleep over whether we like him or not, but he wants us to be "in possession of all the facts". Bob spent most of his career on the periphery of the WWE limelight, and has been the subject of backstage tales that cast him in a negative light. I assumed that Holly's book “The Hardcore Truth” would be a poorly-written rant about wrestling.
I will warn you that the first 10% of the book covers Bob's life before he even met a wrestling trainer, and it gets a bit tedious. I encourage you to soldier on, as the book evolves into a fascinating, thorough account of a mid-card wrestler's experience during WWE's wildest bust-and-boom years. Dammit, Bob Holly won me over!
It was tempting to compare Bob's book to referee Jimmy Korderas' book The Three Count, which took place around the same time. I respected how restrained Jimmy was in his storytelling, but his book was almost polite to a fault. Bless him, Bob Holly does not get bogged down with discretion. If the man drank beer, his book would be the equivalent of a barstool confessional. It is magnificent. Like Korderas, Bob does not make assumptions - he had access to the facts. I'm not ashamed to admit that I had fun reading it. It's a nachos-on-the-recliner kind of book.
"Creative Has Nothing For You"
Bob does a good job of illustrating how much you need to want it when you're first training as a wrestler (even once you’ve become established). Bob worked as a welder by day, then made long commutes to training facilities and wrestling venues. But he wasn’t driven by the illusion of Holly-Mania; Bob portrays himself as an absolute workhorse who sought the best paycheck. Sometimes, that came from wrestling. Sometimes, he had to put his dream on hold, in order to put food on the table.
This approach served Bob well in WWE, where your career is dictated by fickle madman Vince McMahon. Bob was satisfied with his early role as a "jobber", and prided himself on his work ethic. All evidence supports his claims, as we learn about his years of patient toiling in dark matches, so often with his shoulders down for the 1-2-3. He yearned for the types of matches that would make him more money, but realized he was quite good at making other people look good. Until Creative had something for him, he chose the lower-risk, steadfast route.
One of his ideas played off of his real-life passion for car racing. Vince generously agreed to sponsor Bob's car, and spared no expense in supporting him, even when tough economic times ended their cross promotion. The fairness and follow-through that Vince demonstrated won him a loyal employee in Bob Holly. However, his trajectory in the company stayed fairly flat, which became demoralizing as the years passed.
Bob followed a simple philosophy to stay sane. He did not complain and he did not play political games, but he immediately confronted anyone that disrespected him. These (usually violent) confrontations took place in or out of the ring, as appropriate, and rarely got him in trouble. He felt like the realist amongst the egos: "Maintaining loyalty and making a stable living is more important than winning in a fake sport."
Rough Around The Edges
Bob is a no-bullshit kind of guy, and held others to the same standard. If another wrestler allowed himself to be disrespected in any way, be it politically or even romantically, Bob would judge that person based on his reaction. Bob's recommended reaction was usually "punch his f**king face in", maybe with a 24-hour warning (Classic Bob!). If a wrestler disrespected the business by not following protocol, Bob exacted swift justice. Have you ever heard of Wrestlers' Court? I sure hadn't, and damn it is a good story.
As a young man, he entered bar fights and tough-man competitions to supplement his income. Later on, he held his own in a Brawl For All match against Bart Gunn (who went on to shoot win the competition). That's tough. But he was also notorious for working stiff, something he refused to change. He was even asked to go rough on certain newcomers in the ring, such as Randy Orton - who earned Bob's respect for taking those punches. And though he claims friendships with many of the boys, he never hesitated to hand out a mouth full of bloody Chiclets if he felt someone deserved it. That's rough.
I think in Bob’s mind, his stiff work in the ring requires no justification. As long as his opponents can come back to work the next day, no harm done. He admires the other wrestlers who can withstand his stiff chops, and doesn't mind being on the receiving end either (his No Chops story cracked me up). He actually rates his list of favourite tough guys. Dammit, Bob! You are a surprisingly charismatic guy, you need to simmer down!
At the age of 50, retired after many surgeries and Creative having nothing for him, Bob has said his piece, and seems to be somewhat at peace. Bob may have been right, he may have been misrepresented, or, he may be an asshole with a weird value system.
I recommend that you decide after reading. Or hell, just enjoy your nachos and don’t pass judgement at all. Co-written by Ross Williams, the story really flows and is well edited. There are far worse wrestling biographies out there, and I think Bob’s story is worth telling. He mentions several big matches of which he is proud, that I plan to check out online.
For all the possibly valid complaints against him, Bob Holly had longevity in the business. He worked with Flair in the NWA, Cornette in SMW, and spent 15 years with WWE. You can imagine the list of people he has known: Jarrett, Paul Bearer, Undertaker, Kane, Bret, Savage, Owen, Triple H, HBK, Nash, Hall, Bigelow, Angle, Lesnar, Austin, Benoit, Guererro, Stratus, Jericho, The Rock… and he fearlessly critiques them all.
OHHH YES! (in Paul Bearer voice)
If you pick up this book for one reason, do so to find out the following tasty tidbits: his thoughts on Flair’s retirement, possible heat between Savage and McMahon, the all-encompassing power of The Clique, how the company managed HBK during his years of addiction, the Montreal Screwjob, fixing a shoot match that was fixed, which women wrestlers should not have laced their boots, the most badass Mae Young story, the “crock of shit” Wellness Program, the “bullshit” Dress Code, DDP’s crazy approach to matches, which guys were true gentlemen, which guy was the biggest asshole of them all, and which one had sex in the showers with a woman whose boyfriend was out in the ring wrestling a match!
The term “pulls no punches” refers to Bob Holly in every way. He is equally honest about his relationships with Owen Hart (not close), Eddie Guerrero (fairly close), and Chris Benoit (very close) and tells us everything he knows about their deaths. He sticks to the facts somewhat, but his strong opinions about alcohol come through in his assessment of the Benoit tragedy. He writes with care and gives a disturbing level of detail. Bob Holly was a trusted friend. His oddly-level-headed approach to the circus world of wrestling drew these guys in, and he kinda drew me in too.