REVIEW: "Mat Memories: My Wild Life in Pro Wrestling, Country Music, and with the Mets"

Originally published at REVIEW: "Mat Memories: My Wild Life in Pro Wrestling, Country Music, and with the Mets"

REVIEW: “Mat Memories: My Wild Life in Pro Wrestling, Country Music, and with the Mets”

By: Brandon Sears

Mat Memories is the story of the life and many careers of John “Alexander” Arezzi, former host of the pioneering radio show, Pro Wrestling Spotlight.

I’m going to be completely honest here. I am not familiar with John Arezzi outside of his recent appearance on the Herb Abrams episode of Dark Side of the Ring, so this is one of the few times I’m going into a memoir completely blind. So when I received an advanced copy from the fine folks at ECW Press, I looked forward to reading about John’s contributions to the landscape of wrestling media.

Let’s get this right out of the way before we begin – this isn’t strictly a memoir from someone who has spent a lifetime in and around the wrestling business. I mean, it says it right on the cover (My Wild Life in Pro Wrestling, Country Music and with the Mets.) I’d say maybe just under half of the book is about John’s wrestling days while the other half details his time working in both the baseball and music industries. This leads to my main problem. I didn’t really find his life outside of wrestling particularly interesting. I don’t mean that to be a knock at John and I hope that isn’t too harsh as this is his life story after all but I just didn’t get much out of his other careers. Sure, there were a few funny stories here and there with the looseness of both industries (baseball and music) explaining how quickly John could be successful, given his seemingly endless ambition and positive attitude when looking at his work ethic.

When it comes to looking at his life both inside and outside the ring, John managed to carve out quite a name for himself. Getting his start as the manager of Freddie Blassie’s fan club as a teenager, John would wear many hats in the coming years as a photographer, media personality, promoter (both of shows and fan conventions), and even an in-ring competitor (albeit short-lived). John finding his way into the ring is the book’s true stand-out story, so I wouldn’t want to spoil that here but let’s just say that things were a little less organized back then than they are now.

What John is most likely known for was his radio show, Pro Wrestling Spotlight, which he began on a college radio station years before taking it onto the public airwaves in the Northeastern United States. After a failed start in the mid-80s, John would cement his footprint in the early 90s by closely covering both the WWF’s steroid trial as well as a sex-scandal that would rock the industry. Unfortunately, this would lead to a shaky on-again-off-again relationship with Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation that would ultimately hamper John’s ability to book big names on his show.

John also admits to being the one to open the door for Vince Russo in the mid-90s by working with him as both an advertiser for John’s show and an on-air personality/writer for his accompanying newsletter. John details their contentious relationship and nasty break-up that leads John to address some of Russo’s comments made about him in Russo’s own book.

Deciding to go with Mat Memories as the title was absolutely a conscious choice to attract what will ultimately be the book’s biggest audience. However, I felt this was ultimately detrimental to my experience as a reader. Focusing so heavily on the country and music industry in the last half of the book sort of makes the title of Mat Memories seem more like a marketing ploy rather than what reflects the true content of the book and John’s career. Being a veteran of wrestling memoirs and biographies, I would certainly struggle to recommend this to anyone looking for a wrestling book – especially when topics like the steroid trial and the sex scandal seem to have been covered endlessly in so many other wrestling memoirs.

Mat Memories: My Wild Life in Pro Wrestling, Country Music, and with the Mets by John Arezzi & Greg Oliver is available Tuesday, April 6th through ECW Press

I’ll probably buy it as an accompaniment to his John Arezzi’s Pro Wrestling Spotlight Then & Now podcast that he does with Brian Last and is excellent.

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