In the grand scheme of things, there aren’t many books written by professional wrestling promoters. There are a few that come to mind:
When I sat down to read the books listed above, at no point do I remember saying, “This should be required reading for any promoter.”
But it came to mind with the posthumous release of Bert Prentice This evening! This evening! This evening!
Prentice lived and breathed wrestling, and there are lessons to be learned throughout the book.
“[P]Motivating is a thankless job,” says Prentice, while talking about Jim Cornette leading the Smoky Mountain fight, but also talking about himself. “It’s the greatest heat position already in the wrestling world because most guys don’t like the promoter. He’s the easiest guy to knock off the trade, he’s got the biggest target on his back, and no matter what, in any situation, if a wrestler doesn’t make money, the promoter is the asshole. It’s the promoter’s fault, the promoter’s fault. Whatever happens, it’s the promoter’s fault.
This evening! This evening! This evening! is done in a question and answer format, where the esteemed Scott Teal asks Prentice about his life in and out of wrestling, and Teal really does a wonderful job of keeping Prentice on track, talking about a specific topic . It’s obvious that Teal not only prepared his moves, but was ready for anything Prentice could throw at him.
It could be growing up around wrestlers as his mother worked weekends as a ticket taker at AWA shows, performing as manager Christopher Love, doing stand-up comedy, promoting Ozark Mountain Wrestling or USA Championship Wrestling, or so many other places, or the people he interacted with him along the way, including names we all know, like Jerry Jarrett, Jerry Lawler (who wrote the front -propos), Joe Blanchard, and those we don’t know, the real cogs that make promotions work – the money people, the ticket takers, the people who set up the ring, the merchandise salesmen. Unannounced names like longtime Atlanta-based promoter Bill Behrens are really celebrated by Prentice, to the point that I want Teal to do a similar project with Behrens! Prentice was connected to some country music icons, and even Tammy Faye Bakker.
For all the strengths of Q&A as a concept for a 300+ page book, it’s also frustrating at times, because you know so much could be condensed, and there were times when I spent silence the text because the tale tended to wander. But then Prentice will drop a line like, “That’s the craziest story, but it’s true,” and you’ll pay even more attention to it. It’s not a book you take for pictures, though. Most of those in Prentice are with friends, and there are unique newspaper ads and clippings to back up the text.
When it comes to promotion, there are so many things to remember: trusting the right people; finance; make posters that stand out and then display cities; The advertisement; work the door; make the right contacts in a city, from politicians to civil servants to local media; finding the right venue and things to do to improve it for both wrestling and television; keep fans happy; what to sell at the gimmick table; headaches and wrestlers’ solutions; even the reason why Prentice rarely stayed up on one of his own wrestling shows.
There’s a lot of mourning too, and not just because as you get closer to the end of the book you know that Prentice died on August 4, 2021, after battling cancer for years, and that he never got to see his book in print; Teal’s introduction is moving, insightful and nostalgic.
Here is a particularly contemplative excerpt from Prentice, looking back:
[Y]You don’t understand the character of what professional wrestlers were like back then. Characters as in morals and characters as in the characters they were. They were all larger than life. they were just some of the most wonderful, kind, beautiful and amazing souls. All of that is gone today because these guys just want to make money, be in gyms, and they don’t care less about the wrestling part. They are just show business artists. You do not have dare call them artists. You didn’t call it slapstick. Nothing! They were wrestlers.
Sometimes when I sit in my office and look at the people on the wall…god, they were special people. I know you’ve had that feeling, where you think you’re the luckiest person in the world to have known so many. I mean, I got to know them and follow the same steps as them. How did I get this chance? Crusher, Bruiser, the Vachon brothers, Terry Funk, Nick Gulas, Cora Combs. They were all larger than life. They were stars, but they were wrestlers and they were proud of it… and we had the opportunity to rub shoulders.
Prentice has seen it all in his life, so when he throws out twisted logic, like the passage below, it resonates:
It’s the only company in the world where the people who work for you want to be lied to. It’s the truth. Guys prefer to work because they live in this mentality that life is work. So when I tell a guy, “I’m sorry, you don’t cut it,” next thing i know he cuts me off promos, tells people what a jerk Bert Prentice is and how he is a thief and a crook… just because i wouldn’t book him. But if you lie to the guy, or if you work on him, or if you twist things that really aren’t true just to make him feel better… god, they love me! “Ol’ Bert Prentice is the greatest promoter of all time.”
Had This evening! This evening! This evening! had come out when we wrote his obituary, this would have been the perfect line to end:
“[W]rest has been my life. People will tell you, from the moment I hit the ground to the moment I lay down at night, my life has been all about struggle. Will I regret it on my deathbed? I pray not. Have I ever regretted it in my life? Absolutely! ‘Cause you always wonder, “Man, I could have promoted hundred thousand dollar music concerts”, but wrestling is what I knew and loved.
To buy This evening! This evening! This evening! from Crowbar press.