Pad and Pen(cil)

They Call Me Booker

By Jeff Bowdren

Crowbar Press

By the time I got to college in the late 80s, my interest in wrestling had begun to dissipate. The NWA/Crockett promotion had gotten stale and lost a lot of talent to the WWF. The UWF had gone. The AWA on ESPN was lurching to its end. And, even though I had only starting watching as a teenager a few years ago, I already had grown tired of the WWF version of the business. 

My interest eventually picked up again for a couple reasons. Our dorm was one of the few at the time with cable (all of couple dozen channels) and one of those was the Financial News Newtork, which turned into Score on weekends and one of the things they showed was Memphis wrestling. I had only read about the promotion in the Apter mags, since living on the East Coast, we got a lot of shows (including World Class on a UWF station from central PA), but Memphis was not one of them. So, it was cool to finally those guys in person, even if I had seen the territory mainstays in other places like Crockett or the AWA. 

The other thing was finding Dave Meltzer’s column in The late, great National daily sports newspaper. And from there, that led me to being a subscriber to the Observer newsletter in November of 1990. (Which means I have been a subscriber for almost 60% of my life.)

And quickly, one of my favorite things in the Observer was the Bowdren the Booker column. Long before the term “fantasy booking” was beaten to death on the Internet (I was still a year away from discovering Usenet while working at the college newspaper), Jeff Bowdren was writing a “What If...” fictional column  most weeks in the Observer. 

Thankfully, almost three decades later, these are now collected in one book, “They Call Me Booker.” This means never having to dig through boxes and boxes of yellowing paper and trying to squint to read the old Observers written in even harder to read type than what we have now (still the same since 1991. I got on the bandwagon right before Dave upgraded typewriters or word processors.

The column all centers around Jeff being called out of the blue and given the job to book WCW by Ted Turner. Remember, this is 1990, when the great year of 1989 and Flair vs Steamboat and Flair vs Funk had given way to, ... well, let’s not disparage many wrestlers no longer with us that were once big stars. 

In hindsight, Bowdren chooses to push many workers who were newsletter favorites back in the day: Barry Windham, Brian Pillman, the great Muta, and the tag team of Owen Hart and Chris Benoit. Reading about the brief real life team in 1990 of Hart and Benoit in 2019 just makes a long time fan mournful. 

There is also a special mention here for two guys who have been called underrated for so long, you wonder if they can be called that anymore: Brad Armstrong and Buddy Landell. Both guys are central to the narrative, fulfilling the potential they arguably reached in real life. 

And as you would expect from a snarky newsletter wrestling column, there are plenty of in-jokes and references to old angles that would get a pop from most readers who would probably remember most of the bits from the first time around. 

I won’t reveal any of the plot twists, as some of the angles and swerves are really clever and do make you wish you could have actually seen this played out at 6:05 on Saturdays or at Starrcade 90 (no black scorpion here).

If you are a longtime or lapsed fan, especially someone who was an Observer reader at the time, this is definitely worth picking up. I mean, it’s better than watching this week’s WWE TV, right?