This is so good. I knew of Madusa but didn't know much about her life. I knew she was a terrific wrestler and know she went off to throw the WWF women's title in the bin.
She's a real pioneer having to battle against misogyny in both professional wrestling and then truck racing afterwards. I don't think many modern female wrestlers realise how much they owe to Madusa and others of this era. Highly recommended.
I've been a fan of Madusa ever since she first hit the scene in The A.W.A. back in the late 80s, and since she had the misfortune to come along during a dark age for women's wrestling, I feel that she has never really gotten her due. Hopefully this memoir will go a little way towards correcting that oversight.
THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING: THE MADUSA STORY is a frank, often sad, look back at a life of abuse and trauma, and it's pretty amazing that she made it through all of this (relatively) unscathed. Debrah Miceli is one of the rare few wrestlers from her era that survived to retirement age without succumbing to drugs, poverty, and an early death. Not only did she make it out of wrestling, but she forged a whole new career path in monster trucks.
As amazing a story as she has lived, the telling is kind of rough going. Miceli, and co-author Greg Oliver, hop around like ADD bunnies, flitting from one thought to the next, skipping back and forth through the years and decades with no rhyme or reason, that it's often quite hard to follow where we are in her life, and the jumpiness of the narrative often finds them referencing things that haven't been covered yet, with head-scratching results.
This is a worthwhile read, but I think that people who don't already have a degree of familiarity with Madusa's life might have a hard time following along.
I read this a bit later than I wanted but this is one of the best wrestling books of the year. Madusa's story and the story of women in wrestling before the Attitude Era require a deeper insight. Wrestling was a shockingly different time back then and I appreciate Madusa's story being shared. Any wrestling fan must give this book a shot to learn about a fascinating time in WWE, WCW and beyond
To say that Debrah Miceli’s story isn’t told in a straight line would be an understatement. In the book’s introduction, Miceli notes that she tends to jump around when telling her life story which she says matches her personality. She tends to bounce back and forth between her wrestling career, her troubled upbringing and the strained relationships it created as well the many hats she wore following her time in the wrestling industry around the turn of the century.
Her difficult relationship with her mother Betty is one of constant strain. Debrah equates this to her mother never wanting to be a parent in the first place and throughout the years before Debrah began to form memories, she was told that her mother Betty had tried to give her away on several occasions. Somehow, things would get much worse as Debrah recounts stories of abuse and neglect on the part of her mother and accusations of rape against her step-father. There is a particularly harrowing account of what would become of a friend of hers that she made through her early years that will likely stick with me for years to come.
In her formative wrestling years, she recounts AWA's Verne Gagne originally rebuffing All Japan when they asked about booking Debrah for some dates. Gagne was convinced she wasn’t ready. Miceli finally had a match against All Japan performer Chigusa in the United States that endeared her to the Japanese star and led to her travelling to the far East to work for All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling. Outside of her work in Monster Jam years later, her time in All Japan comes across as the work she is most proud of. Can you blame her? It would take decades before women's wrestling would be treated with anywhere near the reverence it garnered in Japan.
Much of her time in WWE was one of constant strife and frustration. Vince McMahon had brought her in during the mid-90s to be the face of a revitalised women's division, but after only a short time, it was clear that only the slightest bit of focus would be placed on her role. She arrived just as The Kliq had Vince's ear backstage and were among the most powerful group of performers in the industry. Their sophomoric behaviour and actions behind the curtain made it difficult for her to navigate the already choppy waters of her role as the division's prized performer. If you're familiar with The Kliq's actions during this time, it's hard to imagine anything here will shock you, but she does reveal a rather unfortunate and upsetting event that happened during the tail end of her time with the company that had me reeling.
Her final years in wrestling (before her one-match return in 2018 following a WWE Hall of Fame induction) are mind-boggling. Her most infamous moment of dropping the WWE Women's Championship in the trash during her WCW re-debut is covered, but in the months and years that followed, WCW and Eric Bischoff did not have much of an idea of what to do with her - once again, an exercise in frustration for a performer ripe with talent who had seemingly no way to show it in North America.
One thing I was not expecting to find as interesting as I did was her Monster Jam career. I would consider my interest and knowledge of the world of monster trucks pretty limited to say the least, but reading about the ins-and-outs of competition, the intricacies of driving (front and rear steering wheels as well as the lexan floor to help her navigate where she is when leaping over cars) and her struggle to once again make it as a woman in a male-dominated industry.
THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING is at times a very difficult read. Greg Oliver does a great job capturing Debrah's unique voice and style of storytelling, which is what you want out of an author helping tell your story. Miceli doesn’t pull any punches, calling out just about everyone who had wronged her in the past and made her life difficult. Other than her time with All Japan Women's Wrestling, it seemed like a constant uphill battle against management to be given a spotlight as an in-ring performer, especially during her later years in WCW and after making the move to Monster Jam.
My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher ECW Press for an advanced copy of this biography on this remarkable woman, her troubled upbringing, and how all that made her the powerhouse she continues to be today.
There are not many people, who could be considered trailblazers in two different kinds of sports, both physical, but both calling on very different skills to compete in. Nor can many brag about a forty year career, that honestly could continue along as long as the spirt is willing. To be inducted into the Hall of Fame for one sport, and if a Hall of Fame is ever built for the second, I am sure this person will go in also. Debrah Miceli, Madusa or Alundra Blayze is a professional wrestler, a monster truck driver, and now the author of a book that is tough, honest, true and as full of life as she is. The Woman Who Would Be King: The MADUSA Story, written with Greg Oliver is a memoir of her life, growing up with a lot of challenges, and challenging men in two very different sports, and blazing away for other women to follow.
Debrah Miceli as born with a lot of disadvantages but let not of them stop her. Miceli's mother was not equipped to be a mother, and who she thought was her father, was really her step-father was abusive in many different ways. Surrounded by lies and with a mother who didn't care much what she did, and with a streak for acting out, being expelled first from kindergarten, and later high school, forced Miceli to grow up quickly, getting a job at 14 and living on her own for quite a while. Studying nursing, Miceli was given the chance to train as a wrestler, though the money she thought she would get never quite materialized. Soon she was wrestling in the American Wrestling Association under famed promoter Verne Gagne, who started the career of many wrestlers, under the name of Madusa, which Miceli wisely trademarked. Japan came calling and soon she was learning more and having matches with some of the best wrestlers in Japan. Returning to America to the World Wrestling Federation, the precursor to the WWE of today Miceli became Alundra Blayze, leaving only when the WWF turned away from women's wrestling. Soon Monster Truck became her profession, and another legend was made.
Debrah Miceli has lived a very tough life full of pain, lies and sadness, and that was even before her wrestling career. This book is a testament to her strength in both mind and body. The narrative does tend to jump around a lot, she explains this in the introduction, so those wanting a more straight ahead story might get a tend confused. I think the writing works as we are introduced and learn about what she accomplished, readers get more of an appreciation for how she did what she did, and beat the odds that really were stacked against her. Unlike most wresting books there is not the airing of grievances, there are a few names, but unlike some the book doesn't become almost a list of people being called marks, or rubes or not understanding the business. And as someone who knew nothing about monster trucks I found that section fascinating. And just as sad and as deplorable in many ways as wrestling. Which is sad.
There are not as many books about the women in professional wrestling as one would think. Yes there haven't been as many, but one would think there would be more. Seeing the sport through different eyes is always good and see someone seem happy in life after leaving wrestling is always good. Recommended for wrestling fans, and for people who enjoy stories about people overcoming adversity, and succeeding in what they love, and actually loving themselves while doing it.
Interesting book about a person I didn't know much about before. Took me a while to get round to reading it but glad I did
As a wrestling fan, I'm the perfect audience for this book. Madusa blazed her own trail as a wrestler for WWE/WCW/Japan and had a second career as a Monster Truck driver. I wasn't too familiar with her since I missed that WWE era, but have become more familiar with her since being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame where, during her speech, she came off as an unapologetic badass and that's exactly who she is.
The ghostwriter she worked with did a phenomenal job capturing her voice and attitude. Her rough and tumble descriptions of her childhood and family are heartbreaking. She gives credit and praise where it's due and also isn't afraid to speak out against those who wronged her and wrestling's boys club.
Great book, recommend for any wrestling or Monster Truck fan or anyone who is a fan of chasing dreams that may seem ridiculous and being one of the best to ever do it at both professions.
Madusa has had two very interesting careers as a female trailblazer in both pro wrestling and monster truck driving. The monster truck half was almost more interesting to me, since I really knew nothing about that world, but there are a lot of aspects there that align with the wrestling and entertainment industries. There's egos trying to hold others down, there's injustices on where the money is flowing to, and there's a whole lot of sacrifice required.
Madusa also came to this book with a lot to get off her chest, and there's some deeply disturbing stories she tells about her traumatic childhood, her failed efforts to become a mother, difficult relationships and a variety of other heavy topics. She's super transparent and eager to share, using this book as a way to work through why she became the way she did. There's even veiled references to a powerful pro wrestler she had an affair with, and that wrestler has threatened to sue her, so she doesn't give the name but there's so many clues layered in that you should be able to figure it out if you read this book.
As far as the wrestling portion of the book, it isn't super deep on any subject. She sets that expectation early on, saying "This book is very much like I am - it jumps around like a caffeinated bumny, with the attention span of a kindergartner, who always wants to touch, taste, experience life to its fullest." So there's instances where she'll talk about a Wrestlemania match before even telling the story of getting hired by WWF, or mention a husband she hasn't even introduced into the story yet, and lots of interludes of "this is what I thought about that person". The book also suffers from the typical wrestling biography theme of the wrestler telling lots of stories where everyone had it out for them, no one understood how to draw money besides them, and self-serving versions of stories where someone says something ridiculous and the author is the only one who had any common sense. Not saying there's no truth to any of it, and there's clearly tons of anti-woman bias that Madusa had to overcome in both careers. But there's also instances where she talks about how she could never save any money due to bad payouts, and then casually references how she spent $55,000 on fencing for her wolves, for example.
Note - I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley.
The Woman Who Would Be King: The MADUSA Story by Debrah Miceli and Greg Oliver was received directly from the publisher and I chose to review it. Madusa is a name in pro wrestling's heyday that invokes a memory of a tall blond woman who took no names in the ring. She then moved on to the monster truck arena's and continued her winning ways. This book gives the bird's eye view of the trying life and times of the woman, Debra Micelli, known as Madusa through good and not-so-good, in the rings around the world and other arenas around the nation. If you like Madusa, pro wrestling, monster trucks, or just want to read an interesting autobiography, give this book a read.
Definitely more of a life story than a wrestling book, this should still appeal to Miceli’s fans.
While the wrestling career of Madusa is well-known and fondly remembered by many, it’s only part of a live lived to the full, reflected in this story. The book occasionally skips around from subject to subject rather than being a traditional chronological autobiography, but the wrestling section makes up around a third of the content.
If you’re purely interested in the wrestling itself, you may be disappointed as most specific on-screen moments are covered only in passing and there’s very little about individual matches. However, there’s plenty of insight into the life of being a wrestler in different eras and settings, in particular the contrast between being a rare female on the roster in the US and being part of an all-female crew in Japan.
Almost as much of the book covers Miceli’s love of motorcycles and her monster truck career. Some parts may be a little technical for non-fans, but there’s certainly some interesting parallels with the business side of pro wrestling including the promotional elements and the fine line between competition and camaraderie.
As noted, it’s also very much a life story, with Miceli not glossing over a harsh upbringing and some challenging personal experiences throughout her life. Across all topics, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Jeanie Clarke’s autobiography in the way that it feels extremely honest and unflinching while not verging into aggressive character assassination.
Co-writer Greg Oliver has clearly taken the approach of researching topics to bring up rather than trying to shape the book into a particular rigid format. It reads a distinct voice and at times feels almost like a well-steered “shoot interview”.
There’s maybe not quite enough material and depth to make this a recommend to those solely interested in the wrestling content, but it’s certainly worth your time if you want to know more about Miceli the person.
I was never that into women's wrestling back in the day but Madusa always seemed legit. I don't usually take on ARCS anymore but ECW Press hit me up and I couldn't refuse.
There's a lot of dark stuff in this. Madusa grew up in a rough home with an unaffectionate mother, raped by her alleged father at a young age, and was in trouble a lot as a teen. Her life turns around for the most part when she gets involved in wrestling, first with Ed Sharkey, then the AWA, then Japan, WCW, and finally the WWF. Things weren't always great there either.
The last big Madusa moment I remember was when she threw the WWF Women's title in the trash on Nitro. The WWF acted like a victim but they already told her they weren't renewing her contract and scrapping the entire women's division at the time so it's not like she had a lot of options.
From there, Madusa finishes up in WCW and becomes a monster truck driver for over twenty years. She was married a couple times, had some medical issues, and finally got inducted into the WWE hall of fame.
BUT WAIT! There's more. Madusa eventually learned the identity of her real father. He'd passed years earlier but she now has half-siblings she never realized existed! So there's a happy ending.
Madusa doesn't really pull any punches but doesn't go out of her way to get sued either. I feel like she could probably fill another book with a look of shady shit that went down with the Kliq. The stuff she does reveal was dark enough, like Eddie Gilbert being on pills constantly and the Kliq shitting in her bag to teach her a lesson.
I didn't realize how long Madusa was driving monster trucks. Time flies once you're in the steady job grind, I guess. The monster truck stuff was weirdly interesting to me. The Japan stuff was probably the most interesting to me. Like I said earlier, I wasn't that into women's wrestling but I'd like to track down some of her Japanese stuff. She seems like a bad ass.
Four out of five stars.