Professional wrestling has long been about larger-than-life personas and storylines: Unexpected double- crossing. Rags-to-riches superstars. Action-packed entertainment.
But that’s just the half of it. In many cases, wrestlers spend years working on their in-ring personality, fine-tuning their moves and absorbing constant punishment in hopes of one day reaching the sport’s highest level.
And that’s the focus of Ron Snyder’s new book, “Wrestling’s New Golden Age: How Independent Promotions Have Revolutionized One of America’s Favorite Sports.”
The book, published by Skyhorse Publishing and released Tuesday, traces the origins of independent wrestling back to its roots, how the scene has evolved and what it takes to become “a mega superstar.” Through years of research, interviews and pure interest, Snyder said he found more than enough tall tales to tell.
“There were a lot of these interesting, compelling untold stories,” said Snyder, 39, who resides in Middle River with his wife and three children. “I realized I had all this material, and I said to myself, ‘There is something here.’ I felt like there was something for all kinds of readers, especially with this type of project.”
A Pikesville native and Pikesville High School graduate, Snyder has made his living telling stories for quite a while. He is an award-winning journalist who has spent much of the last 15 years writing about local sports, politics and any other subject matter that comes his way.
When he graduated from Towson University in 2000 and went into journalism full time, Snyder, a former JT reporter, always dreamed of writing a book. But managing to find the time, pinpointing an idea and getting the financial support of a publisher was somewhat of a challenge at first, he admitted.
“I had pitched about seven or eight books at a meeting, and my wrestling book was the last one on the list. They liked that one, and I was like, ‘Really? OK,’” Snyder said with an upbeat tone.
It took Snyder seven years of meetings, pitches and rejection with various publishers before Skyhorse finally gave him the green light to pen his first book. He just never thought it would be about wrestling.
“No, I really never saw that one coming,” Snyder said with a chuckle.
For the less familiar, this style of wrestling is probably best understood as a sweaty theater, “or male soap opera,” rather than a traditional sporting competition, Snyder said.
For years, World Wrestling Entertainment has been the gold standard by which all other wrestling promotions are measured. Since WWE bought rival promotion World Championship Wrestling in 2001, the independent wrestling circuit has experienced a renaissance and piqued the interest of fans like never before, Snyder said.
Independent wrestling, known as the “indy circuit” to wrestling buffs, is equivalent to the minor leagues for WWE. For fans, Snyder said, it can be a way to see the next superstars before they receive their call-up.
“Today, a lot of these wrestlers are moving up the chain,” Snyder said. “It’s kind of like fans of these guys are fans of [Orioles third baseman] Manny Machado when they saw him in the minors. It’s like, ‘Hey, I remember where you started,’ and then these wrestlers get to the WWE, and there’s this built-in connection.”
Snyder has been a wrestling fan since childhood. Back then, he followed the likes of WWE Hall of Famers Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, all of whom started on the independent circuit. When there were live shows in town, Snyder would make the trek to the Baltimore Arena — now Royal Farms Arena — to catch the action.
In recent years, Snyder has especially savored the action at Joppa-based MCW Pro Wrestling, one of the most enduring regional independent promotions in the country. During an MCW event, Snyder met Andy “The Winner” Vineberg, a longtime manager and personality with MCW and a fellow tribe member.
The two formed an instant bond, and Vineberg, 43, of Sparks Glencoe, said he appreciates how much Snyder understands independent wrestling, as well as the hard work that went into the book.
“Ron is a good friend and a winner for sure,” Vineberg said. “Ron is a guy I really enjoy talking to and interacting with, because he is a guy who really supports independent wrestling. More than that, his book is exactly what the title says it is and why independent wrestling is so great and how it is the foundation of professional wrestling.”
Working on the book took about 16 months from start to finish, taking up a lot Snyder’s nights, weekends and other occasions. He conducted interviews periodically at MCW events and on the phone and completed at least a few pages each time he sat down to write.
Nonetheless, despite the countless hours of transcribing, writing, proofreading and editing, the project allowed Snyder to combine his passions for storytelling and wrestling in a pleasurable way.
“It was process, and it wasn’t easy,” he said. “But it was a very enjoyable experience to be able to write something you’re so passionate about.”
Snyder is pleased with the result. He finally realized his long-awaited goal, something he recognized with the outpouring of support he said he received leading up to the book’s release.
“I still haven’t even gotten a copy of the book, but the response from what I have seen on social media leading up to the publishing date has been overwhelming,” he said.
“Wrestling’s New Golden Age: How Independent Promotions Have Revolutionized One of America’s Favorite Sports” is available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble and wherever else books are sold.