Bob Holly is a hard man. He was born on a hard day, in a hard week, during a freak outbreak of total hardness. Got that? Good - Bob wants to make that very clear.
Bob Holly was in the WWE for 13 years. 13 years which included the Montreal Screwjob, the Attitude Era, the deaths of Owen Hart, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero (and too many others), the Monday Night War, the collapse of WCW and the WWE brand extension and subsequent move to a PG product. During that time, he won precisely zero prominent titles and, to my mind at least, never had a single memorable match, angle or feud. By the time he left, he had a reputation as a locker room bully.
This book describes the life of a mid-card WWE wrestler and the sacrifices that it takes to get to that role and to stay in it. Holly is one of the guys who spent years getting beaten up for a living, making the likes of Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Batista and Randy Orton look good so that they can go on to be superstars.
Before getting to WWE, Holly worked as a mechanic, spent his spare time racing stock cars and training as a wrestler, going through the (now familiar, thanks to the raft on wrestling autobiographies on the market) routine of brutal training and regional promotions where he would travel hundreds of miles and get paid peanuts. He also entered (and appears to have won, as a rule) legit hardman contests in Southern US bars, and, on one occasion, wrestled a bear.
Holly presents himself as a simple man, with a simple philosophy of life, based around Hard Work, Physical Strength and Toughness, Keeping Your Head Down and, most important, Respect. Holly takes respect very seriously. Anyone he perceives as disrespecting him, the WWE or the wrestling industry is brutally exposed in this book. There are many instances of Bob ending a story with 'I lost all respect for him after that'.
And that is the great strength of 'The Hardcore Truth'. Holly gives it both barrels, giving his history of the 00s WWE with no sugar coating. Over the course of this hugely entertaining 300 pages, he lambasts, among others, Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Triple H and (the pick of the bunch) Jeff Jarrett. It comes as very little surprise to reach the end of the book and hear that Bob does not believe that he has any friends from the wrestling industry. And that was before they read his book!
At its conclusion, The Hardcore Truth asks its reader to re-consider their view of Holly, so I have does as he asked, and (unfortunately), I find myself concluding that Bob is a bit of a plonker. As one of a self-appointed gang of genuine Hard Cases in the WWE (along with John 'Bradshaw' Layfield, Ron Simmons, Steve Blackman and The Undertaker), Bob hands out his version of justice (no surprises to learn that it is generally physical) as he sees fit. He has absolute contempt for wimps and 'pussies'. He wrestles 'stiff', expects others to do the same, and is not averse to pushing the acceptable boundaries when he feels it necessary. At the same time, however, he allows himself to be bullied, abused, manipulated and over-looked by Vince McMahon and the WWE management / creative team. He excuses this in the main by making it clear that he feels a real man should keep his head down, his mouth shut and do the job. However, it is clear that is very bitter about not being placed in a higher spot in the card, not being pushed and not being included in Wrestlemania Cards on many years. That sounds a little bit 'pussy-ish' to me, Bob.
But Bob lives by Bob's rules and it is hard not to warm to a man who would rather sacrifice his career (and his body) than his principals. I am delighted to hear that Bob is healthy, happy and (reasonably) wealthy after his career, because he was part of the Greatest decade of wrestllng in history. I would urge anyone who remembers that Golden Age to read this book.