Can you tell us a little bit about your book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
Billy Kidman: The Shooting Star was released March 1, 2014 by Palm Tree Books. It’s available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback formats, and in paperback on Barnes and Noble. The book basically traces his career from early days wrestling for East Coast independent wrestling promotions, his stints with the late World Championship Wrestling (WCW), a four-year run with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and subsequent years leading to the present day.
I didn’t initially expect Billy Kidman: The Shooting Star to take off well as it has, assuming a few fans from the WCW days may order copies out of curiosity, so you can almost imagine my reaction when the book made US Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Wrestling three times and once Canadian Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Wrestling in March alone in addition to making the top 15 books on Amazon’s best seller lists in wrestling and nonfiction. It’s also referenced on Billy’s Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia entries and received extensive coverage by several notable wrestling media web sites.
I participate in some sports entertainment-themed message boards and am an administrator on Billy’s Facebook fan page. I remember seeing the question raised by a few old-school fans along the lines of “Whatever happened to that guy?” I found an earlier book about him last summer, but it only detailed his career up to late 2000-early 2001. The thought then crossed my mind to do a more updated version, because he’d accomplished a great deal since 2001. Between working on other projects at the time, I conducted some research for this book, discovering lesser-known information I included with material in which fans are already familiar.
It doesn’t matter to me, but I can say there’s no better feeling than holding actual paperback or hardcover books in your hands. Ebooks are somewhat more portable, but they don’t have the feel, smell, or other attributes of print editions.
It changes from week to week. I like reading a lot of classics and also support my fellow independent authors. I go through several books in a period of time, mostly those I think would make great features for my book blog, The Book Shelf.
Real life events and actual people have inspired my past books, but I do plot out general ideas of how I want my story to unfold before I write. In the case of nonfiction, extensive research was involved, since much accuracy as possible and being unbiased were critical points. Speaking from personal experience, it’s somewhat easier putting together everything to write fiction!
Never, ever give up. If I’d taken to heart the naysayers who said my latest book could’ve been written on a Post-It note and probably fail, I doubt it would’ve ever been written, let alone published. Work hard, step out of your comfort zone once in a while, and remember that among that stack of rejection slips is someone waiting to take a chance on your work.
Billy Kidman carved out a career as one of World Championship Wrestling’s and World Wrestling Entertainment’s most exciting cruiserweights. A solid in-ring worker for little over a decade, he enjoyed success as a multiple-time cruiserweight and tag team champion during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Kidman wrestled for several American and overseas independent promotions after being released from WWE and then became a trainer and occasional wrestler for Florida Championship Wrestling (now NXT). Now retired from the ring, he works as a producer at WWE events in the Gorilla Position.
Billy Kidman: The Shooting Star contains updated and some never before revealed information behind the story of an underrated and under-appreciated talent who achieved success in several aspects of the wrestling business before age 40.
DISCLAIMER: This book was not prepared, approved, licensed or endorsed by Peter Gruner, Jr., World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), members of WWE, or any other wrestling organization.
Allentown is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s third most populous municipality behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with a population of approximately 118,000 people. Allentown emerged over the years as the state’s fastest growing municipality and America’s 222nd largest city. As the seat of Lehigh County, Allentown is perhaps best known for Billy Joel’s 1982 hit song bearing the same name.
Many print and online wrestling publications often state the man born Peter Alan Gruner, Jr. on May 11, 1974 as an Allentown native, but his actual birthplace is New Haven, Connecticut. He once lived in Orefield, Pennsylvania, a small unincorporated community located only a few miles from Allentown.
Pete Gruner attended Kernsville Elementary in Orefield and Troxell Junior High School in South Whitehall Township before graduating from Parkland High School in 1992.
The extremely athletic Gruner played sports throughout his teen years, excelling in baseball and track, but wrestling remained his first love from age six.
“I still remember when my dad took me to my first live wrestling match,” he reflected in a 1997 interview with Ross Foreman. “It was in the mid-1980s at the New Haven Coliseum and Hulk Hogan was there. It was just amazing.”
Hogan’s 6'8 frame and mammoth sizes of other wrestlers appearing in that show couldn’t have gone unnoticed by Gruner. Other stars of the WWF era such as Andre the Giant, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Big Boss Man, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage all exceeded six feet in height and had billed weights well over 230 pounds.
Gruner stopped growing at 5‘10 and 195 pounds by adulthood.
The first step to achieving his dream was literally nearby: Allentown became the home of Afa’s Wild Samoan Training Center during the late 1980‘s.
Afa Anoaʻi is a member of WWE’s Hall of Fame and a former three-time tag team champion as one half of the legendary Wild Samoans. Michael Hayes and Yokozuna are just two names among a list of wrestling luminaries whom Afa previously trained.
Sixteen-year-old Pete Gruner was a regular visitor at the Wild Samoan Training Center. He made an early attempt to inquire about training, but Afa remained adamant that he wouldn’t work with the youth until he turned eighteen.
Gruner returned to the Wild Samoan Training Center three years later, borrowing money from his college fund in addition to working as a bank teller and lifeguard to cover tuition.
“I thought I needed to go to school to have something to fall back on, but I just couldn't stick it out. I had to go for my dream and go for a shot at wrestling,” he explained in an August 1999 WOW Magazine feature.
“After a while, he [Gruner] spent so much time here that I figured I might as well train him,” Afa told The Wrestler magazine. “He always had a lot of heart and natural ability, even though he isn’t big. But heart and ability can make up for that.”
The majority of Gruner’s Wild Samoan classmates were considerably larger in size, but none had as much determination or athletic ability. He was often thrown around in the ring and took several bumps, both which inspired him to become smarter, quicker, and more athletic.
Wrestling training isn’t simple or painless as many tend to think, facets for which Gruner was grateful.
“The hard part about training was getting the guts to get in the ring and take the bumps and learn the falls and things like that,” he elaborated in WOW Magazine. “Afa made sure you did your stuff right, which is good. You are not allowed to move in what you've learned until you get what you’re working on right. You can't advance until you have your stuff down pat. You look back on that and you are thankful for it because that's what makes you good.”
He also shared a common trait with Afa: being a perfectionist. “I like to do my best in everything. I like to give it my all. If you're not going to give your all, it's not even worth doing. I'm my worst critic far as when I watch my matches, seeing things I could have done better or want to do different next time. When it comes to wrestling, I am self-motivated. When it comes to wrestling, since that's my love and my dream, I always motivate myself to do what I have to do.”
Gruner spent most of his training sharpening aerial skills by developing sublime drop kicks from the ropes and a breathtaking moonsault variation based on the style originated by Jushin “Thunder” Liger in Japan that would become Gruner’s most famous move - The Shooting Star Press.
His version involved standing on the ropes, jumping, performing a back flip, and landing on his downed opponent. It’s not easy to execute, requiring jumping forward and doing back flips at the same time.
Gruner graduated from the Wild Samoan’s six-month program in November 1994 - completing initial training in record time of three months - but continued working with Afa to further strengthen his skills.
But one question remained unanswered: would the skinny yet highly athletic kid from Eastern Pennsylvania ever make it in a profession usually reserved for men of colossal proportions?
Pete Gruner believed he could, and set out to prove his early detractors wrong.
L. Anne Carrington is an Amazon bestselling author, freelance writer/journalist, and radio show host whose previous work covered topics from fiction to news stories, human interest features, and entertainment reviews. She wrote The Wrestling Babe Internet column for seven years, a former music reviewer for Indie Music Stop, former book reviewer for Free Press (an imprint of Simon and Schuster), and pens several other works which appears in both print and Web media.
One of her freelance articles, An Overview of Causes of Hearing Loss and Deafness, was bought by Internet Broadcasting Systems, a company that co-produced NBCOlympics.com for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics in addition to being the leading provider of Web sites, content and advertising revenue solutions to the largest and most successful media companies.
In addition to her acclaimed novels in The Cruiserweight Series and nonfiction wrestling bestseller Billy Kidman: The Shooting Star among works of both fiction and nonfiction, Ms. Carrington hosts The L. Anne Carrington Show on Spreaker Radio.
She spends time between Pittsburgh, PA and Tampa, FL, continuing to write.
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