REVIEW: Butts in Seats – The Tony Schiavone Story (2021)

A Graphic Novel by Dirk Manning, Tony Schiavone & Various Artists

“That’ll put some butts in the seats” – the infamous bad wrestling call that signified the “turning point” in the so-called Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWF. Tony Schiavone uttered the phrase as he was asked to spoil the results of a taped WWF broadcast wherein The legendary Mick Foley (as Mankind) won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, causing a wave of people to change channels, some perhaps never coming back. To some, this whole thing was Tony’s fault, and WWE fans like to never let him forget about it.

I think one of the biggest injustices in wrestling history was the revisionism (largely from WWE corporate spin via documentaries) of the impact the famous wrestling commentator, Tony Schiavone, had on the wrestling business. After the fall of WCW, his role was largely overlooked and slandered as “him being bitter and hating wrestling and wrestling fans”. The truth is, that never happened, and this book goes a long way of showing his side of his absence from “the business”, his humble beginnings, and his time heading into his triumphant return in All Elite Wrestling a few years back. For me, while I watched WWF in the 90’s, I was much more of a WCW fan and Tony was “the voice of my childhood” in many ways. Just hearing the man talk on the microphone in 2022 brings a big part of my childhood back, and one of the best wrestling commentators is finally getting his due.

BUTTS IN SEATS: THE TONY SCHIAVONE STORY is a ten chapter graphic novel retrospective of Tony’s whole life and career written by Dirk Manning with Tony Schiavone, with each chapter illustrated by a different artist handpicked to best portray that stage of Tony’s life and career — both inside and outside professional wrestling! Check out this stunning line-up of artists, illustrators, and creatives who are also a part of this book:”

This book is done like a documentary where somebody is interviewing Tony Schiavone about his life. I’m sure the script for the book likely came from an actual interview that has been adapted, which is pretty cool. Each chapter is drawn by a different artist, with some art being better than others, but they all come together to showcase Tony’s life from his high school years aspiring to be a baseball commentator all the way to today. I was surprised to find out exactly what caused Tony to avoid wrestling for so long, and honestly he’s a strong man to hang in there for as long as he did even though he lost friends and was taken advantage of in the dying days of WCW. Tony really lays it all out for everyone to see and hides nothing. That is especially evident on the last few chapters which are hilariously off-color road stories including a particularly bad bout with a gigantic order of Jalapeno poppers.

My favorite chapters are obviously the ones about WCW, and even though Tony doesn’t “bury” anyone here, you can tell he was not a fan of some of the insane nonsense happening round him. The fact that he hung in there as long as he did is a testament to his character and work ethic. We see Tony hot his low point in about 2016 while there wasn’t much market for an aging wrestling / sports announcer, and he finally discovered how much he meant to the fans. The fans brought him back into the fold, and eventually to the eyes of Tony Khan and the rest is history.

This was an awesome book that did a great job of showcasing the life of a rather unsung hero of professional wrestling. I wish there was one art style throughout, but none of the sections are bad, and the scripting is top notch. Everything seems personal, and important, as it should be in a book like this. The structure kind of reminded me of a book Jim Cornette did a while back called Behind the Curtain that I have not reviewed on here. Overall, I am glad I got this, and I am especially happy to have received the deluxe Kickstarter Edition with all the bells and whistles you can imagine. I’m not sure if that version is available to the mass market, but if you can find it, it’s great!

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