By Chris Sabga [Facebook | Website | X]

I first heard of Sheldon Goldberg when he appeared on the 1998 A&E documentary The Unreal Story of Pro Wrestling.  I don’t remember much about it now, 25 years later, but I’ve never forgotten Sheldon Goldberg.  Two years after Unreal Story aired, he created his own independent wrestling promotion, New England Championship Wrestling (NECW), which gave up-and-coming wrestlers in the Northeastern United States a place to ply their trade for two decades.  I eventually started following Sheldon on social media for the saddest of reasons: He broke the news about the sudden, untimely, and shocking death of my dear friend Rob Allison, who I talked to almost every day for many, many years.  These days, Mr. Goldberg posts about the business of professional wrestling – which should be essential reading for every wrestler who’s ever laced up a pair of boots, but his advice is also valuable for fans like me.  Now, Sheldon Goldberg can add being a published author to his long list of accolades.  He has written his own “unreal story of professional wrestling.”

The Last Fall is a fictional novel that reads like a biography.

It takes readers through the life and career of pro wrestler Rick Pacheco from 1971 to 1999 and the many ups and downs he experienced along the way.  I don’t think it’s an accident that the author picked this specific time frame to set the story in.  The early ’70s to the late ’90s saw the professional wrestling industry go through many massive changes.

The main character, wisely, isn’t a mythical main event figure like Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair.  Instead, he’s a successful tag team wrestler.  It’s often too calm and steady at the very top.  Anywhere below that is about as unstable as a rumbling volcano.  It’s the wrestlers in the middle who usually have the best stories to tell, because they work with everyone – from the living legends to the greenest rookies – and switch territories more often by necessity just to eke out a living.  Rick Pacheco – AKA Ricky Peterson, Rockin’ Ricky Randall, and more – is no exception.  Rick’s career is a rocky roller-coaster ride for him – and a compelling read for us.  My favorite chapters take place in an obscure Montana territory that’s well off the beaten path.

Even though Rick is a product of the author’s imagination, real-life wrestlers – such as Lou Thesz – also exist on these pages.  So do fictional characters that are clearly thinly-disguised versions of real people.  It’s a particularly fun puzzle trying to figure out exactly who is being referenced.  Is magazine writer Ralphie Ginzburg, for example, supposed to be Bill Apter, Paul Heyman, or Sheldon Goldberg himself?  Maybe all of them combined, or none of them?

With Sheldon Goldberg’s years of hands-on experience in professional wrestling, it’s no surprise that The Last Fall is so true to life.  However, as grounded in reality as the novel is, there is also some wish-fulfillment going on in these pages – in all the best ways.  A woman becoming the biggest star in professional wrestling in the ’90s would have been a pipe dream at that time and in that era, but it’s a lovely thought here.  So is an unscrupulous promoter actually facing dire consequences for decades of illegal and immoral actions.  In many ways, Sheldon Goldberg envisions a better version of the business he has dedicated his life to.

Even though The Last Fall is a fictionalized account, it should be regarded as a how-to manual for anyone who has ever thought about stepping inside a wrestling ring and a cautionary tale for those who do.

Chris Sabga has written for WOW Magazine, CBS Sportsline’s WrestleLine, IGN, They Live By Film, and

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