First things first: “Way of the Blade” is one of the coolest pro wrestling projects I have seen in a while. Just like the title says, it catalogs 100 of the greatest bloody matches, starting in France in 1957 and ending in Mexico in 2019. It covers all of the promotions you are thinking of, it probably has one or two of your favorite matches, and you’ll end up making a big list on YouTube with the matches featured in this book. Hell, I’ll make it easier and tell you that the matches with the links are here. Alongside the list, you will get 100 beautiful bloody illustrations by Chris Bryan.
I understand that a list of matches might sound boring or maybe like a Wikipedia article, but trust me, this is anything but that. You get the 100 matches with their context, a small biography of the wrestlers, and the description of how the match went. The match description is not move by move, it’s just a description of the story of the match and the biggest spots.
Phil Schneider did a great job choosing the matches for this list. He points out that this is his list, these are his decisions, and he is a person that has seen a lot of pro wrestling and it shows. He truly loves all of this. Schneider writes about each match and the wrestlers passionately, a passion that will make you go “I don’t like that wrestler, but maybe I should check out that match” or “How the hell did I not know of that Curt Hennig match,” or in my case “I should really check out Pirata Morgan”.
This is what makes this project different from a normal greatest matches list. You can go and watch all of the 5-star Meltzer matches list, or an AJPW in the ‘90s YouTube playlist, or random matches on the WWE Network, but it ain’t the same if you don’t have a full context. By reading this book, you can go into the matches with greater appreciation. For example, you will understand the extreme heat of Jerry Lawler vs Austin Idol or why Ric Flair vs Ricky Morton is awesome.
Another thing about the list is that it is not simply hardcore matches. Hardcore and deathmatches come to mind when thinking of bloody wrestling, but you get a wide variety here, from accidental blood to really stiff matches where wrestlers ended up bleeding. Lots of them are feud enders. There are technical matches and 60 minute draws. You even have a WrestleMania match (of course it’s Austin vs Hart). This is a run-through on how the violent matches have changed throughout history.
This is also perfect for newer fans. They will get to learn about how blood feuds were done back in the ’60s, in the territory days in the ’80s, how the WWF/E have changed their bloody feuds throughout the years, the awesome WCW early ’90s matches, how they were done in the indie boom of the ’00s, the history of apuestas matches in Mexico, bloody matches from Japan, and many more styles and times. For those who don’t understand Onita, they will end up loving him after this book. You can see the evolution of Terry Funk and how he changed his style with the times. You will learn how over Jerry Lawler was and why. This is rich in wrestling history, and it’s in order.
A really cool thing is that this does not cover only wrestling in the US. You get a Carlos Colon match from Puerto Rico. There are a lot of apuestas matches from Mexico, one of my biggest blind spots in pro wrestling. I added Sangre Chicana, El Hijo del Santo, Perry Aguayo, and Pirata Morgan matches to my list just because their description was awesome. You get matches from Japan with not only Onita in FMW, but NJPW matches with Muto, Fujiwara, Choshu, and Liger. There are even matches from IWRG and Zona 23, low-level indies from Mexico.
“Way of the Blade” feels like a wrestling nerd, and I mean that in the most complimentary way, taking you on a trip throughout wrestling history and the history of bloody matches. It’s really cool, you will end up using YouTube a lot, and you will appreciate pro wrestlers, company, and match types even more. You will even discover some new favorite stuff. Even if you don’t agree with some of the matches, you will understand why they are on the list, and I felt that all of them deserved to be there.
This is a definite recommendation. It’s pro wrestling history in a very fun way, it’s a very specific topic, and it has beautiful bloody artwork. What more can you ask?