Blood & Thunder – volume 1: The Story of the I

March 28, 2022

With this title aimed at a niche audience, it is a fittingly in-depth work that will satisfy the most curious reader.

The book follows a simple premise: follow the first 10 significant independent promotions to launch in Japan following the establishment of All Japan and New Japan as top dogs. With more than 500 pages in the book, this means each is explored in depth, including its origins, demise and a combination of in-ring and backstage development.

Compared with the largely similar approaches of the existing promotions, the first thing to stand out is the sheer variety of in-ring styles of the 10 groups featured here, including shoot style (UWF, PWF-G, UWFI-i, RINGS), high-flying (Universal Lucha Libre), mixed martial arts (Pioneer Senshi, Seishin Kaikan) and violence (FMW) along with the more traditional styles of Japan Pro-Wrestling and Super World Sports.

The accounts of each promotion are written in a self-contained manner, bringing pros and cons. It highlights and reveals the connections between the groups, particularly the perhaps underappreciated importance of Hisashi Shinma to the Japanese scene. However, it does mean some elements of repetition for those who plough through the book as quickly as possible.

For anyone but the most dedicated student of the Japanese business, this will likely reveal events and their causes in a level of detail beyond even the well-told stories. The political machinations are often just as insane as those of the better-documented (in English at least) US scene.

Part of the depth of the book is that virtually every tour the promotion in question ran is covered, with roster members, key shows and major matches included. This can be a slog at times (particularly in later-stage RINGS that had little traditional booking and storylines), though discovering some of the unlikely foreign imports who worked for the promotions is often a delight.

How this approach works in future volumes will be interesting as it’s hard to imagine Boon having space for a tour-by-tour account of promotions like Big Japan and DDT that have survived more than a quarter of a century. Here, though, it works more often than not given than each group’s survival from tour to tour was often in question.)

Inevitably the in-depth approach makes this an expensive production in print-on-demand format, though an e-book format is in the works, which may suit those who aren’t print collectors.

Whether you are learning about a promotion for the first time or getting new insights into a group whose in-ring action you followed (and for many readers it will be a mix across the book), Blood and Thunder comes highly recommended for those wishing to expand their historical knowledge.

Blood and Thunder is currently available to order at

Disclaimer: The author (who is a personal friend) supplied a review copy.

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