I’ve known Chad Matthews in one capacity or another for over a decade and a half. Whether it was reading each others’ columns, enjoying his unique reviews of SmackDown back in the day or working side by side to grow Lords of Pain Radio into what it has become, Chad is a guy I’ve always had a lot of respect for as both a writer and a human being.
I will admit, though, to being somewhat surprised by just how much I enjoyed reading his newest long form literary effort, The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era. I’ve long enjoyed his columns and have taken great pleasure from reading his previous books, but this one struck a different nerve in me. Quite frankly, as I dug into it and started the journey to #1, I suddenly found myself unable to put it down. This culminated in one evening where I intended to read a couple chapters before going to sleep around 11pm, only to find myself looking up at the clock some 4 hours and well more than a couple of chapters later to find that I had to be up for work in about an hour and a half. Thanks, Chad. Your writing style is so engaging that it jeopardized my employment status.
All kidding aside (or was it kidding?), anyone who has ever read anything from The Doc knows what they’re getting when they dive into one of his new endeavors. You’re going to get well thought out and researched information filtered through opinion that always comes off as far more conversational than it does being talked down to by some sort of expert. Chad isn’t any more of an expert than you or I. He’s a fan. A dedicated, multiple decades under his belt fan that quite simply loves pro wrestling.
This fact, his love for the mat game, combines with his passion for digging deeper into those things that grab his interest to bring to the table a book that reads like education by way of friendly conversation over dinner or drinks. Never once does Chad claim that his is the only opinion that matters. Never once does he dismiss the opinions of anyone else. Instead, what he does is present HIS opinion, framed as such, backed up with hundreds of hours of research and painstakingly careful thought. Which maybe, I suppose, does make his opinion more valid.
You’d never hear him say it, though. What you will hear him say is that this book was a labor of love, and it shows very plainly on every page. This is a book about pro wrestling, written for pro wrestling fans by a pro wrestling fan and it reads like exactly that. From the internal debate about what should rank at numbers 1 and 2 to the pure wrestling nerd joy of breaking down his ranking system in the book’s final chapter, this is not only a book that you’ll enjoy but one that you’ll relate to. If you have ever once sat and tried to rank the greatest anything in professional wrestling, (and honestly, who among us haven’t?) you’ll know exactly where the passion for this project came from.
Look, I could sit here and blow smoke just because I’ve known Chad forever. I do have at least a shred of a reputation of my own to uphold, though, and wouldn’t be comfortable just showing up to shill the latest project from a fellow Lords of Pain contributor. Frankly? If I didn’t like the book, I wouldn’t be writing this. I’d just smile and nod and give a big thumbs up or something. Fortunately for me, that’s something I haven’t had to do thus far over the course of my LOP career.
I’m not starting now. The Doc has put together one hell of a book here, but it’s more than that. It’s one hell of a fun ride. It’s one hell of a discussion starter. It’s one hell of a page turner. And it’s one hell of a love letter to pro wrestling fandom, one that I think any one of us could see our own relationship with the mat game reflected in.
I won’t tell you that The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era is must read. Nothing is must read, I guess. But if you intend to read a book about this pretend fighting show that we all seem to enjoy so much and you want it to be one that’s not only good but that you’ll also genuinely enjoy paging through into the wee hours of the morning, this book is as close to must read as I’ve run across in a very long time.
Congrats on the fruition of this project, Chad. Thanks for sharing your unabashed fandom with me and everyone else. Much love, my friend.