Review: Grasso’s ‘The Theatre of Blood’ Captures The Art Of The Deathmatch

Pictures are worth a thousand words in photographer Chris Grasso's ultraviolent pictorial.
Combat Zone Wrestling star Conor Claxton sports a crimson mask (Credit: Chris Grasso.)

It has taken me a while to come up with the words to describe a book that has so few. Make no mistake, though. The 60 pages of gore that makes up photographer Chris Grasso’s “” tells an ultraviolent tale of more than 50 characters across a two-year span.

From the title’s foreword, written by former deathmatch competitor Rory Gulak, the more than 650 images takes the reader through a crash course on professional wrestling’s most condemned subculture. For the veteran deathmatch fan, it’s a worthy addition to one’s catalogue. For the critics, it’s an invitation to embrace its true purpose: being a form of art.

The images capture the pain, the bloodshed, the broken glass and immortal-like perseverance of icons like John Zandig, Jun Kasai, and Masada while also showing the evolution of newcomers such as Conor Claxton.

“The Theatre of Blood” by Chris Grasso

Flipping through the pages, I was reminded why I truly fell in love with this business: the world of professional wrestling—not “Sports Entertainment.” If it weren’t for the forefathers of ultraviolence—Zandig, Lobo, Nick Gage,  and “Sick” Nick Mondo—I would have never seen the early days of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and numerous others who wrestled in Combat Zone Wrestling at the time. I became a true pro wrestling fan because the deathmatches pulled me in and never let go.

My favorite section of the book is “The Leap of Faith.” This series of images documents Zandig’s resurgence against Joey Janela, where the “Ultraviolent Icon” sent the pair crashing into the back of a truck through light tubes and barbed wire—a nod to one of the most famous bumps in pro wrestling history.

Some of the shots are difficult to look at, such as Rickey Shane Page’s laceration above his left eyebrow at CZW’s Tournament of Death 15. But it tells the story of a man who persevered to win the annual deathmatch tournament. From that same set, there is an image of Jeff Cannonball getting a kenzan pulled from his head that’ll leave a knot in your throat.

Reaching the end, you’ll come across quotes from the few that have chosen the ultraviolent path on why they do it. Upon its completion, you’ll come to understand deathmatch wrestling for the art that it really is, as well as the artists themselves.

Mark Whited
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Mark Whited

Founder / Editor-In-Chief at
An avid writer and fan of wrestling since he was eight years old, Mark Whited founded in May 2014. While hoping to one day step foot in a wrestling ring, he also writes for a number of outlets, including The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Mark Whited
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The Theatre of Blood
The Theatre of Blood
  • More than 650 pictures to satisfy the bloodthirsty fan.
  • Seven pages of previously unreleased images.
  • The only pictorial of its kind to be released in North America.
  • Captures the bloodshed across numerous promotions.
  • A bloody good addition to the bookshelf
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