Celebrating the zaniest, goriest bouts of all time! Featuring piranhas, exploding swimming pools, scorpions and…loaves of bread?
In honor of April Fools Day, what industry deserves more applauding than the world of professional wrestling?
If you can think of any field out there sleazier and less reputable than wrestling, you’re probably either a sex worker or a politician. It’s an entire entertainment culture wrapped around men, in various stages of nudity, pretending to clobber each other with furniture, for the amusement of hicks, hayseeds and bumpkins the world over. And let’s not kid ourselves; pro wrestling is one of the few cultural art forms present in nearly EVERY corner of the globe. The U.S., Europe, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, the Caribbean Islands, India, South Africa - all popular stops for the world’s largest wrestling promotions, and localities with pretty sizable homegrown federations, to boot.
In a world filled with pretense and duplicity, pro wrestling is probably the only professional field out there that I can think of that whole-heartedly embraces its own tropes and stupidity. It’s almost universally loathed, but at the same time, I think the global popularity of the “Proletariat Opera” is completely ignored by the mainstream media. In about a week, the WWE is going to sell out the Meadowlands Stadium and rake in hundreds of millions of dollars via its 29th annual WrestleMania event. For something completely uncool and internationally hated, that’s a lot of money being generated by one event. Hell, let’s see Cirque de Soleil fill out ANY NFL stadium, ever.
To commemorate a day anchored around misleading, lying and taking advantage of the gullible, I decided to take a look back at the most INSANELY violent pro wrestling incidents ever. Trust me, the shortlist for this thing could’ve gone on for about 90 additional pages. So, what makes these moment the most INSANELY violent in the pseudo-sport’s pseudo-history? Well, the emphasize here is on the term “insane” - that being, forms of consensual, for-profit performance-art violence that are so bizarre, deranged and utterly incomprehensible that you wonder if the ideas weren’t barked out of the mouth of a guy wearing a straight jacket. I tried to steer clear if the stuff people have already brought up a million times, so unless you are a Grade-A, DVDVR-navigating, Botchamania-watching, Dave Meltzer-worshiping uber-wrestling nerd, these absurdly chaotic events should be new to you. Now hit the lights, folks; it’s time to countdown the downright zaniest, weirdest and most stomach-churning slobber knockers in the history of ‘pro-fesh-null ‘rasslin!
Insane Moment #009
New Jack Shreds a Minor Half to Death for our Amusement!
Jerome Young -- better known by his ring name “New Jack” -- is the kind of person that you really, really wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. Ever. In the documentary “Beyond the Mat,” he claimed to be an ex-bounty hunter with numerous “justifiable homicides,” and even for an occupation as absurdly violent as professional wrestling, New Jack’s exploits are downright legendary.
For one, he began his career as part of a race-baiting tag-team called “The Gangstas,” whose gimmick was that they could win matches with “two-count” pins as opposed to the traditional three because of “affirmative action.” The NAACP, if you can believe it, were not pleased. In 2004, he made national headlines when a fellow wrestler pressed attempted murder charges against him when he stabbed him more than a dozen times in the ring; this I might add, just a year after New Jack pummeled a 60-year old wrestler half to death for real at an independent circuit show, which just so happened to be the same year that he admitted in a “shoot interview” that he had attempted to kill another wrestler by throwing him off a scaffold in the early ‘00s. What Usain Bolt is to running really fast, New Jack is to turning make-believe acts of violence into horrific displays of real-world carnage.
His most iconic display of horrific violence, however, came in Nov. 1996, when New Jack almost killed a 17 year old wrestler - who lied about his age - by slicing open an artery in the poor kid’s face during a botched “blade job.” The incident triggered a lengthy lawsuit and almost resulted in Extreme Championship Wrestling losing a vital Pay-Per-View deal. And New Jack’s infamous reply when the underage kid he just carved up was rushed back to the locker room? “I don’t care if the motherfucker dies! He’s white.”
Insane Moment #008
In Puerto Rico, Matches Don’t End Until SOMEBODY Starts Vomiting Blood!
For those of you that know anything about the Puerto Rican wrestling circuit, you’ll know that it has among the craziest fan bases in the world, regarding anything. And when I say “crazy,” I don’t mean passionate, but more like “homicidally violent.” Try checking out Mick Foley or Chris Jericho’s autobiographies, and their HIGH-LARIOUS tales of wrestlers having piss thrown on them and people getting attacked in parking lots with dookie-contaminated shivs. It’s a real hoot and a half, I tell you.
Perhaps the most (in)famous Puerto Rican circuit story of them all involves the real-life murder of Bruiser Brody, a legendary American grappler, at the hands of a local wrestler/booker, Jose “Invader #1” Gonzalez. And as horrific as it may be, I really can’t imagine that real life stabbing being any more violent than what happened in the ring just two months prior.
So, there’s this guy named Manny Fernandez, and at 240 pounds and six feet plus, he's kind of a big dude. In 1988, Fernandez was having a match against a dude named “Invader #3.” It’s your standard pro-wrestling bout, until the end, when Fernandez KEEPS knee dropping Invader #3 off the top rope…until the latter starts PUKING BLOOD ALL OVER THE CANVAS. Clearly, something horrific went down (normally, even the most skilled “bleeders” are incapable of projectile vomiting plasma from their mouths like a water sprinkler) and the end result? Folks, you may not EVER be able to eat ketchup again…
Insane Moment #007
JAPAN - Where Death Matches at Book Stores Just Kinda’ Happen!
When it comes to batshit pro wrestling lunacy, NO peoples on earth do it better than the Japanese (as you will see, TIME AND TIME AGAIN, on this countdown.) While the “death match” wasn’t pioneered by the Japanese, per se, they certainly innovated it to a new level of artistic, violent poetry, with numerous “hardcore promotions” featuring ridiculously bloody, gimmick-heavy matches becoming popular all-across Nippon throughout the late 1980s and 1990s.
While the popularity of “death match wrestling” began to wan in the 2000s, it certainly did not die off, by any stretch. While the subgenre of wrestling become mildly less bloody as the years progressed, certain promotions more than upped the ante by making said matches as unfathomably bizarre as humanly possible. Case in point? This Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) bout which took place in that veritable Bastille of pro wrestling carnage - a Barnes and Noble super-store.
So, sure, I COULD attempt to give you play-by-play for this wild and wooly tag-team match featuring Rising Sun super stars Ibushi Kota, Sanshiro Takagi, Danshoku Dieno and Michael Nakazawa, OR, I could let you intake the madness of grown men, wearing thongs, slapping each other around a Borders and hitting each other over the heads with cardboard cutouts for “Bones” DVDS for yourself. Why doesn’t this stuff ever happen at the Books-A-Million across the street, I often wonder?
Insane Moment #006
JAPAN - Where Victors Are Declared Based on Technique (and ability to devour large quantities of carbohydrates in short time periods!)
For far too long, my dual loves of hyper-violent, make-believe Japanese fisticuffs and carbohydrates have had to reside in separate domains. And then, along comes a bout like this one to merge the two into a singularity of bizarre brilliance.
In 2011, Japanese indy league Union Pro (not surprisingly, a subsidiary of the afore-mentioned DDT promotion) booked a match between Tsuyoshi Kikuchi and Ken Ohka. Unlike most of the matches on this countdown -- which are loaded with gore, guts, explosions and scuffling in bizarre places -- this bout, at times, actually resembled an authentic wrestling match, with wrestlers performing wrestling maneuvers inside a wrestling ring. Well, with one noticeable catch; there were loaves of bread…of all considerable shapes, sizes, and grain content…strung above the ring on shoestring laces. And the only way to win the match? To snag, chew and digest more pieces of bread than your opponent, while simultaneously whooping his ass from pillar to post.
With the ring looking not unlike Tom Green’s sausage-decorated living room during that one scene in “Freddy Got Fingered,” the two opponents proceeded to put on a battle for the ages, all the while stuffing their mouths with hot dog buns, baguettes and whole loaves of white bread. Sure, sure, you can decry it as a display of absurdity writ large, but think about the mechanics here; it’s two dudes, power bombing and guillotine choking each other, while trying to out chew each other at the same time. It’s like playing a game of full contact rugby while simultaneously eating a bag of Ruffles; it may be stupid, but at the same time, it’s pretty damn impressive, too.
Insane Moment #005
JAPAN - Where Rotund Sociopaths Battling Punk-Rock Meth-Cowboys with Light Tubes Trumps Shakespearean Theater!
Japanese pro-wrestling icon Abdullah Kobayashi looks like a composite sketch combining the nightmarish psychosexual fantasies of Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy. At well over 300 pounds, the towering grappler has a baby face that, for a moment, might just have you thinking he’s something other than a sadomasochist maniac. And then, you watch his “portfolio” unfurl, and you’re glad this dude doesn’t have an active work visa outside of Tokyo.
Kobayashi’s resume reads like something you’d find on the psychiatric files of a severely deranged special needs child. When he’s not beating the crap out of women in quasi-pseudo-snuff intergender hardcore bouts and butchering octopi in public demonstrations, he’s probably in a ring somewhere, pounding another dude’s face in with fluorescent lighting tubes. As in, the same kind filled with probably dangerous chemicals and stuff.
In the modern Japanese hardcore wrestling scene, Kobayashi is basically the equivalent of Meat Loaf in the 1970s; this big, fat, blubbery, totally unlikely sensation that’s known for pulling out all the stops in super-physical performances that almost always leave fans in mesmerized awe. The only difference is, while Meat Loaf wows ‘em with rock operas, Kobayashi is a lumbering ball of human adipose tissue that thrills the masses by grinding shards of glass into people’s eyeballs and dropping them face first on what appears to be thumb tacks designed by Cenobites. Although Kobayashi may lay claim to numerous magnum opi of in-ring mayhem, his 2006 bout against Takashi Sasaki may very be his veritable “Macbeth” - well, if “Macbeth” was all about blood, jellyrolls and enough lighting fixtures to power nine Wal-Marts getting raked over human flesh, anyway.
Insane Moment #004
JAPAN - Where a Match Isn’t REALLY Over Until Someone Gets Locked Inside a Flaming Casket!
In the world of pro wrestling, “casket matches” - bouts that don’t end until one wrestler locks the other in a coffin located conveniently nearby - are fairly common occurrences. While less frequent, “inferno” matches - bouts in which the parameters of the wrestling ring are set ablaze - are also somewhat typical events.
I’ve always hard that the Japanese are some economical people, and I don’t think anything demonstrates that somewhat offensive cultural stereotyping quite like the creation of a pro wrestling bout that merges the above-mentioned “casket” and “inferno” matches into an efficient synthesis of violence and wrongful-death-suits-just-waiting-to-happen.
Out in the Land of the Rising Sun, there's a promotion called Big Japan Pro Wrestling. Back in the '90s, they were to sorta' scripted carnage what Nirvana was to the Grunge rock movement -- the veritable pioneers of new-wave pro wrestling mayhem, in essence. This match -- involving working class, hardcore 'rasslin icon Mitsuhiro Matsunaga and overweight, acid-wash jeans-clad Ultimate Warrior wannabe Mr. Pogo -- is more or less a case study in the insanity of the industry. But in the company's defense here? Unlike some promotions, they at least had the horse sense to hold the human bonfire in an outdoors environment.
Insane Moment #003
JAPAN - Where a Match Isn’t REALLY Over Until Someone Gets Stuffed Into a Box of Live Scorpions!
In America, there’s this group called PETA (People that Eat and Torture Animals) that like to pitch hissy fits every time somebody steps on a slug or butchers a sea turtle for entertainment purposes. And if Ingrid Newkirk ever drops by your place and asks you to turn on some wrestling, this is probably the first or second video I would advise showing her.
In this BJPW "Scorpion and Cactus Death Match" from 1996, Mitsuhiro Matsunaga and Shoji Nakamaki do battle inside an almost indescribable arena of abstract mayhem. On adjacent sides of the ring, there are gigantic, uprooted cacti serving as turnbuckle posts, while these completely leafless wooden sticks (think, a really, really dead houseplant that's about six feet tall) are positioned on the other posts. And in the middle of the ring? A gigantic, glass box filled with (presumably) imported scorpions. Now, take a wild guess how the victor is supposed to win this match-up?
The pinnacle of sports-entertainment, this may not be, but you have to give them props for ingenuity, at least. And if you can deny the sheer dramatic power of literally thousands of screaming, antsy fans shrieking as one of their favorite wrestlers is about to have his face chewed off by an arthropod, you're probably a damn fascist. And further solidifying Mitsuhiro Matsunaga's claim as the human being with the weirdest damn occupational injury list in history, this wasn't even his STRANGEST pro wrestling endeavor featuring exotic animals and translucent coffins...
Insane Moment #002
JAPAN - Where a Match Isn’t REALLY Over Until Someone Is Shoved Face First Into a Fish Tank Filled with Piranhas!
For most folks, their individual knowledge of piranhas is limited to either Roger Corman movies or the aberrant Eek! The Cat episode. What we all seem to accept as a cultural idea, however, is that piranhas, in the absolute truest sense of the word, just don’t give an “eff” about things that looks like, resembles or smells like human flesh. You dip human meat -- especially bloodied flesh -- into a pool of said fish, and bad things…very, very bad things…are sure to follow suit.
Now, what sounds like the makings of a Guantanamo Bay torture session to most people was co-opted by the Japanese as…what else?…an opportunity to have a whole lot of fun, tomfoolery and shenanigans inside a wrestling ring, with actual adult human beings agreeing to slap each other around for twenty minutes before pretending to drown each other in aquariums containing piranhas.
Of course, this BJPW match from 1996 starring Mitsuhiro Matsunaga (the same guy that has made a living off being barbecued and impaled with cacti) and Kendo Nagasaki isn't just limited to piranha-based mayhem. To prove that these fellows aren't just one-note singers, it's also a barbed-wire wrapped table death match in addition to being an aquatic coffin death match. And just because, there's also a fair amount of outside havoc, including a couple of decent chair shots, thrown in the mix, too. I'm not quite sure if you would call a bunch of Japanese meat heads tossing furniture at each other, while wearing MC Hammer pants and attempting to lock other men inside tanks filled with carnivorous fish "art," per se, but it certainly beats staring at a boring ass Monet piece, in my humblest of opinions. And hey, speaking of the intersection of "violent Japanese pro wrestling" and "aquatic sports"...
Insane Moment #001
Five of the Most Awesome Words You Will Ever Hear: “Exploding Swimming Pool Death Match!”
The thing about making a list like this is that it’s almost certainly to garner controversy. There will be some people out there absolutely incensed that I did not include the legendary Great Muta/Hiroshi Hase bout from 1992 where the former bleed seventeen quarts of blood and exposed god knows how many Japanese people to untold plasma-borne illnesses. Right now, there’s some pro wrestling nerd legitimately upset because in my glorious lack of knowledge, I had no idea that back in 1983, a Tokyo promotion in existence for five weeks once had a match in which a dude’s ball sack was hung on a pole and set afire while midgets wrestled underneath it while covered in baby lotion and barbed wire. When you make pro-rasslin’ lists, you’re going to make more than a few enemies. That said, there’s no way ANYTHING out there can top my number one pick for most insane pro wrestling match ever. NOTHING.
If there’s a violent thing that one human being can do to another, it’s probably somewhere to be found in this match. The hook behind the bout alone is enough to guarantee it a spot on the top of this list -- the only way to win is to throw your opponent out of the ring and into an Olympic sized swimming pool of (allegedly) electrified water -- but it’s the extra-mile these wackos took with the build-up violence that makes this thing a spectacle for the ages.
Whereas most wrestling bouts attempt to insert some sort of method to the madness, this six man train derailment (starring a pre-ECW Mike Awesome as the Ultimate Warrior/Chuck Norris knockoff “Gladiator") is just senseless mayhem, in every sense of the term. I’m not really sure if it’s possible to consider overweight Japanese people wearing blue jeans and face paint and trying to throw each other into electrified pools of water "poetry," but when the story of humanity is ultimately told, if there isn’t a VHS of this 1994 FMW bout in the Louvre, we have utterly failed as a species.
Let’s try to count up all the various forms of chaos going on here, why don’t we? First, there’s barbed wire, everywhere. Wrapped around the ring ropes, wrapped around ladders outside the ring, wrapped around baseball bats so that wrestlers can pummel each into bloody chunks of hair and Winger tee-shirts; honestly, I don’t think there was this much barbed wire used on the entire western front of World War I. Oh, and the barbed wire on the ropes? That’s not just any barbed wire, it’s the kind that’s been rigged with small explosives to BLOW UP when it makes contact with human skin. After all, let’s face some cold hard facts here: just throwing people into NORMAL barbed wire is just too puss-ified for the hardcore Japanese ’rasslin faithful. And then, just when you think things can’t get any freakier? At the six minute mark, in comes the rarely-seen, yet apparently quite effective, sickle foreign object. What happens next, effectively, is a “Saw” movie in real-time.
Without giving away the ending, let’s just say this little novelty has it all when it comes to pre-arranged, theatrical mayhem. Sharp objects out the yin-yang, copious amounts of spilled plasma, power-bombs, people getting thrown in and on top of razor-bladed farm supply goods, explosions, people pretending to drown, fire (gotta’ love the duality on display there!) and more explosions. Did I mention that there are a lot of explosions in this match? Because there are.
Simply put, a match like this is completely senseless, and fruitless, and idiotic, and deranged, and embarrassing, and crass, and crude and about as unrefined as anything could possibly get.
And on top of that? I can’t think of a better bout than this to exemplify why pro wrestling is the most awesome stupid thing on the planet, either.