Jesus, another birthday already? Good fuck, may as well BUY ME SOMETHING (there's plenty of cheap shit on there) for the big day tomorrow.
Let’s talk wrestling.
Sunday night WWE will be running their final PPV before Wrestlemania. With interest currently at levels unseen since the days of Terry Garvin and Jim Herd and the remaining fans having budgeted their PPV allotment for this quarter already, the company has decided to go with a gimmick they only pull out at their most desperate. They tried it last year at the post-WM “Backlash” show that historically no one watches, and it worked well enough that even your Barbed One shelled out cash for the first time EVER to WWE to watch live. Yes friends, they’re going “hardcore” again.
But this is a little different. Partially because they don’t have the hardcore name value attached to this (hardcore legend vs. legend killer in a hardcore match already means a little more than your run of the mill Ian v. Axl gorefest... even without the mousetraps), and partially because there’s not really a big background reason for it (beyond “we need SOMEBODY to buy this fucking show”), they’ve decided to have a specific type of hardcore match. And if you’ve ever once taken a moment to analyze my name (for the last time it’s neither a misspelling nor a Pam Anderson tribute, just a play on words) you know that once again, they’re booking specifically for me… even though it probably won't work this time.
I speak, of course, of the subject of today’s fuzzy history lesson: The Barbed Wire Match.
Now the less educated wrestling fans out there will tell you that barbed wire matches began in Japan, either with Atsushi Onita or with a tournament where Terry Funk and Cactus Jack came up with the idea out of the blue. But they would be ignorant… and quite possibly mildly retarded and latently homosexual. Nah, the barbed wire match was born right here in the USA, specifically in Bill Watts UWF, and more specifically with wrestlers you’d never guess were so groundbreaking if you didn’t know their histories. One the one hand you had the pretty boys: Tommy Fulton and Bobby Rogers, known collectively as The Fantastics (sometimes with fellow cutie Terry Taylor). On the other, the team Vince marketed to children during their entire run: The Bushwhackers… only then they were much more menacing and went by the moniker “The Sheepherders” (along with flagbearers Rip Rogers and Jack Victory).
If you’ve never seen these matches, they are something to behold… and more importantly stand the test of time for sheer brutality. The one I remember most vividly was six-man match where the ropes were removed, and a crudely-made wooden cage with barbed wire was wrapped around it. How violent was it? By the end of the match, it was impossible to tell one team from the other. If that doesn’t impress you, GIS for “Fantastics” and “Bushwhackers.”
I also half-remember Dusty being involved in a few, although the only one I personally saw was almost a parody of these things. It was one strand of barbed wire loosely wrapped around the ropes. (He actually may have had the first ones. Hey, you think I just call these things "fuzzy history" because I'm so damn clever?) At least from an appearance standpoint, it was to “danger” as Dusty is to “Atkins.” And in the late 80s and early 90s, they also started using baseball bats wrapped in the stuff for crazy death matches in some areas of New Jersey… and more importantly: In Philadelphia. But we’ll cover that after we take a trip around the world.
The Far East
ATSUSHI ONITA is the unlikeliest of hardcore forefathers, especially when judged by the standards of today. Why? Because he could WRESTLE. Onita was high-flying youngster good enough that he was given Japan’s top gimmick at the time, that of “Tiger Mask.” However, with a career about to be cut short by double knee surgery (and training that included time at Terry Funk’s legendary Double Cross Ranch), he needed to find a new way to make his mark.
And in the days before the Internet, when “tape trading” was all the rage, he did so in a way none of us who lived through it will ever forget.
By the time you’ve seen your tenth “Barbed Wire Exploding Landmine Death Match” they start to look the same, but that first one between him and Pogo completely changed the landscape of the business… even in territories that to this day would never consider holding such a spectacle. Until then, even the ultraviolent matches were carefully contained within the confines of other “regular” matches. Onita and his group FMW opened the door to what’s “lovingly” referred to today as “garbage wrestling.” And while he claim rights to being the first, the 12 or so years since have upped the ante by the Asians exponentially.
Onita at his sexiest
In 1995 IWA held the classic “King of the Death Matches” where Funk and Cactus cemented their hardcore status; and in the time since groups like them, W*I*N*G, and Big Japan have been finding new ways to make that strand of jagged steel an instrument of pain (the one that still gets me to this day is the “spider web,” where it’s spun to form a blockade over the ring itself, and always results in someone jumping in back first and getting hung up in it). Hell, there have even been matches where WOMEN took part in the damn things. But it all can be traced be traced back to Onita and his exploding barbed wire matches… something so potentially dangerous that one has never been held in the US (I'd imagine everyone including the competitors would like to forget the attempts at it in XPW and CZW), despite the best efforts of our next area of discussion:
Often overlooked in discussions of the history of ECW are the ashes from which their phoenix-form arose. Eastern Championship wrestling was formed after Herb Abrams and another promoter who for the life of me I can’t remember at the moment (Frank Goodman maybe?) took the most violent parts of the old UWF and started showcasing them in the Jersey/Philly markets. The Apter mags loved reporting on them because lets face it, a picture of a guy about to be slammed into panes of broken glass and mousetraps are going to stick with the readers.
Anyway, as they slowly morphed into Tod Gordon’s (and later Heyman’s) ECW, barbed wire didn’t just become part of the gimmick. It literally built the company. See, it’s not like they had network television at the time. ECW shows were basically paid advertisements. The commercial time was, for the most part, used to sell their own merchandise. And what were the first tapes they really marketed? The “too violent for TV” barbed wire baseball bat matches between Axl and Ian Rotten.
Sandman and Sabu on the "Stairway to Hell." Purists will tell you this is one of the worst matches in company history. Of course by "purists," I mean "faggots."
And as they grew, so did the importance of barbed wire. Two of their more endearing and lasting images are of Raven and Sandman each doing their own take on the “barbed wire halo,” and ECW would regularly employ it in their matches… usually in the form of a ream of it that just happened to be lying around under the ring apron, but more memorably in a couple of barbed wire matches that are, by all accounts, unforgettable in their savagery. The first, a Sandman/Cactus match held in Lauderdale, was so untranslatable to television for years they swore they’d never do another. When they finally did, the results were so stunning it gets its own section.
Born To Be Wired
August 9, 1997. There are more violent matches, and there are bloodier matches, but this was the night my favorite hardcore match ever took place. An otherwise lackluster show (although Perry Saturn returned to the company that night to a big pop earlier) became unforgettable due to the main event; only the second "no ropes barbed wire match" the company ever held.
Sabu and Terry Funk, two of most respected names in hardcore, tore it up for twenty minutes. And by "it," I mean their skin. Early in the match manager Bill Alphonso can clearly be seen blading both wrestlers' backs, and at one point Sabu tries a springboard move into the corner which tears his arm open to the muscle. Rather than stop Fonzie runs to the back and gets a roll of tape. Sabu, without ever leaving the ring, desperately starts wrapping the wound while Funk continues to mount an offense against him. And if that's not enough, the ending is like nothing you've ever seen. Too bad if you order the DVD the commentary has been re-dubbed... because the deadpan "Oh my God" Styles originally spit out when Sabu wraps himself in the barbed wire and moonsaults onto an equally wrapped Funk laid out on a table is perhaps his most goosebump-raising call ever. And they have to go to a very confusing finish, necessary since Sabu wins his first title going into the following weeks' PPV, because the two guys were so entwined in the wire they couldn't break free. In fact, that's one of the highlights... watching the crew painstakingly cut them free snip by snip (a scene I was reminded of as recently as last night while finally watching "Saw.")
If you only see one barbed wire match in your life... make sure it's this one.
As I mentioned, once ECW really became a PPV force they cut way back on its usage, but barbed wire has never really gone away as a wrestling prop. XPW, along with CZW, IWA and Wildside, have all utilized it at one time or another (we had the Wildside bat in our apartment for a weekend. You can watch a thousand matches on TV, but until you've held a BW bat in your hand you can never grasp just how magnificent a weapon it really is.) I’d also be remiss not to mention its most surreal usage, wrapped around a 24-INCH DOUBLE DONG DILDO in JR Benson’s one and only EXTREMELY STRANGE WRESTLING promotion. I’d especially be remiss in not mentioning that because if you live on the west coast and don’t call the number to find out where the ABU GHARIB MATCH is tonight you’re so far south of retarded you are probably having this column read to you.
And, as we all know, it has even made a couple of memorable appearances in the WWE... although beyond a few hits Foley took with "Barbie" and the sick board of it at the aforementioned Foley/Orton match with the real thing most of theirs was actually rubber.
Poor Mr. Benson is waiting on the floor for "almost New Jack victim" Vic Grimes (you may have to refresh the page to see the animation)
I'm really not expecting much this Sunday. Like everything else these sort of matches rely on a history of working the style, and JBL and Booker T. aren't exactly known for their hardcore pasts. Still, just seeing barbed wire in the logo for the show is enough for me to have not ruled out buying it with 48 hours left to make up my mind. After all, considering the nickname... the purchase is almost pre-destined.
Eat a WISH LIST of Hell.
Life is like a ream of barbed wire
Since I knew there'd be lots of classic matches there wouldn't be space for, I asked our forum members to discuss some of their favorite matches of the genre. I did warn them to use proper grammar, therefore I don't feel guilty about posting them all verbatim:
Anything with the Sheepherders...usually versus the Fantastics or the Fabulous Ones. Those set the standard and burned up the Apter Mags for months. It also provided one of my biggest "what the FUCK?!?!" moments when the now "Bushwackers" showed up as faces licking each other's heads, instead of impaling pretty boys with the sharp end of their New Zealand flagpoles and biting into their bleeding scalps.
The Sheepherders/Fantastics barbed wire cage match I saw live is up there with the greatest wrestling things I have seen live.
Megumi Kudo vs. Shark Tsuchiya, no ropes exploding/electrified barbed wire match.
I found this one on one of my FMW DVDs, and it made me fall in love with Kudo instantly. She would willingly let herself be thrown into that wire so many times, and just take an ass whupping, and then make her dramatic comeback, and it would be awesome to watch. I could have sworn several times throughout that Kudo was dead. It's too bad American wrestling just views women as eye candy or there are too many sterilizing rules on TV that prevent this kind of violence from involving women on TV that this kind of thing just would not happen in the WWE.
I concur with Tokage.
Megumi Kudo is not only my favorite participant in barbed wire matches. People on the Internet constantly hype the Japanese art of sells, and in my mind, she's the only example I can think of that actually embodies it in a way that can be digested by retarded American fans such as myself.
When she got tossed into exploding barbed wire, she didn't really flail around or scream madly. She basically hung on it, her face becoming the ultimate mask of defeated despair.
Think about it. If YOU got tossed against barbed wire out in a wheat field all of the sudden, would you start madly kicking your legs like Raven? Would you express "hey you spilled my beer" annoyance? No on both counts. You would be in so much pain, you'd basically just shut down and wait for someone to cut you out of it. Overselling rarely works in these instances, save for when Terry Funk does it. Funk is old, haggard, beaten, and crazy. Kudo--and pretty much everyone else--is not.
This is why, despite my apathy towards him, I enjoyed Randy Orton in his hardcore match with Foley. When he took that thumbtack bump, he didn't start flailing around, screaming, etc.. He lied there, sat up, and his face said it all. He sold it by...not selling it. It was the best moment of his career.
Kudo vs. Cat Toyota--yes, the Stranglemania II match--goes down as my favorite. Comebacks galore.
the first 'Stairway to Hell' match between Sabu and the Sandman in ECW was an awesome match. I bring it up because they were fighting over barbwire. That bump that Sandman took from the top of the ladder to the table outside was so awful I almost started crying for him. Put into the account that Sabu broke his jaw, yet still kept wrestling (nothing new, I know) and the Atomic Arabian Facebuster with the barbwire on Sandman's face makes this a damn fine match... [also] the Mr.Pogo/Terry Funk Barbed Wire Glass Exploding Death Match was one of the best I've seen.
-Dumass (who also gets love for the STH pic, and of course the linkage)
Onita vs Hayabusa in Onita's retirement Electrified Barbed-Wire C4 Bomb Cage match (forgive me if i got that out of order).
Absolutely amazing spectacle with the camera up in the wrestlers faces. (you'll say this is a negative) but you can see the guys in the cage working out spots and that just makes it so much more insane to me. The japanese crowd is RABID and the ref wearing a silver protective outfit is just great campy theater. since i'm of the opinion that Hardcore is often campy theater...I loved this and used to show it on the TV behind the bar at parties in college. People would stand their horrified and enthralled.
Mine was from the second Japanese Hardcore PPV. It was some guy whos name I have no clue, they called him monkey boy and Matsunga. It was pretty fucking cool since I had never seen a comedy match done inside barbedwire before. This mother fucker the monkeyboy came out with no shoes for a barbedwire ring thumbtack match. Then the stupid fucker did "Old School" on the fucking barbedwire, I was laughing my ass off.
-Drawls (who also gets love for calling our attention to Benson's match tonight. If you go and post a review I'll put it on the front page... a lot quicker than I did for the TNA ones I swear)
My favorite Barbwire match is the Dusty/Tully Barbwire Ladder Match from The Great American Bash 87. I think $100,000 in cash was on the line and the ropes had barbwire wrapped around them and Dusty and Tully we're dressed for a bunkhouse match.
The match was meh but it was a cool concept in of it self for 1987. I'd love to see it done again in some form.
Honorable mention for barbwire goes to The Public Enemy vs. Terry and Dory Funk in a No Ropes Barbwire Match at the ECW Arena in 95. I have it on tape somewhere and I just watched in amazement as Dory and Terry Funk we're wrestling in barbwire.
There was also barbed wire in the Triple H. vs. Steve Austin 2 out of 3 falls match at No Way Out 2001. Again, I'm not sure if it was real barbed wire, but whatever the case, there was a lot of bleeding in that match.
Haven't seen any mention of Abdullah the Butcher Barb wire cage matches thrown up there. I DID see a barb wire match with him and the Shiek (original, I believe), although I'm sure if it was a BW cage match though.
Messy, but slow, if I remember correctly.
Masato Tanaka and Haybusa vs Terry Funk and Mr. Pogo in a no rope barbed wire explosion death match. Or something like that. Masato Tanaka also had a good exploding barbwire cage death match with Mr. Ganosuke I believe. FMW was pretty much filled with those types of matches. I think Tanaka and Awesome had some barbed wire matches there to. Also I have a DVD of Mick Foley fighting I think it was Kanemura in a no ropes barbed wire glass floor deathmatch for FMW. That was pretty cool.
I remember seeing a clip of a pirhana tank exploding match or something one time, that I think involved Mike Awesome. Not sure if there was BW in that.
Sabu/Funk was the only one I've seen, and that was enough. At the end they're stuck together and the refs have a hell of a time getting them apart, and both guys just look miserable.
My pants had a wild match with a barbed wire fence.