Into the Indies 03.16.10: Most Unusual Matches
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Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Into the Indies, the only column on 411mania stronger than Moose Monroe.
In this week’s column, we’re going to be doing something a little bit different. Instead of looking at an entire event or a particular promotion, I’ve decided that I’m going to examine some of the most outright bizarre matches that I’ve come across over the past several years. I don’t know what it is about Japanese professional wrestling, but, for some reason, it has always seemed to be much more willing to push boundaries and try new things than the majority of American companies, and that’s one of the things about it that has always appealed to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, straight wrestling match between guys like Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels or Toshiaki Kawada and Mitushara Misawa, but from time to time it’s also interesting to see what other directions the “sport” can be taken in, whether it’s a pairing of opponents that you never thought you would see, unusual candidates to wrestle stepping into the ring, or a stipulation that appears mind-boggling on paper.
In my time writing this column, I’ve already reviewed shows involving rings on stilts, matches in theme parks, thirteen year old girls grappling, blow-up doll battles, and insanely large battles royale. Given all of that, one might think that I’ve seen it all and should be ready to move on.
However, that is not the case. There’s still boatloads of wackiness out there, and I will not rest until I document every possible bit of it. With that said, let’s start reviewing some weird ass professional wrestling.
Abdullah Kobayashi vs. Tako the Octopus (Big Japan Wrestling, 05/26/2006)
We’re not in a standard wrestling area here . . . we’re in what appears to be an elementary school classroom, and there’s a mat surrounded by young children covering themselves up with a plastic tarp. The men running the show bring out a live octopus on a plate, after which Kobayashi enters with a smirk on his face as if to say, “Awww, what a cute little bugger.” The bell rings, and Abdullah gets on all fours in front of Tako. He feels his opponent out by poking at its tentacles, and he ultimately picks the thing up. Kobayashi takes a bump, with the weight of the octopus apparently powering him down to the mat. He then spends several seconds rolling around with the cephalopod on his neck before slipping around and attempting to put it in a cross arm breaker. The squid is too wet, however, and the hold has no effect. Kobayashi’s next trick is an odd sort of reverse elbow-drop, in which he places the animal on his elbow and falls to the mat. The wrestler is then handed a knife, which he drives into the octopus, cutting it open and eviscerating it in front of the children before wearing the carcass around like a hand puppet. That apparently gets him the win via TKO.
Fortunately there is a chef on hand, so Kobayashi’s opponent is boiled shortly after the match and offered up for dinner in short order.
Match Thoughts: You know, I’m not a huge animal rights activist. I even eat octopus on a fairly regular basis, and I would be surprised if the octopus that I eat is slaughtered in a manner any more humane than how poor Tako was handled here. (Though I doubt that many people are putting them in to cross arm breakers . . . at least I hope that they aren’t.) However, there was still something vaguely disturbing about watching the little feller get knifed down in front of a room full of ten year olds who were cheering and chanting for it the entire time. Maybe I would have felt better if the match had a more clearly defined backstory about the octopus having a painful, crippling degenerative illness and needing to be put out of his misery . . . but not before living his dream of finally having a professional wrestling contest against a pudgy bald guy. Maybe. No rating . . . but I do have a sudden craving for sashimi.
Minowaman vs. The Necro Butcher (Inoki Genome Federation, 02/22/2010)
This match is brought to us by the Antonio Inoki’s IGF, a promotion that focuses largely on shoot-style wrestling aside from the fact that they periodically bring in recently released WWE stars or, you know, THE NECRO BUTCHER. This is a fantastically random match, as deathmatch enthusiast Necro is paired up against Minowa “Minowaman” Ikuhisa, a moderately successful MMA fighter who gets by primarily on his personality and, more recently, the fact that he scored an upset victory over the much larger Bob Sapp. Though he has an unusual opponent in this matchup, he’s no stranger to in-ring wackiness, as we first saw him in the column when he went up against the personification of a cartoon character.
There’s a feeling out process to start, including the Necro Butcher, of all people, trying to land open palm thrusts on his opponent. After a bit of jockeying for position, the two men wind up in the corner, where Minowa scores with some knees before the referee breaks them up. Necro wastes no time in disregarding the rules after that, as he bites straight into Minowa’s head before the MMA fighter lands a dropkick that sends his opponent out of the ring. While there, Necro grabs the ring bell and brings it into the squared circle. Minowa blocks a shot with the weapon and lands a kick, with Necro again exiting the ring. This time he pulls Minowa out with him, and the Japanese competitor gets slammed on the floor and choked with a television cable. The star of The Wrestler tires to send Minowa into the post at this point, but he gets a taste of his own medicine. That allows Minowa to roll back into the ring, and it also opens up a wound on the Butcher’s forehead. With his opponent weakened, Minowa goes to work with some more palm strikes and a front facelock, but Necro is able to work him back into the corner to tear at his face a bit. Deathmatch Jesus begins unloading with headbutts and stomps at this point, then hoisting Minowaman up for an airplane spin. Necro winds up in no better position than his opponent coming out of that maneuver, which gives Minowa an opening for a heel hook. The Butcher grabs the ropes immediately, but he’s quickly dumped with a backdrop suplex and then a brainbuster. Those two moves only earn a two count, as Necro rolls his shoulder up slightly off of the mat as opposed to kicking out. Minowa stays on his man with more palm and knee strikes, eventually trading off to straight body blows. Necro responds with a first of his own and then a lariat, after which he goes into his chop/punch series in the corner. Minowa ducks a punch, but Necro grabs him anyway and hits a bulldog for a nearfall. Minowa recovers, and the two men engage in an offensive flurry in every sense of the phrase, with Necro punching Minowa repeatedly at the exact same time that Minowa is striking Necro repeatedly. Minowaman comes out on the winning end, thereafter dumping Butcher with a version of the back body drop and getting the submission victory with a leglock. Minowa is covered in blood at this point, and, though I originally thought that it was the result of Butcher bleeding, it actually appears that Minow had a good sized gusher opened up above his eye at some point during the contest. Despite all of the blood, the two men shake hands at the conclusion of their battle.
Match Thoughts: One of the first Japanese independent matches that I have vivid memories of watching is early UFC legend and then NWA Champion Dan Severn taking on Japanese hardcore icon Tarzan Goto on IWA Japan’s 1995 Kawasaki Dream show. It was quite the spectacle just due to the fact that it was a man who fancied himself a technician going up against a man who loved to break glass bottles over his opponent’s heads. The Minowa/Necro battle had a very similar dynamic, though it wasn’t quite as big of a mishmash in execution as it may appear to be on paper because Necro relied more on his striking than his “hardcore” acumen. This was just two wrestlers who were willing and able to smack each other around as hard as they possibly could, and they were definitely two wrestlers who succeeded in that goal. Generally guys striking one another very, very hard and doing nothing else turns me off because it doesn’t take all that much talent, but it can be fun when you’ve got personalities who are well enough established and know how to properly build the match. Both of those conditions were fulfilled here, so I would call this one worth your time. ***
Headhunter A vs. Headhunter B in a Barbed Wire and Glass Deathmatch (IWA Japan, 05/01/1995)
For those of you who may not be familiar with the Headhunters, they’re a pair of identical twins from Puerto Rico, each of whom weighs north of 300 pounds and each of whom can pull off breathtaking maneuvers for their size, including moonsaults, planchas, and diving elbows. They were staples in the Japanese deathmatch groups in the 1990’s, popping up in the IWA, FMW, W*ING, and probably a few other places that I’m forgetting. They’re still active these days, though, to the best of my knowledge, they now wrestling primarily in Mexico. For reasons that I’m not entirely clear on, for some reason IWA Japan decided to have them wrestling one another on one particular evening, and here’s the result.
Fortunately, the brothers are wearing singlets of different colors for this occasion. I am going to arbitrarily label the ‘Hunter wearing black with red trim as Headhunter A and the ‘Hunter wearing black with white trim as Headhunter B. A charges B right at the outset of the match, controlling him with clotheslines and shoulder tackles before putting him over the top rope, presumably attempting to dump his brother onto a barbed wire board that sits on the arena floor. Headhunter B lands on the apron, though, barely avoiding the barbs as his sibling continues his efforts to shove him down. Eventually A gives things up on that side of the ring and tries to send B out on the other side of the ring, where there is a waiting pit of glass. B goes over the top but lands on his feet and avoids the pit. The two brothers brawl on the floor for a bit, with B getting an advantage after he hits A over the head with a chair. A is returned to the ring after the chairshots, and B gives him a series of boots to the side of the head before Irish whipping him into the corner and hitting a running Vader attack. B then sends A over the top rope, and it is A’s turn to narrowly avoid falling into a pit of glass.
It’s back to the Irish whip when the brothers tire of that spot, as B sends in A but his foisted by his own pitard as A reverses and sends a clothesline that knocks B out of the ring. B unfortunately falls into the barbed wire board, which A then props up against the ring apron, whipping his twin into the wire. A grabs some glass shards out of the pit after that, digging them into B’s forehead to draw a fair amount of blood. A then starts to get really sick, as he carries around one blood-stained shard of glass in his mouth while stabbing his brother in the head with another piece, taking wild, overhand swings. B waddles through the crowd to escape, eventually collapsing in the bleachers, with his white singlet and round frame making him look like a bloodied-up Humpty Dumpty. Eventually the match progresses back into the ring, where A slams his brother and heads up to the top rope, coming of with a big splash for two. A returns to the proverbial well and hits a guillotine legdrop, but that also will not put B away.
A then lands a weak version of the uranage for another nearfall, after which B manages to hit him with a clothesline. A goes over the top rope to the floor . . . AND B FOLLOWS HIM OUT WITH A SOMERSAULT SENTON! It was the slowest version of that particular move that I’ve ever seen, but it was still pretty damn impressive. Now it’s B’s turn to do some carving on his brother, which he does with a rather large shard of glass that he ultimately breaks over the top of his brother’s skull. B busts more glass over A’s head back in the ring, causing A to take a bump for a two count. B slams A and now takes his turn on the top rope, hitting another guillotine legdrop, which, not surprisingly, his brother kicks out of. B’s second trip to the top sees him nailing the Randy Savage elbow, also for two. B rolls out of the ring at this point, grabbing a barbed wire board and tossing it into the squared circle with ease.
The board his laid out in one of the corners, and A is bodyslammed onto it before his brother rolls out of the ring again and retrieves a second barbed wire board. This board is placed face down on top of the prone Headhunter A, after which B climbs to the top rope and gives the sandwich a picture-perfect fat guy moonsault. A kicks out, though, sending the board that was on top of him into his brother’s face in the process. Rather than deterring him, that prompts B to slide one of the glass pits into the ring while A sells the beating that he has received. B attempts to suplex A into the pit, but it is reversed with B taking the fall into a pane of glass, which, of course, shatters under his weight. A saunters over to his brother and slams him, again climbing to the top rope. He loses his balance and falls off, dropping his left arm across his chest in what was an attempt at another top rope splash. He immediately repeats the spot, going back up to the top and landing a proper splash for the three count.
Match Thoughts: For reasons that I don’t fully understand, I will never tire of watching the Headhunters do their big top rope spots. It’s just one of those rare things in life that is always entertaining no matter how many times you watch it. That’s fortunate for them, as they bring little if anything else to the table. This match was a perfect example of that, as there was nothing of note aside from the dives, with the rest of the match consisting almost entirely of men waddling around and/or stabbing one another in the forehead with sharp objects. As you might expect of a match featured in a column with the theme of this one, this is worth watching as a curiosity although it’s not quite worth going out of your way to see. *
Kendo Nagasaki vs. Mitsuhiro Matsunaga in Piranha Death Match (Big Japan Wrestling, 08/19/1996)
Now here’s a really out there stipulation match from the very early days of Big Japan. Kendo Nagasaki is Kazuo Sakurada, who many older North American fans will recognize by virtue of the fact that he spent a large chunk of his professional wrestling career between the late 1970’s and the early 1990’s working in U.S. and Canadian territories, most notably the Harts’ Stampede Wrestling and Championship Wrestling from Florida. He was also one of the founders of BJW, though his career with them didn’t last for too horribly long. He’s up against Matsunaga, who is one of the most insane professional wrestlers in history. He was doing barbed wire matches and balcony dives throughout the early 1990’s, several years before those things could be seen on a monthly basis in ECW and its various knockoffs.
However, this match is something that ECW and company chose not to emulate . . . and that’s probably for the best. We’ve got barbed wire boards in and around the ring, but that’s not the real draw here. The real draw is the fact that sitting diagonally in the middle of the ring is a tank running approximately six and a half feet in length, full of water that is about a foot and a half deep. Said water is inhabited by many, many piranha . . . easily twenty of the little buggers if not more. The winner of this contest will be the first wrestler who can dunk his opponent into the vat of flesh-eaters.
Nagasaki works a front facelock on Matsunaga to open up the match, ultimately giving him a clean break on the ropes. Matsunaga shoots off some kicks to the chest to open up the offense, after which he chokes Kendo in the corner. Nagasaki eventually slips out of the chokehold and lands some kicks of his own, after which he grabs the facelock again and uses the hold as an attempt to maneuver Matsunaga into the piranha tank. That fails, so Nagasaki lands more strikes and uses a hammerlock to attempt moving his man into one of the barbed wire boards in the corner. Mitsuhiro wisely puts his foot up and into the barbed wire to prevent the rest of his body from going in, but, seconds later, Nagasaki has him turned around and shoved back-first into the barbed wire board. The board slowly bends as Kendo uses his boot to apply pressure to Matsuganaga’s body, and there’s a good-sized pop from the crowd when the pressure reaches the point that the board loudly snaps in two. Nagasaki goes to a toehold after that and tries to toss Matsunaga into the tank again, but this time he manages to leap up and over the fish at the last second. Nagasaki briefly succeeds in putting Matsunaga’s back into the barbed wire attached to the second board, but he gets kicked again. Matsunaga takes his turn shoving Nagasaki towards the water at this point, and the top of his head actually gets dunked in for a split second, though it’s not long enough for any of the piranha to do anything.
The wrestlers take their battle to the floor at this point, with Nagasaki picking up a row of folding chairs and slamming it down onto his opponent. That bloodies the top of Matsunaga’s head, and he finds himself thrown back into the ring for more teasing at the tank. Matsunaga’s blood drips into the water, staining it red but not causing any marked change in the activity of the fish. The wrestlers go to the arena floor again, and this time it is Matsunaga in control, hitting Nagasaki with more kicks and walloping him over the head with the remnants of one of the barbed wire boards. Matsunaga places the board over the top of his fallen opponent and simply lays on top of him, really digging the barbs in to the old man’s skin. Nagasaki is also hit across the back with a chair before more kicks are exchanged and a table is dropped across the back of a fallen Matsunaga. Nagasaki reels off a couple of snug chairshots of his own, after which he military presses a table over his head and throws it down on to Matsunaga as fans scatter. It’s in this shot of the crowd that we learn that people have decided to bring CHILDREN to this piranha deathmatch. Great parenting, there. Nagasaki returns to the ring with a chair and waits for Matsunaga to join him. When he does, he’s predictably brutalized with the furniture, after which Nagasaki grabs the remaining barbed wire board and lays it on top of the piranha tank. I don’t like where this is going.
Matsunaga is grabbed and laid on top of the board by Kendo for a bit, though he has it in him to kick away at Nagasaki a bit more. Kendo also tastes the barbs as they continue to lay across the top of the tank, and Matsunaga maneuvers his man into the corner, then charging him forward as quickly as possible in an attempt to dunk him into the water. As a result, Nagasaki gets wetter than either man has at any other point in the match, though he’s still not in long enough for anything to actually happen. A scoop slam from Kendo connects, after which he drops the barbed wire board across Matsunaga and simultaneously splashes it. A powerbomb from Nagasaki connects, as does a piledriver. NOW Matsunaga goes fully into the water, and the bell rings to signal that Kendo Nagasaki has won the match. As soon as the bell rings, Nagasaki grabs the barbed wire board and lays it over the top of the tank in an effort to trap Matsunaga in with the hungry fish, but Matsunaga’s various cornermen run in to prevent that from happening. Once Matsunaga pops out of the water, he immediately rolls out of the ring, where a crew of wrestlers simply picks up the mat that he has landed on in an attempt to drag him to the locker room and, presumably to safety. The cameras catch a good shot of his body on the way back, and it appears that the fish have opened up at least one wound on his chest, though the total mount of blood covering the guy’s body is nothing worse than what you would see from a nasty bladejob in a standard professional wrestling match.
Match Thoughts: This probably seemed like a fairly revolutionary little match when it first occurred, and the stipulation upon which the match was built is something that has rarely if ever been duplicated. However, if you take away the piranha, there’s nothing that separates it from five hundred other deathmatches that we have seen throughout the years . . . and it in fact seems pretty damn tame compared to some of the more recent extreme bouts that occurred in subsequent years. The match is still well worth watching for curiosity’s sake, but I can’t imagine going out of your way to watch it if you’re interesting in seeing a top of the line deathmatch. **
Little Frankie, Mr. Buddhaman, & Tomezo Tsunokake vs. Guerrerito Maya, Guerrerito del Futuro, & Enanito Fili Estrella in an Exploding Barbed Wire Match (All Japan Women/Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling, 06/06/1995)
Where do I even begin on the backstory with this one? This match comes from a commercial tape that I have seen referred to in English-speaking tape trading circles as FMW Midget Mania 1995. However, despite the FMW label, the match is taking place in an All Japan Women ring and features three mini wrestlers – Frankie, Buddhaman, and Tomezo – who were all regularly used as undercard comic relief on All Japan Women shows and who, to the best of my knowledge, didn’t make all that many appearances in FMW.
The opposing team is at least in part made up of minis from Mexico, specifically CMLL. As you might expect, Guerrerito Maya and Guerrerito del Futuro are mini versions of full-sized wrestlers named Guerrero Maya and Guerrero del Futuro, respectively. The full-sized Maya and Futuro were alternate gimmicks given to veterans Jose Feliciano and Black Terry late in their careers. My understanding is that the mini version of Maya is being played by a veteran who is better known these days as Bracito De Oro, though I have no clue who is under the hood as the mini version of Futuro . . . though there is a Chicago-area indy wrestler currently who uses the same name. The third member of their team I have seen referred to as Enanito Fili Estrella by some sources, and he is being billed as a Mexican wrestler, though none of the lucha libre sources that I usually consult have any record of him. The “Enanito Fili Estrella” name roughly translates to “dwarf star,” which seems like a remarkably generic name for a legitimate mini luchadore to be given by himself or a booker.
Anyway, regardless of who the competitors are, somebody decided that it would be a good idea to throw the six of them together into an exploding barbed wire match. For this particular variant on the match, we have ropes on all four sides of the ring, with barbed wire being strung up between the ropes on two opposite sides while the other two sides have ropes but no barbed wire.
Buddhaman and Maya begin the match, with Maya getting in some early armdrags on the pudgy competitor before Buddha takes over with a shoulderblock and tags out to Tomezo. He goes to town with a scoop slam and some blatant choking, essentially taunting the referee until the ref shoves him off of Maya and almost into the barbed wire. Guerrerito hits a fireman’s carry slam and drops an elbow before tagging out to Futuro. Futuro has difficult with a slam but ultimately hits one, after which he grabs a second version of the move which looks much better. Tomezo sneaks away and tags in Frankie, who immediately succeeds in throwing Guerrerito Futuro out of the squared circle before tagging in Estrella. Fili is completely useless and cycles out quickly to Maya, who goes up against Tomezo. Tomezo kicks him in the face and rakes the eyes to add insult to injury, though he winds up jawing with the referee again to set up Maya THROWING HIM INTO THE EXPLODING BARBED WIRE. The luchadores then go crazy, grabbing Tomezo and immediately whipping him into the other side of the ring to set up another explosion and then whipping him back into the original side for ANOTHER explosion. All of the wrestlers and the refreee sell the explosions like they’ve got enough force to send them flying from one side of the ring to the other.
At this point Frankie comes in and sends Estrella into the wire to trigger another explosion before handing him off to Buddhaman. He lands some palm strikes before Guerrerito del Futuro reenters the match, though he’s just amrdragged a lot before being slammed and splashed by the chunky little feller. Buddhamn succeeds in getting Futuro to fall out of the ring and down to the floor, at which point Maya and Estrella take turns trying to lift the hefty Buddhaman. Maya actually succeeds and slams him out of a fireman’s carry position, setting up a superfly splash from Futuro. Buddhaman barely sells it and immediately goes back to work on Futuro, shoulderblocking him and tagging in Tomezo. Tomezo sees to it that poor Guerrerito del Futuro is thrown out of the ring again, at which point Maya switches in to pummel Tomezo and send him in to the barbed wire yet again. Did this guy draw the short straw in the locker room or what? Because ramming him into exploding barbed wire isn’t quite enough, Maya follows up by hitting Tomezo with a move that looks suspiciously like John Cena’s FU. Now we know where Cena got all of his inspiration from . . . fifteen year old hardcore midget matches.
Futuro and Buddhaman hit the ring at this point, leading to Futuro being knocked out of the ring AGAIN. This time Buddhaman actually follows him, grabbing the luchadore, putting him on to some kind of wheeled cart that he finds and ringside, and rolling him through rows of chairs. This sparks a brawl at ringside which involves all of the match’s competitors, though the arena is so dark that it’s hard to tell exactly what is going on. Futuro and Buddha ultimately return to the ring, with Futuro hitting a flying dropkick that sends the porker down to the floor. That’s Guerrerito del Futuro’s setup for a big plancha down on to his opponent. Tomezo, not to be outdone, runs the ropes to attempt his own dive. However, it winds up being the most spectacularly botched dive that I have ever seen, as he goes in between the top and middle ropes sideways (as though he were going for a 619), snags his arm on the middle rope, falls, hits the apron, and twists in midair before finally landing on Futuro. Well, at least he managed to save it and make contact . . . and didn’t kill himself. Maya saves things a bit by hitting a GORGEOUS tope con hilo, which Frankie follows with a high cross off of the apron and Estrella follows with a cross body off of the second rope. We then go back to the ring, where Buddhamn is blown up by the barbed wire and pinned by Fili.
Match Thoughts: I know that I probably shouldn’t sound like I’m surprised, but this was BAD. Usually the point of these matches with explosions, glass, piranha, scorpions, and the like is to to start out basic and build towards the use of the extreme stipulation at the end so that it is the focal point of the contest and can be portrayed as so crippling that whoever takes the move has a significant amount of energy taken out of them. For whatever reason, the standard pattern was not applied to here. The exploding barbed wire was used three times in rapid succession within five minutes of the match beginning, which lead me to believe that we were going to be watching a five minute match. However, after that occurred, things just . . . kept . . . going. In fact, the bout was about ten times longer than it needed to be even without the explosions blowing their load early, though the quick use of the gimmick was probably the worst part since that completely managed to kill its effectiveness. Combine that with the fact that the wrestling we got after the fireworks wasn’t particularly good and the additional fact that it included one of the worst dives in the history of man, and you’re looking at a real DUD of a match. Go find that horrific dive so that you can chuckle, but skip the rest of this one.
And that will do it for this week, folks. We’ll be back in seven days with more from the lower levels of international professional wrestling.
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See you all next week!