Into the Indies 07.05.11: Fire on Earth
Posted by Ryan Byers on 07.05.2011
I2I goes old school this week with a look at a deathmatch show from the mid-1990's with an eclectic lineup including Terry Funk, Silver King, Dick Slater, and a very young Tajiri!
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Into the Indies, the only column that has absolutely nothing to say about CM Punk.
When I first decided that I was going to watch Japanese pro wrestling, it was in a world before YouTube and a word before PayPal. For most people on the internet at the time, if you wanted to watch puro, you had to ship a $10.00 money order off to some guy who may or may not have been Rob Feinstein in exchange for a copy of a copy of a copy of an original tape that somebody had smuggled across the Pacific Ocean.
Like many of the people who got into puro around that time, one of the first shows that I owned on VHS didn't come from New Japan. It didn't come from All Japan. (And NOAH and Dragon Gate didn't exist yet.) It came from, of all places, IWA Japan. Most of you know the tape that I'm talking about. Yes, the infamous tournament show featuring Mick Foley and Terry Funk, commonly referred to as "King of the Deathmatch," though the actual name is Kawasaki Dream. A lot of you have probably seen that show, but, for those of you who haven't, allow me to let you in on a little secret. The show has a lot of mystique around it, and people have talked about it for fifteen years now . . .but, the fact of the matter is, the wrestling on it absolutely SUCKS. There are only a couple of matches on the card that even come close to approaching good, and, from a pacing standpoint, the whole thing feels like it drags on for approximately eight hours with no end in sight.
Thus, after that experience, I really didn't have a hankering to check out anything else from the IWA. In one of the early editions of I2I, I did review their fifteenth anniversary show from 2009. However, aside from that blip on the radar, I never bothered to watch another IWA show from its glory days, which occurred almost exclusively in 1994 and 1995. (IWA Japan shows have been promoted on and off ever since the company was first founded, but they only point at which they came close to running full time and the only point at which they regularly drew more than a few hundred times was the initial '94-'95 run.) Then, just a few days ago, I was given the opportunity to get my hands on a non-Kawasaki Dream show from the mid-90's era of the IWA. I don't know what caused it, but something inside of me said that, after all of this time, now was when I should finally give this promotion another shot to see if they could produce something more entertaining than the yawn-inducing King of the Deathmatch tournament.
So, here we are now with the November 13, 1994 IWA Japan show, which was taped for home video and released under the name "Fire on Earth." Let's take a look and see how it goes.
The show starts with all of the wrestlers on the card running out to the ring and being introduced, which was not an entirely uncommon practice at this time on Japanese shows. Once everybody has made their way out to the ring, the Headhunters decide that they're going to stir up some trouble by rushing at the entire IWA roster with SPIKED CHAINS, the likes of which probably have no practical application on this planet aside from being used as weapons. The wrestlers disperse, and, in a great moment, the Hunters actually take off into the audience with their weapons, swinging them (at obviously safe moments, but still) and causing fans to scatter, with several women audibly shrieking. This was a far cry from shows today where wrestlers will fight in the crowd and people will run up to them in an attempt to get on camera. You're supposed to FEAR THESE MEN, dammit.
Match Numero Uno: Aguila Negra vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri
Yes, this is the same Tajiri who you all know and love from his stints in ECW and WWE as well as from his current position as the front man for SMASH. At this point, he's twenty-four years old and only a handful of months into his pro wrestling career. His opponent, Aguila Negra, is the lucha wrestler currently known as Zumbido, who is still active in independent groups south of the border.
Aguila gets a hiptoss and a crucifix pinfall for a two count early. Tajiri responds with an armdrag but has his leg picked and a Boston crab applied by the masked man. The future ECW star manages to roll through it and apply a toe hold. Aguila escapes and slaps on a figure four, which Tajiri breaks with the ropes. Both men return to a vertical base briefly until the Mexican star gets a go-behind and slams Tajiri down to the mat. Despite being taken down, Yoshihiro counters and winds up getting the better of his man down on the canvas. However, when they return to their feet, Aguila gets another takedown and uses it to apply a version of the Indian deathlock. He transitions that into an STF, but Tajiri military crawls into the ropes. Tajiri starts a comeback with a Mexican armdrag and follows it up with a slingshot clothesline. (That might not have been the original idea, as things looked a bit sloppy.) Tajiri continues his tear with a dropkick that I think was supposed to send Aguila out of the ring, though he lands in an a bit of an unusual position, laying down face up on the second rope. Eventually Tajiri decides an assist is needed and just starts shoving Aguila completely out of the ring.
Once Aguila is on the floor, it first looks like Tajiri might execute a dive, but he thinks better of it and hangs out in the ring instead. The luchador spends a fair amount of time trying to readjust his mask, so it appears we might have had some sort of wardrobe malfunction. Eventually Aguila returns to the ring, where he immediately takes Tajiri off of his feet with a clothesline for two and follows it with a dropkick to the same result. A headbutt from the Mexican sends Tajiri to the floor, and Aguila follows him out with a double sledge off of the ring apron. Tajiri gets posted as his opponent reenters the ring, and they don't even tease a count out as it's obvious Tajiri is fine by the time the referee reaches eleven. The Japanese Buzzsaw dropkicks his opponent out of the ring almost as soon as he gets back in, and now he does the dive, specifically a pescado. It apparently has little effect, though, as Aguila goes on the offensive back on the inside of the ring, hitting a missile dropkick from the top rope for a nearfall before landing a springboard elbow drop to pick up the victory.
Match Thoughts: This was a pretty big mess. Don't get me wrong, from an athletic standpoint, most of the moves in the match were executed well enough aside from one or two sloppy bits that were noted in the play-by-play. The reason that I say it was a mess is because it seemed as though there was really no structure to the match, no rhyme or reason to why anything was being done. Part of that can be chalked up to Tajiri's inexperience and part of it can probably be chalked up to Zumbido's lucha libre style (which places less of a value on psychology than American or Japanese wrestling does), and, given those two factors, I'm not going to go on a tirade blaming the wrestlers for having an awful match. However, I will say that there are many, many matches that I would want to rewatch before I get down the list and to this one. *
Match Numero Dos: Takashi Okano vs. Super Astro
Here's another lucha vs. puro match. Super Astro is a veteran wrestler and the man who was responsible for training Zumbido/Aguila Negra, so it makes sense that he came out with him on this trip to Japan. His opponent, Takashi Okano, is better known to independent wrestling fans as the Winger, a masked man who is still active today, mainly in Big Japan Wrestling. For reasons that I'm not entirely certain of, he's wrestling without his hood and under his real name here, even though he would have started using the Winger persona elsewhere prior to this match.
We've got a lockup to start, out of which Astro goes to work on the arm. There's a series of really solid, quick reversals between the two men on the mat. It's the kind of quality chain wrestling that you just don't see much anymore. In the first really big spot of the match, the wrestlers lock hands in a Greco-Roman knuckle lock, which Astro turns into a HUGE monkey flip that sends Okano bouncing off of the ropes. More armbar exchanges follow until Astro, while in an armbar, does a headstand and grabs his opponent's head with his feet, then throwing him out of the ring with a headscissors variation. Upon returning to the ring, Okana is able to slap on a chinlock followed by a figure four headscissors. Astro reverses out and gets another headscissors takedown but can't really follow up because the men land in a heap in the ropes. Both wrestlers return to a vertical base and start running the ropes, with Okano winning the sequence thanks to a hiptoss and a dropkick. He hesitates, however, giving Astro an opportunity to hit him with a spinning kick in the gut, a scoop slam, and an elbowdrop for two. The luchador stays on his man with a vertical suplex and goes into a crucifix-style submission. Okano is immediately able to put his foot across the bottom rope for the break. Undeterred, Astro hits a springboard cross body and kicks Okano out of the ring; doing the old Tiger Mask dive fakeout when the future Winger moves to avoid a tope.
Back on the inside, Okano takes the advantage with a vertical suplex and a Northern lights, followed up by a bridging fisherman's suplex for two. He misses a moonsault press attempt, though. Astro misses an attempt at the same move, but he manages to rotate through and land on his feet slamming Okano and dropping an elbow on him on the rebound. An odd diving headbutt off of the ropes sends Okano back out to the floor. Astro does the Tiger Mask dive feint again, but this time he follows up further by kicking Okano in the mush when he turns around. This puts the Japanese wrestler into a prone position, with Astro slingshotting out of the ring to hit a big senton atomico down to the floor. In a rare spot, Astro scoops his man back into the ring from there and immediately pins him.
Match Thoughts: This was a fun pro wrestling match, though the wrestlers obviously didn't go over the top with things because they're in the midcard and that's not their role. Both wrestlers were more polished than the younger competitors in the opener, and both wrestlers had more of an understanding of how to merge puroresu and lucha libre into an entertaining package. Astro in particular looked like a solid competitor, busting out several unique maneuvers and timing everything perfectly. Okano has never really stood out for me at any point in his career, but he's always been a solid, reliable hand, and this particular match was no exception. ***
Match Numero Tres: Dick Slater vs. Johnny Gomez
Most everybody reading this should be familiar with Slater, the territorial wrestler who idolized the Funk brothers and made his name primarily in the old Georgia territory before bouncing around to several territories and winding up as part of the WCW undercard roster during the Monday Night War. At this point, he was in between WCW runs and was essentially a regular for the IWA. His opponent, Johnny Gomez, is a little bit more obscure. Gomez is a wrestler of Puerto Rican descent who most likely got into the promotion due to a connection with booker Victor Quinones, himself a man from the island of Puerto Rico. Gomez didn't have that long or memorable of a career.
Slater bulls Gomez back into the corner to start and gets a headlock takedown. Gomez does the traditional reversal into a headscissors, and we've got ourselves a standoff. The men shake hands before going back to grappling, where Slater gets an early schoolboy for a two count and applies an STF. Gomez makes the ropes and both wrestlers return to a standing position, this time with Johnny getting the takedown and applying a leg-based submission hold. Dirty Dick slips out of it and gets into a standing headlock, after which the men exchange shoulderblocks. They shake hands yet again, though after this one Dick gets pretty damned aggressive in going after Gomez's arm. He strikes the limb repeatedly and applies a version of a cross arm breaker, followed by the old standing hammerlock in which Gomez's arm is wrapped around Slater's leg. Dick moves into a variation of a double chicken wing, which he tries to use to maneuver Gomez into a pinning predicament.
The two wrestlers are on their feet again, this time with Gomez firing off some chops and shoving Slater out of the ring. He rams the big Texan's head into a ringside table and shoots him into the post a couple of times before returning to the squared circle. Once there, Gomez applies an armbar on the limb of Slater's that took the most damage from the post shots, but Dick refuses to submit. In a sad spot, Slater tries to pound his boot on the mat to get the crowd to clap for his comeback, but the Japanese audience doesn't respond . . . probably just because it's not the sort of thing that they're used to seeing. Slater starts his comeback anyway, powering out of the hold and firing off his Terry Funk-esque jabs. He tosses Gomez out of the ring and sends his arm into the post in a bit of a revenge spot, and, for good measure, he gives Johnny a JYD kneeling headbutt as he reenters the ring. In another Funk spot, Slater looks for the spinning toe hold but gets cradled for two. That's not enough to break Slater's momentum, as he quickly fires off a spinning neckbreaker and a suplex to win the match.
Match Thoughts: There was nothing outstanding here, but it was perfectly acceptable wrestling for what it was. I'd never seen Gomez wrestle before, but he seemed to be pretty solid and like the kind of guy who could have had a long-yet-unspectacular career if he had decided to stick around wrestling. Slater, who I feel has always been more than a little bit underrated on a national level in the United States, really shined here and put on a fine performance. The only weird thing that sort of took me out of the match was Slater doing all of the Terry Funk spots that he normally rips off. Granted, they were part of his usual repertoire, but it was odd seeing them here given that this show features Terry Funk himself in the main event. **1/2
Match Numero Cuatro: Silver King & El Texano vs. The Headhunters
It's international tag team action here, with the 400 pound twin Headhunters representing Puerto Rico and King & Texano representing Mexico. For those of you who have seen the aforementioned King of the Deathmatch tournament, these two teams probably had one of the better matches on that show (which isn't saying much), so we'll see if they can repeat things here.
The wrestlers are brawling out amongst the fans as we join the action, though it doesn't take long before they hit the ring. The Hunters accidentally run into each other and fall victim to a double dropkick, which sends them both to the floor. In a move that I've literally never seen before, King and Texano do a simultaneous Tiger Mask feint on the same side of the ring, which is pretty damned impressive. King follows that up with one of his trademark springboard dives to the floor (the style adopted by Christian Cage in recent years) and Texano gives the other Headhunter a tope con grio over the top rope. The twins do a bit of posturing on the floor, including throwing chairs into the ring, but the teased additional violence doesn't really lead anywhere. Instead, we just go back to straight wrestling, where Silver King gives a Headhunter an armdrag (leading to an impressively high bump) only to be crushed by an avalanche seconds later. Avalanche number two misses and the Hunter is cradled for a nearfall, after which King tries to take him off his feet with a superkick, dropkick, and clothesline. None of the moves accomplish their desired purpose, but they do rock the Headhunter and cause him to go stumbling back into the ropes, where King gives him another clothesline to send him out to the arena floor.
At this point, El Texano and the other Headhunter tag in. Texano goes to work with leg kicks but gets caught and slammed when he looks for a cross body. The Hunter misses his follow-up legdrop, at which point we go back to the arena floor. Silver King and the other Headhunter join in the fun, and King gets hiptossed onto a row of upright folding chairs before the massive Puerto Rican hits him over the head with one of the pieces of furniture. King gets caught on camera trying to blade in an awkward spot, after which he is sent into the post, which I presume was supposed to cause the blood. The posting results in Texano being isolated for a bit, so he takes a big powerbomb back on the inside of the ring, though he kicks out at two. He fights off a second powerbomb but gets avalanched and caught under an elbowdrop. Silver King makes the save before the Headhunter can get a three count. The luchadores try for a double suplex, but the Hunter reverses into one of his own and the referee escorts Silver King out of the ring and back to his corner.
The Headhunters tag, but things don't really work out in their favor as Texano back body drops one. (Yes, that happened.) In a tactical error, he tries to hit some headbutts instead of tagging out to Silver King, giving the Hunter an opportunity to slam him. Fortunately for Texano, the big guy's attempt at a Superfly Splash misses, and THERE is the tag to Silver King. Texano elevates King into a big dropkick on the Hunter in the corner, but King makes a mistake in trying to follow up with a headbutt, which the Hunter no-sells. The other Headhunter tags in and comes off the top rope with a headbutt of his own on to a standing Silver King, but King is able to respond by avoiding some offense off of the ropes and connecting with a DDT. He applies a headscissors, which, for some reason, the Hunter sells like it's a legitimate submission hold. King tries to follow it up with a corkscrew version of the lionsault, but he misses and eats a pump splash from the Headhunter. It looks like that might finish the match, but Texano runs in and breaks up the cover at the last possible second.
King finds himself slammed again, with the Headhunter going up to the top rope and trying another big splash. He wipes out, and King looks to take the advantage with a moonsault press from the top. It also misses, but it's one of those no harm, no foul situations, as King is still able to make the tag to El Texano. Texano tries to small package the Hunter, which fails miserably. He then applies the Scorpion deathlock to the big guy, resulting in a good sized pop. In another spot I've ever really seen before, King runs in and pushes on Texano's chest while he's got the hold applied, presumably to increase the pressure. It doesn't really matter, though, as the Headhunter still makes the ropes. From there, Texano is avalanched again, but another attempt at the move misses, leading into the luchadore running wild with clotheslines on both of the twins. Silver King joins the party and slams one of the big guys but gets headbutted down. From there we go into a chain of partner miscommunication, as one Headhunter accidentally clotheslines the other, and, as the Mexicans attempt to capitalize, Texano inadvertently takes out Silver King with a missile dropkick. From there, a Headhunter drops an elbow on Texano, but he kicks out at two. Silver King, however, is left all alone with his massive opponents, who hit a version of the Doomsday Device and pick up the victory.
Match Thoughts: I've seen a lot of Headhunters matches from different promotions in my time watching pro wrestling, and they're all essentially the same. The good news for the Hunters is that, for the most part, there is almost always a certain allure to their matches because watching them do high flying moves and take big bumps at their size almost never gets old. (For me, anyway.) In that regard, that match wasn't quite as awe inspiring as some of their others because they didn't bust out their truly insane moves like dives to the floor or moonsaults. However, they did still take some impressive "routine" bumps like the back body drop that you almost never see guys of their size pulling out. Texano and Silver King were really good foils for them as well, just because they had a speed and a fire that made it believable that they could go up against and perhaps even beat these monsters who ruthlessly plowed through everybody else on the roster. This probably wasn't as good as their later match from Kawasaki Dream, but it was still a fun time. ***
Match Numero Cinco: Miguel Perez, Jr. vs. Leatherface in a barbed wire bat match
Leatherface is another character that we've seen several times throughout the life of I2I. Originally he was played by the former Corporal Kirchner of WWE fame, but, around this time, he was replaced in the role by Canadian indy wrestler Rick Patterson. I'm fairly certain that this version is Patterson, though I can never be entirely certain. His opponent is another Puerto Rican import, the son of the legendary Miguel Perez, who was a major star in wrestling from the mid-1950's through the early 1980's. The younger Perez became a bit of a journeyman, never gaining much traction anywhere outside of Puerto Rico, though he did have a cup of tea as one of Los Boricuas in WWE during the late 1990's. Manos arriba.
Forget what I said earlier about fans running from the Headhunters. These people are TERRIFIED of Leatherface. Of course, he's carrying a goddamn chainsaw to the ring, so I can't say that I blame them.
The match starts with the barbed wire bat being laid out in the center of the mat, with the wrestlers standing on the arena floor equidistant from the ring. When the bell rings, they have a footrace to the bat. Not surprisingly based on their physiques, Perez wins it and immediately goes to town on Leatherface with the bat. Several shots send Leather over the top rope, with Miguel following him out with a pescado. Perez continues to hit his man with the bat on the floor, but eventually the weapon changes hands and 'Face gets in a few shots. He eventually misses a wild swing and hits the ringpost, just to prove to the audience that we're dealing with a genuine bat. Perez gets the weapon back briefly, but eventually it winds up back in the hands of Leatherface, who alternates between staggering through the audience like a drunkard while swinging the bat wildly and pressing the barbed wire into Perez's forehead. Naturally, that draws blood.
After a bit, 'Face starts choking Perez with the weapon, again pausing momentarily to make the more of the folks who paid good money for tickets pisses themselves. Leatherface keeps on the offensive for quite some time, both among the crowd and back on the inside of the ring. When he does get to the ring, we get to see the first honest-to-god wrestling move about ten minutes in. It's a clothesline. 'Face follows up with an axe bomber, though it apparently doesn't have much effect on Perez, as he's able to hit one of his own seconds later. Miguel follows it up with a lariat and gets a two count. A HIGH elevation lionsault from the Puerto Rican star also only gets him two. Leatherface goes back on the offensive with another clothesline, but Perez ducks a second a chokeslams him for a nearfall. A snap legdrop connects for Perez, as does a big twisting senton from the middle rope. That move looked so good that Perez just hits it again.
Unfortunately, Leatherface completely no sells the maneuver and stacks his man up with a big powerbomb. It also gets two. From there, Leatherface drops a forearm across Perez's chest from the top rope, and that's enough to get him the three count.
Match Thoughts: This one started out fairly entertaining and just sort of died the longer the match went on. Don't get me wrong, there was never any mindblowing technical wrestling, but the atmosphere was off the charts in the early going just because of how the audience reacted to Leatherface's entrance followed up by their reaction to the first few bat shots. However, things got repetitive pretty quickly, and the edge came off the match after the first few minutes. Things went downhill even future when the guys started doing straight wrestling for the finish, which didn't work in part because the live crowd didn't like it nearly as much and in part because it's always weird to have a stipulation match where the stipulation plays no role in the conclusion. The vast majority of the rating that I'm giving here is based on the first third of the match. **
Match Numero Seis: Shoji Nakamaki & Nobutaka Araya vs. Hiroshi Ono & Terry Funk in a fire death match
And here we go with the main event. Araya, Nakamaki, and Ono are three wrestlers who started their careers with W*ING, which is a promotion that was the predecessor to IWA Japan. (Essentially, the only thing that changed between the two companies were the financial backers.) Araya came from sumo wrestling and had runs with WAR and All Japan after the IWA folded, while Nakamaki and Ono didn't do a heck of a lot of note after the IWA folded, though they did both keep wrestling. For what it's worth, Nakamaki and Ono did wrestle each other in the first round of the King of Deathmatches tournament, and it was without a doubt my favorite match of the entire show. Oh, Terry Funk is also here. Terry Funk is Terry Funk . . . I don't think that much more needs to be said about him.
For this match, the ring ropes have been removed. On two sides of the squared circle, the ropes have been replaced by barbed wire strands, while, on the other two sides, somebody has strung up two non-barbed wire cables. Held in place between the two cables on each side of the ring are three metal canisters, roughly the size of your average office wastepaper basket. The canisters are where the fire is located. Because of the nonstandard configuration of the ring, this is being conducted under Texas tornado rules, so we've got no tags in and out, with all four men competing simultaneously.
The early going features several teases of wrestlers throwing each other into the fire. In the first truly spectacular spot of the match, Nakamaki slides Ono out of the ring under the fire and then follows him out with a HUGE tope over the top of the flaming canisters. The crowd understandably loses their minds for that. Nakamaki follows it up with a DDT on the concrete floor. Meanwhile, back inside the ring, Terry Funk is the first man to make contact with the fire, though it's in an "accidental" manner, as he slowly backs away from Araya and brushes up against one of the canisters, immediately realizing where he is and scooting in the other direction. Shortly thereafter, Terry gets some revenge by running Araya's forehead into one of the canisters. Then, in a weird spot that I did not realize was part of the match going in, the ring announcer reaches the end of a countdown, which causes a small firework to go off above the ring. Araya and Funk just sort of stare at it, and it has no impact on the contest whatsoever.
We see some brief footage of Ono and Nakamaki continuing their fight on the arena floor, after which we cut to Funk getting some revenge on Araya by slamming his forehead into one of the canisters. Terry follows up with his trademark series of jabs that we saw earlier in the night from Dick Murdoch. These send Araya falling into the barbed wire, which Funk then uses to choke him. Another countdown ends and another firework goes off, which again has no real impact on the match. Funk and Araya's battle spills out on to the arena floor, which was timed well because one of the canisters of fire also falls to the floor. Funk slams Araya's head into it, which causes it to fall apart. The crazy man from the Double Cross Ranch picks up a piece of flaming shrapnel from the canister. Why? I'm not sure . . . maybe he thought he could use it as a weapon. However, it proves to be too hot to handle, and, instead of doing anything productive with it, Funk winds up running halfway across the ring with this nondescript flaming mass, juggling it back and forth between his two hands as though there was some magical force which prevented him from, you know, just dropping it and moving on with his life.
All four wrestlers wind up back on the inside of the ring at this point, and we realize for the first time that Nakamaki is bleeding. To add insult to injury, Funk REPEATEDLY rams his head into one of the canisters, and, from the expression on Nakamaki's face, it looks like he's doing more than just "selling" the idea that he really doesn't want to do this again. Another countdown ends. More fireworks go off. Nobody cares. There's a little bit of nondescript brawling between the wrestlers before Funk puts Nakamaki into the spinning toe hold while Ono simultaneously puts a hold of his own on Araya. Eventually both men's opponents punch their way out of the holds. Funk winds up dangerously close to the fire again but avoids any significant damage as Ono takes Nakamaki down with a side Russian leg sweep that gets two. The idea of a move like that getting the win in something like a FIRE DEATH MATCH always makes me laugh. More fireworks go off as Ono puts Nakamaki in a rear naked choke. Again, the fireworks do nothing. Araya and Funk are on the outside at this point, and the Middle Aged and Crazy veteran is whapping his opponent over the head with a chair. Araya gets in some revenge shots, and the Funker goes down.
We cut back to the ring, where Ono has now put Nakamaki into a cross arm breaker. Araya shows up out of nowhere and makes the save, leading into Ono being double teamed and suplexed for a count of two. Funk is apparently outside and unable to assist his partner as Araya and Nakamaki double up for a stuff powerbomb. It can also only muster a two count. More fireworks go off as Araya puts Ono into an STF, which Funk breaks up with a chair. Then, in a spot which really confuses the hell out of me, Funk walks over to a series of the flaming canisters and BEATS THEM WITH THE CHAIR, sending flaming material flying in just about every direction and, fortunately, not directly into his face or hair.
Terry gets back into the ring after this, and he blocks a piledriver attempt from Nakamaki. Terry responds with what was either an attempt at a piledriver or a powerbomb. I can't really be sure. Funk follows it up with an INSANE spot, PILEDRIVING NAKAMAKI ONTO A PIECE OF FLAMING DEBRIS. Funk pins him after that. Nakamaki is not actually set on fire, but everybody freaks out as though he were still smoldering, dumping buckets of water on the man and getting him immediate medical attention. Everybody involved in the match is a bloody mess, especially Ono, who from the looks of things spent a lot more time getting thrown into barbed wire than the footage that made the tape would lead us to believe.
After the match, Funk goes on an insane rant, yelling about how he's better than Atsushi Onita (owner/booker/top star of rival deathmatch promotion FMW), because he doesn't need stitches after his matches like Onita does. "Onita is a chicken shit!" he yells about ten times in succession.
Match Thoughts: I always find matches like this one hard to rate, and, in some instances, hard to watch. If this match were getting ready to happen today, there's a strong chance that I might rally against it taking place, just because fire is such a dangerous, unpredictable element and using it in such a prominent role in a pro wrestling match seems like a bit of an unnecessary risk. However, I'm watching this match sixteen years removed from when it actually took place and, as I was watching, I was well aware that nobody was seriously injured, which made it much easier to stomach and derive entertainment from. Is that somewhat hypocritical? Probably, and I'm more than willing to admit it.
The other reason that matches like this are hard to rate is because they deviate so far from what you expect out of a normal professional wrestling match. Really, if you're going to assign a star rating, the only somewhat normal criterion you have to base things on is just how much of a spectacle the bout was. If that's how you're evaluating this match, it largely succeeded. I wouldn't call it a five star affair by any stretch of the imagination, but between the truly athletic spots (the opening dive), the wacky antics of Terry Funk (juggling fire for no reason), the truly random occurrences (Fireworks? Why?), and the spots so dangerous that I nearly passed out watching them (the flaming piledriver), there was more than enough to grab my attention and keep me watching for the entire duration of the match with boredom never once setting in. Misawa-Kobashi it's not, but I still think this match more than did what it set out to do. I'll go ***1/2.
After considering Kawasaki Dream to be one of my least favorite major professional wrestling shows for such a long period of time, Fire on Earth came off as a pleasant surprise. There were no epic matches that I will need to see again before I die, but everything was solid enough from top to bottom that I enjoyed the show when I was watching it and it never once dragged. The varied roster, featuring guys from across the globe and guys at all different stages of their career, was a big help in keeping things interesting. Also helpful in that regard were the varied match styles, as you had two lucha/puro showdowns to open the show, a straight American style match, an almost modern tag team battle, and two very different deathmatches to close out the evening. Obviously this is not going to be for the faint of heart and should not be viewed by anybody who cannot take large amounts of blood or over the top weapons like fire showing up in their pro wrestling, but, for those of you who can get past that sort of thing, Fire on Earth might be a good way for you to kill an afternoon when you're wondering what got Terry Funk his reputation of being hardcore before hardcore was cool. Overall, I would give this a thumbs in the middle, leaning slightly up.
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Well, you're in luck! Artist and joshi enthusiast shupercousin has obtain from Matsumoto and her booking office S-Ovation the rights to produce and market a Hiroyo Matsumoto t-shirt to the English speaking world, with all proceeds going back to Hiroyo. It looks a little something like this:
If you're interested in owning one of these bad boys, visit shupercousin's Hiroyo Matsumoto fansite right here.
Looking forward to the next installment of Into the Indies? Keep an eye on 411's Twitter accounts, and you just might see it pop up!