Atsushi Onita is generally credited with bringing the deathmatch style of professional wrestling to Japan. Most American pro wrestling fans are familiar with Japanese deathmatch wrestling thanks to Mick Foley (competing as Cactus Jack), who famously took on Terry Funk in the finals of IWA’s King of Deathmatch tournament on August 30, 1995 at Kawasaki Baseball Stadium, but Onita was having deathmatches in Japan as far back as 1989, even going so far as to create his own promotion, the legendary Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, or FMW. FMW might be the very first hardcore wrestling promotion, as ECW didn’t go “extreme” until 1994 and Combat Zone Wrestling wasn’t even founded until 1999.
This Sunday, Wrestlemania 29 emanates from the MetLife Stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey. I remember the days when I used to get pumped for this event every year; the Super Bowl of professional wrestling, the clash of the spandex clad titans. Starting with the Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View, which traditionally kicks off the “road to Wrestlemania” by determining who will challenge for the heavyweight title in April, the anticipation would build across weekly installments of Raw and Smackdown, as the storylines progressed to a fever pitch, with the performers putting everything they had into whatever feud they were embroiled in so that their inevitable collision at the showcase of the immortals would be an emotionally charged explosion of hard-hitting action.
I’ve been watching professional wrestling (or wrasslin’ as my grandpa called it) since I was old enough to understand what was happening on TV. In many ways, I think the “sport” may have had a hand in preparing me for heavy metal when I got older. If you think about it, there are a lot of similarities between the worlds of wrestling and heavy metal. Both are rife with drama, theatricallity, posturing, machismo and the desire to create a world and persona outside the doldrums of our everyday existences. There are also visual similarities; hell, sometimes it’s even difficult to tell the wrestlers apart from the metal musicians…