Scout Report by Wrestlingscout
What is it about this often frowned upon style of pro wrestling that so many people just love? As a former fan of Extreme Championship Wrestling, I instantly was intrigued by this foreign approach where ultra-violence rules. I saw things I had not seen in the US in almost ten years - bloodbaths. I came to learn ECW founder and mastermind, Paul Heyman, was simply adding his own twist to something that had started in Japan. Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and Atsushi Onita turned the puroresu world on its nose when they first started with their death matches in 1989.
Barbed wire, explosives, electricity, fire, thumbtacks, broken glass, and so on. I could not believe there was such gruesome wrestling out there when I first saw it and to this day I use it to show people wrestling is far from "fake." Great talents like Terry Funk, Mick Foley, and Mitsuhiro Matsunga became cult favorites. FMW, IWA, W*ING, and Big Japan became wildly popular and it had a direct effect on the United States. While ECW's predecessor, Tri-State Wrestling had great battles between Cactus Jack and Eddie Gilbert; this fledging brand had to grow. Now we have seen ECW, IWA (Ian Rotten's), CZW, and even XPW.
I think that while this style is often filled with backyard wrestling-inspiring highspot masters it has its innovators and talents, who may not have been able to hang in All Japan and New Japan, but were and may still be excellent at what they do. And here are my top ten garbage wrestlers from the land of the Rising Sun:
1. Atsushi Onita - Hell, the guy invented the death match, how can he not be the greatest? While he was certainly no answer to Tiger Mask in All Japan, Onita's FMW was an alternative to the traditional style that All Japan and New Japan was offering. He's nearly died twice from accidents as a result of his trademark matches, but has persevered and even brought his style to New Japan!
2. Mitsuhiro Matsunga - As bad ass as "Mr. Danger" looks, he is a stunt master, but can wrestle a good match when he must. Seeing his crazy dives and the incident in which his head was caught on fire showed me Matsunga was no fake.
3. Mr. Pogo - After years of teaming with Kendo Nagasaki, Mr. Pogo became the counterpart to Atsushi Onita in FMW and the company became a cult classic. The fire-spitting, scythe-wielding Pogo lived and almost died in the style. The bump that broke his neck is still gut wrenching to this day.
4. Hayabusa - I've never known what to make of loyalty to a second-rate promotion, its like staying in the minors and really fulfilling one's potential. This guy was awesome enough to bring the spotlight to him. He took over Onita's top spot and was one of the greatest highflyers to ever grace a wrestling ring. As skilled as he was though, Hayabusa was never afraid to compete in FMW's death matches and has broken most of the bones in his body over the years.
5. Masato Tanaka - While Hayabusa was a great highflyer, Tanaka was a better traditional style wrestler. He always reminded me of a poorman's Misawa, but he had his own thing going on. The Dangan Fighter is double tough and despite a language barrier, he was able to become a star in ECW in the States and of course FMW's top star.
6. Yukihiro Kanemura - W*ING, Kintaro, Yukihiro, whatever you call him, Kanemura is a star in garbage wrestling. In his promotion, W*ING, he competed in several death matches including one that saw him lose 75% of the skin on his back. Kanemura is a fine wrestler; garbage wrestling aside, which is what the style needs to keep it credible.
7. Jun Kasai - The next big thing, if he isn't already, in garbage wrestling. This guy destroys his body like his idol, Mitsuhiro Matsunga, which makes him a hot commodity for Big Japan. Hopefully, Kasai can realize the success of those who came before him, but this brand of wrestling seems to be dying out.
8. Shoji Nakamaki - A former journalist, who jumped in the ring, the IWA star was and continues to be crazy. Though one may think he is just a glorified backyard wrestler-like wrestler, he knew the game.
9. Tarzan Goto - Though he was not as extreme as his partner, Atsushi Onita, Goto's role in the development in FMW and garbage wrestling in general is undeniable. He and Onita had the first fabled death match, which is still one of the best. Goto's tough and unafraid, which makes him perfect for the style.
10. Hiroshi Ono - Most people remember this man from the King of the Death Match tournament and for good reason. Ono was a fine garbage wrestler and though he did the hard head thing (and not half as well as Fujiwara), he was a tough SOB and a good star for IWA in their heydays.
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