For most of my tenure as a fan of Pro Wrestling, Deathmatches were never exactly appealing to me, and I was reluctant to the idea of watching them. However, my growth as a fan eased said reluctancy, and I started watching Deathmatches here and there, to really know what it is like.
This first article is an invitation to join me in my journey to discover and understand Deathmatch wrestling, whether you are already into this genre or, like me, you are not very well versed in what it is and are willing to enter the crazy realm of glass tables, light tubes and various other types of weaponry.
Before getting started and diving into the first match I want to talk about in this article, let’s give a quick breakdown of what a Deathmatch is. To make it simple, these are hardcore type of matches where the use of weapons is, obviously, not forbidden. No such thing as a disqualification here, the only ways to win are the traditional ones : Pinfall, Submission or Technical Knock-Out. Now, there are different types of Deathmatches, often based off a certain weapon (or weapons) the wrestlers will be able to use : Again, light tubes, glass tables, barbed wire (explosive or not), even animals such as scorpions, I believe even Piranhas, have been featured.
One other aspect of Deathmatch wrestling I can talk about is the emphasis on blood, and the scenery it can create, which is something you can expect me to bring up more than once. Not only Deathmatches where no blood is shed must be extremely rare if not non-existent, but also, more often than not, bleeding adds to the matches and can help the encounter reach a higher level of both dangerousness and quality.
Now then, time to get our hands dirty and our face bloodied, as we’ll be diving into the first match of this series : Toru Sugiura vs Yuko Miyamoto, for the King of FREEDOMS Championship, which happened last February 10th at Go Beyond The Limit in Korakuen Hall. This is a “Tower Of Terror Fluorescent Light Tubes Tower Deathmatch”, which means that outside of the usual light tubes both wrestlers will have at their disposal around the ring, two towers made of these same light tubes have been placed in two of the ring’s corners, ready for both men to use and brutalize each other with.
Obviously, the big attraction when it comes to this match are the two gigantic towers made of light tubes standing in both corners of the ring, which both men will tease a spot with early on in the match, trying to get the other to run into it. The first man to taste the pain of the glass cutting his flesh ? It would be Miyamoto, after Sugiura threw him into the ropes where some light tubes have been placed. Not long after, Miyamoto would repay him the favour. One of the first things Sugiura tries to do after smashing the challenger’s back into light tubes would be to make him bleed, trying to cut his forehead with one of the tubes. Not only that wouldn’t work, but Sugiura would see more of his light tubes based offence countered, as Miyamoto counters Sugiura’s bodyslam attempt with one of his own. The assault would go on with Miyamoto continuing the “I will do to you what you tried doing on me” trend, as after smashing tubes on Sugiura’s head, he uses the remaining half of one to make the champion bleed from the forehead, which he would be successful at. The dynamic of the veteran outdoing the younger champion in his use of the weaponry at hand is well done so far. This is also the moment where Sugiura starts showcasing one of the things he is REALLY great at : Facial expressions, completely enhanced by the blood pouring all over the upper half of his face. A striking exchange and a dropkick from the second rope later, Sugiura lariats Miyamoto out of the ring and goes for a somersault plancha. Back in the ring, the assault continues with Sugiura elbowing his opponent with light tubes in between his forearm and Miyamoto, which is another relatively smart use of the weapon, even though not the one I see as the most effective. He’d then pile up a few tubes on Miyamoto’s chest, who is laying groggy in the corner. However, as Sugiura starts running towards Miyamoto to execute his next move, the latter gets up and throws the light tubes on Sugiura, which explodes in his face. Here again, another momentum switching moment, or so I thought since, after Miyamoto landed a overhead suplex, Sugiura would avoid his opponent trying to knock him with light tubes, landing a springboard forearm strike. Sugiura then takes on of the light tubes and smashes it on his head, pulling off a face which reminded me of Jun Kasai in all his bloodied glory.
After a northern lights suplex on light tubes, Sugiura looks at Miyamoto who now lies in the corner, and points at one of the big towers made of these same tubes, as the crowd’s interest peaks. He takes it, places it just like the usual tubes a few moments prior, goes in the opposite corner, hypes himself up and runs right into the light tubes, landing a devastating cannonball. Devastating for Miyamoto and for Sugiura’s own back, in what definitely was one of the best spots in the match. He follows up with a pin attempt, only for a two count. He tries to follow up with a move set like a Crucifix bomb, but Miyamoto manages to land on his feet as Sugiura falls on the mat executing his move, only to see Miyamoto pull out a moonsault knee stomp on his gut. He follows with an irish whip which gets countered, but lariats Sugiura in the end. He then goes for Crucifix bomb of his own, lands it, goes for the pin but only gets a two count as well. Miyamoto then gets Sugiura in the corner, gives him a few kicks using the light tubes in a similar manor as Sugiura earlier with his forearms, and then tries to drive Sugiura in the other tower of light tubes. However, the champion manages to jump on the top rope, thus avoiding the immense glass weapon, and hits Miyamoto with a crossbody. Sadly for him, as he tried to run into Miyamoto who was standing in front of the light tubes tower, the latter suplexes Sugiura right into it. Miyamoto spends a few seconds looking for other tubes, only to go set Sugiura up for a moonsault, as he puts light tubes on Sugiura. The champion would get the light tubes out of the way however, while still taking the move, and take advantage of a moment of disbelief from Miyamoto to catch him into a roll-up, only for a nearfall. At this point, Sugiura looks to be in survival mode, barely managing to stay in the match, as Miyamoto tries to lift him up. He resists, tries to go a fisherman suplex, gets countered, receives a handspring kick and gets caught in a roll-up after Miyamoto avoided his strike attempt. Breaking his pin attempt halfway through, Miyamoto goes for another pinning combination, for another nearfall. Miyamoto follows up with what looks like a reverse Piledriver, granting him only his second nearfall in a row. Miyamoto looks to again go for the moonsault, but this time, he plans on using the light tubes differently, taking them with him. However, Sugiura would get up and dropkick Miyamoto, thus preventing him from completing the move. Sugiura then joins Miyamoto up top, sets him up and lands a Spanish Fly from the top rope. Both men are down and stay down until the count of nine, where Miyamoto stands up like nothing happened. Both men then exchange forearms, with Sugiura taking the upper hand, only to get caught with a slap while going for a rolling forearm strike. Miyamoto follows with a german suplex, takes a pile of a light tubes and sets them up on Sugiura’s chest, who is in a seated position. He then runs knees first into Sugiura, but that would not put the champion away. Miyamoto looks heavily surprised and quite pissed about that kickout, which leads him to go for most of the light tubes remaining, setting them up in the ring. He tries to slam Sugiura onto them, but Sugiura escapes and delivers on Miyamoto what Miyamoto planned on giving him… Only to get yet another nearfall. Sugiura, with his bloodied back, points to a similar pile of light tubes Miyamoto used for his running knee strike earlier on, which gets handed to him. He sets the object on Miyamoto, who is one knee down at this point, looking groggy and unable to fully get up. Sugiura runs into the ropes and lands a forearm strike on Miyamoto, thus exploding the light tubes. He pins Miyamoto. One. Two. Three.
The King Of FREEDOMS Championship remains in the hands of Toru Sugiura after this brutal yet quite innovative battle. Sugiura pays respect to his veteran opponent by bowing down to him after the match.
If you ask me why I like this match a lot, why it was featured in my matches of the month list for February on Puroresu Gate and why I picked it for this first article, I’d say the innovative, at least from my perspective, use of the light tubes plays a big part into it. The cannonball spot and Miyamoto throwing the light tubes on Sugiura as his only way to counter are the main highlights of course (without forgetting the overhead suplex on the light tubes tower), but the finish itself was something unexpected, yet pleasing to see. You rarely get to see a forearm strike ending a match, light tubes involved or not. Like I mentioned while narrating the match, Sugiura’s facial expressions while bloodied pretty much took me in, as he looked like a demon in his favourite playground. The emotions he shows, the way he acts, especially when pointing at some of the weapons really managed to get me invested, just like the crowd reactions to his mannerisms got me invested. Miyamoto played his part very well too, having to outsmart the more brutal Sugiura, giving out a feeling of him having to slow down this Deathmatch beast that Sugiura is, while never truly finding a way to put him down.
To sum it all up, while I’m not really a fan of matches relying on specific spots to pop you up, in the context of this Deathmatch, none of these spots really felt like they had no place in the match, and all managed to add something to the story being told. The story of a crafty and smart veteran of the Deathmatch scene, having to go up against the young star of FREEDOMS, who becomes an unstoppable beast once blood pours on his forehead, while the glass cut his back, leaving it bloodied as well.