CvC 2.0: What is the Greatest Death-Match of All Time?

Daniel Massey@EPWWEfan1Senior Analyst IIIJuly 8, 2011

Red Division (Cross the Line division)

Daniel Massey vs Tim Nguyen

What is the Greatest Death Match of All Time?

Hello folks and welcome to Round two of the prestigious Creature vs Creature tournament.

This round features international wrestling, and I must admit, I was a little apprehensive when I saw this.

However, learning about the Death Matches of Japan has opened my eyes to a different side of wrestling that I never really realised existed. I knew there were Death matches due to promos the WWE used for Cactus Jack, but I didn’t realise how far these matches actually went.

Many companies have been known to hold these Death matches, most notably FMW (Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling) and IWA (International Wrestling Association of Japan.) There are many different types of Death matches, one of the weirdest being an Anus Exploding Death Match, where the object is to stick a firecracker up your opponents rectum.

Glass, fire, barbed wire, thumbtacks and even explosives are used in these heinous displays focused on spectacle.

I had to find one such match to focus on, and after trawling the Internet looking through endless amounts of clips, I finally came to a decision.

The greatest Death Match ever is the "Yokohama Amazon River Piranha Death Match," sanctioned by Big Japan Pro Wrestling (BJW) and performed on 19th August 1996.

I would’ve chosen the “Kennel From Hell Match” from WWF Unforgiven 1999, but I would have been disqualified as it featured American wrestlers and the WWE.

Big Japan Pro Wrestling was a company that was created by Kendo Nagasaki and Shinya Kojika in 1995.

Death matches were extremely popular in Japan during this time, and the emphasis was on spectacle, how much pain opponents could inflict on each other.

They were not for the faint hearted. Many people made a name for themselves from competing in these barbaric displays of grotesque activity. Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) and the International Wrestling Association of Japan (IWA) were the main companies at the time, and BJW was considered a minor league promotion.

Some believe this to be the reason why they came up with such innovative, fresh matches.

Mitsuhiro Matsunaga faced Kendo Nagasaki (Kazuo Sakurada) in the first ever “Yokohama Amazon River Piranha Death Match," otherwise more simplistically known as “Piranha Death Match.”

I believe this to have been the best Death Match ever for a variety of reasons, the first of which being that it was so innovative.

This had never been done before, and I’m not even sure if it was done again, but the concept was simple. With barbed wire boards in the corner of the ring and a tank full of piranhas in the centre, the object was to submerge your opponent under the water for at least ten seconds.

When people think of piranhas, they immediately get scared because of what they can do. The whole premise of the match already sent it to the top of most lists for suspense due to the possibilities of what would happen to the unfortunate wrestler who ended up in the tank with the ferocious creatures.  

Not only that, but the piranha tank was not overused in the 20 minute contest. Everyone knew they were there, ready and waiting, but the fact that the tank was ignored for the majority of the match made it even better.

Suspense disappears when the only thing happening is the threat of someone being dunked with the aggressive fish.

However, when barbed wire boards are used, along with clever ring work, the results are much different, and instead of being stale and boring, excitement grows when the blood flowing from Matsunaga excited the piranhas, eliciting screams from the audience, who were on the edge of their seats with anticipation.

To add to the list of reasons why this Death Match is the greatest of all time, one must know about the Japanese audience. They are notoriously difficult to please. If they see something they don’t like, they let the wrestlers know about it. Just read an autobiography of someone who has wrestled in Japan and you will understand what I mean.

Kendo Nagasaki and Mitsuhiro Matsunaga had the crowd captivated from start to finish, even bringing the action to where they were sitting! Nagasaki just threw boards, tables and chairs at Matsunaga and the audience scattered so as not to interrupt a beautiful (in a weird way) match.

This leads me onto my next point. The fact that submission manoeuvres were used during the match just shows that ring psychology can be used in the chaos of a Japanese Death Match!

At approximately 6:24, Kendo Nagasaki places Matsunaga in a hold that is designed to weaken him so he cannot escape the tank if forced in. It was very clever on the part of both wrestlers, and the Japanese audience made their appreciation heard.

My favourite part of the match, and another thing that makes it the greatest Death Match ever, is the ending. Matsunaga was forced into the tank and fully submerged—before he could get out however, Kendo placed the barbed wire board over him and sat on it, prompting the people trying to get Matsunaga out, to legitimately (I think) hit Kendo with a steel chair.

That’s not why the ending was good though—call me a sadist if you want, but the reason it was, is because Matsunaga was legitimately bitten by the piranhas in the tank.

Hear me out—the match would have sucked incredibly had the piranhas not been real, and/or not bitten him.

There is no danger there if that happens, and that is the whole point of a Death Match. I am not for this sort of violence as I think it is unnecessary, but one cannot avoid the obvious fact that the spectacle puts people in the seats.

The piranhas took a chunk out of Matsunaga’s chest and he looked in terrible pain when he left the arena. I don’t wish that on anyone, but he chose to wrestle there and in Japan—had they have been fobbed off with a rubbish ending, there would have been a riot. That does not mean I condone the actions, but that’s what makes it great.

The final reason this match was the greatest Death Match of all time was because the wrestlers were so good. Matsunaga was already synonymous with the Death Match format and was considered a veteran, so this new concept of piranhas made it more exciting, as even he hadn’t encountered anything like it before.

The two wrestlers had a certain chemistry in the ring, and to hold an audience for 20 minutes with a tank of piranhas in the middle of the ring is no easy feat.

I hope I have convinced you of the fact that the “Piranha Death Match" is the greatest Death Match of all time.

However, if you feel you can think of a better one, please leave a comment. Also leave a comment if you agreed, and detail any thoughts you have on the subject. I can answer all comments now I have Internet!

I really enjoyed dipping into this subject as I feel I have a lot more knowledge surrounding the Death Match, and it has opened up a whole new side of wrestling I barely knew existed.

Thanks for reading!

Tim Nguyen’s article


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