Cactus Jack vs. Terry Funk: The Greatest Death Match of All Time

Daniel Massey@EPWWEfan1Senior Analyst IIIAugust 25, 2011

Hello folks! Today, I thought I’d treat you all to something that I consider to be quite special. Joe Burgett recently held a tournament called “Creature vs. Creature 2.0”, in which people competed to be the number one writer on Bleacher Report.

I got to the division final, but it was round two that I found the most entertaining.

The subject covered was the greatest death-match of all time. The round was based on International wrestling.

The article you will read today is the original article I was going to submit before being told I would be disqualified due to it featuring American wrestlers.

I rewrote the article, which actually got me through to the division final, but I thought I’d give you what I really think is the greatest death-match of all time. Please enjoy!

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.

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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.

The match I am focusing on in this article however, is a match that took place on August 20 1995, in the Kawasaki Stadium in Japan.

The IWA decided to hold a massive event featuring an eight-man elimination Death Match tournament to determine the “King of the Death Match. This featured talent from all over the World, many already synonymous with the hardcore style that the IWA were promoting. Leatherface, Tiger Jeet Singh, Terry Funk and Cactus Jack were all involved in the tournament, picking up scars and injuries that would stay with them for the rest of their careers.

The highlight of this tournament was the final. Cactus Jack vs Terry Funk in a No Rope, Barbed Wire, Explosive Barbed Wire Board, Time Bomb Death Match. Who thinks of these things?

This, for me, is the greatest Death Match ever. I did a lot of research for this article, and nothing even came close to the match that these two men put on for the somewhat twisted Japanese fans. They had already wrestled two matches, Death Matches that is, earlier on in the night and came out already bruised and battered.

There are many reasons I consider this match to be the best death match of all time, one of which is due to the rivalry and chemistry between the two hardcore legends. They had fought battles before but none more deranged than this.

As told in Mick Foley’s autobiography “Have A Nice Day” The C4 used on the barbed wire boards was only supposed to be four strong, but Terry Funk insisted on six after seeing the explosions in a demonstration.

This adds to the anticipation, especially if you know about this fact before watching the match. Even if you didn’t, the anticipation of seeing someone blown up on legitimate explosives is clearly too much for the Japanese fans, who were reportedly loving every second of the match these two put on.

The video tape has to be watched to be fully appreciated, I will ink to it in the media slots so you can see for yourself.

Terry and Cactus circled each other to begin with, building up the tension—both of them bruised battered and bandaged from their previous Death Matches.

Terry Funk was the first to suffer the blast of the C4 explosives, dropping on them from a flurry of forearm shots.

 Cactus was next, suffering a blast from a hip-toss, rolling through most of the explosion. The barbed wire boards were used frequently, as were the barbed wire on the ropes and this just made the match better, due to the fact that despite already wrestling two other Death Matches, these men were not afraid to put it all on the line to become King of the Death Match.

The explosions form the C4 boards are extremely impressive and I can’t understand why anyone would want to go through that voluntarily but it certainly makes for a good match.

The suspense between each offensive move involving the weapons makes the match even better as I was watching with bated breath, hoping that neither would suffer too much from the C4 injuries.

Despite this match being the greatest Death Match of all time it did have its negative points, one of which was the ending. The concept of the time bomb, where the ring explodes after a certain amount of time, had been used in other promotions such as FMW.

They had always gone off with a huge impressive explosion. The time-bomb in this match didn’t. The fans were not happy about the minimalist fireworks display they had just witnessed and were disappointed to say the least.

However, this is what makes this match even better in my opinion—just hear me out. If you are a big professional wrestling fan you have probably read about the Japanese crowd. They are reportedly hard to please and very unruly when disappointed.

Despite the weak time-bomb explosion, the two veterans of hardcore still managed to end the match with the crowd in awe. Funk’s disappointment with the explosion was bigger than the fan’s though, judging from his expression.

They saved the match by exploding the last board and bringing a ladder into the mix. The final explosion was the one that caused most injury to both participants.

After some abuse with the ladder, Cactus dropped an elbow on Funk and scaled the ladder again only to be thwarted. Funk backed into the ladder, sending Cactus into the barbed wire (probably one of the most famous clips used from the Death Match) injuring him severely—opening gashes.

Despite this being the final offensive move and Cactus Jack begin on the receiving end of it, he managed to crawl over to Funk to get the cover and win the match. This is yet another reason why this is the greatest Death Match of all time.

For the audience not to care about a weird ending like this and just applaud the people in the ring for the effort and dedication, just shows what a good match it was. The pathetic time bomb fireworks were all but forgotten after this match.

There have been more dangerous death matches than this, of that I am sure, but I think this ranks as the greatest in terms of spectacle, rivalry and performance. Had this been two rookies, many wouldn’t have even known about the match, but these two knew what they were doing and were willing to suffer the consequences.

Cactus received $300 for his work that night and a can of soda as a bonus. It put him high up in terms of the fan’s respect, as he had beaten Terry Funk, who hardly ever lost in Japan.

According to “Have A Nice Day” (Mick Foley’s autobiography) Mick suffered;

“seven stitches in my hand, nine in my eyebrow, eleven in my head, and fourteen behind my ear.”

He also suffered second degree burns to his right arm, from the final C4 explosion.

Terry Funk had been rushed to hospital and also suffered a ridiculous amount of injuries, but there is no doubt in my mind that on August 20, 1995, in the Kawasaki Stadium, these two men put on the greatest Death Match ever.

Do you agree? Is there another Death Match you think was better? Whatever your opinion, please leave it in the comments section below. I will do my best to reply to all comments.

Thanks for reading!


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