At its core, professional wrestling is a spectacle and more often than not, an extremely violent spectacle at that. From Bruiser Brody and Abdullah the Butcher spilling each other’s blood in Puerto Rico to the hardcore innovation of Paul Heyman’s ECW, wrestling fans will always be drawn to sickening acts of violence. These are three examples, old and new, that will have any wrestling fans squirming in their seats.
Atsushi Onita vs. Terry Funk:
No Rope Exploding Barbed Wire Time Bomb Deathmatch – FMW 1993
A match with an ending so explosive that we’re still feeling its shockwaves to this very day. There are many names and faces you can associate with deathmatch wrestling; Mick Foley, Nick Gage, Jun Kasi, and Nick Mondo for example. But two names that definitely stand out as prime examples of the craft — Terry Funk and Atsushi Onita.
Terry Funk has been a star in America and in Japan, due to his hard-hitting style and tough-as-nails attitude. This would go hand in hand with Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and its founder, deathmatch innovator Atsushi Onita. The two were actually very good friends behind the scenes, cemented by Funk helping Onita navigate life in the United States’ Wrestling scene.
This friendship would lead to Funk appearing at FMW in 1993 to compete in an experimental and dangerous new match type, a No Rope Exploding Barbed Wire Time Bomb Deathmatch!
The match’s stipulation was simple; pin your opponent and leave the ring before the timer runs out and the ring explodes. It’s a brutal onslaught of blood and scorched flesh resulting in one of the greatest babyface moments in the history of pro wrestling.
In its final moments Onita, after getting the win, cannot find it in himself to leave Funk behind to be blown up. So in a moment of desperation, with the clock about to hit zero, throws his own body over Funk’s as the explosions go off and the ring turns white! It’s one of the finest babyface moments in wrestling history and a pivotal moment in the evolution of deathmatches.
Eddie Guerrero vs JBL:
WWE Championship Match – WWE Judgement Day 2004
Sometimes, if you’re bold enough, you wanna push your own limits in terms of violent content. Meaning that you don’t care if the match is good or not, for whatever reason you just wanna feel sick to your stomach. If that’s your preferred poison, this title match from the Ruthless Aggression Era is just for you.
In late 2004 the late great Eddie Guerrero, then the reigning WWE champion, was slotted into a feud with the newly repackaged John Bradshaw Layfield. JBL, now a George Bush-inspired and Wall Street-themed heel, was honestly a perfect foil for Guerrero — especially in the mid-2000s. Their match’s build would receive an extra dose of real-life fuel when, during a house show segment, JBL would cause Eddie’s mother to have a minor heart attack.
This would all culminate in their first main event encounter at Judgement Day 2004, all was going to plan until a blade job went horribly wrong. Eddie would cut his own forehead too deep which resulted in a sickening cascade of crimson which would cover his face, the floor outside, and eventually the ring. By the end of the match, blood is everywhere, a visual more befitting a grindhouse horror movie more so than a WWE main event.
Britt Baker D.M.D. vs. Thunder Rosa:
Unsanctioned Lights Out Match – AEW St. Patrick’s Day Slam 2021
All Elite Wrestling has definitely brought visceral blood and guts back into prime-time television wrestling in a major way since its arrival. From Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley’s Lights Out match from Full Gear 2019 to Chris Jericho’s controversial and sponsor triggering deathmatch with Nick Gage — AEW is definitely unafraid to get dangerous. However, their crowning achievement in high octane bodily harm definitely goes to Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa from earlier in 2021.
Britt Baker, recently hailed as one of the main pillars of AEW, really hit her stride after turning heel in late 2020. This run would result in strong character work and, after recovering from her injury, far more impressive matches from the self-proclaimed “role model”. Case in point, her feud, and subsequent Unsanctioned Lights Out Match with Thunder Rosa.
The match would see both women take each other to the absolute limit, with a level of violence unseen in the current WWE women’s division. The match — which contains a plethora of steel chairs, thumbtacks, tables, and ladders — quickly became a critical darling. Both women received praise for their performances, but it would be Baker who would receive the most clout, with her now-iconic crimson-stained face being added to her entrance video going forward.
Brutality in professional wrestling will always be a part of the game. It’s important to go back and recognize the performers that put their bodies on the line for a form of entertainment that many couldn’t fathom doing themselves. These are three in a long list of very gruesome matches that fans should go back and watch.