Hardcore wrestling is a misunderstood genre. It receives a lot of unfair criticism because of the violence on display and the awkward comparison to Backyard Wrestling. Personalities like Jim Cornette love burying the style and the people who practice it. However, it is a style of wrestling that is very brutal, dramatic and bloody but also features a lot of skill. A deathmatch wrestler requires a high pain threshold and enough creativity to make people care about the broken glass and excessive violence. These names are but a few of those who successfully pull off this style and entertain audiences with their work rate, style and dedication to being cut up and bloody.
Honourable Mentions: Spike Trivet, Ryuji Ito, Mickey Whiplash, Jimmy Lloyd, Tommy Dreamer
We’ll start with a legend on the Japanese deathmatch scene. If you ever look into that scene you will see Jun Kasai’s name pop up time and time again. He is prominent in FREEDOMS and always seems to take insane to the extreme. He seems to be fond of broken glass, gusset boards and even brings blades into the mix. The Crazy Monkey is well respected in his field and more than capable of wrestling a traditional match. He’ll just as happily out-technique you as break a light tube over your head. He utilises a wide range of Piledrivers, Splashes, lariats and other power moves in his repertoire as well as his high pain threshold and propensity to bring out the weapons. Just one look at his back shows the wars he has been in. Some of his most notable bouts have been against or alongside the likes of Takeda, Sakuda and plenty of other famous names like Abdullah Kobayashi, Ryuji Ito and Jaki Numazawa. He’s a legend for a reason and totally worth checking out if you have even a passing interest in Japanese deathmatch scene.
The current leader of OVE and Impact megastar is no stranger to a hardcore match. He has had some wars against Penta El Zero M, LAX and even taken on British death match icon Jimmy Havoc in recent matches. He is not afraid of bringing out weapons when a match demands it. He even took an unfortunate incident with a bat and made it work for him crafting a twisting narrative with Eddie Edwards. He also has no problems with tables, trash cans, staplers and barbed wire. He took part in the first tag team Barbed Wire Massacre against LAX and took the hardcore to Penta in Street Fights during their feud. Once again he is also an accomplished wrestler more than capable of carrying a match without the weaponry. Other examples of his hardcore accomplishments can be found in CZW where he held multiple titles. Impact have the full videos of some of his hardcore matches on their YouTube channel so it’s totally worth checking out if you want a taste of the American Hardcore scene.
Masashi Takeda is another one of the biggest names in Japanese deathmatches. He holds a successful MMA record and is more than capable of both regular and shoot style wrestling. He recently took part at Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport and wooed audiences with his match against Jonathan Gresham. However, he chose to pursue his dreams of death matches instead. Now he is found breaking light tubes over his opponents, being attacked by gusset boards and other household implements. He is currently one of the most popular wrestlers in BJW and FREEDOMS and potentially the best deathmatch wrestler on the planet. He even has signature spots with scissors and a board full of forks. He had an excellent match against Jun Kasai at Blood Xmas 2018 and continues to impress audiences currently with his performances throughout the BJW Deathmatch Survivor Tournament. He is set to be the future of the deathmatch business and is continuously putting on excellent match after excellent match as time goes on.
Ranas off the top of shark cages because why not. pic.twitter.com/PV9SdDT2Cj
— Jimmy Havoc (@JimmyHavoc) March 28, 2019
Jimmy Havoc is the face of the British deathmatch scene. He has an iconic look, iconic style and some unique offence. He will go for the usual deathmatch spots like broken glass and barbed wire but also takes on more familiar spots as he is often attacked by Lego and thumbtacks. His unique spot is delivered via an 8×10 as it’s a paper cut. But not just one, you’ll get them to the fingers, the toes and if he’s feeling especially mean, the mouth. Like everyone else, Havoc is an accomplished wrestler but prefers cuts to concussions so goes for the death matches. Hopefully, he’ll be taking the deathmatch style to AEW as one of their recent signees and will continue to be an ambassador for British wrestling for a long time to come as he recently completed a tour of Japan and took part in a Monster’s Ball match against Callihan in Impact Wrestling. He too is becoming a more continuous staple of BJW’s deathmatch division.
— Rickey Shane Page リッキーシェーンページ (@RickeyShanePage) April 1, 2019
Rickey Shane Page
Rickey Shane Page is probably the biggest man on this list. He is a playful yet powerful giant who hits hard and bleeds harder. He’s often on the receiving end of a Destroyer from his opponents and often hit the hardest when it comes to glass. His is highly energetic and often delivers moves you’d think him incapable of, especially in the kicks department. Much like Havoc, he is slowly becoming more of a staple in Japan as he too has been working in BJW taking on the likes of Sakuda and Takeda. Once again he doesn’t need the weapons to fight; having plenty of matches without glass on the ring canvas but often shines even more when taking bumps through tables or glass plates. You’ll often see RSP lobbing his opponents around the ring or breaking their backs across his knee. He might seem fun and friendly before the match starts but once in the ring, he can get serious very quickly.
A deathmatch list would not be complete without Nick MF’ing Gage. The King of Deathmatches and the God of ultraviolence has made GCW his home and death matches his domain. Gage is an ex-convict and MDK East Block Affiliate who delivers a mean promo and a meaner match as he mercilessly dissects his opponents. He has no fear when it comes to throwing himself through the standard toys of the deathmatch. He recently gained a fair bit of notoriety after his match with David Arquette. This gained a lot of traction for the unexpected brutality and really drove home how mean Nick Gage can be when he wants to win. He has even hosted his own death match tournament for GCW, the Nick Gage Invitational. Gage has had a long and storied career spanning most American death match promotions including CZW and IWA. The man is a deathmatch legend with a long list of titles and more to add to his resume before he hangs it up.
— TOSHIYUKISAKUDA??佐久田俊行 (@saku155cm) March 23, 2019
Sakuda is a very talented up and coming member of the BJW death match division. He has only been wrestling a few years but has been putting on gutsy performances against some of the best in the division. He has had wars against Jun Kasai, Masashi Takeda and Rickey Shane Page to name a few. He seems to be fearless and desperate to prove himself. He already has a signature of his own as he brings out large needles he pierces the cheeks of his opponents with. However, these needles often end up piercing him too as he is often unlucky and his opponents use them on him. He is slowly racking up better and better matches and more and more notoriety as he becomes more noticed. Sakuda is definitely one to watch as time goes on; one day he should be a big player in BJW’s deathmatch division.
Drew Parker is another fast-rising name on the British Wrestling Scene. He has been featured heavily on the deathmatch scene taking part in matches in GCW, Fight Club Pro and BJW. He is young, relatively carefree and often takes a lot of risks during his matches. He is a big player in ATTACK Wrestling and is making a big splash on PROGRESS as a member of the newish stable Do Not Resuscitate. Drew is another wrestler that offers more than just the ability to tolerate pain as he is great at high flying and technical wrestling too. He has taken part in multiple Fight Club Pro death house matches and even took on Takeda at the most recent one in Japan. Parker is another one who is excellent to watch and should continue to get better as he hones his craft and spends more time in America and Japan. There is a lot of time to develop and much like Sakuda, a lot of time to become a bigger player.
DEATHMATCH DESAFIO HE GOES HOME WITH ME ? pic.twitter.com/zUyIcCJRVK
— Miedo xtremo (@Miedo_Xtrem) February 24, 2019
Lastly, we go to Mexico for a lesser known deathmatch legend. Miedo Extremo is a name often heard when mentioning death matches and is seen in FREEDOMS and GCW as both a singles wrestler and teaming with Ciclope. He is another high flying daredevil who has no fears about the damage he takes. Be it diving into broken glass or fighting in barbed wire he’ll do it. Miedo is another guy who can handle a match with or without weapons and excels in the ring regardless. He has taken part in deathmatch tournaments and seems to be continuously rising as time goes on. This is the one man I know the least about but his work speaks for itself and earns him a spot on this list. He is still relatively young so it’s potential his notoriety will rise as can his opportunities to work in other companies. I hope to see more of his matches as time goes on. My recommended starting match of his would be a tag team deathmatch where he teamed with Ciclope against Violento Jack and Daisuke Masaoka late last year.
So there you have it, some of the best names in hardcore and deathmatch wrestling. There are plenty more out there to find and more death matches to be shocked by. This brand of wrestling is capable of offering shocking moments, excellent drama and some moments of pure brutality. It’s an often overlooked genre that really has some amazing talent in there. These people alone prove there is more to this style than hitting each other with objects and backyard-esque wrestling tropes. It requires wrestling ability and skill to pull off effectively. If you have even a passing interest in what this genre is capable of then search these guys up ASAP, the Twitter clips used are a great way to see more. If you’re not squeamish, you won’t regret it.
(Images and tweets courtesy of Jun Kasai’s Twitter, MrLARIATO Twitter, Steph Franchomme, Jimmy Havoc Twitter, Rickey Shane Page Twitter, Toshiyuki Sakuda Twitter, Drew Parker Twitter, Miedo Extremo Twitter, CZWstudios.com)