Exploding. Barbed Wire. Deathmatch. Those four words have been echoing around the wrestling world for a few weeks now. Ever since Kenny Omega named his stipulation for his AEW World Championship defence against Jon Moxley at AEW Revolution, people have wondered what is in store.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that question. Sure, you can expect barbed wire, some explosions, and some bloody wrestlers struggling to stand at the end of it. But, beyond that, almost every time this match has appeared, it has varied. There’s no “hard and fast rule” about how the ring is set up, or where exactly the explosions and barbed wire will be.
The majority of these matches, in history at least, have taken place with the regular ring ropes removed. These are usually replaced with either single strands of barbed wire (replicating the usual three ropes) or with a “spider’s web” approach designed to offer more security to the wrestlers when they inevitably get thrown into it. However, it has been implied that AEW will simply wrap their ring ropes in barbed wire. This won’t have the same visual impact, and will allow certainly Omega to utilise some high-flying moves if he wants – but it might annoy the “purists”.
Similarly, the explosions can be configured in different ways. History has had C4 encased in the barbed wire “ropes”; boards with explosives strapped to them; explosive triggers in the ring; or – in some cases – a “time bomb” of explosives set to go off at a certain point. At this moment in time, we don’t know which version AEW will go with – but their pyrotechnics experts are no doubt putting their creative minds into overdrive.
Rather than speculate on what’s to come – although I am predicting a V-Trigger on Moxley while his head is resting on barbed wire – let’s look back at some of the key versions of this match throughout history.
(All links provided are to publicly available videos of these matches at the time of writing. The Wrestling Movement accepts no responsibility for the content, or existence, of this footage online)
Atsushi Onita vs. Tarzan Goto
No Ropes Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch
WWA Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Title
FMW Summer Spectacular (August 4, 1990)
When you look at the history of this type of match, where else are you going to start than in Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW)? Atsushi Onita founded FMW in July 1989, holding their first show in October that year. Tarzan Goto had grown but irate at Onita bringing in non-wrestlers – in his view “weakening” professional wrestling. After an empty arena match on June 24 didn’t stop the feud, the result was to take the barbed-wire matches becoming popular in Japan at the time and add a new twist. The barbed wire ropes contained explosives, triggered by an electric current when a wrestler hit the wire.
This is the first instance of barbed wire and explosives being used together and set a tradition in FMW as one of their signature matches. As you would expect from a “first” the pacing is slow and tentative, reliant on brawling and submission attempts. The sheer volume of headbutts in the first few minutes alone is scary, and enough to make both men bleed. The majority of the early explosions are triggered by Onita not really being aware of his surroundings rather than due to any offence. The only truly offensive trigger of explosives is when Onita shoves Goto back into the ropes with a forearm. The match is fought under Last Man Standing rules and is over when Goto can’t answer the referee’s ten count after taking three DDTs and three powerbombs from Onita.
This won’t go down in history as even a good wrestling match, but its place in notoriety as the first of its kind makes it one worth watching – and including in this list.