I suppose a little backstory is in order. In 1998 Atsushi Onita left FMW after being told by then owner, Shoichi Arai, that due to Onita’s attitude towards other wrestlers on the roster and FMW’s shift away from deathmatch wrestling, he needed to leave.
Somehow this lead to Onita showing up in New Japan and challenging Riki Choshu to a barbed wire deathmatch. Choshu, who was serving as booker at the time, was retired and so in January 1999 booked Onita in a match against Kensuke Sasaki. Onita lost that match but still persisted and demanded Choshu come out of retirement to face him which brings us to today’s match.
Again, Choshu refused to face Onita, instead booking him in a match against former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Masahiro Chono…in a goddamn exploding barbed wire match.
The match begins with a pair of the greatest ring entrances I’ve ever seen in my life. Onita is out first. He saunters down to the ring with a folding chair slung over his shoulder while “Wild Thing” blares. The normally staid Japanese audience gives him the WCW audience treatment and pelts him with trash as he walks down the aisle. At one point he stops, unfolds his chair and after lighting up a cigarette slumps down into it and smirks while the fans continue to hurl garbage at him.
Chono then proceeds to roll in a goddamn Humvee and march down to the ring with a cigar clenched between his teeth. He seems to be unsure of how to actually get into the ring since this is his first time in an exploding barbed wire deathmatch, but ultimately rolls into the ring and it’s time for the match to begin in earnest.
Like most Japanese deathmatches of yore, this begins with some basic wrestling and punch-kicking with teases of guys getting thrown into the barbed wire only for them to throw on the breaks at the last second. Eventually Chono gets Onita in the STF and some sirens sound which I guess means the bombs are now activated or something.
Chono releases the hold and grabs the chair that Onita had brought out with him and hurls it at him only for Onita to duck. The chair flies into the barbed wire, setting off an explosion that knocks both men and the referee on their asses in one of the best spots of the entire match.
We then get some back and forth with both guys ultimately ending up in the exploding barbed wire. Onita’s arm is opened up pretty good after he goes into the ropes so Chono beats on and yells “This is not wrestling!” at him in English for some reason.
Eventually there’s a ref bump that involves the referee, Onita, and Chono all going into the barbed wire and having it explode. A new referee, who had been out on the floor wearing ski goggles for the entire match, hops into the ring and checks on his fallen co-worker (the other ref was wearing a completely different uniform which said WAR on the back of his shirt so I don’t know if they actually worked together or not) while Chono has a visible pin on Onita.
Onita manages to kick out by the time the new ref realizes there’s a pin to be counted. Chono spams Yakuza Kicks on Onita but Onita keeps kicking out. Onita gets back to his feet and grabs a side headlock. Chono tries to get out of it with a backdrop suplex but Onita holds on and gets back to his feet driving Chono back into the barbed wire for another explosion.
Both men are down so the referee begins to administer a ten count. Onita staggers back to his feet, but then promptly collapses and the match ends with a double knock out.
Winner: Double Knock Out
Aside from the twin novelties of seeing a No Rope Explosive Barbed Wire Deathmatch being contested in a New Japan ring and Masahiro Chono in a garbage wrestling match this match is not particularly good. As is generally the case with these things there are a couple high spots but the bulk of the match is just mediocre brawling while guys attempt to push each other into the barbed wire.
The ending was kind of a disappointment too but I guess it lead to Chono and Onita respecting each other and teaming up with Chono to take on nWo Japan later that year because NJPW in 1999 was insane. [**]