When Wrestling Gets Real
For more on this topic, check out our video series When Wrestling Gets Real (Documentary) - YouTube
I want to take a look at the times pro wrestling has ascended from these pre-determined flights of acrobatics and entertainment, into the realms of real-life hatred, violence and aggression. I want to see what happens during times where to performers with larger-than-life personalities, larger egos and even large muscles decide to break from the pre-agreed script and turn a pro wrestling match into a real fight. From athletes deciding to go off script and deliver their own fate in the ring. To impassioned rivalries which turned into bloody war.
To better understand why these volatile moments are so interesting, I want to take a look back in the wrestling world of the 1950s and how the National Wrestling Alliance used the threat of violence to protect it’s most valuable commodity.
With Japan being the same part of the world that introduced strong style to professional wrestling. A presentation in the squared circle which aims to have its competitors hit one another as hard and as realistically as possible, without the entire affair turning into a real brawl. It is perhaps no surprise then, that as the line between a fake punch and a real one has blurred over the years.
As the grey area between making a wrestling match feel believable and ending careers with violent headbutts and kicks, has become so murky. We see that over the years, Japanese puroresu had provided us with a plethora of exciting and devastating moments where one or more of the performers in what was originally scheduled to be a pre-determined match, turn the event into a bloody and brutal display of real-world violence. And that is exactly what I want to explore next.
RIKIDOZAN & KIMURA
When we want to look deeper into the world of Japanese ultra-violence and realistic brutality. There is no better place to start than one of the grandfathers of Asian pro wrestling and innovator of puroresu. Rikidozan.
And for that, we will need to go all the way back to December 22nd, 1954. Just a year after Rikidozan had founded the Japanese Wrestling Alliance. And a time when the fledgling company was about to announce its inaugural Japanese Heavyweight Champion.
The prestigious title would be awarded to the winner of a hotly anticipated bout between the owner of the company and another hard as nails Japanese legend in Masahiko Kimura. The former, Rikidozan, a man who earned his tough reputation and indeed his in-ring name from his time as a legitimate Sumo wrestler. His opponent on the night was a man who may be more familiar with martial arts. Kimura being revered as one of the greatest judokus of all time, even besting iconic jiu-jitsu master Helio Gracie in 1951.
Add to that the fact that the pair had been teaming together in several matches as they attempted to protect the Japanese wrestling culture from the invading heel American stars. In post-war Japan, this proved a very popular promotional tactic by companies around the country at the time.
In the lead up to the bout, a sour air begun to brew. Kimura had explained how Rikidozan would attempt to steal his limelight during their tag matches, and as he was the owner of the company, would allow himself the lion’s share of the in-ring time. This led to Kimura founding his own rival Japanese pro wrestling company, to the disapproval of Rikidozan.
the competitive nature had rapidly got out of hand, with both men’s egos causing more and more friction. Kimura harassed Rikidozan, calling pro wrestling fake and explained how he could easily best his adversary in a real fight.
Now, the two men would come face to face for the ultimate prize. It has since been said that the original plan was for the match to end after a hard-fought 60-minute draw. Allowing for a rematch between the men and thus more revenue from ticket sales. However, that is far from what happened.
At first, the match appeared to roll along as planned, with both performers getting in decent offence during the opening exchanges. Everything suddenly changed, when, intentionally or not Kimura’s attack struck his opponent in the testicles. This sent Rikidozan into a fit of rage and he begun to turn what was a choreographed match into a real fight.
He slapped and clawed at Kimura as the ref stepped in to try and restore order. This proved to be of little use as Rikidozan’s brutal onslaught only grew more fierce. A large open palm strike landed clean on Kimura’s jaw, sending him crumpling to the mat.
As the smaller man huddled up, Rikidozan begun kicking his downed foe in the face, Kimura’s brain rattling around inside his skull, each kick snapping his head violently backwards.
Before he could regain his feet, Kimura was subjected to more kicks, slaps and a vicious stomp to the back of his head. A brief respite came as the dazed Kimura retreats into to corner of the ring. But there is nowhere to hide. Rikidozan closes the distance without hesitation and with a handful of powerful slaps sends his once close ally unconsciously to the ground.
The former sumo master showing his real-life pedigree and sheer physical dominance proved to be a great look for Rikidozan as he stood triumphant in the ring. Kimura’s stature within pro wrestling took a steep decline, he looked reluctant, hesitant, and almost afraid during the altercation. From a man with such martial arts prestige, Kimura would continue his career outside the world of pre-determined bouts. However, throughout all the real fights he had and hard fought victories in Kimura’s countless battles, that night in 1954 would forever, remain a sore spot.
EARTHQUAKE & KOJI KITAO
In April of 1991 two enormous men and their even larger personalities would collide in a match which pitted two former sumo wrestlers against one another in a pro wrestling ring. Inside World Hall in Kobe Japan, John Kenta a man who would go on to better be known as Earthquake in WWE would have his second match against Koji Kitao as part of the Wrestle Dream live event as part of the SWS Japanese wrestling company.
"Believe it or not, this match got the most heat of the card, and it was the best match from a crowd standpoint, but not from a wrestling standpoint." Dave Meltzer
The pair’s first match had taken place in Tokyo earlier that week. And although the performance from the two hulking men in that match was not spectacular, it wasn’t memorable for many other reasons either. However, when the pair met once again, everything would have changed.
"He was a sumo champion we had brought over. Green as grass but had a chip on his shoulder you wouldn’t believe. Kitao walked in thinking he was tougher, bigger, better than anyone we had on the roster. He carried himself that way in the locker room. He was green, stiff and sh**ty. Considered himself a shooter, but he was just kind of an a**hole really. John was actually willing to do business. I’m sure he would’ve done anything that was asked of him to do. When Kitao was asked to do business, Kitao balked at it and said, ‘I could kill this guy in real life,’ and John took exception to that, saying, ‘If you want to go out there and shoot, we can shoot.’ Bruce Pritchard
At first it seemed as if the match would plod along at both men’s preferred methodical pace. But clearly something was off. There was very little action taking place with both men seemingly reluctant to perform any actual offence. The pair entagled their fingers in a classic test of strength, but the chemistry didn’t seem to flow. When Tenta grabbed for a headlock it was simply refused by Kitao. Tenta then took his opponents back, clasping on with all his strength, Tenta’s big hairy arms squeezing around Kitao’s waist. When the Japanese wrestler attempted to break free from the grip, Tenta simply held on. Forcing his opponent flat onto the mat. This seemed to be the turning point in the bout.
The bulking sumo made his way outside the ring and grabbed part of the announce table, throwing it at the ring in frustration. Kitao clearly didn’t come to the event to work. He takes his time wandering around the ring as he opponent beckons him inside. The pair eventually lock up once again, but there is no saving this one. Through sweat and spit, the two wrestlers shout at one another in the ring, with Tenta repeatedly proclaiming “This is pro wrestling”
The match never had a chance to build into anything meaningful before it devolved into this macho display of chest puffing. Both Kitao and Tenta refusing to progress the action as they circled back and forth tentatively in the ring.
The stale mate was eventually brought to a conclusion when seemingly for no reason Koji Kitao turned his frustration towards the referee, a man half of his size. Lashing out with a hard kick which sent the official to the mat. Quickly realising that the bout was beyond saving the downed referee signals for the bell and the confused boos of the crowd Tenta is declared the winner by disqualification.
Before he left the ring for the final time, Koji Kitao grabbed the microphone and shouted "Wrestling is fake" before exiting for the back, to the confusion of the onlooking crowd.
I think when they got in the ring, Kitao tried Tenta a little bit, and realized, ‘If you’re gonna go out there and shoot, you’re gonna lose.’" Bruce Pritchard
GREAT SASUKE & DIRT BIKE KID
In 1992. During the Pro Masked Wrestler Tournament hosted by Michinoku Pro. A young British performer, The Dirt Bike Kid, was invited to take part by the owner of the company, iconic Japanese wrestling figurehead The Great Susuke.
However, due to several misunderstandings and a good helping of ego. The opening match for the foreigner would prove to be one of the most brutal real-life beat downs in pro wrestling history. For a first-hand account of the incident, I’d like to refer directly to the man who was on the receiving end of one of the squared circles most violent assaults.
“I had jetted out to Japan with an injury that I received during the FWA No Surprises show, where I hurt my cartilage in my ribs. Somehow, this information had also gotten back to Sasuke after all the trouble had already put into motion. My first match on the tour was scheduled to be against Sasuke, and it wasn’t until the guys were warming up in the ring before the show started to open that I began to smell a rat, and a pretty big one. Sasuke said that I was going to dominate him for a while and then he would fight back in a real flurry, and spin-kick me for his big submission finish. Well, I had apparently already pissed them off because I refused to wear the stupid mask they had made for me. I’m not a masked wrestler, so why did they want me on a masked-man tournament. I managed to compromise with them, and say that I’d wear it to the ring only, and then rip it off, where I would wear the usual biking-face mask that I usually wear during my ring-entrance. They didn’t like it, I could tell… but agreed to it. Sasuke really didn’t want to talk with me, so our match was not even 1% planned by the time we got to the ring. When I got into the ring, I ripped my mask off and threw it at the ref. I could tell that the atmosphere wasn’t quite right. The match got under way, and everything seemed fine. When he started to comeback, he kicked me twice to either side of my head which was ok, then wam! he hit me with his trademark spin-kick, that should of put me down. But I didn’t go down, because I didn’t want too. He hit me hard in gut with the kick but I just stood there selling, so he did it again, WAM! But I still wouldn’t go down. Kick, kick, kick, WAM, WAM, WAM… he kept kicking me, but I just stood there, and took them all like a man, and believe me, he was shooting on me by then. But then the BIG ONE came, ‘WAM’ again. This time his kick caught me right under my ribs, where my cartilage injury was, and I just fell like a chopped down tree, as all the air went out of my lungs in that 100-degree non-air condition hall. I knew I was seriously hurt. Sasuke kicked me at least three times full-on in the face while I laid there, not being able to breath. I wanted to tell him, the ref, anybody…that I was hurt and to finish the match, but couldn’t get any words out at all. The next thing I knew, Sasuke picked me up, and went for a submission finish and I let him do it, because I needed to get out. Only the arsehole, shot on me again and almost broke my neck. Now, I knew my tour was finished, either through injury or the fact that my card was marked, but hey, I am a man and I tried to act professional from the fans perspective by offering my hand to Sasuke as he celebrated, even though I felt like s**t. But Sasuke, just gave me a not very nice hand gesture. If Sasuke didn’t like me, or had a problem with me then he should have been upfront about it, and said it to my face. Instead of the sucker-punch he tried to line up for me. I killed his finish, but hey, he deserved it. It wasn’t until the next day before my next match at the arena, that I had to go to hospital, because I started to cough up blood. It was there, that they told me that I had to have a minimum of six weeks off wrestling as my cartilage in my chest was badly cracked over my whole rib cage, and that one more kick, could be very serious.”
Following the explosive altercation. There was less than nothing ever mentioned about it by either performer, or the Michinoku Pro Wrestling company. With The Dirt Bike Kid and Great Sasuke not so much as exchanging a glance at one another backstage, the two would never reconcile before DBK’s retirement just one year later. Sasuke is still going strong to this day proving why he earned the moniker of Great.
YASUKAWA & YOSHIKO
At Stardom Queen’s Shout in 2015, two former allies would come face to face, both as dominant performers and with title belts around each of their waists. However, the monumental match is now remembered not for the calibre of the wrestlers on display or their showings of world class joshi style grappling. But, as we will soon discover, what will forever be referred to as The Ghastly Match will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons.
A perennial villain, Yoshiko was the current Stardom World Women’s champion. A feared and brutal joshi wrestler whose sheer size and power allowed her to dominate almost all who dared step in the ring opposite her. Backed up by her years of real world experience in MMA, she was a gifted martial artist and all-round hard nut. She embodied the spirit of joshi wrestling with their no nonsense approach and hard hitting action during matches.
Her opponent, Act Yasukawa was the complete opposite. Younger, faster and more beautiful. Yasukawa represented the new generation of Japanese female wrestling in Stardom. She was a villain just like Yoshiko, but did not rely on her physical strength in the same way. Instead, Yasukawa relied on her keen mind for the business and technique to make her way to the top. This contrast, both in the storyline of pro wrestling and behind the scenes, had begun to cause an irreparable fracture.
This friction exploded into a fire of violence as soon as the match bell rung. Yoshika immediately set to work hounding and overcrowding her smaller adversary. At first it seems like the match could still be choreographed. But in no time at all. All mystery would evaporate as Yoshika begun smashing clubbing blows onto Yasukawa.
Dragging her around the ring. Pulling her hair and suffocating any chance of offence from Yasukawa, Yoshiko took control out of her opponents control and physically brutalised her opponent. In a viscious display which seemed to stretch of for eternity, the smaller joshi performer had little to no chance of escape. She clambered to escape the ring and regain her breath but as soon as she tried to create some distance, Yoshiko was close on her tail with more punches to the face.
Again and again the clubbing blows from the bigger woman’s meaty hands land clean on her now dazed and defenceless opponent’s jaw, her nose and her ears. Blood is pouring from the now ballooning Yasukawa’s face, a river of crimson, covering the almost unrecognisable damage.
The match was eventually called to a hault as management stepped in to end the violence. But it wasn’t quick enough to save Yasukawa. She had been beaten to a bloody pulp and was barely able to comprehend what had just happened. She was exhausted, swollen and groggy as she was helped out of the ring. The fans in attendance, just like me today were disgusted with what they had just witnessed. Sickened by what will surely go down as one of the darkest moments in Japanese pro wrestling history.
Three days after the bloody affair, Stardom management held a public press conference in order to address the wrong doings of one of its most notable stars. Yoshiko was formally stripped of her world title and was forced to publicly apologise for her disgusting acts and was suspended from the company. The owners and directors of the company also agreed to take a 30% pay-cut for three months for failing to prevent the occurrence. New rules were also introduced at this time within the company, putting a definitive ban on all punches to the face and bringing in the imperative need to have a certified doctor ringside for all of their future wrestling events.
This all proved far too little, too late. As Act Yasukawa had suffered serious and irreparable facial injuries during the attack and would be forced to retire from pro wrestling in December that year. A truly sad end to what could have been an even more eventful career. Yasukawa was not only supremely gifted in the ring, with her combination of smaller stature heel work and ability to mix it up with the toughest joshi fighters. But also, even for a villain Act Yasukawa was beloved by Japanese wrestling fans who will share in my sadness surrounding this whole event.
5 years after her career ending injuries. Yasukawa did eventually return for a brief spell in the ring. But has said that her mental and physical state has never been the same since she endured the ghastly match.
INOKI & ALI
It all started with a simple proposition, in typical boastful fashion from one of sports greatest ever showman,
“Isn’t there an Oriental fighter who will challenge me? I’ll give him one million dollars if he wins.” Muhammad Ali.
On June the 26th, 1976, almost two decades before the first ever Ultimate Fight Championship, two men who were at the very forefront of their chosen martial art, came face to face. In a battle which would go on to be known as the war of the worlds.
No, not that war of the worlds. This particular mega-fight pitted one of the most famous and recognisable faces in the history of sport, Muhammad Ali against a revolutionary figure from the world of Japanese wrestling, Antonio Inoki.
“People always wondered: ‘How would a boxer do with a wrestler?’ I’ve always wanted to fight a rassler, and now I’m going to get a chance to do it,” Muhammad Ali
A pure spectacle of sports entertainment, which would go on to lay the groundwork for the enormous money spinning cross over events we see in the modern day. And just in the same way that today Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor earned hundreds of millions of dollars by building a match around sportsmanship and hatred. So, that tradition got it’s first big display when Ali and Inoki begun building to their match.
“Boxing is old news. We’re in a new field now. We’re going to Japan to take on this Antonio Inoki, the World’s Heavyweight Karate Champion. I predict this will outsell all of my fights, and I’m the biggest draw in the world. Everybody should watch this fight.” Muhammad Ali
The eyes of the world were watching during the public training sessions held by both athletes. Journalists asked questions as both men weighed in. A formal dinner was held with a chance for both men to stake their claim as the greatest fighter, regardless of sport in the world. The camera bulbs flashed and the film roll ran as the public seemingly couldn’t get enough of this once in a lifetime match up. Muhammad Ali proved as he would throughout most of his career, to take the lead during the promotion of the big fight. Breaking down Inoki’s pro wrestling technique to hilarious effect, and as always, had the public and journalists alike on his side.
However, Inoki, the stern and unwavering slab of granite stayed reserved, polite and mostly silent for huge chunks of the promotion. Adding to a sense that this man was a cold-blooded assassin. In response to Ali’s typical flamboyance, Inoki remained ever confident in his own ability.
“When the wind blows, I shall bend but not break,” Antonio Inoki
A man carved from the finest marble, methodically moving his way through both the promotional tour and his everyday llife. Whom, at a moments notice, can shed his suit and unleash his true potential.
“Inoki was a scary guy. He was always calm and spoke in a casual way, about breaking Ali’s arm, or pulling out a bone, or a muscle.” publicist Bobby Goodman
Before the match, both camps had agreed that the fight would be contested under a new set of rules, drawn up specifically to make sure it was a fair fight. As well as allowing for some mutual ground to be met between the rigid rules of boxing and more fluid rules of pro wrestling at the time.
“I think Ali thought it would be more of a show. But the first time we got together with them about the do’s and don’ts and rules of the fight, it became very obvious to me that Inoki’s people were serious.” Bobby Goodman
Ali agreed, after all he was one of the greatest boxers of all time and riding his continued wave of self-confidence.
“I wouldn’t take the sport of boxing and disgrace it. I wouldn’t pull a fraud on the public. This is real. Everything is going to be real.” Muhammad Ali
However, behind the scenes, Ali was seemingly less confident in his ability when it came to competing in mixed martial arts matches. Even on the day of the fight, Ali’s team were still making revisions to the rules of the bout, in what some critics have called an attempt to secure the fight in their favour. One of the last rules to be changed was one clearly designed to limit Inoki’s offence.
The rule stated: “kicking is mostly prohibited and would be declared a foul unless the person delivering the blow was kneeling, squatting, or operating down on the canvas.”
Other restrictions in the match included a rope break clause following any successful take down. A ban on leg holds and submissions and areas such as the groin and throat were deemed off limits for any attack. Knee and elbow strikes were also prohibited. Meaning that many of Inoki’s attacking options were now limited and Ali clearly had more experience in this type of fight.
During the pre-match press conference Inoki was clearly angry about the last-minute changes and explained how he believed the match up to now be an unfair one, but resolute and proud he promised to compete regardless. The opening exchange of the match saw Inoki flying like a mad man across the ring with a diving kick towards Ali. An explosive start which instantly fizzled out. After all of the build-up. All of the debate and discussion. All of the tension, the pageantry and entrances. That one jumping leg attack would prove to be the highlight of the contest.
Inoki remained on the ground and attempted to goad Ali into a grappling contest. But the iconic boxer knew that if he allowed himself to be entangled by the wrestler, he was doomed to fail. Likewise, Inoki knew that if he remained on his feet, he would be easily bested by the masterful boxer. So what happened was Inoki shuffled around on his back edging closer to Ali, swinging kicks towards the boxers legs with varying degrees of effectiveness. For the entire remainder of the fight.
“His leg is badly bruised. It is red. It is raw. And I don’t know how long those beautiful legs of Muhammad Ali are going to be able to take those kicks.” commentator Jerry Lisker
Ali could not begin to get into the swing of the fight, attempting to appeal to his opponent’s masculinity, calling him a coward in the ring and trying to persuade the wrestler to regain his feet. Inoki refused and the atmosphere in Japan died. Neither man dealt any significant damage, and the referee determined the competition to be a draw when the final bell rung.
“The War of the Worlds” failed to live up to its lofty expectations. The lack of action drew sharp criticisms from fans and the media. Trash rained from the Nippon Budokan cheap seats, accompanied by cries of “Money back!” “Money back!” in broken English.” Referee Gene LeBell
“I didn’t think in that fight either of them actually got to show their true ability. They were both much better competitors than they showed that night. But it was the first big mixed martial arts fight. It’ll go down in history as that.” Referee Gene LeBell
“I’ve never fought a man who fought on the floor, and I can’t fight my style with a man who stays on the floor. He showed fear respecting my punching ability. I think I won, just the mere fact of him not fighting. I stood up and tried to fight. I was the aggressor; he wasn’t. He fights like a coward.” Muhammad Ali
THE BATTLE OF ANTONIO
However, this would turn out to be far from the last altercation Antonio Inoki would find himself in where the grappling turned into something altogether more real. On December 8th 1977 he would face off against a man twice his size. In what begun as a miss-match of styles in a professional wrestling bout, into an all-out war.
The man that Antonio Inoki would face on that night shared the same name. However, that is where the similarities between this Japanese wrestling icon and The Great Antonio end.
"Great Antonio started his career as a scrapyard worker, a scavenger, and a resident. Here was a guy, 6-foot-4, 450 pounds, that worked not only in a scrapyard but lived there in a shack that he made for himself out of old planks, cardboard, cement blocks, and the hood of a junked car. The owners let him stay there in exchange for the work he did moving scrap iron around. Nobody ever really knew his origins, but he spoke in a mixture of French, Italian, English, and Russian, and I think a little Hungarian was thrown in the mix." Paul Vachon
This giant of a man had begun to make a name for himself in Europe. He begun his days in Canada where he rose to notoriety as a local strong man, putting on public displays where he would lift large farming machinery. At 20 he moved to the former country of Yugoslavia, where his size made him stand out. But it was when Rikidozan brought him to Japan, that Antonio really begun to show his greatness.
"A huge crowd of people gathered to see the 6-foot-4, 400-pound Great Antonio’s arrival at the Haneda Airport. Antonio began to play the role of a monstrous creature. He scattered fans and reporters by growling and lifting heavy chairs. His violent behaviour resulted in sensational articles written in newspapers. The next day, Antonio gave a demonstration of pulling four loaded, two-ton city buses in Tokyo. Though he could not move the buses over as long a distance as the crowd had expected, the exhibition of his strength caused quite a sensation." Those exhibitions contributed greatly to an increase in the number of people who bought tickets the following week. In many cases, Antonio faced several mid-level wrestlers in a handicap match to show off his superhuman strength." Yamaguchi
This new found success seemingly went to Great Antonio’s head. He reportedly became arrogant, demanding and unpleasant to work with in the ring. In 1961 a wrestler Ike Eakins took excemption to Antonio’s lack of respect shown towards him and the two came to blows after a match. Witnesses reporting that Eakin’s continually punched Antonio in the face, which was met with little to no reactions from the big man.
But this would only prove to be the start of Antonio’s long history of pushing his colleagues past their tolerable limits. Hercules Romero almost broke his arm during an over stretched submission attempt one night in Osaka. Karl Gotch and Bill Miller also disliked Antonio’s attitude and delivered to him a dominant beating during a match, which left Antonio bloodied and bruised.
So by the time the two Antonio’s came face to face in Sumo Hall in Tokyo in 1977, it is fair to say that both men were experienced in a match going way off script.
Inoki was the owner and promoter of the company and although it was clear that his opponent was past his prime and well into his 50s. The Great Antonio’s legendary past, as well as his 450lb frame still drew audiences in Asia.
But unfortunately, for the fans who had paid for a ticket that night, as soon as The Great Inoki made his entrance, it was clear this whole affair was a farce.
To say that this man was fat was an understatement. He was so enormous that his size had gone past the point of pro wrestling monster into a state of sadness and near disability. The Great Antonio could barely move let alone wrestle. So the opening of the match say Inoki moving around his opponent and attempting to get in and get out with his offence.
"Inoki said Great Antonio is weak under the pressure! Nothing will work no matter where Inoki hits except Great Antonio’s face. Great Antonio’s gut looks loose and fat, but punching his body is just like punching a big piece of raw rubber wall. Great Antonio seems to be head locking Inoki without effort, but it is much stronger than you would think.” Commentary
When it became clear that the large Canadian didn’t want to stick to the agreed match lay-out, the entire bout fell to pieces. After several attempts to entice his opponent in traditional grappling, Inoki received several clubbing strikes to his back, and then a hard thump to the back of his neck. This moment turned the entire atmosphere on it’s head.
“Inoki is kicking Great Antonio’s face — it seems like big damage to The Great Antonio. He just hit Great Antonio’s chin, and the left kick just hit bones around the stomach. Great Antonio’s mouth is ripped and bleeding! Inoki’s stomping broke Antonio’s ear! Commentary
Through all of the posturing, smirking and belly slapping from the Great One, Inoki had seen enough. Continuing to deliver kick after stomp to his now downed opponent.
“Great Antonio cannot wake up! He has no energy left. Inoki’s upper kick to Antonio’s chin seemed like the critical hit — his face is now covered with his blood." Commentary
The commentator attempted to keep what the audience had just witnessed within the confines of pro wrestling kayfabe, but it was clear for the world to see.
The Great Antonio lay there lifeless and undefended. His large limp carcass a brutal and questionable result of his perceived ill attitude and ultimately the end to his professional wrestling career.
Now I know that some of these moments when choreographed and pre-scripted pro wrestling turns into a real-life fight, can be uncomfortable to watch and even more disturbing to delve into the deeper history of. And I appreciate you coming with me on this dark and twisted journey.
That being said. I cannot deny the morbid curiosity I feel when unearthing the real secrets behind these events. I find it so interesting to try to attempt to understand what causes these men and women to turn from agreeable pro wrestlers in the ring to entertain fans and put on a show, into fierce frothing beasts of battle, who pull away from the pre-agreed and enter a violent world where they control their own narrative.
Perhaps it’s because of the ego. After all, the type of person who wants to spend their lives in tight fitted clothing, throwing themselves off ladders and wrestling in front of fans, must have some type of ego, right?
Perhaps its because certain wrestlers value their own personal skills and position within a company, higher than that which is granted to them. Maybe they see themselves as the rightful winner of an upcoming big match, or deserved of a company’s championship belt.
Or maybe it is all of that pressure. Most people find it hard to perform under intense scrutiny. The eyes of the world are watching as these men and women make their grand entrances and put their bodies on the line. Under the hot lights in an arena, perhaps sometimes this built up pressure needs to release in a forceful and regrettable way.
When these delicate egos find conflict, when a match result doesn’t go one way or another, and under all of that pressure, it can often lead to emotional and as we’ve seen extremely physical outbursts.
The outbursts we have discovered today fall into a ethical grey area as we look back. Is it understandable that in this ultra-amplified and ridiculously stressful position, some people may crack on a spectacular and very public forum? Yes. Of course. But does it make these violent, treacherous and often disgusting acts of unagreed violence, excusable. Well, no.
And that is why I think I will always find treading the line between the perceived fake world of glitter and grappling and the all too real world of these incidents so interesting to explore.
For more on this topic, check out our video series When Wrestling Gets Real (Documentary) - YouTube