DVD Review: IWA King of Death Match Tournament 1995

IWA King of the Death Match Tournament 1995 Review - DVD cover

August 20, 1995,
Kawasaki Baseball Stadium in Kawasaki, Japan.

The most famous death match tournament of all time, and the event that paved the way for such levels of pro-wrestling craziness as CZW, the 1995 King of the Death Match tournament made legends out of the likes of Mick Foley and further cemented Terry Funk's status as a death-defying mad man.

This DVD presentation from the World Wrestling Network began with each of the main competitors on the show being paraded to the ring before Tiger Jeet Singh defeated Mr. Gannosuke in a Barbed Wire Board & Chain Match.

The bout quickly spilled to the outside, where both men battered each other with fists and vicious chair shots, taking their bloody brawl right into the crowd and back again. Hardly the most thrilling brawl of all time, this nonetheless set the scene of things to come in a solid and bloody fashion, ending when Singh choked out his foe on the barbed-wire board for the three count.






After declaring how much they both wanted to win the competition, Terry Funk and Leatherface faced off in a much more enjoyable Barbed Wire Board & Chain Match than the opening contest. Using the chain which bound them as a weapon just as much as they used hard fists, barbed wire and even chainsaws, the two engaged in a fantastic brawl which finally saw Terry Funk pick up the win.

IWA King of the Death Match Tournament 1995 - Leatherface batters Terry Funk

Taking on a different style of match, Cactus Jack and Terry 'Bam Bam' Gordy pummelled one another in a Barbed Wire Baseball Bat and Thumbtacks Match. Leaving nothing behind, both men went at it tooth and nail, the highlight coming when Gordy hit a sick powerbomb on his foe into the thumbtacks, only for Cactus to reply with a DDT into the 'tacks for the win.

Not content to leave it at that, the combatants continued to pound on each other following the bell.

In the final first-round bout, Shoji Nakamaki bested Hiroshi Ono in a Barbed Wire Baseball Bat & Thumbtacks Match, a highly entertaining contest that saw more actual wrestling than in any of the previous three bouts, coupled with a dramatic finale involving the 'tacks which put this in front as the match of the night to this point.

In a change of direction, Takashi Okano battled Flying Kid Ichihara for the WWA World Lightweight Heavyweight Championship in an above-average encounter. Following plenty of solid, fast-paced wrestling, Okano rolled up Ichihara to bag the belt.

The non-tournament action continued next as Kamakazi defeated Iceman in a clumsy, ten-minute botchfest which achieved nothing more than boring this fan to tears.


Back to the death matches, Terry Funk and Tiger Jeet Singh destroyed each other in their semi-final encounter, a brutal Barbed Wire Board and Glass Match. Joining the match mid-way through, we found Singh stabbing -yes, stabbing- his foe, cutting him wide open and ambushing him in the broken glass.

Despite being on the brink of death, Funk fought back and looked to have things under control until, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, Cactus Jack ran in and attempted to take out Funk with Singh's sword. The Funker ducked, causing Cactus to nail Singh and cost him the match.

Having inadvertently sent Funk through to the final Jack secured his own spot by defeating Shoji Nakamaki in a gruesome Barbed Wire Board and Spike Nail Match.  

The native of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico dominated the bulk of the match, tearing at this rival's flesh with a visceral delight. Nakamaki refused to die, absorbing blow after blow, cut after cut, yet continuing to bring the fight. Eventually, Jack's sadistic nature proved too much for the Japanese star, and a double-arm DDT into the barbed wire sent Cactus Jack into the final.

On the way back to the locker room, a maniacal Cactus Jack screamed at the camera, vowing that when he met with Terry Funk in the final, they would 'separate the men from the old bastards!'

As darkness fell, the crowds were given a respite from the bloodshed as The Headhunters took on Silver King and El Texano for the IWA World Tag Team Championship. Despite the complete lack of atmosphere, both teams put on a decent matchup, culminating in a big splash to El Texano to give the win, and the tag team titles, to The Headhunters.

Heading to the back, then-reigning NWA and UFC champion Dan 'The Beast' Severn could barely hide his nerves as he spoke of taking on Tarzan Goto, but take him on he did in a stiff, hard-hitting contest.

Having been out-wrestled by the champion, Goto resorted to breaking a bottle to attack the champion with, only for The Beast to defend himself with a chair shot before things broke down into a messy, chaotic fight in the middle of the crowd.



The bout descended into further chaos as both champ and challenger resorted to literally throwing chairs across the arena at each other, eventually using them to knock the hell out of each other in what was quickly becoming the match of the night.

Following a heated exchange, Severn walked away still your NWA Heavyweight Champion. Dissatisfied with the result, Tarzan yelled at The Beast and pounced on him. When the dust had settled, Severn then challenged his rival to a rematch, this time for Goto's IWA title. 

Back in the locker room, Severn then claimed to have been fighting for his life out in the ring, something Cactus Jack and Terry Funk could experience for themselves as they met in the tournament final, a No-Rope Barbed Wire, Exploding Barbed Wire Board, Exploding Ring Time Bomb Deathmatch (easy for me to say, right?)

The match got off to a slow start, neither man in any hurry to approach the barbed wire, but once they did, this slowly but surely developed into a violent, punishing war, complete with blood, explosions, and sickening bumps aplenty. 

As time ticked on, seconds counting down until the ring, rigged with explosives as due to go up in flames, Tiger Jeet Singh ran in to assist Cactus, though did little to really help. Following the, admittedly disappointing explosion, Cactus, his ragged face soaked in thick blood dragged a ladder into the ring and literally toppled off it onto Funk to win the tournament, bringing this sadistic bloodbath to a close.






If you're a fan of Foley, Funk, hardcore, or 'death match' style wrestling, then this really is one event you need to see. Sure it drags in places, but for the most part, it's a brilliantly brutal offering from the short-lived IWA Japan, and one that really served to make Mick Foley such a legend.

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