Masashi Takeda (c) vs Jun Kasai
Bare Boards and Glass Panes Deathmatch for the King of FREEDOM World Championship
taped 08/28/2018, aired 09/04/2018
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
(reviewed 09/14/2018) I think a lot of deathmatch fans tend to be socioeconomically worse off, even compared to your average wrestling fan. I have no empirical evidence of this but based on ten years of operating in this space I feel it to be true. Some part of me believes that people who have routinely been dealt a bad hand in life are more likely to find some sort of entertainment or solace or whatever in someone bleeding copiously for a paycheck than people who don’t know what hunger pangs feel like. I think back to my first experiences with surrealism, by way of the lovely Space Ghost Coast to Coast program, and how it coincided with being homeless for the first time. I think about when I first studied the Absurd (capital A, folks) and first read Beckett and Albee and it’s when I moved deep into coal country, to a town where over a quarter of the population was below the poverty line.
I was thinking a lot about the Absurd while watching this because there’s a lot of dumb stuff in this match. I mean a lot of pants-on-head stupid shit. Despite that I really loved this match and think it’s something of a classic from two of Japan’s best deathmatch wrestlers. On its face that’s a weird thing, considering that there are sequences here that wouldn’t feel out of place in the most annoying Ospreay spotshow. Deathmatch wrestling in general has a concerted “why would you do this”/“why would this spot happen” vibe to it. I’ve found so much greater meaning in deathmatch wrestling, though, than all manner of springboards and shout-selling over the years, or at the very least I’ve been able to ascribe a greater meaning to it. Maybe it’s not all that different from the shit I hate, in the end. It sure makes me feel differently.
This match succeeds for two reasons, I think. The first is the stipulation. As with similar deathmatch gimmicks like NRBW, the bare boards foundation does well to give its matches a tangible sense of stakes. Fighting to not be folded in half against an unfeeling, unyielding plank of wood has a real primal empathy to it, one that gives this match a natural drama. The second reason lies within the performers themselves, being the personalities of both Takeda and Kasai. These two bring a certain level of charm, a certain level of swagger, a certain level of spite to their matches that melds so well with deathmatch wrestling’s bizarre brotherhood of machismo. These aspects smooth over (or enhance, even) some of the ludicrousness of this match, such as Kasai using his chin to tamp down the skewers already stuck in Takeda’s head while he’s got the man locked in a full nelson, or the mere existence of a bundle of light tubes with razor blades stuck in it, or kickouts like this:
I mean who doesn’t love that? Lots of people, I guess, for a variety of different reasons. They can go suck eggs, though, because this shit rules. Watch it and see for yourself.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: Watch that gif of Kasai kicking out again. Then go and watch some of those gifs in the Shawn/Taker review and tell me that it’s somehow better.
VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25