Presented as an unofficial partnership with my friends at At Odds with Wrestling podcast. Their latest episode with a review of this classic VHS will be up later tonight (Thursday) or early Friday morning.
I haven’t watched this show in years. Like many wrestling fans in my teens and 20’s during the Attitude era, ECW, and the Monday Night Wars I too had a brief interest in the ICP and in death matches. I attended a live CZW Best of the Best event. I owned some ICP albums. I drank the Faygo. There was a time and place for it. But it’s been at least 20 years since I watched this even though I’m pretty sure I still own the tape and have it in a long forgotten box. Flash back to a time when I think I watched this with one of my co-hosts on The House Show, the Educator. He was aware of ICP from their wrestling connection but not their music. He also had seen more Japanese wrestling through his greater tape library. Even he said “what the hell is this?”
Well, no, he didn’t say that. On the weekend I post a more mature review for the Patreon audience. Any time I need to get more in depth with something that has more sex, violence, or language than usual. Which this fits into perfectly. But I didn’t want to bury it behind that password protected post. Now here we are with this:
Parental Discretion advised. The only way I’m going to be able to discuss this is to be honest about it. Turn away now if that offends you.
Years ago the Educator looked at me and said, “what the fuck is this?” Decades later when I rewatched this show I had the same thought. It’s not good. It’s not good for many reasons. There are ways it might be good. Drugs or alcohol could help, and I have suggested that to my friend Adam at At Odds. It might also be fun to watch with friends as a live action Mystery Science Theater mocking of the show. But the ICP is already speaking over others in their own mocking commentary. Now we have Inception levels of sarcasm for a show that doesn’t deserve one level.
I’m searching for details on the original matches and participants but I didn’t enjoy any of this enough to put the work into that. “Cactus Sack” who we know as Mick Foley takes on “Lama Nama Nume” and I do not know the name of the Japanese wrestler getting this moniker. This I believe is the infamous King of the Death Matches which made Foley an underground star. It takes place in front of a ridiculously large crowd. An uncomfortably large crowd for death matches. Cactus does his diving elbow onto a bed of spikes which is on his opponent. I also am at a point where I’m so used to how Foley looked in WWE that his gear hear looks silly. His big ass in stretchy black pants with a sleeveless shirt and cowboy boots looks less wrestler and more Karen on her way to spin class. Cactus wins.
ICP as “Gweedo” and “3D’ are providing play by play and translations throughout the tape. Two actually funny lines after this match included “If you sell my shirt, I want a cut of the money.” “My face is riddled with the scars of your fists.” That line is classic.
We now cut away to the $25 Battle Royal. Obviously from a small U.S. independent wrestling show. This is in a smaller ring with a larger ring seen in the background. No one in this Battle Royal appears to know how to work. The original crowd seemed to be having fun though.
Who wrestling fans might remember as the Headhunters or the Squat team are now here as Ponderosa and Sweedenhouse to battle each other in a glass match. This one absolutely has the most “fucks” I’ve ever heard in a wrestling match. From anyone. But here from ICP. There’s a glass to the face spot. One of the guys passes out in the crowd from exhaustion. The shattered glass goes into the crowd. Now is where the announcing starts to sound like a combination of Bobby “the Brain” Heenan and Lewis Black. Impressive moon sault onto a barbed wire board sandwich. As the panes of glass are brought into the ring multiple camera men and photographers now stand up on the ring apron to get a more interesting and more dangerous to themselves shot. Are there that many Japanese death match wrestling magazines to support all of these people? Pinfall. Other wrestlers come out and get beat up. There’s a fireball blown out from one of the Headhunters. They beat up a guy nicknamed for this VHS “Deadly Fred” by putting him into glass. Then the Headhunters cut a promo that they’re back together.
Now is where the real problem comes from. Besides the announcing. None of the wrestling matters to an audience unfamiliar with it. Why are they fighting? Who is good and who is bad? What happened before or after this? Nothing matters. Further more, it’s just death match spots with no psychology. I don’t care about someone being put through a table or board with something on it because I didn’t even know it was there to build up any drama. Wrestling psychology is thrown around as a joke at times but this shows why that matters.
More Battle Royal.
Lama Nama Nume vs. Deadly Fred. There is a countdown and the two men race towards the ring to grab a barbed wire baseball bat first. They both hit each other and both roll out of the ring to blade. Who has to blade themselves in a death match? Pick one of the things at ringside that can cut you open! The bat is forgotten and this match turns to thumbtacks. Of all the plunder available in a death match I always thought thumbtacks were the most visually interesting. Even WWE learned that trick. I’m forgetting who was who but it ends with Miz’s Face Crushing Finale into a bunch of tacks. Best line from announcers: “They were on Noah’s Ark together, that’s how far back they go.”
Brief ICP music video plays.
More of the battle royal. Which is just so bad it’s not even worth commenting on. Weak hits until someone goes over.
Now it’s Cactus and Leatherface vs. Lama and Fred. Cactus is really amazing and tragic. He puts his body through so much in order to get noticed and loved by the fans but it’s sad he had to do all that. He’s taking risks no one should, and he did them all the time. Leatherface is just immobile. He’s a lump in this match. If he didn’t carry around the gimmicked chainsaw he would be a complete waste of space on this “card”. However, there are definite wardrobe similarities between Corporate Mankind and Leatherface here. A subtle wink and nod, or coincidence? Cactus uses a figure four in this match which might be the only time I’ve ever seen that. There’s our second fireball of the tape and Leatherface is pinned. Cactus is upset and drops Leatherface on to one of the barbed wire boards.
The final Battle Royal segment. The “Masked Mauler” wins. He is then interviewed and it’s so bad I thought this was another dub. Apparently not. As bad as the match was, the promos are even worse.
In our main event Cactus Sack faces Drunk Terry Flunk (Terry Funk) to be King. I have to imagine all the name changes are due to copyright issues. I also have to imagine that if one swears long enough and often enough it loses all meaning. Because I passed out numerous times watching this tape. Eventually every fuck and shit and variations of those words became background white noise to me. Over half the tape and I have no idea if anything clever was said because I stopped hearing it. A tape of filthy language over death matches should not be boring, but that’s where this ended up. There’s no reason for any of it and it just becomes noise. It becomes falling asleep to the sound of the fan, which just as much dramatic plot.
Anyways, this is an exploding ring match. Both men get slammed into exploding barbed wire boards. Some big Japanese wrestler I hadn’t seen before comes out to interfere. Funk is alone in the ring when it “explodes” which it either doesn’t explode at all or it’s a horribly lackluster one. Cactus falls from a ladder onto barbed wire. He eventually gets the pin and Funk gives a weak kick out at 3 and a half. We go off the air with a bloody Cactus holding a ridiculously large trophy. Probably the last time he saw that too.
If any bit of this tape seemed interesting, do yourself a favor and get Mick Foley’s first book Have a Nice Day. His account of these matches is much more exciting and dramatic than actually watching them.
If you like the Christian rap group ICP (look it up, I couldn’t believe it either) there are some albums and songs that aren’t bad.
This show though is just awful. But it’s on purpose awful. The matches they picked, the voice over, all of that stuff. I think the worst one I’ve ever watched is the infamous Heroes of Wrestling pay per view. The difference is, that wasn’t supposed to be awful. They really thought they were going to put on a great show.
This is all easy to find on YouTube if you’re really bored.