In a vacuum, Atsushi Onita created the perfect moment for himself on May 5, 1995. This was the night of Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling’s biggest show ever; Onita’s retirement show.
In front of over 58,000 fans in Kawasaki Stadium, Onita would walk away from wrestling to pursue other passions. Facing Onita in his final match would be FMW’s up and coming sensation, Hayabusa. This wasn’t just going to be any match, this was going to be a deathmatch. A No Ropes Exploding Barbed Wire Cage Bomb Deathmatch to be specific. Not only was Onita in for the fight of his life, he was in for a fight that could end his life.
Prior to the match, cameras followed the two men around while they were prepping themselves. As Hayabusa speaks to interviewers, he tries his best to appear calm, but his darting eyes and hard breathing give away the true nervousness he feels. In the arena, the ring announcer explains the rules of the match to the crowd. The camera focuses on a clock that shows a timer for 15:00. Even if you don’t speak Japanese, it is very clear that something very bad will happen in fifteen minutes. That isn’t to say that bad things won’t happen for those fifteen minutes though. The barbed wire wrapped cage will make sure of that.
The referee for the match surveys the battleground. He paces out of rightful unease. This goes above and beyond what would normally be asked of an official. He’s wearing protective clothing, but he has to wonder if that can keep him safe from the impending explosion if a winner isn’t declared before that fifteen minutes runs out.
Hayabusa makes his entrance first. The nerves that seemed to plague him earlier appear to be gone as he calmly strides to the ring. When he first turns to face the crowd, they roar in support of him. While he does get a positive response, before Hayabusa’s music is even finished, the crowd already begins to chant for Onita. Wild Thing plays over the speakers of Kawasaki Stadium as the audience goes nuts for Onita’s walk to the ring. He takes his time, soaking in the appreciation of his fans for one last time.
As the official introductions are made, Onita removes his ring jacket, revealing a heavily taped left arm, which goes along with his already taped forehead. Before the bell is rung, the two men shake hands. A show of respect before they go to war with each other.
The bell rings and Hayabusa if the first man to make a move, launching an impressive looking kick. It purposely misses its mark, done only to show Onita what he’s capable of. As the crowd responds with an impressed “ooooooooooo,” Onita looks unfazed. The two men lock up and begin a struggle to throw their opponent into the exploding barbed wire cage. The stretch lasts for what feels like an eternity as anticipation is built for when one of them finally faces the consequences of the cage.
Onita tires of this struggle and boots Hayabusa in the chest, following that up with a pair of chops. Hayabusa returns fire with a hard forearm and a spinning heel kick to the chest. The shocked Onita quickly gets to his feet, lands another boot to the chest, and unsuccessfully tries to throw Hayabusa into the cage. Hayabusa responds the same way as Onita, who slides on the mat to avoid hitting the barbed wire. Onita turns and smiles at Hayabusa. He knows that this young man won’t lay down for him and that’s just the way he wants it.
At the five minute mark of the match, Onita attempts to get out of a side headlock with a belly to back suplex, but Hayabusa holds on. Onita tries to elbow his way out of it. Suddenly both men are running toward the cage. As they smash into the steel and barbed wire, a charge explodes, lashing them with flames. The crowd erupts as they both fall to the mat. While they recover, the clock counts down. 9:47… 9:46… 9:45…
The wounds of war are already starting to appear as Onita bleeds from several lacerations on his right arm and a rip has opened up across the stomach of his tank top. Onita gets to his feet first and takes the opportunity to land a hard kick on Hayabusa before planting him with an even harder belly to back suplex. Onita goes for the pin, but Hayabusa kicks out at two. When Hayabusa gets back to his feet, we first notice blood on his chest from a cut that can’t clearly be seen. Onita continues his flurry of offense, but Hayabusa refuses to stay down.
Onita whips Hayabusa into the cage. He hits back first, taking the punishment of the barbed wire and the corresponding explosion like a whip. Hayabusa falls to his knees. The belt of his ring gear snags on the barbed wire and is the only thing keeping him upright in this moment. As Hayabusa lays on the mat, the referee gestures to Onita, as though to tell him to go for the pin or to deliver more damage, whatever it takes to make sure the match ends before time runs out. Onita hits him with boots to the head, a vertical suplex, and a jumping leg drop before going for the cover, but Hayabusa still kicks out at two.
Onita begins to target the injured back of Hayabusa by putting him in a sharpshooter. Hayabusa pounds the mat in frustration as blood pours from a wound on his arm. He screams in agony while the referee repeatedly asks him if he wants to quit. Onita releases the hold, knowing that he can’t win the match this way.
The ring announcer’s voice comes through the speakers to say that ten minutes have passed. Onita kicks Hayabusa in the back and knocks him to the mat before grabbing his leg and wrenching in a single leg Boston Crab. Onita leans way back as the referee tells him to go back even farther.
Hayabusa looks at the cage as though he’s thinking of grabbing it to set off an explosion in an attempt to break the hold. He’s still a good distance away, so this is clearly the last option he wants to be exploring. The masked man wills himself up and powers his way out of the crab, throwing Onita to the mat with his leg strength. Onita stays on Hayabusa by getting him in a side headlock, but Hayabusa shoots him off into the unforgiving cage wall. This explosion has an extra plume of flame with it that scorches Onita’s back. As he falls to the mat, the countdown clock reads 3:00. Lights and sirens signal the impending doom awaiting these two men.
Hayabusa reacts with a sense of urgency, slamming Onita with a belly to back suplex and then following it up with a standing moonsault that wows the crowd. He goes for the pin, but Onita kicks out at two. When the two men get to their feet they grapple for dominance, a fight that Hayabusa wins with a shinbreaker. Without wasting a second, Hayabusa locks in a Figure Four. Onita struggles to get out of the hold until the two men begin to exchange wild slaps while connected at the legs. After a hard headbutt from Onita, Hayabusa finally releases the hold. Hayabusa is dazed and Onita takes this as an opportunity to plant him in the mat with a Thunder Fire Powerbomb. Onita stacks him up on his shoulder, but Hayabusa still manages to power out of the pin before the count of three.
Several fans scream for Onita, trying to will him to victory before the countdown runs out. Onita lifts Hayabusa to his feet and slams his head into the mat with a jumping DDT. He goes for the pin and once again, Hayabusa kicks out at two. The ring announcer screams as the time draws near. The two men rise to their feet and Hayabusa hits a surprise leg lariat. The countdown begins.
Hayabusa puts his back to the cage as Onita rises to his feet.
Hayabusa runs full speed at Onita.
Onita dodges Hayabusa and tackles the referee to the mat, shielding his body from incoming blast. The referee is an innocent in all of this and Onita, being the hero that he is, won’t let harm come to him.
Hayabusa slams into the cage, setting off the explosives attached to that wall. A precursor to-
The time bomb explodes, appearing to detonate the entire ring. A late explosion follows as the ring fills with a thick smoke. The crowd screams for this. The cameras try to get a look in the cage, but the smoke is still too much to see through. Onita and Hayabusa both are moving slightly on the canvas, showing just the smallest signs of life. The ring and everything in it are covered in a dusting of soot from the explosion. Onita did his best to protect the referee, but he lies motionless in the ring. The explosion was too much for any normal man to handle. A new referee jumps through a hole in the cage to finish the match.
As the smoke clears, both men rise to their feet. Onita picks up Hayabusa and tries to put him through the ring with another Thunder Fire Powerbomb. Just like the last time, Hayabusa kicks out to the disbelief of the fans. For the first time in the match, an incredibly loud “HAYABUSA” breaks out. Onita thinks that the third time’s the charm and lifts him up again, but this time Hayabusa reverses it into a rana with a pin. Onita kicks out at two.
Hayabusa hoists Onita into the air and slams him to the mat with a powerbomb of his own. The first referee still lies motionless in the ring, a constant reminder of the pain these two men are overcoming to compete. Instead of going for a pin, Hayabusa leaves Onita lying on the mat and begins to scale the cage. Hayabusa reaches the top of the structure and soars off it, attempting a moonsault. Onita rolls out of the way and Hayabusa slams into the canvas, launching a poof of soot into the air on impact.
Onita stands up, knowing that this is his time to strike. He lifts Hayabusa to his feet and screams out “THUNDER FIRE BOMB!” before slamming him down. Hayabusa is stacked high on his shoulders, but he still, somehow, kicks out at two. The crowd can’t believe it. Onita can’t believe it. The referee can’t believe it. Even Hayabusa seems shocked at his own fortitude.
Wasting little time, Onita plants Hayabusa with another Thunder Fire Powerbomb, but this time he doesn’t go for the pin. Instead, he drags Hayabusa up by his hair and mercilessly slams him back down with a Thunder Fire Bomb. Onita folds Hayabusa in half as he pins him. This time Hayabusa’s shoulders don’t move. The referee counts three.
Onita’s last match is over and he is victorious. He lies on the canvas, completely exhausted.
The ring attendants bring in bottles of water for the men. Onita grabs one, but instead of drinking it, he pours it on Hayabusa in an attempt to both wake him up and soothe his burns. The fans chant his name as Onita tends to his fallen opponent. Onita holds Hayabusa’s hand and bows his head to him, thanking him for an incredible final match. Suddenly, Onita decides that he won’t celebrate this match alone. He drags Hayabusa up, putting him over as a victor in his own right. Hayabusa tries to stay up, but he sustained too much damage over the course of the match to allow him to stand. They fall to the mat, but get back up again and Hayabusa’s fighting spirit allows them to make it a few more steps this time before they crash down again.
When it is clear that Hayabusa can’t stand under his own power at all anymore, the stretcher is brought over. Onita lifts him onto the stretches as the fans chant “Ezaki!” for their new ace. Onita hugs Hayabusa before he’s taken to the back as one final show of his appreciation. Onita thanks the fans in an intense and emotional promo before succumbing to his exhaustion and collapsing. The fans yell his name over and over with tears in their eyes, thanking him for everything he’s done for them. The emotion in the building is overwhelming. Onita says his final goodbyes to his fans and rides off into the sunset.
But we all know that isn’t the end
Onita’s exit from wrestling is a perfect moment in a vacuum, but if you look at it in context, that perfect picture begins to yellow with age. Onita didn’t leave FMW is a very stable situation. While they made millions at the gate, Onita ended up taking home most of the money for himself. The company was left with a new ace that was unproven to a majority of the FMW fans. Onita didn’t go into this match looking to put over the new ace. In fact, Hayabusa was his third choice of opponent after Tarzan Goto and Mr. Pogo both turned down the offer to compete in the match, knowing that they would be forced to lose. Hayabusa was set up to fail in losing to Onita on his way out. Luckily the company had their women’s division, headlined by Megumi Kudo, to keep them going when the fans rejected Hayabusa as a top draw.
As is the case with most wrestlers, no matter how perfect of an ending they are given, they always come back.
Onita still wrestles to this day, but there is no doubt that this was the highlight of his career. FMW shut down and was reopened in 2015 by Onita. According to him the company was brought back in the hopes that one day he would be able to have one final match with Hayabusa, who was paralyzed in a terrible accident in 2001. Sadly, Hayabusa passed away in early 2016, making it so that this dream would never become a reality.
There are plenty of reasons for fans to dislike Atsushi Onita, but on May 5, 1995, he and Hayabusa put on a perfect match. Emotional moments like the end of this match don’t come easy and for most people they only come once in a career, if they’re even lucky enough for that. Sometimes it pays to forget the context and to just enjoy the moment.