All Elite Wrestling returns to pay per view Sunday night for Revolution, which is headlined by a world title match pitting reigning champion Kenny Omega against Jon Moxley.
This is the third meeting for the two megastars, with Moxley winning the first encounter in November of 2019, and Omega evening the score after defeating Moxley this past December, taking the title in the process. Each performer is reason alone to watch AEW, and though the two are both highly decorated in their careers—Moxley most prominently in WWE, Omega in New Japan—neither has wrestled an Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch. That distinction, however, will change Sunday evening.
In front of a limited crowd at Dailey’s Place in Jacksonville, Omega and Moxley will willingly place themselves in a squared circle containing three sides of ring ropes wrapped in barbed wire, and contact with the barbed wire will lead to explosions. There will be a “Triple Hell” section on the floor also wired to explosives, and after 30 minutes, all remaining devices in and around the ring will explode.
This is not something you will see at a WrestleMania. It certainly is not for the faint of heart, nor will it be a technical masterpiece, but it has the potential to be a spectacle unlike any match ever before performed in North America.
The exploding barbed wire deathmatch was made famous in Japan. The man whose performances will forever define the genre is Atsushi Onita, who appeared in a video promoting the match this past Wednesday on Dynamite. Onita is synonymous with innovating the modern-day death match in his Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling promotion, which hit its stride in the 1990s. One of his watershed matches took place in May of 1993 against fellow legend Terry Funk, where a packed Kawasaki Stadium watched with equal parts shock and awe as Onita and Funk put their bodies on the line in a no rope exploding barbed wire time bomb deathmatch.
Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Funk reminisced on the moment—as well as offered some advice for Omega and Moxley.
“It’s the roughest style match I’ve ever been in,” said Funk. “I put a lot into those matches. I put in 100%, and I came out with a lot of damage to my body.
“If you want to make this match work, you need to give the people their money’s worth. That’s the bottom line, that’s the most important thing. You need to do whatever you can to accomplish that. Physically, that can sometimes be a rugged game to play.”
Come Monday, the talk will undoubtedly center around the carnage of this bloody encounter. But Funk wants more. Like his match against Onita—and a host of others, like IWA Japan’s gruesome King of the Death Match Tournament in 1995, which included the famed No Rope, Barbed Wire, Exploding Barbed Wire Board, Time Bomb Deathmatch against Mick Foley—Funk wants to see a certain quality on display, one that captures the essence of professional wrestling.
“You’re not trying to tell a story, you’re trying to win a g------ match,” said Funk. “That’s the whole point. Win the match, win the fight.”
Now 76 and dealing with hip trouble—though vowing to do everything possible to avoid another surgery—Funk noted that he is keeping busy and following the successes of his grandchildren. He also expressed gratitude to those who continue to enjoy his work in the ring.
“For me, I always loved what I did, and I did it to the best of my ability,” said Funk. “I tried to always keep my matches different. In wrestling, you don’t always go through the front door. Sometimes you go through the side door or the back door. I’m happy that still means something to people.”
As Omega and Moxley approach their own date with destiny at Revolution, Funk offered one more piece of advice: don’t blink.
“Confidence is the key to success in this match,” said Funk. “And wrestling a match like this, it shows how much you love what you do. I’ve always loved this business. It’s my profession. It’s changed, it’s evolved, but there are still some great people in it and around it, like these two. I admire what they do in the ring.
“This is a tough match. It was for me at least, as tough as it could possibly be. It’s up to them how they treat it. This match, their job is to go ahead and give the people their money’s worth. If they do that, their match will live on for a long time. These two guys, I think they’ll do it to the best of their ability.”