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AS I SEE IT 8/7…Thoughts on “Once in a Lifetime”

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Well, on Saturday Combat Zone Wrestling brought Atsushi
Onita to the United States for the first time in nearly 30

It was described, among other things, as a happening…and
as a spectacle. It was that and more for fans of a certain
generation who ever opened up their Wrestling Observer each
week, and read about this crazy style of wrestling called
death match wrestling, and a guy named Atsushi Onita and a
company called FMW. People grabbed VHS tapes from tape
dealers (remember them) to see it for themselves.

Onita shows were a happening. Crowd sing-alongs, Onita doing
almost insane promos to the crowd to the point of tears,
throwing water on the crowd, and stipulations that would get
you arrested if done in the United States with barbed wire,
explosions, electrically charged ropes and more.

Onita did one appearance for a small California independent
years back, so this was his first match in the United States
since then, and shocked the hell out of people when it was
first announced. Tickets sold fast…really fast….with
fans coming to the show and the Meet and Greet from all over
the United States.

CZW staff were there, some from 6:00 am Saturday preparing.
They had be dealing with Onita directly since the day before
when he arrived in Philadelphia.

Saturday saw the Flyers Skate Zone packed….packed….Cage
of Death level packed or better (estimated at around 1000).
The crowd anticipation was beyond nuts. The Meet and Greet
was packed. One thing everyone agrees on was that Onita was
great with the fans who were there.

The show also featured the final CZW match of Lio Rush (his
final overall indy match is this weekend with MCW Pro
Wrestling in Joppa, MD), as he went up with Joey Janela.
These two had a series of CZW matches which were tremendous.
The moment deserved to be a main event in and of itself, but
with his signing by WWE…timing didn’t allow for that.

Then, came the main event. CZW is doing great videos since
David Marquez’s involvement with the company. The match was
led off with a video that set things up perfectly.

Journey’s “Separate Ways” cranked up and the place went nuts
for Matt Tremont’s entrance, back to his “Bulldozer”
character after his heel turn as “Father Matthew Tremont”.

Then the first notes of “Wild Thing” started, the place went
even louder. I was pleasantly surprised the crowd knew to
sing along to that entrance (wonder how surprised Onita
was?) and really made this as close as anyone could have
gotten to those days long ago with the whole Onita
phenomenon at its peak.

Now, with all those good things, I have to get this out of
my system. CZW has their critics. Obsessive ones. (no I
don’t mean someone who didn’t like a match finish or an
individual show…I’ve been one myself on occasion). These
people usually confine themselves to ranting around the two
times a year…when CZW runs Tournament of Death and Cage of
Death, their yearly major events. I get a lot of people
don’t like death matches….in some cases for good reason,
given what’s now known about CTE and concussions. But this
kind of criticism has gone on well before any of that was

So what did these people manage to find fault with…in a
promotion that had one of its highest profile events? First,
that it wasn’t a “real exploding ring”.

OK…. the event was advertised as indoors at the Flyers
Skate Zone. It was advertised as being held there since
moment one of the event’s announcement. Did ANYONE actually
expect in such a comparatively small indoor venue they’d do
an exploding ring match? That the Philadelphia Flyers NHL
would let CZW potentially damage a part of their building,
which holds some team-related offices, as well as ice hockey
rinks, and roller hockey rink/exhibition hall (where the CZW
shows take place) for your amusement?

2) The event was never announced as an exploding ring match.

No matter what anyone insists, it was never advertised as
such by CZW. Period.

3) It was a six man match and not a one-on-one match.

Yes, the match was advertised as such. Despite what
anonymous emails have said…no, the fact it was to become a
six man wasn’t publicly known ahead of time.
Depending on which version of stories/rumors you believe
(and there are several); these include Onita demanding that
the match be made a six man (probable to likely) or Onita
holding up the promotion for money.

It can’t be that Onita wouldn’t do a job (the usual one in
wrestling when someone doesn’t doesn’t want to do a singles
match)…because I suspect Tremont would have had no problem
with doing that. There is also a wrinkle to the rumors that
even suggest Onita didn’t want that fact made public. With
Onita and his past history (there is a reason one of his
nicknames in Japan is “Mr. Liar”), and the fact that Onita
no-showed a CZW show years back…nothing he would do to a
promoter would surprise me.

There is also another reason….a lot more important in the
cosmic scale of things. Matt Tremont’s health, which, no
matter what else, had to be (or should have been) at least
part of a reason to make this a six-man match.

Matt Tremont had been in Virtua Hospital for 11 days until
the Wednesday before the show (this is no secret, he posted
this fact on social media), and had to sign himself out. The
reason is some sort of arm infection. Were August 5th any
other show or booking, he would have missed it. Any other
rational human being would have. Tremont isn’t one. His
dedication to fans and wrestling is fanatical and he’s had
the dream of working Onita…and working Japan.

If either of the above reasons cited with Onita HADN’T
happened at all, a six man match SHOULD have been
scheduled…in essence to protect Matt from his own
dedication. The net result allowed Tremont to go
“easier”…”easier” being a very relative term, considering
he wound up covered in blood, and taking exploding bat

What’s next for Tremont? Onita challenged him to come to
Japan in October to fight him in a match with “real”

I’ve a friend in Japan well-connected to wrestling who
shared the following…

“A Japanese indie wrestler named Masahiro Sase is almost
[unknown] to casual fans, but is a rich man who runs a usual
company and sponsor for indie wrestling scene in Japan. He
is planning to have his own (NOT Onita’s) retirement show in
Tokyo on October 7 (Saturday) or 8 (Sunday) or 9 (Japanese
public holiday)… He is going to pay for Onita to bring the
CZW wrestlers for it [in a] 4 vs. 4 or 3 vs. 3 electric
explosion death match. Onita will have his retirement show
at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo on October 31. “

Yes, I know. Onita has had more retirements than Terry Funk.
Take that part as you will.

I hope this comes off, and Matt gets to have his dream. He’s
one of wrestling’s genuinely good guys and deserves anything
he can get. I’ll look forward to seeing this happen when
(and if) it does.

Until next time….

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