Recommended by Brock Jahnke

Hitchcock famously described suspense as being a scene between two characters where the audience sees a ticking time bomb beneath the table. It can also be waiting to see which of these two men takes the first bump onto two wooden planks embedded with razor blades. I doubt Hitchcock watched much late 2000s BJW on account of his death.

The early teases of one of the competitors being driven into the razors surpass the thrills of any horror movie. These aren’t special effects or even pro wrestling gimmicks. When someone crashes into those boards, real metal will slice into real flesh. The stakes of the action are so instinctively ingrained into every viewer that sympathy becomes easy to come by for Kasai and Ito.

The thought that went into the structure of this match really surprised me. I’m no expert on deathmatch wrestling. My exposure to it is limited to a Masashi Takeda match here and there and the odd GCW match. And even when I enjoy and highly rate those matches, clever match structure is never really the reason why.

Not so here. The early teases and escapes from the board lead into a crowd brawl segment that sees control go back and forth between the competitors. That section of the action climaxes with a spectacular dive from Ito over the staircase in Kouraken Hall through a prone Kasai on a table. The sight of Ito taking in the crowd’s cheers before making the leap is just as memorable as the splash itself.

The first crash into the razors comes in the form of a transition spot. Ito, in control of Kasai after the splash through the table, has an Irish whip reversed sending him straight into the razor blades. Structurally, it’s the perfect moment to bring the razors into the equation. The gravity of the anticipated spot makes it the perfect turning point for Kasai to seize back control.

The variety of other weapons in this match, ranging from the standard steel chair to a cactus wrapped in barbed wire, never takes the focus away from the razor blade boards. They continue to be a key prop in the match, figuring in some of my absolute favorite moments in the match.

At one point, Ito lays the board on top of Kasai’s torso to set him up for another splash. Kasai keeps his hands on the board, in the shoot sense to keep it in place. Then I considered the possibility that Kasai was setting up to bait in Ito and flip the board at the last moment to slice into Ito instead. While Kasai did end up dodging the splash, I found myself thinking that the spot I had envisioned might have been even better than merely getting out of the way–the classic wrestling fan mistake of speculating beyond what the product can deliver.

And yet.

Kasai sets the same spot up on Ito, laying the board on his chest and going for a splash. And at the last moment, Ito flips the board. My jaw dropped.

Such a small example of momentary subversion making the eventual payoff even bigger by comparison. Its subtleties like that which lend a lot of substance to the big, dumb excess of the finishing stretch as the two men bomb each other to death onto the various weapons in the ring. Even then, the spots were laid out much closer to a classic Japanese style extended finishing stretch than merely a trading of moves.

An awesome match here. One with a lot of cleverness hiding just beneath the layers of blood.

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