While the exploding C4 boards were mighty impressive earlier on, the jets of light and fire that projected from the turnbuckles were less impactful. The noise more of a hiss, the blast wave more of a minor rumble. Jack and Funk stop in time - this was meant to be it. The fans break out in a combination of laughter and confusion. Then it hits both competitors - if that wasn't the finish, then what the hell should be?
We're in Japan for the final of the IWA King Of The Deathmatch tournament. Mercifully, not all the quarter and semi final matches have been exploding barbed wire board matches, but all were labelled as death matches. The question becomes more of - would you like to be stabbed or set on fire? Cactus Jack and Terry Funk were the two men tasked with going the distance. Jack, enjoying himself having been released by WCW nearly 12 months prior. Terry Funk, at 51-years-old, in theory pondering retirement as injuries caught up with him. It's August 20th 1995 - and the people expected a big finish.
Cactus Jack has already lost one ear, reports are by the end of the match he came seriously close to losing the other. The ring ropes have been replaced with barbed wire, the four corners of the ring holding one wooden board, wrapped in barbed wire and containing a package of C4. Each one will blow on impact. Funk and Jack ease into the match, Jack whipping Funk towards the "ropes". Funk stops short - the Japanese crowd let out an "AAAAAH" - Funk stops and points at his noggin. 51 he may be, dumb he certainly is not.
One of the boards gets moved to the centre of the ring. Jack has control and hits Funk with a series of rights, Funk teeters before toppling backwards onto the board. The boom is impressive, as is the flash. The next time you see a guy get pinned by a regulation move, remember that Terry Funk kicked out not once, but twice, while being blown up during a match.
Minutes later it's Funk's turn to return the favour. Jack runs towards him, Funk executes a hip toss and Jack lands on one of the boards. The explosion is still as impressive as the first one, but Jack would later say in his book that he actually didn't feel too much discomfort from this one - it's almost as if he hit the board and rolled through the wave. Just as Funk looks to have the advantage, out comes Tiger Jeet Singh, who attacks Funk with a cane. He and Jack then throw Funk through the board proped up in the corner - another BOOM. Funk kicks out.
We advance towards the big finish. Jack hits the underhook DDT then scarpers to the outside. The "explosion", if you want a point of reference, would be something akin to Kane's turnbuckle pyrotechnics. An impressive display, but nothing "HOLY SHIT - I'VE JUST SEEN THE RING EXPLODE!". Jack goes to the outside and needs an out - he grabs a ladder. He assembles it in the ring and we get a close-up of his face, it's a crimson mask in the truest sense of the meaning. He ascends half way up the ladder and drops the elbow - Funk still manages to kick out. He climbs up again, this time Funk staggers to his feet, falls over and takes the ladder with him. Cactus Jack takes what I can best describe as a "Cactus Jack bump" falling a good ten feet onto the barbed wire ropes. It's a spot, it's said, that almost caused him to lose his other ear. Despite this, Funk collapses on the floor, Jack crawls over to him and gets the victory. It's a chaotic, anticlimatic ending to the match.
Was this a good match? I've honestly got no idea. I think the crowd in attendance liked it (even with the damp "ending"), but they turned up to watch a day of death matches. Would your average wrestling fan enjoy this? Much in the same way that you absolutely have to see a scaffold match once (listen to our September 1993 podcast for a discussion on Scaffold matches), the intrigue dies quickly and what's left is a sense of - yep, that wasn't that good.
You cannot, however, escape the sheer brutality of this match. Yes, to a point you can watch and admire, in a perverse kind of way. But when the intrigue stops is where the positives stop. This was a brutal, brutal match even before the 3 or 4 minutes of ad-libbing. A lot of crazy stuff happened in the attitude era across WWF, WCW and ECW. Hell, Mick Foley was involved in a lot of it. But there’s a good reason that exploding board matches (and Scaffold matches) never happened in that run. That was where the fun stopped. But, as a one off, if Foley and Funk wanted to kill themselves for our entertainment, then consider me entertained.