Classic Indie Retrospective: W*ING (Part 1)

Many consider Extreme Championship Wrestling the birthplace of the hardcore style. However, that is not the case. In fact, ECW borrowed much of its style from Japan. Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW), whom ECW would later develop a working relationship with, was the promotion to birth this. However, they were not without their problems. Their invention of the exploding barbwire death match sparked a rapid growth in what was considered “garbage wrestling” in Japan. And as Onita’s promotion grew, so did his ego. This article is about the small promotion with big ideas that splintered away from FMW. A promotion that influenced much of the style we see in those hardcore promotions of the 1990s and early 2000s. The promotion that influenced the angle between NJPW and UWFi, which WCW lifted for its ultra popular nWo angle. That promotion is Mr. Pogo and Victor Quinone’s W*ING.

In the summer of 1991, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW), ran by Japanese legend Atsushi Onita, was in its 2nd year of operation. FMW was considered the pioneer of small “garbage wrestling” promotions in Japan, which focused on a bloodier, hardcore deathmatch style of action. The year prior, Onita and FMW held the first ever exploding barbed wire match, pitting Onita against his arch nemesis Tarzan Goto. This match put FMW on the map and allowed Onita to bring in such hardcore legends as Mr. Pogo, Mitsuhiro Matsunaga, Leatherface, and Kintaro Kanemura. However, during Onita’s reign as head booker and President of FMW, he acquired a terrible reputation for giving talents poor payoffs. This came to a head in the summer of 1991 where FMW’s top heel, Mr. Pogo, quit the promotion abruptly to form his own promotion Wrestling International New Generations (W*ING).

Many wrestling reporters and fans at the time thought this was an angle, however, this was anything but. Reports began to surface that many of FMW’s talents were paid very little and its undercard talent were not paid at all. This immediately became a dividing line in the locker room, and with the sour taste of Maeda’s split the year prior in the formation of RINGS, FMW was primed for another locker room upheaval. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the talent found out that Onita gave himself a $35,000 bonus for an FMW laserdisc release, and was dressing in expensive suits to the building and driving a brand new Mercedes. This went against FMW’s image of being the working man’s promotion (there are a lot of similarities between FMW and ECW) Many of the locker room talents believed that he was skimming money off the books for himself, and that furthered the divide.

It became apparent that this was not an angle when news broke that Capital Sports, the financier for Carlos Colon’s WWC in Puerto Rico, was opening a Japanese branch as was going to help financially back the W*ING promotion. This was huge for W*ING because not only would they have Japanese talent available, but they would have talent from WWC and talent from CMLL who had a working relationship with the Colons at the time (Victor Quinones was part owner of WWC as well). Pogo was aggressive in acquiring talent, reaching out to Yoshohiro Asai, Mil Mascaras, Killer Khan, Umanosuke Ueda, and Jose Gonzales. Capital Sports – Japan held a press conference announcing that Kazuyoshi Osako would be named president and overseer of the project (he was a former FMW executive) with Mr. Pogo and Victor Quinones also heavily involved in the office. They also announced that their first show would be on August 17th, 1991 at Korakuen Hall and would have talents such as Gypsy Joe, Great Fujo, Billy Travis and the Head Hunters.

Pogo continued to attempt his raid on FMW by bringing in one of their biggest stars and Onita’s primary rival, Tarzan Goto, however, Onita was able to secure a deal from keeping that from happening. Onita, not pleased with this split and the loss of a lot of his talent, went out of his way to block deals with American talent such as Jimmy Backlund. Pogo continued pushing for acquiring talent all over the world, including Eddie Gilbert and Tom Prichard, which would start with the promotion of their second tour. Pogo also had his pipeline to Mexican talent and was able to secure wrestling stars such as Dos Caras, Fantasma, Fishman, and the Killer.

The first W*ING show was considered a massive success. The show drew over 2200 people at discounted rates for a typical wrestling show in Korakuen Hall. The show had a huge surprise and steal from New Japan Pro Wrestling as TNT jumped to the promotion. The main event featured TNT, teaming with Pogo and Steve Collins in a losing effort to Koichi Kimura, Akitoshi Saito and Mitsutero Tokuda. Other matches included Dos Caras and Fantasma defeating The Killer and Fishman as well as undercard talents such as amateur wrestling legend “The Great Wojo,” The Headhunters and Gypsy Joe. Unfortunately, business significantly fell off for the remainder of the tour, with its peak business falling around 1200 fans. The matches featured ultraviolence in the similar vein of their American contemporaries ECW and XPW, where many and sometimes all of the wrestlers in the match got color. The second tour was announced for September, which will feature new talent to the promotion such as Tom Prichard, Eddie Gilbert, Danny Davis (current USWA light heavyweight champion), Zuleyma, Vicki Caranza, Pantera Surena and Martha Villalobos.

W*ING also took an interesting approach that was not seen in Japan at the time but was frequently used in the United States: they began filming television in a studio. Their first studio wrestling card was filmed on September 9th for JCTV (Japan Cable Television). These featured squash matches with Pogo, a four women tournament to determine the #1 contender for the UWA Women’s Championship, and USWA light heavyweight title defenses from Danny Davis. Davis lost the title in his very first defense in Japan to Masaru Toe. Davis regained the title on the last night of the tour, defeating Toe. The success of the tv taping and subsequent tour were mixed with crowds anywhere from 800 to 2200 people.

The next W*ING tour brought, even more, talent in from Mexico including names like Super Raton, Super Pinocchio, Super Muneco, Kahos I, El Indomito, Casandro, Kennich, El Mensajero de la Muerte and Tinieblas Jr. and Sr. This tour was considered a commercial and critical failure, creating much financial turmoil. Struggling gates and bringing in far too many high priced North American talent was to blame. In fact, it was rumored at the time that the promotion would be splintered in two groups, one focusing on the bloody, ultraviolent style that had made FMW popular at the time, and the other focusing on the Lucha Libre style. However, during their final tour of the year, they did not stop spending money, bringing in Mexican wrestling icon Mil Mascaras, working his first show in Japan since the mid 1980s. Mascaras during his last run in Japan was the top grossing foreign talent in Japan and it hoped that he would bring W*ING some legitimacy as well as some financial security.

The promotion split into two groups during the December tour. The first group retained the W*ING name and focused on a primarily Lucha Libre style. This promotion was run by photography Mickey Ibaragi. The other promotion was dubbed the World Martial Arts Association (WMA) and ran a similar style to their predecessor FMW. Most of the tour was cancelled due to the split. However, the shows that did take place, including those that promoted Mil Mascaras were considered financial successes. The new W*ING also brought in talents such as Eddie Gilbert, Scotty Anthony (Raven), Tom Prichard, TNT, Ricky Santana, Dick Murdoch and Mil Mascaras, while also developing a working relationship with GWF.

That is the end of Part 1. Part 2 will focus on the growing rivalry between FMW and W*ING, as well as the development of the new splinter promotion WMA. You can look for part two next week. If you enjoyed what you read, or are looking for another place to discuss wrestling, please check out my facebook group Ringside Chat in the link below. We also recently started a podcast network, and we are currently producing a weekly show for that. Our shows focus primarily on a humorous take on the old school wrestling product. I’ve also attached some youtube links for some of the W*ING shows at the time. Definitely worth checking out if you have not seen them before. Again, look for part 2 next week, leave comments both good and bad below, and thanks for reading!

 

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Mr. Pogo vs. Mitsuteru Tokuda (Bunkhouse Deathmatch – 8/17/91): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GMQinKk240

Francisco Flores vs. Dr. Wagner Jr.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo26FnqcraY

Kevin Sullivan vs. Yukihiro Kanemura (Spike & Street Fight): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2cjsY80A04

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