Pro Wrestling
Pro Wrestling

Hardcore wrestling (also known as Garbage Wrestling) is a form of professional wrestling that eschews traditional concepts of match rules in favor of matches that take place in unusual environments, using foreign objects that are not normally permitted. Although hardcore wrestling is a staple among some wrestling promotions, where they are used at the climaxes of feuds, some promotions (such as Big Japan Pro Wrestling and Combat Zone Wrestling) specialized in hardcore wrestling, with many matches performed in this manner.

Hardcore wrestling became acknowledged as a major wrestling style first in Japan with promotions such as Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and W*ING. It then became successful in America with Extreme Championship Wrestling. The World Wrestling Federation capitalizing on the success and introduced the WWF Hardcore Championship. The WWF soon began to turn the matches into comedy skits, illustrating the ridiculousness they involved. Hardcore is in sound contrast to traditional mat-based wrestling, where solid technical skills are preferred over stuntwork, blood, and sheer shock value.

The term garbage wrestling is attributed to Japanese wrestler Giant Baba who used it originally to describe a style of wrestling which required little wrestling athletic ability and often involved no wrestling at all, which is rather common in much of hardcore wrestling. Some in the United States consider it a derogatory term.


The main rule behind hardcore can have various connotations. Thus, hardcore wrestling is often separated into distinct "levels" based on the graphic nature of the match:

  • A 24/7 Title Match describes a situation where a hardcore wrestler must defend the title at all times. The match (and the title) can be won by pinfall at any time and in any place in the presence of a referee. The match has no fixed location, timeframe or even opponent. This is one of the most severe forms of hardcore match given its unpredictability. This was initially a self-imposed stipulation of Crash Holly's WWE Hardcore Championship but afterward became a general rule of the title. During the time Crash defended his title, he did so in such locations as his hotel room, at the airport and even at the circus and Jesse James sr.{I.C.W Hardcore Championship} had to defend His Hardcore title in a hospital room while being there to get staples in his head after being hit with a stop sign in May 2006 .
  • A No Disqualification match tends to be less severe, with action taking place mostly inside the ring. Usage of foreign objects is typically minimal, with run-ins (another form of disqualification) being frequently used. The match is often contested between valets (where they may lack wrestling skills), or between a wrestler and a valet (in which a wrestler is expected to run-in and defend their valets). Because of the low-key nature, few consider a no-disqualification match as hardcore, although there is no semantic difference.
  • A Deathmatch tends to be the most severe, with a heavy emphasis on the usage of foreign objects to induce bleeding. The types of foreign objects and the nature of the foreign objects are used so as to be extremely graphic and violent in nature. In more recent years, some state athletic commissions in the US have cracked down on the types and frequency of weapons used in these matches.
  • A Hardcore match tends to be somewhere in between, with emphasis on the brutality of the attacks and the extreme physical toll on the wrestlers involved.
  • Combat Zone Wrestling's Cage of Death, which is held yearly, implements the use of multiple weapons attached to the cage walls. The usual weapons are there, as are unusual ones, such as weedwhackers.

Because of the nature of hardcore wrestling, hardcore matches are often remembered for their dangerous spots (to the point that some deride it as "spotfests") rather than their actual outcome. The hardcore style has even extended to non-hardcore matches (that is, matches with disqualifications), especially into those where disqualifications are uncommon, where the rules allow or encourage the use of certain foreign objects, or where the rules of the match are ambiguous with regards to disqualification. It is not uncommon to have certain types of matches be no-disqualification affairs to avoid the issue of dealing with suspension of disbelief.

Common weapons

Hardcore matches tend to emphasize the use of certain weapons or the physical toll on the wrestlers, and thus many euphemisms for these matches are employed. (However, the almost kayfabe-breaking accessibility of some of these weapons—often under the ring—to wrestlers has led to the noun "plunder" in reference to them.) For example, Street Fights and Bunkhouse Brawls (which were highly popular feud-settling matches in NWA flagship Jim Crockett Promotions) are hardcore-style matches which emphasize that wrestlers need not be in typical wrestling gear when they are battling, while the No Holds Barred match emphasizes the no-disqualification rule. In World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme rules matches are hardcore-style matches that emphasized the spirit of its former competitor, Extreme Championship Wrestling. Other euphemisms, such as the Good Housekeeping match and Full Metal Mayhem, emphasize the use of certain foreign objects as being legal (the former with kitchen implements, and the latter with metallic objects). In a Fans Bring the Weapons match, wrestlers fight with "weapons" that members of the audience bring to the venue. An Anus Explosion Deathmatch was an FMW special deathmatch where the loser or losing team were abused either by objects or fireworks.

There are several weapons that are used commonly in deathmatch wrestling:

  • Fluorescent light tubes
  • Barbed wire
  • Fire
  • Thumbtacks
  • Staple gun
  • Broken glass
  • Steel folding chair
  • Table
  • Ladder
  • Mousetrap
  • Beds of spikes or nails or barbed wire
  • Barbed wire Baseball Bats
  • Barbed wire 2X4
  • Barbed wire Steel folding chairs
  • Table Barbed wire
  • Thumbtack Bats
  • Trash Cans
  • C4 Explosives
  • Weed whacker
  • Napalm
  • Road]]/Street signs
  • Kendo sticks/Singapore canes
  • Space heater wrapped in barbed wire
  • Cacti
  • Tank of Scorpions
  • Tank of Piranhas
  • Tank of Hermit Crabs
  • Tank of Snakes (Non-poisonous)
  • Salt, Lemon Juice (to intensify pain on open wounds)
  • Razor wire
  • Electric tazers
  • Meat hooks
  • Lobsters
  • Lead Pipes
  • Razorblade Boards
  • Kenzans
  • Chains
  • Knives
  • Scissors
  • Chainsaws
  • Cars
  • Drills
  • Hammer/Sledgehammer
  • Cans
  • Screwdriver
  • Guitar
  • Sink
  • Handcuffs (to tie the opponent to ropes)
  • crutches
  • Crowbar
  • Barbed Wire Ropes
  • Barbed Wire Turnbuckles

Hardcore wrestlers

Many well-known deathmatch wrestlers are from Japan. In addition, most American wrestlers who participated in deathmatches made their mark in Japan.


Japanese wrestlers

American and international wrestlers


Japanese wrestlers

American and international wrestlers

Hardcore championships

In promotions where Hardcore wrestling is present, a Hardcore title may come into existence. This form of title is defended under hardcore rules, and title changes are frequent. Some hardcore titles may have their own unique rules. For example, the WWE Hardcore Championship was defended under 24/7 rules, meaning it could be defended and won at anytime, provided a referee was present to make the pinfall. The OVW Hardcore Championship had a trashcan passed from wrestler to wrestler rather than a belt. The GHC Openweight Hardcore Championship has a unique stipulation in that if the challenger survives 15 minutes, he wins the match and the title.

Hardcore wrestling promotions


Many fans of traditional professional wrestling, or simply wrestling in general, find the pure hardcore style appalling and unworthy of the title of professional wrestling. Aside from Giant Baba coining the term "garbage wrestling" (which is rather characteristic, as many hardcore matches start and/or end with garbage items filling the ring), multi-time World Champion Ric Flair has also criticized exclusively hardcore performers like Mick Foley of being "glorified stuntmen" due to the radical spots he has performed throughout his career combined with his self-admitted lack of ability to do any other sort of match in the ring. The critics of hardcore wrestling do not necessarily reject the idea of hardcore matches or spots in professional wrestling. What they react most negatively to is poor or unskilled wrestlers incapable of wrestling any other style making careers out of being hardcore wrestlers.

The hardcore wrestling style also tended to burn itself out if used too much. Each spotfest raised expectations for the next one leading to excess and eventually self-parody. In the World Wrestling Entertainment, the concept of hardcore wrestling became by company plan a parody of itself. Not long after the birth of the WWF Hardcore Championship, and the 24/7 rule it constituted, the title became the subject of comedic scenarios and exchanged hands more than any other championship, quickly degrading whatever value it had as a championship belt. A similar event took place in World Championship Wrestling with Norman Smiley and manager Jimmy Hart approaching hardcore bouts, suited up in football gear and Medieval plate armor, while pushing shopping carts filled with foreign objects to the ring.

In terms of ring psychology, many fans consider the worst examples of hardcore wrestling to be "spotfests" and claim that the matches have no direction. This is attributed to the idea that they rely heavily on drastic spots with no transition between them aside from often unrealistically setting up the next spot and with little concern over the actual result of the match. Matches may find themselves in awkward looking moments due to the difficulty in setting up a highly dangerous spot, as evident when New Jack and Vic Grimes clinched onto one another, hesitantly preparing to fall off a 20-foot scaffold. The spot resulted in both men falling to the concrete floor and New Jack receiving both brain damage and permanent blindness in his right eye.

Performance which takes place between these major spots is often subject to elementary brawling or usage of less "damaging" weapons like a crutch or flimsy aluminum tray and, as aforementioned, may be restricted to obscure situations of spot preparation. This is in stark contrast to conventional wrestling which requires a practice and technique to accomplish the various stages of a match and maintain the effect of a real battle.

The "anything goes" ruling may also require an even greater suspension of disbelief than mat wrestling due to the fact that, in kayfabe, the performers may use absolutely any items they choose as weapons. The matches can fall into almost cartoonish levels of violence where weapons that should cause serious injury in the real world do no harm at all. They also often avoid weapons that could help win a match in favor of those that allow for the theatrical suffering or mutilation of their opponent such as a staple gun, broken glass, cacti, or even small biting animals. Many such elements are embellished even further in the "deathmatch" style virtually unseen in mainstream western promotions, with heavy emphasis on blood, mutilation, and shock value. These elements introduce perhaps a much darker side to the world of professional wrestling with its constant aim to please fans.

See also