FMW (Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling)

fmw-logoFMW, short for Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling, was a promotion that ran from 1989-2002. It was founded by wrestler Atsushi Onita and specialized in hardcore wrestling. FMW is considered the basis for promotions such as the old ECW in the 1990s and, more recently, Big Japan.
In 1990, Onita had the first ever exploding barbed wire match with Tarzan Goto. This match started a revolution between the small “garbage wrestling” organizations of Japan. From there, Onita recruited some of hardcore wrestling’s most notable names, like Mr. Pogo, Mitsuhiro Matsunaga, Super Leather (Leatherface) and Kintaro Kanemura. In 1995, Onita wrestled his retirement match with young talent Hayabusa in an exploding ring, barbed wire steel cage match. This match started a revolution in FMW, called Neo FMW, where stars Masato Tanaka, The Gladiator (the late Mike Awesome) and Ricky Fuji took part in high-flying matches. Hayabusa became the central star of the promotion winning its belt several times and battling most of the FMW roster. FMW also had a thriving women’s wrestling division, led by Megumi Kudo, who was one of FMW’s biggest stars in her heyday and became a female Hulk Hogan of sorts in terms of popularity. All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling talent feared them so much that they rarely had interpromotional matches against each other, but the FMW women were successful in other feuds with LLPW and JWP. During this time FMW signed a contract to hold a major event every May 5 in the Kawasaki Stadium.
Under new FMW president Shoichi Arai, the promotion began to falter. Arai brought in former International Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling and Super World of Sports jobber Hiromichi Fuyuki (Kodo Fuyuki) as the new booker and he brought an end to the garbage/death matches in favor of an entertainment-oriented style based on that of the WWE. Although this saved the roster from further potential injury, it called into question the essence of FMW’s wrestling. Onita began withdrawing further into the background, eventually leaving the promotion altogether to create his own death match ventures and to go back to high school to earn his diploma.
In 2001, in a match against Mammoth Sasaki, Hayabusa attempted a springboard moonsault—one of his signature moves—but slipped on the ropes and fell directly on his neck, breaking it and paralyzing him. He retired, but actually regained some control over his legs a year later. By the end of 2001, Arai owed about a million dollars to influential organizations in Japan, rumored to be connected to the Yakuza (or Japanese Mafia). Realizing that the promotion was going nowhere, he decided to finally close its doors. FMW came to an end with a final show on February 4, 2002 and Shoichi Arai declared FMW bankrupt on February 15, 2002. On May 16, 2002, Arai hanged himself in a Tokyo park using his tie to collect life insurance for his money to pay off the Yakuza.
The talent divided into two promotions: Fuyuki’s WEW (World Entertainment Wrestling), the name of FMW’s title governing body since 1999, and Mr. Gannosuke’s WMF (Wrestling Marvelous Future). Both were short-lived. Gannosuke still makes an occasional appearance today and produces the occasional indy show. Fuyuki died in 2003 at age 42. Some of the talent also made appearances on Onita’s special shows.
FMW briefly had a working agreement with ECW and released 14 DVDs in the US through Tokyopop, a label now specializing in anime & english-language manga distribution.

FMW had a total of 13 titles: WWA Brass Knuckles/Martial Arts Heavyweight, FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight, FMW Independent Heavyweight, WWA Martial Arts Tag Team, FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team, FMW 6 Man Street Fight Tag Team, FMW Indpendent Jr. Heavyweight, FMW Indpendent Women’s & WWA Women’s, WEW Heavyweight, WEW Tag Team, WEW Hardcore Tag Team, WEW 6 Man Tag Team, WEW Hardcore. The WEW Heavyweight, Tag Team and Hardcore Tag Team Titles are still active today in various promotions, while the FMW Independent Jr. Heavyweight Title continues today as the Independent Jr. Heavyweight Championship. It originally lasted until May 2002 then was abandoned, but DDT revived the title in 2007. Today it is defended in various independent promotions.

FMW may be revived in some form in early 2010, as some of the former stars of the promotion-namely Mr. Gannosuke-are planning an indy show billed as an FMW show for late January 2010.

Titles & History:
WWA Brass Knuckles/Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship
FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship
FMW Independent Heavyweight Championship
WWA Martial Arts Tag Team Championship
FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Championship (Now WEW Tag Team Championship)
FMW 6 Man Street Fight Tag Team Championship
FMW Independent Jr. Heavyweight Championship (Now Independent Jr. Heavyweight Championship)
FMW Independent Women’s & WWA Women’s Championship
WEW Heavyweight Championship (active)
WEW Tag Team Championship (active)
WEW Hardcore Tag Team Championship (active)
WEW 6 Man Tag Team Championship
WEW Hardcore Championship

Notable talent from promotion (unless otherwise noted talent are believed to be still active):
Atsushi Onita
Kodo Fuyuki (Deceased)
Hayabusa (Retired)
Mr. Gannosuke
Kintaro Kanemura (W*ING Kanemura)
Tetsuhiro Kuroda
GOEMON
Mammoth Sasaki (Now in Freedoms)
Garuda
Masato Tanaka (Now in ZERO1)
The Gladiator (Mike Awesome; Deceased)
Hisakatsu Oya
Ricky Fuji (Primarily appears in Freedoms)
Hido (BADBOY Hido)
Takashi Sasaki (Now in Freedoms)
Yoshihito Sasaki (Now in Big Japan)
Mineo Fujita
Jun Kasai (Now in Freedoms)
Mr. Pogo (Retired)
Megumi Kudo (Retired)

While there is/was no official website for FMW, there is a good English-language fansite with lots of FMW info that is still maintained to this date. It can be accessed at the following URL:
http://fmwwrestling.us/