Pro Wrestling is a violent industry. Men and women step inside a ring with one goal: to batter their opponent until they are truly defeated. In most matches there are limitations as to how you go about defeating your opponent. Deathmatch wrestling doesn’t worry about such restrictions, in fact it revels in the chance to get creative. Instead of boring ring ropes maybe wrap them in barbed wire? How about sprinkling some thumbtacks into a landing zone to make a simple back bump extra fun? Why use explosive as a metaphor for an exciting match when you can use actual explosions?
It’s a wrestling subculture that conjures to the mind images of grizzled men – legends like Terry Funk or Atsushi Onita – who wear the battlescars of violent wars that could only be survived by the hardest of men. Which is why Suzu Suzuki might seem out of place at first sight.
At just eighteen years of age Suzu Suzuki is very much your prototypical young Joshi. She’s fast, athletic, and highly talented. A pocket rocket with a natural talent for wrestling, serving as one of Ice Ribbon’s most exciting performers. She’s so good that despite her young age she’s already managed to climb to the top once, winning their top title. When she lost the Ice x∞ Championship to the promotion’s top star Tsukasa Fujimoto, it would be natural to expect to her to renew her focus on regaining that title.
Suzu had other ideas, shifting her attention to a very different style of wrestling. She was going to become a deathmatch wrestler. To prove her worth, she would undertake a seven match trial series, something of a tradition within Japanese wrestling circles, pitting her against a gauntlet of some of Japan’s fiercest purveyors of violence over the course of 2021.
This is not a style of wrestling you can just casually stumble into. It extracts a heavy toll. To survive, let a lone thrive, you have to be willing to sacrifice. Deathmatch wrestlers have their careers etched across their bodies, able to point to any multitude of scars and fondly recall who did that and with what piece of evil weaponry. Suzu understands the price she’d be paying, having spoken of “one day wearing a wedding dress over a back full of scars”. This seven match trial series would test whether Suzu Suzuki is both physically and mentally able to endure such matches.
Again, it’s important to note Suzu didn’t need to become a deathmatch wrestler. She had all the necessary attributes to succeed as a more traditional Joshi wrestler and was already carving a path towards the top of the scene, with plenty of hype and potential despite only two years of in ring experience. She could easily pursue a more conventional wrestling path.
This is what Suzu wants. She wants to spill blood. When she fell in love with pro wrestling, she became enamoured with the more violent matches, watching warriors continue to fight despite such extreme punishment and abuse. She would get her parents to take her to Big Japan and FREEDOMS shows so she could see it first hand, and it only fuelled that fire. It was seeing Risa Sera that opened her eyes to the idea that gender didn’t define someone’s ability to go to war, but their drive. With that in mind, she signed up with Ice Ribbon straight out of middle school.
As much as her passion was for deathmatch wrestling, she wanted to prove herself as a wrestler first. She needed to hone her skills in traditional pro wrestling. When discussing the timing of her foray into this more violent style, she stated the following:
“I didn’t start talking about the Seven Match Trial Series until I dropped the belt. It wasn’t until I was confident that I could wrestle under normal rules. I believe that if you can’t wrestle well under normal rules then you can’t do deathmatches or hardcore matches. I’m not doing this because I can’t wrestle properly. We’re not simply hitting each other with weapons.”English Translation provided by TWF87
The true deathmatch greats don’t use this extreme violence because they have to so that they can hide their inability to put on an actual match. They use it because of how it can enhance a match. You still need to be able to tell a story. Suzu Suzuki wants to become a great death match wrestler, so she first had to become a great wrestler. And now that she could hang inside the ring, Suzu could begin her path down the road of deathmatch.
Seven wars would await her. So far she’s survived six, her most recent battle against Abdullah Kobayashi which saw both leave plenty of blood inside the ring (and in Abdullah’s case, plenty of hair as well).
The men she’s faced are testing her resolve and drive. They’re not treating her differently because she’s a woman, they’re treating her like a rookie who wishes to prove themselves worthy. Can she handle the bloodshed? Is she willing to wear the bruises and scars that comes from the style? Is she willing to dish it out? Even though Suzu hasn’t been able to claim victory in her matches yet, these veterans have all walked away with a newfound respect for the teenager.
Kobayashi spoke of how he was shocked this cute girl who used to attend BJW shows had become a monster. Jun Kasai screamed out that she’s fucking crazy after she used a stapler on his ass. Isami Kodaka praised her skills and her potential, noting that he wanted to end their match impactfully but her skill forced his hand instead to winning with a rollup. The matches she had against those last two also occurred within the span of a week, barely enough time to recover from usual wrestling bumps, but Suzu had to recover from the skewers Kasai had buried into her forehead and being driven through a table.
Suzuki’s passion and potential has caught the eye of another deathmatch legend as well. Atsuhi Onita recently proclaimed that “an evil daughter of Reiwa (the current era in Japan) is born”, naming her as his successor. Suzu’s not the first Joshi he’s looked to mentor, having been highly influential on Stardom champion Tam Nakano in her early wrestling years. Onita plans to teach her the ways of the exploding deathmatch, a personal specialty of his that would bring an additional element to her extreme repertoire.
All of this feels like preparation for a big final match against her idol Risa Sera, the queen of deathmatches and the reason Suzu is walking this path in the first place. There are few better at their craft than Risa, but she will only be plying her craft until she turns thirty in November. As Suzu pays her dues in blood, her idol may very well be preparing a torch to pass on to her. Risa’s watched Suzu’s career grow, herself a member of the Ice Ribbon roster. Risa’s teamed with her and stood across the ring from her, likely knowing that before she left the industry they’d be shedding each other’s blood.
For as much praise as Suzu has been receiving within the industry, it would seem that not everyone is as excited by the prospect of the cute, new face of deathmatch wrestling. The visceral imagery of an eighteen year old woman being cut open by men at least twice her age hasn’t come without some controversy. This has perhaps been the most challenging part of her journey into deathmatch. Not the blood, not the pain, but seeing fans criticise her and her opponent’s actions. She’s had to take to social media several times and explain that this is what she wants, and this is what she enjoys. She’s not looking for pity or for protection, she’s looking to follow her passion. Just like this seven match trial series will teach Suzu Suzuki to endure immense pain and unique torturous situations, it will help mentally strengthen her from those who criticise her dream.
Suzu Suzuki is doing what she loves, even if some fans can’t understand that. This is her happy place, seeing the blood roll down over her face as the ring around her looks like a warzone. She doesn’t need people coming to her aid on the internet telling her opponents off for taking scissors to her face, she knows what she’s signing up for every time she accepts another match. She’s been preparing for these moments since she was a little kid dragging her parents from Kyushu to Hiroshima to see the wars that inspired her.