No matter what your favorite match at WWE Payback 2017 was, chances are that it won’t be the one that people remember when they think about the event. In years to come, Payback 2017 will probably be synonymous with one thing: the House of Horrors match between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt.
The House of Horrors match was a strange experience; two wrestlers fighting in a house in an encounter littered with horror movie tropes and imagery. Whether you loved it or hated it, the match stood out. After all, no other wrestling match has involved wrestlers beating each other up in a house and throwing each other into walls. Only Randy Orton has been taken out with a refrigerator. While I feel that the Final Deletion matches were more entertaining, mostly because they didn’t take themselves too seriously, even those matches happened outside.
Except, there have been matches inside houses before. Let me use the House of Horrors match as a gateway to a new world, one much stranger than the world of WWE. Let me take you on a journey to the world of Japanese independent wrestling.
Japanese wrestlers haven’t been averse to fighting in odd locations over the years. New Japan Pro Wrestling’s founder Antonio Inoki had a match on an empty island. Inoki organized the highest attended wrestling shows ever, two shows held in North Korea back in 1995. DDT, the company behind most of the weird Japanese wrestling videos that keep appearing on social media, have fought everywhere from shopping malls and camping grounds to theme parks and factories. But even in Japan, wrestling in houses is rare.
Back in 1994 IWA-Japan had an idea: What if two heels decided to attack their enemies while they were at home? So Bob Baragail and Crypt Keeper (who wrestled in WWE as Jose Estrada in the late 90’s) went to another wrestler’s house and started breaking windows with a barbed wire baseball bat. This soon turned into an unwieldy brawl inside the house, interlaced with multiple scenes of the neighbors looking on in disbelief. The match feels like a precursor to House of Horrors both in terms of style and action. It’s not your typical wrestling match as it’s been edited with exaggerated sound effects, random slow motion that doesn’t add any drama and a voice over. My favorite shot may be when they decided to show a plane flying overhead between the action. The finish seems quite tame by today’s standards, as the home-owner drives his attackers off with a DDT onto the door of a wardrobe. Honestly, the idea is more entertaining than the actual match and I find that most of my enjoyment comes from realizing that this actually happened.
Years later, in 2003, Big Japan Wrestling bought a full size model house. They then set it up in Korakuen Hall, one of Tokyo’s most famous wrestling venues. The owner of Big Japan moved into the house only for four heels to try and take it from him. What followed was four wrestling matches inside a house that gradually fell to pieces. The first match was a kitchen invasion involving a giant cutlery, a crab and a rather large fish. It honestly felt like a live action cartoon at times as you watched a man fend off flying cutlery with a giant wooden fork.
The second match was a chain match that took place in a downstairs toilet. Both wrestlers threw each other through flimsy walls before the invader choked out his opponent with a plunger and the toilet. In the third match a television was destroyed using a golf club, furniture was thrown and someone got choked with the hose of a vacuum cleaner. The match was won by ring-out when the invaders Irish whipped through a pair of glass sliding doors.
After the invaders made themselves at home the former owner tried to destroy the house in revenge. This led to a chaotic eight man tag match. Almost immediately we had people being attacked with a barbed wire lacrosse stick, a fire extinguisher and a katana. The katana somehow ended up in a wall 9 feet in the air so they moved on to hitting people in the groin with a bicycle. Halfway through reinforcements arrived, focusing on destroying the house. Amidst all the chaos, the match was settled when an invader was thrown off the first floor and Ryuji Ito put on a barbed wire vest and pinned him with a frog splash. Honestly, this show wouldn’t have felt out of place in WWE’s Hardcore division circa 2000-2002. It had that same high energy and same cartoony feel that was in many of those matches.
The most recent “House” wrestling match wasn’t even in a house. In August 2011, DDT’s Apartment Wrestling saw the company given access to an abandoned apartment block before it was demolished. Kota Ibushi, the future star of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic tournament, was given a task: Enter the apartment and remove any tenants who refused to be evicted. He was followed around by the Landlords, a referee, a doctor and 20 fans.
All the tenants turned out to be wrestlers with questionable lifestyles and Ibushi had to beat them to get the key to the next apartment. The second room saw Ibushi stumble upon future DDT Champion Shigehiro Irie wearing a ball gag and getting whipped while sitting on a wooden horse. Honestly, there was no way that this encounter would not be weird after that introduction. With any luck, the finish will be the only time that someone has combined a Figure Four Leg Lock and hot candle wax! The third room had Ibushi engage in a kickboxing match after Ibushi found his friend Michael Nakazawa locked inside the tenant’s closet.
Nakazawa returned the favor by tagging in for the next encounter. A brawl involving water balloons and buckets of water ended when Ibushi repaid his friend by shooting both wrestlers with fireworks at point blank range. Honestly, the most dangerous thing a Japanese wrestler can do is be friends with Kota Ibushi. Later on we found that former All Japan Jr. Champion Tsuyoshi Kikuchi was growing watermelons and zucchinis in his apartment. That’s like finding Hacksaw Jim Duggan growing carrots in the basement of Madison Square Garden. Kikuchi and his vegetables were evicted after Ibushi used a watermelon-assisted roll-up.
The last match started as a serious match and ended with Ibushi getting attacked with raw eggs, covered in flour and being given a shower against his will. Well, it should have been the last match but Nakazawa turned on his friend, trying to hold the doctor hostage on the roof. Eventually Ibushi won by lawn darting Nakazwa into a wooden fence. This was a very surreal affair, although the pace was a little lacking at times.
I would say that my favorite “House” wrestling match has to be the Big Japan match. If you’re interested in any of these matches, the IWA-Japan & Big Japan matches are currently available on YouTube. DDT’s Apartment Wrestling show is on DDT’s DDT Universe streaming site. If you are interested you can sign up now you can get the first month free.