No Chance In Hell: The 1997 Meeting of Vince McMahon and Atsushi Onita

Brian Damage

The WWF’s Attitude Era in the late 1990’s certainly was a wild and crazy time for the company. Outrageous gimmicks, scantily clad women, vulgar language and a whole lot of violence. Most fans loved this era in WWE history by the astounding TV ratings and big pay per view buy rates. It was a wild and crazy time in the company and it almost got a bit wilder.

In 1997, Vince McMahon was reportedly interested to try and expand his empire into Japan. Mick Foley supposedly convinced Vince to meet with Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) owner and wrestler Atsushi Onita. FMW was an organization in Japan that was famous for its Exploding Barbwire Death Matches. Not only were they popular in Japan, but hardcore wrestling fans all over the world would trade bootleg video tapes of those matches. Onita had dreams of taking his popular match to here in the United States. Foley brokered the meeting that would take place between McMahon and Onita at the WWF’s headquarters Titan Towers in Stamford, Connecticut.

Onita was flown from Japan to Connecticut on Vince’s dime. A ton of Japanese press was on hand, to cover this historic meeting between the two red hot promoters. Of course, after their meeting, cameras were on hand to show the two shaking hands and all smiles. It appeared that the WWF and FMW were going to go into business together…but what were the details of the agreement? What, if anything was agreed upon?

The rumors began to swirl that there would be an exploding barbwire death match at the WWF’s largest show of the year…Wrestlemania. A series of hardcore matches between Mick Foley’s ‘Cactus Jack’ character and Terry Funk would lead to the exploding gimmick match at Wrestlemania 14. To protect fans, the match was to take place on Funk’s Double Cross Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. That seemed to be the idea, but apparently McMahon got cold feet and decided to change the match altogether. It ended up being a ‘Dumpster Match’ between Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie aka Terry Funk against the New Age Outlaws.

Meanwhile in Japan, Onita held a press conference touting a great meeting with McMahon and two parties agreed to hold a super show in Tokyo that would not only involve talent from both WWF and FMW, but also Michinoku Pro and possibly ECW as well. That super show, also never ended up happening. Although, the WWF did lend talent in Vader and Ken Shamrock to appear in a WWF sanctioned match at an FMW show in September of 97.

With none of the promises Onita made to the Japanese media coming true…he began to receive a ton of negative publicity as just another unscrupulous wrestling promoter. To save some face, Onita held a press conference in December of 1997 and announced that he was severing any ties to the WWF. Basically trying to make Vince McMahon the enemy in the entire fallout. Onita promised that he would continue to shop around his gimmick match to places like ECW and elsewhere in the United States. McMahon, on the other hand, was still trying to break into the Japanese wrestling market and went into negotiations with All Japan Pro Wrestling to try and have a working agreement between the WWF and them.

Onita did reach an agreement with ECW in 1998 to have his exploding barbwire death match against the Sandman…but that agreement also fell through. What might have been if Vince McMahon actually went through with the match at Wrestlemania 14? Would a working agreement between the WWF and FMW been beneficial to both sides? In any event, that one time meeting between McMahon and Onita turned up nothing.

5 thoughts on “No Chance In Hell: The 1997 Meeting of Vince McMahon and Atsushi Onita

  1. Legit never heard of this until now, well the partnership w/ Onita. I did hear the rumors of there being an exploding barbwire match or barbwire match for WM 14.
    Interesting to see how Vince had goals to expand into Japan even back then

    I imagine any partnership w/ Onita would’ve have benefited Onita in the long or short run. Much like his AAA partnership, you’d see FMW talent on select raws & probably that year’s RR but that’d be it.
    VERY curious to hear why the ECW thing fell through, unless Vince had a hand in that too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Onita had the balls to meet Vinny Mac and nothing came of it as Onita went to NJPW for a short run with a couple of shows having 50,000 people for matches that was beyond the typical puroresu match with barbed wire involved than in a normal episode of RAW is War or WCW Monday Nitro.

    Liked by 1 person

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