Professional wrestling has seen a rise in popularity lately. AEW, a newer promotion, has done a lot of groundbreaking things since they were founded a few years ago. One great thing they have done is expose more casual fans to different subgenres of wrestling.
Many fans have been exposed to wrestlers from the indy scene, Japan, and other genres of wrestling. Some American fans were introduced to the likes of Minoru Suzuki and Satoshi Kojima in the last few months. But one style of wrestling that was introduced to some fans through AEW is deathmatch wrestling.
Deathmatch wrestling isn’t what it seems to be. It is hardcore wrestling taken to the next level. Instead of just your standard foreign objects like tables and chairs being used, deathmatch wrestling uses nightmarish objects.
Nothing is off the table. Thumbtacks, glass panes, and light tubes are just some of the objects used in deathmatch wrestling, and all of it is real. Just ask one man; Nick Gage.
Nick Gage and the rise of Deathmatch Wrestling
Nick Gage is the most well-known deathmatch wrestler in America, or perhaps the world right now. He was first exposed to many people in an episode of Vice’s docuseries, Dark Side of the Ring, where the episode went into how Gage made a name for himself on the Deathmatch wrestling scene, as well as his personal struggles that lead to the darkest point in his life.
His birth name is Nicholas Wilson, and he grew up in Gloucester County, New Jersey, where he knew he wanted to be a hardcore wrestler since he was a kid.
Gage made his debut in February of 1999, where he wrestled for a promotion called CZW (Combat Zone Wrestling). It is here where Gage had his many matches with Jon Moxley, who is currently a member of the AEW roster and is a former WWE Champion under the ring name, Dean Ambrose.
Gage did slip down into a terrible time in his life. The deathmatch legend was addicted to painkillers, which he ultimately stopped using to switch to heroin. He was homeless when he decided to rob a bank. Gage would end up pleading guilty to second-degree robbery and would serve a total of seven years in prison, five for the robbery and another two for a parole violation.
This would send many people down into a life of crime where they would be in and out of jail, yet Gage was different.
Putting Deathmatch Wrestling on the Map
Gage would join GCW (Game Changer Wrestling) and became the face of the company. He carried the company’s world championship for a long time and defended it in many classic matches.
Videos of Gage were spreading around the internet, both from GCW and stuff he did before he was locked up.
One, in particular, was during the CZW Tournament of Death, where Gage severed an artery under his armpit and nearly nibbled out while wrestling a German deathmatch star by the name of Thumbtack Jack. He was officially dead for seven minutes while on his way to the hospital, but he luckily survived.
Another incident was when he wrestled David Arquette, who infamously became frustrated with Gage during the match and almost started a shoot fight, which in wrestling is an unscripted fight that is not part of the show.
While this hurt Arquette, it helped Gage gain some mainstream notoriety.
Into the Mainstream
After the episode of Dark Side of the Ring, Gage did a lot more wrestling in the mainstream. This helped GCW make a lot more money since people wanted to come and see Nick Gage for themselves.
Gage dropped the GCW Championship to Matt Cardona, formerly known in the WWE as Zack Ryder. This caused major controversy and helped Cardona get over as a heel, which is the term for a bad guy in wrestling. This made people want to see more of Nick Gage.
As part of a storyline between Chris Jericho and Maxwell Jacob Friedman, or MJF for short, MJF put Jericho through a series of matches in order for Jericho to get an opportunity to wrestle Friedman again.
So what stipulation did MJF choose? A deathmatch. Jericho’s opponent would be Nick Gage. This would be Gage’s first match on national television as well as the first time deathmatch wrestling would be on national television.
The match went over with the crowd great and got a lot of positive feedback. Though Gage lost, he cites it as one of his favorite matches, since Chris Jericho was one of his favorite wrestlers growing up.
Though his time in AEW only lasted one match, it helped Gage reach more popularity. He recently said on Chris Jericho’s podcast, Talk is Jericho, that he gained over 10,000 followers on his Instagram after his appearance in AEW.
This also helped him reignite his rivalry with Jon Moxley, as the two recently fought for the GCW World Championship, where Gage lost.
The Rise of Deathmatch Wrestling
Nick Gage was not losing time #jonmoxley #moxvsgage pic.twitter.com/HfRxS1BTS4
— ♐Tammy Moxley #Moxtober 🎃 (@thamyalba7) October 10, 2021
With all of these events taking place, deathmatch wrestling has been launched into the mainstream. This is all because of Nick Gage.
You can’t point all of it to Gage, however. There are many deathmatch wrestlers out there who work hard to perform and entertain the hardcore deathmatch wrestling fans.
Hopefully one day, Nick Gage will be on AEW more often. He has a great story that can inspire many to be themselves no matter what. His fans that he calls the “Murder Death Kill Gang” are dedicated and loyal. Gage will go down as the man who revolutionized deathmatch wrestling.