Ahead of his match with Masada, we're taking a look at Akira: the Death Samurai.
Akira has become one of the faces of ICW No Holds Barred, and for good reason. Since NHB 2 he has consistently put on some of the best matches at every show. He's not just a deathmatch wrestler though, as he's been one of the best parts of Paradigm Pro's UWFi Contender Series, and put on great tag matches whether with the Rejects or Charlie Kruel. Today we're going to look at Akira's career, how we got to tonight's big Masada match, and some of the best matches he's had up until now.
Akira's career began back in 2018, and he's very quickly risen through the ranks. He wrestled in Pro Wrestling Kings, IWA Mid-South, EWE, AWR and more in that first year, but in 2019 he really began to establish himself. He started to pop up in deathmatch companies all over the country, and did well everywhere he went. Towards the end of the year he won his first tournament as he and Charlie Kruel won the Girl Fight Tag Team Tournament. Come February 2020 Akira picked up his second tournament win, this time in a shoot style tournament for IWA Deep-South. That tournament must have sparked something in Akira, as he is now almost as well known for his shoot style work as his deathmatch work. In June of 2020 he would go with the Rejects to ICW No Holds Barred and face off with Reed Bentley. This match, and one moment in particular that we'll get to, changed the trajectory of Akira's career.
From then on he would continue to show up and show out for ICW putting on several of the matches on this list. Of course he would appear for other companies like Asylum Wrestling Revolution, Ruthless Pro Wrestling, Total Psychopathic Wrestling, Paradigm Pro Wrestling and IWA East Coast, but ICW NHB became his home. Not on this list he had matches with names like Jimmy Lloyd, Alex Colon, Homicide, Casanova Valentine, Bobby Beverly, Brandon Kirk, Neil Diamond Cutter and more. He's always looked amazing, despite being on a bit of a losing streak lately. Even in defeat he always looks fantastic. While he hasn't had the best luck in NHB, it truly has been the Summer of Akira. He won the IWA East Coast Masters of Pain tournament, and the AWR Asylum Deathmatch Tournament, bringing his career tournament total up to four. Few people have won so much prestige in so little time.
That brings us to now, and the Masada story. Months ago it was announced that ICW No Holds Barred would be coming to Texas. Soon after that it was announced that Masada would be at those shows, making his ICW NHB debut. Questions immediately began flying about who Masada would be facing, and after a very long, grueling weekend, Akira answered that call. The road to Texas wasn't be easy, as he would face Masada's other opponent, Neil Diamond Cutter, Danny Demanto, and so many more. In fact, it was after calling out Masada that Akira won the Asylum Deathmatch Tournament. This moment has been building for months, and tonight it all comes to a head. For the first time ever, Akira faces Masada, and deathmatch will never be the same.
#10: Akira vs Tony Deppen
Akira is not just a deathmatch guy, and this fight proves it. The opening sequence is a bridge where Akira uses his neck strength to pop his shoulders off the mat, and that tells you everything you need to know. These two work hold after hold, putting all the focus of the match on stretching and bending the body in ways it shouldn't. This match is very much in Deppen's domain, so the fact that Akira won was surprising, but deserved. Akira is part of this new breed of deathmatch wrestler who are just as happy to work a limb and wear it down over the course of a match through precise strikes and submissions as they are to hit you in the face with a light tube.
Akira is able to keep up with Deppen on a technical level, and that's an accomplishment in and of itself. For a solid twenty minutes they put on a classic that wouldn't look out of place tomorrow as a defense of the ROH TV Title. This is a showdown I could watch again and again and not get tired of seeing. The ending especially proves everything I've said about Akira: he wins with a beautiful suplex pinning combo. He's not just a deathmatch guy who also does normal matches. He's a great wrestler, full stop.
#9: Akira vs Shane Mercer
As good as Akira's finals match in Masters of Pain 2021 was, I have to give the spot here to his semifinal match with Shane Mercer. It's another entry in the "Akira wins with a weapon assisted submission" category, and it's also the longest match of the tournament. The longer I can watch Akira bleed all over the venue the better! Mercer doesn't get enough credit, but he really is killing it as of late and this might be my favorite singles match of his. Part of my love of Mercer comes down to his weird whip sword that looks like Ivy from SoulCalibur, but he's much more than a gimmick. If you just watched this match and I told you it was the finals as the demon fought the samurai, you'd believe me.
The sheer number of light tubes they use leaves you shocked they have anything left for the rest of the show. If you didn't already believe in Mercer, his delayed light tube assisted superplex will make you think he can do anything; then Akira convinces you he's unkillable. I have seen many, many, many, many light tubes broken over the years, yet somehow this match still managed to break them in ways that surprised me. That takes a lot of risk and creativity, and I was very impressed.
#8: Akira vs Yoya
Many have called this the best modern UWFi Rules match, and it's hard to argue with that. These two showed how great the format can be, and the match introduced me to Yoya while making me fall in love with Akira all over again. These two just gel so well together and could easily have a longer feud. Yoya was looking to make a name for himself, and Akira was looking to prove he wasn't just a reject and he wasn't just a deathmatch guy. This match starts very technical, and the two work hold after hold just looking for any millimeter of advantage. I've seen this match probably about five times now, and Yoya's double stomp to the chest makes me scream every time.
I talked about this match way back in my UWFi Contender Series season one review, and my opinion on it has only grown. The pacing of this match is perfect as they build from holds to strikes as they get more desperate. Akira just never lets up in this match, but if it's your first time seeing Yoya you're going to be very happy. Yoya helps keep the pace going as quick as it is, and they could have done this for an hour. Again, as we've seen many times here, Akira wins by submission, showing just how good a technical fighter he is.
#7: Akira vs Tommy Vendetta
This is the second appearance that Vendetta has made in this column, and just like his match with Lord Crewe it's very deserved. I love a good Halloween deathmatch show, and this Light Tube Cabin in the Woods match was a real treat. For how many light tubes are in the ring it actually takes a bit before any of them get broken. They work the opening of the match with some really interesting pin attempts and chain sequences. Akira catches Vendetta off the ropes into an armbar, which is the kind of move I'm used to seeing out of Matt Makowski more than Akira. He looks right at home though in this style, and when the weapons do come out Akira shows why he's called the Death Samurai.
He dodges tube after tube and busts out the katana. Vendetta seems always just one step behind as Akira keeps finding counters to anything he tries. This match is a great counter to the argument that Akira is just a spot monkey. Some people just think of his light tube swanton, and this match shows that he can truly wrestle and put on a well paced, slow build, strong fight. Every move feels like it belongs, and more than anything it feels like Vendetta needs more attention. Akira gets the win and this a match that I need to see again
#6: Akira vs Danny Demanto
While I think a later match in this tournament is better, this opening round match of the Asylum Deathmatch Tournament 2 has the better story. The night before this show it was announced that not only would Akira be stepping into this tournament, but if he wanted to get past round one he had to beat the boss. Demanto is owner of ICW No Holds Barred, and he's been doing wrestling for over twenty years. Whenever he steps into the ring it truly feels like facing the final boss. Akira had seemingly faced everyone in No Holds Barred, but no one saw this coming on the road to Masada. Demanto threw everything he could at the kid, but Akira had a road to redemption on his mind, and he wasn't going to let anyone stop him.
My personal favorite spot of the match is when Akira uses children as weapons, slamming them on Demanto as they're having the time of their life. In my opinion, this match is the Daniel Bryan vs Triple H of deathmatch. If Akira wants his chance, he has to beat the boss, and he does. It's hard for first round tournament matches to stand out, as the whole point is to keep topping it, but this one is truly one of Akira's best matches. It's a match that add less than 24 hours of hype, but with such a great clash you know fans will be excited at a moment's notice.
#5: Akira vs Colt 45
I wanted to include this for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's a great Akira match. Second, it's one of the few times I'll get to talk about Colt 45. Third, it's Colt's second to last match, as he unfortunately passed away soon after. I wanted to pay tribute to him today, as he had a long career in deathmatch wrestling, and outside of Tennessee and West Virginia he's very much an unsung hero. I'm so glad they got to have this match though, and it's one that I'm sad we'll never see again. These two decimate the barbed wire ropes very early on, and turn it into their own personal spool of evil.
I think my favorite touch of this match is that they use white doors which show the blood so well. It really adds to the visual of the match. The most impressive spot might be that Colt managed to lean a door in the corner with no ropes or turnbuckles. Close second is the saw. These two bleed all over the place, and Akira shows just how crazy he is when he carves his own chest with a light tube that he broke over his head. As with all great Akira matches he wins with his submission assisted by a weapon, in this case the saw.
#4: Akira vs Dale Patricks vs Mickie Knuckles vs Remington Rhor
This is the finals of the Asylum Deathmatch Tournament 2, and it's a doozy. A no canvas match with all the light tubes you could want. It's an absolute car crash and I love it. Knuckles will be making another appearance soon enough, but Rhor and Patricks are wonderful to see here. The match almost immediately spills out of the ring as all four just tear into each other. They know what's at stake and no one holds back. You have light tubes, glass, barbed wire, staple guns, all the classic weapons. I was kind of shocked to see Mickie lose here, but I guess this means we need her vs Akira one more time. I love matches like this where at any point when only two people are on screen you can hear crashes from the others.
Akira winning this tournament really felt like fate if you were watching over the course of the entire weekend, and it was such a great end to the chow. Akira went through five deathmatches that weekend, and managed to walk out the other side with his second tournament win of the year. Akira came in second in the first Asylum Deathmatch Tournament, so this felt like redemption. As much credit as I have to give to Akira, Mickie and Dale with dueling battle axes is my favorite sight of the show. When Akira finally gets the win, the entire crowd is cheering with every fiber of their being. They all wanted it so bad, and Akira truly takes place among the best.
#3: Akira vs Reed Bentley
The drop heard round the world. This is the match the introduced me and countless others to Akira, and what a way to start. Reed Bentley is one of the best in ICW No Holds Barred, and Akira brings the fight to him. The important thing about this match is that it's not just weapons. You see just as many nasty punches and deadly kicks as you do broken light tubes and pitchforks. Akira had to prove that he could take punishment just as well as he could dish it, and he took some brutal offense from Reed. That bat that Bentley came out with certainly was effective. Eventually the pair head off through the cars and my brain flashes back to another match we've looked at in this column. As they head up Akira gets someone's vinyl siding of their house bloody, and I'm sure that wasn't fun.
Akira climbs onto the roof as Bentley lays spread out on a stack of tables below. He hits a tube assisted senton off the roof putting both men through the tables as thoughts of Nick Mondo flashed through my mind. It wasn't the end of the match however, and Bentley somehow gets him back in the ring. Akira hits a very clever little spot where he dives for Bentley's ankle forcing him to fall on the light tubes he was holding. Bentley manages to put Akira through the biggest tube bundle I've ever seen, but Akira just won't die. Bentley does get the win, but the name on everyone's lips after this was Akira.
#2: Akira vs Matt Tremont
If the Bentley match was the coming out party for Akira this was the ascension. We all knew Tremont would be retiring soon, and you absolutely cannot turn the match off when the bell rings. Tremont's speech after the match is a huge part of why this is special, and is a true passing of the torch. Akira knows that facing Tremont is a huge honor, and he wants to not just beat the man, but earn his respect. He sits down with his hands behind his back and begs Tremont to hit him again and again. Akira shows in this match that he can hang with the old guard, but that he brings his own unique flair as well. At one point he slices a light tube with a katana, and that's something that no one else would do. There's a great spot where Tremont dumps Akira out of the ring through boards and light tubes and it looks like Akira may be out. Tremont begs Akira "Stay down kid. I don't wanna do this," but of course he gets back in the ring.
Akira does not give up, and that's such a huge part of who he is. Tremont superplexes him through three light tube log cabins, and he just won't die. It's actually a beautiful story about how the new fighters know how far they have to go to win, and that shocks the old guard. Ultimately, Akira wins with a rollup: a plain and simple wrestling move. Tremont then gives the beautiful speech that still gives me goosebumps every time. This match is a must see, and a truly special moment for wrestling fans.
#1: Akira vs Mickie Knuckles
Dear God this match is good. I told you we'd be seeing Mickie Knuckles again on this list, and this is without a doubt one of the best deathmatches of 2021. That's saying a lot given how stacked this year has been, but there's no way around it: these two killed it. I often talk about how great indie commentary can be, and the best line of all is "WHO THE F#*K IS JIM CORNETTE?" It's hard for me to pick a favorite moment from the match so I'll just list a couple: water jug on the head, any of the pools, fighting in the literal street, and spiky pool noodles. This definitely has some good wrestling, but more than a lot of the matches on here, this is just a good fight. Akira throws a TV at her and it just bounces off her back.
The fact that Mickie wins is a testament to how she is one of the all time deathmatch greats, but Akira took her to the limit. I think it's super important that in that fatal four way match Akira pinned Mickie, as it means we absolutely need another match between these two. My one question with that is who could they possibly top this? They left the building and fought across a road! I'm not sure what we do to elevate the drama from there. They might need to actually pull back, and focus on the ring work more, because as far as bloody weapon gorefests? I don't think they can top this.