Ultraviolent wrestling uses every weapon you can think of in order to put on the craziest, bloodiest, most entertaining matches on the planet. Most of the time, it’s about big stuff, tables, chairs, light tubes, ladders, baseball bats, but sometimes the smallest weapon can be the most effective. This is the story of the thumbtack.
As with most weapons in wrestling, no one seems to be able to agree on who first used thumbtacks. In order to get a bit of an answer, I took to Twitter. From my research, it seemed that the first official thumbtack match took place on August 20, 1995. I needed proof though, so I asked one of the men involved in the match: Mick Foley. He confirmed for me in a long gone that the match in IWA Japan was indeed the first thumbtack match to ever take place, technically. It was the first match to have the use of thumbtacks in the match name, and to have a pit of thumbtacks as we are now used to seeing, but it wasn’t the first match to use thumbtacks.
Earlier that Summer, over in ECW, Ian Rotten faced off with Axl Rotten in a Taipei death match. Since everyone was focused on the shards of broken glass, many people failed to realize that this match had thumbtacks, thus making it the first to do so. What’s important though isn’t just how something starts, but what you do with it afterwards.
In CZW, the first time that thumbtacks would be in the name of a match was back at Extreme 8 on June 28, 2003, but it wasn’t just any thumbtack match. No, it was a barbed wire and thumbtack baseball bats match. As if putting thumbtacks on a baseball bat wasn’t enough, here at CZW we innovated once again. In Cage of Death V: Suspended, the brainchild of John Zandig, an entire ring was filled with thumbtacks.
Between the stage and the actual Cage of Death was a scaffold that everyone had to go across in order to win the match, but between the stage and cage lay a second ring; a ring filled with one million thumbtacks. By my rough estimation, at least half of those thumbtacks got stuck to or in somebody during that match. Don’t take my word for it though, go watch it for yourself on CZWstudios.com. The first time thumbtacks were named in a stipulation at was Tournament of Death 3, in a thumbtack strips match.
Although thumbtacks are still named in match stipulations to this day, they are often thought as just an extra seasoning for a match. For instance, why back body drop your opponent, when you can do that same back body drop on thumbtacks? Why superkick them, when you can superkick them while they have a mouth full of thumbtacks? They even get built into the structure of matches, such as at Tournament of Death: Rewind, when the casket in a Transylvania Deathmatch was filled with thumbtacks.
To prove my point of how thumbtacks are everywhere, one of the men in that match was THUMBTACK Jack. Ironically though, he used syringes, not thumbtacks. As opposed to many other weapons used in matches such as the tried and true steel chair, the thumbtack is only about 23 years old. That does mean however, that thumbtacks in wrestling are older than me. Wrestling as an industry moves so fast, that at this point thumbtacks are seen as ancient. Innovation occurs so quickly that no one still sees thumbtacks as absolutely insane.
Small, sharp objects that pierce the body hundreds of times are now seen as normal. Only in the wrestling industry is that possible. People expect new content and new usages of items as soon as the last one happens. It’s Kofi Kingston’s Royal Rumble spot but with weapons. People always want more, but back when they were created, thumbtacks were that next thing. As much as I love hardcore matches, I worry. I worry that no one will stop to think. That no one will put things in perspective. Take this article both as a celebration of innovation, and a warning. Let’s not cheer for too much carnage: remember every single thumbtack has to be pulled out after.