We saw a hockey mask-wearing zombie in the form of Jason The Terrible, so why not have a dead-skin mask-wearing serial killer in the form of another one of horror cinema’s most feared villains? After Corporal Kirchner left the WWF after a lackluster two-year stint, he would travel the Japanese hardcore circuit as Leatherface.
Photo credit: Internet Wrestling Databse
To give some historical context, in the early 90s, Japanese legend, Atsushi Onita formed Frontier Martial Arts wrestling. The promotion was infamous for pushing boundaries when it came to violence. Matches would end in bloodbaths and oftentimes include fire, explosions, barbed wire and other sharp objects. The incessant violence that FMW matches offered made the promotion wildly popular in Japan, and in turn, many other hardcore promotions were birthed out of the soul of Onita’s creation.
Leatherface made his way to Wrestling International New Generations (W*ING) where he would have some of the promotion’s most brutal deathmatches, all of which were painting Leatherface as a truly terrifying professional wrestler. The amount of blood poured in some of these matches really blurred the line between Leatherface, the wrestler, and Leatherface the chainsaw-wielding serial killer. The hardcore wrestling community welcomed him with open arms.
After a W*ING show one night, some heckling and xenophobia directed towards Kirchner from a fan, led to the 6-foot tall wrestler mangling the man’s face with a single punch. Kirchner was sent to prison for the assault.
While Kirchner was in jail, the Japanese hardocre circuit needed a Leatherface. He was an attraction in its truest sense. The gimmick had become so popular, and in time, the character became synonymous with the wrestler as opposed to the horror icon. Luckily, for W*ING, only Leatherface was recognizable. Kirchner wasn’t. Realistically, they could have stuck the mask on anyone. Promoters at W*ING recognized this and put the dead-skin mask on Rick Patterson, a relatively unknown territory worker throughout North America. In 1994, Patterson would take the Leatherface character to IWA Japan, another hardcore wrestling promotion.
Upon Kirchner’s release from jail, IWA Japan ran an angle that saw Kirchner return in his Leatherface attire and join forces with Patterson’s Leatherface to form “The Leatherfaces” tag team. This team would only last for one match.
The true story of what happened during the match is a bit fuzzy, and different accounts tell different tales. No matter what side is true, though, the outcome is nothing short of insane. The Leatherfaces were booked in a match between Shoji Nakami and Hiroshi Ono. After the match, which had already seen ounces of bloodshed, the two masked men were told to perform a post-match beat-down on their opponents. You’d think they’d maybe throw a few kicks in there… Maybe a steel chair shot or two… You’d think wrong.
During the beat-down, Kirchner’s Leatherface held a spike up to Ono’s throat, leg dropped him on to a bed of nails, powerbombed him onto another bed of nails, wrapped him in barbed wire and crushed his body with a wooden board, all while fans literally ran for their lives... You read that right... For those few moments, Leatherface was not a wrestler. Leatherface was the horror villain from the movies. Kirchner was soon fired from IWA Japan after the spot.
By all accounts, the spot was a “shoot” and not scripted before the match. Nobody seems to be entirely certain, but many believe that Kirchner’s post match beat-down was on his own accord and was not discussed with Ono before the two entered the ring. Some say Kirchner’s firing was because the violent acts ruined Ono’s reputation as a tough, resilient hardcore wrestler. Others believe the spot was too dangerous, even for IWA Japan standards, and the promotion didn’t want to risk serious injury to any of their workers.
Some, however, believe the entire thing was planned out from the beginning. Some think the beat-down was a way to write Patterson off of the character and maintain that Kirchner was the true Leatherface that the fans grew to fear over the last few years. Whether you believe that the story was scripted or not, the beat-down is legitimately difficult to watch and the mysterious, cryptic backstory of the attack only adds to its morbidity.
To nobody’s surprise, after Leatherface left IWA Japan, he would make his way to FMW, the most over-the-top, violent promotion in Japan. There, he would change his name to Super Leather and have some of his most memorable matches against the likes of Masato Tanaka and Gedo. He would stay in the promotion until its folding, and would temporarily retire from professional wrestling in 2002. He made sporadic returns to the ring up until 2009, primarily in the Insane Clown Posse’s “Juggalo Championship Wrestling.”
Call him Super Leather, Leatherface or Corporal Kirchner, you can’t deny the importance of the character in Japanese deathmatch culture. Just as horror films are meant to shock its viewers, deathmatch wrestling is too. Leatherface managed to merge the world of horror films to the world of deathmatch wrestling, and created violent, believable, and most prominently, fearful moments that are now synonymous with deathmatch culture.