FMW was the vision of Atsushi Onita in the 1980's that pro wrestling in Japan had never seen before. Atsushi Onita, an All Japan Junior Heavyweight in the 1980's who traveled to the United States and Puerto Rico to wrestle and gain experience before coming back to Japan and show what he had learned from the States and Puerto Rico to make him a more complete and better wrestler. That never happened as Atsushi Onita would soon blow out his knees and retire from wrestling in 1984. Onita would come back to wrestling in 1988 and see the explosion of popularity of the UWF promotion. Onita made a challenge to the UWF promotion which the promotion refused. Onita would decide to counter the UWF and would announce on July 28th, 1989 that he would start his own promotion, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling. The FMW promotion started by Onita would only be planned for one show in Nagoya on October 6th, 1989 as Onita only had 400 dollars to promote the show. The idea of Onita was to have a bunch of professional wrestlers taking on legitimate Karate fighters in matches to see who was the better between the two to show the UWF that professional wrestlers could handle themselves against legitimate fighters. Onita would actually lose his match against Karate fighter Masashi Aoyagi in the main event upsetting Onita so match that he would not let the bell end his fight against Aoyagi and would continue to go after him causing a pull apart brawl between the wrestlers and karate fighters to loud screams from the crowd over the legitimate feel of hatred between the two groups.
The show would turn out to be a big success drawing over 1,000 fans for a show only promoted with 400 dollars. Onita along with Mickey Ibargi who had helped promote the show would agree to make this one time show into a full time promotion with the goal of it lasting one year. Onita would begin to take things that he had seen and done while in Memphis, Armarillo, and Puerto Rico in the early 80's. He took the wild brawls he was a part of in Memphis and had them happen in FMW with the matches going all over the building. He took the barbed wire and blood he saw in Puerto Rico and applied it to a big match atmosphere with himself facing the likes of his friend Tarzan Goto and his enemy Mr. Pogo. He took the emotion he saw the Funks show in their promos while in Armarillo and applied that to his interviews that saw screams of emotion and shedding of tears to make him one of the most famous Japanese wrestlers of all time. All three were key factors in FMW becoming a huge success. The problem was that the promotion was still just built with the idea of running for one year and thus the idea of being able to top what the fans had already seen and loved even further. A barbed wire match for a big show became an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, the first of its kind on August 4th, 1990 against Tarzan Goto. Exploding Barbed wire became an Exploding Barbed wire Cage Death Match in front of over 33,000 fans at Kawasaki Stadium on September 23rd, 1991.
FMW also included a women's division which no other full time men's promotion in Japan had done. Onita used All Japan Women's reject Megumi Kudo and built her as the star due to her talent and beauty against the likes of Erika Tsuchiya, Yoshika Medomari, and Combat Toyoda. Onita would also bring in legends of Japanese to wrestling to ultimately put over like Tiger Jeet Singh, The Sheik, and Terry Funk. Bringing in The Sheik allowed the first ever break for his nephew Sabu as The Sheik's age and body limited him from doing anything other than walking and stabbing, his nephew Sabu was able to do moves and dives no wrestler had ever done. Onita's popularity was at an all time high when he began working with Genichiro Tenryu's WAR promotion in 1994. Onita who had put his body through so much including almost dying twice decided it was time to wind things down. He had made so much money for himself, the promotion, taken Death Matches about as far as he possibly could after having an Exploding Ring Cage Death Match against Mr. Pogo on August 22nd, 1993, and felt he could become a movie star. Onita would lose a match to Genichiro Tenryu in front of over 52,000 fans at Kawasaki Stadium on May 5th, 1994 with Onita announcing beforehand that he would retire if he lost. Instead of retiring, Onita decided he would use the retirement gimmick as a way to make even more money for himself and the promotion and announce that due to the loss he would retire instead one year to the day of the loss, May 5th, 1995.
Onita would spend the next year enjoying the biggest crowds ever for the promotion, and his popularity at an all time high as the best babyface in professional wrestling. Trouble would happen though as his retirement match would clash with his ego. Onita wanted to have one last moment in victory before going out and his friend Tarzan Goto who he was suppose to face and become the ace of the promotion felt he was being setup for failure by losing to Onita. Tarzan Goto along with his students Mr. Gannosuke and Flying Kid Ichihara would walk away from the promotion just two weeks before the biggest show in the history of FMW. FMW Dojo student Eiji Ezaki who was going by the Hayabusa gimmick and shown so much promise for the promotion for the past four years was chosen to replace Onita as the FMW ace instead. Onita would still get his way for his retirement match on May 5th, 1995 at Kawasaki Stadium in front of over 58,250 fans and get his last victory. Hayabusa would do as much as he could to show the fans in the match what he was willing to do in the ring to replace Onita by being sent into a Barbed Wire Cage at the exact moment the cage exploded, as well as climbing to the top of the cage and delivering a missed moonsault fifteen feet high up in the air. Onita would sell the promotion to friend and Vice President Shoichi Arai and get what he had wanted in walking off in the sunset under his terms.
It left the promotion in a bad spot as practically everything the promotion had been based off its first five years was now gone. Feeling Death Matches and Street Fights for every show was straight wrestling matches, replacing one of the most charismatic wrestlers of all time cutting up his body every show was a charismatic but not in the league masked wrestler who put his body on the line through highflying moves. Hayabusa did everything he could the first couple of months and was innovative in his own ways, but it was hard for the fans to accept him as Atsushi Onita's replacement just simply because he wasn't Atsushi Onita and the people just stopped coming. All the money the promotion had made in the years of Onita that wasn't put in his pocket was running very thin by the end of 1995. The only reason the fans came to the shows was to see what they had loved seeing that was still there from the Onita days and that was Megumi Kudo and her hatred for Erika "Shark" Tsuchiya.
Hayabusa was booked in the spot of Atsushi Onita for FMW's May 5th, 1996 Kawasaki Stadium show with his friend Masato Tanaka against two of Onita's famous Death Match opponents in Mr. Pogo and Terry Funk in a Exploding Ring, Barb wire Double Hell Death Match with Hayabusa once again putting his body through the hell that Onita had put his body through to become beloved by the FMW fans including getting his stomach dropped on the exploding barbed wire, fire being blown at his head, and being thrown into a flaming chair mask first for the eventual loss. The show would also promote the first ever women's Exploding Barbed wire Death Match in Megumi Kudo facing her friend Combat Toyoda in Combat's retirement match. The show would overall be a success, although not the success the previous shows had been with Onita main eventing, although Onita would be very visual and emotional for both matches watching from the crowd. Onita would suffer what almost every wrestler suffers from when they try to retire, and would eventually come back to FMW on December 11th, 1996 to feud with Terry Funk and overshadow Hayabusa who would be moved down from main eventer to semi-main eventer for shows involving Onita on them. Hayabusa would begin a long storied feud between himself and his new partner Jinsei Shinzaki against Hayabusa's long time best friend the returning Mr. Gannosuke while Onita would look for help from Masato Tanaka and W*ING Kanemura against Terry Funk and his faction of gaijins called the Funk Masters of Wrestling.
All of this going on while Megumi Kudo would be forced to retire at the age of 28 due to everything she put her body through throughout the years of the promotion to face Shark Tsuchiya one last time on April 29th, 1997 in the main event of a sold out Yokohama Arena. The match would be an Exploding Barbed wire Double Hell Death Match that would see Kudo be dropped head into the exploding barbed wire outside the ring, as well as have fire shot at the back of her head. Kudo would go through her one last hell before defeating Shark Tsuchiya for the final time, and pretty much ending anything left of the FMW women's division. Atsushi Onita would get another last main event Death Match on September 28, 1997 at Kawasaki Stadium in front of 50,012 fans against W*ING Kanemura in what would be built as the biggest Death Match in FMW's history in an Exploding Ring Barbed wire Cage Death Match X 2 although the match would turn out to be a huge disappointment with not much heat from the crowd and an overall bad match due to the shape both Onita and Kanemura were in going into it. Onita would use to the match to do what he had never done in FMW before and that was turn heel and form his own group called ZEN to face off against FMW's own face wrestlers to allow Hayabusa back in as the top face of the promotion. The idea ultimately would not work as the crowd could just not hate Onita, and he would eventually go back to becoming a babyface while members of his ZEN group of Mr. Gannosuke, Yukihiro Kanemura, and Hido would branch off and remain heels forming an alliance with Kodo Fuyuki, Jado, and Gedo to form Team No Respect.
A political fight of the direction of where FMW should head would take place between Atsushi Onita, Kodo Fuyuki, and the owner Shoichi Arai with Arai siding with Fuyuki's views of the promotion head towards an a Entertainment style of wrestling and Hayabusa returning as the face of the promotion. Hayabusa would become the true face of the promotion defeating his former best friend Mr. Gannosuke on April 30th, 1998 at the Yokohama Bunka Gym to win the FMW's two top titles. Onita would eventually leave the promotion for the final time on November 20th, 1998 the same day that Kodo Fuyuki would symbolize that he would be the top heel of the promotion by defeating Hayabusa for his titles. Fuyuki would work under Shoichi Arai, helping with creative direction as well as handling the money. The promotion would become completely different than what it had been. Fuyuki would bring in porn stars Sena Wakana and Chocoball Mukai as well as Baseball stars and famous Chefs to FMW shows. Eiji Ezaki would also face a problem after 4 years of putting his body through so much due to the highflying moves, he would be told to take it down a notch, and as a result would feel like the Hayabusa gimmick would not be the same and as a result would change his gimmick and name to H. Ezaki's only big match as H would be at FMW's last successful very big show for the promotion on November 23rd, 1999 at the Yokohama Arena for the main event of H taking on Mr. Gannosuke as Hayabusa himself in the match to end their two year feud with Shawn Michaels as the referee with H getting the victory and reuniting with his former best friend Mr. Gannosuke.
The H gimmick would not survive as it was not accepted by the fans, so Eiji Ezaki would return as Hayabusa full time in July 2000. Just four months later Hayabusa's elbows would require surgery after so many times landing due to a 450 Splash. Hayabusa may never have been the draw that Atsushi Onita was, but still in his own right was loved by the fans for many of the same reasons Onita was and had become a fair enough draw for the promotion to become a successful one. But with Hayabusa out for 6 months, business especially with the house shows would become disastrous. The promotion was losing money and as a result would lose wrestlers Masato Tanaka, Jado, Gedo, Hideki Hosaka, and Kaori Nakayama. Tetsuhiro Kuroda would be the main focus of the promotion along with Kodo Fuyuki as everyone waited for Hayabusa to come back and save the promotion from the giant slump it had been in. Hayabusa would return for his final Kawasaki Stadium show on May 5th, 2001 and team with The Great Sasuke over Tetsuhiro Kuroda and Mr. Gannosuke in the last ever Exploding Ring Death Match, although it would be nothing like the death matches from years past as the crowd of 10,500 would be silent and emotionless for the match with Hayabusa getting the win over Kuroda. The promotion would get back on track although the money loss over time specifically the time while Hayabusa was out would still be a factor, but everything for the promotion would come crashing down. Hayabusa would accidentally slip on the middle rope in a match against Mammoth Sasaki on October 22nd, 2001 and would become paralyzed. Hayabusa not knowing what had happened would tell the referee to keep the match going, although it became obvious that something was very wrong and Hayabusa was not going to get the feeling back in his body.
The match was stopped and Hayabusa was sent to a nearby hospital where he would stay for the next 18 months. Kodo Fuyuki would try to replace Hayabusa with young wrestler Tomokazu Morita having a similar gimmick to Hayabusa in Garuda, but Garuda was nowhere near Hayabusa's level at anything and it just came off as a quick ripoff so it was crapped all over by the audience.... he only wrestled one match under the gimmick in FMW. By the beginning of 2002, Kodo Fuyuki knew the end was coming as he saw all the money the company was losing, and began booking the promotion selfishly around himself knowing it was coming to an end. The final blow for the promotion would be on January 6th, 2002 when Mr. Gannosuke would break both his ankles after Vic Grimes would deliver a somersault off the top turnbuckle and go through a table with Gannosuke's legs still under the table. Sabu who had got his first break in the business because of FMW would agree to return to FMW and team with Tetsuhiro Kuroda to face Kodo Fuyuki and The Sandman on February 4th, 2002 with Fuyuki getting the pinfall over Kuroda in the final FMW match. There was no sign of anything looking up for the promotion, Shoichi Arai owed millions of dollars to the Yakuza and eventually declared for bankruptcy officially ending FMW on February 15th, 2002. The promotion that was only suppose to go one show, then to one year ended up lasting over twelve and a half years. Shoichi Arai would go into hiding before committing suicide on May 16th, 2002 earning enough life insurance money for the Yakuza to get their money and to keep his family safe from them. Kodo Fuyuki and Mr. Gannosuke would start their own promotions following the death of FMW, but Kodo Fuyuki would pass away himself from cancer on March 19th, 2003. Today two promotions are still based off of FMW in Mr. Gannosuke's WMF and Kintaro Kanemura's Apache Army promotion, although neither will ever come to have the emotion, passion or the love of the fans that FMW once had.