IT’S been dubbed the bloodiest sport in the world – where men and women beat each other to a pulp with glass lighting tubes, fan-made barbed-wire bats and other deadly weapons.
This is hardcore death-match wrestling and, according to fans, it’s 100 per cent more brutal than anything you’ve seen on WWE.
Hardcore wrestler Mean Mitch Page grins at the crowd during a ‘death match’
With a large and loyal following, these fighters travel across America – and the world – taking part in ultra-violent wrestling events – such as barefoot thumbtack matches – before patching themselves up with superglue and hitting the road.
Others hurl themselves off rooftops or scaffolding into pits of fire, glass, barbed wire – or all three – in front of wild, cheering crowds.
These graphic pictures were taken by photographer Marc McAndrew who spent two years following the wrestlers and documenting their lives.
‘The Bulldozer’ Matt Tremont lays into his opponent Masada with a barbed wire bat during a ‘Fans Bring The Weapons’ match
Sage Sin Supreme works the crowd at the IWA Mid-South Royal Weekend of Death
Wrestler Danny Havoc has glass and thumbtacks removed from his back by an off-duty nurse
One of the sport’s biggest stars is “The Bulldozer” Matt Tremont, 30, who told Sun Online: “This is as real as it gets.
“When we’re getting busted open, we’re getting busted open the hard way.
“Whether that’s a steel-chair shot, or being hit with a barbed-wire bat or some other weapon – I’ve got the scars to prove it and the stories to tell.
“I’ve had many, many matches over the years, and the physicality and the injuries are definitely very real.
Matt Tremont slams opponent Josh Crane through flaming glass
A fan poses with his beer during the notorious Tournament of Death event
“There’s no special preparation – as crazy as it sounds, it’s just another day at the office for me.
“I show up to a venue, I get dressed, I talk over the match with my opponent.
“We go in there with a general idea of what we’re going to do, then I just keep to myself, get in the zone and once the bell rings I go out and do my job, which is to entertain the crowd.”
Matt, who has wrestled around the world including in Japan and the UK, says the most extreme thing he ever attempted was a move called the “Death Valley Driver” which saw him leap from a 20-foot-high steel cage and crash through three sheets of glass with another 300-pound wrestler on his back.
Unsurprisingly, injuries are common, but most hardcore wrestlers merely patch themselves up with sutures or glue and get ready for the next match.
Matt says he is covered in scars from 11 years in the business.
“Knock on wood, I’ve never had any broken bones, but I’ve had many trips to the hospital to get stitched up or to close wounds,” he said.
“I’ve had staples to the head, stitches to my arm and back, all kinds.
Wrestler Hudson Envy poses for photographer Marc McAndrews, who spent two years documenting the brutal sport
Jun Kasia smashes light tubes on Masada’s head by kicking them
“It takes its toll. The barbed wire is very real, the glass is very real, it’ll cut you up and scar you up.
“I’m scarred from head to toe, but those scars are a roadmap, and they tell a lot of great stories.”
Matt, who wrestles anything between one and three matches a week, says you need a high pain threshold to be a hardcore wrestler – and it doesn’t hurt if you’re a little crazy.
Jesse F***ing Amato kneeling and resting on a metal chair after being thrown out of the ring on to glass-covered concrete
A broken light tube that was taken out of a wrestler’s side after one match
“Typically, I think a lot of people might say you have to have a screw or two loose to do what we do,” Matt added.
“But some of the nicest people I’ve known have been death match wrestlers.
“When they have to perform, that’s when they turn the switch on – their pain threshold goes up and their character gets turned up a few notches, and they get to work.
“After 11 years, the satisfaction I get at this level is being able to make a full-time living, travel and perform. I can provide for my family and take care of my wife and dog.
“To me, it’s just another day at the office, like anyone else doing their 9 to 5 job. It’s what I know, it’s what I do.
“You know, some people have to use a frying pan to make an egg for their job, and we have to use barbed-wire bats for ours.”
Hardcore wrestling has a large, loyal following around the world
After the final sheet of glass didn’t break during this match, Matt Tremont jumped out of the ring and on to Jesse F***ing Amato
And it’s not just a men’s sport – female hardcore wrestling is “extremely popular”, according to Matt, with women even taking on men in the ring and a “huge, growing market” for inter-gender fights.
Photographer Marc said when it comes to the fans, the bloodier the fight, the better.
He said one of the most extreme fights he witnessed was a light-tube fight between Matt and fellow wrestler Nick Gage, where both men ended up covered head to toe in blood “like a Tarantino movie” while the audience “went crazy, clapping and applauding”.
Wrestlers Devon Moore and John Wayne Murdoch flip off of scaffolding on to a table in the ring
Manager Rodney Rush holds the head of wrestler Randi West backstage
After another brutal match between wrestlers Joey Janela and John Danzig, the fighters took the audience outside the arena, where they climbed to the third storey before plunging into a fiery glass and barbed wire-filled wooden pit.
“It was insane – they took the audience outside and they climbed on top of a three-storey roof,” Marc told Sun Online.
“Down below was a pickup truck with a wooden square structure in the back, filled with barbed wire and glass on top. Somebody then threw gasoline on it and set it on fire.
Mean Mitch Page poses backstage
Fans cheer Josh Crane as he crawls on his hands and knees during his match with Matt Tremont
“Then while they were up there, one guy picked the other up and they both fell into this fiery, barbed-wire pickup truck, light-tube explosion.
“That’s nuts, but it’s also very skilled in the sense they can do this and not die.”
Marc admits he was shocked when he saw his first hardcore match, but soon came to admire the wrestlers’ passion for their sport.
“The first event I ever went to was called the Tournament of Death in Delaware,” he said.
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“I was expecting that it may be a little more extreme than WWE wrestling, but all of a sudden, there was barbed wire, people bleeding all over the place, and I was like ‘what the f*** am I looking at?'”
“Once the shock of it had gone away, I started to look at them more like outsider artists – they are really passionate about their performances and they look upon it as a craft or an art form.
“Watching them afterwards in the locker room they all go through their own matches and talk about how to improve the experience for the audience.
“It looks simplistic and brutal, but there’s a lot more behind it than that – it’s a very unique subculture.”
A wrestler lies in a painful bed of barbed wire
A group of fans cheer on the fighters
A wrestler covered in bloody wounds relaxes after a fight
Wrestler Kongo Kong stands backstage at the death-match event