The Disco Ladder Match

When you hear the phrase, “Disco Ladder Match”, a lot of questions come to mind. Namely, did Vince Russo book that in 1999, or was it 2000?

But amazingly, not only did it not feature Disco Inferno…

(Though he did once wrestle a ladder match for a plastic duck)

…it wasn’t even in WCW, but the UK’s All-Star Wrestling.

Having watched plenty of British wrestling, I’ll give you a very brief but accurate history of the industry (minus a few major inaccuracies here and there):

For three decades, the UK’s ITV aired Joint Promotions wrestling exclusively as part of its World of Sport program(me).

But at the beginning of 1987, All-Star Wrestling got on the network as well. And with its premiere episode, the promotion made a bold statement.

Giving British wrestling a much-needed update, ASW put on the first-ever disco ladder match.

The object was the same as any ladder match — to climb the ladder and retrieve an object — but with an added twist, and that twist was disco.

During the match, viewers would be treated to a light show to rival anything Studio 54 ever put on in their ladder matches.

Then music would play over the PA.

I should note that no titles were on the line in this match. As a kid, I watched my WWF’s Most Unusual Matches Ever tape over and over and was always perplexed by Lord Alfred Hayes’s commentary.

During the Bret Hart-Shawn Michaels match, his Lordship noted that he’d only ever seen two ladder matches, and never a “title ladder match”. So if there was no belt, what were the wrestlers fighting over?

Well, with this match, I finally got my answer: a gold record.

And, because it was Christmas time, it was suspended not by rope or wire, but by tinsel.

Another oddity of this match was one of its participants:

Legendary British wrestler and waffle-face, Kendo Nagasaki.

For the record, there were two Kendo Nagasakis, but I’m not talking about the phony American version (from Hokkaido)…

…I’m talking about the authentic Kendo Nagasaki, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

One of Britain’s few “gimmick” wrestlers, the villainous Nagasaki loomed large in the imaginations of the country’s viewing public…

….coming to the ring in intimidating and mysterious kendo gear…

…and wrestling in ordinary, slightly-unflattering wrestling gear.

For years, Nagasaki resisted unmasking to protect his mystique. The mystique that comes with wearing a snow shoe on your face.

So what was a mystical samurai like Kendo Nagasaki doing in a disco ladder match? He must have really wanted that gold record, rumored to be “Japanese Boy” by Aneka.

Kendo Nagasaki and opponent Clive Myers grappled for thirty seconds before esteemed television announcer Kent Walton delivered one of the great calls in British wrestling history:

“This is the disco part of the performance coming up, and there you saw the golden disc. Right now, the disco part of the performance.”

And so the disco lights flashed, and the music played over the speakers.

Not disco music, mind you, but classical…

…starting with Respighi’s Roman Festivals…

…then moving on to a cut from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker concept album…

…followed by his club hit “1812 Overture”.

They really missed the boat with those last two pieces (both staples of slapstick film trailers) by not hitting each other in the nuts in sync with the music.

Kent Walton was quick to point out, for any confused fans, that this match was being held under “All-American rules” where anything goes.

It really highlighted the difference between the wrestling styles on either side of the pond: A British fan would wonder why they’re punching each other and fighting outside the ring.

An American fan would wonder why a beekeeper and a kickboxer were fighting over an LP.

They say wrestling ain’t ballet, but the DJ playing The Trepak would beg to differ.

Eventually, the men got a hold of the ladder, a model so flimsy-looking, I wouldn’t climb it by myself…

…let alone with a human tennis racket trying to knock me off.

And that gold paint wasn’t fooling anyone — I know that thing was made of wood. And more tinsel.

Eventually some actual disco music came on, namely “Am I Normal?” by Virginia David.

All of this isn’t to say the match was bad. In fact, there was one cool spot where Clive Myers crashed hard to the mat.

But I can’t say the match was good, either, and that’s because neither I nor anyone watching on ITV could tell what the hell was going on.

Between the super-wide shots…

…and the close-ups of the lighting guy twiddling his knob…

…the match was near-impossible to follow, with viewers constantly bombarded with distractions.

So that’s something else All-Star Wrestling innovated: TikTok sludge content.

Kendo Nagasaki disco ladder match

After eight minutes, Kendo Nagasaki grabbed the gold record, fell on his bum, and solidified his status as “the world’s most invincible wrestler”.

That was how his manager spun it, anyway. With Kendo Nagasaki standing around with his disc in his hand…

…Kent Walton was a bit more muted in his praise, making Nagasaki sound like an old man who’d just won an LP at bingo.

Though the disco ladder match never caught on, its influence was certainly felt in WCW, where, just two months before the aforementioned Disco Duck ladder match…

…3 Count won a gold record in a ladder match of their own.

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