CZW Cage of Death 19
December 9 2017
I’ve only seen one CZW show this year and I wasn’t blown away by it. However it’s a promotion that makes gentle little ripples in American Indie wrestling so I thought I’d give it another shot as the year closed out. The last Cage of Death I saw was so long ago that I don’t remember the number. We’re in Sewell, New Jersey. The ring announcer demands everyone “get on their fucking feet”. About a dozen people oblige. American fans are an absolute mystery to me. I’ve paid my money, I’ll sit here and do nothing thank you. Then everyone stands up for Matt Tremont anyway!
10,000 Thumbtacks Match
Matt Tremont vs. Jimmy Lloyd
Jimmy has that ‘one of us’ vibe about him as he used to be a fan. Hell, Roy Johnson used to be a fan at Progress but he doesn’t have that vibe. Lloyd does. The Mick Foley effect. Lloyd strikes first, hitting Tremont with a bat and Tremont does an obvious bladejob on camera. Hardcore wrestling is also an art form but that should involve attempting to conceal this sort of thing. Jimmy then blades away from the hardcam, with the fans looking on and you can see the blood between his thumb and forefinger from it. Come on guys! At least attempt to hide it. They have a bed of tacks and a lot of spots involve one or both of them taking spots on it. Of course having a mass of thumbtacks isn’t enough and Jimmy Lloyd pulls out a pack of syringes.
His head is already full of thumbtacks. They give up on that bullshit to have a “bar fight”, which is when they sit in chairs opposite each other and punch. I love that shit. Pure Necro Butcher. The match is loaded with extreme violence and awkward set ups. If you’re about to have something smashed onto you, moving it into position is considered a breach of kayfabe. Man, Jim Cornette would hate this. Again, the thumbtacks are not enough so here comes a board covered in cut cans of Coca Cola and a board of nails. Jimmy takes a DVD onto everything, made less impressive by a chair on top absorbing the blow, and Tremont wins.
Ok. There are two ways to watch this. One would be via a highlights video package of all the high spots, which would probably look cool. This match in GIFS would be neat. Unfortunately way two is how it was presented, which is to say the setting up of spots exposing the spots themselves and the failure to hide, or even attempt to hide, any of wrestling little tricks. If someone blades, I should find myself wondering if it was a bladejob or not. Here, they were both so blatant about it, it bordered on a disrespect for the fans and the intelligence thereof. That combined with the sloppy set ups for the high spots and I lost all interest in this long before the conclusion. If you get a chance to see a music video version of this match I bet it looks cool though.
Final Rating: *1/2
Post Match: Tremont calls out NWA champion Tim Storm.
Tim Storm looks like an army general on leave. I do dig him holding up the NWA prestige by wearing a swanky suit. Storm is about to accept Tremont’s offer when Ethan Page strolls out. If Billy Corgan is smart about it, he could book NWA and the title around Page, seeing as he’s not attached to anything else. Next challenger is Maxwell Jacob Friedman. MJF would be another excellent choice because he can talk up a storm. However he makes a horrible mistake here by calling Tim “old”. Of course he’s old. You can’t call old wrestlers old. If you call someone old and then lose, you got beat by an old guy. You call someone old and win, you beat an old guy, so what. Next up is Austin Idol! Haha. Fuck me. He must have retired in the early 1990s. He used to be in WWE…in 1973. I’m not even kidding. Austin Idol is 68 years old. Tim Storm might look like your uncle on holiday but Idol is a full-on relic. Luckily Idol isn’t here to wrestle, merely to introduce Nick Aldis (formally Magnus in TNA). It’s at this point that I realise Billy Corgan made some friends in TNA and one of them must have been this joker. Aldis is actually a bad wrestler. He was a better Gladiator.
Alex Colon vs. Mr Claxton
This is a “grudge match”. Claxton has an awful t-shirt that reads “Hello, my name is Mr Claxton”. He’s going to wrestle in that. Colon is a good hand. He’s quick, his timing is decent and his strikes look snug. He’s at the standard of NXT job guy. Claxton is ok at talking smack but he’s in horrible shape so Colon does most of the work. Colon breaks out a barbwire board because it’s CZW and every match has to be stupid. Claxton heels it up a treat by getting a roll up before it’s used! Hahaha, that’s actually hilarious. Well played sir. Danny Havoc runs in to stop him celebrating and he gets put through the barbwire board anyway. Eh, CZW. What can you do.
Final Rating: *
David Starr vs. Ethan Page
Starr has been off in Europe, honing his skill and growing his beard.
Ethan Page’s refusal to nail himself down to one promotion, and leaving EVOLVE, has turned him into one of the most intriguing wrestlers in America. Sadly they have to wrestle this match in this environment so there’s thumbtacks on the floor and it’s just a cesspool. They clean-up crew have their work cut out but this isn’t a pleasant wrestling environment. They try and build using traditional means, with Starr doing fanciful stuff and Page being a dickhead. The crowd, rather predictably, sit on their hands, apart from one fan at the back somewhere trying to get a “both these guys” chant going. In a way you have to blame the wrestlers for daring to put on a good match instead of doing blood and guts stuff but hey. Horses for courses. They come up with enough cool shit that the fans do eventually get into it. It’s probably the scoop slam off the top rope that does it. Starr wins out of nowhere to a very mixed response. This was good, regardless of what the Combat Zone thinks.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: CZW’s shitty microphone doesn’t work so Starr cuts a promo by yelling “I’m really good at professional wrestling”. He promises to win Best of the Best this year.
CZW World Tag Team Championship
Scarlet & Graves (c) vs. The REP vs. Alex Reynolds & (Not) Matt Palmer vs. OI4K
This is supposed to be Matt Palmer but it’s actually Dan Barry (or someone who really looks like Dan Barry); star of Holy Foley. They enter to one of the most astonishing silences I’ve ever heard. If Lykos hadn’t broken his wrist CCK would probably be in this match. I appreciate two of these teams having managers. That’s old school tag teaming right there. I spend most of this match laughing at how out of sorts and generally shit Dan Barry is. He looks confused at life. Everyone else does flips and stuff. You know how wrestlers are taught to look natural in the ring and not look like they’re thinking about the next spot. Dan Barry constantly looks like he’s thinking about the next spot and you can see him doing it. It’s fucking painful to watch. I know what spot is coming because he telegraphs it from a million miles away. He’s never out of position but he sucks all the fun out of everything he’s involved in. He keeps moving into position for spots and watching the dude that’s about to hit something. It actually ruins the entire match for me. Technically he’s fine but he’s somehow bad despite this. I have to force myself to stop looking at him because even when he’s selling he keeps watching the relevant spots so he doesn’t get lost. It drives me nuts. Dave Crist does the insane Cutter out of the air on someone coming off the top. That’s always cool and luckily Dan Barry was out on the floor so I couldn’t see him staring at it. Dan walks into the REP’s “Flip Flam” finish and the belts end up where they were supposed to be. I’m up for Scarlet & Graves vs. OI4K because that could be nuts but Dan Barry wrecked this match by himself. It was an astonishingly bad performance. When I stated on Twitter I was going to critique Dan in the review he managed to vanity search it and quote tweeted it with “Can’t wait”. Well here ya go; some bullet points to dine on.
- When you’re supposed to be selling a move, it would be really helpful if you stopped moving around to watch the high spots. Fine somewhere else to lie around or get out of the ring.
- Emotion is core to pro-wrestling. The wrestlers that I love have their emotions on their face at all times. I know how they feel. I know how much pain they are in. Dan has one look and unfortunately it’s ‘slightly confused’. I never know if he’s hurt, or angry or queasy because he looks the same…all the time.
- When you’re going to take a spot from another wrestler don’t move into position for it long before it happens. You should logically turn into a spot. Otherwise you’re telegraphing what the move is to the entire audience and they don’t care about it. Most wrestlers learn this before they’re allowed to have a match.
- One person can hurt an entire match. I’ve seen other multi-man tags where one wrestler being out of position or actively bad can drag everything down. That happened here.
- I’m well aware most modern matches are pre-planned but the fans don’t have to know this. The way Dan ‘got in position’ for stuff during this was fake.
- I don’t know what Barry’s character is supposed to be, because he doesn’t have one. The good news is he’s not a total disaster in the ring but the glaring holes in his work are there for all to see and I hate to see one guy drag everyone down around him like this. Getting into the spotlight in larger promotions will always result in more eyes on you and greater criticism. Dealing with criticism is something that comes with the territory. Hell, everyone in the public eye gets criticised. Scott Keith called me a rip-off once and he was right. I changed my style. If you can’t see your own flaws that’s a problem. Literally anyone can ask me anything about any of their matches. I will be honest with you. My DM’s are open.
Final Rating: **1/2
NWA World Championship
Tim Storm (c) vs. Nick Aldis
Here it is, the match nobody in CZW wants to see; a match between two old-school outsiders with the voice of a guy who was relevant in the 1970s for a belt that hasn’t been relevant since the 1980s. Idol brings out Brian Hebner, “who’s name is synonymous with integrity”, to ref it. Aldis drops Storm on his head in the first sequence, which is supposed to be a match revolving around Tim Storm’s bad ribs. Aldis is awful, always has been. Storm has only ever been a regional guy. His stuff is ok but dated. Aldis however can’t even make that look convincing. He’s so wooden. It’s like watching a block of wood with a low IQ try and figure out the mechanics of ballet. He just wants to go and lift some more weights because it’s easy and repetitious and his meaty brain can understand that. Aldis hits his finish and the crowd goes mild. This was short, badly structured and boring. If Billy Corgan is putting his money on Aldis, he might as well flush it down the fucking toilet. Magnus calls this “amateur” and is surprised when the microphone works. He calls the wrestlers in this company “ham sandwiches”. Aldis’ promo is way better than the match where he calls the fans “mouth-breathing losers” and criticises all the fat wrestlers and fat fans in CZW. Good lad.
Final Rating: ½*
Jimmy Havoc vs. Jimmy Jacobs
Well, this is certainly something. Jacobs entrance is incredible. He follows a little gang of zombies to the ring.
He’s uh, let’s just show you what he looks like…
Jacobs has done a spectacular job of reinventing himself immediately on his return to the Indies, creating a unique look. This is largely due to his work in WWE. He knows about character and how to stand out. Havoc has a few crowd issues; with their silence and refusal to move. So he ends up landing on a few front row guys. The crowd is absolutely dead. It’s embarrassing. They hit each other with chairs and brawl all over the building and nobody gives a fuck. Jacobs blades but he’s covered in fake blood so the effect is lost somewhat. The bleeding is put in the match to sate the CZW fans and they try and have a good match around it. Sadly this degenerates into Jacobs using a spike and Havoc pulls a blade from his wrist tape in the middle of the ring. Ok, sometimes this is the wrestlers fault but the production guys aren’t helping by not cutting away when this sort of thing happens. They do manage to cut away from the actual bladejob this time, thankfully. We cut back and Havoc is bleeding! I’m shocked. Jacobs attempts an Ospreay fade cutter but lands awkwardly on a chair that he didn’t see. Jacobs takes it with a senton and this was pretty good, in between the nonsense bits and the quiet crowd. They certainly tried hard and I’m sad that it happened so soon into Jacobs comeback stretch as he looked a little rusty. He’s only wrestled a handful of matches since coming back into the Indies followed a 2.5 year stretch on the WWE writing team.
Final Rating: ***
Ace Romero vs. Greg Excellent & Chrissy Rivera
Ace is a big lad. Chrissy Rivera is under five feet tall. There is a contrast there.
Greg and Ace both fall into the category of fat boys that Nick Aldis was slating earlier. With Ace it gives him a look, Greg is just a fat mess. Excellent does make me laugh by saying “my mother is a saint” when someone yells a “yo momma” gag out. Dorothy Mantooth is it? Most of the match revolves around how big the two men are, compared to how small Rivera is. Occasionally interrupted by the two big boys talking loudly to each other and calling spots. We’ve had both ends of the shitarse scale here. The muscular failings of Aldis and now the blubbery failings of Indie trash. The finish is awful with Ace putting Rivera through a table but being blindsided by Excellent for the pin. The spot is so bad that a roll up would have been preferable. In an attempt to be positive; Chrissy Rivera played her role well in this.
Final Rating: DUD
CZW Wired Championship
Joey Janela (c) vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman
Remember when MJF was a Feinstein until he was reminded of the nonce aspect of the name? That being Rob “lol I’ll pretend you said 18” Feinstein: the Pedo Predator.
How is RF Video still a thing? Anyway; Joey Janela has done a fine job of getting himself over during the past year. The entrance, the music, the style, the silly spots. It’s all been about him building a brand. MJF is cornered by Penelope Ford, who’s merely eye-candy in this role but she’s actually a wrestler. She got her break in CZW too. MJF has a lot of presence and is getting better in the ring. Evidence here is the flash of doing an Asai moonsault where Joey moves and MJF lands on his feet. Dude has that raw athleticism and he gets better every time I see him, which is good news for him. He’s been working all over the place this year, so he clearly wants to be a star. My one concern is that his look is a bit nondescript. Whereas Joey Janela cannot be mistaken for anyone else. What is the MJF brand? The match itself is a little deliberate and slightly lacking in fluidity but the work is better than almost everything else on the show. Some of the spot work is solid and Janela doesn’t hold back. It distinguishes him on this show. He’s operating at another level. He’s likely to be in more pain than everyone else tomorrow but he also looks like a bigger fucking star. The limb work is deliciously violent and the character work is great too. It’s a pity the limb work, arms mainly, doesn’t go anywhere until MJF pulls an armbar out of his ass. The storytelling is lacking a little in that respect but the character work overrides it. It doesn’t help that the crowd is so quiet. Occasionally clapping but not getting that into it. Janela pops me by yelling “fuck you Jim Cornette” before hitting the DVD on the apron, a move Cornette criticised for being dangerous and “bush league”.
My secondary issue with the match; after the limb stuff and the quiet crowd, is that it goes too long. The match feels like it peaks and it carries on afterwards, which is never a good thing. You really want to hit that sweet spot. The only way it should carry on is if the crowd are baying for more and even then you should arguably finish when it makes the most sense. This rumbles on too long.
Joey Janela and MJF are clearly both nuts. pic.twitter.com/t8xJ0xydQV
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) December 13, 2017
At least it escalates. So there’s the apron bump. Then a bump off the apron. Then a bump off the balcony. Excessive? You betcha. At some point there needs to be a finish and it’s a struggle to top yourself sometimes. They do a good job of pulling all this madness back to the storyline with Penelope getting in the ring to check on both guys and getting accidentally nailed by Janela. MJF gets a roll up for the win! Haha. This was good for chuckles. I’m undecided on the rating because it was a great match but it went too long and the crowd’s lack of interest dragged it down a bit.
Final Rating: ****
Post Match: Penelope Ford turns on MJF! Clearly upset that Janela elbowed her because of MJF moving. “It was all part of the plan” says Joey. “What was the plan?” yells a fan. Oh, to lose the title? Huh? I don’t understand. So Joey gets the girl but loses the strap? Why not turn on MJF during the match so Joey keeps the strap too? That doesn’t make any sense. That one fan yelling “what was the plan?” sums it up beautifully.
Cage of Death
CZW World Championship
Rickey Shane Page (c) vs. Joe Gacy vs. Shane Strickland
I would be happier if this was Page vs. Gacy and Shane got to do the technical wrestling. For me Strickland is one of the best wrestlers in the world and doesn’t need to do stuff like this but I admire his need to diversify. Shane comes in here with limited death match experience and isn’t wearing a shirt. That might not be the brightest of moves. Cage of Death is all about spectacular visuals like the smashing of glass or Gacy coming after dudes with an electric bread knife. It’s pleasing to see some actual wrestling involved with Strickland vs. Page having actual strike duels and sequences between the big silly spots. One big silly spot is a Russian legsweep through the roof of Cage of Death.
— Jimmy Havoc (@JimmyHavoc) December 10, 2017
Shane Strickland clearly turned up here to showcase himself and his versatility and willingness to sacrifice his body for the art of extreme. All these guys are fucking insane.
The tube duel is brutal. As is the scarring all these guys have from this match. They’re all clearly fucked up. They’re taking bumps on an increasingly messed up ring and there’s bits of broken glass sticking out of everyone’s skin. The match is great, if you like extreme wrestling, until the followers of Gacy involve themselves. It’s bad enough that Dan Barry is ringside, having a chat with Gacy, but the followers outright invade and Kit Osbourne shows up. Meanwhile Dan Barry has climbed up to cage so they can do a Russian legsweep off the cage. After which Dan is lying amongst the followers with that same nondescript look on his face that he always has. Blank Slate Barry they call him. Even Dean Malenko changed expressions once in a while. Another run-in sees Gacy thrown off the scaffold. The confusion from the crowd is palpable. This is a strange match. It escalated up to all the run-in’s and then died on its ass. RSP hits a Chokebreaker, which seems a lot better than landing on the horrible mess that is the mat, on Strickland to retain. This was a bizarre match. At times it was incredible with over the top violence and insane high spots and quite often it was a mess, with too much interference. If you think I’m being harsh, listen to the crowd and how they drop out of the match when the interference is happening.
Final Rating: ***1/2
I recorded a podcast on the year’s worst awards during this show (I paused, obviously) and I mentioned CZW for their embarrassing lack of quality control. That was in evidence here, multiple times. I’m sure if Maffew wanted to watch this show for Botchamania he would find plenty to amuse himself with. As an event it was wildly inconsistent. I’m not sure whether CZW understands the audience they’re drawing to these shows or whether this crowd even knows what it wants from professional wrestling. The reactions all night were tepid. Pops reversed for high spots and entrances, like WWF in the Attitude Era.