CZW Once in a Lifetime
August 5 2017
We’re in Voorhees, New Jersey. This is my first CZW show in a long, long time. I used to quite like them as a promotion. They had a clear cut style and had evolved into what ECW would have naturally become. Solid undercards with technical wrestling followed by barbaric death matches at the top end. Seeing as I’m not even remotely familiar with the current American Independent scene I thought I’d drop in on CZW and see how everyone is getting along.
What was the last CZW show I saw, I hear you say? Um, I think it was Cage of Death V. That event took place in 2003 to my utter shock. At that point I would never have guessed that CZW would still be going strong some 14 years later.
Aerial Assault Match
Ken Broadway vs. Smiley vs. Brandon Watts vs. Mike Graca
Broadway makes it rain on his way out here. We’re one entrant in and I’m already having a good time. Broadway has a ratty looking manager. Smiley has a smiley face mask, which might be the worst gimmick I’ve ever seen. The ‘Aerial Assault’ rules mean that four men start and more join later. Everyone wants to show off but this leads to over-eager botches. Smiley, despite his terrible gimmick, is the stand-out thanks to rope work. Jason Gory joins the match, sporting a mask. He has a Goth style gimmick. He’s joined by Anthony Bennett and his tall hair, which starred in WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic. There’s no time to breathe before Kit Osbourne joins us. He looks like small Shawn Michaels and within thirty seconds has hit a superkick. The Aerial Assault match has platforms on the turnbuckles to assist in bigger dives. Before anyone can use one we gain Pandita. He’s a fucking panda, lads.
He brought sweets and nunchuks. Jimmy Lloyd is up next. He’s a CZW superfan so naturally he’s in horrible condition but is strangely endearing. Next in Ace Romero and the image of high-fliers is gone as Ace is as wide as he is tall. It’s suddenly become a Big Lads showdown and wouldn’t you know it Ace busts out a Canadian Destroyer. Ace is the final entrant as we now have ten guys out here. A couple of them hit spots off the raised platform to amuse the fans.
Pandita’s whole ‘fuck this’ mentality is actually beautiful. Stupid Americans. Kill yourselves, nobody cares! I’m getting pops by handing out sweets. Broadway’s manager, Matt Travis, keeps interfering and he is not a good wrestler. Jimmy Lloyd merks Gory dumping him on his head with Awful Waffle before going to the chairs. Lloyd is deceptively good. His appearance lulls opponents into a false sense of security. He looks like a bumbling man-baby and then WHAM, something awesome happens. The match continues to be botchy throughout with Brandon Watts doing dumb things with a table. Graca fucks up a suplex off the apron into the ring and the match refuses to end. It just drags on and on and there are too many guys. Specifically too many guys that aren’t very good. Why book ten guys? Bennett tries to throw Ace off the top and fucks it up. This results in Romero climbing down and then they switch it so Romero can come off the top, eventually, when he’s worked out how to stand up. It’s the finish too, making it doubly awful. There were good moments in this match but the sheer stupidity and botch-heavy nature of it dragged it down into oblivion.
Final Rating: *1/2
Post Match: Greg Excellent comes out to bemoan Ace Romero’s win. Oh lord, the segment has already gone on too fucking long. Probably double what it should have been with twice as many guys as it needed. We go to video of CCK, the CZW tag team champions. Then the Rep come out to cut a promo and I can’t even repeat what they say about CCK. Maven Bentley strolls out and books the Rep in a match versus Private Party in a ladder match for the number one contenders spot.
CZW Wired Championship
Maxwell Jacob Feinstein (c) vs. John Silver
Silver is a great wrestler. If he was taller he’d probably be talked about more. MJF is a jerk. He relies on heat and basics. After the first match that’s totally fine. While I’d probably watch a car crash, even a bad one, over a basic but competent match there’s a lot to be said for competence. That said, we get another Canadian Destroyer here as they try and amp up the contest at the finish. MJF takes it and we can move on with our lives.
Final Rating: **
Hideki Hosaka & Raijin Yaguchi vs. The Awakening vs. The Storm of Entrails
Hosaka & Yaguchi arrive to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, which wins me over. Although both of them are ancient. Yaguchi is well into his 50s. They must have been flown over as part of the Onita deal as I can’t imagine anyone wanting to book them based on their own attributes. SHLACK is a big lad. He’s one half of Storm of Entrails. The Awakening are Tremont’s lackeys. If alarm bells aren’t ringing already they should be. I sense a schmoz. Hosaka vs. SHLACK is a tidy little match. SHLACK is very inexperienced but powerful. Dan O’Hare goes head first through a door off a German suplex and that looked painful as fuck. If his neck is undamaged he’s lucky. SHLACK makes a mess of the finish, taking us to 2/3 for bad finishes, struggling to decide which turnbuckle to stand on before a double elbow drop through another door. This was another car crash but at least this one had less mistakes. Yaguchi was useless but Hosaka looked good.
Final Rating: **1/2
Video Control gives us tape of David Starr going for a run and his beard getting longer. He’s back in CZW next month. Starr has virtually taken up residence in Germany of late. They love him over there.
Ace Austin vs. Tim Donst
Donst is having a career revival. He’s not even thirty so he’s a bit young to be needing a revival. Donst recently won a match in two seconds and gets upset because he can’t get a submission in less time against Ace. He does a lot of two-based stuff. Like pulling Austin up at two, breaking the count-outs at two. Eventually he gets Ace to submit at 2.22. Hahaha.
Final Rating: DUD
CZW World Heavyweight Championship
Shane Strickland (c) vs. MASADA
The last time I remember a MASADA match it was in Ring of Honor. He was a rookie and it was shit. He’s now in his mid 30s and built a legend for himself in CZW.
MASADA used to be champion, about five years ago, and held it for 518 days. That was back in the darker days of the promotion and they’ve tried to move away from that. It’s a promotion built by the likes of Justice Pain, Zandig and the Messiah, the death match guys. Their last four champions: Jon Gresham, Joe Gacy, Lio Rush and Davey Richards. Gacy aside those are all guys that work a technical style. Commentary calls MASADA “slow and plodding”, which is supposed to be a complement of his measured style but comes off as a criticism. The match is slow and deliberate but MASADA does some decent mat work.
Strickland is able to respond in kind and is a dickhead about it, so that pushes the crowd into rooting for MASADA. Not that they seem all that bothered. The pace seems to drive them to boredom. They only wake up when MASADA butchers Strickland with bamboo skewers. Urgh.
So much for CZW looking to alter their style and make their championship prestigious, eh? Strickland grabs MASADA’s arm and gets an unexpected submission. So much for MASADA being a badass who’d never tap huh? This was going fine until the blood and then I lost interest.
Final Rating: ***
Joe Gacy turns up and headbutts Larry Legend! He bitches and complains about CZW being a revolving door and nobody having loyalty to the company. Then he gives Larry Legend a shirtless DVD through a barbwire board. You can hear him screaming for help. Jesus. This was deeply unsettling and completely unnecessary. I hated this. I almost stopped watching the show because it was so disgusting but I don’t like to leave a show half-finished. One thing is for certain; this is the kind of crap that I don’t understand about ‘hardcore’ promotions. Why does everyone in the promotion have to take sickening spots? Why does Shane Strickland have to get stabbed in the head? Why does Larry Legend have to be put through a barbwire board. If it’s Matt Tremont and he wants to hurl himself into barbwire then that’s fine but this stuff is bordering on criminal. In what’s most likely a storyline CZW boss DJ Hyde fired Gacy for his actions on Twitter. Be interesting to see how that pans out. Not that I’ll be watching.
Joey Janela vs. Lio Rush
Both guys have incredible entrances. Joey because his music is great, Lio because he has a row of torches that are extinguished by what appears to be a voodoo priestess while a cover of “Paint it Black” slowly kicks in. Little Lio has a flair for the dramatic. This is the 7th match between these two men in CZW and it’s become a major feud for the promotion. “Black Heart” Lio Rush is fucking great.
The character he’s sculpted is delightful. It has that otherworldly vibe that the Undertaker carries with him. Meanwhile Joey is a comedian and the two have a genuine clash of personalities. This leads to a battle in the ring, back and forth with great intensity. Janela doesn’t always grab me as a storyteller but Lio is terrific. Rush is better placed in sprints, which he’s tremendous at, and a lot of the early going feels like filler. It’s not until they break out the furniture comes into play that we start to get murmurs of excitement from the crowd. The issue with wrestling in CZW is that the crowd are not supportive. They want violence and will enjoy nothing less than the total destruction of everyone’s bodies. It’s a tough ask for the boys to live up to those expectations. It’s not just ‘working hard’, it’s career-shortening. The match is actually better when they’re just wrestling. Like Lio Rush attempting a standing Spanish Fly and Joey countering into a crossface in mid-move. It’s sensational stuff but the crowd’s love of violence means they have to pander to that by changing tack and bringing the uber-violence. I guess it’s a feud blow-off so they feel they need that little bit extra but all the straight-up wrestling sequences are gold. There’s a fantastic spot here where an earlier set up table comes into play as Lio suplexes Janela off the top rope to the floor.
And then Joey Janela pops up and he’s smiling! It’s a Mick Foley Hell in a Cell kinda deal. I love it. When they brawl each other into exhaustion Joey Janela calls for a fucking ladder. A tall one. It almost touches the rafters. Lio’s entourage of jobber smegheads can’t stop it and indeed Joey dives onto them for his own amusement. Off the ladder. To the floor. In front of this fucking crowd. Joey, you’re a saint but you’re also an idiot.
The match gets increasingly insane, with Lio pulling out a sledgehammer and being Triple H. So Joey powerbombs him off the ladder through a table and Lio, the sick fucker, completely no sells it. How can you no sell that? That legitimately looked really fucking painful.
— Italo Santana (@BulletClubItal) August 6, 2017
Then they hug, which is completely weird, and Lio hits a Pedigree for the pin. What the fuck? This match was all over the goddamn place. Sometimes it was great, sometimes it was terrible and it was everything in between. The ridiculous no-sell is what people will ultimately remember and one of my main reasons for sitting through the show but it made the match worse. Not that there weren’t already multiple reasons to hate it for logic gaps. I enjoyed this for varying perverse reasons but it’s not a good match. Luckily there was enough great stuff scattered throughout to keep me engaged when they were doing stupid shit. Another thing that bothers me is that Lio is leaving, so why have him go over?
Final Rating: ***1/2
Matt Tremont vs. Atsushi Onita
Onita is on another of his retirement tours. This match is a dream of Tremont’s. Onita hasn’t wrestled in the United States in 25 years (well, this is CZW’s number, he wrestled for ECW in 1998, 19 years ago) in Los Angeles, when FMW ran a show there in 1992. Onita’s best years are a long fucking time ago, although the quiet CZW crowd decide to raise the roof for him, due to his legendary death match status. At 59 years old, he’s on the verge of retirement and is incapable of wrestling a singles match.
Onita falls over inside a minute. Tremont bleeds heavily in the same. Onita’s legendary hardcore status allows the crowd to happily ignore the matches obvious shortcomings. I hear people say “this isn’t pro wrestling” with regard to certain more extreme elements of pro wrestling. But they’re wrong. It’s all pro wrestling. Anything presented as pro wrestling becomes pro wrestling no matter what it is. This, despite its flaws, is pro wrestling. Is it good pro wrestling? No. The Japanese boys (Hosaka and Yaguchi) jump in the ring to set up an awful exploding barbwire bat spot. This in turn leads to Ricky Shane Page and Danny Havoc running in and this turns into a trios match.
Final Rating: DUD
Atsushi Onita, Hideki Hosaka & Raijin Yaguchi vs. Matt Tremont, Rickey Shane Page & Danny Havoc
There’s a lot of crap here. Six guys using various plunder and Tremont gets to use an exploding bat on Onita. It’s the kind of match that will leave Tremont with pleasant memories of bloodshed and nostalgia. Yaguchi gets the pin with a suplex onto barbwire. This was slightly better than Tremont vs. Onita in singles but not as wild as some of Onita’s guest spots in Japan recently (like the tag with Bob Sapp). Onita gets wound up by the cheapness of the explosions and buries the company on the house mic, after the commentators had been bending over backwards to tell everyone what a legend he is. He’s such a crazy asshole. Tremont is great though, as Onita invites him to Japan to have a proper death match, and while Onita is slapping him he yells at the hardcore icon and accepts. Shit match, great yelling.
Final Rating: DUD
This show is so long. Everything overran. All the matches overstayed their welcome. All the in-ring BS in between overran. It was painful. It reminded me of every other nickel and dime US Indie that never sticks to their times. The show is four fucking hours long with a long intermission before the main event so they can replace the ropes with barbwire. I wasn’t expecting anything good from Onita but the undercard needed to deliver and it really didn’t. It was very patchy and only two matches were anything approaching good. CZW was actually in better shape when I left it 14 years ago. How have they managed to retain a crowd for this long with this product? Skip. Especially avoid the main events. But you should go and see Janela vs. Lio Rush just for the ridiculous spot.