CZW’s traditional end of year Cage of Death almost lived up to its name… at least in terms of insane bumps and crowd reactions!
Having watched CZW’s prior two shows – Wolf of Wrestling and Night of Infamy – it’s clear that the “current” era of CZW is a real mixed bag. Some decent in-ring action, along with their notorious “ultraviolent” matches. You know, the ones with barbed wire, chairs, thumb tacks, glass… that stuff? However, all this stuff has been played out in front of rather muted crowds at CZW’s new venue in Sewell, New Jersey, so… would that change here?
Thumbtack Massacre: Matt Tremont vs. Jimmy Lloyd
After surviving the squared circle of sacrifice last month, Jimmy Lloyd’s in the opener here with more plunder. Shiny, spikey plunder, to be specific.
The ever helpful ringside crew have thrown in chairs, beds of nails, and baseball bats with tacks taped to them. So yeah, expect blood. In the first minute, Lloyd whacks Tremont with the bat and curiously the blood flows from… not where the pins went. Tremont returns the favour, with similar suspicious bleeding, but at least he follows up by giving us a close-up of the bat actually puncturing Lloyd’s forehead.
A sandpit full of tacks come into play as Lloyd drops Tremont into it with an Ace Crusher for a near-fall, before things get gruesome. Jimmy’s brought a bag of syringes, and he stabs them into Tremont’s head to avoid a chokeslam. Hope you weren’t eating.
Another crew member handily gives Tremont a chair as he wins a duel, before we moved to a sit-down fight. That doesn’t last long as Tremont just uses one chair to whack over Lloyd, then gives him a brainbuster through the second, before Lloyd charged into a propped-up bed of nails. Tremont does the same, missing a splash into the board, which Lloyd then senton’d into as Tremont barely stops the pin by grabbing the rope.
Lloyd sends for another staffer, who’s bringing out a board with half-cut cans of Cola glued to it. Yeah, folks have actually torn knee ligaments falling onto “normal” cans… so I can’t imagine how a powerbomb onto one of them would feel. ALL THE PROPS come in now as Tremont hits a death valley driver onto a bed of nails, on top of the tray of pins… but most importantly, onto a chair, and this prop comedy version of wrestling is done. “Hey, here’s (blank), use it”… it’s weapon improv, which isn’t as bad, except they didn’t even try to hide the handovers! *
After the match, Tremont calls out Tim Storm – currently the NWA world champion. Yeah, that’s quite the clash of cultures. Storm’s booed by the few fans who care, which seems to stop when Tremont puts him over as being the first who “accepted the invitation” to go to CZW. It’s giving the ring crew a chance to put the props away from earlier, and a chance for Tremont to ask for a title shot too. In the end, after the copy and paste “respect” line, Ethan Page interrupts… since he too wanted a shot. Or in All Ego’s words “chew him up and spit him out”.
Instead, Page heels on the crowd and says that he doesn’t want the shot now… someone else interrupts, so Page walks away from “Monday Night Raw” as Maxwell Jacob Friedman takes his place. MJF does his spiel, calls Tim Storm old (why? It devalues everything…) and then Santa Claus comes out… Austin Idol?
What the bloody hell am I watching in this revolving door of wackiness? After the crowd’s done booing over him, he introduces a challenger… Nick Aldis. Well, that’s not reading the room.
Alex Colon vs. Mr. Claxton
Colon’s got a barbed wire board with him, which makes me think of the Simpsons where Moe’s got a board with a nail in it. He’s got a grudge match here with Mr. Claxton – the former Connor Claxton, who’s now denounced deathmatch wrestling. Colon dives out to start the match as we have some brawling around ringside before the bell goes. When they enter the ring, Claxton picks up Colon for a trapped-arm burning hammer for a near-fall, before he gets spiked with a death valley driver on the apron.
A barbed wire board comes into play, but the ref tries to remonstrate with Colon… and the whole situation causes a distraction as Claxton rolls him up for the win. Really short, but it plays into the post-match as Danny Havoc returns (having retired in September), throwing Claxton into the ring so he can take a death valley driver through the board. Eh. It happened. *
David Starr vs. Ethan Page
This ought to be more like my thing… I can’t see either of these guys randomly bringing out a board! Unfortunately, a lot of the crowd just didn’t bring… anything.
Does Ethan Page’s t-shirt remind anyone else of the old PowerSlam magazine?
Starr takes the fight to Page early, taking him outside for some dives, eventually knocking down “All Ego”, but Page tries to keep a distance so he can use underhanded means… such as a double underhook backbreaker off the guard railings and an apron powerbomb. Of course, with this being more like a normal match, the CZW don’t react much because there’s no props, although Page does get a polite clap for his RK-Ego.
Page seems to be a step ahead of Starr, and sends him to the outside with the Vanity Search… but an attempt to dive gets caught with the Cherry Mint DDT and the Hand Stansen (lariat) as Starr burst into life. A Blackheart Buster earns another near-fall, but Page manages to stem the tide with a big slam off the top rope and a senton bomb. More back-and-forth sees Starr make Page look at it, with the diving Shining Wizard getting him the win in a match that would have been elevated in almost any other environment. ***½
Wrestling with a broken microphone, Starr tells us that he flew overnight from London (after Rev Pro’s Uprising) so he could be here for Cage of Death… and to announce that he’ll win Best of the Best next year.
Ahead of the next match, they announce that CZW are changing venue starting with their next show in February… oh, and they have a fairly big name for their WrestleMania weekend: Will Ospreay! I guess his ROH deal’s up? After Brandon Kirk arrives and wipes out Mitch with a chair, he’s announced as an entrant for Best of the Best. Fair enough.
CZW World Tag Team Championships: The REP (Dave McCall & Nate Carter) vs. oVe (Dave Crist & Jake Crist) vs. Alex Reynolds & Dan Barry vs. Scarlet and Graves (Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz)
Scarlet and Graves won back the CZW tag team titles about a fortnight earlier at a Southside show, beating the pairing of Damien Dunne & Kip Sabian, as well as the champions CCK. Good timing really, since Kid Lykos was back on the shelf barely 24 hours later… although commentary seemed to think it’s just one big injury lay-off.
Dan Barry’s a replacement for Matt Palmer, teaming with Alex Reynolds as part of Joe Gacy’s goons…
This one didn’t even reach the ten minute mark, and while I wasn’t as distracted by someone in this match as other reviewers have been, this did instantly break down into what commentary rightly called chaos. oVe and the REP had it out for each other early as the match broke down into the revolving door of bodies, culminating in a nice wrap-around Air Raid Crash from Barry.
Wentz comes in next with a corkscrew plancha to the floor, and now Barry’s back to measure up for a tope con hilo of his own. More dives continue to produce lesser reactions, before Barry dropkicks Xavier as he was flipping around. A neat Tower of Doom sends Barry into a powerbomb from oVe as I look up and see more bodies fly… and NOBODY REACTS. Fuck this promotion.
A long Parade of Moves ensues, including a double-team Rainham Maker onto Barry from Scarlet and Graves, before Jake Crist obliterates Wentz with a flying cutter… ahead of the Killing Spree spike tombstone from oVe. Barry and Reynolds try to capitalise, but John Silver hit the ring and took out the pair of them – he’s still salty after Reynolds turned on him last month – and in the ensuing distraction the REP wipe out Barry with a pop-up Flatliner for the win. Well, this was a mess in parts, but bright in others… it would have been just as good, if not better, as a three-way to be honest. **¾
NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Nick Aldis vs. Tim Storm (c)
This is a follow-on from the earlier angle, and this is so not the right crowd for this whole deal. Not even close. Dear God, Aldis is still using the music he had in TNA?! Evolve man, don’t stay stale. Austin Idol’s back out to promise us a good wrestling match… so what’s replacing this?
Idol botches the reveal of Brian Hebner as a replacement ref, and my God, Brian’s looking more and more like his old man. Out comes Tim Storm, with taped ribs and a huge elbow brace, and something’s telling me this guy’s nowhere near 100%.
So, with Storm’s ribs being the story… the first thing Aldis does is drop him on his head with a pumphandle driver. After that he takes the hint and starts targeting the ribs, with a knee to the gut and a fallaway slam… but this crowd really doesn’t care. Boring chants ensue as Storm nearly wins with a roll-up and a neckbreaker, but Aldis goes back to the ribs, which Storm sells pretty well in fairness.
Aldis goes all Lex Luger with a torture rack, but turns it into an inverted DDT… and that’s enough for the win. Nick Aldis is only the second Brit to ever hold the NWA title (the first since Gary Steele back in 1999), and the best I can say about this match is at least they kept it short, although this did no favours for anyone. The NWA under Billy Corgan’s aiming for the internet fan base, but if Aldis is keeping this belt for any length of time, it’ll be detrimental to that target group. ½*
Nasty Nick cuts a promo afterwards, but all I can hear is the CZW crowd drowning him out. See, they can make noise when they want to. Especially when it’s shooting down genericity.
Jimmy Havoc vs. Jimmy Jacobs
Jacobs’ gear here is something… the Zombie Princess went all out with a bloody tiara and a hoard of zombies to boot. It makes some of Havoc’s prior gear choices look decidedly tame…
Jacobs brought a spike in his boots, which Havoc has to avoid early on… which he does by taking the match outside. We’re back to the silent, unco-operative crowd, which makes me wonder if they all turned into zombies in Jacobs’ entrance, especially when NOBODY MOVED when Havoc asked them to. Politely, of course. Hey, it’s your fault he landed on you.
Utter silence greets some brawling in the crowd, and I’m hoping that this is just bad micing because this is pitiful. The Jimmys (no, not the dismantled group) try, and we see an awkward table spot as Jacobs sweeps a leg and sends Havoc crashing through a table. Back in the ring, it’s plunder time again as Havoc has a staple gun and an 8×10… and I’m sure you know what’s next from that playbook. Papercuts!
With him having painted his skin pink, the bloodied Jacobs certainly stands out, like a stylised photo. Perhaps not the one he stapled to Havoc’s head though…
Havoc spikes Jacobs with a belly-to-back piledriver (Jig n Tonic, Finish Her, MK Ultra, take your pick), then heads into the crowd for more plunder – he’s got the steel chairs! They don’t get used at first as Havoc’s Rainmaker’s countered, then met with a spike to the head, and this match becomes staple gun vs. spike for a while.
Regardless, Jacobs wins out, spiking Havoc with a springboard cutter through some chairs before landing a back senton off the top through a chair for the win. Goddamn this crowd, but this was a good match for their style that drew pitiful reactions. ***
Ace Romero vs. Greg Excellent & Chrissy Rivera
This has been simmering for a while, with Ace and Greg’s planned match in October not happening because they fought too much… whilst Romero squashed Chrissy after a match last month.
Chrissy is TINY. Even the ref towers over her… but fortunately she avoids a flip plancha from Romero as the match started out hot. Greg’s chubby hairy body kinda evokes memories of Albert from back in the day, but that look doesn’t suit him… at least Romero’s blubber has fallen distinctively around him, rather than in one blob. Rivera tries to get involved, but she barely comes up to Romero’s navel as the match focuses largely on the big lads. Lots of chopping and clubbering give way to head drops as a Saito suplex to Greg gave Chrissy a chance to come in and hit a spear… but yeah, it’s like a drop in the ocean here.
Excellent returns with a Michinoku driver after Rivera raked the eyes to free herself. She tries to choke Ace, but ends up getting a piggyback before the inevitable miscommunication as Greg squashes her in the corner, and now we’re flicking between a glacial pace and the odd flip. These are real big lads, but the lack of stage hands feeding props like they did earlier really doesn’t help.
Romero brings a table into the ring, but it’s only propped in the corner and I’m sure you can guess what Wrestling Logic will do… but you’re wrong. I wasn’t expecting Rivera to run up the table in a bid for freedom, but she ends up taking a slam through it as Excellent capitalises with the Rick Roll cannonball for the win. Eh. It wasn’t going to be a million miles an hour job, but this was SLOW. As was Greg’s counting that he’d won 10 matches at Cages of Death… ½*
Over an hour remains with two matches… yep, they’re going LONG!
CZW Wired Championship: Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. Joey Janela (c)
At Night of Infamy, they revealed that MJF took out an injunction to strip Janela of the title. He had until tonight to hand it over… so it’s just as well we had this match anyway!
We’re told by ring announcer Emil Jay that this match is under “relaxed rules”. Uh oh. There’s some other needless legalese stipulation, but what does that matter?
Friedman powders to the outside instantly, and after he played tonsil hockey with Penelope Ford, we’re into the diving zone as the pair traded shots in this blood feud. Janela backdrops MJF over the railings and into a chair as the two head towards the bleachers, with slightly better reactions from the crowd than earlier.
Some underhanded tactics from MJF get him on top as he starts to work the arm, busting out a neat side-powerbomb-ish move for a near-fall as he just wears down on Joey’s left arm and shoulder. With his good arm, Janela mounted a comeback, knocking MJF off the apron and onto the floor for a brutal double stomp. The crowd actually starts co-operating here, moving so Janela can give MJF a death valley driver into the guard rails… but that left arm is always vulnerable, and a stomp to it gets Friedman back in, as a pumphandle driver almost gets his title back.
Janela manages to get a crossface in, but MJF gets the ropes to break it as the pace slowed down, before getting planted with a message to Jim Cornette – a death valley driver onto the apron. Friedman upped the ante with a brutal package piledriver off the apron and through some chairs, before they wander through the crowd as MJF had something “for Penelope”.
They disappear through the curtain and re-emerge… on a balcony. Oh look, there’s a series of tables set-up near there, in a way that tables would never normally be set up. MJF tries to throw Janela off the balcony, but instead both men fight on the ledge until Janela throws himself and MJF off, crashing through the tables. A bit like New Jack from back in the day, except they went through the tables…
Both men start to crawl back towards the ring, where Friedman has enough about him to avoid a rolling elbow… pulling Penelope Ford into its way, before rolling up Joey with the trunks to get the win! In terms of crowd reaction, this was the hottest match of the night, but it went about five minutes too long for my liking. Still, it’s clear that this isn’t the last chapter in this feud, with Penelope tending to Janela towards the end seemingly hinting at something else in the pipeline. ***¾
Guess what? There was! Penelope kneed MJF in the balls as payback for being used as a human shield… Janela throws MJF into the crowd, and Penelope… dives after him with a crossbody! Janela said getting Penelope back and all of this was “part of the plan” as he wants the world title… which is a poor plan given that Janela losing the title means that MJF can still crow about being undefeated.
Macho Man and Elizabeth… it sort-of was.
Cage of Death for CZW World Heavyweight Championship: Joe Gacy vs. Shane Strickland vs. Rickey Shane Page (c)
Shane Strickland is massively out of his comfort zone here… in a rib, Dan Barry’s the only one of Gacy’s mob not wearing the yellow Guido mask. I guess someone (Arn? Arnold Furious? Is this your doing again) thinks he doesn’t change facial expressions, so why spend the money when it can be spent on a light-up mask for Gacy?
Inside the Cage of Death there’s way too much dangerous stuff: sheets of glass, chairs, I’m pretty sure there’ll be barbed wire, thumb tacks and light tubes as well…
So yeah, the whole thing about Cage of Death isn’t technical wrestling (you’ll be shocked), it’s the “can you top this” stunts. Invariably with plunder, with Gacy striking first with light tube shots, before Beele throwing Strickland through a pane of glass. Well, he knew what he was signing up for…
Next up is an electric saw that Gacy jabs into Strickland, before powering it on around Page’s forehead and arm. Yep, we see the saw tearing apart the skin, and I see my lunch again! It becomes a rib as Gacy empties out a bag of Lego, before Page just smashes a light tube over him… as a prelude to a hiptoss onto Lego.
Wrestling Logic, folks!
Just like the opener, I get distracted by the stagehands bringing props into the equation, as a barbed wire board’s bridged across two chairs as Strickland starts climbing the F away from it. I don’t blame him. Page joins him though, and they end up on a catwalk above the ring, with a pane of glass nearby… the structure’s very shaky, and Strickland makes the first move… a Russian legsweep to Page through the glass?! SO MUCH NOPE RIGHT HERE.
— Jocay 🇪🇨 (@Jocay19) December 12, 2017
With Strickland stinging, Gacy tries to steal some pins as the referee tries to make it safe by pulling away some splintered wood. Except that turns into another weapon on Page. Lovely. Meanwhile, Strickland’s bloodied back is on full show as the two folks more used to this start to duel with light tubes… dragging Shane into it. Dear GOD.
WHO’S GIVING THEM ALL THE EXTRA LIGHT TUBES?!
At least he crowd’s roaring…
Out of camera shot, apparently Dan Barry released a trap-door of chairs, sending them swinging into everyone’s faces. The extra-sensitive camera mic picks up Gacy being tended to by medics as Strickland rained down punches on Page, following up with a double stomp through a pane of glass onto RSP. Yep, still nope-ing here.
RSP goes for another pane of glass, which he struggles with because his own blood makes it slippery, and now he adds in some lighter fluid. Does glass burn? Gacy pours some more on it, and I think we’re about to find out… Yes it does, and it’s quickly put out when Gacy’s chokeslammed through the burning glass!
That seemed to be the cue for the goons to return, but Strickland and Page use chairshots to try and fend them away, missing one of the guys… who just gets kicked in the face and lawn-darted into more glass. Then some music plays… as Kit Osborne wanders out to get payback on Gacy for what happened two months ago. Dan Barry’s climbing the cage for… reasons, and Osborne goes up with him as the pair coffin drop onto the pile below!
Gacy goes to another plan, as he climbs up the handily-placed scaffolding as Page climbed back up to the runway. Another masked man climbs up the scaffold, leaving Gacy stunned as he proceeds to throw Gacy off the scaffold and through a table with glass on in the aisle, as commentary tells us it’s Anthony Gangone. Nope, no idea.
With Gacy out of the equation, we’re down to Page and Strickland, with the later grabbing more light tubes as he drove his knee into them and Page, before setting up ANOTHER glass bridge between some chairs. Strickland seems to be trying for a German superplex, but Page instead turns it into a reverse ‘rana off the top, before a chokebreaker – not through glass – ensured he retains the title. My God in Heaven, this was… brutal in most senses odf the word. This is a real “your mileage may vary” rating. Cage of Death is a spectacle, but for some the “ultraviolence” will be way too much – they went a little long for my tastes, and went a bit too overboard in the run-ins, but this isn’t going to be a match I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. Nor will those with scars from it… ***¼
I can’t call Cage of Death 19 a good show – there was too much on this show that was wrecked by the crowd sitting on their hands for large parts of it. Yeah, their reactions for the Cage of Death were something, but there’s just something weird about CZW overall. Their bread and butter is the deathmatch style, but for obvious reasons that can’t be all they do… sadly, the crowd are conditioning themselves to only want that style… so when they’re presented with matches that would excel elsewhere, they come across as being dour and rotten to the viewers at home.
It also didn’t help having the NWA deal on this show. Sure, it gets CZW some publicity, but it was a classic case of not following what your audience want. If your audience is struggling to accept a match like, say, David Starr vs. Ethan Page (two regular-ish CZW guys right now), then Tim Storm vs. Nick Aldis was never going to have a chance.
Also, CZW, quit having your ring crew so bloody obvious on camera – it really hurts the spectacle when you can see folks handing props to the wrestlers!