CZW’s first show of 2018 was a pretty packed affair, featuring scrambles, battle royals and an indifferent crowd in another new venue.

They’ve got a new building – the Coliseum in Vorhees, New Jersey – after having to leave their prior home in Sewell. It’s CZW’s 19th anniversary show, so we open with some of their regular fare – a no-DQ match.

No Disqualification: Brandon Kirk vs. Joey Janela
I must say, I dig the utterly 80s aesthetic of Janela and Penelope Ford. She’s augmented her usual swimsuit with an 80s-style Ric Flair robe, complete with feathered cuffs, for their first appearance in CZW since the pay-off to the Janela/MJF storyline last year.

After a cheapshot, Janela finds himself going toe-to-toe with Kirk’s right hands, but he’s able to come back with a clothesline and chops. Of course they’re returned, before Kirk’s taken outside for a tope… to which he replies with a somersault plancha, and we’re quickly in with the plunder as both men go for the chairs.

Ford gets involved like a modern day Bill Alfonso to Janela’s RVD as he dropped an elbow as Kirk was draped across the guard rails. Speaking of those rails, a spare guard railing was bridged between the ring and the rest of the railings… with Kirk taking a back body drop through them as we’re back outside… where Janela’s Whisper in the Wind off the apron saw him crash into the wrecked railing.

To little reaction. In the opener. Never change, CZW fans.

Back in the ring, Kirk rolls together a suplex before throwing Janela into a chair in the corner for a near-fall. Joey’s back with gamengiris to stop Kirk in the corner, as he brings him down with a superplex, before summoning for chairs from Penelope Ford… who doesn’t bring one in quickly enough so someone from the crowd just hurls one in. Eventually Joey’s got enough for a landing area, but he gets dumped there with a back suplex as the chairs barely budge!

Janela shrugs it off as he manages to come back with a double stomp to a chair on Kirk… for another near-fall, and the end’s not long after as Kirk escapes a package piledriver and jack-knifes Janela for the win. This was… interesting. The action wasn’t bad, but the usual CZW disclaimer applies as indifference hurt it. **¾

Best of the Best 17 Qualifying Scramble Match: Ace Austin vs. Alexander James vs. Tyler Murphy vs. John Silver vs. Dan Barry vs. Alex Reynolds
The winner of this gets a spot in Best of the Best 17 later this year… it’s so weird hearing Alexander James with… not Great Gatsby-inspired music. Not that many would have heard that anyway on the wXw overdubs!

There’s a jump start as John Silver went straight for his former tag partner Reynolds, but things quickly descend into the usual formula – two in, everyone else out. There’s some brief exchanges between the former tag partners, but Dan Barry’s there to help out when Silver looked to be easing ahead. Tyler Murphy drops Reynolds with a wacky Ace crusher, before Alexander James came in to kick away at the arm as AJ was seemingly softening up everyone for that Coat of Arms submission.

That ends with superkicks from Austin and Murphy before everyone spilled to the floor, where Barry dumps Ace into the crowd with a death valley driver. A Drive By dropkick from Reynolds saves Barry from a Silver tope, as Barry and Reynolds were looking to isolate Silver… there’s a spirited fightback, which leads to Silver breaking into a series of dives on the outside to wipe everyone out before a top rope crossbody only gets a near-fall on Barry.

Alexander James is forced into a dive as Murphy throws him out, before following up himself as we’re firmly into those dives… including a nice Sasuke special from Ace Austin. Back inside, Austin spikes Silver with a wheelbarrow snapmare driver as the ring fills up. A Tower of London from James wipes out Murphy, but Dan Barry’s Dragon suplex stops him in his tracks as a Parade of Moves broke out… ending with a Doomsday crossbody to Barry, which somehow gets switched into a moonsault fallaway slam for a near-fall.

To silence.

Another Parade of Moves breaks out, featuring a sheer drop brainbuster from Silver on Murphy, before a knee trembler to Ace Austin leads to the finish… when Alex Reynolds holds Silver in the ropes for long enough for Barry to steal the pin. I liked how they continue the Silver/Reynolds thing in a different way… but man, this crowd really didn’t care. It’s a shame because this was a decent scramble aside from the lethargy behind the railings. ***

CZW Wired Championship: Maxwell Jacob Friedman (c) vs. Alex Colon
Last time out, Colon got squashed by Conor Claxton… so he gets a title shot here. Figures. MJF’s bragging that he’s undefeated (largely because of that storyline where he sued to get a loss revoked… yay legal stuff in wrestling). Colon’s called “deathmatch trash” by MJF, and that leads to the jump start as the champion’s booted to the outside.

Colon barely grazes MJF with a tope, but he’s able to keep on top of the Wired champion with a running elbow as the fight’s taken around ringside. A back body drop takes Friedman into the crowd, but when they get back to the ring the momentum shifts in the champion’s favour. An armbar almost forces a submission, as MJR keeps hold of the taped-up elbow of Colon, only for Alex to counter with a lucha-ish tornado DDT after almost slipping off the ropes.

A flying double stomp nearly puts MJF down as Colon tried to crush his kidneys, before grabbing a chair as the referee threatened to DQ him. It’s used anyway as the ref’s unsighted, before a fisherman’s Falcon arrow almost put MJF away. Colon keeps up with a modified armbar, until MJF got to the ropes… and the champion’s quickly back in with Josh Bodom’s Bliss Buster for a near-fall. The match ends hurriedly after that courtesy of a MJF armbar after Colon looked to slip into the path of a Shining Wizard… and there’s the submission. This was fine, but there were a few shaky moments for Colon that took me out of the match big time. **½

After the match, Mr. Claxton came out and laid into the downed Colon, putting him through an open chair with a tombstone. That looked nasty, if only because the chair buckled before the move… and I guess this is a return to the Conor Claxton of old, after he’d spent the second half of 2017 disavowing himself from deathmatch wrestling?

Dog Collar Match: Greg Excellent vs. Ace Romero
Big lads and dog collars… hope they’ve got a sturdy chain!

They open with a tug of war as Excellent tried to wrap the chain around his hand… but Romero overpowers him to beat him to the punch, before Excellent put on the brakes to stop himself getting thrown into one of the turnbuckle chairs. Greg’s elbow stopped Romero for long enough for him to get choked with the chain… but Ace stops it, and dropkicks Excellent outside.

Yeah, that legit jerked Romero, before Excellent pulled the chain to send Romero into the chair. He finds more chairs, including one wrapped in barbed wire, before using the slack on the chain to punch and choke Ace with. The chain keeps coming into play to restrain Romero, then to attack with, as Ace’s comebacks kept getting cut-off.

It’s a torturously slow pace, not helped by… you guessed it, an indifferent crowd. A single big boot from Ace was enough to prompt Chrissy Rivera to use a bin lid on Romero, before she holds Romero by the chain… of course, she’s used as a human shield when Excellent cannonballs into the corner. Romero’s clothesline out of the corner almost gets the job done out of nowhere, before he wanders outside in hunt of weaponry.

Romero quickly pulls out a bag of tacks, and empties them onto the canvas, but a powerbomb is blocked as Excellent wobbles on his feet before snapping out of it, before pulling Ace off the top rope and into the tacks. Excellent picks up Romero again for some more shots before slamming him back into the tacks… for a ONE COUNT?

That’s the cue for Excellent to use the barbed wire chair, but he inexplicably rebounds out of the corner… so Ace can drop a Black Hole Slam onto the chair, and Romero wins. Please. No more rematches. I can’t take this. Credit for them being daft enough to take those kinda bumps, but my God, this wasn’t good. I like Ace Romero usually, but this setting and this lack of storyline (at least, explained on commentary) made me want to go for that one guy in the crowd chanting for “one more match”. Just, no. DUD.

After the match, Excellent handed Romero his CZW track jacket, as commentary suggested that was a farewell?

Do we REALLY need to see the ring crew sweeping? Cut this stuff out guys. That leads to Emil Jay introducing Maven Bentley as they inducted former ring announcer Larry Legend into the CZW Hall of Fame.

Joe Gacy vs. Anthony Gangone
This was set up last month when Gangone rushed the Cage of Death match to stop Gacy from winning the CZW title… by throwing him through a glass table. You get the feeling there’s some steps missing between that and this match, but we’ve not skipped any CZW main shows ahead of Gangone’s main roster debut.

Gacy’s out with his Fear stable-mates Dan Barry and Alex Reynolds, so expect shenanigans. Gangone gets little reaction as he’s out in a black and gold Guido mask, apeing the masks worn by Gacy’s crew, and we’re told as an afterthought that this is going to be a relaxed rules match. Because why not?

When they do get going, the pace is pretty quick, with Gangone blasting into Gacy with ‘ranas and dropkicks, before some chasing outside led to Gangone getting stopped by Reynolds and Barry on the floor. A tope from Gangone just about connects with Gacy, but the Fear leader’s back with chairs as he proceeded to hurl Gangone into the barriers. Anguished wails greet a chairshot to Gangone, but he’s back with chops only for Gacy to use the chair again.

There’s an attempt by Gacy to piledriver Gangone off the apron and through chairs, but it’s blocked as commentary wonders what the past is between these two. Right as Gangone sent himself onto the apron as he overcooked a gamengiri… but he’s able to recover and continue with a superplex and a neckbreaker as Gacy struggled to get going.

A charge into the corner from Gangone misses, but he’s able to come back in with an enziguiri and a long-winded butterfly backbreaker. Some headbutts get Gacy back in, with a Saito suplex getting a near-fall, before Gangone just throws him outside. He misses a dive out as Gacy took over, handing a handspring Ace crusher for a near-fall, before the Rings of Saturn looked to force a submission.

Gangone, cut back and all, quickly makes the ropes, but he’s forced to rebound from a wicked headbutt before falling to a lariat for a near-fall. After more Gacy offence, Gangone makes one more comeback, hitting a bicycle kick before an inverted Go to Sleep was enough for the shock win. Credit to CZW for putting over Gangone in his debut, but the boos in the crowd tell you what they thought. Decent enough as a match, but you know the issues at play here. ***

Classic CZW. After the match, Gangone’s attacked by a masked man. Except they don’t show it. On the VOD. Quality control! The masked man uses a pipe on Gangone before unmasking as Blackwater. Apparently this is building to a Fear vs. House of Gangone match in two weeks, and now I really feel like there’s a LOT of this story that’s not been told.

Combat Zone Rumble
God, I thought with it being February we’d be done with Rumbles?! Joey Janela is out first, followed by Ace Austin, KC Navarro and Jimmy Lloyd as we start with four men and quick introductions.

Rayo is in at number five, reigniting a feud with Janela from the CZW Dojo Wars shows. That I’m sure has a lot of play. Rayo became “Bad Boy 2” once he put on Janela’s glasses, only to get thrown out after a tombstone as number six enters: Alex Reynolds. Mitch Vallen is not long after, and goes straight for Lloyd… somewhere in this Navarro’s gone, before Brandon Kirk joins the list of folks going for Janela.

Mitch eliminates Lloyd, to some boos, as Alexander James emerges… right as Jimmy’s trying to get to the back. Commentary sounds surprised as Janela tries to bundle Kirk out of the match like you see in every battle royal in living history, but it kills time before Frankie Picard came out. Anthony Bennett – he of brief Cruiserweight Classic fame – is out next as we’re already a third of the way in. He’s almost out quickly as he came in, but we get John Silver out next as he charges straight for Reynolds. Bennett tries to skin the cat a few times, and manages to eliminate Austin with headscissors, before Alexander James is tossed out by Silver. Boo.

Maxwell Jacob Friedman is out next as commentary complains about a champion being in… we miss Silver eliminating Pickard, before Reynolds tossed out Silver. Good job production guy, show an empty curtain for MJF! Friedman takes ages getting ready as everyone gets eliminated. Of course, the production crew don’t show that shot. Jesus wept.

MJF’s standing aside as the eliminated folks fight to the back… and we’ve got a blank slate as MJF has to wait for new entrants. His first foe is SHLAK, who instantly has MJF cowering, then reaching for his wallet as he offers $20 for SHLAK to eliminate himself. He swallows the money, before lifting up MJF in a choke as a masked luchador called Tulpa comes out… and gets killed with a sit-out SHLAK tombstone. Thanks for coming!

Dante Caballero is  next and gets met with an armdrag before SHLAK tries to suffocate him with a plastic bag. Stephon Pennington continues the parade of CZW underlings as SHLAK eliminates Caballero and Tulpa, before Joe Gacy comes out to try and claim the number one contendership. Gacy’s gone straight for SHLAK, but does little before Dan Barry entered to help him. SHLAK gets help with the entry of Dan O’Hare, who throws out Pennington, just in time for the arrival of the Baywatch theme? It’s Mike Del – slow-mo jogging to the ring. Uh-huh. He takes so long to come down that the next guy beats him down to the ring, but LJ Cruz just leaps into a boot from Barry… who then kicked the rope as Del finally entered the ring… but Del don’t sell. Kit Osborne is next up to go for Gacy, but that leads to nothing as the ring continues to fill with the arrival of Matt Tremont.

No, that’s not a fat joke.

Anthony Gangone returns to silence to go for Gacy again, but he’s quickly double-teamed by Barry as Mr. Claxton joined the fray. Claxton’s drinking Fireball whiskey as commentary suggests he’s slipping back further into his old, violent ways. Gacy’s eliminated by Gangone, while commentary missed Del getting turfed. Ace Romero adds to the list as he’s taken out enough of those thumb tacks to wrestle, followed by Jordan Oliver as we’re back to the dojo kids. O’Hare eats a Spanish fly from Oliver as Osborne’s turfed… and poor Oliver’s getting walloped by SHLAK, O’Hare and Romero as the big guys tear through him.

Dan Barry’s gone too, and we’re back with surprises as DJ Hyde comes out in his suit and tie! Tremont goes right for DJ, just before the arrival of the final entrant: Penelope Ford? Penelope goes right for some of the big lads, which wasn’t a good idea… but she shrugs off a forearm from Claxton. Oliver’s been thrown out, and missed by commentary too… they don’t miss Claxton and Romero getting eliminated, as Tremont and Hyde seem to be forming an alliance?

Ford stays in the corner as SHLAK, Hyde, Tremont and O’Hare slugged it out… SHLAK finds enough time to chop Penelope… and that annoys O’Hare enough for him to throw out his partner. Tremont gets rid of him, before Hyde throws out Tremont… and we’re down to DJ and Penelope?

Ford sidesteps a charging Hyde, then nails a handspring Ace crusher as Hyde no-sells a clothesline… only to get low bridged… and Penelope Ford wins the title shot?! Not quite… MJF wasn’t eliminated earlier by SHLAK, and he’s back to do the Bulldog/Shawn finish, eliminating a celebrating Ford to win the title shot. Nice finish to a match that meandered a little, but was generally fun save for the production issues. **¾

CZW World Tag Team Championship: The REP (Dave McCall & Nate Carter) (c) vs. Charlie Tiger & Ellis Taylor
Remember when CCK were CZW tag champions? Fun times…

Here, the REP have gotten tomato cans as challengers, but despite nailing Tiger and Taylor with a Super Collider, the REP pull him up at the count of two, so they can kill Taylor with a double-team suplex into a slam… Except Charlie Tiger makes the save. Fool. He continues his fightback, and gets slammed as the crowd boo this. Fortunately it ends quickly with a flapjack flatliner, and no, I wasn’t expecting to see the 3K in CZW. Well, it got the tag champs on the card, and got them over as dominant champions… so I’ll take this. More a storyline segment than a proper match though!

Extreme Rules: Killer Cult (Dave Crist, Jake Crist & Sami Callihan) vs. Rickey Shane Page & Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero M & Rey Fenix)
Your main event is a lucha-style trios match, featuring the latest name for OI4K/oVe and some folks who usually are underground with their lucha.

We start with a brawl as everyone but Fenix and Callihan spilled outside… Fenix lands a nice Ace crusher as the lucha rules mean we’ve got a permanent revolving door, and plenty of opportunity for insanity. RSP lands a nice, nonchalant bodyslam to Jake Crist, but Dave’s got some steel chairs and… gets chokeslammed through them. Ouch.

Callihan does well with RSP, landing a diving forearm as this became an elongated Parade of Moves for a while, featuring Slingblades from Penta and a superkick during his offence on Callihan. A low-pe from Sami barely catches Penta as we entered dive territory, culminating with Jake Crist landing a tope into a DDT as… the camera showed us Penta’s back. Someone sorely needs to have a word with this production crew.

Fortunately they show Fenix’s dive as Jake and Penta trade superkicks, ahead of a Penta pumphandle driver for a near-fall – much to Penta’s chagrin. Things degenerate from there as there’s apron spots mixed in with flying Fenix and Sami chucking chairs, and it’s back to the match being a chaotic brawl. Like those Fight Club Pro brawls, except they’re able to keep track of them, sort-of.

We barely catch Jake Crist taking a DDT from Penta as Sami gets a bunch of chairs from the crowd to use on Page, before Dave Crist continues to bury the champion under those seats. Penta and Fenix gets some spit-aided chops from Callihan, and again the production crew show us the wrong shot as Rickey Shane Page does something with the stack of chairs.

In the ring, Sami spits at Penta, before willingly baring his chest for some chops… and of course, Penta obliges. Jake makes a save with a diving cutter, only to get wiped out by a springboard dropkick from Fenix… whos’ quickly triple-teamed as he’s held up top for a springboard Ace crusher from Jake for a near-fall. RSP’s back to the chairs, stacking them up for a vile landing area for someone… which turned out to be himself as Dave superplexed RSP into the nested chairs. No. Just… no. That was an awful landing.

The Lucha Brothers double-team Callihan with superkicks with RSP out of the way, squashing Sami with a wheelbarrow facebuster among themselves for a two-count. Callihan sort of comes back in with a spinebuster as Jake’s in with superkicks before Fenix eats the Killing Spree (stuff tombstone). RSP is back to stop Jake with a back body drop and a cheeky kick, before they all waited for Sami to get back to his feet… so Fenix can hit a satellite Destroyer, Penta a leaping Destroyer, and RSP… a chokebreaker. Ah man Rickey, you had one move… but hey, it won the match, so I can’t complain! ***¼

Entertaining nonsense to wrap up the show, as RSP and the Lucha Brothers celebrated to close out the show, with nothing thrown out in front of the crowd to set up for Greetings From Asbury Park later in the month – which is odd because RSP has a defence against Matt Tremont on that show on February 23!

Sadly, for a show as monumental as an anniversary card, this felt a little underwhelming. The stuff they set up for down the road did at least resonate with the crowd – Dan Barry’s Best of the Best qualification and the rumble in particular – but a lot of what was thrown out here fell rather flat. I don’t watch the Dojo War shows, or keep up with any CZW outside of these monthly shows, but it just feels like there’s a lot of blanks in storylines that aren’t even getting acknowledged on commentary, let alone explained – such as how we got from Anthony Gangone debuting with a run in, to facing Joe Gacy in his debut match, to having a 4-on-4 war with little inbetween. Still, among the forgettable there are some gems in there… but the crowd does their best to hide them unfortunately.