Our latest (and perhaps final) WrestleCon this year came in the form of CZW’s appearance in New Orleans for a show that was rather more toned down than you’d expect!

We’re opened by DJ Hyde and Emil Jay… who I am always staggered is involved with CZW given how far away it is from his love of old-school WWF.

Ace Austin, Dan Barry, Dan O’Hare, Josh Briggs & Kit Osbourne vs. Douglas James, Matt Knicks, Peter Avalon, Stevie Fierce & Suede Thompson
Hey, a random bodies ten man tag! It’s pitting random names who are in and around CZW (we’ll ignore how Dan Barry, who is usually a part of Joe Gacy’s FEAR, is happily tagging with a guy his mob kidnapped and brutalised several months ago). Perhaps it’s because, by his admission, he’s been drinking for nearly a full day.

Suede Thompson has a trophy with him, who he claimed contained his grandmother… We start with the ring clearing as we quickly got into that revolving door format. It’s fun to watch live, but at speed it’s hard for anything to settle, although it is nice to see Stevie Fierce using his mirror gimmick to catch a sneak attack before it happened.

Thompson fails to take down Briggs, then struggles with a kip up… for comedy, only to turn around into a a spinning side slam as the crowd made good use of the permission they’d gotten to chant swear words. Avalon gets rid of Dan Barry with a tornado DDT, before getting caught by Dan O’Hare with a massive spinebuster as the bodies kept flying. It’s time to dive as Matt Knicks nails an Asai moonsault, before Briggs chokeslammed Osbourne into the pile, despite them both being on the same team! Briggs does a dive of his own, as Ace Austin looked to complete the set, landing a Sasuke special for the hell of it before Dan Barry’s “bad idea” was a shooting star press to the floor!

You know, by this point, watching this show a day or so after ‘Mania, I’m more than fed up with multi-man matches like this. It’s showing, right?

Osbourne nails a curb stomp to… someone, before Knicks’ German suplex sent Kit to the outside as Briggs returns to nail a chokebreaker on the Freelance Wrestling founder. Douglas James’ Cactus Jack clothesline clears the ring, as Barry and Thompson go back at it, leading to a capture suplex from Barry, before Peter Avalon nearly stole the win with a roll-up.

Barry does the same thing, again for a near-fall, before the Martini – a Meteora from behind – got the win. This was alright, I guess… way too many bodies flying around for my liking, and this would have been best served as a ten-way rather than a 5-on-5, but it’ll do. **½

MJF is out next to berate these guys for “playing wrestler in his ring”. He threatens to sue anyone who hits him, before tearing into Rickey Shane Page for being “garbage” and the reason CZW didn’t sell out. He’s eventually interrupted by KTB, and we have a match, with MJF making it a title match… because he’s overly arrogant.

CZW World Wired Championship: Maxwell Jacob Friedman (c) vs. KTB
KTB’s ditched the wacky, Renegade-like facepaint, and he punches out Friedman at the bell. Yay!

KTB’s all over Friedman in the early stages, taking him into the corner and landing a running Blockbuster, followed by a wild tope to the outside, where Friedman took over, working on the arm despite the crowd getting on his back with chants of “EC2”. Some more muscle and a deeper tan will complete the clone job, I reckon… Kyle mounted a comeback with a clothesline off the middle rope, but his left arm wasn’t able to support an Irish whip… although he was able to nail a moonsault off the middle rope for a near-fall. A pumphandle ushigoroshi gets MJF back on top, before he pulled KTB into a trapped-arm armbar for the submission. Barely lasting six minutes, this was quick and to the point. **¼

Bandido & Flamita vs. oVe (Dave Crist & Jake Crist) vs. Myron Reed & Trey Miguel
One of the benefits of running on WrestleMania weekend is that every Tom, Dick and Harry is theoretically able to capitalise from the same pool of talent. Hence, Flamita and Bandido making their debuts…

The Rascalz head out to tease being added to the match, and to annoy oVe, before introducing the third team: Trey Miguel and Myron Reed.

They’re jumped in the aisle as we start off with dives: Reed does a Fosbury flop over the top rope into the pile, while Miguel lands a step-up corkscrew senton just to outdo his partner here. In the ring, Miguel and Bandido go at it, with both men neutralising the other before Bandido’s hook kick sent Miguel to the floor. Flamita takes over, but eats a kip up into a dropkick as oVe come in… and yeah, it’s another multi-way match under lucha-ish rules.

I’m guessing it’s a commission thing, as this was happening way too much for it to be a coincidence?

Bandido’s back to make the save as Flamita ate a superplex/powerbomb combo, before the luchadors flattened Miguel with a rapid-fire series of moves, getting a near-fall with a moonsault and a shooting star press. Flamita’s handspring back elbow gets rid of Reed, who eats a moonsault on the floor, while Bandido and Miguel booted each other for the hell of it. oVe and the luchadors trade pump kicks and superkicks, with the Rascalz throwing in superkicks of their own too, before Miguel caught Bandido with a Cheeky Nandos 619, before Reed’s 450 splash got the win. This was good, but way, way too short for my liking. With a little more time and a lot less haste, this could have gotten a lot more buzz. ***

Janelope (Joey Janela & Penelope Ford) vs. Joey Ryan & Laura James
They flat-out say this is under lucha rules… and I wonder if the CZW crowd know of the Ryan/James storyline?

Still, Joey Janela’s massively over because of Spring Break, which at this point I’d have to say was by far and away the hottest indy show of this weekend. Of course, Ryan does the lollipop give away, and the lucky fan is so excited he punches the camera. Once everyone’s gotten oiled, including the referee, we get going, and of course, they want Janela to grab Ryan’s junk. Janela rolls back to reverse a wristlock as Ryan’s fixation with people touching it ran wild, as he seemed more than happy at the prospect of Penelope Ford coming in… except she just throws him across the ring by his nipples.

Janelope double-team Ryan for a while, with Ford’s assisted standing moonsault and Janela’s splash getting a near fall – before he rips into the “one… two… sweet!” fans in the crowd. I love Joey even more now. Laura James comes in to try and outdo Ford with headscissors, catching Janela with some headscissors as she forced his head into her rear.

Janela’s double-teamed for a spell, with Ryan drop toe holding Janela into James’ rear for a two-count. Ryan decides to play up to his TV experience by using a neck crank right into the hard cam, before Janela escaped and counters a lot to run into Ryan… and then collapse into the dong. Both men tagged out after that, so we get Laura James belly-bumping into Ford, as the intensity was turned up big time…

… except Ryan breaks up a Northern Lights and hits Ford with a Boobplex, prompting Janela to fight back with a double lariat. James is back with sweary forearms, before they trade kisses, which… is a thing. Janela superkicks James as that was apparently a set-up, before a handspring elbow from Ford and a death valley driver almost puts James away.

Ryan breaks that up too, and gets Shotei’d into the corner as Janela put him in a Tree of Woe, only to sit-up as Janela baseball slid himself into the ring post. Ryan stays in the Tree, but he catches a handspring into the corner and… something happened as he slipped out while trying to pull down Ford. Not everything can work, but something not everything should be attempted!

Shrugging that off, Ryan powerbombed Ford into Janela, before James crossbodies herself into the pair of them… right as Ryan pulls out oiled-up lollipops from his trunks. Janelope get them, and have them kicked out of their mouths for a near-fall, before Janela grabbed a chair and sits Ryan in it… only to get caught up top and Penis Suplexed into the turnbuckle… then into the chair! That’s only enough for a near-fall, so Ryan grabs Ford up top… but the superplex is blocked, as it’s eventually turned into the Janelope Device for the win. This was pretty good at having Janela play around the Joey Ryan shtick, but I will never understand what the hell that thing in the corner was meant to be. ***

Juice Robinson vs. David Starr
This was a first-time meeting – prior to the WrestleCon Supershow two days earlier, they’d not even been in the same ring together.

The feeling-out process is pretty cagey in the opening moments, as the pair took their time, before Starr grabbed – and kept hold of – an armbar. It seemed that that was Starr’s gameplan, going after the wrist too, but Robinson’s able to shake it off as he went for the Dusty punches with the other hand, finishing off with a chop. Yeah, Starr’s known a few of those in his day.

That single chop prompted a fightback, which was eventually met with a lariat, before they play cat and mouse with dives, as Starr connected first with a tope. Back inside, Starr goes airborne as he’s met with a fireman’s carry gutbuster, then a lariat for a near-fall, as Robinson came up with a bloodied nose.

The crowd chanted for tables, prompting Juice to look for one, but there’s none there, and that gave Starr enough time to recover as he caught Robinson with a Cherry Mint DDT through the ropes, before he ran into a leg lariat and a powerbomb from the New Japan star. A Blackheart buster gets Starr a near-fall as commentary was worried about the blood (CZW baby!), before the two fought back to their feet to throw chops. It’s a good job Starr’s taken so many he’s learned how to throw them. Cheers, WALTER. Starr cartwheels past Juice and into the path of a right hand, but he manages to counter the Pulp Friction into a Product Placement for the win! A nice TV-style finish, but man, I wish they wouldn’t tease us with so many good matches that don’t get the time they deserve. ***½

Post-match, Starr tells the fans that not only is he super over in Europe (confirmed), he specifically asked for the match with Juice as a warm-up for CZW’s Best of the Best. Of course, Starr’s in it, and it’s his aim is to go one better than other tournaments he’s been in, and win it. Does it give him a match with WALTER?

Ace Romero vs. Jason Cade vs. Adam Brooks vs. Zachary Wentz
Another multi-man match, and another debut here, with Adam Brooks being one of three men who tried to keep Ace Romero out of the match. It sort-of worked in the opening stages as Romero was taken into the corner, so the little guys could flip and fly.

Cade gets a nice handspring Codebreaker in early, before Wentz’s corkscrew crossbody earned him… a lariat from Romero, as the big guy was back with some fire, throwing everyone around. We get dives from the smaller lads as well, ending with a Sasuke special from Brooks… or so we thought, as Ace Romero measured things up for a tope!

Back inside, Romero goes to work on Brooks, vowing to kill him with a move… and the Aussie hating CZW fans were all for it. Shame Wentz and Cade weren’t, as they managed to powerbomb Romero out of the corner instead. Romero sits up after that, scaring them away… but Brooks just stomps him back down off the top rope. Hey, if it works… Cade and Wentz do dives too, but Wentz didn’t look before he leapt, as his senton saw him crash into the side of a rolling Romero.

Wentz shrugged it off as Brooks powerbombed away a springboard from Cade, before nailing an ushigoroshi… but Wentz superkicks away the cover and nails a slingshot lungblower following up with a shooting star press to Brooks… only to get caught in the corner with a Cade stomp. Commentary randomly drops in that the winner gets a Wired title shot… which probably isn’t going to be Jason Cade as Romero pounces the holy hell out of him as he began his comeback.

That comeback ends pretty quickly as Romero sent himself to the outside with a missed charge, as the three remaining guys worked some nice chain series that blended into each other well, leading to Brooks getting dropped with a slingshot cutter as Wentz took the win. Like the rest of the show, a good dose of fun, but this seemed to be curtailed before it could slip into gear. Love me some Ace Romero, especially when he’s in a bully role like he was today. ***¼

Joe Gacy vs. Jeff Cobb
Another first-time ever match, as commentary for some reason plugs the VOD service that some folks’d be watching this on. Huh.

Gacy tried to keep it slow against Cobb, in a bid to out-wrestle the former Olympian. Good luck with that! The early moments see Cobb reverse waistlocks before flyinging Gacy like he were nothing, before he was knocked down with a dropkick as Gacy dictated things… like a strike battle, which Cobb was more than willing to indulge him in. After that, Cobb releases Gacy with a pumphandle fallaway slam, sending the FEAR leader to the outside… but he’s quickly back in to throw chops, before Cobb almost dropkicked him off the top rope. Instead, Cobb just brings him down with a superplex… but Gacy’s quickly back in charge, taking Cobb outside for a tope, before grabbing a chair.

The pair remain on the outside, where Cobb gets sent into the guard rail… where he’s crushed with a cannonball that smashed the guard rails open! Back in the ring, a roll-through into a neckbreaker keeps Gacy ahead as he was in the improbable position of having Cobb on the ropes, but he takes too long and gets caught with a German suplex for a near-fall.

Still, Gacy seemed to have his number, coming closer with a handspring forearm as Cobb’s long weekend seemed to be catching up with him, before snapping back in with the spin-out Athleticplex and a spinebuster. The People’s Moonsault comes next, but Gacy avoids a standing moonsault, rushing in with a knee, and that’s all! This took a while to get going, but Gacy settled into a groove and picked up the deserved win. Just like the rest of the card though, far too short… ***

CZW World Heavyweight Championship: Ethan Page vs. Rickey Shane Page (c)
At the back end of 2017, the storyline in CZW was that Ethan Page was backdooring his way into matches, with such spurious reasons as “CZW has a partnership with Southside… so they had to have Page on a show to defend their title.” In New Orleans though, that was a distant memory…

RSP gave Ethan a hug from the off, but his “brother” seemed to take offence to that as the pair worked on some rather lucha-inspired offence, leading to a dropkick by RSP to the floor. Back inside, Ethan gets a DDT, but takes his time waiting for a cover, as the match slowly got more even, with RSP landing an enziguiri, only to get taken down with a ‘rana out of the corner. Nope, was not expecting that!

Ethan kept up with a low dropkick for a near-fall, before grounding RSP in a chinlock, almost causing the finish… but RSP had fight left in him, and hit back with a back elbow to the head, then a cutter that spiked Ethan’s head on the mat for another couple of two-counts. RSP then teases a piledriver on the apron, but Ethan clotheslines him back in as he followed in with a Tanned Sheamus kick for a near-fall of his own.

The pair head up top, where RSP catches Ethan with a superplex, but he takes too long to make the cover… and it leads to the pair going for finishers already, only for them to counter, duck and finish with a roundhouse from RSP. Ethan gets one of his own as a slingshot cutter’s avoided and met with a roll-up for the win. You know the drill by now – this was a little slow, but was just about to get into gear when the finish came. **¾

Dezmond Xavier vs. Will Ospreay
Ospreay was one of the first names CZW announced for ‘Mania weekend, making his debut-proper for the promotion (I’m not counting the Southside co-promoted shows in 2014)… so they perhaps had the most to lose if he weren’t able to compete. Still, he worked seven times in three days, all with a neck sporting a lot of tape and his IWGP junior heavyweight title belt.

This was Will’s final match of the weekend, and although you could tell he was hurting, you got the sense that he’d want to live up to his reputation and “go out with a bang.”

We started with the pair working over hold, with Xavier’s headlock getting countered into wristlocks back-and-forth as the crowd seemed a little bemused that they weren’t flying out of the gate. To be fair, Xavier worked on the taped-up part of Ospreay, before Will slipped free and threatened to turn up the pace, which backfired a little as Xavier dropkicked him to the floor. Ospreay avoids a dive and takes Xavier out with headscissors, but Will fakes out the dive… and gets clocked from behind with a diving forearm from Xavier instead. Ouch. In the corner, Xavier tries to throw a chop, but that just annoys Will, who comes out and returned fire with fire, throwing kicks to the chest before a low dropkick rocked Xavier some more. Dezmond fights back though, literally punching Ospreay into the corner as the referee forced a separation.

From there, Ospreay countered back with a handspring enziguiri as I started to worry about the noises the ring was making, before kicking Xavier into the corner for the Shibata-ish dropkick… which he had to abort in favour of landing an over-the-top 619. The springboard forearm connected for a near-fall, but Xavier again takes advantage of Ospreay’s injury, going back to the back, before getting suckered in for a Cheeky Nando’s attempt. Xavier escapes and superkicks Will into the middle turnbuckle ahead of a round-the-ringpost 619, before Ospreay went for a Spanish fly and countered his own move into a sit-out powerbomb for a solid two-count.

A stunner from Xavier almost ended things abruptly, before he handspringed his way into a hook kick as the pace again turned up, leading to a nasty reverse ‘rana from Xavier… and a blocked OsCutter which he turned into a spinning rack bomb for a near-fall. Another handspring overhead kick nearly gets the win, but Ospreay got his hand to the rope, as you sensed his fuel tank was almost empty.

Xavier used his wrist tape to try and choke out Ospreay with, before he ripped off the KT tape off of Ospreay’s back as he looked to piledrive Ospreay… but in switching it to a Gotch piledriver Ospreay countered in a triangle armbar, almost forcing the submission before landing a lariat… all while clinging onto Xavier’s wrist a la Okada.

Xavier tries to kick away, and elbow Ospreay’s head off, but that just earned him a second lariat for a near-fall, before Ospreay’s decapitation forearm and an OsCutter ended things. Another solid match – perhaps the best of the show – but this was more of a tease than pretty much anything else on the show. Perhaps for the best, given how much Ospreay was banged up by the end of this! ***¾

CZW’s Welcome To The Combat Zone perhaps summed up a lot of indy events over WrestleMania weekend. With 9 matches in a little over 2 hours 15 minutes (without anything edited out), the risk was that a lot of this card was always going to be rushed, especially when the average “segment” allowed for 15 minutes from the first entrance to the next match being introduced. Sadly this meant that we had a lot of matches that felt rushed, often finishing just as they were getting going. Ospreay/Xavier and Starr/Robinson in particular could have done with more time, but in the end this was a solid CZW show that suffered by trying to pack too much into the time they were given at WrestleCon.