CZW AT ECW ARENA LIVE REPORT: DID ZANDIG GO TOO FAR?
by Mike Johnson
Combat Zone Wrestling returned to the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday 9/13 with an event built around a tournament designed to not just crown a new CZW Iron Man champion but also designate the belt as a "wrestling" belt (as opposed to a Hardcore-genre championship). The event also featured the debut of All Japan Pro Wrestling's Kendo Ka Shin. The major story of the night, however, will likely end up being a show-closing angle that may be among the most horrifying and disturbing visuals in the history of wrestling in the venue.
CZW champion The Messiah was scheduled to face John Zandig in an "Unsanctioned Match" for the main event, but the show actually ended with one hell of a bloody and insane spectacle instead. Zandig's music played, but he never came out. The crowd heard a huge commotion backstage, which was heel stable HI-V attacking Zandig and beating him with light tubes and sending him through what I believe was a framed piece of glass. They brawled out to the ring. A CZW staffer was bloody as well and forced to put a ladder up. CZW photographer "Whacks", who runs a piercing business, was also bloodied and being screamed at that he "better do it." There was a ton of blood. Manager Dewey Donovan slapped Zandig across the face, with his hand coming up completely covered in blood.
What was the "it" that "Whacks" was ordered to do by The Messiah? Well, it turned out Zandig had been pierced with hooks through his back and they did what I am told is called a "suspension" where Zandig was hung with both feet off the ground from the ceiling of the building via a chain as HI-V beat and taunted him. I assure you I am not exaggerating in the slightest bit.
Messiah told Zandig that they were taking over the company and no one was coming to help him because everyone in the back knew he was holding them all back and everything Messiah said was the truth. This should plant seeds for a future storyline. There was heel heat for this including several throwing things at the ring, but the crowd seemed more shocked at the sight of what they were seeing beyond anything else. Messiah ordered security to remove the fans from the building, and they did, rushing the fans out. The show ended with Zandig hanging and HI-V victorious, leaving in a limo.
I'll have my own thoughts and more on Zandig below in Notes and Thoughts.
The show itself opened up with a moment of silence in remembrance of 9/11.
*In a "dark match", Cory Kastle defeated Krystian Wolfe, Sabian and Joker in a Four-Way Dance at 4:07.
*In a "dark match", Greg Matthews and The Rockin' Rebel defeated John Dahmer and DJ in 10:48. DJ has worked security for the promotion before, and this may have been his debut. DJ attacked Dahmer after the match.
*In a CZW Iron Man championship tournament bout, Nick Gage pinned Sonjay Dutt in 6:37 after a chokeslam on Gage's knee. Sonjay had just come off the top with a Stardust Press but Gage got his knees up. I was shocked to see Dutt eliminated in the first round as he went to the finals of the Best of the Best tournament and is the hottest act in the company right now in my opinion. This was probably my pick for the best match of the night.
*In a CZW Iron Man championship tournament bout, Johnny Kashmere defeated Adam Flash via submission with a rear choke sleeper in 6:44. They did a funny bit before the match where Kashmere got into it with a fan using an air horn, which has been an ongoing deal here. Kashmere hit a spear through the ropes, sending Flash off the ring apron into the guard rail.
*In a CZW Iron Man championship tournament bout, Jimmy Rave defeated Nick Berk via submission with an armbar variation in 6:55. Berk hit two belly-to-back suplexes to set up but Rave reversed a third. Berk tried to get out of several armbar attempts before failing and getting caught.
*In a CZW Iron Man championship tournament bout, All Japan Pro Wrestling Junior Heavyweight champion Kendo Ka Shin (who did not have the belt nor was he announced as champion) defeated CZW Junior Heavyweight champion Ruckus in 4:44. Crowd was bigtime into Ka Shin, chanting his name. Ka Shin pulled Ruckus over the ropes with a Tarantula variation, then pulled himself up and over into a rollup, scoring the pin. Ka Shin grabbed the CZW Junior Heavyweight championship belt, and celebrated like he won and left with it. That was priceless.
*In a CZW Iron Man championship tournament bout, Chris Hero defeated Nate Hatred in 7:14. Zandig came out and announced that Danny Maff wanted to work the show but was still too banged up with a "severe concussion", so Zandig introduced Hero. Hero, who has a cult following of sorts online, received a big reaction from part of the crowd. This went back and forth, with Hero scoring the pin after Nick Gage (Hatred has been feuding with him), interfered.
*In a CZW Iron Man championship tournament bout, Trent Acid defeated Tony Mamaluke in 13:40. They started out hot with a ton of fast reversals and nearfalls that was awesome. Mamaluke hit a forward dive off the ringpost to Acid in the aisle. Mamaluke hit a superplex off the ropes and floated through, locking on a submission, which was awesome. Acid's manager Dewey Donovan took Mamaluke's legs out from him while on the top and Acid hit a superplex for the pin. Donovan was ordered banned from the building after the match.
*Ian Knoxx defeated Chris Cash and Nikes Young in a Three-Way at 7:44.
*In a Semi-Final bout for the CZW Iron Man championship tournament, Nick Gage defeated Greg Matthews in 6:58. They announced Johnny Kashmere had been injured and was unable to continue (see Notes below). Rockin' Rebel demanded Matthews be allowed in and Gage agreed as long as Rebel returned to the locker room and the match started on the floor. Gage hit a piledriver on Matthews through a table and scored the pin.
*In a Semi-Final bout for the CZW Iron Man championship tournament, Jimmy Rave forced Kendo Ka Shin (who still had the CZW Junior Heavyweight championship belt) to tap out in 4:40 with an armbar variation. I have to admit, I was completely, absolutely shocked at this finish, politically. Ka Shin's last match was 9/6, defeating Great Sasuke and here he is tapping out to Jimmy Rave. You have to love wrestling. I was told Ka Shin didn't have any issue with how the promotion used him. Rave had worked on his arm for the match. Ruckus came out and hit Ka Shin with a punch while the referee was pushing Rave back, setting up the finish. I'd be hardpressed to come up with a bigger win for Rave's career highlights.
*In a Semi-Final bout for the CZW Iron Man championship tournament, Trent Acid defeated Chris Hero in 10:51 with a sequence of Yakuza Kicks. Very competitive back and forth bout.
*Derek Frazier pinned Deranged in 8:55 after Azrael (Angeldust in ROH) went to hit Frazier with a Steel Chair, but clobbered Deranged instead. Deranged and Frazier did a good sequence in the opening moments where they both went for the same moves at the same time, including dropping to the mat, expecting the other to jump over and come off the ropes. That was funny. Deranged has been having a good series of showings lately. The crowd had no idea who Azrael was and it was never explained. He left Deranged laying.
*In a tournament final, Trent Acid defeated Nick Gage and Jimmy Rave in a ThreeÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“Way Iron Man match to become the new CZW Iron Man championship. Gage pinned Trent with his chokeslam onto the knee in 3:01. Rave pinned Trent in 7:02. With one minute left, Trent his Yakuza kicks on both and pinned Rave at 19:40 and then Gage at 19:52. Rave locked Acid in a Crippler Crossface, but the bell rang at "twenty minutes" (actually a little over 21 minutes legit), so Acid won the match 2 wins to the 1 win each for Rave and Gage. One section of the crowd that was behind Rave hated the finish and booed and chanted "Do the job" and "Triple H" at Acid. Ouch. HI-V came in the ring to celebrate as they have all the promotion's championships in the stable except for the CZW Junior Heavyweight championship.
The show closed with the aforementioned Zandig suspension angle.
CZW Notes: Obviously, the first question everyone is going to ask is about the condition of Zandig. He was OK afterwards and cut a promo for the promotion's TV show, still with the hooks imbedded in his back. The promotion actually did the same stunt in a vignette filmed for their Cage of Death 4 event last year....Talking to Zandig after the incident was one of the most surreal experiences of my entire life....Sonjay Dutt busted up his nose coming off the ropes in his match. It was not broken, but was banged up....As noted above, Johnny Kashmere was sent to the hospital after he hit his head during his match and a big knot swelled up right behind his left ear. Kashmere returned to the building after the show and should not miss any ring time....The show drew in the 400 range, which is slightly up from the previous shows over the summer....The tournament had been something of a headache for the promotion as several of those they intended to use ended up missing the show including B-Boy (family emergency), Homicide (Zero-One tour), and Danny Maff (still out with head and neck issues from 8/16 ROH injury)....CZW's lead announcer Eric Gargiulo walked off from the angle closing out the show as he legitimately did not want to have to watch the suspension. Heel announcer John House called the incident....The promotion does not intend to personally file any lawsuits against the city of Dover, Delaware in regard to the recent ordinance passed preventing them from using any weaponry at events in that city...Z-Barr did not attend his first show in forever, as he suffered what I was told was a back injury in an out of wrestling incident....Kendo Ka Shin contacted the promotion about working the show as he was going to be in New York City this week....Lobo, who headlined Cage of Death 4, was backstage. CM Punk and Allison Danger were at the show as well....The show actually had two intermissions. The second, which was because "of an incident" backstage, was to ensure the promotion was prepared for the latter segments of the show....The promotion announced Alex Shelley and Jimmy Jacobs will be working their 10/11 return to the ECW Arena. Their big Cage of Death 5 event is scheduled for 12/13....As irony would have it given what closed the show, the State Athletic Commission was cracking down on the promotion, causing tighter security for those attempting to enter the locker room and also emphasizing that they wanted to clear any weapons being used on the show. The Commission's Frank Talent exited the front door of the building and left the show as the Zandig angle made it's way to the ring....Thanks to Paul Sosnowski for the aforementioned match times.
MKJ's Thoughts: CZW prides itself on being "Ultraviolent" and they are, without exaggeration. The truth in the advertising may be the best and worst thing ever for the promotion because there is no other way to describe what I saw tonight other than "Ultraviolent." I personally usually have no problem with crazy bumps, blood, or weapons in matches, although I don't want to see it happen all the time. One must ask, however, the question of where do we draw the line? What is too much? For a man to be pierced through the skin and hung in the air, well, in my opinion, it's way beyond too much and it was unsettling to watch. However, much like those rubber necking on a road while passing an accident, I was as guilty as anyone else, watching this spectacle in awe to see what would happen next. It was frightening after the show to wonder what could have gone wrong, whether there was a professional piercer who has done this to himself and others in the past involved or not. What is even more frightening to me is what they will think of to top this.
I seriously don't know what the promotion was attempting to do here, and I was told that in the future, the back story here would explain why they did the suspension stunt, but when you boil it down to basics, professional wrestling is about drawing money. The IWA Mid-South invasion angle was booked to end way too soon in my opinion but the fact is it never drew the promotion anything beyond what they would have drawn this past summer anyway. So, if the promotion has come up with some insane rationale of how this stunt will draw money, and it does result in that, then they did, although I hate to admit it knowing what I just witnessed, the right thing for business.
If the houses don't go up as of a result of this, or in a worse case scenario, go down because too many were turned off (I've spoken to several- some were turned off, one to the point of saying they would never return, and some were OK with the angle) or worse still, gives ammunition to those who don't want this genre promoted, this will be remembered as a huge, costly mistake, especially in the wake of the Dover, Delaware situation. Time will tell.
I personally cannot believe the level of abuse Zandig is willing to put himself through for his company and believe it was beyond what anyone should do for professional wrestling, or anything else no matter how deeply passionate they are for it. As one CZW staffer told me tonight after the show however, "That is the reason I am willing to do whatever he asks of me; he's willing to go through that sort of thing for the good of the company."