Jack Likes Indy Wrestling: CZW 18th Anniversary Show
I haven’t heard much hype for CZW over the last couple of years, but their 18th Anniversary card, which took place last Saturday and is already up for Highspots streaming, is extremely enticing. Shigehiro Irie vs. Joe Gacy, Stockade vs. Joey Janela, and in particular David Starr vs. Matt Riddle all have the potential to be giant bags of fun, and there’s also a Fans Bring the Weapons match in the main event and appearances from genuine independent icon Homicide, and Scarlet & Graves, who are one of my favourite tag teams on the circuit at the moment. All this has me AMPED. I’m not familiar with CZW storylines so apologies if I miss anything notable.
The show begins with a really classy and lengthy and heartfelt tribute to Kevin ‘Whack Packer’ Hogan, a CZW superfan who tragically passed away in a car accident earlier in the month. It’s extremely touching to see the immense regard he was held in by everyone connected with CZW.
1- SHANE STRICKLAND VS. JAKE CRIST
Crist has developed a flamboyant artist gimmick, and is showered in confetti on his way to the ring.
Strickland immediately dumps Crist with an Ace Crusher and then wipes him out on the floor with a Twisting Moonsault! I very much enjoy such quick starts to matches. Crist’s control segment slows things down considerably, however, and isn’t particularly exciting. There’s a pretty cool sequence where the two exchange noisy high kicks, and Strickland comes off the better of it. The finishing sequence is good fun, with more hard kicks and neat flying from Strickland, although there is a very awkward spot where Strickland tries to 450 into a superkick from Crist and, um, that doesn’t quite happen. In the end, Crist drags Strickland down out of nowhere with a backslide for the three count! ** 3/4. Fine opener. I enjoyed the out of nowhere nature of the ending, and Strickland’s high flying livens up any match!
2- TIM DONST VS. TONY DEPPEN
Deppen charges down the ramp, full of enthusiasm, and Donst knocks it all out of him with a brutal clothesline! Gutwrench powerbomb on the apron! God, that was nasty as well, Deppen just clipped the apron in this really awkward, violent looking way. Donst rolls Deppen in the ring, and immediately taps him out with From Dusk Till Donst. This sets a record for the quickest victory in CZW history, just two seconds! Obviously this wasn’t a match, but it was fun for what it was.
3- HOMICIDE & MERCEDES MARTINEZ VS. GREG EXCELLENT & CHRISSY RIVERA
This is intergender rules, which means the opposite sexes can compete against each other. Homicide just patronises and swats aside Chrissy Rivera, but Mercedes Martinez has much more joy against Greg Excellent. Really, nothing of note happens for a while in this match. The wrestling’s fine, but it just kind of exists, and the crowd are largely dead for it. Then Martinez abruptly taps Rivera out with a Dragon Sleeper. Entirely skippable. * 1/2.
4- RICKY SHANE PAGE VS. DAVE CRIST
This one shapes up really well. They start out brawling around ringside, which sets a heated tone for the match, and they live up to it with a pacy and purposeful match, which both guys moving about like they intend to do damage. There’s a pretty great spot where RSP drives Dave Crist through a chair with a Death Valley Driver! But then Crist just hits a Springboard Ace Crusher and wins. Admittedly it’s an absolutely dazzling one, but it’s the second frustratingly sudden finish in a row. There’s a fine line between a finish that feels shocking and exciting because it’s so out of nowhere, and a finish that feels like everyone involved has just arbitrarily decided to stop wrestling. * 3/4.
Maxwell Jacob Feinstein, who appears to be doing an obnoxious ladies man sort of gimmick, prepares to make his in ring debut against affable putz and CZW academy student Billy Danvers. Unfortunately for Billy, violent psychos Shlak and Dan O’Hare choose that moment to hit the ring, consumed by some kind of raging bloodlust. They decimate Danvers while Feinstein hides under the ring… and then resurfaces in time for…
5- BILLY DANVERS VS. MAXWELL JACOB FEINSTEIN
Three guesses who won this one! Afterwards, Shlak and O’Hare return and smash the shit out of Billy Danvers some more, hiptossing him from the ring through a board propped between the apron and the guardrail!
6- wXw SHOTGUN CHAMPIONSHIP/PROGRESS WRESTLING ATLAS CHAMPIONSHIP- DAVID STARR VS. MATT RIDDLE
After a couple of minutes of mat wrestling you could take or leave, this match gets rather good, rather quickly, as Matt Riddle matches are prone to do. Control of the match swings back and forth a few times, but it never feels like the match is struggling to make up its mind or anything, as can sometimes be the case when no one starts to dominate. Riddle’s matches always have this terrific, distinctive feel, all these suplexes and strikes, MMA influenced but shamelessly pro wrestling at the same time. And then, after only a tantalising few minutes of action, there’s a ref bump, Riddle puts a cross arm breaker on Starr, who taps out immediately but with no one to make the call. Riddle takes advantage to blast Starr with the Atlas Championship, and the referee recovers to make the pinfall… for two! Furious, Riddle tries to tombstone referee Dan Yost, but with assistance from Starr, Yost counters into a tombstone of his own! A very weird, not entirely welcome diversion, and the referee comedy spot felt especially out of place. From there, we get another 30 seconds or so of big haymaker moves, culminating in Starr spiking Riddle with the Destroyer for a three count! But, of course, David Starr doesn’t walk out with two belts- Dan Yost changes the decision to a double disqualification because he was struck by both men over the course of the match. This was excellent in patches but the booking was cheap and lazy and nasty and spoiled it. Ref bumps and comedy spots and even Dusty finishes are perfectly capable of enhancing a match, but not when they go so dramatically against the established tone of a bout, and not when they linger over the whole second half of it. Disappointing, although both wrestlers looked in great form. ***. Riddle lays out Starr post match with the Bro 2 Sleep.
7- CZW WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP- JOE GACY VS. SHIGEHIRO IRIE
Irie is a charming fellow, nicknamed ‘the Wrestling Teddy Bear,’ and possessor of plenty of unconventional offense. Much like the whole of this card so far, this feels a bit rushed; they’re doing epic slugfests and Gacy is fighting spirit no selling a piledriver just a few minutes in. I’m enjoying the show much more than the star ratings suggest because everything is so breezy and brisk, but at the same time I wouldn’t mind something a little more substantial soon. There’s a great spot where Gacy handsprings right into a rear naked choke by Irie- that spot looks bad-ass when it’s done by cruiserweights so for two guys of a much heftier size to pull it off so smoothly is really impressive. The crowd are keen for Irie to win the belt which adds drama to the smattering of near falls, but after a couple of close calls, Gacy pulls it out the bag with the Slaughter Choke. ***.
8- CZW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS- SCARLET & GRAVES VS. EYFBO
EYFBO go right for the cool double teams from the get go, a strategy I whole heartedly endorse, since cool double teams are one of the five best things about professional wrestling! And it works for them as well, because they dominate the early stages, although they do slow it down in doing so. With interference from their manager J.T.
Davidson, Scarlet & Graves are able to establish control, as is tradition for heels in tag wrestling. And they have some pretty smooth tandem offense of their own to unload, although the heat segment suffers from the quiet crowd. You really need a palpable sense of tension for this kind of style to reach its full potential, but it doesn’t feel like the fans are invested in this. Also, it’s distracted how much Mike Draztik looks like Eddie Kingston has shrunk in the wash. Angel Ortiz eventually makes the hot tag and cleans house, but again it undermines this match massively that the crowd aren’t responding. I feel like they should be just doing a total stunt show, and we take a great step in that direction when Zachary Wentz springboards off the back of Angel Ortiz and spikes Mike Draztik with a Destroyer! That looked FANTASTIC! We start getting some properly good, intricate tag team sequences, and Wentz is put in real trouble with a Tower of London/double stomp combo! Unfortunately, interference from The Dub Boys distracts EYFBO, allowing Wentz to win with a cheap roll-up. ***. Right match, wrong place. Some darn fine old school tag wrestling, but I think the audience wanted high tech flippy shit and to be honest I did as well. We did get some towards the end and it was great, but the interference finish was very frustrating.
9- NO DISQUALIFICATIONS, CZW WIRED CHAMPIONSHIP- JOEY JANELA VS. STOCKADE
Joey Janela has booked Dan Severn vs. Matt Riddle for Wrestlemania weekend and as such I’m incredibly biased in his favour at the moment. I want to give this ****+. Will I be able to justify doing so?
Stockade is a big mean chunky tattooed brawler, and Joey Janela is quite happy to hurl his body about recklessly, so his strategy for this match is obvious! Lots of sickeningly enjoyable weapons based violence in this one. Stockade’s sent flying onto a guardrail and it’s hard to say whether he or the rail came off worst. Janela leans Stockade on a table and then swantons from the top of a ladder, knocking both men through! This being CZW, both men shrug this blow off with relative ease. In the ring, Janela DVDs Stockade head first into a stack of cinder blocks! And it only gets two! Sunset flip powerbomb onto the cinder blocks! Janela retains the title! *** 1/4. Too short to go any higher, but this was a no nonsense brawl that delivered some cool ideas and then got the heck out of there. I can respect that!
Post match, Stockade’s spiritual leader Matt Tremont storms out and lays a beating on Janela. He and Stockade had laid out Janela’s girlfriend Penelope Ford at a previous event, and briefly appear to regret this when Ford comes to the ring toting a deranged look and a weed whacker. Stockade and Tremont are able to fend her off though, and Stockade annihilates her with a DDT on the cinder blocks! Jeff Cannonball makes the save before the situation can get any worse, and makes the challenge for the next show- Cannonball and Janela vs. Tremont and Stockade! The rulebreakers accept.
10- FANS BRING THE WEAPONS- NOTORIOUS INC. VS. DANNY HAVOC & CONOR CLAXTON
This is your designated death match trash for the evening. I don’t necessarily mean trash as an insult, but we’ll see which way this one goes.
Right from the start, this lacks the level of intensity you would expect from a match like this. This is forgivable if they’ve got stunts planned that are really crazy and inventive in their own right, but instead everyone just ambles around ringside bashing each other with stuff. It’s perfectly watchable because there’s always something going on, but it doesn’t aspire to anything more than that, just mindless violence. Notorious Inc pick up the victory with a double slam onto something unpleasant. Too short, didn’t even aim to build anything, but not boring at least. **.