Straight Shooting - Issue #87
by Fritz Capp
September 12, 2000
I have started this column 5 different times and erased it all that many times. Why? Because I have tried to politically find a way to say what I am about to write here. I know, I know, there is nothing politically correct about Fritz Capp. He has never given a damn about anything, always saying what he wants to when he wants to and taking the heat afterwards. But not this time, not about this. I don't want people to just dismiss this like I am just taking shots at someone because I am not. I just want people to stop for a second and think.
You see, I had one of those chance of a lifetime moments this past weekend. No, I didn't get to crawl in bed with Heather Locklear, my wife would cut my nads off if I did that. No, I had the rare opportunity to actually step between the ropes and have a small part in the CZW show this past weekend. Instead of just being an outside observer I got to participate in the show.
Now I have sat in many locker rooms before a show talking with the guys and girls working the show but for the most part I was still always an outsider. Although I listened to what was going down and what was going to happen I was still never a part of it.
Now a lot of people claim they have a tight locker room. The sad reality is very few actually do. I know that NWA-NJ has a pretty damned good locker room, I have been in the back many times watching the guys go over their spots. But there is a difference between NWA-NJ and CZW. Down at NWA-NJ you know the guys are going to go out, do their match and you are 99.99% sure that everyone will come back alright. NWA-NJ doesn't do the insane spots that CZW does. CZW does take it to a new level, there is no denying that.
One thing I have to say is that CZW has a very tight locker room. All of the guys there show each other respect in the locker room and in the ring. Justice Pain, Johnny Kashmere, Trent Acid, Wifebeater, Nick Mondo, Rick Blade, Zandig, Lobo, Berk and everyone else know what they are going into when they enter that ring. There is a trust among the workers that is second to none, and that is the way it should be.
Now CZW does everything they can to take hardcore up 4 levels. I mean this past weekend they started their show with an electrified exploding ring match that had the cage lined with barbed wire, wrapped in fluorescent light bulbs and huge sheets of plate glass. Oh yeah they had a scaffold on top of the cage. Now I have to tell you this would be a main event match anywhere else in the country, but CZW is secure enough in what they do to be able to start a show with this kind of match. This should say something about the mind set of CZW.
Was the show this past weekend perfect? Sad to say no. The show started two hours late which had the fans agitated but still they were there for their promotion. The carnage of the first match was without a doubt insane and tried to set the tone for the rest of the night. In some aspects they succeeded, in some they failed. So goes the trial and tribulations of trying to give more than your all for a show and your fans. Should they be crucified for possibly not meeting some of the expectations? For some of the things maybeand other things no, you have to look at what goes on behind the scenes to know that you have to give them a break.
Like I said, these guys do their best to go far beyond hardcore. Which means that each and every person in that locker room has to be on their game to protect their partner from serious injury. In this game the slightest mishap could cause serious and permanent injury. This is what has me a bit concerned not only for the workers but also for the promotion as a whole.
This type of mentality has been done before. Yup you guess it, I am about to talk about ECW. You see, ECW also had a tight locker room. In fact at one time I think it is safe to say they could have had the tightest locker room ever in the business at one time. Back in the day it was an "all for one and one for all" mentality not only in the seats in the arena but also in the locker room. What they were doing back in the day was something that no one before in the states had ever tried before. The continuous high risk bumps that people like Tommy Dreamer and Cactus Jack used to take back then were incredible. But where are they now?
Mick is retired, probably slated to one, maybe two matches a year if that. Tommy is still wrestling when he isn't injured, but I would have to say that Tommy's days have to be close to being numbered. Not because of lack of want but because the human body can only take so much punishment.
What happened to these guys? They gave their all to the fans and the promotions that they worked for. The exact same thing that is happening in CZW at this very moment.
If you want to see highspot after highspot and you have not yet taken in a CZW show then you are doing yourself a disservice. You are only ripping yourself off. These guy kill themselves for the fans. Each and every show they try to take it to the next level, the question is how many levels are there really to go?
This past Saturday CZW gave up to the fans probably two to three main event matches in one night. This is great if your a fan but what does that do for the promotion? If it would be the catalyst for them to double their crowd then I would say it was worth it. We will have to wait and see if that pans out, but from a business standpoint that is a big risk to take.
When you have workers like Ric Blade, Nick Mondo, Trent Acid and Johhny Kashmere in the ring the crowd should be on the edge of their seats or on their feet in anticipation. But this weekend that was not the case. Instead when Acid and Mondo were having their match the crowd was relatively quiet. In fact some fans weren't even paying attention. Why? Because it wasn't a gimmick match. Sound familiar? I remember when Malenko/Guerrero had chants of boring yelled at them even though they were giving a 5 star performance. I see the same thing happening now at CZW and that should worry the promoter immensely. Don't misunderstand me, there were fans on their feet but as I said there were many fans who were too busy looking for the beer they dropped or just talking to the person next to them not even paying attention until the last minute of the match.
The reason this should worry the promoter is because he will see sooner or later that he is just about going to have to offer his workers up for sacrifice on an alter to satisfy the fans craving for more and newer high spots and more gimmick matches. Again, look to CZW's predecessor to see what road this leads you down. Sooner or later your guys are so banged up your forced to tone it down which in turn initiates shots from your loyal core fanbase. They say you sold out, they say your not what you used to be. But in reality you cannot be the same for all time. Sooner or later you must come to the realization that either things change or you eventually shut your doors due to injuries or lack of interest from your overly spoiled fans.
Do not mistake me naming the four guys above as saying that there is no one else in the company worth watching. Justice Pain, Lobo, Wifebeater, Pondo all take it to the limits and beyond for the company. Gage, Hatred, Dahmer, Zandig, Mercury, Berk and even Rebel all do the best they can possibly do for the fans. But again with the current style that CZW offers how long can it really last?
This is not questioning how tough these guys are because I'll tell you what, they do things that a lot of people would not even attempt to do. But what is the shelf life for wrestlers who brutalize themselves for their fans and their love of the sport?
It only takes one missed spot to blow out knee. It only takes one missed spot from twenty feet up to permanently injure yourself to the point where no matter how you heal you can never do what you do best and that is wrestle. It only takes one piece of glass to blind you.
I am not suggesting that CZW stops dong what they do. I am suggesting that they try to spread it out and re-educate their so called "smart" fans. The fans at CZW are exactly like the fans at the Swanson and Ritner. You give them something and they want more. You give them more and they want even more. Sooner or later someone is going to have to stop the cycle.
The fans love to brag that CZW is far more violent than ECW ever was. They say that ECW is full of geriatric, washed up old wrestlers who just can't cut it anymore. My question is, "How do you think they got this way?"
I will bypass the comments that Ric Blade could school Tajiri in martial arts. Those are just the ramblings of an ultra loyal fan. But even the ultra loyal fans have to realize sooner or later that this cannot go on forever. Plus to have three to five gimmick matches each card burns out the speciality of gimmick matches. They become mundane and common after awhile. They become expected and when not given the fans get pissed no matter what they are offered. How can this mind set be beneficial to any promotion?
Today's extreme ultraviolent wrestling fan has to take the initiative to re-educate themselves into what ring psychology really is. It is not about hitting an opponent in the face with a mirror only to have your opponent counter with a dozen fluorescent light tubes. Every match tells a story if you take the time to look for it. I guess you have to know what you are looking for to be able to see it, and the longer these fans think they know it all, the longer it will take for them to learn.
I blame Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman for doing this to the wrestling fans. Before McMahon's "sports entertainment" line and Heyman with his "shoots" the average wrestling fan, while knowing it was fake could dispel their belief and for a few hours get immersed in the show. Today's fans do not look for psychology. In fact at CZW unless there is a gimmick in someone's hand they aren't interested. I remember the running joke at ECW was guessing how many tables Tommy would get put through next. We all waited for the I-95 match where Tommy would be tossed off the ramp high above the arena through about 75 tables. Do you know that there were fans who actually tried to say that because of the amount of tables Tommy would be all right because they would break his fall. The thing is these people were serious. Think about that.
CZW needs a better mix in their cards. That is one of the things that propelled ECW into prominence. Sure they had all the blood you could want, but they also had more than one wrestling match during a show. This is not a knock on the CZW promotion as they are doing exactly what brought them to the dance in the first place. But they should start to look at now what they need to do for the future success of the company. Keep the guys in the locker room as they do what they do better than anyone else, but add more so your guys do not have to get killed each and every show.
Card psychology is critical to the success of a given night. Just like match psychology should tell a story and be a buildup for the next match culminating in the payoff or main event, card psychology should tell an overall story and also set up the next show. I am not suggesting that the powers that be in CZW do not understand this philosophy. But I can see by the last show that they are trying to give the fans everything that the fans want and in this case it could be a mistake. Too much at one time forces you to try to outdo yourself at the next show, and so on, and so on. If you spread it out over a few cards you actually build up more interest and intensity for the payoff. This also allows you to promote those matches more effectively as you can focus on those one or possibly two matches while touting a major undercard.
CZW is at a place where they need to propel themselves to the next level. They need to do what is necassary to draw more than the train wreck fans that are coming to the shows. When talking to one of the guys they told me that they lost some of their original fans. Could this too be a sign that CZW is heading down the same road as ECW did? Yes, because that is exactly what happened to ECW. They lost the true ECW fan and replaced them with the car crash chasers and it took them almost two years to recover, and even now they are still feeling the ramifications of their past decisions. It takes more than being able to draw a decent house to make a successful promotion. Your workers have to be healthy and able to work. Right now CZW is not having the injury problems of the current ECW roster. I hope they never do.
For those who feel I have taken veiled shots at the promotion through this column, sit back and re-read this article because that is NOT what I have done. I have a respect for the guys in CZW who bust their ass each and every show for their fans. They believe in what they do and love doing it. They are doing their best to do what they do and do it correctly. CZW is still in a growing phase as they have not been in business for that long a period of time. They will grow, and they will learn. I just do not want them to continue to follow ECW's road because that road is filled with pitfalls and problems, injuries and after awhile a total lack of respect for it's workers and it's fans. It is easy to fall prey to the trappings of this business. It would be a breath of fresh air to see CZW rise above that and catapult themselves as a true viable national promotion offering the wrestling fans what ECW has forgotten, and that is a workrate that is second to none along with the perfect blend of their ultraviolent offerings mixed with good old fashioned extreme mat wrestling, thus offering everyone something to sit back and enjoy.
Oh yeah, I mentioned Saturday night in the beginning of this didn't I? Well to recap I was called in the ring by Pastor Jim to have a verbal debate over our differences of opinion. That was fine for me because I got to do some mic work and take some shots at their ultra loyal fans. But then Rebel had to interject himself and hit me with a DDT. What I did not know was that he then got hit in the head with a flaming guitar. Then the fans were told to throw their chairs in the ring and both Rebel and myself were buried under about 100 chairs. In retrospect it was pretty cool and I want to take a minute to thank John and everyone down at CZW for even allowing me in the ring to have the verbal confrontation with Pastor Jim. Of course I'm not too pleased with what they had planned afterwards without me really knowing about it but that is what happens when you step into the ring I guess. I do find it ironic, with all the bashing of Heyman and ECW I have done over the past two years (very warranted I might add and also very truthful) I end up in an angle that is reminiscent of the "chair throwing" angle from all those years ago in ECW. Buried under chairs, who would have thought it? A note to the fans, even though I kinda got screwed on the finish of my little segment, there is still a thing called respect and that is why I still thanked CZW for allowing me to participate. You all would be better off if you learned the word and followed the principle of it's meaning. The promotion stands to gain a lot if you would actually do this. The next CZW show is on October 7, 2000. Go to czwwrestling.com for more info.
And with that I am outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be but also remember a quote from James Billington, "Intellectual and cultural freedom is the most important single precondition for the breakdown of the kinds of tyrannical and totalitarian systems that periodically threaten us."
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