AS I SEE IT 12/22: Cage of Death draws 1,000 fans...
by: Bob Magee If you want a sports analogy...think of this: imagine that it's the bottom of the ninth, 3-2, 2 outs, and someone hits a home run off the facade of the upper deck at Yankee Stadium to win the World Series...
That's the kind of night Combat Zone Wrestling had on December 13th, as it presented their fifth annual Cage of Death event at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, PA before a standing room only crowd of nearly 1000....as the proverbial home run the promotion needed to end 2003.
2003 was a wild year of ups and downs for CZW that saw the following:
Despite all that and more...CZW pulled out what was their show of the year on December 13th...a show with booking swerves, psychotic spots, great technical wrestling and a mind-blowing main event.
Here's how the show went...
The first fall was taken by Trent Acid at the 10 minute mark. Acid took Rave down, ran to the corner, sprang of and leg dropped Rave for a three count.
The second fall came with 3 minutes remaining as Rave caught Acid and putting him into an armbar. Acid escaped, but Rave locked it again in the middle of the ring and Acid submitted.
Regulation ended after 20 minutes at one fall apiece. Rave and the crowd demanded that the match be continued. Acid teased he would do it, then walked out and returned to the locker room. Referee Brian Logan began counting out Acid, who returned through the front door of the building and rolled up Rave from behind for a near fall. They went back and forth with a series of two counts, with Rave finally scoring the pinfall and winning the title to a huge reaction.
In a promo to set up the main event, Hi-Five came out and consoled Acid and did a promo. CZW champion John Zandig coming out and walking down the "suspended cage" (more on that in a minute) to look down on Hi-Five in the ring, and announced that his team had a mystery sixth man that would shock CZW.
The first fall saw B-Boy pin Hero with a shining wizard, with the second and final fall saw Alex Shelley make B-Boy submit to an STF.
This was originally scheduled as a tag team bout, as Deranged and Azriel were scheduled to work the Jersey All Pro Wrestling show in Rahway, NJ (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels worked CZW early and headed up to Rahway), then come down to Philadelphia for CZW.
But in an almost unprecedented moment for those who know CZW's long-time history of running late with nearly everything (a problem that has been dealt with very well over the last four months)... CZW was actually running ahead of schedule. As a result, Deranged and Azriel were not yet at the building. Another version of the story had the two calling the building, telling CZW they were just leaving...and were told not to bother, because they'd never make it in time.
This forced the promotion to go ahead with a singles ladder match, which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened, as it made two stars for CZW in one night with Cash and The Joker nearly stealing the entire show.
Psycho spots in this match included: Cash bulldogging Joker while his head was inside a rung of a ladder off the ropes onto a chair, a top rope superplex onto a ladder stuck at a 45 degree angle into the rungs of another ladder.
The match ended with what may have been single most psychotic spot I've ever seen in my 11 years of shows at the ECW Arena, as Joker hit an version of NWA-Wildside Slim J's "Anger Management" (similar to a tiger driver from an electric chair position) off the top of a high ladder with Cash through a table for the pin.
In some ways, this match suffered (only in terms of crowd reaction) after following the previous match which had crazy heat form the crowd
Then, there was the main event...
Think of the insanity of a combination of Jim Crockett's "Night of the Skywalkers" and "War Games: The Match Beyond"...and turn it up 10 notches...you have Cage of Death V's main event.
In the match... Team Ultraviolence (CZW champion John Zandig, Lobo, Wifebeater, Ian Knoxx, New Jack [sort of], Nick Gage defeated Team HI-V (The Messiah, Nate Hatred, Trent Acid, Adam Flash, Johnny Kashmere, B-Boy) .
The match featured a Cage of Death match in one ring, a suspended cage/super scaffold from the stage to the Cage of Death...and in the second ring... 1,000,000 thumb tacks. The 1,000,000 thumbtack match was the brainchild of fans on the promotion's CZWfans.com fansite. Numerous fans literally contributed hundreds (and in several cases, thousands) of thumb tacks, as well as money to purchase the remaining thumb tacks.
The match featured the traditional Cage of Death with such weapons as a trash can, guard rails, a table, and other assorted toys. As usual, the Cage of Death featured a cage with mini-scaffolding across the top, as well as tables surrounding the ring, and the suspended steel cage/super scaffold that ran from the stage of the ECW Arena over and across the thumbtack ring to the Cage of Death.
The suspended steel cage/super scaffold also featured steel cage partitions set up on the suspended cage structure at a 45-degree angle that allowed the workers to throw each other into it. The structure was incredibly solid..with promotional staff having been at the ECW Arena since Thursday assembling and setting up the structure, anchored from the ceiling and from the cage itself.
The rules of the match:
In a nice touch, Zandig brought out former announcer Dennis Shock to handle the announcements for the main event.
Zandig and Johnny Kashmere started the bout brawling on the suspended cage/super scaffold. After some time they made it to the ring, with Trent Acid and The Messiah from HI-Five came out "unscheduled" to make it a three-on-one.
B-Boy was next (actually "scheduled to be next") but waited on the suspended platform as they worked over Zandig.
Suddenly "Natural Born Killaz" thundered from the loud speakers, and the ECW Arena went wild as New Jack entered the match as the surprise babyface competitor. He worked over B-Boy on the platform, then hit the Cage of Death. New Jack initially took out Hi-Five, and helped Zandig up, then attacked him (think the Hogan-Orndorff turn)...now siding with HI-Five, and working Zandig over.
Lobo was out next, followed by Ian Knoxx. Lobo ran (and I do mean ran) over the scaffold to the Cage of Death while Knoxx brawled with B-Boy on the suspended cage/super scaffold. Knoxx rammed B-Boy into one of the side partitions, gimmicking so that it "gave way", sending B-Boy took a bump into the 1,000,000 thumbtack filled ring. Knoxx then swung off the partition as if it were a jungle gym, then elbowed B-Boy in the thumbtack filled ring
Adam Flash came out next, then Wifebeater. At this point the match broke into the "senseless violence portion of the program" as wrestlers were eliminated by multiple sick bumps.
Then...the match's finish...Nate Hatred and Messiah worked over Nick Gage and laid him out on a table.
Suddenly reappearing on the stage over the house mike... Zandig screamed "Now! Now!" over the house mike. Nate Hatred turned on Messiah and reunited The H8 Club team (with Nick Gage).
If you want to see some of this show looked like for yourself, pictures are available at: Evil Empire Wrestling and WHACKS's picture site. It may make you better understand some of what I've written above.
The VHS tape of this event is also available via Smart Mark Video, official CZW dealer, at this link. DVDs will also be available soon from Smart Mark Video.
If this all sounds to some people like a blatant shill for this show...damned right. It is exactly that.
But more importantly...it's a shill for the people who've spent the last year busting their asses for this promotion...and never more so, than for the buildup to this show.
After this show's success, I know far too many of the people that made this show happen in and out of the ring not to want to blow their horns for them...since they usually don't. I know the behind the scenes people like Mark Pantalone, who was there 72 hours almost nonstop before the show preparing things, including the suspended cage/scaffold structure that had to be seen to be believed. Then there was the fan, known on CZWfans.com only as "Radio Terrorist" who organized the 1,000,000 thumb tack effort, and actually kept a running count on the fansite.
People like Mark, Derek Sabato, Michael Pancoast, Ryan Smith, Chad Shaft, "Radio Terrorist", and many, many more deserve that everyone knows how hard they worked.
In an era where WWE PPVs and TV shows often disappoint...this show, put on by an independent promotion operating on 1% (if that) of Vince McMahon's budget, blew away WWE's Armageddon the next night, an event with the advantage of millions of dollars in advertising, tens of millions of dollars in talent, international PPV clearances, and one of the most well-known entertainment brand names worldwide.
At Cage of Death, people both in and out of the ring gave everything they had and more for a fraction of what WWE performers are paid. Many behind-the scenes people did it simply as a labor of love. But there is no doubt whatever that the fans left CZW's show a whole lot happier than those that left Armageddon...and that fans seeing both will remember CZW's Cage of Death for a whole lot longer.
This weekend, bigger was damned sure not better.
A happy holidays to all our readers at PWBTS...and the many other sites that carry the AS I SEE IT column. May you spend it with those you love...and have the peace of mind and heart during these holidays that the festival of light and the season of birth call forth.
Until next time...
If you have comments/questions, or if you'd like to add the AS I SEE IT column to your website, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)