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 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:

  • The promotion lose its home at the ECW Arena to XPW, then regain it two months later...

  • The promotion was hamstrung to varying degrees by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission's busy-body interference in their product... keeping the promotion from giving their fans the ultraviolent style product they'd come to expect...

  • A memorable evening that saw CZW celebrate the 10th anniversary of the ECW Arena...

  • A hot summer of ultraviolent shows in Dover, DE with their largest crowd ever for their annual Tournament of Death and other shows, only to have the town's City Council (for all practical purposes) ban their product, due to the efforts of a local independent promotion (which just happens to include a former CZW wrestler that left under unpleasant circumstances) that draws 100 paid per show, despite public claims of far more...

  • Attendance woes in Philadelphia during the summer...not helped by the rescheduling of two month's shows due to competition from Metallica/Summer Sanitarium and Bruce Springsteen major outdoor concerts...

  • The retirement of Sick Nick Mondo, and the disappearance for 2 months of stalwart Johnny Kashmere...

  • The backlash after a controversial "suspension" angle involving the promotion's owner, Zandig, as he was suspended from the roof the ECW Arena...

    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...

  • In the first of two dark matches, John Dahmer and Cory Kastle won a Three-Way Dance, defeating Jude and Niles Young and the team of DJ Hyde and Josh Samuels (Lit from ROH's Special K) after Dahmer destroyed Samuels with a sick-looking top rope piledriver.

  • Shun the Kabuki Kid defeated Rick Feinberg, Christian Wolf, and GQ when Shun hit a top rope senton bomb on Wolf for the pin.

  • Cage of Death itself began with Rockin' Rebel and Greg Matthews defeated the Dirty Rotten Scoundrelz and the team of Z-Barr and Nick Berk in a Three-Way Dance when Rebel pinned DRS's EC Negro.

  • Jimmy Jacobs defeated Sabian and Derek Frazier in a Three-Way Dance. Becky Bayless, valet in various independent North Jersey promotions, and more recently in IWA Mid-South, managed Jacobs in her CZW debut.

  • Jimmy Rave pinned Trent Acid to win the CZW Iron Man championship in a good bout.

    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.

  • In a surprising result...and an excellent match, Alex Shelley defeated B-Boy and Chris Hero in an excellent elimination rules match to become the #1 contender for the CZW Iron Man Title.

    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.

  • In the show-stealer of the night...The Joker pinned Chris Cash in an absolutely psychotic ladder match.

    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.

  • Sonjay Dutt pinned Ruckus with a rollup out of nowhere to win the CZW Junior Heavyweight championship in another great match. At one stage, Dutt hit Ruckus with his own Razzle Dazzle (handspring elbow).

    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 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 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:

  • Wrestlers started at the stage, brawled across the steel cage/super scaffold to the Cage of Death, and then had to exit the Cage of Death and return back to the stage to escape.

  • The winning team would be the team that had the most members escape or if they eliminated the entire other team by making their feet hit the floor (meaning tossing them out of a cage or taking bumps out of the cage or the suspended platform).

    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) 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.


  • New Jack diving off of the top of the cage onto Zandig, laid out on a table on the floor.

  • While on the suspended cage/scaffold, Acid hit a Yakuza Kick on Knoxx, who took a fall off of the suspended cage, past the Cage of Death through a table on the floor.

  • Lobo hit a Death Valley Driver off the top of the Cage of Death on both Johnny Kashmere and manager Dewey Donovan..stacked on top of one another, to the floor through four doublestacked tables.

  • Nick Gage took a bump into the ring of thumbtacks as well, sent off by Trent Acid, who them took his own bump into them.

  • Wifebeater hit a sidewalk slam off the super scaffold/cage into the thumbtack tacks on Flash.

    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).

  • Gage poured thumbtacks over a table and he and Hatred sent Messiah off the top of the Cage through the table. They then threw him out of the cage for the victory, eliminating him, and winning the match for Zandig's team.

    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'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 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...


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