CZW Tangled Web 9
Watch: CZW Studios or Highspots
Flyers Skate Zone – Voorhees, New Jersey, USA
Nathan Cruz vs. Alexander James
Well this is certainly one of those matchups that could only happen in CZW. James, a CZW Wrestling Academy graduate, hasn’t made much of an impact over the last six years despite being the unofficially longest-reigning CZW Junior Heavyweight Champion. Cruz is something of a forgotten son in the UK wrestling scene, which has played into storylines in PROGRESS, and he’s in the States for a brief tour. After a bit of chain wrestling, the lads trade control with some sloppy spots before a rather clever spot where Cruz lands on the apron wrong and sells his knee afterward. He does a fairly good job selling it (at least at first) and James, now with something to focus his efforts on, plays his role as the aggressor well. Due to Cruz’s finisher being an inverted cloverleaf, this leads to a strange moment in which Cruz applies the move despite the fact that James hasn’t had his legs worked over and Cruz has. James picks up the win with a single underhook brainbuster. A sadly middling affair and a disappointing outing for Cruz, who deserves better than this pre-show match.
Alexander James def. Nathan Cruz
Frankie Pickard vs. Blackwater vs. Jimmy Lloyd vs. Dan O’Hare
This is a four-way between four CZW Dojo Wars stars, most of whom I’m only passingly familiar with, so I’m glad for the chance to become better acquainted here. Blackwater uses “Brothers in Arms” from the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack as his entrance theme, so he’s already got my seal of approval. It’s clear that these guys are all still fairly green and are often biting off more than they can chew here, but even among the sloppiness and danger and poor execution, this match is a lot of fun and could have been much, much worse. More so than anything else, the personalities of all these men are worth noting, especially the endearing underdog nature of Lloyd and Blackwater’s demonic disposition. With a knee to the face of Lloyd (who, no small man himself, bumps it like a crazy person), Pickard gets the victory. More than a little unpolished, this was still quite an enjoyable little spotfest with occasional flashes of something much better, and I hope to see more of these four men soon.
Frankie Pickard def. Blackwater, Jimmy Lloyd & Dan O’Hare
Da Hit Squad (Dan Maff & Monsta Mack) vs. The Fella Twins (Eddy McQueen & Rick Cataldo)
This is an open challenge match for Da Hit Squad’s CZW Tag Team titles. I’ve never heard of the Fella Twins before, but they are apparently WSU Tag Team Champions and drag queens, so of course I’m an immediate fan. Considering Da Hit Squad’s history with the LGBT community (check out ROH’s The Era of Honor Begins), though, I’m more than a little worried about how this is going to go. The crowd certainly doesn’t help, as this is an abnormally bad crowd even for CZW. After a control segment from Da Hit Squad, the Fella Twins take control with some help from their valets before transitioning into the sort of offense you’d expect from people with a drag queen gimmick. Eventually Da Hit Squad make a comeback and run wild on everybody, winning by countout by tossing valet Penelope Ford onto McQueen and Cataldo out on the floor, which renders all of them incapacitated. All in all, this is… I don’t know if I have another word for it than problematic. Maybe nothing too terribly offensive (or at least not to my narrow cisgender white male viewpoint, which doesn’t help matters), but certainly the sort of thing you should probably shy away from, especially in front of this sort of crowd.
Da Hit Squad def. The Fella Twins
BLK Jeez vs. Joe Gacy
Finally, we get a matchup between two main roster CZW regulars, and one that is actually a first-time meeting in singles competition. Both of these men are angry and hungry, spending 2016 clawing their way back up the card, and it makes for a heated little back and forth contest here, if something of an aimless one. Following an impressive handspring cutter (impressive mostly due to the man’s size), Gacy gets the submission victory with the Rings of Saturn. Not great, but a serviceable little midcard bout and easily the best match on the card so far.
Joe Gacy def. BLK Jeez
The Nation of Intoxication (Devon Moore & Conor Claxton) vs. The Young Dragons (Dale Patricks & Josh Crane)
This CZW vs IWA Mid-South feud has been a strange one for me, as I’m sort of caught in the middle of the whole thing. I’m an Indiana boy who has ties to IWA MS going back years. I’ve been in the ring with the likes of Josh Crane and Cole Radrick. Some of these guys are my friends. On the other hand, CZW is my favorite promotion ever, and I’ve bled black and yellow for nearly a decade now. It’s hard to pick sides in this sort of struggle. Anywho, onto the match. After some chatter back and forth on the microphone, the NOI gets right down to business with some dives and brawling on the floor. A fairly run-of-the-mill tag match follows, and just when NOI look to have the match won, Moore floors Claxton with a superkick and allows the Young Dragons to win with a real sloppy spike piledriver to a chorus of boos. Afterward, Matt Tremont and Jeff Cannonball run out to make the save, and Tremont grabs the mic, stating that he doesn’t have a lot of time in this business left, and if he’s going out, he’s taking the Young Dragons with him. He challenges them to a Squared Circle of Sacrifice tag team deathmatch against him and Cannonball at Night of Infamy, the next show.
The Young Dragons def. The Nation of Intoxication
Joey Janela vs. Tony Deppen
After earning a spot on the roster back at Down With The Sickness, this is Deppen’s first singles match in the promotion, a shot at Janela’s CZW Wired TV Championship. Feeling each other out, the lads kick things off with a chop exchange before Deppen changes gears and uses his high-flying to take control. After eating a pair of running knees out on the floor, Janela dives back in the ring to get some separation and uses the opportunity to smash Deppen with an elbow and turn the match in his favor. The fiery natures of both men means the momentum swings back and forth between the both of them, and neither truly has the upper hand for the first half of the match. Following a fairly brutal chop and slap exchange, Janela just muscles Deppen up onto his shoulders and flattens him with a running DVD off the apron and through an open steel chair out on the floor, resulting in a quality little ten count tease that the crowd gets into. Janela, cocky and self-assured, toys with Deppen with a few kicks to the face, but Deppen fires back with a quick flurry of offense, clearly running on fumes and convulsing all over the place out of exhaustion. Dude looks like a dying hobgoblin here, and I say that as a friend. Just when it looks like Deppen could get the upper hand, Janela MURDERS the poor guy with a discus clothesline that sends me into a fit of laughter. It’s fun, sometimes, to see your friends get hurt, ok? Ok? Ok. Looking for a KO victory (and looking to cover up the fact that Deppen was legitimately knocked out here for a few moments), Janela immediately goes for a Boston Crab followed by a crossface, but Deppen sluggishly makes it to the ropes to free himself. With both men really feeling it now, a series of strikes back and forth ends with Janela hitting a rolling elbow for a double down. The champ recovers first and slaps on a crossface in a flash to retain his title. Something of a flat finish, but an understandable one considering Deppen’s state, and the rest of the match was a fun mile-a-minute affair. Easily the highlight of the show, and a match I urge everyone to check out.
Joey Janela def. Tony Deppen
Team Pazuzu (Chris Dickinson, Angel Ortiz & Mike Draztik) vs. Scarlet and Graves (Jake Crist, Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz)
Despite my reservations about the Crists, this should be fun on some level. Larry Legend, the wonderful ring announcer, describes this as a Satanic Six Man Tag Team Match, meaning that lucha tag rules are in effect. All in all, this match lives up to the goofiness of the name of that stipulation, as it’s a wonderful little lucharesu sprint with guys flying in and out of the ring and getting their spots in. Hardly the smartest contest you’ll see in wrestling this week, but one of the more fun ones, I think. Team Pazuzu pick up the win with a Burning Hammer from Dickinson onto Xavier in about seven minutes. Great use of time and talent, and a good way to keep the momentum from the Wired TV title match going.
Team Pazuzu def. Scarlet and Graves
Jonathan Gresham vs. Homicide
This is a match for Gresham’s CZW World Heavyweight Championship, and a real dream match for yours truly as I’m quite a big fan of both these men. Before the match, Greg Excellent comes out and cuts a brief promo about the state of the company and his booking therein, stating that he cares more about CZW than anyone in CZW cares about him and that he’s not going anywhere. Homicide stares Excellent down as he makes his entrance. Big match feel here at the outset of this contest, though maybe that’s me projecting, because hot damn am I excited for this. They start with some aggressive grappling, illustrating the oft-forgotten fact that Homicide was an accomplished amateur wrestler in his youth. The opening minutes see Homicide, the aging great, getting the upper hand on the younger champ who is easily better in the ring today but also far more hot-headed, which works to his detriment. Despite Homicide’s tremendous skill, it’s Gresham who holds it all together here with his selling and facials, as well as his feeding into moves. Out on the floor, the champ is able to take control by ducking out of the way of a clothesline and sending Homicide’s already taped-up arm into the ring post. Gresham continues to target the arm back in the ring, and while Homicide isn’t completely overwhelmed, any momentum he can muster is cut off when Gresham goes right back to the arm. Homicide eventually turns the tide with one of his fantastic tope con hilos and beats the champ around ringside, getting some great nearfalls back in the ring with a few choice suplexes. The Octopus can’t be kept down for long, though, using his speed and Homicide’s injury to turn the tide. A crossface a few minutes later that is meant to feel like a big submission attempt falls flat as Homicide is clearly gassed now, slowing down quite a bit and losing the fire he had earlier in the match, although many in the crowd are still chanting for him quite a bit. Some insolent slaps from the champ wake up the veteran, though, who fires back with a hell of a chop. A nice little rope-running spot ends with a cutter and a lariat for Homicide, a solid nearfall that Gresham bumps for like a madman. Homicide follows it up with Da Cop Killa and gets the three, but referee Dan Yost doesn’t see that Gresham had his foot on the bottom rope beforehand. Just as the officials and Maven Bentley figure things out, Gresham waylays Homicide with the belt, moments before the match is restarted. Homicide kicks out, though, in something of a surprising moment. Frustrated, Gresham grabs a chair and goes to crack it across the back of the Brooklyn native, but referee Yost takes it from him and goes to remove it, allowing Gresham to hit a low blow and roll Homicide up for the cheap victory. Hardly a perfect match, and I recognize that my love for both these men changes my perception of it, but I quite liked this. A well-worked match between a fan-favorite veteran who clearly can’t go 100% anymore and a conniving heel champion who is portrayed as talented but not quite talented enough to put away the legend without some chicanery. It might not blow you away, but I’m sure most anyone could enjoy this match.
Jonathan Gresham def. Homicide
Rickey Shane Page vs. Tim Donst vs. Danny Havoc vs. Alex Colon
This is an elimination High Stakes Tangled Web match, which means that the ring and ringside area are littered with all manner of barbed wire paraphernalia and the winner of this match can ask for “anything they want”. Vague terms that will end with something goofy, I’m sure. I’m a little bummed this isn’t like past Tangled Web matches, in which the ring is covered with a trampoline-like net of barbed wire, but I understand that there’s only so much room in the Flyers Skate Zone, and crazy as it is, that setup isn’t exactly the most conducive to good wrestling. All four of these men have gripes with each other, some of which go back years. This match begins how you’d imagine, with a bunch of punching and kicking and avoiding the barbed wire, but soon everyone gets a taste of the stuff (literally, in the case of Rickey). They don’t waste much time in beginning to do CRAZY things, though, as Donst drives a small barbed wire board into Havoc’s back before trapping him in a crossface chickenwing on the mat with the board still there. To top it off, Colon comes flying off the top rope with a frog splash onto both of them to a chorus of “CZDUB” chants. Similar insane things follow it, and documenting each of them would be a bit much, I think. After Donst drops all three opponents with a Tower of Doom spot, he unsuccessfully tries to pin each of them, and Rickey, the third, turns his attempt into an unsuccessful rollup attempt of his own in a nice moment. Shortly thereafter, Rickey is eliminated after a top-rope cutter from Donst sends them both crashing through a barbed wire log cabin and Colon steals the pin. Showing a tremendous amount of fire, Donst somehow kicks out when Colon covers him with a smörgåsbord of barbed wire and thumbtack-laden accessories and hits a double stomp off the top. He’s been a real highlight of this match with his selling and general ability to ground the others, and his fiery determination here is fantastic. Barely managing to stay on his feet, Donst endures a trio of suplexes into the barbed wire from Havoc before a DVD eliminates him. Down to the last two, Colon and Havoc, who have been feuding on and off for around four years, aren’t as heated here as I’d like them to be, but they do some stupid and entertaining spots so I can’t complain too much. Havoc gets the victory with a pretty nuts superplex into a huge structure of wood, steel chairs, carpet strips, and barbed wire. Not really a bad match, but a fairly repetitive and meandering one, and a match unfitting of the talent involved although I still had a lot of fun watching it. After the match Havoc grabs a microphone and says that while his win here means that he can make whatever matchup he wants happen, he’s going to instead do the right thing. He offers Rickey Shane Page one last match and one last opportunity to beat him, once again at Cage of Death.
Danny Havoc def. Rickey Shane Page, Tim Donst & Alex Colon
CZW TANGLED WEB 9
Sub Par - 4.5/10
As I usually am with CZW, I’m quite mixed on this show. The first half is not good, plain and simple. The first half of the card is sloppy, unrefined, and at times sort of offensive. I enjoyed a few of those matches as fun spotfests, but I can’t speak to them as quality matches that I’d recommend to anyone (and with a dozen or so friends of mine in the audience of this show, as it so happens, I feel bad for them on some level for enduring them). However, with the Wired TV title match, the show did a complete 180, with the four top matches being ok or good matches I’d recommend to most anyone, matches that all felt different and tried to accomplish different goals and mostly succeeded in doing so. But even then, the night ends on something of a weird note as Havoc and RSP once again find themselves booked against one another. With Rickey valiantly winning Tournament of Death XV, it seemed that he had finally ascended to the next level of CZW after losing three straight singles matches to Havoc and never being able to secure himself a roster spot. There were some who thought that Rickey was being primed to win the CZW World title from Tremont, myself included, and while that didn’t end up happening, we enjoyed the fact that Rickey was progressing in his career in the Combat Zone. But now we return to the same old formula as we get the fourth one-on-one singles match and sixth match of any kind between Havoc and RSP in 18 months. Hopefully this leads to something bigger and better for the young Ohio native, but only time will tell, and in the meantime this can’t feel like anything other than a step backwards. Rickey’s failure to evolve is sort of indicative of CZW as a whole these days. Last month, I praised this company I love so much, saying that they had returned to form with the TOD and Down With The Sickness events, returning to the quality of the glory days of the Combat Zone. But with shows like this, it’s clear that mistakes are still being made and that it will take time to truly get the ball rolling for the black and yellow.