Combat Zone Wrestling

Breaking the Stigma: The Resurgence of Combat Zone Wrestling

It’s a little after 3pm and I still can’t stop thinking of all the crazy moments from last night’s Cage of Death XV. I’ve been to plenty of wrestling shows, seen a lot of matches, watched a lot of video but there was something about last night. It was special. It solidified everything Combat Zone Wrestling had been trying to do under the guidance of DJ Hyde and the rest of his staff, create a product that doesn’t cater to one wrestling fan but to all wrestling fans.

For anyone who haven’t been following the site and the Piledriver Podcast for a while, a few months ago I conducted a face to face interview with CZW owner DJ Hyde. I still was new to the podcast game so for me to interview someone in his position, that being owner and operator of a top independent promotion, was a huge deal. I couldn’t tell you how nervous I was. Hyde has a towering presence and a look that could intimidate anyone. I quickly came to see what people close to Hyde were telling me about him. He’s a down to earth guy who loves wrestling and has a great wrestling mind. We spoke at length about his own wrestling career, past CZW wrestlers, and how he became owner of the company. Perhaps the most important part of the interview was where he plans to take the company in the future. He wanted to create a wrestling product of what he called “a buffet for all wrestling fans”.
For those that don’t know much about CZW it has built a huge almost cult like following since it’s birth in 1999. Started by John Zandig and a group of students from his wrestling school, they began running wrestling shows largely built around hardcore death match style wrestling. Their unique brand of “ultra-violence” as it would later on be known as, began creating a strong fan base and also garnered some negative attention from some in the wrestling world.
One of the most famous death match moments in CZW history, Brain Damage takes a skill saw to the forehead of Jon Moxley. Don’t worry folks, the saw was fake.
Fast forward to 2009. CZW whether some liked it or not, was a huge part of the independent wrestling scene. Behind the scenes in the front office major changes were happening. DJ Hyde, a top wrestler for the company has purchased CZW from John Zandig and as they say, business was about to pick up. Since Hyde has taken the reigns of the company CZW was able to get out of The Arena and the shadows of ECW and run their own events in Germany, Massachusetts, Ohio, South Carolina, and Indiana. They’ve finally seemed to settle in a great venue located in Vorhees, NJ. The minor league facility for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, Flyers Skate Zone, has opened it’s doors to CZW and allowed them to conduct events inside a massive skating rink capable of filling up close to 1,000 people. They’ve grown their reach even more by utilizing the power of iPPV. Fans who couldn’t be attendance can now log on to and view the events live as they happen and order past shows to view whenever they want. 
Anyone recognize this guy? Yeah, he made his name in CZW.
Not only was Hyde able to take company into new heights in terms of fan base, but the quality of the CZW product would drastically change forever. Slowly but surely the company that was literally built on the blood of death match favorites such as Matt Tremont, Masada, Brain Damage, and Danny Havoc just to name a few, was slowly showing it’s talent known for their pure wrestling ability. Guys like Adam Cole, Drew Gulak, Sami Callahan, and Alex Colon. It was creating a brand unique in that fans who love blood and violence got their money’s worth and so did fans of standard wrestling.
The rivalry between Sami Callihan and Adam Cole could be considered one of the best feuds in recent memory. Much of it was contested inside the Combat Zone.
I drove here from Long Island in the snow. I didn’t come to see guys wrestle. I don’t even like wrestling that much. It’s just a bunch of [homosexual slur] in tights. I wanna see blood. I wanna see guys beat the shit out of each other. Get that wrestling shit outta here. -Fan last night at CODXV
While CZW began to implement the philosophy of being a company for every wrestling fan, it did have it’s fair share of criticism from the die hard fans who’ve been there since the beginning. Many of the same criticisms they still face to this very day yet it doesn’t seem to phase them. Why is it? It’s simply because those fans are too blind and too stuck in their ways to see the plan, to be something not for one but for everyone. Funny thing is those who complain about the lack of ultra-violence are still the ones who show up to every CZW show. Not just Cage of Death or Tournament of Death but New Heights and Cerebral, some of CZW’s lesser known events. It’s much like the fans of WWE, the majority who complain still tune into Raw and watch the Pay-Per-Views.
One of CZW’s most popular stars AR Fox. Photo Credit: Coons Photography
The growth of CZW continues to expand each month with every show in terms of fans and quality of talent. Not only can you see your favorite hardcore wrestlers like Tremont and the guys from the Nation of Intoxication beat the piss out of each other, but the amount of young, hungry, exciting talent CZW has at it’s disposal is limitless. Guys like AR Fox, who’s matches leaves fans mind blown. Same can be said about Andrew Everett, a young talent who’s abilities in the air is simply a wrestling work of art. Bandido and Azrieal of Murderer’s Row, The Beaver Boys, BLKOUT, Dave and Jake Crist of Oi4K and the Juicy Product all make up a tag division that could rival anything the major wrestling companies put out. Then there’s the CZW World Heavyweight Champion Drew Gulak who is easily in the top 10 of best wrestlers in the United States. Gulak is a wrestler. No flash, no goofy gimmick, no over the top look, just a guy who knows how to wrestle and wrestle better than most on the planet.
CZW is also not afraid to give people what they want. Last night I sat front row and watched Davey Richards perform in what could be one of his final indy appearances before he heads off to bigger things. He and Chris Dickinson set out to do what everyone knew they were going to do, beat the holy hell out of each other. Say what you want about Richards, he wrestled his ass off for that crowd. Dickinson also shared a really touching story the time he met Davey and Davey went out of his way to make sure Dickinson got to where he needed to be or else Dickinson would be screwed out of a lot of money and his wrestling career would have greatly suffered.
Here is Davey Richards kicking Chris Dickinson’s face off last night at Cage of Death XV.
We also saw 5 Dollar Wrestling Star Freight Train, Chikara favorites The Colony take on The Beaver Boys, two top independent stars Chuck Taylor and Anthony Nese wow the crowd just as they do in Reseda, and ECW Legend Tommy Dreamer and CZW Vice President present legendary wrestling photographer Lyle Williams with a plaque to commemorate his career and congratulate him on his retirement.
Perhaps the biggest shock of the night was the appearance of death match icon Sick Nick Mondo. Mondo had not been seen in the wrestling world for the past 10 years. When he ran out to the ring it was as if the crowd had seen someone come back from the dead. The sound was literally deafening. The whole venue shook. Even I, someone who doesn’t even like death matches, was losing my mind along with the rest of the crowd. The whole scene of both death match fans and wrestling fans collectively celebrating the moment was simply surreal. And in that moment I remembered the words DJ told me in the interview, a buffet for all types of wrestling fans. -Erik Vasquez
Here are some pictures from 2008. I was in Philly to see Drake Younger defeat Nick Gage for the CZW World Heavyweight Title. After the event we hit the local bar and I got to hang with some CZW talent:
That’s me being put in a headlock by Drake Younger. Hours before, Younger had just defeated Nick Gage to become the CZW World Heavyweight Champion. Photobomb courtesy of Sami Callihan. Callihan is now in WWE’s developmental program NXT. On his way to being a WWE Superstar. Younger continues to grow as one of the independent circuit’s brightest talents.
Myself and founder of CZW John Zandig. I let him chop me in the chest. Bad idea.
Myself and Pinkie Sanchez. That Summer Pinkie and I hung out a lot as we met through a friend. He helped re-spark my interest in CZW. He currently wrestles on the indy circuit. Miss ya bud.
Myself and Chrissy Rivera. Since this photo I’m proud to call Chrissy a friend and you can regularly see us insulting each other on Twitter. She still is on the scene today and still rocking the CZW banner. I’m proud to say she didn’t get kicked in the face last night. Good job girl!
Here is the full interview with CZW owner DJ Hyde from a few months back.
Here’s an interview with Chrissy Rivera also from a few months back.

Categories: Combat Zone Wrestling, CZW

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