PHILADELPHIA — Combat Zone Wrestling isn’t as well known in Canada as some other promotions, and those who have heard of it are probably only aware of its reputation for death matches and ultra-violence. While the company’s “Strictly CZW” event on Saturday night won’t entirely refute that reputation, there was a wide range of other action that proves it’s more than just a one-trick pony.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the CZW World Heavyweight Championship match in which Chris Hero defended against his frequent tag team partner, Claudio Castagnoli. This match started off with some solid chain wrestling, then escalated into some more heavy hitting, but never degraded in terms of technical quality. Both men used various innovative offensive moves, with enough counters and reversals and pinfall attempts to make it a real nail-biter. The end came when Claudio charged Hero but ran into a huge superkick followed by a standing moonsault. A three-count later, and this excellent athletic contest came to an end.

CZW owner John Zandig bleeds by example. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

There were a few other examples of this, including a scramble match featuring a half dozen Canadian wrestlers from Montreal’s IWS and Mississauga’s UWA Hardcore promotion, and a decent contest between B-Boy and Derek Frazier which had its fair share of nifty maneuvers.

On the other side of the spectrum, though, there was a ton of hardcore violence on the show as well. The main event saw the faction known as the BLK Out take on the Forefathers of CZW, including owner John Zandig, LOBO, and Nick Gage. This match was an all out war of attrition. Barbed wire, chairs, panes of glass, and thumbtacks were used with reckless abandon both in the ring, in the stands, and all around the entire building. The Canadians got involved, helping the BLK Out destroy and humiliate Zandig by busting him open in the middle of the ring and then cutting off his blood-soaked hair.

Other extreme matches were a three-way ladder match that had more than its fair share of aerial spots including a double-foot stomp from the top of a 15-foot ladder onto someone’s face, and a Tables, Chairs, and Kaos match in which Kevin Steen defended his Iron Man title against three other men. Highlights of that match included cult favourite Necro Butcher smashing chair after chair over the head and body of DJ Hyde, eventually burying him in a pile of metal, a huge brawl on the floor that had fans scrambling for safety, and a finish that had BJ Whitmer from Ring of Honor (the two companies are engaged in an interpromotional feud) interfere, only to get powerbomb-piledriven through a table and onto a pile of thumbtacks. Oh my God, indeed.

With such a broad range of wrestling on one card, it’s unfortunate that CZW is frequently labeled as a “garbage wrestling” promotion and nothing more. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there should be enough there to satisfy all types of wrestling fans, if only they’d give it a try.


“Bloodthirsty” Bob Kapur has a new favourite wrestler in the Necro Butcher, because you can’t help buy like a guy whose theme song is “Freebird.”