For 15 years, CZW has been promoting its unique brand of wrestling that has been described as "like nothing else." Once a year, Combat Zone Wrestling lives up to its name and truly becomes a Combat Zone. Each year, the world's top Ultraviolent Athletes converge to present one of CZW's calling card events... THE Tournament of Death! This here is my take on the bloodiest afternoon in professional wrestling
It is still hard to believe that CZW is 15 years old. I can still remember as a kid in high school watching Wifebeater wielding a weedwacker in the middle of the ring. That was my first glimpse of the world of CZW and more importantly the world of Ultraviolence. It was at that moment that I had to catch CZW every Friday night (I believe that is when it aired at least). It was also at that moment that I was intrigued by the world of Ultraviolent Wrestling.
I'll admit, for a long time I never fully understood ultraviolence. I never understood why a grown man would put his body through such punishment. I was like many of the CZW detractors in that way. But over time, I started to become a fan of that style of wrestling. No matter my feelings on the genre, I always respected what those men (and sometimes women) did. They were (and are for that matter) the modern day gladiators. These men were/are truly the toughest men this sport have ever seen. They knowingly walk into a match knowing that they will spill their blood and risk permanent damage all to prove just how tough they truly are. It takes a very special individual to knowingly go through that hell.
Some call the men who compete in the Tournament of Death "garbage wrestlers." These same detractors claim that these men are "untrained" and "untalented." Those terms cannot be further from the truth. Those ideas come from the select few so-called "promoters" who hire poorly trained talent to begin with and let them into a deathmatch. Those same "promoters" will also hire poorly trained talent for all styles of wrestling. I've always felt it was unfair to judge CZW based on those other groups.
This year's tournament features the premiere Deathmatch Wrestlers from all across the globe. These men are anything but "garbage," "untrained," or "untalented." Starting off on the CZW side of this card, Danny Havoc was part of the same graduation class as Drew Gulak. Havoc has traveled across the world on someone else's dime, because people want to see this man in action. Then there is Matt Tremont, who has had to earn everything he now has. It surely wasn't an easy road for Tremont to get to CZW. Then there is the epitome of hybrid wrestling, Lucky 13. He is a known personal trainer on top of being one of the most versatile athletes in the Combat Zone today. Lucky can wrestle any style of wrestling and then head onto the softball diamond afterwards! Then there is the most touted man in Deathmatch Wrestling, MASADA. I don't think there is a title he hasn't won. Oh... Remember how he hadn't been pinned in CZW for nearly two years? For just a shade under 16 months, MASADA held the CZW World Championship and defended it against the most eclectic group of wrestlers. This next part may be edited out... But whatever... MASADA was trained by Shawn Michaels and was apart of the same class that produced Bryan Danielson (now known as Daniel Bryan).
On the Big Japan Wrestling side of the card you have Jun Kasai, Jaki Numazawa, and Masashi Takeda. These men embody BJW. For those that know anything about Japanese Wrestling, they know the time and dues these men are forced to put in before ever stepping foot into a wrestling ring. These men lived and trained in the dojos of Japan. These men would be seen carrying the bags of visiting wrestlers. These men, even to this day, put up the ring and tear down the ring. Much like the overall Japanese culture, these men were taught to respect the business of professional wrestling. Once they understood that respect, then and only then could they be worthy of performing in front of thousands. Then it's a whole new learning process before they are worthy of representing BJW on the international stage.
Then there is Aero Boy representing Chilanga Mask. This man may be one of the less touted stars in the event. However, Aero Boy has quickly made a name for himself by just being himself. Back in January, many fans of CZW asked who? Who is Aero Boy? After they asked, when? When is Aero Boy returning?
These men are garbage wrestlers, right?
These men wear their scars as badges of honor. Each scar has a war story behind it. And in just under a week's time, these men will have even more stories to tell.
To be honest, they may not have many more stories to tell after June 14th. For guys like Jun Kasai and Jaki Numazawa, they are in the twilight of their careers. While for the others, it is becoming increasingly harder to showcase their unique brand of wrestling.
Who can forget Tournament of Death 8? It was at that event where Tournament of Death nearly lived up to its name. Nick Gage nearly lost his life while competing in a 200 Light Tubes Match. Gage had to be airlifted to the nearest medical facility for treatment, at which point he lost consciousness for a brief period of time. It was by far the scariest moment ever captured by CZW cameras. But thank god for the top-notch staff that CZW employs, because Nick Gage was not taken before his time.
Incidents like that force lawmakers to get involved. Over the last few years, laws governing combat sports have become increasingly strict. I think all will agree that some of these changes have been for the better as it looks out for the health and well being of the competitors. Every time a law is altered, CZW has conformed to the change. Unlike many other companies that attempt to market ultraviolence, CZW takes seriously its competitors and makes them go through a series of blood test to be sure they are fit to compete. That is why last year we saw Matt Tremont not compete (the beginning to his tumultuous year), in fact it was a blessing in disquise as a medical issue arose and was treated properly. Despite all the preventative measures CZW Officials take, the governing bodies still (unfairly) ask for more and more changes. With these changes come additional costs, whether it is to simply cover a bag of hot dog rolls or pay more in taxes. The mid-June afternoon of violence is quickly becoming something of the past, not by the choice of CZW Officials.
With each passing year, the end of the ultraviolent tradition looms in the back of the minds of all involved. If there is any year not to miss out, it is this year. This is quite possibly the most anticipated Tournament of Death in history. For the first time, the world's top ultraviolent promotions (CZW and BJW) send their best warriors into battle in the hopes of achieving dominance in deathmatch wrestling. Only one time in the history of this tournament has the trophy left the North American continent. What a coup it would be for one of the BJW stars to take the trophy back to Japan. There's also the possibility that the trophy could travel south of the border for the first time in history as well. No matter who wins, the odds are in favor of this being the most historic TOD in history.
For me personally, this will be the fourth TOD I get to call... Honestly, I am more excited about this year's than any other year. Last call or not for TOD, this is the one you CANNOT MISS!
Get your tickets now (only available online until tomorrow, remaining tickets will be made available at the front gate), pack your car early, because this event has the makings of the biggest TOD in history. I'll see everyone Saturday, rain or shine, at the Ultraviolent Underground.