To any outsider, independent wrestling is just developmental for WWE or AEW. A real fan will tell you that independent wrestling is an art form that many try to perfect, but few do it right. It is unlike anything you will see on television and that is what makes it special. In today’s industry, you can’t throw a stone without hitting an independent wrestling company. There are however certain names that have stood above the rest over the years. One such name is Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW)
A Brief History of Combat Zone Wrestling
CZW was born in a simpler time, way back in 1998, by John Zandig in Philadelphia. Its goal was to create a company that filled a specific need. While ECW was still running at the time, the writing was on the wall, the end of ECW was right around the corner and Zandig wanted to keep hardcore wrestling alive with CZW being dubbed “Ultraviolent”. Essentially, he did not want the end of ECW to spell the end of deathmatches, and boy did he ever achieve that.
However, what needs to be remembered here is that CZW was never strictly deathmatches. It may be what most people think of when they hear those letters, but they have always been much more than that. They have always featured high flying, strong style, technical and comedy wrestling. If there is a form of wrestling out there, CZW did it and they did it with style.
This company that started with Zandig, five students, and a trainer grew to massive heights over the years and has forged many of the careers you see now. Names like Mia Yim, Swerve Strickland, Drew Gulak, Sami Callihan, Eddie Kingston, Mercedes Martinez, Nick Gage, The Briscoes, Jon Moxley, Adam Cole (Bay Bay) and so many others have come through the Combat Zone and gone on to have outstanding careers after their time in Combat Zone Wrestling.
The Renaissance of Tradition
CZW may not have been on your mind since before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. You may think that their last show was in March of 2020, headlined by current NXT star Joe Gacy. Fast forward to October of 2021. It was time for a triumphant return to the squared circle and to the world of independent wrestling. It was time for the Renaissance of Tradition.
The show’s main event was Griffin McCoy, who fans will remember from Young Dumb and Broke, vs. one of the best wrestlers on the independent scene, Fred Yehi. It was a great way to get eyes on the product and remind fans who CZW was, but really, the card was stacked top to bottom. There were guys from CZW’s past as well as people who had been growing their name on the independent scene for a while. This was truly a kickoff to the new vision of the Combat Zone and it would only get better as the months moved on.
They finished out 2021 with a couple more shows coming out of their studio in Blackwood, New Jersey. These shows did a great job introducing new characters, reintroducing returning wrestlers, and building up storylines. To them, wrestling is as much about the feuds and the stories as it is the matches themselves and the first few shows did a phenomenal job reminding fans what wrestling should be and what the new vision of CZW is going to be.
Starting in January of 2022, they added a second monthly show to their schedule. The first weekend of every month, the roster heads down to Havre de Grace, Maryland and presents CZW Limelight. Maryland is uncharted territory for the company, but unlike New Jersey which is littered with independent promotions, there are only a few other wrestling options in the state which brings a huge opportunity to their doorstep. Not only do two shows per month give more opportunity to everyone on the roster, but it gives more time to build and develop stories and characters. Not to mention the fact that the company is now being exposed to a brand new audience.
What’s Next for CZW?
One thing that long-time fans will notice is that CZW has not brought back the deathmatch style that so many associate with the company. Have no fear you deathmatch fans, Ultraviolent Underground (UVU) will be returning in the near future. The main difference is that UVU will now be a separate brand of the company. Attending some of the shows since the return of CZW, it is great to see fans that include families with their children. This shows that the company has plans to make an effort to reach new and old fans alike. Having the brands broken up makes the question of “can I bring my kids to this” a little less difficult to answer. There is even a four-year-old girl who can be heard cheering and booing louder than anyone and can always be seen hanging out with the wrestlers during intermission and after the shows. She is clearly a huge fan and the locker room has taken her in as one of their own.
So there you have it, folks, the Combat Zone is not dead. Not by a long shot actually. They have returned in a strong way adding notable names such as Rich Swann and Lince Dorado to their roster of newer and returning wrestlers such as The Rep (Nate Wallace and Dave McCall), Rayo, CMD (Desean Pratt and Boom Harden), Action Andretti, Miami Mike Walker, Prolific (Tyree Taylor, Marcus Marquee and Isaiah Wolf) Griffin McCoy, Eran Ashe, Vinny Talotta, Fred Yehi and many more. They have also begun rebuilding the women’s division with names like Ruthless Lala, Zoey Skye, and Trish Adora. I highly recommend making the trip to Blackwood and/or Havre de Grace so you can experience the Renaissance of Tradition first hand why Combat Zone Wrestling is like nothing else!
Keep up with all things Combat Zone Wrestling on their website and social media. Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world. As well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.