CZW: Aerial Assault

 

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DON'T JUDGE A DVD BY ITS COVER

Combat Zone Wrestling: Aerial Assault

Review by Mike Rickard II

When Derek Burgan told me he was sending me a DVD to review, I knew my hours of endless dedication to the Internet Wrestling Community had paid off. Then I opened the mailing envelope and felt like Charlie Brown on Halloween; Combat Zone Wrestling: Aerial Assault??? WTF? I looked at the DVD case. It was worse than I imagined. Ultraviolence! Warning: Graphic Violence and Explicit Language. The last thing I wanted to review was a garbage wrestling DVD.

Let me start by saying that I have a love/hate relationship with garbage wrestling. Like car accidents, I find myself repulsed yet strangely compelled to look at garbage matches when I come across them. It’s not that I think pro wrestling is above bloodbaths (just watch any match featuring Ed “the Sheik” Farhat and you’ll see some old school extreme action) but I think there should be more to the world of professional wrestling than how many thumbtacks you can fall on or how many light fixtures you can get powerbombed through. While Ric Flair may have underestimated Mick “Look at Me” Foley’s abilities as an entertainer, there is definitely something to the comments Flair made in To Be the Man (read my review HERE) about Foley being a glorified stuntman.

If only Britney Spears' reality show
came with a warning this clear.

After nearly thirty years watching wrestling, I know better than to think that there is anything even remotely resembling class in pro wrestling. Still, there is something about garbage wrestling that borders more on a sadomasochistic relationship than a staged athletic event. The audience derives its pleasure from watching two performers see how much pain they can take as the bar for destruction gets higher and higher. Exploding rings, barbwire ring ropes, and fiery baseball bats wrapped with wire make many matches look like deleted scenes from The Passion of the Christ. To make matters worse, garbage matches (like hardcore matches) more times than not end up being a series of clichéd spots that get old real quick. The fact that wrestlers are taking literal beatings that are certain to shorten their careers (oftentimes at chump change rates) just makes me dislike the genre even more.

So with visions of exploding rings dancing through my head, I popped in the DVD. I was impressed with the DVD’s menu. There was nothing amateurish about it and I decided to test the proverbial water by watching a CZW video. The video (set to what some kids are calling music these days) was a lovely montage of moonsaults, powerbombs, and wrestlers wielding more hardware than what you’d find at Home Depot (which judging by the pay of most indie wrestlers is where you’re likely to find them working when they’re not wrestling). Throughout the crunching pseudo-metal music was the refrain C-Z-W, a catchy ditty to be sure (I’d give it an 8.5, it’s got a good beat and you can mosh to it). Hardcore. Extreme action. CZW. All of this sounded familiar but like our friends at C.S.I. in the first act, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Actually, even Inspector Clouseau could piece this one together.

Where's the money-shots menu option?

The video began with announcer Eric Gargiulo standing at ringside looking for co-host John House. Gargiulo does an amusing amalgamation of a poor man’s Joey Styles and Gorilla Monsoon as House sneaks up behind him wielding a fluorescent light tube. House (looking like a fan dressed up as Tazz) swings back to level Gargiulo but instead hits the wall behind him, scattering glass everywhere. Gargiulo and House do a good job of putting a hardcore spin on the classic chemistry of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan. It’s a little cheesy but it’s a fun update reminiscent of Star Trek: the Next Generation as opposed to Godzilla.

"Shhh, I'm hunting wabbits!"

Things didn’t appear to be as bad as I thought they might be so I tuned in to the first match. Sonjay Dutt vs. Chris Cash. I’d heard of Dutt and remembered reading an interview with him in Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter so I was anxious to see if he lived up to the hype. I wasn’t disappointed. Both wrestlers executed move after move of high-flying action. Even though I didn’t know who either wrestler was, I quickly got lost in the match. Both guys put on a good show and Dutt’s agility is unbelievable. The match climaxed when both wrestlers jumped onto the light rigging over the ring and Dutt kicked Cash off, following up with an elbowdrop. Dutt followed up with a Phoenix Splash for the pinfall. Good match with surprisingly good commentary from Gargiulo and House. While Gargiulo and House rip off Styles and Tazz respectively, it’s better than ripping off Michael Cole and Tony Schiavone. The only complaint I had about the match was that there was no psychology to the match. Both guys kept executing one amazing move after another with almost no selling. Still, both guys executed the moves smoothly and I was so caught up in the match that I barely noticed this flaw.

Go-Go-Gadget Arms!

Jodie Fleisch vs. Jonny Storm- “Best of the Best” Round 2. Both wrestlers are from the U.K. and you could tell that they’ve worked together before. They applied hold after hold flawlessly and put the match together like a high-speed puzzle. The match was the perfect combination of highflying moves combined with brawling in and out of the ring. Despite the incredible number of high spots, there were no blown spots. After getting pulverized for most of the match, Fleisch delivered a 720 DDT and got the pinfall win.

Trent Acid vs. Ruckus. The announcers set up the match nicely by reporting that Acid is defending his “World” Jr. Heavyweight Title (let’s face it, you could have two guys wrestling in a two car garage and they’d call the belt a World belt) and that he’s been unpinned in singles action for 14 months. Looking at Ruckus, he looks more like a candidate for NBC’s The Biggest Loser but the guy somehow moves like a cruiserweight. Ruckus has his work cut out for him with Johnny Kashmir at ringside providing interference for Acid, choking Ruckus with a towel. Throughout the match, commentator John House mocks Ruckus’ weight. Acid dominates the match with Kashmir blasting Ruckus with a chair right in front of referee Brian Logan. Somehow, Ruckus mounts a comeback and lays into Acid with roundhouse kicks. Ruckus looks blown up and for a minute, I wonder if he’s going to have a heart attack. The match continues back and forth until Logan sees enough Kashmir interference and orders Kashmir out of the match. Acid then attacks Logan but Logan chops him and Kashmir and in one of the most bizarre ref spots ever, does a dance and Fargo strut. Wrestler Ric Blaine shows up and attacks Kashmir and they begin brawling. Acid then hits the Yakuza kick on Logan and Ruckus, laying both out. He grabs the mic and says he’s winner by knock out and proceeds to leave until he sees Sonjay Dutt blocking his exit. Chris Cash enters the ring and delivers the Cash Flow. Dutt and Cash begin brawling with each other. As the chaos continues, Ruckus lands a spinning DDT on Acid, begins climbing the ropes, and in one of the worst bits of camera editing ever, the next thing we see is Ruckus pinning Acid.

Gene Simmons looks great for his age.

Ultraviolent Tournament of Death Match: “Homeless” Jimmy vs. “Sick” Nick Mondo- You have to give major props to a promotion that goes with a gimmick like “Homeless” Jimmy. Even the announcers get into the gimmick when they point out that Homeless Jimmy has the advantage due to it raining (this match takes place outdoors) and he’s used to living in the rain. It reminds me of this crazy indie promotion from the early 90’s that had outrageous gimmicks like a wrestler named the Abortionist and a KKK guy. Nothing all that special about this hardcore match as both men brawl, use barbed wire, a shutter, and other weaponry before proceeding to the top of a Ryder rental truck for the obligatory holy shit spot. Jimmy and Mondo brawl atop the truck, teasing that they’re going to knock each other off the top. Mondo proves that it’s better to be Ryder than wrong as he delivers an Assault Driver on Jimmy, knocking him through a series of light fixtures arranged for maximum destruction before getting the pinfall. CZW chants fill the air as the audience shows their appreciation for both men.

                              HO...                                                ...LY                                                     SHIT!!!

The DVD was a pleasant surprise to me. The action and workrate in the first three matches was top notch. The wrestlers told a story in each match (and the announcers filled in the rest of the details) and the wrestling was as good as you’ll find just about anywhere. The fans were definitely into the product and it helped the show a bit as well. Unlike Ring of Honor DVD’s the sound was very good and for the most part the production values were more than you might expect for an indie promotion. In one of the biggest surprises, I found the commentary to be very good and a lot of fun. While Eric Gargiulo and John House are clearing aping Joey Styles and Tazz, they do a good job announcing. There’s nothing wrong with imitating someone’s work as you develop your own style (comic book artists such as John Byrne routinely ripped off Neal Adam’s style until they developed their own). The chemistry between Gargiulo and House is good and they add a sense of fun to the matches. In another good move, they have segments that introduce each match so fans can get an idea what is going on with the wrestlers involved in each match. I must admit that this product was nothing what I expected and that this DVD definitely has sparked some interest in Combat Zone Wrestling. I definitely plan on checking them out.

That’s not to say that this is a perfect product. First off, the graphic violence and explicit language warning is a joke. While there is a lot of action (and a little blood in the last match), anyone thinking they’re getting a Mass Transit/New Jack level of violence will be disappointed. The language and violence are closer to PG than PG-13. Second, whoever is doing the video editing needs to be shot. This DVD has some of the strangest editing I’ve ever soon. Rather than flowing smoothly from one shot to another, the matches oftentimes jump from one shot to another, momentarily cutting off the action. This is demonstrated during the Ruckus/Acid match when Ruckus goes to the top rope and the next shot is of Ruckus pinning Acid. There’s no excuse for this, even in an indie promotion. Overall the production values are quite good but the editing needs to be fixed. The last significant problem with this product is that the DVD contains but four matches. It’s priced at $12.00 and frankly, I can see a lot of people having a problem dropping twelve bucks for just four matches. Combat Zone Wrestling really needs to reconsider their pricing if they want to sell more DVD’s.

Overall, the product is a mixed bag. The wrestling is very good and the production values (with the exception I mentioned) are impressive. It’s not garbage wrestling (which is a good thing to me but the way the DVD is labeled may confuse some fans) and you can check out some great indie stars. The downside is the price of the DVD given the fact that there are just four matches. It’s definitely worth picking up if you can find it somewhere cheap such as Wal-Mart.

Click HERE to purchase Combat Zone Wrestling: Aerial Assault.



Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.