Part Five: Cage of Death
Cage of Death V
December 13, 2003
Team Ultraviolence (John Zandig, Lobo, Ian Knoxx, Wifebeater, Nick Gage, and New Jack)
Hi-V (The Messiah, Nate Hatred, The Backseat Boyz, Adam Flash, and B-Boy)
In 1999, CZW introduced the Cage of Death match, their yearly gimmick match that was used to blow off the big feud in the company at the time. In a company known for ultraviolence, these matches went out of their way to up the ante. Depending on the feud going into the match, the rules of the match will change and more importantly, the structure of the cage will change. Regardless of what you think of the matches and the wrestlers involved, the cage construction is always ambitious and makes for a great spectacle.
It took until the fifth Cage of Death in 2003 for the company to implement War Games rules. The matches that followed would go on to do Dusty proud in terms of ridiculously overbooked matches. This review will be sort of a stream of consciousness because I feel like that is the only true way to do that match any justice. The rules of this particular match are confusing. The wrestlers start on a stage, fight their way across a platform, enter the cage, and then fight their way back to the stage to win. I assume that goes into effect once all of the wrestlers have made their entrance into the match, but that is never made clear.
A wrestler is eliminated from the match when their feet hit the floor, merging Royal Rumble rules with War Games. There’s also a ring full of “one million” thumbtacks that sits underneath the structure that leads from the stage to the cage. Zandig starts the match for his team against Johnny Cashmere, who has covered himself with all sorts of protective gear. Within the first minute of the match, both Cashmere and Zandig are busted open. The match suddenly becomes three-on-one when Trent Acid and Messiah enter the match at the same time, a choice to which no one objects. At this point, the action has made its way into the cage.
B-Boy is the next entrant making the match four-on-one. As I understand it, the entrance order was packed at random instead of each team alternating picks. That seems unfair until New Jack quickly follows behind B-Boy, putting Team Hi-V at a disadvantage to be perfectly honest. New Jack has his fun with B-Boy while Zandig is getting beaten with a baseball bat in the ring.
BUT THEN THE DIRTY DOUBLE CROSS HAPPENS! New Jack turns on Zandig and the odds are, once again, insurmountable. Lobo and Ian Knoxx quickly makes their ways into the match and I don’t think anyone is paying attention to the rules of how wrestlers enter the match anymore. Knoxx throws B-Boy from the structure above into the ring of tacks and then, in one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen, jumps into the ring himself for an elbow drop. Those two aren’t eliminated, but I can’t see how they won’t be the second they leave the tack filled ring.
Nick Gage enters next and starts wrecking house. Adam Flash ignores the platform and gets right into the tack ring with his former tag team partner, Ian Knoxx. By the way, B-Boy was eliminated off camera. Knoxx sees that Trent Acid is trying to escape from the match using the platform and attempts to stop him by climbing up the chain link. As he’s doing that, Flash spears him out of midair into the thousands of thumbtacks.
My understanding of the rules flies out the window when Acid is stopped from escaping by Lobo, who could then escape himself, but decided to go back to the cage, leaving Acid and Flash on the platform. Zandig is eliminated by being pulled out of the tiniest cage door I’ve ever seen by B-Boy. What a mess this match is. How do you win? Is it by eliminating people or is it by reaching the stage first? Is it a points system where each person that makes it to the stage is worth a point? I guess we’ll find out later. Oh, here comes Wifebeater.
The only person that understands the rules less than me is New Jack, who eliminated himself from the match when he jumped from the top of the cage to put the already eliminated Zandig through a table, pretty much accomplishing nothing to help his team in the process. Nate Hatred enters the match, completing both teams. Up on the platform above the ring, Ian Knoxx battles with Trent Acid, but is thrown from about twenty feet in the air through two tables below. The tables explode under Knoxx, who was eliminated in a very scary and dangerous way. It’s at this point that I realize, this is barely a match. It’s just an excuse to watch guys fall off of stuff in increasingly dangerous ways. In quick succession, Gage is thrown from the structure into the tacks, which is then followed by Lobo DVDing Johnny Cashmere and a manager off the top of the cage through what looked like four tables. Lobo looked like he instantly regretted doing that.
A whole bunch of dumb garbage happens in the cage, but over in the ring of tacks, Nick Gage eliminated Trent Acid after hitting a chokebreaker on the ring apron. I feel like I should note, Nick Gage is far and away the best guy in this match. I start laughing hysterically when I notice that someone stapled a plastic bag to Wifebeater’s chest. It just gets better as my suspension of disbelief is completely destroyed by Adam Flash running from the cage, across the structure, and onto the stage like it was nothing, just to go brawl with Zandig. It’s confirmed that Flash scored a point for his team by reaching the stage. Things are tied up when Wifebeater strolls across the platform and onto the stage as well. Wifebeater and Flash battle their way back onto the platform for a sidewalk slam into the ring of tacks. I don’t even care anymore because that was maybe the sixth or seventh most dangerous bump in the match so far.
I was going to stop recapping events because I just can’t anymore, but Nick Gage threw a cactus at Messiah and that was probably the best part of the entire match. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any stupider, Nate Hatred turns on Messiah as the commentary team yells about how “the boss swerved us!” This is awful. Hatred and Gage hug on the platform above the ring, showing us that friendship is the true winner. My opportunity to review the ROH/CZW match seems so far away. I’ve made a mistake in choosing to review these matches.
Star Rating: DUD
Cage of Death VI
December 11, 2004
Team Ca$h (Chri$ Ca$h, J.C. Bailey, Nate Webb, and SeXXXy Eddy)
BLKOUT (Ruckus, Sabian, Eddie Kingston, and Jack Evans)
As it turns out, this match isn’t on the Highspots Network after all, but have no fear, this was a bonus feature on the Wrestling Society X DVD set. I know I’ve seen this match before, but I have no recollection of it. With the stronger level of talent in this COD than we had in the last one, I’m actually looking forward to this.
The rules this time around aren’t anywhere near as confusing. Wrestlers enter the match once a minute and the cage covers two rings as in normal War Games. The match ends when one team climbs to the platform above the cage and retrieves the tag titles from the two handcuffed members of BLKOUT. Eliminations occur when a wrestler touches the floor. Simple enough, right?
The match starts with Eddie Kingston and Nate Webb. I’ve chosen not to go as in depth with this review because this time around the match isn’t as hard to follow or as ridiculous. It’s just a pretty good War Games match fused with a pretty good plunder brawl. Unlike the last match, all eight men enter the match in alternating orders and nothing stupid happens in the process. I forgot how insane Jack Evans was all those years back. The man can flip in ways that I still don’t believe are possible.
The danger level in the match gets taken up a level when JC Bailey dumps thumbtacks all over both ring mats. The match is a hardcore spotfest with constant action for the first half. You get Chris Cash spring boarding himself across both rings one second and Ruckus putting SeXXXy Eddy through a ladder with a top rope falcon arrow the next. The main things that hurts the match as it goes on is just how long it is. These guys fight for over half an hour and it starts to get long in the tooth. They start to slow down as the brutality of the match really begins to take its toll.
Nothing truly stupid happens until SeXXXy Eddy puts a trash can over his head and hits a moonsault off the top of the cage. The impact actually causes the side of the can to split open, which causes Eddy to get stuck in it and allows Ruckus to hit a Tombstone on him while still in the can. The bumps only get more reckless as the match progresses. Eddy is thrown from the ring to the concrete below like a sack of garbage and Jack Evans does what looks like a phoenix splash from the top of the cage onto a chair. Less than a minutes later, Evans is back on top of the cage where this time he is tossed from the top to the concrete below. Evans lands on his upper back and neck in one of the scariest looking bumps I’ve ever seen. Jack was clearly supposed to hit a table, which was out of position.
After that fall, there’s a clear feeling of unease in the building. The commentary team notes that it isn’t worth it anymore and I have to agree. It really feels like these men hate each other with the level of brutality that we’ve been shown. Sabian and Ca$h are both eliminated after a fall from the platform on top of the cage through four tables and to the floor below. This might have been worse than Evans’ fall earlier with Sabian totally ragdolling and only hitting one of the tables before smacking into the floor. I have a feeling that the thumbtacks stuck in the boots of the two men made their balance a little off and threw off the rotation of whatever kind of slam Ca$h was going for.
The match ends in rather anticlimactic fashion when Bailey climbs up to the platform and just takes the belts from the two BLKOUT managers. With all the carnage that preceded it, this felt like far too tame of an ending. While this was a huge upgrade from the previous War Games style Cage of Death, this match was more memorable for how scary the falls were than any of the actual wrestling or storytelling involved.
Star Rating: ***
(For the sake of being a completionist, there was one COD that was contested under War Games rules, but I was unable to get ahold of the footage: Cage of Death VII 12/10/05- The H8 Club (Nick Gage and Justice Pain) and John Zandig defeated The Tough Crazy Bastards (Necro Butcher and Toby Klein) and Joker. I have no review, but I would be remiss to not mention it)
Follow Voices of Wrestling’s War Games Week below:
ROH Death Before Dishonor IV
July 15, 2006
Team ROH (Ace Steel, Adam Pearce, BJ Whitmer, Bryan Danielson, Homicide & Samoa Joe) (w/ JJ Dillon)
Team CZW (Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Eddie Kingston, Nate Webb & Necro Butcher)
When Cage of Death was brought to Ring of Honor, it not only provided what might be the single best COD match, but it also gave a satisfying ending to an all time great feud. Company versus company feuds rarely deliver in the way that you want them to, but this was the outlier. ROH had taken several big losses from CZW at their own shows and this match offered the company known for pure wrestling a chance for revenge in an ultraviolent environment. Little did anyone know going in, but this may very well be the single best War Games match of all time.
This match has much more in common with a traditional War Games match than it does with your usual Cage of Death. While it has the big yellow cage and all sorts of weapons, this match lacks the broken glass and convoluted rules that we’ve come to expect from a Cage of Death. The rules follow the War Games rules completely. Wrestlers can’t be eliminated from the match and the only way to win is by scoring a pinfall or submission once all five members from each team have entered the match. Plus JJ Dillon was there, which is very War Games.
One thing that I love about this match, and the feud as a whole really, is that the CZW fans are given their own section to sit in at the venue, creating an environment where there are two distinct crowds cheering for their promotion of choice. The arena feels hostile, like it’s ready to explode at any minute. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be there. The animosity between the two warring factions, both wrestler and fan alike, was off the charts.
Before the match officially begins, JJ Dillon oversees the coin flip and correctly calls heads for ROH, giving them the initial advantage. Samoa Joe starts for ROH and is at the top of his game here. Joe has never looked more determined or more ready to kick a head in than he does right here. On the other side of the ring is the Ring of Honor turncoat, Claudio Castagnoli (the future Cesaro for those who might not know), who takes the early advantage in the match. Claudio’s calm approach doesn’t last long against the brute force of Samoa Joe. Castagnoli is the first to taste the steel of the cage after Joe wipes him out with a dive, which he then follows up by gleefully punting a garbage can into Claudio’s face. Joe dominates most of the early goings, giving the ROH faithful exactly what they want.
The next person to enter the match is BJ Whitmer, a man who found himself on the end of some pretty severe beatings at the hands of the CZW crew. With the team of BJ and Joe against him, it’s clear the Claudio has begun to regret some of his decisions, but that starts to change once he’s joined by his Kings of Wrestling partner, Chris Hero. The Kings take control of the match by isolating Whitmer in the ring and keeping Joe on the outside. Bryan Danielson enters the match like a house of fire, destroying Hero and Castagnoli for the honor of ROH. Bryan and Joe tear the CZW team to shreds until Danielson pulls off one of the greatest heel acts ever by turning on his future title challenger. Danielson didn’t join the CZW side, he only entered the match for the opportunity to attack Joe when he least expected it. Following the brutal attack on his knee, Joe has to be helped from the ring. Danielson, on the other hand, walks out on his own accord, leaving Whitmer alone in the ring with Hero, Castagnoli, and the newly entered Nate Webb.
Team CZW is in complete control until Adam Pierce comes to the ring, but it is a short time before the numbers game catches up to ROH. The tide is turned even further in the favor of CZW when Necro Butcher enters the match. Necro goes right after the bloodied BJ Whitmer, his future opponent in a no-rope barbed wire match. A glimmer of hope for ROH appears in the form of Ace Steel, who clocks each member of Team CZW with a cowbell, busting open Necro Butcher and Nate Webb in the process. The advantage of a fresh Ace Steel doesn’t last long as the CZW numbers advantage overwhelms the three ROH wrestlers. The beatings become fairly one sided and CZW knows that they’ve got this wrapped up.
Hero grabs a microphone and starts chanting “CZW” over and over, to which the ROH fans respond by trying their damndest to hit him with anything they can throw. His attempt to introduce the final member of the team is stopped by a defiant Steel, who nails Hero in the face with a trash can. Any time the ROH guys try to mount any kind of offense, they’re beaten back down. Hero continues making his announcement following a few hard stomps to Steel and Pierce. The final member of Team CZW is none other than Chris Hero’s hated rival, Eddie Kingston. A loud “Fuck you Eddie” chant rings out, which is then drowned out by the CZW fans chanting “Eddie Eddie Eddie,” which is then, in turn, drowned out by “Homicide” chant. Coming into this event, it was unclear if Homicide was going to turn his back on ROH or join up with them. The fifth mystery slot on the team was filled by Bryan Danielson, but we all saw how that went. In several previous brawls with CZW, it was Homicide that was able to turn the tide of battle in Ring of Honor’s favor. Would he do it once more, or would his differences with ROH management keep him from making the save?
At this point on the match, things are looking pretty dire for ROH. All three men are down. Adam Pierce is bleeding profusely. JJ Dillon watches from outside the cage with his hands over his mouth. Team CZW is just toying with Ring of Honor.
In the ring, things start to get heated between Hero and Kingston, proving that Hero’s choice for his mystery member might not have been the most wise. Just as the two men are about to come to blows, the lights turn red. The Kill Bill sample of the Ironside theme song hits and the crowd erupts. Homicide is here.
Smiling as he gets in the ring with a board in his hand, Homicide goes to work. The Notorious 187 breaks the board, which appropriately has “OUCH” written in it, across Kingston’s head and the uses it to beat back the rest of Team CZW. Necro cuts off Homicide’s momentum with a chair, but that attack is short lived. Homicide scatters some thumbtacks in front of Necro, who tromps through them with his bare feet. BJ Whitmer gets in the ring and catches Necro Butcher with a huge Exploder. Whitmer goes for the very first pin of the match, but Necro kicks out at two.
Homicide takes several forks out of his boots for his partners and now it’s a party. In what was just a short time ago an unwinnable situation, Homicide has turned things around for ROH and made them a threat to CZW again. Team ROH delves into some ultraviolence, stabbing the CZW wrestlers with forks over and over. The huge threat that was Eddie Kingston is now bleeding like a stuck pig, as is Claudio. The match devolves into complete chaos with ROH beating CZW all over their cage. As Whitmer wraps Necro Butcher in barbed wire, Adam Pierce gorilla presses Nate Webb out of the ring into a table, which flips over instead of breaking, sending Webb slamming into the concrete floor instead.
Carnage reigns as CZW begins to mount an offense again. Adam Pierce goes for a pin on Kingston, who kicks out at two. A short time later, the same table that didn’t break earlier survives another hit. Ace Steel attempts a dive to the outside on Eddie Kingston, who moves out of the way, causing Steel to smack into the table. It was set up against the cage and slides back instead of breaking, making Steel taste the concrete as well. Kingston thinks he’s a smart man, but Homicide fixes that with a garbage can to the head. Back in the ring, Pierce hits a spin out slam on Webb, ragdolling him into a pile of thumbtacks. Ever the thinking man, Chris Hero uses a chair to sweep the tacks out of the ring. Homicide proves the third time’s the charm when he puts Kingston through the seemingly unbreakable table with a suplex.
Exhaustion starts to hit the wrestlers and they all begin to slow down. Hero and Homicide battle in the ring. A chair is brought into the exchange by Hero, but it ends up being used against him when Homicide puts him through it with a cutter from the top rope. As Homicide stabs a fork into Hero’s forehead, Nate Webb kicks out of a pin attempt by Pierce at two. The cornucopia of violence continues with Homicide beating guys with a piece of wood and Whitmer hitting Kingston with an Exploder on the outside as highlights. Claudio and Pierce find themselves flying off the side of the cage through two tables at one point. Hero follows that up by moonsaulting off the top of the cage onto several Team ROH members. Getting up quickly, Hero drags Homicide into the ring for a pin, which is broken up by Whitmer.
Another attempt to end the match is made when Whitmer hits a brainbuster into a chair on Hero, but the pin is broken up by a chair shot from Necro Butcher, who is easily the hardest man to put down in this match. Even after a sick suplex onto an open chair from Whitmer and Homicide, Necro Butcher is back on his feet and fighting in a matter of seconds. His tolerance for pain was shown quite well when he was rolling through thumbtacks like it was nothing following the suplex onto the chair. Whitmer and Necro take their fight to the ring apron where they exchange hard punches to the jaw back and forth until Whitmer picks him up and slams them both through a table wrapped in barbed wire on the outside.
The match reaches its crescendo when Homicide brings a barbed wire board into the ring. Nate Webb knocks down Homicide and attempts to hit him with a chair assisted moonsault off the top rope, but Homicide rolls out of the way and lariats the chair into Webb’s face. Homicide gets Webb up for the Cop Killer and slams him down into the barbed wire. Cementing himself as Ring of Honor’s savior, Homicide puns Webb and scores the three count. The building erupts. The final shot was fired and the war was won by ROH.
This was the perfect ending to the perfect interpromotional war. ROH wins the final battle on their home turf, but CZW fans are still able to say that they only were able to do it with the help of Homicide, who shouldn’t have even been in the match. Somehow ROH was both missing two members of their team and at an advantage with Homicide’s inclusion. It was a brilliantly booked work of violent, bloody art that remains my favorite thing that Gabe Sapolsky has ever put together. What make it even better is the way the post match celebration quickly segues into the next feud for Homicide, but that’s a story for another time.
It’s hard to believe that the peak of quality for Ring of Honor, Cage of Death, and War Games might all intersect in the same match, but it does.
Star Rating: *****
Cage of Death IX
December 8, 2007
Team CZW (Danny Havoc, Drake Younger, Necro Butcher and Toby Klein)
Team MBA (Brain Damage, DJ Hyde, Dustin Lee and Scotty Vortekz)
The first thing that stands out about this match is just how much of the ring is covered in various weapons. Until tables and panes of glass start to get broken, it feels like these guys are only wrestling in a quarter of the ring. If you like watching a bunch of guys fighting in confined spaces, this is a match for you. That being said, this match is inferior to the hallway fight scene in Oldboy by quite a wide margin.
The greatest sin of this match is that it’s boring. There’s no room for guys to do anything besides basic brawling with tons of weapons involved. Necro Butcher and a pair of scissors make things slightly more interesting and definitely more bloody. It’s so hard to see what happens in the match that the commentary team missed an elimination happening in the center of the ring.
The grossest spot of the match comes when Drake Younger gets a very prickly cactus stuck into his back. It was stuck in there good because he was walking around with it imbedded into his back for a while. The match really for a while after that with an occasional cool spot. There’s no psychology or much of a story to the match, but it was super cool when Drake Younger hit a DVD on Brain Damage from the top of the cage, through some boards and chairs, to the floor. The match comes to a close when Danny Havoc knocks DJ Hyde off the top of the cage and through a structure of tables, boards, and barbed wire. This could have been a better match than it was, but with the limited space and the large amount of wrestlers involved, they just didn’t have the space for it. As a coronation for Danny Havoc as the next guy, it was kind of lackluster, but he had enough solid moments to make the most of it. Two years later, Havoc would participate in what might be the best American deathmatch ever and most certainly one of the best spectacle matches ever when he took on Sami Callihan at Cage of Death XI. For Danny Havoc, the best was yet to come
Star Rating: **
Cage of Death XII
December 11, 2010
Suicide Kings (Danny Havoc, Devon Moore, Dysfunction and Scotty Vortekz)
Drake Younger and Cult Fiction (Brain Damage, MASADA and tHURTeen)
Ignore what I just said, Danny Havoc was in a very bad match here. I wasn’t following CZW at this point in time, but this match would lead me to believe that 2010 was an incredibly bad year for the company. This match truly feels like a group of backyard wrestlers from a high school were given the chance to main event a show in an elaborately constructed cage. The match begins to improve as it goes on, but the work in the opening minutes was embarrassingly amateurish. We are then shown just how important this match is when Drake Younger eliminates himself rather that face Scotty Vortekz. If you care that little about winning, why would you even agree to enter a dangerous match like this?
This match is perfectly summed up by a single spot. THURTeen goes to the top of the cage for a 450, which everybody gets out of the way of. He clearly smacks into the mat without touching anyone, but they all sell it. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to see a match end.
Star Rating: DUD
Cage of Death XV
December 14, 2013
Nation of Intoxication (Danny Havoc, Devon Moore, Lucky 13 and Sick Nick Mondo)
The Forgotten Ones (Drew Blood, Matt Tremont, Ron Mathis and Rory Mondo)
This match had a trap door made out of chairs attached to a piece of fence that crushed Drew Blood into a wall of barbed wire, so we’re already looking at a better match than the one from 2010. Then a mystery box opened above the ring, filling the canvas with thumbtacks, shards of glass, and Legos. This is the kind of nonsense I can get behind. Having a Temple of Doom style Cage of Death is alright with me.
From a work rate perspective, this match is a vast improvement from the last time CZW did a War Games style COD. The three men that were in the dud before, Havoc, Moore, and Lucky 13, all improved over the three year gap. The build of the match feels like it was actually thought out as opposed to trying to put some wrestling into a stunt show. The insane bumps are there, but they feel more organic.
Obviously, the biggest pop of the match comes when Sick Nick Mondo makes his surprise return to help the Nation of Intoxication pull out the win. Mondo came back to make sure that Rory’s team lost, to put an end to the monster he inadvertently created. Nick Mondo left the business for a reason and he is haunted by his past every time Rory takes part in a match like this. This match is more than your usual Cage of Death. In the post-match it morphs into this metaphor for dealing with the legacy you leave behind. Rory “retires” and rides off into the sunset with his inspiration, while Nick Mondo gets to rest easier at night with one less person mutilating their body in his name out in the world. For a more in depth look at this match and Nick Mondo’s career as a whole, I can recommend checking out the hour long documentary The Trade, which you can currently watch if you have the Amazon Prime gimmick.
For as varied as this match is in terms of tone, it never falls apart. The brutality of the spots, the comedy from the absurdity of the contraptions, and the emotional ending all work. The storytelling was incredibly ambitious and these eight men put together a great match.
Star Rating: ****
Cage of Death XVIII
December 10, 2016
Devon Moore, Drew Blood, Dale Patricks & Josh Crane
Matt Tremont, Joey Janela, Jeff Cannonball & Conor Claxton
Outside of the ROH match, this is the Cage of Death that most feels like a War Games match. There are no eliminations before all eight men are entered into the match, which really helps with that feel, but the brutality of the wrestler’s actions is what gives it the authentic feeling. This feud between Devon Moore’s Notorious Inc and Team CZW boils over here and these two teams beat the hell out of each other. The other great thing about this match was that the big falls from the cage were really cool stunts, but they never felt overly dangerous like they did in the early days of COD. The terrible in-ring work of the early days has also been left behind as CZW and deathmatch wrestling as a whole has started to catch up to the working standard that we’ve seen form in the past several years of independent wrestling.
While I enjoyed this match, I do have two major complaints. The second half of the match dragged pretty badly. I understand that these guys were tired, especially from blood loss, but there was a lot of what felt like stalling for no reason. My other complaint is how overbooked the finish felt. Janela was the last man standing, facing off against Moore. Suddenly all of the eliminated members of Notorious Inc stormed the ring and beat down Joey. Technically this wasn’t against the rules, so the referee couldn’t stop it. Then Matt Tremont came to Janela’s rescue… only to turn on him a minute later. This oddly drawn out heel turn didn’t work for me and really sucked out any heat that the finish of the match had.
After a very strong first half, this match was dragged down pretty hard by the second half. All the work by the wrestlers was good, the structure of the match just deliver in the same way. I suppose the overbooked finish helps add to the Dusty Rhodes authenticity of it all though.