DECEMBER 12, 2009

Reviewed by Warren Hayes (VOW Author Page / Host of The Mr. Warren Hayes Show – YouTube, Apple, Spotify)

Gifted by Kelly Harrass (VOW Author Page / Jumping Bomb Audio

So, Christmas at my place is a rollercoaster of chaos and high stakes. I’m the one in charge of designing and cooking up the Christmas Day feast for this massive, loud bunch of Irish and French Canadians who don’t mess around when it comes to food. It demands preparation, concentration, knowledge of the tools at your disposal, flawless execution and throwing yourself completely at the mercy of your know-how to satisfy your ravenous crowd.

It’s really like deathmatch wrestling, frankly, when you think about it.

My Secret Santa gift was the Sami Callihan vs. Danny Havoc Cage of Death match from CZW Cage of Death XI, all the way back in 2009. Surprisingly, I’d never seen it before, even though it’s hailed as one of the best Cage of Death matches ever, up there with the venerable CZW vs ROH from 2006. It’s a match that brings together two virtuosos of the genre in a match of unbelievable spots and glorious ultraviolence.

The vibe of this match hits you right away when you check out the Cage of Death itself. Picture a half-baked murder escape room, like someone trying to be Jigsaw on a budget. Two sides are legit cage walls, and the other two sides have barbed wire grids with a few glass panes thrown in. There’s this wobbly platform up top that looks like it’ll give way at any moment. There are more glass panes in the ring and on the platform. There are tables ready to be deployed. But don’t let my description fool you: the jankiness of this setup is absolutely in step with what’s going to happen. An environment that acts like a third character in this challenge.

Apparently, this all came into play because CallIhan kidnapped Havoc and attempted to torture him but a mystery person freed Havoc from his clutches. But this story is absolutely secondary to the devastation they put themselves through. Early on, CallIhan gets tossed into the barbed wire grid, right where there’s a glass pane. But the glass doesn’t shatter. So, of course, Havoc’s body splashes CallIhan. The glass still doesn’t break. So finally, Havoc lifts up CallIhan who immediately STO’s him into the glass, which finally shatters and the crowd goes nuts. The guys dangle in the barbed wire for a while, trying to get themselves freed. Tremendous stuff. CallIhan even gets his arm patched up with a towel and some duct tape.

The violence just keeps escalating of course and the live crowd is eating it up. CallIhan and Havoc are putting their bodies through unprecedented hell. But here’s the thing that hits differently in 2023. Despite the tons of shattered glass making the ring look like a street after a snowfall, the long falls from the rickety bridge, and electrocutions from the electric barbed wire, nothing made me shudder more than the unprotected chair shots. Both guys were swinging for the fences and landing flush on the dome. I could feel my body wince with each strike. With the knowledge we’ve accrued about head trauma in sports, this felt too real, too misguided, too reckless. Yes, this match was about 2 years removed from Chris Benoit, but sometimes it takes a while to turn a tanker around and get pro wrestlers to fully understand the gravity of their actions. Crazy how we’ve become smarter about this stuff.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this was an incredible spectacle of brutality and violence which comes to an end when CallIhan plunges Havoc and himself through the wobbly structure and through a table on the mat for the win. Havoc is an absolute maestro and CallIhan shines by his fearlessness. In fact, he even credits Havoc for putting him on the map with this performance, marking it as the moment he started getting bookings from everywhere. Havoc may have been taken from us too soon, but what glorious ways we have to remember him. I’m so glad I got to watch it. Thank you, Santa, I’m all jacked up. My turkey this year doesn’t stand a chance. ****1/2