Combat Zone Wrestling

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Combat Zone Wrestling
StyleHardcore wrestling
HeadquartersBlackwood, New Jersey
Founder(s)John Zandig
SisterMaven Bentley Association
Women Superstars United

Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) is an American independent professional wrestling promotion founded in 1999 by John Zandig. Commonly associated with the 2000s hardcore wrestling genre, early CZW shows showcased a brand of wrestling dubbed by the promotion as "ultraviolence". Early CZW matches featured items such as ladders, tables, steel folding chairs, thumbtacks, barbed wire-covered baseball bats, weed whackers, light tubes, and panes of glass. The promotion filled a niche for hardcore wrestling fans that had been left open by the folding of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in 2001.

In 2009, CZW's founder John Zandig sold the promotion to CZW wrestler D. J. Hyde. Although hardcore wrestling continued to be a prominent part of CZW shows, under Hyde the frequency of hardcore matches would gradually decrease. By the start of the 2010s, CZW had diversified its image by mixing its roster of homegrown wrestlers with international talent and began to showcase additional styles of wrestling. This diversity of styles was emphasized by CZW's two annual tournaments, Tournament of Death, which showcased the "ultraviolent" style, and Best of the Best, which featured technical and high flying wrestlers. Throughout the 2010s, CZW was part of the Triangle of Unity (also known as the Triangle of Ultraviolence) alliance with Japanese promotion Big Japan Pro Wrestling and German promotion Westside Xtreme Wrestling.[3] In 2016, CZW was covered by Vice Media in the documentary Bloodlust: Tournament of Death.[4][5][6][7]

After a long hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, CZW returned to promoting events in 2021. Since its return, CZW has stopped holding hardcore matches, apart from their annual Tournament of Death, and produced nonstop, hard-hitting action of wrestling matches. Shows are currently held in Blackwood, NJ and Havre de Grace, Maryland, along with returning across various locations on the east coast.


John Zandig ownership[edit]

Pro Wrestling Academy[edit]

Combat Zone Wrestling's Pro Wrestling Academy was founded in New Jersey by John Zandig in 1998. After training the classes alone, Zandig enlisted the help of Jon Dahmer, who helped train with Zandig for the next three classes. The first student trained was Lobo, who worked with Zandig before their wrestling careers. Nick Gage and Justice Pain were the next two students to be trained by Zandig. The fourth student and fifth student trained was TCK and Ric Blade. The academy relocated to The 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and briefly merged with the Chikara Wrestle Factory. Shortly after the second class, the Academy separated from the Chikara Wrestle Factory and moved its operation back to New Jersey, then back to Philadelphia, and now to Blackwood, New Jersey.[8] Previously, Drew Gulak was the head trainer of the academy, with members of the CZW locker room joining them every session.

Japan connection[edit]

Early 2000 saw CZW establish a connection with the death match wrestling orientated company Big Japan Pro Wrestling, credited to have popularized the death match wrestling style that CZW continued to emphasize in the United States. Both promotions exchanged talent throughout 2000 and 2001 and engaged in a "CZW vs BJW" storyline. The "CZW Warriors" in BJW included Wifebeater, Nick Gage, Trent Acid, Justice Pain, Johnny Kashmere, Nate Hatred, Ruckus, Nick Berk, as well as John Zandig as the leader.[9]

In 2001 in Japan, the Wifebeater and Ryuji Yamakawa faced off in a match which ended Yamakawa's career after the Wifebeater chokensteined him off the ring apron through a table set up on the outside. In a 'shoot interview' Wifebeater stated communication difficulties between the two were a major factor which led to the incident. Wifebeater pleaded that they should not execute the manoeuvre, though the move went ahead and saw Yamakawa's head slam against the concrete. Both wrestlers have stated that it was half of each other's fault when Yamakawa did not take the move as it should be performed; back first, though some even blame the Japanese tables, which are smaller, more sturdy and harder to break, the table in this incident did not break and simply slipped from underneath of Yamakawa thus only connecting with his legs, causing his head to take the impact on the concrete.[10]

The reason for the collapse of the inter-promotional deal is uncertain. After a controversial exploding panes of glass match, between Zandig and Mitsuhiro Matsunaga in Japan, 2001, Zandig left BJW with the BJW death match title belt. Many wrestlers of both promotions at the time were confused about the collapse between the two.[10]

Champs Arena, attempt at pay-per-view, and Fake You TV[edit]

In February 2000, the company would relocate from their home arena in Mantua Township, New Jersey, to Champs Soccer Arena, in Sewell, New Jersey. They would remain there for two years until the state of New Jersey banned the use of ultraviolent weapons (such as glass, barbed wire, and fire) in wrestling. To counteract the ban, CZW branched out from New Jersey to Delaware, where they would host their more ultraviolent shows throughout the rest of the company's existence.

On June 25, 2000 CZW was scheduled to host a Ppy-par-view event, which was to be headlined by Terry Funk and Atsushi Onita in an explosion match in a rematch of their FMW 4th Anniversary Show encounter. However, the match fell through when Onita cancelled and in its place Nick Gage and the Wifebeater performed in the first ever 200 light tubes match in the United States. The show was later called 'They Said it Couldn't be Done'.[11]

In 2001 WGTW-48 began broadcasting CZW footage under the title Fake You TV, which was available in many northeastern states in the US. The Show lasted until June 2004[12]

Viking Hall debut and the "Indy Wars"[edit]

Anticipating their Cage Of Death 3 (COD) show at the end of 2001, the company needed a bigger venue and made their debut in the ECW Arena. The venue was the first sellout in the building since the era of ECW, and hundreds were turned away from the biggest show in CZW's history.[13]

At that time several wrestling promotions were competing for the Northeast fan base that had been left behind by ECW. In what was later known as the "Indy Wars", CZW, XPW, and 3PW all competed for control of the ECW Arena. XPW were given the lease to the arena in late 2002 after Rob Black offered around $60,000. On December 12, 2002, as part of a triple-header of wrestling in Philadelphia Ring of Honor ran shows in conjunction with CZW and 3PW in what was to be the latter two promotions last events in the arena. During CZW's event, Zandig publicly stated that they had offered $32,000 to stay in the arena, but also stated that with the $10,000 a month XPW would need to pay for the building, the lease would not last long. Accompanied by incidents relating to Extreme Associates, XPW later folded in 2003. CZW made their return to the arena on March 8, 2003.

ECW tribute show and Italy[edit]

Shortly after their return to the former ECW Arena, on May 10, 2003, the company promoted a show entitled "Then & Now: A Decade of Defiance." The event was a tribute to ECW and to all previous promotions that held events at New Alhambra Arena during the last ten years.

On October 25, 2003, the promotion made their debut in Italy with an attendance record of 2,000 people filled the Palasport Arena in Pistoia,[14] later on March 27, 2004, the company returned for another event which featured Sabu in a tables match this time only drawing 500 people in Parma.[15]

IWA Mid-South invasion[edit]

On June 14, 2003, mid-south based promotion Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South (IWA-MS) invaded CZW as part of a kayfabe angle which led to an inter-promotional feud throughout most of 2003. During the night of the initial invasion, the crowd was so riled up that they began hurling chairs into the ring at Ian Rotten, Corporal Robinson, and J. C. Bailey of IWA-MS. The Delaware wrestling commissioner, who was in the ring at the time, was struck in the side of the head. The feud was based in both promotions and a major part led into CZW's Tournament of Death 2, five IWA-MS wrestlers and three CZW wrestlers entered into the 8-man single elimination tournament. The semi-final saw two CZW wrestlers John Zandig and Nick Mondo compete in a 2 out of 3 light tube log cabin match, a match which is said to have ended Mondo's career (However, in Mondo's shoot interview he stated that T.O.D 2 was going to be his last appearance anyway). Towards the end of the match Zandig Mother F'N Bombed Mondo off a 40 ft rooftop as both men crashed into tables and a light tube log cabin contraption. Mondo continued the Tournament with 3 broken bones in his wrist and won the tournament after defeating Ian Rotten in a 200 light tubes final.

Zandig hanging incident[edit]

During John Zandig's feud with heel stable the Hi-5, Zandig was suspended in the middle of the ring by meat hooks from the roof of the arena. The incident led into the setup of the main event at Cage of Death 2003, where a cage was suspended from the roof, the event was called Cage of Death 5: Suspended. The company remained successful that year and had a sold-out crowd for their annual Cage of Death show.

Last years of Zandig's ownership[edit]

The logo of CZW between 2008 and 2020

During 2005, CZW established a connection with local promotion Chikara, which established into a joint training school known as 'The Wrestle Factory' in the New Alhambra Arena, with head trainers Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush. During 2007, CZW departed from the training school to form their own, much like their older school.

The company remained strong in the forthcoming years with new booker, Mike Burns, who was responsible for one of the best runs in the promotion's history. Pancoast Productions, a company which for many years was responsible for a lot of CZW's logos and TitanTron work, among other things, briefly departed from the company in late 2005 after an altercation between Pancoast Productions owner Mike Pancoast and John Zandig.

At their Cage of Death 7 show at the end of 2005, CZW roster member Chris Hero cut a promo challenging "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson of Ring of Honor (ROH) to a match at the next show. The angle would develop into the enter promotion "CZW vs ROH" storyline which would see CZW and ROH co-promotion several shows around the Northeastern United States.

D. J. Hyde ownership[edit]

Expansion and international partnerships[edit]

D. J. Hyde purchased CZW from Zandig in 2009. The first show booked by Hyde was Tangled Web 2. Since then, CZW has held its first shows in Germany,[16] Massachusetts,[17] Ohio, South Carolina and Indiana.[18] They also returned to Japan and has brought back previous stars like Homicide,[19] The Briscoe Brothers,[20] Derek Frazier, and BJ Whitmer.[21] In 2014 CZW toured England as part of a cross promotion with Tidal Championship Wrestling.

In January 2012, CZW & ECW's arena was sold and was later temporarily closed, not reopening until December 2013. The closing of the venue forced CZW to look for a new home, now running monthly events at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey. After 13 years in business together, in 2013 Combat Zone Wrestling and Smart Mark Home Video ceased partnership after a falling-out. As of February 2013 all Combat Zone Wrestling events are filmed, edited, and distributed by RF Video. On July 12, 2017, it was reported Dave Marquez had bought into Combat Zone Wrestling as part-owner of the company.[1]

CZW also partners with other promotions like: Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw) for their German events, Serbia's Combat League Wrestling (CLW), and the remnants of Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW), in a one-time match between Matt Tremont and Atsushi Onita.

GCW incident[edit]

On December 9, 2017, CZW's Cage of Death 19 show ended with Nick Gage and Brett Lauderdale from rival promotion Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) invading the ring. Reportedly, CZW booker Giancarlo Dittamo had pitched an invasion angle to D. J. Hyde, but was shot down. Without telling anyone, Dittamo decided to go through with the angle regardless. Police were called to the arena, but Dittamo, Gage and Lauderdale had all left the venue by the time they arrived. Hyde was reportedly "beyond furious" over the incident, firing Dittamo from CZW.[22]

CZW Studios[edit]

CZW Studios is a video-on-demand service owned by Combat Zone Wrestling. All major CZW events air live on the service, which also features matches from the promotion's archives, dating back to 2002. The service has a current monthly subscription price of $9.99.[23] In 2015, CZW Studios signed a deal for pay-per-views on In Demand.[24][25]

Annual events[edit]

Event Year(s) active Signature gimmick
CZW Cage of Death 1999–2019 Featured an ultraviolent cage match
CZW Anniversary 2000–present Celebrates the anniversary of CZW's inaugural show
CZW Best of the Best 2001–present Features a junior heavyweight tournament
CZW Tournament of Death 2002–present Features a deathmatch tournament
CZW Night of Infamy 2002–2019
CZW Beyond The Barrier 2002
CZW Deja Vu 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 Featured barbed wire matches
CZW Down With the Sickness 2005 Paid tribute to Chri$ Ca$h, a deceased CZW wrestler
CZW Tangled Web 2008 Featured barbed wire spiderweb matches
CZW High Stakes 2002, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2014 Featured High Stakes matches
CZW Super Saturday 2012
CZW Dojo Wars 2014–present CZW's development brand featuring trainees from the CZW Pro Wrestling Academy
CZW LimeLight 2022–present
CZW Combine 2021–present CZW's development brand featuring wrestlers from across the United States trying out for the promotion


Tournament of Death[edit]

Combat Zone Wrestling's yearly death-match tournament features the use of fire, weed whackers, light tubes, and other weapons. Previous winners include Wifebeater (TOD 1 and 3), Nick Mondo (TOD 2), Necro Butcher (TOD 4), Nick Gage (TOD 5 & TOD vs. Gorefest), Drake Younger (TOD 6), Brain Damage (TOD: FF), Jimmy Havoc (TOD 7), and John Zandig who gave the trophy over to Thumbtack Jack who lost the Tournament of Death trophy at Best of the Best to D.J. Hyde (TOD 8). Due to the incidents at TOD 8 another event named TOD 8.5 Rewind took place in the same year which was won by Thumbtack Jack. Scotty Vortekz won TOD 9. Masada won TOD X, XI and TOD: Europe.

Best of the Best[edit]

Combat Zone Wrestling's yearly tournament that differs from other CZW events in how it emphasizes athleticism more than the use of weapons. The Best of the Best tournament is, by design, a Junior Heavyweight Tournament. In 2005, however, the tournament was formatted as an open weight tournament. The next year, it returned to its original format. Previous winners include Winger, Trent Acid, B-Boy, Sonjay Dutt, Mike Quackenbush, Ruckus, Joker, Sabian, Egotistico Fantastico, Adam Cole and Sami Callihan in that order.

Dojo Wars[edit]

CZW launched a developmental brand associated with their training school called Dojo Wars to showcase CZW prospects.


CZW’s secondary live show.


Wrestlers from across the country come to CZW to showcase their talent to earn a spot on the CZW main roster.


Cage of Death[edit]

Combat Zone Wrestling's biggest show is the end of the year Cage of Death. It always features the "Cage of Death" match, a steel cage with various weapons, objects, and plenty of wrestling violence. Electrified cage walls, cacti, ladders, tables, steel folding chairs, barbed wire, light tubes, fire, glass, thumbtacks, and baseball bats have been used in it. Matches that also always include the high risk wrestling stunts and bumps. The Cage of Death also has different formats and stipulations: singles, tag team, or gauntlet.

Deja Vu[edit]

The first show featured a bloody barbed wire match between Zandig and Lobo. Since then the Deja Vu card has been held on an almost yearly basis.

Chri$ Ca$h Memorial Show[edit]

As of 2005 Combat Zone Wrestling annually run a memorial tribute event to Christopher "Chri$ Ca$h" Bauman titled "Down with the Sickness" after Chri$ Ca$h's theme song from the band Disturbed. The show originally started as a double header afternoon show, with another CZW event taking place later in the evening. Many former CZW trainees have made appearances on past events, including longtime friend GQ, who has wrestled on all of the events.

Tangled Web[edit]

Every year since 2008, CZW has held this event in which a barbed-wire "spiderweb" is used.


Current champions[edit]

Championship Current champion(s) Reign Date won Days held[26] Location Notes
CZW World Heavyweight Championship Eran Ashe 1 May 5, 2024 17+ Havre de Grace, Maryland Defeated Rich Swann at CZW Limelight 25 to win the title.
CZW World Tag Team Championship Milk Chocolate

(Randy Summers and Brandon Watts)

1 September 3, 2023 262+ Havre de Grace, Maryland Defeated CMD (DeSean Pratt and Boom Harding) at LimeLight XX to win the championship.

Defunct championships[edit]

Championship Last champion(s) Reign Date won Days
Location Notes
CZW Death Match Championship[a] Nate Hatred 2 August 9, 2003 N/A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Defeated Nick Gage at Aftermath – The Wounds Run Deep!.
CZW Interpromotional Hardcore Championship[b] Lobo 1 May 29, 1999 343 Malaga, New Jersey Defeated John Kronus and TCK in a three-way match for the vacated title at a live event.
CZW Iron Man Championship Egotistico Fantastico 1 June 13, 2009 28 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Defeated Sami Callihan at Best of the Best 9.
CZW Ultraviolent Underground Championship Masada 1 July 9, 2011 315 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Defeated Danny Havoc at New Heights.
CZW Wired Championship Vacant January 1, 2021 Voorhees , New Jersey Vacated and then retired when previous champion KC Navarro left CZW.
CZW World Junior Heavyweight Championship Greg Excellent 2 March 14, 2015 210 Voorhees Township, New Jersey Defeated Alexander James at Deja Vu.
CZW Medal of Valor Championship Eran Ashe 2 October 25, 2019 N/A Voorhees Township, New Jersey Defeated DK Meadows at Dojo Wars Super Show XXV: Meadows v Ashe III.
CZW Dojo Wars Tag Team Championship Valor (Dominick Denaro & Kee Min) 1 December 21, 2019 N/A Voorhees Township, New Jersey Became the inaugural champions at a Dojo Wars event.

Sister promotion[edit]

Maven Bentley Association[edit]

Maven Bentley Association
HeadquartersPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
Founder(s)Maven Bentley
WebsiteMaven Bentley Association, LLC.

The Maven Bentley Association (MBA) is the sister promotion to CZW ran by Maven Bentley.[27][28]

In 2007, CZW had a short lived interpromotional feud with the MBA. In storyline, MBA's founder Maven Bentley was portrayed as a power-mad middle manager who ran amok in CZW and abused his authority. Bentley hired a few of CZW's own wrestlers to help him take over the promotion. Those wrestlers included Diehard Dustin Lee, Scotty Vortekz, Brain Damage, and D. J. Hyde. Bentley himself got involved physically in the feud as he was scheduled to face Lobo in a lumberjack strap match at Cage of Death 9. Bentley would lose the match, ending the feud.

The MBA returned to The Arena for its Economic Crisis event on January 31, 2009.[29]


Championship: Champion(s): Defeated: Date won: Location:
MBA Heavyweight Championship Andy Sumner D. J. Hyde June 6, 2008 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
MBA Tag Team Championship BLKOUT (Eddie Kingston and Sabian) Cory Kastle and Jon Dahmer June 21, 2006 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
MBA A-Maven-Can Idol Heavyweight Championship Daunte Sweet Derek Frazier April 16, 2005 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The championship was often referred to by CZW as the "Big Japan Death Match Championship", as it had splintered off from Big Japan Pro Wrestling's Deathmatch Heavyweight Championship.
  2. ^ The championship was also referred to as the "NWA/CZW Interpromotional Hardcore Championship", as it was additionally recognized by NWA New Jersey.


  1. ^ a b "411Mania".
  2. ^ Lambert, Jeremy (April 5, 2019). "Report: Former ECW GM Steve Karel Investing In CZW". Fightful. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
  3. ^ "Triangle of Unity". Westside Xtreme Wrestling. Retrieved February 28, 2024.
  4. ^ "Bloodlust: Tournament of Death".
  5. ^ "Vice documentary on CZW".
  6. ^ "Bloodlust: Tournament of Death".
  7. ^ "Vice Special on CZW Tournament of Death". Archived from the original on March 22, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  8. ^ "CZW Academy". 2015. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  9. ^ "Combat Zone Wrestling History". 2004. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2008.
  10. ^ a b "Combat Zone Wrestling History". 2004. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  11. ^ "Combat Zone Wrestling – CZW They Said It Couldn't Be Done". 2004. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
  12. ^ Sabato, Derek (June 20, 2004). "CZW announces losing its Philadelphia TV time slot". Wrestling Observer. Retrieved September 28, 2007.
  13. ^ Magee, Bob (December 17, 2001). "Recap of Cage of Death 3". Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets. Retrieved February 12, 2008.
  14. ^ CZW Shockwave « Event-Datenbank « CAGEMATCH
  15. ^ CZW Aftershock « Events Database « CAGEMATCH
  16. ^ "Smart Mark Video". Archived from the original on November 9, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  17. ^ Smart Mark Video
  18. ^ "Smart Mark Video". Archived from the original on November 9, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  19. ^ "Smart Mark Video". Archived from the original on November 22, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  20. ^ "Smart Mark Video". Archived from the original on November 22, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  21. ^ Smart Mark Video
  22. ^ "What The Hell Happened At The End Of Cage Of Death: Czw News And Notes". December 14, 2017. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  23. ^ "The Renaissance of Tradition! | Watch Online Videos for Just $9.99". Archived from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  24. ^ "Independent Promotion Announces Major Pay-Per-View Deal". 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  25. ^ Johnson, Mike (July 6, 2015). "CZW Launches Streaming Service, Chyna Gets Her Documentary, Mysterio Heading to IWS in Montreal, New Promotion Debuting in NYC This Week & More". Pwinsider. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  26. ^ As of May 22, 2024.
  27. ^ "MBA F.A.Q." Archived from the original on May 26, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  28. ^ Maven Bentley. "Maven Bentley Association". Archived from the original on October 14, 2017. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  29. ^ "The MBA had returned to the CZW Arena for its "Economic Crisis" event on Jan, 31 2009". Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved July 12, 2009.

External links[edit]