Saturday, March 31, 2018

CZW Best Of The Best 16 Review

The Best Of The Best Tournament comes to Orlando, Florida!

CZW Best Of The Best 16
Orlando, Florida 4/1/17

For the first time ever, CZW brought one of their signature tournaments, Best Of The Best, to ‘Mania Weekend. It’s a tournament that focuses solely on great wrestling, as opposed to the death match style that CZW is known for. Normally, the opening round consists of triple threat matches, but with so many talents in Orlando for ‘Mania Weekend, they decided to use fatal four-ways in the first round.

The show started off with the Best Of The Best Trophy already in the ring. DJ Hyde (who didn’t get the negative reaction you would normally expect) came out and thanked everyone for coming out. Then, he introduced all of the competitors in the tournament, who all got in the ring for the customary pre-tournament photo.

1.) Best Of The Best 16 - First Round - Fatal Four-Way Match - Shane Strickland vs. Joey Janela vs. Lio Rush vs. CZW World Tag Team Champion Dezmond Xavier: ***3/4

The first opening round matchup featured four guys who are regulars in CZW. One person that caught my attention immediately was Lio Rush, mainly because he plays a much different persona in CZW compared to the other promotions he wrestled for at the time. He’s known as “Black Heart” Lio Rush, and I guess the backstory is that he turned into this darker character following a breakup with his girlfriend. Anyway, this ended up be a really strong opener. It didn’t go very long, clocking in at just over seven minutes, but they packed a ton of stuff into that short time frame! There was plenty of action, everyone had a chance to shine, and in general, the match was very energetic. In the end, Shane Strickland would pick up the victory to advance to the Semi-Finals.

2.) Best Of The Best 16 - First Round - Fatal Four-Way Match - Ricochet vs. David Starr vs. AR Fox vs. Jason Cade (with Veda Scott): ***1/2

Veda Scott is Jason Cade’s valet here….for some reason. This was actually very similar to the bout that came before it. You had four incredibly talents wrestlers packing a ton of entertaining action into a match that clocked in at just over seven minutes (according to, this was a mere two seconds longer). While I don’t think this was quite as good as the opener, it was still very entertaining to watch from start to finish. Ultimately, AR Fox would score the victory to advance to the Semi-Finals.

3.) Best Of The Best 16 - First Round - Fatal Four-Way Match - “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin vs. Anthony Henry (with Amber Young) vs. Scorpio Sky vs. CZW World Tag Team Champion Zachary Wentz: ***1/2

I feel like this might’ve been the most diverse of the four first round matches, in terms of the different styles that were involved. The crowd didn’t appear to be that invested in this match, but as a whole, it was still very good. This did get the most time of the first round bouts, as it lasted around nine minutes. Much like the first two matches, there was really solid action throughout, and everyone involved had a chance to shine. Michael Elgin would emerge victorious in the end, thus advancing to the Semi-Finals. He looked dominant on his way to winning here, which was the right move from a booking standpoint.

4.) Best Of The Best 16 - First Round - Fatal Four-Way Match - Dave Crist vs. Jake Crist vs. Sami Callihan vs. Fenix: ***1/2

While the previous bout was probably the most diverse matchup in the first round, this one (the last of the bunch) was certainly the most….interesting. Essentially, Fenix was in a very awkward situation as his three opponents are all part of OI4K. This does carry over a bit from AAW, as Callihan had been feuding with The Lucha Brothers. In that regard, there was somewhat of a backstory. By this point in the show, the four-way was starting to get really repetitive, but that doesn’t mean the match quality decreased. This was another very solid match from start to finish, featuring a lot of good action. They didn’t rely on the whole “OI4K vs. Fenix” story that much, as the stablemates did go after each other at a number of points. This bout was the shortest of the opening round, lasting just over six minutes, but again, the wrestling was still good, so I guess there isn’t much to complain about. Dave Crist would ultimately get the win to advance to the Semi-Finals.

Afterwards, we got a weird little moment when Jake Crist got kissed on the mouth by Sami Callihan after Jake had offered him a handshake. That was….a very weird sight.

5.) CZW World Heavyweight Title - Joe Gacy vs. Brian Cage: ***1/2

The first non-tournament bout of the night featured Joe Gacy defending his CZW World Heavyweight Title against Brian Cage. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one, but when the dust settled, it ended up being…..another very good match on this card (I must sound like a broken record at this point). These two didn’t get a ton of time, as the bout only went about nine minutes or so, but much like the fatal four-way matches we just saw, the participants still managed to….get their shit in (as Brian Cage would say). These two went right after each other as soon as the bell rang, and this quickly turned into a hoss fight. They both went full speed ahead and just threw bombs at each other, which was pretty cool to watch. The crowd wasn’t fully invested in this match, but I thought the action made up for it. Eventually, Gacy caught Cage in a rollup to retain his title, which was a very flat ending to an otherwise fun title bout.

After the match, Brian Cage shook hands with Joe Gacy.

Before the next match started, we get a special video from CZW Wired Champion Johnny Yuma (who you might remember as one-half of the RockNES Monsters from PWG). He was basically upset that he wasn’t booked for the show, which I can totally sympathise with, since he’s a title holder in this promotion! Where is he?

6.) Ultimate Opportunity Scramble Match - Rickey Shane Page vs. Tony Deppen vs. Ethan Case vs. Ace Austin vs. Flip Gordon vs. Caleb Konley vs. Alexander James vs. Mascarita Dorada: ***1/4

This match was for an “Ultimate Opportunity Coin”, which will grant the holder any match of their choosing at any time, against any opponent, for any CZW title, with any stipulation. That’s a lot to take in (and it sounds like something straight out of CHIKARA or Lucha Underground), but it would certainly be massive prize for whoever managed to win this one. For the most part, this was basically the same type of match we saw earlier with the fatal four-way matches. The only difference was that this bout featured eight guys instead of four. The action was good, and it was entertaining to watch, but at this point, I was tired of seeing this type of match. Unlike a number of people these days, I don’t hate multi-man matches. They had their place on some cards, but five on one show is just overkill. Anyway, Rickey Shane Page would ultimately pick up the win to receive the “Ultimate Opportunity Coin”.

7.) Best Of The Best 16 - Semi-Finals - Dave Crist vs. “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin: ***

I forgot to mention this earlier, but OI4K have a manager named JT Davidson with them. He’s mostly associated with The Crist Brothers, from what I can gather. This was the first of the two semi-final matches, and while it was a relatively fine bout from start to finish, I can away disappointed. It certainly wasn’t bad, but in my view, it ended up being the worst match of the night. There was a lot of brawling on the outside, and in general, it was wrestled at a more methodical pace. Compared to everything else on the show, it just didn’t catch my interest that much. Again, it was by no means bad. These two did a fine job, but when compared with the other bouts on the card, it just didn’t stand out. While some might see Dave Crist beating Michael Elgin (via a jackknife pin after countering an Elgin Bomb) as a big upset, it’s important to remember that OI4K are regulars in CZW. This was just a one-off appearance for Elgin, so him getting to the Finals wasn’t very likely.

8.) Best Of The Best 16 - Semi-Finals - AR Fox vs. Shane Strickland: ***1/2

It’s fair to say that this was definitely the more appealing of the two semi-final bouts. I went into this expecting these two to work well together, and when the dust settled, they ended up having a really good match (there’s that phrase again). This went about ten minutes, and while it wasn’t as packed with action (like some of the earlier bouts), we still got to see some cool stuff from these two. Aside from that, I don’t have much to add. A very enjoyable match that saw Shane Strickland punch his ticket to the Finals.

9.) Anything Goes Match - Special Guest Referee: Kevin Sullivan - Pentagon Jr. vs. Matt Tremont (with Stockade): ***1/4

It wouldn’t be a CZW show without a crazy hardcore match. Even though Best Of The Best focuses on great in-ring wrestling, it still usually has at least one deathmatch or some sort of wacky hardcore stipulation. Well, this was that match. When Pentagon Jr. made his entrance, he came out with a massive bundle of light tubes. As most of us probably expected, this was brutal and bloody. Tremont (who apparently is doing some sort of religious/cult leader gimmick, as he’s being referred to here as “Father” Matt Tremont) got busted open about a minute into this one (what a surprise, right?). All sorts of weapons were used, including trash cans, forks, doors, chairs, tables, and of course, the light tubes. Kevin Sullivan swept the ring while the action was going on, and in general, he seemed very….tepid in this environment. Once the shattered remains of the light tubes were scattered across the ring, Sullivan was actually afraid to slap the mat when pin attempts came up. Later Stockade tried to get involved, and Sullivan hit him with his trademark golden spike. Eventually, Tremont got the win after hitting a Death Valley Driver onto a pile of chairs. This was by no means spectacular, but it was something different on this card, which I guess is a good thing.

After the match ended, Pentagon Jr. shook hands with Matt Tremont. Then, a video package announced that on August 7th, Matt Tremont would be going one-on-one with Japanese hardcore wrestling legend Atsushi Onita!

10.) Best Of The Best 16 - Finals - Relaxed Rules Match - Dave Crist vs. Shane Strickland: ***1/4

After four separate fatal four-way matches, and two semi-final matches, we’re finally down to the finals of the Best Of The Best Tournament. At nearly fifteen minutes, this ended up being the longest match on the entire show. It was a good match as a whole, but it certainly didn’t meet the standards set in the first-half of the card. While the actual was relatively solid, the match was wrestled at a slower pace compared to what we had seen already. That was one item that hurt this bout a little bit. They did a decent job with the Relaxed Rules stipulation, but it wasn’t the best idea to put it right after a crazy Anything Goes Match. Then there were the shenanigans towards the end. Strickland accidentally kicked the referee, which allowed JT Davidson to attack Strickland. The “King of Swerve” was able to fight Davidson off, but then he got involved again. Davidson lifted Strickland on his shoulders, and allowed Dave Crist to hit his super cutter for the win. The interference in the final few minutes was just so egregious. The match was still pretty solid, but that finish left a sour taste in my mouth.

Afterwards, DJ Hyde got in the ring, and talked about how so many big names in wrestling today spent time in CZW over the years. He told the crowd in Orlando to give it up for Strickland, and then presented the 2017 Best Of The Best Trophy to Dave Crist, who then embraced Strickland. That was a very odd way to close out the show. Strickland just basically no sold the fact that he got cheated out of the tournament. If I were him, I’d be pretty pissed.

Overall: 7.75/10

Going into WrestleMania Weekend in Orlando, this show was getting a ton of buzz for the card it had put together. Did it live up to the hype? Well, in some ways, it did. In other ways….not so much. The first-half was easily the best part of this show, with the four opening round matches and the CZW World Heavyweight Title bout were all really good. I know that having multi-man bouts in the first round is part of what makes Best Of The Best unique, but seeing consecutive four-way matches did get tiresome (despite the fact that they all delivered). From that point on, the show was a mixed bag. With so many other multi-man matches already in the lineup, the eight-man scramble was unnecessary. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t have done it, but it didn’t need to happen on this show. Matt Tremont vs. Pentagon Jr. was good for what it was. Then there were the semi-finals and finals. While they were all relatively solid, it really felt like the tournament peaked in the opening round, with the match quality decreasing from there. I flat out didn’t like how the final ended, and it just ended the show on a bad note. As a whole, this event was filled with a lot of really good matches, and even though it was far from the worse show of the weekend, it didn’t leave a lasting impression either.

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