At last night’s GCW Homecoming Part One event, the king of the deathmatch Nick Gage and his MDK faithful welcome Matt Cardona, formerly WWE’s Zack Ryder, to his house for his championship. Nobody knew quite what to expect, although the story surrounded the sports entertainer not buying into deathmatch wrestling as “real” wrestling, targeting Gage’s past as a criminal (Nick Gage once robbed a bank without a mask) and Matt Cardona being a “doll-playing pussy” who can’t take a hit. GCW promotor Brett Lauderdale had found one of the most peculiar matches to build a weekend extravaganza around, but a money one.
What is great professional wrestling? It’s 2021, we can thankfully cross off any “one way” to do professional wrestling. If your cup of tea is old NWA matches that feature Bobby Eaton and Nikita Kolloff, that’s great. Both performers are two of the most underappreciated wrestlers of all-time. If your cup of tea is to turn on AEW on Wednesday night’s and watch Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix fly all over Daily’s Place, that’s also great. They’re bringing the mesmerizing luchador style to the forefront in mainstream America. If you like captivating characters, then WWE’s content library is your thing. All three use the same basic fundamentals, but add their own seasoning and make the entrée of the meal their own. Professional wrestling is art and it’s abstract. But much like any art, great professional wrestling makes you feel something. There’s a whole section of wrestling fans that don’t understand deathmatch wrestling, which is fine, not everybody’s going to understand every presentation of the sport. Yet, a good conglomerate of that group perceive it as pro wrestling’s proverbial redheaded stepchild. Cardona and Gage took the narrative that deathmatches don’t tell a story and they stomped on it.
The crowd was raucous and rambunctious, much like every GCW crowd usually is. Seriously, there are few things such as a live GCW show and it should be a bucket for any wrestling fan at least once. They paid good money to see Nick Gage run through Matt Cardona. While Nick Gage would come out to his signature “For Whom the Bell Tolls” as 1984 thrash metal-era Metallica blasted through the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City, Matt Cardona would have his fun with the crowd. Out of the gate, Cardona blasted “OH RADIOOOOO TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU KNOW!” prior to his usual “Alwayz Ready” only to draw even more ire out of a crowd who spent their money to watch him get hospitalized. Cardona wore white, the cardinal sin when competing in a deathmatch. There was displays of Cardona’s wrestling figures around the ring. Cardona even took the microphone for everybody’s favorite ring announcer Emil Jay to insult him. Cardona and Gage intensely stared down, giving a big match feel before the bell, while Jay hurled a plethora of Nick Gage’s nicknames like he’s Apollo Creed. Then the ball rang and Cardona used a drop-toe hold to gain an immediate advantage as the light tube Gage was holding exploded in his face on the fall. Cardona struck blood first, without even really doing anything, which only further angered the capacity audience. Cardona hit a “broski boot,” the Zack Ryder special, and began showboating at the audience as Nick Gage rose from glass with a light tube and shattered it over his own head as Cardona ran in fear.
They fought around the venue, in the crowd, as the crowd hurled obscenities and gestures much as they did during Cardona’s entrance. They taunted him with action figures. Eventually, Cardona inevitably regained the upper hand. Cardona got back into the ring, in a deathmatch where there are no rules, and requested a count out. There are no count out’s in deathmatches, which only fueled the narrative the two were trying to tell that Cardona wants to make a mockery of the deathmatch. Cardona hit Gage with the weakest light tube shot any avid deathmatch fan has ever seen and was still stunned at how much damage it caused. Cardona used basic wrestling holds to wear down Gage and then continued to taunt the crowd that came to see him get his tail whooped. As the crowd chanted “YOU GOT FIRED,” Cardona asked “who got fired?” which only made the crowd want to continue to hate him. It was a desperation spear through a sheet of glass from Gage that shifted the rest of the match. With his back lacerated so badly you couldn’t tell there was previously any skin there, Gage shifted his focus to Cardona’s head, destroying the light tubes over the face of Cardona. Finally, the crowd had something to cheer for, and man, were they ready for it. Gage continued to drive the broken glass into the cuts of Cardona as Cardona begged for mercy from the king and the crowd was loving every second of it.
Cardona, heading into the match, had his lawyer’s write up a clause to where Nick Gage cannot use a pizza cutter in the match. Nick Gage, frankly, did not care as he used the pizza cutter to further open up the gashes on Matt Cardona’s face as Cardona audibly shrieked at the camera. As Gage went for the victory, Fozzy’s “Judas” was heard throughout the ballroom. It was presumably Chris Jericho, who Gage wrestles on TNT”s AEW Dynamite this Wednesday at 8 PM EST. It was ultimately just a fan, that one can assume was paid off by Matt Cardona. From there, and this is where the booking became a little contrived, 44OH’s Greg Iron, Atticus Cogar and Eric Ryan cost Gage the match following two Gage piledrivers into the glass. Rickey Page, the leader of 44OH! and the man Gage defeated in a deathmatch in April at the Ybor Cuban Club to become GCW World Heavyweight Champion, made the save to help Gage fight off the rest of 44OH!. This further developed the storyline of dissention between RSP and the rest of 44OH!, yet it made no sense when Rickey Shane Page then turned around and cost Nick Gage the match.
After two run-in’s and attacks from five different wrestlers, a battered and bloodied Matt Cardona capitalized on the Page lowblow by hitting Gage with a Rough-Ryder and going into the cover for the 1, 2 and the 3. Cardona spent months talking about how deathmatch wrestling isn’t “real” wrestling, he did everything to antagonize the crowd and the crowd got what they paid to see: Matt Cardona get his ass handed to him. Yet, Matt Cardona somehow slimed his way into one of the biggest upsets of the year to become GCW World Heavyweight Champion. Afterward, you get the visual of the feature photo: Matt Cardona celebrating surrounding by hundreds of beer bottles because the crowd was that angry at the outcome.
It was near-perfect booking, and would have been perfect had it not been so overbooked toward the end. Gage and Cardona played into literally everything that was built heading in: the former sports entertainer that would rather play with action figures than take a hit in a real fight had to go up against the king of deathmatches. Both performers had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand and the promotion got the desired response from the people in attendance. Now, the GCW World Championship is on a relatively big name within the industry, but also doesn’t have to job on national television this upcoming Wednesday. Plus, doing it on night one makes everybody who bought the pay-per-view to see the strangest on-paper matchup in some time will be tuning in tonight for night two to witness the fallout.
You can watch night two of GCW Homecoming this evening at 5 PM for $14.99 on FITE TV. The card features ROH Pure Champion Jonathan Gresham take on Starboy Charlie in a Pure Rules match, AEW’s Cezar Bononi wrestle NJPW’s Chris Dickinson and headlined by “The Bad Boy” Joey Janela as he takes on 44OH!’s Atticus Cogar.
(Photo Credit: Robert Starkz-Bellamy)
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