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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Backseat Boyz' CZW departure
February 9, 2004 by LucharesuFan619


"Backseat Boyz' recent departure apparently just one example of CZW boss' past communicational faults with talent"

An era in Combat Zone Wrestling recently ended, and perhaps at the most inoppurtune of times. Less than a week before their scheduled match on CZW's Fifth Anniversary Show, The Backseat Boyz - a popular tag team comprised of Trent Acid & Johnny Kashmere - were announced this past week as having left CZW, the company where they first gained major prominence on the U.S. independent circuit. The revalation came in an article called "The Backseat Manifesto" that was posted on several Internet message boards and finally on the Backseats' official website, BackseatWeb.com, a few days ago. The document's author never identified himself by name, but on the message boards that he posted the piece on, his username was, "BurningWizard."

The article stated that "Johnny and Trent have indeed, as of 2/3/04, resigned from CZW." There were a number of reasons cited for their departure. The most prominent cited that "The Backseats were scheduled to appear on the upcoming 2/7/04 CZW show and the 2/7/04 World-1 show against Rebel's Army (Greg Matthews & Rockin' Rebel) in a 6-8 minute opener." According to the article, though, CZW owner John Zandig "used his leverage with the building and license to have The Backseats removed" from the World-1 show.

Furthermore, Kashmere stated that he had tried to contact Zandig several times for more than two weeks, but had yet to have any of them answered or returned. The "manifesto" - which can be read in full at BackseatWeb.com - continued by stating that when CZW finally learned that Kashmere had left it due to Zandig's apparent unprofessionalism, Zandig "gave Trent the ultimatum to either leave with Kashmere or stay on board as a singles wrestler, and Trent declined his offer saying that The Backseat Boyz are a team and are most effective when used in that capacity."

The Backseats' scheduled match on tomorrow's CZW Fifth Anniversary Show was scheduled to be a triangle tag team bout that also featured Homicide & Dan "Mafia" Maff and The H8 Club (Nick Gage & Nate Hatred), but it appears now that it will now simply be a regular, four-man tag team match between the latter two duos. CZW's official web site, CZWWrestling.com, has yet to post any news regarding the Backseats' departure, and in fact, as of this morning, still has the triangle tag team match listed for tonight's show.

The Backseat Boyz have been members of the CZW roster for approximately the last four and a half years of the company's five-year existence. Acid debuted for the promotion on June 19, 1999 and Kashmere a month later on July 24. Before coming to CZW, the duo had surfed the East Coast independent circuit for the past few years. Trained at a number of wrestling schools, Acid made his in-ring debut on May 20, 1995 and in 1999 began teaming on a regular basis with Kashmere. In CZW, the charismatic duo had a classic series of matches vs. the now retired tag team of "Sick" Nick Mondo & Ric Blade and even toured Big Japan Pro Wrestling, battling the likes of Mens' Teioh, Jun Kasai, and The W*nger. Perhaps, however, their biggest accomplishment was apppearing on a 2001 edition of WWF Sunday Night HeAT as lookalikes of The Dudley Boyz.

Acid won CZW's second annual "Best of the Best" Junior Heavyweight Tournament in 2002 and was the runner-up for the 2003 event a year later. On September 13, 2003, he won a tournament to capture the vacant CZW Ironman Title and held it for three months before dropping it to Jimmy Rave. That was the third time that Acid held a singles championship in CZW, as he was already a two-time CZW Junior Heavyweight Champion. Together, Acid & Kashmere held CZW's Tag Team Titles three times, first capturing them on June 10, 2000 from The Haas Brothers, comprised of the late Russ Haas and current WWE SmackDown! competitor Charlie Haas. Last year, they made their debut for Ring of Honor, and have already held that promotion's tag team titles once.

Interestingly, this isn't even the first time that one of The Backseat Boyz have left CZW. On Sunday, October 12, 2003, it was announced that Kashmere had left the promotion. One source within CZW merely insisted that he would be "taking time away from CZW," but the story seemed to be a lot more significant than that. Indications were that Kashmere - who at the time of the walkout co-held the CZW Tag Team Titles with Acid - was entirely done with the company. CZW promoted as appearing on the October 11 CZW show at Viking Hall and never bothered to take his name off of the list of those scheduled to work the event. This despite that - according to close friends of his - he had apparently quit the company a month earlier, after the September 13 show, due to being discouraged about his role in CZW's storylines. CZW even took Kashmere's name off of the list in its website's "Roster" section, which The Backseat Boyz - as of now - have yet to be removed from.

Kashmere returned to CZW a few months later on November 15 and resumed the role that he had previously been involved in (before leaving) - regularly teaming with Acid and acting as a member of the promotion's heel stable, The Hi-V. His - and as it now appears, Acid's, also - final appearance in CZW came on January 17 at Viking Hall, when The Backseat Boyz dropped their CZW Tag Team Titles to Rebel's Army in a six-man tag team match that also included CZW debutee Justin Credible.

No confirmation has surfaced as to whether Kashmere's initial departure from CZW a few months ago has any connection to The Backseat Boyz' recent fallout with the promotion, but it's certainly a significant possibility, based - for just one thing - on how this incident happened just a few months after the one in late 2003. This latest instance of dissension between employer and employees in CZW, however, also follows a substantial list of precedence. Especially as of late, the complaints of both current and former-employees toward CZW owner John Zandig (the real-life John Corso) have been piling up to a level unexpected by most CZW fans.

CZW's lockerroom - only a year ago - was said to be one of the tightest of any of the major independent promotions in the US, and a number of CZW workers (both past and present) have gone on record to confirm that reality. The unity that the roster has was perhaps no better exemplified on September 14, 2002 at "Ultraviolent Freedom of Expression," when The Messiah cut a curse-laden promo putting over CZW and it's fans, with the entire CZW roster in the ring with him. That harmony, however, appears to be at least partially waning, based on indications of late.

When one asks any long-time CZW fan the first word that comes to mind when they hear the name "Sick" Nick Mondo, words like "insane," "risktaker," and "fearless" are probably some of the most common answers. After briefly surfing the East Coast independents, Mondo made his CZW debut in May 2000 and has remained a member of its roster until late last year. Throughout his tenure with the promotion, he won the Tag Team Titles once and the CZW Ironman Title four times, produced classic matches (in CZW terms, at least) against the likes of Justice Pain, The Messiah, Nick Gage, Ric Blade, and The Backseat Boyz, and took some incredible bumps that have yet to be matched by any other CZW performer. However, injuries and scars - quite understandable after you've seen a couple of his matches - that had piled up forced him to retire from wrestling late last year.

The final show that he worked as CZW's second annual Tournament of Death on July 26. Although he was the sole winner of the event, the real talk came from his semifinal round match vs. Zandig, during which the CZW boss pressed Mondo up above his head and leaped off of an approximately 25 foot tall building and along with Mondo, crashed through a pile of tables, fluorescent light tubes, and other materials. I spoke to Zandig on the phone a few days after the match and he told me it was probably the scariest bump that himself or Mondo had ever taken in their careers, but that didn't stop them from eventually climbing back up to their feet and finishing the match, which Mondo - with a back bloodier than even most death match fans have seen - eventually won. Later that very same night, Mondo then went on to defeat IWA-MS owner and former-ECW wrestler Ian Rotten in the final round to capture the T.O.D.2 trophy.

It was announced that Mondo would be taking a few months to recover from his injuries, but on November 10 of last year, he announced on his official web site, NickMondo.com, that he'd be retiring from wrestling. Although he cited the fact that he was and still is a full-time college student as one of the reasons for his retirement, he made no attempt to downplay the risks he's taken in the business, saying that "Zandig and I easily could have died from that bump we took. I mean, we fell a couple stories with nothing but wood, glass, and concrete to break our fall. I think it's a miracle that we both walked away from that bump on our own two feet."

With CZW's biggest show of the year, Cage of Death V, only a few months away, most CZW fans expected that a retirement ceremony or something of the sort would be held for him. However, on December 7, about a month after he revealed that he was retiring, he posted another statement on his web site, saying that "CZW won't be bringing me in for COD5. I can't even get a hold of Zandig." He said that he had been repeatedly trying to contact the CZW owner over the past week or so, but that he never had his calls returned. C.O.D. occurred in December and was greatly praised by many web sites, but many fans at the show were unhappy that Mondo didn't make any appearance.

Then, only a few weeks ago it was announced that a CZW Hall of Fame ceremony would occur on tonight's Fifth Anniversary Show, where a number of wrestlers from CZW's past would be brought back, at least for that one night. Mondo posted on his web site's message board that he had yet to be contacted, although although "it would be nice after all I've been through for the company," he wasn't going to "let it hurt [his] feelings" if he wasn't contacted. Fans on the message board of CZW's fan site have been especially avid in calling for him to appear, and many have e-mailed CZW to urging them to bring him in, also. It seems that we'll have to wait until tonight to see if he does make an appearance.

A few months before Mondo's final match, CZW was - in storyline - being invaded by wrestlers from the rival IWA Mid-South promotion, ran by Ian Rotten. At the November 8, 2003 IWA-MS Question & Answer session (the tape of which can be purchased at SmartMarkVideo.com), Ian was given his opportunity to discuss the CZW/IWA-MS angle that had transpired earlier in the year. He mentioned that during his first run in CZW, back in early 2000, he left the promotion because - after putting on one of the bloodiest matches in CZW's history with Madman Pondo and having to receive 20 stitches from the cuts endured in that bout - he never received any call from Zandig thanking him for taking such abuse in the match.

Furthermore, Ian stated that Zandig doesn't care about his wrestlers and is even very cold towards most of them, save for Trent Acid, who obviously is out of the picture now. While several CZW wrestlers have put over how much Zandig cares for his workers, there was at least one notable counterexample. In June 2001 on a CZW show, Ric Blade seriously injured his foot, keeping him out of action for the next several months. When Blade requested that CZW cover his medical bills, Zandig refused, prompting Blade to leave CZW and not return for more than two years.

Like Ian, some of the non-CZW regulars who've wrestled there haven't had long stays with the promotion, either. One such one was former-ECW wrestler Chris Hamrick, who wrestled a tag team match for CZW on April 13, 2002 and never returned again. The Internet rumor that stated that Zandig never brought back Hamrick because he noticably overshot his finishing move, a Flying Leg Drop, during the match was confirmed by a CZW fan several months later. This fan called the CZW offices to purchase tickets to one of it's upcoming shows and Zandig ended up picking up. The two apparently conversed for several minutes and the fan asked Zandig why Hamrick hadn't returned, and Zandig cited that same botched spot as being the major reason that he hadn't returned.

Hamrick made the appearance in CZW as a favor to Zandig when "The Rock Superstar" Kaos - a wrestler for the rival XPW promotion in California - had to pull out of his scheduled booking. I had the opportunity to interview Hamrick on Sunday, May 18, 2003 and one of the first questioned that I asked him was whether or not this trumor was true. Had he not returned to CZW due to heat over this botched spot. He responded that he "[hated] to say it, but (John) Kronus (one of Hamrick's opponents in the match) f*cked everything up." He continued, explaining that "The leg drop spot was f*cked up because when I went up to get on Adam's (Adam Flash was Hamrick's partner in the match) shoulders, when I looked down, Kronus had rolled out too far for me to hit him from where I was." Knowing how horrible it would look if he simply stepped back down to the mat after climbing up to a standing position on the top buckle, he "had no other choice but to jump."

Hamrick even mentioned that until our interview, he "had never head that rumor" and said that "all those nights I sat at home and wondered why Zandig never called me back, wouldn't take any other bookings, just hoping he would call and book me. Well - damn - that explains it." To close the topic off, Hamrick issued a statement to Zandig, saying that "if you are reading this, I did you the one favor and this is how you repay me. Now, you can't afford me."

Similar situations happened with current CZW wrestler Sonjay Dutt and former-CZW wrestler M-Dogg 20. Sonjay had been booked for May 2003's Delaware Championship Wrestling "Patriot Games" event. He had made flight arrangements to travel back from Florida, where he was competing at the IPW Hardcore/NWA Florida "Jeff Peterson Memorial Cup." However, shortly before the show, Zandig told Sonjay to forget about his DCW booking and have his name pulled from the card. It's no secret at all to avid indy fans that DCW is ran by the same guy who wrestled as Gabriel Knight and MiddKnight in CZW's early days (during 1999), before leaving the company after having a disagreement with Zandig. The two have had a war of words over the last few years and to this day greatly dislike each other, and this was what several sites reported was the main reason for the sudden change in Sonjay's schedule.

Zandig's role in Ring of Honor's discussions with M-Dogg 20 aren't confirmed, like the above Sonjay incident is, but it's still quite possible that he had an influence. M-Dogg - along with his best friend, Josh Prohibition - jumped CZW to rival XPW in late 2002, for a number of reasons. Among them was unique promotional opportunities that they couldn't obtain elsewhere and - of course - the money issue. Josh was and still is a full-time college student and in a number of his commentaries on his official web site, JoshProhibition.com, cited the fact that he needs as much money as he can get to fund his education, which as we all know costs quite a bit these days.

In early 2003, there were some brief discussions that occurred between ROH officials and M-Dogg about M-Dogg replacing Shawn "Hottstuff" Hernandez on an upcoming event. This news item that was broken by former-CZW timekeeper Derek Sobato in an Internet column that he wrote and - interested upon reading the bit - I contacted M-Dogg and two ROH officials and asked each party whether or not there had been talks between the two groups. Although I unfortunately didn't save the quotations between the two, I do vividly remember that M-Dogg told me that yes, he had spoken to some ROH officials about a possible appearance, but that - as he also mentioned - he was probably one of several workers who ROH had contacted about filling Hernandez's spot. Both ROH officials that I asked about the matter told me that no, there had never been any talks between the two parties, that ROH had no interest in bringing in M-Dogg, and also - as one said - that M-Dogg should stop spreading blatantly false rumors.

M-Dogg has yet to show up in ROH, despite XPW's folding, but if there were in fact talks between the two, it wouldn't be surprising if the reason that he never appeared in ROH was because of Zandig's political pull. At the time of the incident, CZW and ROH had put aside their differences and - along with 3PW - united against XPW in hopes of forcing them out of Philly. Zandig clearly had no love loss for either M-Dogg or J-Pro, even having The Backseat Boyz do a parody of them to start off the first CZW show after they left the company.

Despite their being direct competition for one another, Zandig and ROH officials regularly corresponded over the phone, and Zandig even told me of one of those specific instances in one of my conversations with him. So, pending that there were talks between M-Dogg and ROH, it's not unlikely that the reason the discussions never led to an appearance was because of Zandig urging ROH officials to stop conversing with him. I attempted to contact M-Dogg about the matter to see if he knew whether Zandig had any role, but he was unable to be reached for comment before this article went to print.

Before XPW came to the Philly area, there had been quite a bit of heat between CZW and ROH. On the July 15, 2002 CZW show, entitled "Deja Vu," then-CZW wrestler Justice Pain cut a promo (which was cut from the tape) about ROH, challenging any of its wrestlers to come to CZW and fight him the following month. Two days later, ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky posted a statement on the web site of ROH's parent company, RF Video, saying that Pain's promo represented " grandstand challenge, meaning that CZW had Pain cut the promo trying to punk us out knowing that we won't respond or send a(n) ROH wrestler to fight him." There was never any word released on whether it was Zandig who told Pain to cut the promo or if it was actually Pain's choice to say what he said.

It should be noted that in a shoot interview for SmartMarkVideo.com, CZW wrestler The Messiah - who constantly made derogatory comments about his former employer, XPW, and former boss, Rob Black, on CZW shows in 2002 - specifically stated that those statements that he made were his choice to make, and that Zandig played no part in telling him to say such things. However, there is no doubt that while Zandig gave Messiah the freedom to say whatever he wanted in those promos, the former-XPW wrestler had to get his new boss' permission, since he was mentioning the name of a rival company and promoter.

The same permission would've most certainly been necessary in the case with the Pain promo, especially considering that he challenged wrestlers from another company. Such an action is something that obviously wouldn't (and never did) happen and it's therefore very likely that it had the potential to paint CZW in a positive light, since one of it's wrestlers publicly hinted at an interpromotional angle that was never to be.

Sapolsky saw it the same way, saying in his press release that "all Zandig did by having Pain cut this promo was set his fans up for disappointment when nothing happens." Before concluding his piece, Sapolsky mentioned that at ROH's June 22 "Road to the Title" event, "one of our wrestlers wanted to cut a promo running down the use of light tubes (a weapon that was and still used on virtually every single CZW show) and stuff like that and we wouldn't let him. Sapolsky position was left to no uncertainty - ROH "[didn't] want a war" with CZW, and instead advised Zandig to "go do [his] product and we do ours. The fans will spend their money on which product is better."

Shortly after the Deja Vu promo controversy, The Backseat Boyz (who are scheduled debut for MLW in March) made their ROH debuts, and to this day they're still regular attractions for the promotion. It doesn't appear that that trend will change due to their exit from CZW, either, as none one of their scheduled appearances on upcoming ROH cards have changed since the news of their CZW departure broke. The only alteration in their future schedule is that they won't be competing for CZW anymore, unless their heat with Zandig reduces over time, which is a possibility, but based on the tone of "The Backseat Manifesto," not all that likely to occur anytime soon.

The loss of The Backseat Boyz is a major blow to CZW, which has already been suffering from a slump that made his presence known on and off through 2003. Fans on the promotion's message board have been quite vocal about the belief that they're not being provided with the CZW product that they all know and that they once loved so much. Erroneously delivered storylines, a lack of an sufficient undercard, and the loss of major players on the roster over the past year have all had a detrimental effect on the promotin's fan following.

Although it may not have to do entirely his fault, John Zandig is the promotion's owner and its primary booker, so he is and will continue to be the guy who's blamed for its defects. Based on past indications, he does in fact seem to have a few flaws when it comes to communicating with his talent and that imperfection of his is apparently damaging the once very close and friendly atmosphere of the CZW lockerroom. Hopefully, The Backseat Boyz' farewell to what was previously considered their "home" promotion will send the necessary message to Zandig and he'll realize that he needs to get his act together if he intends to bring CZW to the promised land, a goal that about a year ago didn't seem quite as unlikely as it does now.

The unity of his roster was for so long something that Zandig was able to rest assured upon, and retaining it (or reestablishing it, if the kinship has already deteriorated, as indications imply) it therefore should be one of his primary priorities. Let us hope that Zandig realizes that fact and does whatever's required to change it...and sooner rather than later, for the repercussions that CZW could suffer if he disregards his relationship with his talent may very well be something that he'd rather forget, if they do come to fruition.

by LucharesuFan619..


Mark Rose blasts:
First of all Mr Barber your column is titled incorrectly. A column you say is about the Backseat Boyz departure from CZW quickly turns into a delusional anti John Zandig rant which is mostly based on speculation, one sided arguments, and shit that you've never even seen.

The claim made by the Backseat Boyz that Zandig had them removed from the World-1 opening match is just laughable. John Zandig has always pushed the Backseat Boyz to the top of CZW especially Trent Acid who has basically been a franchise player for CZW since 2001. The idea that Zandig would have them removed is just stupid. He's had no problems whatsoever with them taking other indy bookings why would he do so with World-1, a company obviously that has a good relationship with Zandig and CZW seeing as how they set up the whole double show thing in the first place. As far as Trent and Johnny go boo hoo boys. You got pushed and pushed greatly. CZW's fans have loved and respected them the whole time. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. They'll be back within 6 months anyway.

As far as the whole situation with Nick Mondo goes one thing you conveniently forgot to mention is that Zandig specifically asked Nick to NOT announce his retirement until COD 5. Zandig had planned on giving Nick a retirement sendoff at that time so he had reason to be pissed at Mondo. This is all a moot point now as they have settled their differences and Mondo did appear at the 5th anniversary show and he along with Lobo were the first two CZW Hall of Fame inductees.

And with Ian Rotten he came in, he did his job, he got paid. What did he want from Zandig a big hug? Ian gets too much into this whole lovefest thing after shows. This is all in the past anyway as well as during the IWA Mid South Invasion angle Zandig publicly apologized to Ian and they had a great summer working together in this interpromotional angle. But of course you fail to mention this. Because you probably didn't even see it.

Now to the Ric Blade thing. Blade got hurt yes. But was it Zandig's responsibility to cover his medical bills? Was this in Blade's contract? Obviously not. When you get yourself into pro wrestling you take certain risks. Blade knew this. Especially on the indy circuit when the promoters just don't simply have the cash to provide health services. These guys are independent contracters coming in to do a job. Ric took his own risks doing those crazy dives he does and thus is responsible for his own medical bills and problems. And don't forget Ric came back and was put in some high profile matches and shortly thereafter he just disappeared and nobody could get a hold of him. Maybe someone needs to teach Blade how to use the telephone.

As far as Chris Hamrick goes I notice you have nothing to go on but rumors and what some fan claims Zandig said to him. Hamrick came in on a one shot deal did his job and went on his way. There was no permanent contract signed. He had a spot open and gave it to him. Even if this rumor is true so what, if Zandig wasn't happy with Hamrick's performance why would he feel obligated to book him again? Chris Hamrick wants to sit and piss and moan about this then let him. Boo fucking hoo Hamrick. Maybe this crybaby shit is the reason no major independents book him.

The complete bullshit you talk about with M-Dogg 20 is quite humorous as well. If Zandig really has that much pull in ROH then explain why The Backseat Boyz are still being by Ring of Honor. M-Dogg 20 and Josh Prohibition were nothing but a bunch of yardtard spotmonkeys until Zandig brought them into CZW. They turned their back on CZW and signed with that scumbag Rob Black who you fail to mention was tossing his filthy porn money around attempting to steal everybodys talent. They DESERVED to get ganged up on by CZW, 3PW and ROH. Fuck Rob Black and Fuck XPW. I'm glad it's dead it was shitty anyway.

Your comments on the Justice Pain promo at Deja Vu are just further proof that you have no idea what you are talking about. Have you even seen the tape of this show? On my copy and and everybody's elses that I have to this promo is still on the tape and was NOT cut. And as far as Gabe and Rob bitching about it goes well if you actually listen to the promo not once did Justice Pain say "Ring of Honor" or "ROH".

CZW is in a slump? That's news to me and I think everybody else. They got more attention and positive reviews for COD 5 than ROH did with their ROH/All-Japan show. 2003 wasn't a great year overall attendance wise for CZW but the last 3 shows have all drawn 700+ fans (i'm not including the Allentown spot show which drew a respectable 2-300). Now they are announcing a nationwide DVD deal, more spot shows including a return to Allentown, one in Reading PA, and a return to Italy. That's quite a slump. Obviously the opinions of 20 or so morons who bash the shows before they even see them proves nothing. If CZW fans are really that unhappy with the product why is the attendance back on the rise?

The bottom line Barber is if you're going to bash John Zandig at least put some facts in what you are saying and not all bullshit speculation and conspiracy theories. And if you're going to comment on promos on wrestling tapes make sure you've actually seen it. No wonder your delusional little punk ass is banned from almost every indy messageboard out there. Writing crap like this is only going to get you lible lawsuits. And i'll laugh if that ever happens. Keep crying over the fact CZW buried XPW. It's amusing to me.
Ryan James writes:
I'm not saying that the author is necessarily right, but Mark Rose posted a fairly ignorant little rant at the end of this. I know you're a CZW "fanboy", but apparently that excludes the idea of having, you know, a different opinion? I like how you post opinion as fact (XPW was shitty anyways)- some people thought that XPW was a good promotion. Not me, but still, you can't be so close-minded as to shut down anyone's argument with your "CZW is the best, fuck everything else" bullshit. It's also amusing (is that the word you're fond of? I'll use that one) that you seem to think of yourself as a high authority on wrestling. "Teddy Hart's an asshole", "The WWE sucks", etc., etc., etc. I have no problem with your opinions, but I do have a problem with your denouncement of someone else's opinion so forcefully. Oh, and it's spelled "libel".
Brad Dykens writes:
I'll let Mark speak for himself but I'd just like to point out that he wasn't saying anything about the author's opinions. He was simply pointing out that some of the so-called 'factual' information was, in reality, extremely speculative and there's no way in hell he could really know much of this stuff unless you were in the same room with the people involved (Zandig for example) at all times. Just because you read it on the internet doesn't make it true. But with that said, Mr. Rose the floor is yours..
Mark Rose has chosen not to dignify this rant with a response --- thread closed.:

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