Over the last two years, Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) has emerged as the hottest independent promotion on the planet. If you peruse social media for wrestling news, chances are, you’ve come across a news clip from a GCW show, such as Matt Cardona “winning” the defunct ECW Television Championship.
On Sunday, GCW held its first pay-per-view event, emanating from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. I’ve never seen a GCW show and didn’t plan on ordering this one. However, the overwhelming feedback to the event piqued my curiosity enough to press the purchase button on my remote control.
Over the last 20-years, the Hammerstein Ballroom has become a historic pro wrestling venue. The building served as the New York home of ECW during the promotion’s final six months and hosted both ECW One Night Stand events. The WRLD ON GCW opened with the familiar sight of diehard fans chanting for the host promotion.
Profanity laced ring announcing, even more profane commentary, minimum protective padding outside the ring, inconsistent production audio, a heavy reliance on nostalgia, and a train wreck of an opening ladder match led me to one indelible conclusion. GCW is ECW devolved. However, as the night progressed, the modus operandi of GCW became more and more evident.
From the hardcore in-ring action to the parental advisory atmosphere, GCW is a big backyard wrestling show. It sounds like an insult, but let me explain.
My friends and I partook in backyard wrestling in our youthful years. After a show, we’d pile in Davey P’s basement, watch the tape of our chair swinging exploits while ravenously discussing all things wrestling. The WRLD ON GCW was a backyard wrestling party with a budget, and Hammerstein Ballroom was the world’s largest basement.
Despite a fun vibe and some cool cameos, nothing on the show exhibited what makes GCW special. The booking of their homegrown talent was the biggest indictment of a lackluster showcase. AJ Gray, Alex Colon, Jimmy Lloyd, Jordan Oliver, G-Raver in a ladder match with PCO didn’t give the regular members of the roster time to shine.
The Trios Match received rave reviews and GCW deserves props for allowing the match to go full out Lucha. Gringo Loco was the only wrestler in the match I was unfamiliar with. While he’s an athletic worker who does some good moves, his punches and kicks were some of the weakest I’ve ever seen. It took me out of the match every time Loco would do a fantastic, well-executed maneuver and follow up with a feather-light forearm shiver.
Blake Christian vs. Lio Rush was a tale of two halves. The first part of the match was a slow plotting affair with a big spot here and there to entice the crowd. Both wrestlers turned up the tempo in the later stages, making it feel like a competitive match. Blake gave Rush a tombstone onto the floor and came off the top rope with a 450 double stomp for the win.
Blake Christian opened some eyes here.
Matt Cardona defeated Joey Janela in a long, overbooked match filled with shenanigans galore. While there was nothing terrible about the match, it was structured around big moments more than anything else, including a sweet callback to the building’s past. Cardona is responsible for GCW’s recent emergence in the wrestling consciousness and was given a lot of time here.
It started to feel as if I was watching a spot show/ house show more than a pay-per-view special. Then, a promo between Mance Warner and Atticus Cogar seemingly read my mind when Atticus proclaimed, “this is nothing more than a spot show, and you know it.”
Wow, talk about shooting straight.
The next three matches saw GCW originals against outside name talent. Allie Katch lost to Ruby Soho, Jeff Jarrett defeated Effy, and Homicide lost to Jon Moxley. While the audio throughout the show was a frustrating endeavor to endure, it was clear who the live audience was rooting for. Moxley got a mixed reaction for his win, but Katch and Effy losing was not well received. Mox/Homicide felt like a neutered version of what was expected from two such wrestlers.
Matt Tremont and Nick Gage defeated The Briscoes to win the GCW Tag Team Titles in the main event, which lasted 5 minutes. If that’s not bad enough, the finish where Gage pinned Mark Briscoe was botched.
Mark kicked out, but the pin was counted anyway due to the hard pay-per-view time restrictions. Gage’s Sandman-style entrance with Metallica’s “For Who the Bell Tolls” felt unique and one of the show’s best moments.
GCW broke the all-time attendance record for the Hammerstein Ballroom as the show sold out within two hours of tickets going on sale. X-Pac, Virgil, Swoggle, “Smart” Mark Sterling, Sabu, Bill Alfonso, Marko Stunt, and Thunder Rosa made unannounced appearances. Virgil’s cameo seemed out of place, but everyone else served their purpose.
The strict 11:00 pm off-air pay-per-view time did not serve GCW well, which hurts even more when trying to make a good first impression. Many GCW fans have voiced their displeasure over the show, stating it wasn’t true to the spirit of the promotion.
New York is a state that regulates pro wrestling, so no doubt compromises had to be made regarding putting on violent deathmatches. The big-name talent taking center stage over the GCW originals didn’t go over well with their fans either.
However, as a promoter myself, I get it.
Breaking into the NYC market and garnering more eyeballs on the product than ever before requires some editing to the finished product. While I’m far from an expert on all things GCW, more often than not, the show didn’t feel right. After hearing the feedback from diehard fans, it’s not hard to understand why.
The WRLD ON GCW wasn’t the worst show I’ve ever seen, but it was a lukewarm introduction. Some would probably never watch another GCW show again, and that was my first instinct. However, the passion in which fans are telling people this show was a departure from the norm has convinced me to give them a second chance.
I look forward to seeing the genuine GCW article in the future, but unfortunately, we didn’t get that here, and it showed.
-The WRLD ON GCW results 1/23/22
AJ Gray defeated PCO vs. Alex Colon vs. Tony Deppen vs. G-Raver vs. Jimmy Lloyd vs. Jordan Oliver Grab in the Brass Ring Ladder Match.
Six-Man Tag: Gringo Loco, Arez & Demonic Flamita defeated Bandido, Laredo Kid & ASF
Blake Christian defeated Lio Rush
Matt Cardona w/ Chelsea Green defeated Joey Janela
Ruby Soho over Allie Katch
Jeff Jarrett pinned Effy
GCW World Champion Jon Moxley defeated Homicide to retain the title
Matt Tremont & Nick Gage defeated The Briscoes to win the GCW World Tag Team Championships