In today’s wrestling world of Kenny Omega‘s, Ricochet‘s and Will Ospreay‘s, where technique is overtaking character in the independent world of professional wrestling, hardcore or deathmatch wrestling seems to be a dirty word these days. While fans pine for the glory days of the original ECW, it has all been relegated to different times and dismissed as a dangerous gimmick with no place in pro wrestling anymore, especially in a time where injuries (especially concussions) are being monitored with more microscopes than a science lab. But American hardcore – the kind originated in ECW, that took it’s cues from Japanese deathmatches, combined it with a healthy dose of 70’s territory All-American ass kicking and then entered the US indie bloodstream through the likes of Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) and IWA Mid South in the late 90s – is making a comeback, thanks largely in part to Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) out of New Jersey. The new face of American hardcore is still centered on the ultraviolence of days gone by – but this time, there’s an emphasis on storytelling and characters like never before, and unlike some wrestlers of past eras, these wrestlers can do more than just bleed well.
The king the god the best on the planet at what i do MDK kotdm 2018 pic.twitter.com/LArpWMJJEI
— Nick FN Gage (@thekingnickgage) May 20, 2018
GCW has been around the New Jersey area for nearly 20 years, although it’s only been GCW since 2015 – prior to that, it was known as Jersey Championship Wrestling (JCW). Originally founded by wrestler/promoter Ricky O, in 2015, it was purchased by Brett Lauderdale and longtime indie wrestler Danny Demanto and rebranded as GCW. In a short span of time, Demanto and Lauderdale have taken GCW to its greatest heights, keeping the intensity of American hardcore but adding a more structured and passionate narrative to it’s foundation. With it’s penchant for securing some of the indie scenes most athletic talents, as well as American hardcore legends and rookies, and combining them with international talent from more physical promotions like Mexico’s Desastre Total Ultraviolento (DTU) and Japan’s Big Japan Wrestling (BJW), GCW continues to change the game, not just for American hardcore, but for North American independents as well.
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Joey Janela's Lost in New York
Friday 8.17 – 8pm
— GameChangerWrestling (@GCWrestling_) August 9, 2018
GCW has always had its cult following, but in 2015, they handed the reigns over to one of it’s rising stars, Joey Janela, who threw a midnight special during WrestleMania week in 2017 called Joey Janela’s Spring Break. The absurdly fun matches and overall vibe made it one of the breakout events of the week, making this spring’s Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2 a must see event. This year’s edition featured the encounter between PCO and WALTER that effectively kickstarted PCO’s entire comeback story this year. Next week, Janela’s third offering with GCW, Joey Janela’s Lost In New York, continues to push the boundaries of good fun, with matches like Matt Riddle vs. PCO, Joey Janela vs. Jinsei Shinzaki and Nick Gage vs. Haku, with even more shows on the horizon. And don’t think they’re getting soft in their success – they still house the annual deathmatch tournament Tournament of Survival every June, and the third annual Nick Gage Invitational deathmatch tourney starts next month as well. If there was ever a time to get on GCW’s bandwagon, it would be now. We recently spoke to co-owner Danny Demanto about GCW’s short lifespan and it’s explosive start out of the gate.
You guys are getting a lot of publicity and a more national, even international, presence now than ever before. Some people may not realize the longevity of GCW. You guys came out of the ashes of Jersey Championship Wrestling right? How did that shift happen?
Danny Demanto: The shift happened originally because JCW (Jersey Championship Wrestling) wanted to branch out of the state of NJ and wanted a fresh start with a new name.
JCW wasn’t exactly regarded as a deathmatch or hardcore company per sey, but they were a hot promotion for emerging indie talent in the early 2000s, with the likes of CM Punk, Jay Lethal, Reckless Youth, Teddy Hart, Quackenbush, Super Dragon, etc. etc. Why do you think JCW never broke as one of the majors, like ROH or PWG?
Everything happens for a reason in professional wrestling. JCW put on some of the best shows NJ has seen in the early 2000s.
You guys rebranded as GCW in 2015 when you took over and you’ve kind of become the new home of American hardcore. Was that a conscious shift or just something that evolved?
We rolled the dice with the NGI1 [the first Nick Gage Invitational tournament]. It was something both Brett & I spoke about doing for years. It was all about timing.
How did you manage to convince Nick Gage to switch to GCW full time? That was the hardcore equivalent of WCW signing Hulk Hogan. He was the face of CZW.
We didn’t have to do much convincing. If you know anything about Nick, he doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do. He believes in GCW and he loves the fans.
The elite in DEATHMATCH wrestling are coming to Chicago. A lineup like this doesn't happen often. Do not miss your opportunity to see the very BEST in the world…
NGI3 – Thy Kingdom Come
Sat 9/8 – 730pm
Galli Arena – Villa Park IL
— GameChangerWrestling (@GCWrestling_) August 10, 2018
You guys had a very public beef with CZW last year, when you invaded last December’s Cage of Death. People still question if it was a work or a shoot. How real was it?
What you saw on the video was all real emotion coming out. They should have saw it coming…
GCW has passed IWA Mid South and now CZW as the premier American hardcore promotion, why do you think the hardcore fans are turning their eyes now more to GCW?
Nobody works harder then GCW when it comes to pleasing our fans. Loyalty and respect goes a long way in wrestling even with the fans. We wouldn’t be anything with our loyal fan base.
With other CZW loyalists like Matt Tremont and Joey Janela with GCW, does it feel like a hardcore version of the Monday Night Wars?
We aren’t competing with anyone except ourselves. We don’t ask anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. We also don’t ask anyone to not work anywhere that they want to work.
Speaking of Janela, he’s become a real ambassador for GCW, all while becoming one of the hottest stars on the international indie circuit. What’s it been like working with Janela?
He’s a bad, bad boy.
How did the first Spring Break come together? That first one really seemed to be the firecracker that made a lot of people around the world take notice of both of you.
It was started at a half joke/half serious conversation. Then once we were told there was a time slot open at midnight on a Thursday we rolled the dice.
GCW seems to have a strong desire to unite the past with the present. I think it’s fair to say that GCW and Janela have effectively given Teddy Hart and PCO their comeback starting points in the past year or so. Where these hopeful design or was it happy accidents?
Every case is different. Every story is different. We’re extremely lucky and proud to have both PCO & Teddy Hart as apart of the GCW locker room.
Janela’s now got his third GCW production, Lost in New York, next week. It’s been a HUGE buzz show for months now. How are you guys handling it in the final week. Does it feel “big”?
This will go down as the biggest show GCW has ever ran.
It's go time…
GCW heads 2 the Jersey Shore with an all star lineup & a healthy dose of ultraviolence…
Teddy Hart vs Jack Evans
& more to be announced next week!
Live Fast, Die Young
Fri 9.21 – 8pm
Asbury Park NJ
— GameChangerWrestling (@GCWrestling_) August 10, 2018
You’ve got two more big shows already announced as well, the NGI3 on September 8, then Live Fast Die Young at the end of September. You guys seem to quicken the pace when a lot seem to slow down. How do you keep it going?
No one will out work us. Well sleep when we die!
One of the unique factors about GCW is the international partnerships you seem to be building, with Big Japan and Mexico’s DTU. Are there other hardcore or extreme promotions you’d like to work with that you haven’t?
Freedoms in Japan
Front Row is Sold Out
— GameChangerWrestling (@GCWrestling_) August 3, 2018
You’ve got VOD on Smart Mark Video, but are there any plans to start a streaming service like Pivotshare or join something like Powerbomb.tv or Powerslam Wrestling Network?
We’re strictly on Smart Mark Video for now but never say never!
Lost in New York is going to be live on iPPV, is this a one time only thing or are you looking into starting more regular iPPVs?
There will be more live IPPVs in the future.
Where do you hope to see GCW by the end of 2019?
Bigger than we were in 2018, but nowhere near as big as 2020!