When Rickey Shane Page was announced for the CZW Tournament of Death in 2015, I penned an article about the 14-year veteran’s journey to one of the most showcased events on the independent scene. From the time he saw Mick Foley take a leap of faith off the top of the cell in 1998, professional wrestling was his goal, and the deathmatch genre that he saw on bootleg tapes of Japanese matches led to him develop a similar style when he pursed a career inside the squared circle.
As a commentator in Pittsburgh, I had a chance to call a few of RSP’s matches and one of the things I always mentioned was that he was one of the most underrated competitors on the indy circuit. He had a heavyweight frame, but was extremely agile and the combination made him a unique commodity in a time when the cruiser weight style became trendy. I knew that TOD was a good chance for Rickey to receive some well deserved exposure, but his debut in Delaware that afternoon on June 13, 2015 was just the start of a banner ultraviolent year for him.
The Ohio native earned a reputation for his innovative offense and hardcore matches in his home state so the nearly 1,000 fans that surrounded the ring at the Markland complex greeted him with an enthusiastic response when he walked through the curtain for his first round bout with CZW mainstay Danny Havoc.
“I was really excited. TOD was always a bucket list item for me. I was a little nervous. Luckily, I’ve been in the ring with Danny Havoc before so I knew what we could do together. I was just focused on having fun and trying to have the best match I could. Anytime I step in the ring with Danny, its magic and that time was no different,” Rickey explained.
The light tube match was a dangerous stipulation that prompted its fair share of bloodshed, but despite the weapons at his disposal, Page showcased a variety of strikes during the bout. In the end, a suplex from the top rope through a light tube board concluded RSP’s bid in the tournament, leaving his face covered in crimson. Havoc was seriously cut when the contest finished, as blood streamed like a facet from the side of his head. While RSP didn’t win the trophy in 2015, he earned the approval of the deathmatch fan base, as his performance was unanimously praised by those in attendance.
Despite the solid showing, some competitors became almost “tournament exclusives” in years prior so RSP wasn’t exactly guaranteed a new chapter of his career after his CZW debut. In fact, it would be six months until Rickey appeared on another Combat Zone card, this time for the biggest event of their calendar, Cage of Death for a rematch with Havoc. However, even signed to work such a well-known event, Page still wasn’t scheduled to be booked full-time for the company.
“Every time I step foot in the ring, I have something to prove. I always want to entertain and have a good match,” he said.
The start of 2016 saw RSP work a pair of Combat Zone events while he continued to elevate his profile on the independent scene in a variety of groups. His previous ultraviolent bouts with Havoc prompted another invitation for the Tournament of Death.
This time, Rickey was more prepared for the possibility of wrestling three matches to make it to the finals saying, “I tried not to think too much about it. I didn’t want to psych myself out. If you think too much, that’s when things can go wrong.”
In the first round, RSP was greeted with another energetic crowd response and defeated Tim Donst in a fans bring the weapons match to advance to the second round. He returned to the ring for his next match, but he didn’t have his traditional wrestling boots for a barefoot battle with Conor Claxton that featured thumbtacks, which he won to advance to the finals.
In the finale of the tournament, Rickey stood across the ring from the then-CZW champion Matt Tremont for a barbed wire and light tube match. As the two grapples smashed light tubes over each other, Ricky suffered a serious cut above his eye and blood gushed from the lengthy laceration. The staff rushed to the ring and attempted to duct tape the wound closed to allow for the conclusion of the match.
“I hit my face on some glass that was in the ring. It was a freak accident. It was bleeding a lot like a crazy amount of blood. it was one of the only times that I was actually scared while wrestling,” he said.
Clutching the bandages to his head, Page continued the bout, which saw the two finalists scale a scaffold. Rickey used a death valley driver from the scaffold through a flaming table covered with light tubes to win the Tournament Of Death championship.
“It was surreal. It’s a huge honor to be in that class of guys. Sometimes, I still can’t believe it happened,” he explained.
Within the span of just one year, Rickey Shane Page went from a potential one-time CZW appearance to winning one of the most storied tournaments in independent wrestling. RSP’s passion and effort for the sport displayed during matches earned the appreciation of an entire new group of fans that discovered his work through CZW. But, Page stays focused toward continuing the momentum in his career and the journey that started nearly a decade and a half ago.
“I want to be the CZW world heavyweight champion. I would like to get signed to the WWE, I have some friends there and I think I could bring something different there. But, for now, I just want to keep moving forward, going to new places and having fun. That’s always my goal,” he said.
Until next week