The Most Dangerous Man in Wrestling
“When I say I’m wrestling’s savior, I really mean that. It’s not hyperbole.”
Johnny Z made his mark as a promoter. IZW was formed in 2004 as another startup organization and odds were it would join the ranks of one-shot promotions who put on one event and then decide that the pro wrestling business isn’t for them. Not so with IZW. Johnny Z and his associates built IZW from the ground up and quickly established the promotion as the cream of the crop in Oklahoma and the surrounding states. Nobody worked harder to make that dream a reality than the owner and founder, Johnny Z. Z’s true genius wasn’t in what he did in the ring during those first few instrumental and vital years of IZW’s existence. It was in what he didn’t do that showed true business acumen and a keen sense of the product he was forging IZW in to. Many owners look at their own promotion as a way to puff out their own chest and let anyone and everyone know that they are a promoter and wrestler. If they don’t have the wrestling chops to handle business inside the ring, they find a lackey to do the dirty work for them while they pick up the pieces and enjoy the rewards when all the heavy lifting is finished. Those that follow this logic find their dreams quickly dashed to pieces and thrown in the waste basket of yesterday’s trash. Not so with Z.
“IZW isn’t just my baby. That would mean it’s just my future. No, IZW is my future, my past and my present. This company embodies everything I am, will be and ever was. These other wrestlers in the company come to the Impact Arena once a week. They do their thing for 10, 20, even 30 minutes at a time. Some of them do a pretty good job. But that’s what it is to everyone else. A job. To me it’s my legacy, my destiny, my reason and purpose for being on this Earth.”
Exactly zero wrestlers on today’s independent wrestling scene are more powerful than IZW Champion Johnny Z. This isn’t me trying to kowtow towards Z or puff smoke up anyone’s rear end, it’s just a fact. He has the most stroke of anyone who's a part of today’s independent landscape, period. He’s a rich man, made even wealthier each week because his organization continues to break attendance gates week after week. IZW’s base of operations is Lawton, Oklahoma and through that centrally located city in the United States, Z has assembled quite a diverse locker room that features most of the top talent from around the country. Looking down the roster you see Superstars who hail from Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, California, Georgia and more.
With such a stacked roster of talent, Z has just begun making the same moves inside of the ring as he’s done for years while outside of the ring wearing his promoter’s hat cutting deal after deal. Z has only recently shown the full-scope of his wrestling aura to the global audience that watches “IZW Adrenaline” every Saturday night on GFL.tv. Fans in the Sooner State have seen glimpses of this current version of Johnny Z but even that has only been a foreshadowing of what Z has done the last few months each and every Saturday night at the Impact Arena.
Sure Z was in several heated feuds, his one on one bouts with Double D a few years ago still resonate with the fans who were in the arenas to witness firsthand the lengths that Johnny Z was willing to go to make his point. But while other wrestlers were making their mark in the ring, like Aaron Neil who became a 6-time IZW Champion and legend inside the squared circle by defeating the likes of Big Van Vader and Dusty Rhodes or Jermaine Johnson who became a bona fide superstar by having tremendous TLC Matches and Cage Matches that showed off his superior wrestling game, or Double D who dispatched of former NWA Champion and ROH standout Brent Albright in a No Holds Barred Match, Johnny Z was building an empire. Grooming and developing such a talented roster was only part of the plan.
Johnny Z already had the Oklahoma wrestling scene locked down for years. That wasn’t going to change. But what did change was Z landing a deal with the global leader in streaming combat sports, GFL.tv. GoFightLive made their mark by offering unique content to the discerning consumer who was looking for something other than what the masses where swallowing. Several top fighters in various combat sports (including UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman) along with some of today’s top professional wrestlers (including Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe) have had their bouts or matches broadcast on GFL.tv. What Z found in GFL was another necessary component in helping him assemble the enormous operation that is today’s IZW. Johnny Z knew he had the top roster on the independent circuit in North America. He also knew he had first-rate production value the likes of which can compete with WWE or any other wrestling organization in the world. Now Z had the worldwide broadcast platform to distribute content in an easy and efficient way. Combine all those factors together, a global broadcast partner, an arena solely dedicated to IZW shows, a talented locker room of wrestlers that tear the house down each and every Saturday night, merchandising that surpasses anything on the local or regional scene and Z now had the stage to be who and what he always was…The Natural Born Leader in all of his glory.
“I’m a hustler, plain and simple. I’ve been successful with every business venture I’ve ever had. The people of this area know that. Hell, I’ve done business with most everyone in Southern Oklahoma in some form or fashion.
“I didn’t get into the wrestling business to come in second place. It’s by far the most cutthroat profession I’ve ever been in which suits me just fine. You want to muddy up the waters? I can get as dirty as they come,” Johnny Z added.
Timing is everything. Especially in a business that changes from day to day. Everything in IZW was hitting on all cylinders and Johnny Z made his move. Not on IZW’s debut show. Not in the first year. Not in the first five years. It took year nine years for Z to have all of his ducks in a row. Up until this point he waited…and plotted.
Fast forward to “March Mayhem” on March 23, 2013, nearly a decade after Johnny Z opened IZW for business, he struck with all the intent and purpose of a methodical, manipulative psychopath. Z put himself in the position to be the special guest enforcer in the main event as Double D looked to avenge his previous loss against the current IZW Champion The Convict. Z was supposed to be the man that called it right down the middle. He was going to add fairness and impartiality to the bout. Instead he turned on Double D, the IZW World, and each and every person who has ever been a fan of the “Natural Born Leader”. Z gave Double D a Big Boot in the Corner of the No Disqualification Match and after an easy pinfall victory for The Convict, the King of the Yard wrapped the IZW Championship belt around Z’s waist and with one fateful move ushered in a new era of professional wrestling with Johnny Z sitting on the throne. Fans were seen leaving the Impact Arena in tears after that bout. It’s hard to blame them for their feelings of betrayal yet do we blame the rattlesnake for his venom? Do we blame the scorpion for his poisonous stinger? It’s in these creatures’ natures to be who they are. That’s what the world saw on March 23, 2013. Johnny Z was just being who he always was. He just never let the world know until that evening.
Since that dark night in the spring, Johnny Z has continued to rule IZW and the independent wrestling scene with an iron fist. Johnny Z has surrounded himself with a host of all-stars in the ring that give Z a political and in-ring covering including Madame Commissioner Erica, IZW Tag Team Champions What Wrestling Should Be (Jermaine Johnson & Jordan Jacobs), Kevin Morgan and The Convict. All of these chess pieces on the board are there for one reason and one reason alone. To protect the King. Z’s stranglehold on IZW grows tighter with each passing week. He’s never had a peer to battle intellects with. Now his in-ring work is at a career best, combined with the way he has stacked the deck in his favor, it makes him nearly impossible to overthrow.
Z will put his title on the line at “Redemption” on September 14 against “Big Business” Damon Windsor and as with any heated match, it’s going to be a fight so anything is possible. Windsor has the physical tools to not only dethrone Z in the ring but to destroy him. But will that be enough? Z didn’t plot, lie, manipulate and maneuver for the better part of a decade to be beaten by an opponent just because they are better in the ring than him. Z’s whole life is wrapped up into IZW and for better or worse, IZW’s future is in the palm of Z’s hand. Will this symbiotic relationship continue past “Redemption” and into the foreseeable future or will Windsor find a way, with the deck stacked against him, to rise to the occasion and somehow bring down the most egotistical, narcissistic, wicked wrestler in the 21st Century and set IZW on a new path? It’s a tall order for any one man in this business.
“You think I give a got damn about him? Windsor’s another in a long line of challengers to my crown. He’ll meet the same fate as Double D, The Bronze Bull, Brandon Bishop and anyone else that’s stupid enough to challenge my position inside IZW,” Johnny Z said.
In the end, what it all boils down to is Johnny Z is a winner of which I have to concede. And winners do whatever they have to do to continue to stay ahead of the pack and on top. I’ll give the devil his due. I just don’t have to like it.
Johnny Z was as callous as ever when I gave him one final opportunity to speak to his “fans” or at least the people that support IZW.
“When the dust settles after ‘Redemption’ and the people of Lawton go out to their broken down pickup trucks, hand-me-down Trans-Ams and rusted out Camaros they’ll feel even worse about their lives knowing Johnny Z, ‘The Natural Born Leader’, the ‘Savior of Wrestling’ broke their hearts once again.”
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