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Found 73 results

  1. We are in Brent Town Hall. Going into this match Doug Williams was over a year into his title reign as the British Heavyweight Champion, although the commentators note he has a partially torn rotator cuff. The result of this is that while FWA Title matches were contested under 2 out of 3 falls rules, the injury means that FWA management have only sanctioned this as a one fall contest. Following his rivalry with Hade Vansen over the All England Title, where there were a number of controversial finishes, Zebra Kid was given the title shot as recognition of being the longest reigning All England champion. He is accompanied to the ring for this match by his (and Paige’s) Dad Ricky Knight. Because of the injury he’s coming in with, Doug, uncharacteristically, goes for a fast start hitting a close line right at the opening bell. Usually Doug is a wrestler that likes to work his way into a match gradually but here he goes to blitz Zebra early. While Williams is the more accomplished technical wrestler, by getting into more of a frenzied match he’s played into Zebra’s hands. That’s his kind of match, and he is able to take control with his kicks and strikes as well as using a chair on the outside; using it to set Williams up on and deliver an elbow from the apron and a DDT on it. As the ace of the company, Williams is able to absorb a lot of punishment, and he starts to unload some of his big weapons, such as the bomb scare knee drop from the top and a double underhook suplex from the top rope to try and get out with his belt. With the injury he’s coming in with though, the commentators are playing up vulnerability in Williams due to the number of gruelling title defences he’s had and his schedule in Japan and the US, and Zebra’s frantic style often has the champion on the defensive. This leads into the final stretch where Williams is down and Zebra Kid looks like he is about to claim the title by going up for his Zebra Crossing elbow drop from the top rope…until he is turned on by his Dad who pushes him off the top rope allowing Williams – not aware of what’s happened – to hit the Emerald Flowsion to retain. This is a fun match and I enjoyed that it was a contest where Williams was forced into more of a frantic brawl which he had to survive. At this stage he was putting on a great run of title defences against a wide variety of different opponents, very similar to the ROH title reigns of Samoa Joe and Bryan Dainelson. The ending of the match was due to build up to a personal grudge match - probably at British Uprising III, between father and son. While the feud would involve many of the Knight family members, fuelled by Zebra's decision to wrestle full-time for the FWA instead of his father's promotion, World Association of Wrestling, outside the ring factors – Zebra Kid being jailed for nine months for drink-driving – meant the storyline which had a lot potential came to an abrupt halt only a few months later. (*** ¼)
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXVpOjuh0K0 This is Low Ki’s return to the FWA after first appearing at the FWA/ROH show Frontiers of Honor around a year before this. He’s matched up here with James Tighe who was the break through wrestler of the year in the FWA in 2003, culminating in him main eventing British Uprising II for the FWA Title. Following that unsuccessful challenge he’d been in a slump and on a losing streak. This match feels very much like a Low Ki/Bryan Danielson match at times, but whereas those matches were much more even, Low Ki is able to dominate much more, especially in the opening stretches. There is some great counter wrestling at the beginning, with everything looking like a real struggle and several times Tighe is just able to escape Ki’s submissions by getting to the ropes, including a hanging Dragon Clutch that is applied over the top rope. As ever, Low Ki brings a real intensity to everything he does, and his kicks and chops are really vicious. Anytime that it looks like Tighe is getting the advantage, Ki’s striking ability is what can get him out of a hole – they are weapons that Tighe doesn’t have. Tighe does though have the slight power advantage, and he is able to catch Ki coming off the ropes into a great looking German Suplex before hitting a double underhook into a power bomb for a nearfall that the crowd really seemed to bite on. Once again though it’s Ki’s striking that is decisive; when Tighe, sensing he has the momentum goes for his Tighetanic finisher Ki hits some nasty looking knees to escape before hitting a rolling koppu kick to the back of the head. From there he transitions to the Dragon Clutch and the ref calls for the bell with Tighe passing out. This is an excellent match, almost on a par with the match that Tighe had with Doug Williams, which at this point in company history I think is the best match the FWA has had. This doesn’t have the nuances of that match, but the early grappling into the progression of high impact moves – without it ever becoming spot, spot, spot – means this is excellent. At a couple of moments, particularly when the match is starting to escalate that Tighe goes back to a chin lock that is slightly jarring, but that is nit picking. Tighe continued his losing streak, but looked anything but weak in this one, going toe to toe with one of the best on the independent scene at that time. (****)
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ub707DChaU This was a pretty legendary match in the fairly short history of the FWA and one which was heavily built to as a hook for the new FWA TV show. Shane was now firmly the focal point of the promotion, transplanting his off screen role as the company’s managing Director onto TV and looking to take the company to the next level with him at it’s centre. In storyline terms, a guy looking like Jack Xavier – stocky and wrestling in a shirt and shorts, a Mick Foleyesque figure – was not what he wanted in the FWA. Reflecting the intensity of the feud, I love the beginning of the match as we jump right into it the action with Xavier jumping Shane from behind and hitting him with a sick chair shot that busts him open immediately. We also see some intelligent babyface work from Xavier with him taking out Shane’s security guards (including the future Martin Stone/Danny Burch) with chairshots and then leaping onto them and Shane with a somersault plancha. Xavier’s intensity in the early parts of the match are great and he battles Shane across the seating area on the stage and then hits a pretty mental looking tornado DDT from the stage to the floor! Last man standing matches can often get drawn out with lots of breaks in the flow, but the intensity and fire that both guys bring and the fact that the match doesn’t outstay it’s welcome at a shade under 15 mins means it doesn’t fall victim to that. Added to that, both guys take some massive bumps. After Xavier’s initial flurry, Shane is able to take control by hip tossing Xavier off the bleachers to the floor below and then hitting a series of sick chairshots to the head that are pretty hard to watch with 2018 eyes. Xavier played a great babyface and his facials (as well as also getting busted open himself) really get across his fighting spirit. Shane also plays his desperation well, explaining why he needs to up the violence by setting up a table on the outside, although in another brutal looking bump he ends up getting speared through the ropes by Xavier with both men crashing through it (think Edge vs Foley from Wrestlemania 21, only without the fire). Given all the punishment they’ve taken in the match, some might feel that Shane ultimately getting the win with his One Night Stand finisher might be underwhelming, but it works in the sense that both – especially Xavier – have taken a lot of abuse and the cumulative impact of that and the fact that Xavier looks to be getting to his feet before being taken out by a belt shot by All England Champion Hade Vansen. This is the start of an alliance and the transition of Xavier into a feud with Vansen, leaving Shane to continue his storylines with Doug Williams and Steve Corino. This is an excellent match that holds up to this day, with a great pace for a LMS match. Even in defeat, it was a match that also got Xavier over as a guy the fans were happy to rally behind. (****)
  4. With 2004 seeing the introduction of the FWA’s new weekly TV show, it meant that matches from live events that were not a signature show and wouldn’t have often been part of a home video release were now being seen as part of TV tapings. It also meant much greater storyline development on smaller shows. This is a case in point. This match is from the Morecambe Dome, which before demolition was a great venue for wrestling. It’s domed roof kept in the atmosphere and it was a venue that translated well on camera. It was to become the Northern home of the FWA, which previously having been a Southern/London based promotion was trying in 2004 to become more or a national touring company. As we’ll explore in greater detail as we get into 2005, being a seaside town, it was also a venue that was home to much more of an ‘old school’ crowd with kids and families that were coming to see more traditional shows with clear good guys and bad guys. This was very different to the other audience that the FWA was largely catering to, the internet savvy ‘smark’ fan. On the one hand it leads to some really interesting shows with different atmospheres and a creativity in story lines to try and appeal to multiple audiences; in the long run however it was to produce a disconnect in the product that some of the more hardcore fans would eventually struggle to reconcile with. At this stage though in 2004, the momentum of the FWA was continuing to grow and they were putting on some of their strongest shows – the quality of this match reflects that. It’s a match that mixes so many classic wrestling storyline elements; David vs Goliath; cocky heel vs underdog; established name vs rookie and the result is a simple but highly effective match up. Shane was now the No. 1 heel in the company, and feuding with multiple different wrestlers simultaneously; Doug Williams, Steve Corino and Jack Xavier. Aviv Mayan was the star pupil from the FWA Academy who was now performing on the main cards for the company. In this match he plays his role as the fiery underdog to perfection. The opening exchanges see Shane stooging nicely, with Mayan not letting him into the ring until Shane is able to take control with a big boot. Because of his size and power, at any time it looks like Mayan is getting on top, Shane has the weapons to just cut him off with one move. Throughout the match Shane heels it up wonderfully, using the ropes for leverage and when the ref goes to check, raking the eyes, and given the make up of the crowd it works to really build the heat. He also sells Mayan’s fire by trying to get away from him through the crowd at one point, which gives Mayan the chance to score with a hurucanrana off a wall and onto the floor. Back in the ring, Mayan misses a moonsault and gets hit with a two handed choke power bomb for a good nearfall before the ref (a very young version of current Rev Pro promoter Andy Quildan) gets bumped. Shane goes for a chair but it rebounds on him when Jack Xavier comes in and puts Mayan on top for another good nearfall. I enjoyed that just as you thought Shane had survived the banana peel, he continues to get distracted by Xavier on the stage and gets rolled up for the shock defeat. This is a really fun little match – just classic wrestling storyline 101 and nothing over the top. It also worked nicely to build up the Shane vs Xavier Last Man Standing Match that was a couple of days after this. (*** ¼)
  5. I’m a huge fan on the Indies when a storyline/rivalry crosses over different promotions. It adds a sense of realism and that there is a wrestling universe (rarely the WWE universe of course) where everything is interconnected. It enables you to feel wrestlers characteristics and motivations much more strongly. Over the past 15 years or so one of the best examples was the Raven vs CM Punk feud. I won’t go into too much of the detail, as I think there’s a fair amount of familiarity with it, but Punk’s straight edge lifestyle and Raven’s more ahem ‘colourful’ drug and alcohol past made them perfect opponents. Generally the FWA was decent at incorporating imports into storylines and not feeling throw away, however this match is fairly stand alone. Punk would complete a few more times over the coming tour this was a part of including challenging Doug Williams for the FWA Title, and Raven would return for a more prominent role in the company in 2005, but this feels mainly an attempt to tap into an over feud, between two talented ‘name’ guys to draw eyeballs. Before the match we see Punk walking through the building into the bar area and cutting an excellent promo on the vices of the fans (and Raven of course) and the poison they are putting into their bodies. It’s a really good promo and already shows the charisma and presence Punk had. The less said about how my fellow Brits come across during their time on screen… The version of the match that I’ve got access to is the version shown on the FWA’s weekly TV show on The Wrestling Channel so it’s fairly disjointed and cut up and it’s hard to get a sense of the real flow of the match and the story being told. Like a lot of their matches we get some stalling on the outside from Punk to begin with and then Raven getting on the mic to try and taunt him into losing his cool. Both look to try to take it to their type of match – Raven by trying to take it to the outside, while Punk wants to make it a more technical match. Having seen some of their ROH matches, this lacks the intensity of those contests and feels fairly paint by numbers – something which may have to do with the fact that I think their feud was starting to wind down. As mentioned, the ad breaks in the match and the clipping makes it hard to get a full sense of how good it is (and reflects my match grade), but what we get is still entertaining, carried by the rivalry and the charisma of the two. Pretty shockingly Punk ends up winning cleanly with the shining wizard following no cheating and/or no heel shenanigans. (** ½)
  6. The biggest story coming out of British Uprising II was arguably Alex Shane turning heel on Ulf Herman. In 2004 he would become the No. 1 heel in the company, with them now being open on air about Shane being the Managing Director of the FWA alongside being an in-ring competitor. There is a pretty good promo that Shane cuts where he explains why he turned on Herman, sighting him – with his use of weapons and fire and his swearing in interviews - as a detriment to getting a TV deal. The Shane/Xavier rivalry and the associated segments involving Doug Williams and Steve Corino show how far in 2004 the FWA would use the internet and ‘shoot’ angles to push its storylines forward. This match for example stems from an interview Xavier gave in which he criticised the company for pushing him TOO much. Hmmm… but the gist was that he felt he was being shoved down people’s throats and that was the reason some fans had turned on him when he had beat Homicide at Uprising II. In response Shane said that he should be grateful for the ‘push’ and that the reason some of the fans were beginning to turn against him was because of his lack of drive and lack of fire. I’ve never been a fan of talking about ‘pushes’ and ‘getting over’ on wrestling TV and that whole ‘the rest of this stuff is fake, but this is REAL’ rubbish, but back in 2004, this appealed to a lot of fans, and hadn’t been done in the UK before. The FWA was a company appealing to a hardcore, internet fanbase, and did mean that you could feel genuine animosity and believability in a lot of the angles they were presenting. This is the storyline of the match, with Shane saying that Xavier needs to show fire and impress him, or risk losing his spot on the roster. I enjoyed him trying to fire him up with slaps and spitting at him, but then retreating when Xavier goes on the offence. As we’ll see in 2004, these too have good chemistry, with Shane using his size and playing the cocky bullying heel, and Xavier being the every man babyface able to take lots of punishment, however it’s clear that this match is setting the table for future matches down the line. They spend a lot of time brawling on the floor and up to the ramp way, and there’s not a huge amount to get invested in, but things pick up when Shane takes a really nasty looking tornado DDT off the apron and through a table. At that stage it looks like we might get a double count out, but Shane ends up winning the match with his feet on the ropes. It’s obviously a cheap finish, but I do like the storyline in terms of Shane running his mouth about Xavier not having the fire and needing to step up as he’s not on his level, but that when he does he has to resort to cheating to be able to defeat him, It’s a fairly standard match overall, but as I say, sets the table nicely for their last man standing rematch which was one of the most well regarded matches in the company’s history (***) As I’m yet to be able to find a copy of the match, for now I’m going to add a note on the Doug Williams vs Steve Corino match on this show for the FWA Title. As previously mentioned, this comes from another of the shoot style angles the FWA was running with; Corino coming out of the crowd unannounced interrupting a match earlier on in the show. Corino and Shane have a face to face confrontation around the fact that Shane wouldn’t book Corino on the FWA vs ROH show the year before and was blocking him from appearing. We then get an interruption from Doug Williams saying that Shane told him he could take the night off but that he wants to defend the title against Corino. In an interesting way of getting to that match, Williams says that if he doesn’t get to defend the title then the fans can sue Shane for false advertising, which as just as well, given the lack of funds in the FWA coffers… As I say, I haven’t been able to find the match outside of a highlight video to do a review, but it’s hard to imagine it not being pretty good, especially given the great matches Doug was regularly putting on at this stage. The bigger point is that this is the start of a 7-8 month build to Williams vs Shane.
  7. After the slightly disappointing reception that British Uprising II received in October 2003, it incredibly took over five months for the FWA’s next show - New Frontiers. While that could’ve had a significant impact on the company’s momentum, it is arguable that across all metrics; attendances, visibility, storylines and in ring quality 2004 was the strongest year in the FWA’s history. However, by the time the year was out, the company was already on the path to its untimely demise. The biggest news going into 2004 was that the FWA had secured its first ever national TV deal, a weekly one hour slot on the newly established Wrestling Channel. For those outside the UK that may not be aware; The Wrestling Channel was available through pay TV on Sky and, at least initially, was a hardcore wrestling fans wet dream. The channel went after pretty much every bit of non WWE owned footage they could find and made deals with company’s across the world. This was something not even American’s had. On a random day, you could easily sit down for several hours watching the channel and take in a weekly TNA PPV, followed by an ROH event DVD spliced up for television, then action from the likes of New Japan, NOAH, CMLL, World of Sport, CZW, MLW, 3PW – a crazy line-up. As part of their line-up you also then had the FWA. This was seen as a big break for the FWA in their desire to break the mainstream. As noted, the need to create engaging television, meant the company creating more compelling storylines and much greater character development, and also saw the look of the on screen product become much more polished. However, as I’ll chart, this need to create a TV quality product would ultimately be one of the key reasons for the company’s demise; like many other wrestling companies before and since - the costs of filming TV ended up being more than the money coming in and after less than a year, their weekly show had been cancelled due to the lack of money to produce it. As Greg Lambert, who was part of the creative at the time, makes the comparison, there were many similarities between the FWA and The Wrestling Channel itself. Both were companies being pushed forward on a dream, but without the financial backing and infrastructure to support it. As many others in the wrestling industry have found, The Wrestling Channel wasn’t able to attract the amount of sponsors and advertisers it needed in order to cover the costs of the expensive footage it was acquiring. As the channel went on it was forced to cut down it’s hours it was on screen, drop some of the companies it was featuring and include more cheap old action movies to pad out the schedule, before it eventually ceased operation after around there years. But for now, back to March 2004, and the start of the biggest year in the FWA’s history. New Frontiers was to act as the company’s first TV taping. After the fire incident at British Uprising II, the company were now banned from the York Hall, so needed a new London venue, so we are in the old Brent Town Hall, which was just in the shadow of Wembley Stadium. Attendance was around 700 for this show. Despite not getting the big blow off with Jody Fleisch, Jonny Storm’s heel run in 2003 was one of the highlights of the company, with him getting great heat from the crowd. He is now very much locked into his persona here and great as the cocky, flashy Essex boy with the shit eating grin. His opponent X Dream is not someone I’m familiar with at all, but was a young German high flyer making his debut for the FWA here. A quick perusal of Cagematch reveals that he didn’t go on to make a significant name for himself in the business after this. As we’ll see, I believe he only returns for one more match in the FWA. Which is a shame as he performs very well in this match and gets over impressively with the crowd. He showcases some great high flying here, looking fairly well polished and honestly wouldn’t look that out of place in today’s X Division or on 205 Live. This match is a pure, unapologetic spotfest for most of it, but as you want in one of these matches, all the moves are hit cleanly and it sets a rapid pace. Storm brings the personality to the match, working in some tropes that maybe tired now – the crisscross into the chinlock for example – but that at the time get a really good reaction. He also tones down some of his own high flying to help get the crowd behind the guy they didn’t know coming in. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is for Storm’s XPW European Title, still being reportedly carried around in a brief case and now a year and a half or so after that company going after business. If you are looking for nuance and psychology then this is probably not the match for you, but in terms of an all action, go-go-go contest, then there’s lots to enjoy. (*** ¼)
  8. As with British Uprising I the previous year, it’s good to see the show main evented by the FWA Title and main evented by two British guys. Over the year since that show Doug Williams had been firmly established as the ace of the company having brought the title ‘home’ by beating Christopher Daniels at ROH’s Night of Champions in March. Following that he successfully defended the title against a series of imports including Chris Hamrick, Juventud Guerrera, Christopher Daniels and Bryan Danielson. This is his first home grown challenger. This is a really well built up match. Back at Crunch 2003 in March, Doug defeated James Tighe in a match that showed that Tighe could compete with Doug, but wasn’t yet on his level. For much of the summer and autumn Doug was competing in ROH and NOAH, cementing his position as the best wrestler in the UK and as a trailblazer of sorts for the UK scene, while Tighe was able to pick up big wins and defeat two former FWA champions; Jody Fleisch and Flash Barker in a mini tournament to become No. 1 contender. With his momentum growing Tighe was also able to beat another former FWA champion in Christopher Daniels and then finally pin Doug in a non title triple threat match, also involving Flash Barker, in Newport in Wales two months before this to show that he was now ready to challenge. A simple story – very Japanese in booking - and effective in building Tighe up; it really felt like the title could realistically change hands here. Stylistically, it’s a match up that also clicked - Tighe as a younger version of Williams, looking to take his crown. That plays into the match from the start and the opening mat exchanges; these are two technical guys, proficient in that style. A reminder as well, that FWA Title matches at this point were contested under 2 out of 3 falls rules. For most of the first fall, Doug, showing that he’s the top guy in the company is largely in control with Tighe trying to work an opening on the leg to make use of his Texas cloverleaf. Williams mainly controls the head and neck with a series of front chancery’s one of which he turns into a reverse DDT on the floor. Tighe, feeling like he is being dominated on the mat tries to up the pace with a pair of dropkicks and also an exchange of forearm’s, but this just seems to piss Doug off. After a series of reversals where each looks to hit one of their signature moves, he is able to catch Tighe in a cobra clutch which he flips over in a version of the move I don’t recall seeing before, but which looks really painful. This is enough to get a tap to go up 1 fall to 0. We have breaks between the falls with each having a corner man and taking on water, both playing up to the WOS heritage and the rounds system but also helping give it that big fight feel. With Tighe still feeling his neck, Doug goes straight in for the kill and tries to hook the same move again, before transitioning into a cattle mutilation! He’d had a series of great matches with Bryan Danielson in ROH that year so I like that he was working that in as a move he had picked up. Doug is looking to keep the advantage and keeps working over the neck but gets caught with a snap German when charging in with a knee. Tighe realising this is his chance uses that as an opening to hit a flurry of a springboard back elbow, a hurucanrana and a brainbuster for a nearfall when Doug just gets his foot on the bottom rope. He levels up the match at 1-1 after hitting two Tighetanics after Doug actually kicks out of the first one. I liked this and the foot on the rope as it showed the resilience that Doug has even in dropping the fall, and that Tighe will really have to raise his game to take the title. Almost off the restart, Tighe gets a great nearfall reversing the Chaos Theory into a roll up. With both men in a sudden death environment now, the third fall sees the intensity levels rise and the match breakdown into more of a brawl and it spills to the outside with Doug taking a nasty bump on the outside when going for his revolution DDT off the apron. They work their way to the ramp where in a brutal looking moment, Tighe takes a Chaos Theory on the ramp! Tighe is clearly now running on fumes but somehow stays in the match kicking out of not just a revolution DDT, but a series of a pair of brainbusters followed by the Chaos Theory! Getting frustrated, Doug deviates from his game plan and makes an error by going to the top but missing a senton. This gives Tighe the chance to hit a desperation tiger driver but just for 2! Given it’s got him a fall already, it makes sense that he goes for another Tighetanic, but having been hit by it before, Doug is able to counter this time and go all out with a Dragon Suplex Chaos Theory to retain the belt. This is a great match, the best of the FWA all year in 2003, and probably to this point the best I’ve seen in the company history. From the opening exchanges, to the escalation, to the ebb and flow and then the hot finishing sequence, there is lots to love in this one. (**** 1/4)
  9. Before the match we see a really nicely put together video package on Jody Fleisch following his retirement the month or so before this. It’s a great video and once again, something the FWA was very strong at compared to other indie companies. For way of comparison, I’d argue that a lot of the companies’ production, particularly their videos was much better than ROH’s at the time. They were also way ahead of the curve when it came to developing their own entrance music for wrestlers – most of which were more than decent – so not having to worry about licensed music, particularly given that in 2004 they would get their first national TV deal. The package leads us nicely into this match, given that for most of the year the company had been building to a big grudge match between Jody and Jonny Storm. Unfortunately Fleisch’s untimely retirement was a huge blow to this show. Storm – coming in with a new shaved haircut and upgraded ring gear – looks much more the part now as the heel the FWA had been building him up as in 2003 and he makes sure to run down Jody in a pre match promo. While they weren’t able to have the big blow off they wanted the development of Storm as a heel was a real plus point for the year, although as I’ve started to document, he was already starting on a path to being more of a stooging heel when I think he could’ve been pushed up the card as a serious rival for Doug Williams. Credible’s ECW cache and being only a year or so removed from WWE means he gets a pretty good reaction and it’s a match which I was fairly looking forward to going in. He gets a lot of crap from being over pushed in ECW (which he was) but I’ve always thought he was a decent worker, who when matched with the right opponent could more than hold his own and have a good match. There’s stalling at the beginning with Jonny working his heel persona and he gets plenty of heat from the crowd, even if a lot of it has some lovely tinges of early 2000s homophobia to it. Credible takes things to the outside, and given his ECW background, it makes sense that he dominates early until posting himself with a low blow around the ring post. From there Storm’s control segment isn’t terribly inspiring although I appreciate him trying to work the crowd rather than just hit big moves. Unfortunately Justin Credible never really had any particularly exciting offence so his comeback isn’t anything to get to animated about. Credible gets a visible three count after landing the Tombstone, but that’s after accidentally super kicking the referee first. Storm gets a roll up with the tights for the win after Credible goes for a second tombstone. A fairly basic match but enjoyable in the way they worked the crowd. It’s still a huge shame we never got the big Jody/Jonny grudge match here as I feel it could’ve been much different to their more ‘exhibitiony’ contests they usually had. (** ½)
  10. This was set to be Zebra Kid defending his All England Title against Flash Barker, a match originally scheduled for Hotwired the month before. That match never really got started due to the appearance of the recently fired Hade Vansen turning up to spoil the show and subsequently getting chucked out of the building. As you’ll see Vansen is very much the focus here. After Flash Barker’s entrance there is an announcement that Zebra Kid is not at the building and so the title can’t be defended. I’m not sure if this was a legitimate no show or storyline (Zebra Kid is back at the beginning of next year, although there is a five month gap in shows after British Uprising) but it means no match which the crowd is understandably unhappy about. However, the ‘fired’ Vansen is in the crowd and demands to be put in the match and for the All England Title to be on the line. In storyline terms the FWA commissioner Dino Scarlo had stood down so without him there the FWA officials at ringside agree to Vansen’s demands to ensure the fans get a title match. Not too much of this makes complete sense – why would they agree to these demands from someone they fired? And why does Vansen just happen to have his wrestling gear on under his clothes? (well, there is that maxim of always bring your gear) – but it all plays into the worked/shoot angle the company had been running with Vansen, and as we’ll see going into 2004 they had big plans and a big push for him in the works. The outside the ring/angle stuff is sadly much more interesting than what we eventually get within the match though. Flash has been a really consistent performer on the roster in 2003 but with the much less experienced Vansen having to lead large portions of the match there’s just nothing of any real substance or coherence to get invested in. Vansen was a guy with the look, and who had a lot of heel charisma but even when getting more experienced, struggled putting a match outside of the big spots together. He’s got some nice kicks – his background was in karate – but too often they involve incredibly convoluted ways in getting to them and what few transitions there are here are very awkward. The early stages are Vansen trying his best to avoid Flash, knowing he’s largely overmatched in a fair fight which leads to a chase on the outside and Barker putting his foot through one of the mesh guardrails attempting a super kick. Vansen follows this up by going after the injured leg with a chair before some pretty uninspired leg work on the inside. Flash makes a brief comeback but ends up crumpling after a leap frog and coming down on the injured leg. The finish is pretty surprising – both in that it’s clean and Flash submits – with Vansen winning with a knee bar. It’s a logical finish but the match before is non-descript. (* ½)
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4UtOsujdMQ This is both men’s UK debut, and is an ROH guest match, building on the working relationship that the two companies had built over the last year. It’s an interesting parallel as well to the year previously when Jonny Storm and Jody Fleisch had been taking their touring match to the US. I don’t think I need to go deep into the backgrounds of these two, but at this point in 2003 I believe both were aligned as part of the Second City Saints in ROH while Punk was still in the midst of his cross promotion spanning rivalry with Raven, that would also make an appearance in the FWA in 2004. Going into the match the commentators play up the two’s friendship as stablemates so the opening exchanges are based off respectful counter wrestling and one-upmanship. Colt has been pretty open about his respect and love for the British style of wrestling, and a couple of years after this would become a regular in the country to where he had honed that style completely. As you would expect with a Cabana match there are a number of instances of comedy, but what’s important is that they are always kept within the internal logic of wrestling and don’t detract from the match itself. It also happens that there are a couple of genuinely funny moments such as when Colt gets Punk to wind up for a shoulder block only to trip him. Punk is very much playing the straight man to Cabana’s humour early on and when the match is technical and being worked on the mat Colt’s greater mastery of that technique means he is largely in control. In response Punk’s approach is to try and hit more high impact moves, much of which such as the hammer lock close line and hammer lock DDT work on the head and neck. The match escalates when Punk tries a baseball slide to the outside only to get flung into the guardrail, followed up by Cabana hitting his always impressive springboard moonsault onto the outside. Unsurprisingly for two guys that were great friends and that had trained together they work really well with each other and you could already tell that through the smoothness in their transitions that they were a cut above quality wise than a number of the FWA guys on the card. Punk ends up winning a good match with his somewhat legendary Pepsi Plunge finisher (top rope pedigree) which probably for the best long term was sensibly retired. (*** ¼)
  12. This is another match that the FWA had been building up pretty much all year, with the Duke of Danger – a stereotypical British aristocrat heel – having been ducking the challenge of Burchill. He is one half of Hampton Court, alongside his butler Simmons, who was massively over as the put upon loveable baby face. Burchill meanwhile is coming in as the unstoppable monster with the Goldberg push that has been destroying lower card wrestlers – often in similar handicap matches – since debuting. The Simmons dynamic makes all this rather odd though. Whereas usually you might expect the crowd to be fully invested in the sneaky heel that has been ducking a challenger to finally get his comeuppance, because of how over Simmons was, and how entertaining the Hampton Court act had become, there doesn’t seem to be that desire to see the Duke get killed in the ring. This match is the first time that Burchill is forced to sell and take any sort of damage, with the Duke and Simmons getting a fair bit of offence in for a sustained period. At one point you even think they could get a count out win when Burchill takes a really brutal looking fall through the ringside table. It’s a match very strange in execution, and because of this it doesn’t really work. While there are fun moments, and Burchill again getting to show off his vast range of impressive moves, he ends up selling too much while the crowd is also fairly behind Hampton Court. Both acts would have been better off in different situations and in different matches. (* ¾)
  13. This is a match with a huge amount of backstory coming in and a huge amount of controversy coming out. It’s the final chapter in a violent rivalry that had been building since The Family defeated the team of Shane and Herman for the tag team titles at Crunch in March. Since then almost every FWA show had seen an escalation of the feud, as different combinations of The Family clashed with Shane, Herman and others such as Nikita and Stevie Knight, with the tag belts changing hands at different times but always ending up back with corrupted quasi-religious cult The Family. This match is titled, rather grandiosely, as an ‘Apocalypse Grudge Match’ but that basically means it’s just No DQ. It follows on from falls count anywhere, first blood, street fights and barbed wire baseball bat matches that these teams have had. Despite them being champions, The Family’s titles are not on the line after Shane & Herman lost their final shot at them at Hotwired the month before, in a match marred by an awful Dusty finish. The stipulations are that if The Family win then Shane and Herman must leave the FWA, while if they lose, their manager Greg Lambert has to take a Herman chair shot. As you’ll have seen in the title of the thread though, due to a storyline injury sustained the month before (in reality Shane wanted to focus on the booking and running of the show) he is being represented by Mikey Whipwreck. It’s an interesting dynamic – having your career being held in someone else’s hands – but never really plays into the match and feels odd given how prolonged and personal this feud has been. The match itself is pretty brutal, with parts varying between both of the uses of that word. Most of the matches in this feud were pretty clearly ECW inspired, and this features a selection of suitably random weapons including: cameras, video recorders, baking trays, baseball bats, barbed wire, drawing pins, golf clubs and a computer keyboard. As previously it’s Paul Travell who takes an insane amount of punishment (with the worst to come) including taking a press slam from Herman onto the pins (tacks) and then being stepped on to where they become firmly embedded in his head. Lovely. Which brings us to the big controversial moment of the match. With the violence having been escalated and escalated during the year, and this match already having had blood, drawing pins and every other type of weapon used - not to mention this being the big blow off to the feud and the big show of the year – fire is introduced as a way of trying to keep the bar raised. Greg Lambert’s book Holy Grail gives an excellent summary of what happened next, given he was ringside and just a few yards away. The Family light a ringside table on fire and go to powerbomb Herman through it. Due to the inexperience of the guys involved with creating the fire, not enough lighter fluid was initially used and by the time that Paul Travell ends up going through the table the fire has almost gone out. However, in trying to keep it going, and squirting extra fluid onto the table, the end result is the cap of the lighter fluid bottle catching alight. In an effort to try and salvage the spot Whipwreck - although it’s hard to know what he was really attempting to do - squirts the bottle at Travel unaware that it has now become effectively a homemade flame thrower and the result is suitably disastrous with Travel being set alight. On the video it’s hard to see exactly what happens next as the camera pulls out and you see Whipwreck diving on top of him to help put out the flames. Thankfully it’s an incident that I don’t think caused long term damage, but it’s an understandably horrifying moment that resulted in the FWA being banned from the York Hall by the building’s management. The company would never run there again. All this means that the finish, just a moment later when Herman suplexes Raj Ghosh into the tacks, is hugely anti-climatic, with most fans, and people at ringside focussing rightly on the aftermath of the fire spot gone wrong. As an ending to a rivalry built over the year and at the end of which the faces finally get a decisive win, it’s completely overshadowed. As a match it’s also hard to judge. You could argue the standard of the matches peaked in the summer and that the constant screw job finishes had stretched things on too long while also diminishing fan interest. The guys in the match do put everything into it, taking some brutal punishment and there’s a whole boatload of weapon shots – the match rating is as much for the guys efforts. Unfortunately the ECW inspired plunder brawl was already looking tired even back then. (** ½) As per the stipulation, Alex Shane comes to ringside to stop Greg Lambert from leaving and him and Ulf proceed to tape him to the ring ropes for the big revenge chair shot until…Shane stabs his partner in the back and turns heel to a huge chorus of boos. Shane’s ascent to be the top heel in the company was to be the predominant story in 2004, and in truth, probably needed, given the void of a heel at the top of the card.
  14. Due to the relative lack of women’s wrestling options on the British scene at the beginning of the 2000s, Nikita continues to be booked in intergender contests. Because of this it’s almost to the point that she is playing a standard underdog baby face in her matches, rather than a female wrestling a man. A recent storyline had just been started whereby a £10,000 bounty had been put on her head. Given her popularity it was important to get Nikita on the card for the biggest show of the year, with Mark Sloan being the first person to try and earn the bounty. Another little note is that recent FWA arrival – loud mouth Northern wrestler Stevie Knight acts as misogynist ring announcer running Nikita down, although he makes it clear, he isn’t the person who has put the bounty on. The match plays very similarly to a lot of Nikita’s other singles contests in the FWA, with her getting an initial shine through some fast paced arm drags, head scissors and reversals before it settles into her being worked over to build sympathy with the crowd. It’s a formula that works well, and was effective for most of the year when she was a big part of the Showswearers/Family feud, however this match suffers from the common knock that I, and many others had against Sloan’s rather robotic in-ring style. He was not a bad wrestler per se – technically competent, and as in this match, he throws in a few cool looking moves - but nothing seemed to have any emotion, just moving between sequences as if he was a video game wrestler. Compared to Nikita’s match with Paul Travell at Uprising I the previous year, structure wise they are very similar, but in that match Travell was more vicious and brought character and personality. This feels rather soulless, and doesn’t have that sense of urgency to get over that a bounty is involved. As that storyline is just beginning, and being the more pushed and over person, Nikita picks up the win and we’ll see how her storyline progresses in 2004. (**)
  15. https://vimeo.com/19142823 British Uprising was designed to be the FWA’s signature show each year. Coming off the success of Uprising I and a good year for the company, the pressure was on for Uprising II to live up to expectation. It was a show which the company poured a lot into, but while no means a bad show – I think there’s a lot to like, especially viewed many years after the fact – for whatever reason it just didn’t land as was hoped for. As with the previous year, the FWA ran the York Hall – a great venue for wrestling – and there is a good crowd on hand. The production; from the entrance way, the video screens, onscreen graphics, ramp and use of pyro shows the time and effort put into trying to make the show feel big time, and it’s one of the reasons I always enjoyed the FWA; they were a company – for better or worse – taking those risks to try and build the UK scene. It’s clearly not WWE level production, but when compared to what indie companies on the US scene were doing at the time for example, it deserved credit. A word as well for the great Uprising opening video, introduced following a clearly ECW inspired in ring introduction from the often much maligned (they were pretty bad) but infectiously enthusiastic FWA commentary team of Tony Giles and Nick London. Finally, before getting onto the opener, this show is rather infamous for being heavily delayed because of a bomb scare, causing the building to have to be swept by the police for explosive devices. Thankfully a hoax call, but it was perhaps a sign that despite no lack of effort and goodwill, fate really was conspiring against the FWA and Uprising II that day. The opener is the culmination of a storyline that had been running for most of the year, whereby home grown up and comer Jack Xavier was being matched against a series of imports being brought over for FWA shows to prove himself. After matches against Juventud Guerrera, Chris Hamrick, Mikey Whipwreck and EZ Money comes arguably his biggest task – taking on Homicide. This match is at its best when Homicide is on top, and at times he really lays a beating on Xavier with plenty of chops and kicks and some nasty looking face washes and drop kicks in the corner, one of which looks to legitimately injure Jack’s nose. I enjoyed Homicide immediately putting on an STF at that stage and wrenching back on the now bloody nose – work that cut! Jack was able to generate sympathy from the crowd through his selling and Homicide was always a wrestler that worked well on top as a Japanese strong style/New Jack lite hybrid. Jack is able to get in some brief flurries using his pretty unique move set but nothing to where he’s able to inflict any sustained damage. Showing how much punishment he’s dished out, Homicide almost wins by count out following his trade mark tope con hilo to the outside. It’s something of an upset, both in terms of the profile of each guy and the context of the match, when Xavier ends up winning what is a fun contest. On the one hand it was good – it’s to the detriment of your own guys when the better known imports would always get put over – and it fits with the storyline of Xavier having now proved himself, but due to the nature of people’s perceptions you sense some resentment from the crowd at him going over. It’s tough, sometimes you can get over more in a hard fought loss rather than fans feel you are being over pushed. As I say though, that is only a slight sense that you get, and this is a good match that helped cement Xavier as a key player going into 2004. (***)
  16. I’ve talked over the previous shows I’ve reviewed about the rivalry between The Family and Shane/Herman, and the increased violence in the feud being something that the UK scene had not been used to. As you will see from the stipulation for this match, clear inspiration is being drawn from ECW. I enjoyed the two teams last match at Vendetta – a tag team first blood match – which had the right kind of BS finish that builds heat on top of being a fun match, but this in contrast is a real mess and comes with an ending that even Dusty Rhodes would balk at in terms of screwing over the fans and trying to be too clever. This is Shane and Herman’s last shot at the belts while The Family are champions, with the violence escalating to where we have two barbed wire baseball bats hanging from the entrance way. The fact there is a somewhat convoluted rule whereby a fall needs to happen before the bats come into play, and then another fall after that to decide the match is a bad sign of things to come. As previously, The Family mix and match their numbers to defend the belts. In all of these matches Paul Travell has been a constant, given his propensity from show to show to take more and more punishment, but this time he is joined by Raj Ghosh, the newest member, who had cost Shane and Herman the first blood match the previous month. Unfortunately while it makes sense from a storyline perspective, Ghosh is really out of his element in a match with weapons. Greg Lambert, the Family’s manager, in his book looking back at this event talks about how Ghosh never seemed to want to be part of the group and didn’t want to be taking part in hardcore brawls, and you can definitely tell. He looks really off his game and you can see several spots where Travell is constantly trying to get him more involved. The first fall is a standard tag team match and tells the familiar story of The Family/Showswearers matches of the smaller heels being outmatched by their bigger opponents in a fair fight but cheating to get the advantage. Sadly the action is pretty sloppy throughout and it’s clear everyone is just killing time until the barbed wire bats come into play, which they do when following Shane accidently taking out the ref when temporarily blinded, a replacement ref runs in to give Shane the first pinfall. This is important and comes into play at the conclusion of the match. The increased violence with the barbed wire bats means that we get some welcome intensity and there are some nasty looking shots with them. In particular, Travell is busted open to where you can see the blood from his head dripping onto the wooden floor. The brawling on the outside between Shane and Travell is more inspired as the two have good chemistry, but once again the Herman section in the ring is him doing his New Jack rip off routine to diminishing returns. The finish of the match is a real killer, not helped by following the screwy finish in the Storm/Harmrick match directly before it. Sadly it’s the sort of booking that would start to have an impact long term on fans investment in the FWA. In their last shot at the titles, and after all the instances of The Family playing the numbers game, Shane and Herman seemingly win the titles to a good pop when Shane hits his 1 Night Stand finisher on Travell off the top rope into drawing pins…until, that is amid a fair bit of confusion, FWA head ref Steve Lynskey reverses the decision due to him being the assigned ref to the contest and Shane taking him out during the first fall which wasn’t No DQ - thus the titles go back to The Family. If wrestling was a real sport, I’m not sure this decision or interpretation of the rules by the official would stand up to much scrutiny… It all leads to Shane making one last challenge to The Family for British Uprising now they can no longer challenge for the tag titles – if he and Herman lose then he is gone from the FWA forever, but if they win then The Family’s manager Greg Lambert has to take a Herman chair shot. I’ve long felt that wrestling, from seemingly the dawn of time up to the current day is obsessed with building the heat to make a payoff even bigger, but so many times the hoped for cathartic ending comes too late after fans have become fed up with being pissed off. This was one of those occasions. There is a big storyline coming with Shane and a major change in direction, but this was a big mess and not a particularly good match to boot. (* ½)
  17. There is a ton of backstory going into and around this match, so settle in… For the match itself, former ECW alum Chris Hamrick had been working regularly for the FWA during the summer and had won the All England Title from the Zebra Kid. He’d then put that up in a title vs title match against Storm’s (coveted) XPW European Title. Jonny was the one who walked out with both belts, before subsequently losing the All England belt to the former champ the Zebra Kid. Coming into this match, Hamrick, as former regular in XPW before the company folded is trying to win the title so he can retire it, arguing, perhaps logically, that it’s stupid to be carrying round a title from a dead company…although remember, this is a title where an actual physical belt was never made… The wider and bigger backstory though was the completely out of the blue ‘retirement’ of Jody Fleisch, just at a time when the company had been building up to a big grudge match with him and Jonny Storm at British Uprising all year. Since he had turned on him earlier in the year the company had successfully put lots of heat on Jonny and into the feud. To this day, it’s still something of a mystery why Jody decided to take a year out of the business when he was arguably the biggest star in the company and had been booked semi regularly in ROH. It’s often sighted that it was due to family circumstances, some nagging injuries or just general burn out. Whatever the reason it was a huge blow to the company, both for the big match with Storm being planned but also in the sense that the FWA would struggle to identify that top babyface to replace him. Jody’s absence is built into the story of this match, with Jonny making the demand that if he agrees to the stip that the XPW European Title is retired if Hamrick wins, then if he wins Jody can no longer wrestle in the FWA. I don’t know if the company knew he was going to be gone for a year at this point, but it works to give some sort of storyline behind why he would no longer be competing. With all that out the way, onto the match itself, which is a hard one to gauge. In a vacuum I think it’s a lot of fun – the beginning portion with them both stooging massively is proper end of the pier, classic boo the heel/cheer the babyface stuff with them both trying to work the ref to where it’s legitimately very funny. The opening stages is a great example of how to do comedy in a wrestling match but without exposing it. During this opening Storm causes Hamrick to get a yellow card which plays into the finish. My problem is that they had spent the past several months trying to get Jonny over as a serious heel for the big grudge match with Jody Fleisch, only to turn him here into more of a stooging heel. Perhaps with the big grudge match no longer happening they thought that didn’t matter as much. From the comedic opening the match progresses as you might expect to a more indie work rate contest, and there are a number of fun exchanges even if the match at just under 20 mins is perhaps too long for what they are going for. There’s a good story throughout of Storm trying to wind up Hamrick into getting disqualified and that’s the end of the match. With the ref distracted, Storm gives Hamrick a pile driver which is banned under FWA rules. When Hamrick reverses an attempt at a headscissors into a sit down pile driver of his own he is duly given a second yellow, leading to a red card and a DQ. If the big match with Jody had still been on the table then you would’ve liked Jonny to go over stronger, but you could already see they were starting to go in the direction of Storm being more of a stooging heel than a serious one. (***)
  18. I have to confess not knowing anything about either of these two guys, as this was pretty much their only appearances in the FWA and they are not workers who did anything on my radar. I’ve written previously about the FWA relying on a core set of guys, so this was part of an idea to try and showcase some new names by having a guest match slot on some cards. This is on behalf of Premier Promotions, who are a company that was running since the late 80s and which staged more traditional World of Sport style bouts and more family orientated shows. In other words a very different scene to the type of fan that the FWA was catering for. As such I was expecting this match to go down badly with the fanbase, but those in attendance get reasonably into it and do give the guys a chance. In particular Jace The Ace (love that name) gets a decent reaction with his high flying. As was the case for most Premier Promotions matches, this is 2/3 falls with six five minute rounds, and what made me actually quite excited going in, given I thought it would be a much more traditional British style of match which would’ve been a welcome change of pace to the other matches on the card. However, despite the stipulations and the company they work for, both guys wrestle this as a pretty standard 2000s indie bout, with the rounds and the falls not having any impact on the storyline of the match. Both guys look competent and they do well to get the match reasonably over in front of a crowd with no idea of who they are, but while their fundamentals were probably better than some of the other guys in the FWA at the time, they don’t have the style of guest match that makes people want to see more. For the record books Jace The Ace wins it by two falls to one. (** ½)
  19. This match stems from the last show Vendetta, where they were tag team partners against Burchill in a handicap match. Both blamed the other for the defeat so here we are. Simmons, the wrestling butler to the Duke of Danger is starting his run as the true cult favourite of the FWA, getting more and more over to where the chants for him during his entrance and his matches is getting pretty deafening. The match itself is pretty inoffensive, but with not much of interest going on. Sloan as the more experienced of the two, and trainer of the FWA Academy controls most of the match with Simmons’ hope spots keeping the crowd invested. Sloan was always solid in the ring, but at times felt like he was going through the motions, and just going move to move without a lot of emotion. It’s a criticism that could also be levelled at some of the trainees that came through the academy. Simmons ends up winning with his Butler Buster (Block Buster) which was the right call considering the reactions he was getting. (**) As I mentioned in the match thread for the opener of this show, this event has a lot more angles to it as the company was looking at building up British Uprising II the next month. As such I’ll touch on a segment from later on in the night where the Duke of Danger – a stereotypical British aristocrat heel character – has a public workout. This is actually a pretty funny segment with him hitting some moves on trainees whilst Simmons gives them moves such as the ‘Swine Buster’ and the ‘Peasant Smasher’. This was entertaining, but designed to build up the Duke’s return to the ring and upcoming match with Burchill which is something he had been dodging for a year. It predictably ends with Burchill coming out and destroying the trainees while the Duke legs it, but I thought this was fun and served its purpose.
  20. This is to determine the No. 1 contender to the FWA Title at British Uprising II to face Doug Williams. Each won a match at Vendetta in June to qualify for this match; Tighe beat Jody Fleisch while Barker knocked off Jack Xavier. This is being presented as the future of the FWA in Tighe versus the veteran Barker, and it makes for a nice dynamic. I also liked the announcers playing up Barker’s desire to return to British Uprising one year on from losing his title at the same event. These two match up well stylistically – Tighe was excellent as a mat wrestler, combining that with the hybrid style being popularised by ROH at the time. Barker during his heel British Title runs was much more of a brawler, but since turning face at the beginning of the year now wrestles in a more MMA inspired way. The mat exchanges between the two at the beginning are smooth, with each trying to find an opening without rushing in. Whereas a lot of the other young UK wrestlers at the time were looking to do everything at pace, Tighe stands out from the pack by working much smarter and taking his time. I enjoyed Tighe consistently working the headlock and using that as a tool to keep on top of the bigger and stronger Barker and using that as a way of trying to prevent him using his strikes. The match has a really nice logical flow to it, with each changing their game plan to suit their strengths as things progress. Early on it’s a technical bout which favours Tighe, so Barker goes with strikes and kicks rather than trying to trade holds. Tighe realising he his overmatched when it comes to striking then takes things to the air with a springboard crossbody and split legged moonsault. In the end he is able to counter Barker’s attempt at his Flash in the Pan (roll the dice) finisher for the three count and No. 1 contender spot. This is a smartly wrestled match that largely keep things simple with a logical escalation as it goes on. Thumbs up. (***) While the winner of the match was to be the No. 1 contender to the FWA Title, the loser was given an All England Title shot the same night, which seems strange for losing a match, but that means we are set for Barker to take on the perennial All England Champion Zebra Kid. Zebra was champ at Vendetta but since then there had been title switches involving Chris Hamrick and Jonny Storm, before coming back to him. I won’t post this match in its own thread as just as it starts we get interference from Hade Vansen who had done the same thing at Vendetta, and the match is thrown out. After the last incident Vansen was fired/suspended in storyline, but once again he tries to hijack the show triggering a big brawl between the three guys and lots of security. We see the camera following security throwing him out the building, while the commentators try to play it off as a shoot. People maybe rolling their eyes at the whole worked shoot stuff, but as Greg Lambert outlines in his book on the period, that sort of angle had never really been done in British wrestling before. In an interesting note from Lambert’s book he notes that Alex Shane concocted an angle that only him and Vansen were in on whereby they had a confrontation at a fan convention to again sell the ‘realness’ of what was going on.
  21. As ever before the opener of the show, a little intro on where the FWA was at this point; this is the final stop before the company’s biggest event of the year - British Uprising II the next month. As such, this show is used as a set up with a much heavier use of angles, promos and non wrestling segments than previous FWA cards. With no TV in place at this stage, and being in the pre YouTube era, it makes some sense to try to build up the big upcoming show, but as you’ll see in the individual match threads I’ll post, the matches suffer as a result, and after a strong run of shows from British Uprising I the previous October, this was a clear step back in quality. As with Vendetta the previous month, we are in the Broxbourne Civic Hall, however attendance does look from the eye to be slightly down. As we’ll come onto, that’s perhaps because of the absence of Doug Williams and Jody Fleisch, and maybe the lack of an overseas import with a significant buzz or big name. One of those imports, EZ Money, is in our opener. He’s facing Jack Xavier, who in 2003 was being pushed up the card by being put against a lot of the US imports coming over. Xavier had already faced off with Juventud Guerrera and Chris Hamrick, and at Frontiers of Honor he defeated Mikey Whipwreck. This is all being done to build him up to facing Homicide at British Uprising, and the fact he wins here is the best part of the match. The rest is very disappointing however. The match has a lot of the worst habits of indie wrestling: lack of transitions, selling ranging from spotty to non-existent and no particular storyline to thread the match together. The spots themselves are also awkward with the two guys not exhibiting much in the way of chemistry. Xavier throughout his time played a great underdog for the crowd to rally behind but EZ Money never really takes control of the match and so there is little opportunity for any heat to build. I quite liked EZ Money in his late ECW run and also thought he was fun in his couple of months in the dying days of WCW as Jason Jett, but as the guys on the ThROH The Years podcast pointed out in their review of Expect the Unexpected http://placetobenation.com/throh-the-years-episode-15-expect-the-unexpected/ while he’s a guy that can look good in a multi man match or a tag team where he can come in and hit some impressive spots, when put in with someone where he was expected to lead more of the match, he doesn’t have that ability. There are one or two fun spots in this match – both guys are good at that – and both have some fairly unique moves in their arsenal, but overall this does not hang together well at all, and I was really disappointed. (* ½)
  22. This is interesting in that it’s an intersecting of two of the characters in the FWA that were getting most over. On the one hand you have Paul ‘not yet a pirate’ Burchill, who was getting the Goldberg push. Because of the general lack of really big guys on the FWA roster, Burchill was able to get over as a big powerhouse, given he could also do amazing high flying moves like moonsaults and standing shooting star presses. Think the things that Keith Lee and Jeff Cobb are now doing. He was basically ploughing through undercard guys, often in handicap matches and also getting over through his manager Dean Ayass and the disclaimer they would read before matches. Simmonz was the ultimate underdog who would get over to an unbelievable degree to where he would become for a time the most over act in the company. Starting as the downtrodden butler to the at that time heel Duke of Danger, he was someone the crowd was rallying behind, which, rather than going down the route of a Ted Di Biase/Virgil storyline would end up turning the Duke of Danger face as well. In this match the crowd are really behind him, but the company was not quite utilising him yet. Mark Sloan was actually the original founder of the FWA, and head of the FWA Academy. In this match though he is just a body to be sacrificed. This is a complete squash where Burchill gets the opportunity to show off all his power and high flying. He wins by a double knockout with both his opponents failing to meet the 10 count. (N/R)
  23. This is the second qualifier for a No. 1 contenders match, with the winner to meet James Tighe at a future show to determine who would get an FWA title shot. Both guys are coming in with momentum from Frontiers of Honor; Xavier from beating Mikey Whipwreck and Flash from holding Low Ki to a time limit draw, which would’ve earned serious credibility points. In terms of FWA hierarchy, Flash is much higher though as a two time British Champion and in this match it shows. It’s largely one sided, with Barker dominating, and you never feel like Jack has a chance. In the opening moments they exchange kicks, and while Xavier is someone that can absorb a lot of punishment he doesn’t have the weapons to live with Flash, who is able to win all the strike exchanges. Xavier was starting to really get over with the crowd as an underdog babyface and this match does allow him to showcase his excellent selling and building sympathy, but aside from a couple of brief flurries, it’s no surprise that Flash wins in fairly decisive fashion with his Flash in the Pan (Roll of the Dice) finisher. (** ¼)
  24. This is the first of two qualifying matches for a No. 1 contenders match, with the winner of this match meeting the winner of Flash Barker vs Jack Xavier on a future show to determine who would get an FWA title shot at Doug Williams. Jody is of course, the biggest star in the company at this point, while Tighe had been putting on a series of excellent performances and is coming off a big win against Paul London at Frontiers of Honor. There is a contrast in that coming into this show, Jody’s burgeoning feud with his former best friend Jonny Storm has been costing him his focus and costing him matches. These two mesh together really well and this is an excellent match. While you could make the case that the opening sequences and reversals are too choreographed, the speed and precision with which they are worked is fantastic, and it helps to establish right from the beginning that Tighe is not out of his depth and can hang with someone of Jody’s calibre. Tighe is so smooth with his matwork, and watching him in 2003-04 makes me really wistful that his career tailed off at the time the UK scene was in the doldrums. The match also enables Jody to show off some of his technical skills, which he didn’t often show, and I thought he looked very competent on the mat. I particularly enjoyed his switching from an arm bar into an STF to try and prevent Tighe from getting to the ropes. The action is fairly fast paced throughout, and while it’s a common complaint of a lot of matches from the 2000s to this day, you just feel that if they had slowed down at times and let some of the sequences breathe then we could have had one of the best matches from the company all year. The mat wrestler vs the flyer is always a match up I enjoy, and Tighe also brings a lot of suplexes and high impact moves to the table. I loved his double chicken wing into a release German suplex. The second of the evenings Chekhov's Gun’s comes midway through the match, with the mention by the commentators of the popularity of Jody which can best be summed up by an enthusiastic fan in the crowd wearing a Dakko Chan mask, which was Jody’s masked character from when he wrestled in Michinoku Pro. This comes into play later in the match, when following a mid air collision and both men falling to the outside the ‘fan’ in the mask leaps the barrier and holds onto Fleisch’s leg making him lose by count out. The fan is revealed of course to be Jonny Storm. Following the reveal, Tighe gets on the mic to say he doesn’t want to win that way and they both ask the ref to restart the match. As was the case at Frontiers of Honor when there was a time limit draw between Low Ki and Flash Barker, we once again have FWA head official Steve Lynskey playing up his heel ref character by refusing the request and confirming that Tighe moves on. This is a really fun match, with some great sequences and exchanges. The count out interference ending is a shame, but it was all being designed to build the heat on the big Jody Fleisch/Jonny Storm showdown being planned for British Uprising II. Sadly, as I’ll document, we don’t get to that match. (*** ½)
  25. This is the latest chapter in what was arguably the most violent feud the UK scene had seen at this point. Following on from them defeating Shane and Herman (affectionately known as the Showswearers) for the tag titles, different combinations of The Family (there were five in-ring members at this stage) had been trying to fight off the challenge of the former champs in matches around the country where the violence would continue to escalate. These matches place on the card was very much to cater to the audience brought up on ECW and Attitude era brawling. The month before at Frontiers of Honor these teams had been part of a No DQ 6 Person Tag Match that I didn’t like very much at all. It was too long and too much of a mess with lots of sloppy moments. This though is much better – more tight and compact, and with a clearer storyline running through the match. This is First Blood rules meaning that both members of a team have to be bleeding for their opponents to win. The Family is represented by Paul Travell and Scott Parker who were probably the best in-ring members of the stable at this stage. As you can imagine, there are a lot of weapons shots in this and general chaos, and while at times it drifts off into WWF Hardcore division stuff, the intensity of the match keeps it from descending into your basic plunder brawl. For a lot of the match there are effectively two separate singles matches going on; Ulf brutalising Parker in the ring in a New Jackesque manner featuring various items including bizarrely a garden gnome, while more interestingly Shane and Travell brawl around the building. Shane in particular really puts over Travell’s offence taking a swinging neckbreaker on the stage, a rana off the stage and a Russian Legsweep into a brick wall. Parker is the first to bleed, followed by Shane who gets busted open via the ever popular cheese grater, meaning that really, both teams should’ve been trying to isolate the man on the opposing team not bleeding. Shane is taken out of the match by a crazy looking tornado DDT off the ring apron through a wooden board but with Parker basically dead on the outside, it comes down to Ulf and Travell. In the chaos the referee ends up being taken out by an errant Herman chair shot, meaning that as is the way in these matches, there is no ref to see Travell when he starts bleeding. We then get a second ref, but one of the other family members Ian DaSciple, coming into the ring to switch places with Travell. All of this isn’t executed as smoothly as it could be – there is a long period of the second ref having to look the wrong way – but there is a satisfying intertwining of different stories in the finish. Earlier in the night, we would see the first of two Chekhov's Gun’s, the rather random awarding of a glass decanter by the Broxbourne Hall management to the FWA for their series of sold out shows there. All very odd, but it comes into play when Lambert brings it into the ring to use, only for it to be taken away by Raj Ghosh. If you’ve watched wrestling before you’ll know that Ghosh then turns and joins the Family by smashing the glass into Herman, making him bleed and giving the win to the Tag Team Champions. While some may find a lot of the brawling clichéd, and while some of the execution was a little off at times – the sequence where the second ref is just standing watching the crowd for no reason while the finish is happening is very jarring – I enjoyed this match, for mixing violent and chaotic action, with an interweaving of different wrestlers character arcs and motivations. Long term, too many screw job finishes start to drive some fans away, and while we will chart that, at this point, this felt like it worked and helped to introduce a new member to the lead heel stable. I think they should also get points for actually going to the trouble earlier in the night of setting up why a glass decanter would be at ringside. Perhaps a half star is for continuity. (***)
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