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  1. The build up for this goes right back to the first FWA show of the year in March. New Frontiers saw the initial Shane/Steve Corino confrontation with the latter trying to hijack the show. As part of the angle, Doug annoyed Shane – newly revealed as the FWA’s Managing Director - by granting Corino an FWA Title match. In the subsequent match, Shane interferes to hit Corino with a chair followed by looking like he was going to go after Doug. For the rest of the year Shane was presented as the No. 1 heel in the company feuding with a series of different faces, while Williams was the fighting champion taking on all challengers. It was the obvious big match to return to and things would heat up in September. Following Doug coming to the aid of his protégé Aviv Mayan to stop Shane taking him out with a chair, Shane hired Joe E Legend (Just Joe of WWF 2000 fame) to take Williams out by busting him open on the title belt in an effective angle. This led to Hotwired, the last big show before British Uprising and the point of escalation. Firstly, you get Shane’s ringside confrontation with boxer Danny Williams, something that got decent mainstream press at the time. Later in the night you get Doug Williams (too many Williams’) interfering in the main event to give Corino the big win in the blow-off to his feud with Shane. Danny Williams would continue to be a part of the angle – appearing at the press conference for the contract signing – with the stipulation added to the match that if Shane lost he would have to fight Danny Williams. As so often seems to happen in wrestling however, the best laid plans would end up falling apart. Due to having a fight to prepare for, Danny Williams wasn’t contractually able to be involved further and he would not be at this show or appear for the company again. So that’s the rather extensive build up – Shane as the No. 1 heel in the company, and Doug the ace 22 months into his title reign. The storyline for the match is technician vs brawler with the inference that in a traditional match Shane is not on Doug’s level. This manifests itself before the bell with Shane getting on the mic to try and goad Doug into agreeing to a No DQ match. Thankfully Doug isn’t portrayed as an idiot babyface so politely declines. We also get FWA head official Steve Lynskey being removed as the ref for the match by commissioner Flash Barker, paying off another long running storyline of him being a corrupt official. The new ref then throws out Shane’s personal security to make it one on one. All of this makes the match feel really important and big time, but rather than feeling like the heel is getting his comeuppance, to me it feels too much like the deck is being stacked against the heel which he has to overcome, which is obviously not meant to be the way round you want it. To reinforce that Shane can’t hang with Williams when it comes to straight up wrestling we get Doug dominating the early stages on the mat – complete with Shane stooging nicely – before hitting him with a good flurry of knee strikes. When Shane goes to the outside to buy time, Doug follows him out with a great tope, which is not something I recall seeing him bust out often. Now that Doug has followed him to the outside however, Shane is able to take over with brawling on the floor – his strength – and by sending Doug through the time keepers’ area. Shane works a solid, if unspectacular little heat segment until we get a count out tease following Williams hitting a tornado DDT off the ring apron to the outside. From there we get a heated forearm, big boot exchange, but just as the match looks to be escalating nicely we get the start of the shenanigans. Today, people seem to have really taken against overbooking – perhaps due to it’s over saturation and lack of creativity – but I think it works here in the context of the storyline that Shane cant beat Williams in a fair fight. The rest of the card also features largely clean finishes as a contrast, although the overbooking would start to become an overused crutch with Shane as the heel champion in 2005. Following a ref bump we get Shane’s security returning for a group beat down until in a shocking moment we get the return of Ulf Herman seeking revenge on Shane. Herman – Shane’s former tag team partner had been gone a full year since British Uprising II when Shane had turned on him and broke his arm. He ends up taking out Shane’s security but then in the big moment takes out Doug by mistake. Williams kicks out of Shane’s One Night Stand finisher the first time but a second ends his almost two year title reign. Unfortunately the Herman vs. Shane rivalry would never get paid off with a one on one match and Herman would only appear at one more FWA show. This is very much an attitude era style title match, which people’s enjoyment of as a style will vary. The work itself was solid, and I liked the storyline of the wrestler vs. the brawler and Shane having to resort to cheating and short cuts to be on Doug’s level, but my main criticism would be of the heel seemingly being the one to overcome the odds. I know you get the interference from Shane’s security at the end and Doug losing due to Herman’s misplaced intervention, but before that, the match is booked around the playing field being levelled and the cards being in Doug’s favour, only for him to end up losing. (***) The bad taste also comes in part from British Uprising being the promotions major show and yet having a screwy ending with the heel winning the title, whereas at Uprising I and II, the face had walked out with the belt. With the benefit of hindsight I think it was right to shift the belt. Doug had faced pretty much every challenger and Shane was the hot hand. How far that was due to him booking himself that way is open to question, but having reviewed his 2004, he was arguably the best and most consistent performer of the year. Using your big show to kick off a new direction was also something I could appreciate, even if this show ends up being the company’s peak.
  2. This is for the FWA Tag Team Titles. For the year prior you’d be hard pressed to find a more over act in the company than Simmons, the loveable butler to the Duke of Danger. His reactions from the crowd had got to the point it had turned the whole Hampton Court act face, when traditional wrestling booking would’ve probably seen it building to a Ted DiBiase/Virgil master vs servant style match. The peak of ‘Simmonsmania’ was undoubtedly at Vendetta in July when Hampton Court won the tag titles from The Family in a double swerve that was executed perfectly. Unfortunately, as is often the way when it comes to underdog babyfaces, the chase and their big win is often the high point. Even just a couple of months later, you can already see the crowd starting to cool on the act. It doesn’t help that this match is not very good at all – the worst on the show. It never works out what it wants to be. That’s probably reflected in the challengers. Sloan and Knight were the classic wrestling ‘odd couple’ tag team that doesn’t get along; Sloan the stoic technician and Knight the loud, abrasive comedy heel. The vignettes the two would do on FWA TV throughout the latter part of 2004 were actually very funny, but in this match it results in a bit of a mess, with Knight trying to work seaside comedy and Sloan trying to work ‘indies/ROH’ style moves. Indeed all four guys just seem off their game. Colt Cabana is the guest ring announcer. He was in a ‘dark match’ that wasn’t included in The Wrestling Channel broadcast and you wonder whether he could’ve perhaps been better utilised on the main show. He teases a confrontation with Stevie Knight before the match, given both are comedy wrestlers. Comedy in wrestling is not for everyone, but I happen to enjoy someone like Colt’s ability to mould it with the wrestling. Unfortunately the opening comedy exchanges between Simmons and Knight here are pretty lame to an apathetic crowd. There is a really uninspired heat segment on Simmons leading to the Duke of Danger getting an incredibly underwhelming lukewarm tag. In fact the Duke is barely in the match at all. The finish sees Hampton Court’s manager Butter Cup the maid flirt with Knight ala Maria Kanellis/Karl Anderson and he follows her to the back, leaving Sloan isolated to eat the pin. This is a poor match that was a decent example of the fact the FWA operated a very small core roster. The UK scene of this point was nowhere near the massive depth there is today and in 2004 the FWA tag team division was basically non-existent. Teaming up more high profile singles guys like Storm/Fleisch and Tighe/Belton and having them go after the titles could’ve been a way of reviving it. (* ½)
  3. This is a scenario that I think shows how compelling storytelling can fall flat when a match fails to come together in the ring. Going in, this match had a number of interweaving and engaging storylines that deserved a chaotic and action packed payoff. In the end it falls massively flat. While other matches from British Uprising III perhaps deserve a critical reappraisal, this one still very much fails to hit the mark all these years later. The build up mainly centres on the disintegration of The Family; the religious cult heel group that had been the main antagonists in the FWA in 2003; and the baby face turn of Paul Travell. The increased levels of punishment Travell was taking in matches had led to the crowd starting to rally behind him. Having his head turned by the cheers of the crowd had increasingly put Travell at odds with The Family’s manager Greg Lambert and their new leader Drew McDonald. The resulting Family ‘civil war’ led to Travell turning his back on the group after suffering months of abuse and Lambert’s attempts to control him - costing the group the tag team titles. At the same time as Travell in storyline left the group, other members like Scott Parker and Ian DaSciple – holdovers from the pre ‘boom’ era of the FWA – also stopped being used by the company, meaning the birth of The Triad out of The Family’s ashes, comprising of McDonald, Raj Ghosh and a big jacked up newcomer called Thunder. Showing the strength of the company at this time to interweave different storylines, at the same time you had the rookie monster of the company Burchill being drawn in. In a match where a tag title shot was on the line, and in an effort to keep Burchill away from being able to challenge The Family, McDonald had interfered in a match between Simmonz and Burchill to give the former an unlikely upset count out win and end the latter’s unbeaten streak. So Travell and Burchill are the unlikely allies teaming up against a common foe. With the FWA determined to cement Travell’s face turn and push him to the next level, the original aim was to try to get Mick Foley in as their third man and help pass the ‘hardcore legend’ baton onto Travell. With that failing to materialise, Terry Funk was brought in to perform a similar role. When reviewing matches, I think most try to focus solely on what the people in the ring are doing without trying to factor in other things, either behind the scenes stuff or the booking. Sometimes in wrestling this becomes impossible to separate; what is being presented in the ring is a direct product of issues backstage. This is one of those examples. Knowing some of the tensions pre-match between competitors and clear differences in how they wanted to take things manifests itself 100 per cent in how the match is executed and why it comes across so badly. Greg Lambert’s book is incredibly enlightening for why this match is a mess, with the massively dysfunctional way it was put together, and the old school guys like McDonald and Thunder not wanting to do anything in the match that would put their younger opponents over. Onto the match then, and another moving part is Jimmy Hart as the special guest ref. In storyline this was an appointment by FWA Commissioner Flash Barker because of the duelling managers in Lambert and Dean Ayass on the outside, which had been another big part of the build up. The argument being that Hart would know their tricks as a legendary manager himself. While I like that idea, unfortunately, I’m not sure he really knows what he’s doing in the match… The match starts with some technical wrestling between Travell and Ghosh, but considering they are tag team partners that have broken up, you really want to see more aggression from them rather than exchanging hammer locks. The match quickly breaks down, but not in the fun crazy brawl sense rather in a messy incoherent sense. There are some fun punch exchanges between Funk and McDonald, as old veterans just going after each other, but as was clear from the way they intended to do business before the match, McDonald and Thunder barely sell or leave their feat, especially not for Travell, and not really for Burchill either. Thunder looks imposing with his look but he basically sucks and brings nothing to the table. This is his only match in the FWA. Travell brings some fun moments like an elbow drop off the apron to Ghosh on a chair and taking a back drop on the ramp, and Burchill hits some of his impressive power and agility spots, but too often he’s also forced to sell from opponents clearly not willing to work much with him. At previous FWA shows there had been quite a bit of heat on a Burchill vs Drew McDonald singles encounter but that’s something that we never get paid off. Given this match however that was probably for the best. Due to not wanting help Travell and Burchill to get over, McDonald – who had been a semi-regular for the company during the previous two years – was never booked again. In hindsight this should’ve been a crazy ECW brawl with lots of weapon shots and should not be the near 19 minutes long that it is. It’s just way, way too long. Travell ultimately ends up beating Ghosh to win the match in a pinfall that comes out of nowhere. There’s a nice ceremonial passing off the torch…or rather barbed wire baseball bat between Funk and Travell which gets a good pop but it will be interesting to see Travell going forward into the next year of FWA shows and whether this match achieved the desired result of getting him across as ‘the UK’s hardcore icon’. (**)
  4. This is for the FWA All England Title and a match well built up over the summer of 2004 as an offshoot from the Alex Shane/Xavier feud. That also culminated in a Last Man Standing Match. A large part of the issue for how this match was received at the time was trying to live up to that previous bout. At the finish of that match, Vansen had cost Xavier by interfering on behalf of Shane who in storyline was acting as his mentor. The pairing of these two as opponents was wrestling 101, taking Vansen – the cocky good looking heel from London and matching him with Xavier – the stocky, Hawaiian shirt wearing Brummie who had become something of a people’s champion. The two had clashed for the All England Title at Vendetta in July, which had ended in a double KO. This is another example of the strength of FWA storytelling and booking in 2004; a stipulation suiting the storyline and a call back to the beginning of the feud. Xavier had then pinned Vansen in a six man tag at Hotwired in September to show that he could pin the Champ. As mentioned, the main issue for this match was living up to both the LMS between Shane and Xavier in April (a match I’d rate as **** and which was well acclaimed at the time) but also the level of violence in the hardcore matches that the company had put on previously. The legacy of ECW and what fans expected of a match like this meant going in there was definitely a desire for a violent spectacle. As I’ll outline, despite the hard work of the guys, it was met with some critical disappointment at the time for failing to live up to the expected ‘level of extreme’ that people wanted. As is the case for the whole of this show in general though, being viewed many years later I think that’s unfair and its a very good match. The first five mins in particular are great, with real fire and intensity from both guys. This is a Last Man Standing Match so thankfully no locking up – Vansen charges straight at Xavier in the aisle way to start and they brawl all over the ramp and stage area. I really like the way they use the environment - Vansen with a hurucunrana off the support beams of the entrance, Xavier with a moonsault off the stage - and as it’s different to the other matches on the card it stands out. I love the hate in what they are doing – there aren’t long periods of setting up elaborate structures or finding comedy items to hit each other for cheap pops. When they get back in the ring they don’t rely on weapons shots, rather beating each other down with strikes and kicks. There also aren’t constant 10 count teases at this point to break the flow. However the match does slow down when Vansen uses a belt to choke out Xavier. This section arguably goes on a bit long, breaking the flow, but there is a nice spot where Xavier is hung up over the rope and Vansen hits him with some stiff kicks. Throughout Vansen plays a great cocky prick, but playing to the crowd gives Xavier an opening and he gets an 8 count by giving Vansen an X Plex off the apron. This looked brutal, but I like the way that as Vansen is close to the ring he can use that as an aid to get back to his feet rather than looking heroic for surviving the move. While earlier I mentioned that it was good to not have lots of ref counting spots to interrupt the flow, I think in the closing stretch it could’ve actually done with a couple more teases to properly get over the stipulation and build the drama. As the match reaches its climax, Xavier uses the title belt as a weapon, which ordinarily would be an odd move for a bayface – even in a no DQ setting – but it actually works as a call back to how Vansen used it on him to help Shane with the LMS in April. But then the match seems to loss it’s nerve; I really liked how it hadn’t relied on weapon shots, but perhaps feeling the pressure I talked about of having a big enough ending, Xavier wastes ages trying to find stuff under the ring which isn’t there to try to set up a guardrail to put Vansen though. In the end, Vansen reverses the attempt and gives Xavier a South City Driller DDT off the top rope through the barrier. It’s the double whammy of a spot that looked really painful to take but at the same time left the crowd underwhelmed. I think there’s a lot to like in 90% of this match, but it needed a hotter, more dynamic closing stretch. The result also meant Xavier coming across as a choke artist, given he lost the feud to Shane and then failed to win the title with his shot at redemption. In fact, the commentators had played up his repeated failures to win the All England Title against different title holders. So while I can see why the company wanted Vansen to win – he had the greater potential and more long term value up the card, it’s a massive shame that after a banner year in 2004, Xavier would never be that hot ever again. (*** ½)
  5. This is the only match on the card without a real amount of build-up or back story to it, although the storyline for Mark Belton is that he had never been given the opportunity to wrestle a big name import or US wrestler on an FWA show and felt disrespected. D’Lo had been a somewhat semi-regular for the company including challenging Doug Williams for the FWA Title at Crunch in April. Belton meanwhile, after some sporadic appearances was now being pushed as part of a heel unit with James Tighe and going into 2005 would be a much more featured performer. Reflecting the company’s goal to get behind Belton, this match looks like it was designed to get Belton over by giving him a win over an established imported name in D’Lo. While the logic is sound, the reality is very similar to Jack Xavier’s victory over Homicide at British Uprising II; the crowd just don’t buy the home grown guy at the import’s level. The fact the match is fairly bland and meandering doesn’t help. Belton stalls a lot at the beginning, which does elicit some heat, but when he starts to wrestle looks a bit nervous almost screwing up a hip toss to the outside spot. D’Lo in contrast looks really good when on offence, and gets a nice early shine segment including a springboard dropkick when Belton is on the apron (ala Chris Jericho), a flip over the ropes into a fakeout (ala Chris Hero) and then a stranding moonsault off the apron, all moves which I can never really recall D’Lo busting out before. Belton eventually takes over with a blatant low blow that he doesn’t even attempt to hide. The story the commentators push is that ref Steve Lynskey sees it but that it plays into the long running story of him being a corrupt official. It’s actually a nice little nod to what will happen in the title match later on, but is still very jarring for why it’s not a DQ, or at least a yellow card (I can’t recall if that was still a thing in the FWA at this stage). Once on top though Belton’s work is unfocussed and uninspiring – there’s no story to get into the match. D’Lo again looks good running through his hits but misses the Low Down. Belton then hits his top rope leg drop finisher for 2, although it doesn’t get much of a reaction as I don’t think the crowd knew it was one of his signature moves. The cheap ending of Belton faking a knee injury and then getting the win with a really ugly roll up while D’Lo is distracted puts a cap on a pretty blah match. (** ¼)
  6. And so we’ve reached British Uprising III, which if you’re into your BritWres history you may know as the biggest show the company would ever put on… but whose legacy would be part of the decline that would ultimately end up seeing the FWA go out of business in 2007. In terms of ambition and scope, Uprising III was the first (and only) time the FWA put on an arena show, running the Skydome in Coventry. This is an ice hockey arena with a capacity of around 3,500. I know in the current climate of All In, ROH getting 6,000+ for Supercard of Honor, ICW running the Hydro, and Progress running Wembley that this might not seem a big deal, but in 2004, it would’ve been a monumental achievement for a UK indie company to attract the amount of fans required to fill the building. It was a different time. As I’ve tried to document, the FWA had been putting on a run of successful shows to a fair degree of critical acclaim for the two years prior to this, but 2004 was a world away from the indie wrestling boom currently being experienced both in the UK and across the world. In the end, the company drew just under 1,800 fans that day – still I think it needs to be said, a hugely significant achievement and the biggest attendance in the FWA’s history – but it wasn’t close to a sell out and crucially not enough to make the money back on the resources put into it. In my view, even viewed with 2018 eyes, the production – in terms of the staging and lighting and the hype videos - were all very good. It’s just a shame there wasn’t the budget to sustain this level of investment. As I’ve done throughout my reviews of FWA matches and shows I really want to plug Greg Lambert’s book; Holy Grail: The True Story of British Wrestling's Revival – which is both an excellent read but also an invaluable resource for this period, given his role both in front of and behind the camera. His chapter on BU3 gives you great insight into why the event ended up not being the creative and commercial success that was hoped for. A lot of that has to do with the lack of organisational capacity of the FWA, with no real structure behind the scenes. However having re-watched almost all the FWA shows in 2004, it’s a card that in my opinion was built up excellently. Most of the matches on the show had several months of build up, with some great storytelling. 2004 was the year the FWA had a national TV deal courtesy of The Wrestling Channel and they used this as a tool to build up every match to where there was a reason for it to be happening and for you as a fan to be emotionally invested. In my eyes the show was built mainly on trying to attract fans through storylines and feuds, rather than ‘dream matches’ and big names. Despite the excitement going in, as you’ll see through the reviews of the matches, the event never seemed to capture the hype, although I think with 14 years of hindsight when I’m writing this, it’s a show that perhaps deserves to be seen in a more positive light. This opening match was marketed as a ‘next generation three way’ and the successor to the three way opener from British Uprising I that I’ve reviewed here: https://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/40001-james-tighe-vs-jack-xavier-vs-raj-ghosh-fwa-british-uprising-i-10132002/ That match was very well received, putting the pressure on the guys to deliver here. Indeed, while some at the time didn’t think it lived up to that match, I actually think this one is better. There is certainly more going on. As with the match from 2002, this is a pure spotfest. Spud - before he was a rockstar and well before being 205 Live General Manager – had made his FWA main show debut a couple of months before this and was already winning fans over. At this stage he was a fantastic undersized babyface flyer, eliciting a lot of sympathy from crowds, given he genuinely looked like everyone’s little brother. Jordan, and Mayan in particular were two young guys who had also been impressive for the company all year. There are far too many moves and sequences to recap here with all three busting out everything they have to try to win over the crowd and open the card with a hot start. It’s not as smooth in the transitions as it’s predecessor, but outside of the opening exchanges which are very much straight out of mid 2000s indie wrestling, I actually think this match benefits from being rougher around the edges and not *quite* as choreographed looking as the match from 2002. For the most part the match manages to stay away from the triple threat tropes of two men gang up on the other and then feign insult the other chooses to go for a pin, or throwing one guy to the outside so the other two can have a one on one match. As you would expect, Spud is a great sympathetic seller including one really sick looking bump when he gets wheelbarrowed head first into one of the ringside barriers Selling, or lack thereof, is of course a criticism you could make, but I don’t think there is anything *too* egregious or unbelievable, and the beauty of a three way match is that someone can be there to break up a pin rather than it have to be a kick out. Spud ends up getting the win when Mayan hits a springboard moonsault but is unable to cover (he’d come in with taped ribs) and Spud hits a phoenix star press off the top onto Jordan. This was a really fun X Division style opener that got the crowd into the show. (*** ¼)
  7. So, there was quite the build up to this match… You have to go all the way back to May 2003 and Frontiers of Honor – the joint FWA/ROH show for the original genesis. Corino had been originally lined up to be part of the ROH team, however this came at a time when in storyline he had formed the imaginatively titled ‘The Group’ that was trying to fight against the company, so as he’s revealed in interviews since he didn’t think it made the most logical sense. Whatever the exact reasons, he didn’t end up appearing on the show which led to Shane going on his wrestling radio show to publically criticise Corino. Eventually the two would bury the hatchet behind the scenes, but publically there was no acknowledgement and so when Corino ‘unexpectedly’ came out of the crowd at New Frontiers in March 2004, the internet savvy FWA crowd were all over this ‘shoot’ angle. At New Frontiers Corino confronted Shane, effectively taking that show hostage and with both cutting some personal promo’s on one another. Rather than having them clash that early they wisely held off on a Shane/Corino match, instead Corino faced Doug Williams for the FWA Title that night (the beginning of the long build-up to Shane and Williams for British Uprising III) which Shane ending up interfering in to cost Corino his chance of winning the belt. In June 04 Corino and Shane were then set to be on either side of a tag match at Carpe Diem but this time flight problems prevented the match. While obviously a blow at the time for that show, in the long term it ended up adding even more heat and anticipation for the one-on-one match between them. Before we finally get to the match itself, Hotwired is also remembered as being the show where the FWA managed to get some fairly decent mainstream publicity for an angle between Shane (spinning multiple feuds at the same time) and British boxer Danny Williams who had got notoriety for knocking out Mike Tyson in his comeback match shortly before this. While not on an Austin/Tyson level from 98, it was all shot and carried off pretty convincingly with officials separating the two when it kicked off. The end result was FWA management stripping Shane of his title as the company’s Managing Director and setting the stage for this match. With the great build for this match, there is a real buzz amongst the crowd and thankfully we don’t get any lockup to start – they fire off on each other with forearms right from the start. Shane plays his role really well in the beginning, trying to bail to the outside to buy time and get away from Corino’s fury, but without going full chicken shit heel, which wouldn’t feel natural given his size. You get that sense of hatred coming through in Corino’s work and the crowd brawling on the outside has energy and intensity to it, rather than the somewhat limp walk and brawl that can often turn into. With Shane trying to escape through the crowd, Corino channels his inner ECW and takes him up and down the bleachers and across the staging area. As I’ve mentioned before the way the Broxbourne Civic Hall was set up made for a great building to brawl across. When they are on the stage, Shane ends up pile driving Corino on it and the result is one of the legendary Corino bladejobs – it’s a nasty amount of blood, but again, fits exactly with the story of the match. While the brawl between the two is fun, it’s the home stretch and the different run in’s that make it memorable. When the ref gets bumped, we get Shane’s personal security goons (including Martin Stone/NXT’s Danny Burch) getting involved before being fought off by Jack Xavier, Aviv Mayan and Ross Jordan who had already teamed up against the security earlier on this show, all of whom had also had issues with Shane during the past several months. With them fighting round the building we then get Shane’s protégé Hade Vansen looking to take out Corino, until he’s taken care of by the FWA Commissioner Flash Barker to a massive pop. Showing the strength of the storytelling in FWA in 2003/04, in storyline terms Vansen was the one held responsible for injuring Barker’s leg at British Uprising II the year before and that had forced his retirement so it’s fantastically cathartic to see Barker getting to pummel the cocky Vansen with punches. We get a number of really good false finishes and near falls until karma captures up with Shane in the form of Doug Williams hitting him with the FWA title belt allowing Corino to hit the lariat for the win and a great reaction. While the Williams interference at the end might not feel natural given it’s a babyface helping to outnumber the heel – it again works in the context of the story. The show before, Shane and his cronies had ambushed Williams, and wiped his blood on the title in a great angle, before stealing the belt. In blowing off one feud they were also using the match to build up the Williams/Shane title match for British Uprising III. Watched in isolation, I’m not sure people would get too carried away by this match – on a technical level it’s a fairly bog standard brawl, although there is great intensity and time isn’t spent setting up over choreographed plunder spots that would take you out of the moment of feeling the hatred - but it’s all elevated by the build-up, over a year in the making and which had seen several plot twists and turns to get there. In the match itself there are lots of run-ins and ref bumps, what you might describe as ‘over-booking’ and seen in a negative light. This of course, when done too much and done to excess can be a turn-off, but when done right it can be a fantastic storytelling tool. In this match the context means it all makes sense, interweaving several long running and interconnected storylines, to both blowoff the Corino/Shane rivalry but also build-up multiple matches for British Uprising. It’s great pro wrestling. (*** ¾)
  8. Hotwired 2004 was the last stop before British Uprising III – the biggest event in the FWA’s history. It kept in play most of the key storyline’s heading into the big show and was another excellent event in a consistent run of quality shows for the company in 2004. Sadly however, rather than the FWA being spring boarded onto greater success, for many, this was the peak of the curve and the company would soon after start it’s downward slide. For Greg Lambert - both a performer with the company and part of the creative at this stage – in his book Holy Grail, September 2004 and this event was the FWA’s highest point. This six man tag was all about the ever escalating Hade Vansen and Jack Xavier rivalry over the All-England Title, but the strength of FWA storytelling in 2004 is that the other guys in the match are also interlinked. Vansen’s heel turn at the end of 2003 had really improved things for a guy that had been floundering as a bland and pretty unlikeable face, but his association with Alex Shane as his protégé is what got him over. Going all the way back to Crunch in April 04, his interference cost Xavier the last man standing match with Shane. Since that point, Xavier and Vansen had fought for the title at Vendetta in July – which ended in a double knockout – before Xavier won a Round Robin tournament in Enfield beating Vansen in the final to get himself another title shot at British Uprising III the month after. Vansen then is partnered by Stixx (still going on the UK scene today) and Martin Stone (NXT’s Danny Burch, just breaking into the business) who were both part of Alex Shane’s personal security team and therefore also aligned with Vansen. Xavier is partnered by two young guys - Aviv Maayan and Ross Jordan (still competing on the UK scene as RJ Singh) who had both been foes of Shane/Vansen in the summer, including Mayan getting a big upset win over Shane. This is a really fun 6 man tag, with lots of action, although you can tell a lot of the guys were still very green, with a few sloppy moments. We get some good heeling early on from Vansen, who is always looking to tag out when Xavier comes in, but that means the other guys get a good opportunity to showcase themselves. Stixx and Mayan have an excellent opening sequence, with their version of the famous Low Ki/Amazing Red exchange from ROH with some really rapid counters. As he has throughout most of 2004, Mayan looks really polished for a guy still very fresh into wrestling and it’s a real shame he dropped out of wrestling just a few years after this. All three faces get the chance for some shine early until Ross Jordan gets planted with a nasty powerbomb by Stone to turn him into the face in peril. There’s nothing too dynamic about the heat segment but even this early into his career you can see the potential in Stone – everything he does is sound and looks vicious. As is usually the case with a 6 man tag, we get a run of everyone hitting some big moves, including dives from all the faces to the outside. Stixx breaks up Xavier’s first attempt at getting Vansen up for his X-Plex finisher with a spear, but he manages to get it second time around to build their title match at Uprising III by showing he can pin the champion. (***)
  9. Yep, that’s the PJ Black you know today from Lucha Underground and the artist formerly known as Justin Gabriel. When he was young and just starting out in the business he came over to the UK from South Africa and trained in the FWA Academy. He would compete on FWA Academy shows through most of 2004, but this is pretty much his only ‘main show’ appearance. I say main show, but this is about as close to a ‘house show’ as one existed for a company that was an indie wrestling promotion. 2004 was the biggest year in the FWA’s history and with its TV deal meant most shows had a higher profile (on a relative scale of course) running buildings that looked decent enough on screen. This event though – from a leisure centre – has a much less polished look, essentially being just for the live attendance. During the summer of 2004, Shane as the now firmly established No. 1 heel of the company would work a series of matches against smaller, young and often local-to-the-area-they-were-running competitors to work some fairly standard ‘big bully heel vs plucky underdog face’ matches. Another example would be his match against Aviv Mayan that I reviewed here: http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/41663-alex-shane-vs-aviv-mayan-fwa-live-in-morecambe-04082004/ This match is worked in a very similar format, and if viewed back to back, would reveal a very similar, dare I say identical structure. The Mayan match is much the better of the two. At this stage – and it’s funny to say this given what Black would go on, and continues to do in his career – Mayan seemed a genuinely more impressive prospect with more polish and he is able to elicit a better reaction from the crowd, although to be fair that would have been because the audience were more familiar with him. It is not to say this match is bad – it tells a good simple story, and Black plays his role well – getting in some good hope spots, and aside from one slight slip on the top rope, exhibits some of the athleticism that he continues to showcase today, including a tope con hilo to the outside. Shane for his part mixes in some power moves with lots of pantomime heel spots such as the grabbing of the ropes and manipulating the ref. As he does in most of these matches Shane is prepared to show some ass and Black does get a visual pinfall at one stage. But I think the match would’ve been improved by Shane showing more of the vicious side that he did in the Mayan match and it being a few mins shorter – it tends to meander at times and they repeat sections. After a short flurry, Black misses a 450 splash - which interestingly would be his finisher in WWE - and Shane picks up the win with the One Night Stand. (** ½)
  10. We are back at the Broxbourne Civic Hall, the FWA’s main home, and this is AJ’s first time back with the company for over a year. The month before this James Tighe had put in a great effort against another high profile import in Low Ki, but continuing the losing streak he’d been on, he was unable to get the win. This is another big test for him to try and snap that streak decisively given the calibre of opposition. AJ is coming in with the TNA X Division Title, although this is a non-title match up. Unlike the contest with Low Ki, which had far more grappling and submissions, this is much more all out action with lots of high impact exchanges. It starts respectfully until AJ busts Tighe open nastily when he breaks his nose on his trademark drop down, leap frog drop kick. While this would’ve obviously sucked for Tighe, the sight of his own blood works to fire him up and he takes it to AJ with some real aggression including turning him inside out with a German Suplex. Tighe is so fired up that he actually ends us shoving the ref out of the ring when he goes to make a break. Both men stop to help the ref back in, but this will play into the finish later. Tighe has been so impressive in this FWA re-watch, particularly with his versatility and his ability to change his style depending on his opponent. For the most part he is able to keep up with AJ’s explosiveness hitting some big moves of his own like an underhook powerbomb and a swinging sit down uranage. Styles though, recognising he is getting over powered by a man clearly desperate to get a win at all costs starts to go aerial where he has the advantage and connects with a tope con hilo to the outside, even more impressive considering the guardrails were in fairly tight. With both men throwing everything at one another, and getting increasingly reckless we get another inadvertent takedown of the ref with AJ absolutely wiping him out with a discuss close line. Unlike earlier however, when AJ goes to check on the ref on the outside, this time Tighe kicks the rope into his balls to a chorus of boos. Further showing his desperation Tighe then goes to the outside for a chair only for an attempt to use it getting reversed. Fired up by the low blow AJ smashes the chair into the mat just as the ref is stirring, who thinking that sound was him hitting Tighe disqualifies Styles to more boos. Tighe’s celebrating and shouting “a win is a win” is glorious. The ending is pretty cheap and I can see turning people off, but in the context of the story that Tighe was a desperate man trying to do anything to get a win and it building up to the rematch it works. It also works - whether this is intentional or not - as one thing that has been consistent since AJ started appearing in the FWA is him being on the end of poor officiating and unlucky decisions. Finally, the way the match unfolds allows Tighe’s frustrations to finally turn into him becoming a heel. At times, it breaks down into a bit too much ‘your turn, my turn’, but the broken nose and the intensity they hit each with helps to make it a compelling match. (*** ½)
  11. 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)
  12. 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. (****)
  13. 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. (****)
  14. 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)
  15. 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)
  16. 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.
  17. 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)
  18. 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)
  19. 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)
  20. 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)
  21. 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)
  22. 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)
  23. 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.
  24. 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. (**)
  25. 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. (***)