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  1. 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)
  2. 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. (***)
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. 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)
  9. 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)
  10. 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. (***)
  11. Ah, the XPW European Title, where do we start with this one… As part of their growth and the desire to pull more international eyeballs onto the promotion, the FWA was continuing to look at where it could partner up with companies overseas. The partnership with ROH that had led to the joint Frontiers of Honor show the previous month was a logical and obvious move, the decision to work with XPW, perhaps less so. I won’t go into too much detail on XPW, other than to say they were a Pound Land ECW, owned by a Porn producer, with all the violence, but none of the nuance. I’m not sure exactly how the relationship between the two companies was first established, but from the ever reliable Wikipedia: “The championship was created in 2003 through a working relationship between XPW and the FWA. This was to be the flagship of the working relationship as the title would be defended throughout Europe and would appear on both promotions respective television programmes, however the title's primary home was to be the FWA.” As we’ll document, and as ever in wrestling, things didn’t really turn out like that. Shortly after this XPW folded, but the title itself did continue to be defended in the FWA. In a somewhat comical note, an actual title belt never existed, which led to the brilliant visual of Jonny Storm, the inaugural champion, supposedly carrying the title in a briefcase he carried with him to the ring. Storm was the winner of a tournament which had a British and US bracket. Some decent names were featured, so for interest (if there are actually odd people out there like me interested in the prestigious lineage of the XPW European Title), I’ve included the brackets below: Round One Zebra Kid vs Robbie Brookside Jonny Storm vs Juventud Guerrera Psicosis vs Simon Diamond Jerry Lynn vs Chris Hamrick Round Two Jonny Storm received a bye Jerry Lynn vs Psicosis Final (held at FWA Crunch 2003) Jonny Storm vs Jerry Lynn Perhaps this is where the WWE got the idea for the UK Title… So that’s the rather lengthy backstory, onto the actual match. Jonny is coming in full blown heel now, and pleasingly gets a lot of boos from the crowd. As we’ll see after another match that night, the company was going all in on trying to make him the top heel in the promotion. Super Crazy, with the obligatory ECW chants, was I believe with XPW at the time so it makes sense for him to be the first challenger. This is wrestled very much like an ECW match from 1999/2000, with lots of back and forth, and at times, some pretty non existent selling. At the beginning of the match they announce the contest as under ‘XPW’ rules, which means that a chair comes into play at one stage, but mostly the match is wrestled cleanly. For most of the match Storm shows he can hang with Crazy – including hitting a perfect moonsault from the top turnbuckle back into the entrance area - although when he tries some of the lucha sequences and the arm drags, you can tell he’s not as polished. Crazy is the one that actually slows things down at times, and I really enjoyed his transition out of a rana and a sunset flip into an STF. You can tell in general, that Storm was getting more comfortable at being a heel, taking more time to antagonise the crowd, rather than just going from spot to spot. Crazy for his part still looks good and consistent with the standard of performance he was putting in towards the end of ECW. A criticism of some of the FWA matches at this time, which I can readily see, is how many of them seemed to copy the tropes from ECW, and matches going on at the time in TNA/ROH, with the overuse of the choreographed stand offs and series of two counts and pinning combinations. I’m looking at these matches with 2018 eyes, and they always got a good reaction in 2003, but I’m very happy that the UK scene now has much more of an original style to it, and includes many more nods back to the WOS days, than was the case in the early 2000s. From the pin reversals you get a nice escalation into the exchange of some big bombs, including a massive sit down power bomb from Crazy where he catches Jonny springboarding in, but unfortunately the match ends on a flat note by going pretty much straight from there into Storm hitting a powerbomb of his own with his feet on the ropes. I can understand why it was done – it gives Crazy an out for losing and helps to put further heat on Storm, but just feels a bit underwhelming and that it could’ve been built to better. Still, this is a fun match, and a nice rebound for Jonny after a disappointing showing against AJ Styles the month before. (*** ¼)
  12. Zebra Kid, fresh off unsuccessfully challenging Samoa Joe for the ROH Title the month before, is also sadly coming in here sans his somewhat legendary mullet, which he must’ve disappointingly chopped off in the time between that match and here. Mark ‘Five Star’ Belton was a newcomer to the FWA having appeared on the British Breakout Tour the company had been on earlier in the year. As Greg Lambert notes in his Holy Grail book, Belton was interestingly one of only a few ‘outsiders’ who came into the promotion at this stage, with the FWA very much sticking largely to a tight, home grown roster. Considering the huge numbers of high quality UK talent today, there really wasn’t that strength in depth at that time, however it did feel like the FWA should’ve been more open to refreshing their roster. As Lambert also notes, Belton had to overcome an initially hostile locker room after some comments he’d made on another show, but he does well enough here to earn a regular spot for the next couple of years and becomes a strong addition. Belton was a really good athlete who meshes well here with Zebra Kid and this is a fun, just under 10 minute sprint where they go balls to the wall. This is not a match with a ton of nuance, it’s two guys just hitting each other hard, and some of the strikes and kicks they exchange in the match are particularly brutal looking. Zebra Kid especially doles out some real punishment, and brings his usual intensity and frantic pace which made all his matches a spectacle. As the commentators themselves highlight when he hits a dive to the outside – Zebra was not a guy that was always technically refined, but he was effective nonetheless. Belton for his part wins over the crowd by taking the hits and connecting with some big moves of his own. One interesting note is that this is the first of two matches in the night where we see the card system that the FWA brought in, aping football (soccer) where the yellow card served as a warning, and a red card resulted in a DQ. I’ve always been torn on it – on the one hand it’s a bit corny, but on the other I liked that it was different and played into our own sporting culture. It could also be used to help the story of a match. The yellow card in this match was brandished to Zebra for hitting a piledriver, banned under FWA rules. The biggest disappointment though, is that what could have lead to an interesting story to weave into the match – Zebra Kid taking a yellow card and risking a DQ to cause damage – is immediately flushed away with Belton going right back on offence straight away. Zebra Kid retains his title with a nasty looking top rope DDT, followed by his Zebra Crossing (top rope) elbow drop, but Belton’s decent showing clearly contributed to him becoming a company regular. Post match, after both guys have left the ring we get an ‘impromptu’ appearance from Hade Vansen, who is clearly being transitioned into a heel role. The gist of his promo is that he’s sick of being overlooked (he wasn’t booked on this card), complete with some obligatory early 2000s “I’m shooting” stuff, but it works well enough, and I liked the angle where he took out a security guard when being escorted out, which was made to look pretty realistic. (** ½)
  13. We are back at the Broxbourne Civic Hall for Vendetta, and there’s a really hot crowd for this show. This is a fairly basic opener, but the work between two wrestlers, both still young and relatively inexperienced (Ghosh was just 18) is solid throughout. For the past several months Nikita (the future Katie Lea Burchill) had been part of The Family vs Alex Shane/Ulf Herman feud over the tag titles, while Ghosh had largely been on a losing streak. There’s not too much meat to the match to get into, most of the attention is on the post match, but what we do get is decent enough, with Nikita showing a lot of polish in her arm drags, headscissors and take downs, while Ghosh acts as a solid base. As with many of the guys coming out of the FWA Academy, Ghosh was athletic, but quite mechanical and hadn’t shown much by way of charisma or character. At this point he looked like a guy with potential though, considering his age and the fact he already had a lot of the fundamentals down. In 2003 there were not many options for her to wrestle other women, so Nikita was most often placed in these intergender matches and it’s to her credit that she rarely feels overmatched, or that it’s unbelievable that she’s picking up wins over male competitors. She does again here, which leads on nicely to the post match arrival of The Family. Greg Lambert, their manager, cuts a good promo on Ghosh after the match, basically making the point that he was well praised for his British Uprising match but that since then he’s lost a lot of matches and that FWA management and Alex Shane don’t rate him, so why doesn’t he join The Family, which as a group was giving guys on losing streaks a career revival. Ghosh turns down the offer leading to a Family beat down, and a save from Shane and Herman, but this all plays into the Tag Title match later in the night. (**)
  14. Going into the main event, things are tied between the FWA and ROH at 2 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw each. Daniels makes it known beforehand that he is not representing ROH, but the Prophecy. In fact, he’d actually been FWA British Heavyweight Champion just two months before this, having defeated Fleisch in October 2002. He lost the belt to Doug Williams at ROH’s Night of Champions in a match that I’d heartily recommend. Williams is actually an interesting absence from the card tonight, given his prominence in both companies, but I'm pretty sure that was because of commitments in Japan where he was part of NOAH. Fleisch was also someone appearing somewhat regularly for ROH at this time, but he’s not in his Special K guise tonight, rather as lead babyface for the FWA. Early on we get plenty of stalling from Daniels, with him threatening to walk and arguing with members of the crowd on the balcony. When Daniels finally gets in the ring, Jody’s signature gymnastics and high flying quickly sends him running for the outside again and more crowd arguing. Once the match settles down, Jody is actually the one that tries to take a more mat based approach and I enjoyed his working of the headlock to stay on top. The result is Daniels trying to up the pace which proves a mistake and Jody headscissors him and hits a quebrada. As in the AJ Styles/Jonny Storm match earlier in the night, they fight up to the ramp where Jody gives Daniels a snap suplex on the entrance platform and then disappears and returns with a chair, which he springboards off into a rana on Daniels. The spot is fun, but the fact he had to go back stage to grab a chair to then do a rana off felt very unorganic and takes you out of the moment. This was a criticism I had of some of the spots in his ladder match at British Uprising. When they return to the ring, Daniels is finally able to get some control, where he proceeds to work over the back and neck. The work is pretty consistent and I enjoyed The Best Moonsault Ever onto the back which then sets up a cross face. Fleisch gets a late flurry including a springboard Shooting Star Press, but Jonny Storm, cementing his heel turn, hits Jody with a chair as he tries a second one and Daniels picks up the win, and completes a come from behind 3-2 victory for ROH. At just under 25 mins, the match is probably too long, with lots of stalling from Daniels early on. I appreciate him trying to build heat, but you feel that comes at the expense of the match in the beginning. I actually liked Jody adopting a more methodical pace and working in some chain wrestling at times, showing versatility. There are lots of nice sequences, but a tighter match would make it feel more coherent. Even though the ending features interference I liked the story of Jonny allowing his personal jealously of Jody to get in the way of company unity, and it further escalates the issues between them which the company was looking at as one of the key storylines for the year. Further heat is added in the post match where Storm and Daniels try to piledrive Fleisch on a chair, until both locker rooms chase them off, however, Storm and Daniels take out the FWA’s acting Commissioner at that point – Dino Scarlo - with an absolutely brutal and hard-to-watch-with-2018-eyes chair shot. (*** ¼)
  15. Going back in time, having Low Ki on the card was one of the strong selling points. In 2002 he’d been ‘the guy’ in ROH, being the first champion and having a great series of matches against all comers. He was also a guy with a real badass aura to him, which to a large extent, he still has when he appears on a show today. Interestingly though, this was at a time when his standing with ROH really had been slipping, and after this he only appeared for them very sporadically for the rest of the year. At this stage though, he arguably gets the biggest reaction of the night. He’s up against Flash Barker here, who the previous year had been the British Heavyweight Champion and the centre piece of the Old School stable. Following the ending of that storyline, Barker would turn face as the respected veteran of the locker room, with a strong-style MMA inspired persona, which is why I would imagine he’s been matched up with Low Ki here. This match is wrestled at much different pace to ones earlier on the card, and it feels more like a match that could’ve been on one of the early ROH shows. There’s lots to enjoy in the early mat exchanges with the two trading strikes and holds, but cautiously rather than unloading everything they have. Low Ki decides early to fight off his back during the initial feeling out process. They exchange some brutal looking kicks until Low Ki hits a Dragon Screw to take over. From there Low Ki starts to dominate, and there are fewer better wrestlers who it just feels right when they are in control. Some might think he can take ‘too much’ of a match, but in an age where too many matches are heavily back and forth, it’s enjoyable to watch him just brutalise opponents. Barker is great at taking the punishment, with his thick frame, and he’s able to stay alive by getting plenty behind any of the moves or strikes he’s able to hit to slow down Ki’s momentum. While Barker is surviving (just), his problem in the match is that he can’t ever seem to get any sort of sustained attack going, as soon as he gets in a move, Ki is able to hit right back; he hits a short clothesline, Ki comes back with a springboard front kick, Barker ranas him, Ki hits a Kappou Kick, Barker hits a spinebuster, Ki catches him with a Hanging Octopus Scissors and the Tidal Wave. That’s the pattern. Flash shows great tenacity to hang in there with Ki busting out all his high impact attacks, so Low Ki then tries to wear the bigger man down instead with submissions like the Hanging Dragon and a cross armlock, but the change of strategy isn’t successful and the 20 minute time limit expires. Predictably for a 2000s crowd, the crowd wants five more minutes, as do both guys, but FWA Head Ref Steve Lynskey plays stickler for the rules and doesn’t allow it, even when Samoa Joe and AJ Styles come down to back up Ki. Even with the draw I really enjoyed this, particularly the cat and mouse exchanges at the beginning, and then the pretty vicious beating that Barker is able to survive. I’d recommend to check this one out. (*** ¾)
  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opEPCaZpEBc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E_hyCS13F0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75X68JBv1KA This is not part of the FWA vs. ROH tournament, rather the next chapter in what would be a personal and bloody feud that would go on all year. The Family were a stable modelled on a religious cult. Started by a wrestler named Brandon Thomas – so called the Messiah due to his Jesus like resemblance (as ever these seem to be the high concept ways these things start in wrestling) – he had started to band together a group of babyfaces that had all been on losing streaks, preying on people looking to revive their careers. As outlined in Greg Lambert’s excellent book Holy Grail: The True Story of British Wrestling’s Revival which chronicles this period really well, with the Old School stable having been overcome, the company desperately needed a top heel act. And in fact it was the addition of Lambert as their manager – an evil journalist to spread their propaganda – that put them over the top as truly hated heels. A few months before this they’d won the FWA Tag Team Titles by defeating Alex Shane and Ulf Herman, and with The Family having six members (including Lambert as manager) they would defend them Freebird style with different combinations. This is a six person No DQ match and part of a run of the participants facing each other in different combinations. The Family’s signature entrance here with burning crosses is very cool, although the sort of thing that as Lambert sets out was pretty controversial and banned from a lot of buildings, although that might have been more on a fire safety note rather than for any sacrilegious connotations. As for the match itself, then I’d say car crash/train wreck would be the best way to describe it, very much in the ECW mould, whereby they start off in the ring with tags etc. but it soon devolves into brawling all over the building. With Shane and Herman being so much bigger than their opponents, The Family are unable to really get anything going as they bump all over for the faces. Herman, who spent some time in ECW, is a giant German who it would be charitable to say was rather limited technically (an understatement), but who created a cult following for himself in the UK though the use of weapons and in hardcore matches. A lot of the in-ring portion is pretty sloppy and all over the place, and there’s a fairly scary moment when it looks like Alex Shane legitimately knocks out Scott Parker with a Doublearm Chokeslam. From there the match completely breaks down into mayhem and the arena wide brawl, and your enjoyment will depend on how much you are into that style. Just as at British Uprising the craziest spot is a dive from the balcony with Nikita (Katie Lea Burchill) jumping off onto the pile of wrestlers below. There’s really too much for the camera to capture at times, with a brutal looking spot of Alex Shane giving his One Night Stand finisher to a Family member off the ramp through a table. Unfortunately a lot of the action is a mess and the match is notable for one of the worst Van Terminator attempts you’ll ever see when Ashe, one of the other Family members on the outside, slips when trying to springboard off the top rope and faceplants himself into the ring. It looks unbelievably painful but gets the expected you f**ked up chant. As if it needed it, the finish includes a ref bump and ends with Nikita getting isolated for the pin. The match is certainly entertaining at times, and there are some big spots like the dive from the balcony, but so much of it is all over the place with lots of sloppiness, and it’s hard at times to really work out what’s going on. At just under 25 mins it’s also much longer than it needed to be. These guys would have much better matches in what was a much better feud than just viewing this match in isolation would suggest. (**)
  17. This is a rematch from British Uprising I eight months previously. They were due to clash as part of the round robin tournament at Seasons Beatings at the end of 2002, but Storm being pulled mid way through the tournament with an injury means this is the first time they have clashed since then. Storm won the first match - although that was after a ref bump when it looked like AJ had a visual pin - so Styles is coming in determined to even the score on a personal level, while ROH are also now 2-0 down in the inter-promotional matches. I said before the opener of the show that ROH were not being treated as the heels despite them being the ‘away team’, which goes even further in this match with Jonny cutting a pre match promo (and not a particularly good one, although it’s hard to tell with the terrible acoustics) on the crowd. This was mainly due to Jonny having turned heel at Crunch 2003 in March for a big feud against Jody Fleisch, but also I think because they predicted that the fans were going to be on AJ Styles side anyway. Like their first match this is very spot heavy, with a distinct whiff of early 2000s indie wrestling about it, but it’s definitely not as good as their first meeting. In the Uprising contest, the transitions were smoother and there was more of a feeling out process, whereas here they just launch straight into things. The first match also worked better as in that one AJ worked as a subtle heel, and he is far better and more varied on offence than Storm is. That match felt more structured with AJ being able to dictate the pace more and Jonny able to build sympathy from the crowd through his selling. The FWA clearly wanted to get behind Jonny as a top heel – which we’ll see from the post match actions after the main event of this show – and while he had the obnoxious personality bits down to a tee, he was still at times wrestling very much like a babyface with his high flying. There’s still a number of fun moments: AJ’s vault over the barrier into a superkick, AJ’s signature Quebrada DDT, and a nice springboard wheelbarrow into a DDT from Storm and I enjoyed a number of the counters of some of the big moves playing into the first match between the two. The set up the FWA had at the York Hall with the stage and big entrance ramp means there is always the temptation to use it and we get Storm trying to swing off the lighting supports into a rana only for AJ to block and go for a Styles Clash. I’m not sure this section was necessary, but does make it feel different than their first match. The finishing sequence sees Storm getting a top-rope rana (after a few attempts at hitting it) but AJ wining it following a rolling Shotei and a springboard 450-splash to even their personal score at 1-1 and bring ROH back into things at 2-1. Unfortunately the pinfall is botched by ref Steve Lynskey which brings some confusion as to whether the match is over, which in a way is symptomatic of the match where they were seemingly a step off their game. Post match, Storm shakes AJ’s hand before attacking him from behind until Fleisch makes the save. (** ½)
  18. Mikey Whipwreck has always been a real favourite of mine, although I wouldn’t say a guilty pleasure as that doesn’t give him enough credit. His tag team with Tajiri is a legitimately brilliant team. However, it’s somewhat odd to see him here representing ROH, given from what I recall he wasn’t particularly prominent for that company at all, only I think wrestling in a couple of multi man scramble matches with Special K. Feel free to let me know if I’m wrong though! I think him being featured here was also because of the allure that UK companies had at the time for booking former ECW guys. While Whipwreck may not be the most obvious choice to represent ROH, it’s really good to see Xavier in here in a decent spot and being one of the FWA representatives. Like Tighe, Xavier was a young guy who fans were starting to get behind, and who would go on in 2003 and 2004 to be a prominent face for the company with his feuds against Alex Shane and Hade Vansen. The decision to match them up is logical, given the many similarities; both visually, in their statures and ring attire but also in their in-ring style. However because they are so similar, there are times when they simply seem to be exchanging moves with little transitioning – sometimes a styles clash, if it’s not too awkward, can work better than two people that work the same way. The match starts fairly cautiously with Whipwreck stalling, but gets more entertaining when they hit the floor and start trying to dive at each other over the crowd barriers. The selling is a bit all over the place but there is a frenetic chaos to the match and they bring lots of intensity. The match is wrestled in a 2000 ECW way, with chairs and the ringside table and guardrails being used, but as accessories to spots rather than just mindless plunder brawling. It’s a match that feels like it wouldn’t have looked out of place on an ECW TNN show from the last few months of the company. I liked the storyline of Xavier being a younger version of Whipwreck, teaching an old dog some new tricks, and being able to keep one step ahead of him by adapting some of his signature moves. It’s a match that puts Xavier over with him being able to kick out of the Whippersnapper. In one sense the roll up finish feels a bit anti-climatic given some of the punishment they are both taking, but it works in the sense of the youngster being just too quick for the veteran. The FWA goes 2-0 up. (**)
  19. Bit of an explanation needed before this one then! This is set to be Doug vs AJ, before the final match of the tournament will be AJ vs Jonny Storm. Going in, Doug has 20 points, AJ has 20 points and Jonny has 20 points. After his three matches, Jody Fleisch has 15 points and has therefore already been eliminated. But before the match starts it’s announced that due to the DDT he received on the outside in his count out loss to Flesich, Storm is unable to continue so his match against AJ won’t be able to go ahead. This makes Doug vs AJ as the default final to win the tournament… …however we then get Jerry Lynn as a surprise, which was a pretty ballsy (stupid?) thing for the FWA to do, given you presume that if you had him booked you would’ve wanted to advertise him? Unfortunately there’s nothing on Cagematch that confirms if he was in the country wrestling elsewhere around the same time, but that could potentially be the case. For most of the second half of 2002, Styles/Lynn had been in a heated rivalry in TNA which had spilled over to other promotions, and like the continuation of the Williams/Christopher Daniels rivalry from ROH into FWA storylines I like this connectivity that doesn’t treat separate promotions as different universes and through respecting continuity delivers more layered story telling. Lynn gets on the mic to say that he was originally meant to be in the tournament but had suffered an injury against AJ, that Styles had then over-exaggerated to FWA officials to get his spot in the tournament. It’s a little hokey, but I like the logic and storytelling. He then asks the FWA ringside official, to be given Storm’s 20 points and enter the tournament, which he then does and turns this match into a triple threat. It’s all a bit ECW, but the effort with the backstory and carrying over storylines from another company just about gives it a pass from me. The match itself is only seven or eight mins long but they pack a lot into that and as you might expect it’s wrestled at a cracking pace. The chemistry between Lynn and Styles is evident and while, as with most indy three way matches in the mid 2000s, there’s not a huge amount of selling going on, there’s not a lot of down time and one guy lying on the outside either. The ending is controversial with Lynn power bombing Williams at the same time as he hits the Chaos Theory on Styles, with the ref counting the pin for Lynn while it looks like Doug is also pinning AJ. The ending, and the fact that a guy that has just wrestled the one match ends up winning the tournament still leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth 15 years later, but it continues the theme of the booking of Christopher Daniels winning the title whereby results were meant to shock the largely hardcore/internet fan that was following the promotion. However, overall, given the different storylines weaving throughout the tournament – and the fact it set up several rematches with most having legitimate gripes, as well as the fact that there is a solid evening of consistently decent matches, overall this is a strong show top to bottom. (*** 1/4)
  20. This is a rematch from the final of the King of England tournament from Revival at the beginning of the year, in which Jody emerged the winner. This time coming in, it’s Doug who is under pressure following his opening defeat. This is not as good as the Revival match, which has a bigger, more high profile feel to it, but it was fun to see Doug wrestling a more high paced style reflecting his need for the points. There are some nice call backs to the Revival match, which the not always stellar FWA commentary team actually pick up on for once, in particular where Doug goes to powerbomb Jody off the apron, although this time it’s not successful. These two match up really well with one another and Doug makes a great base for Jody’s high flying. After two intense matches with AJ Styles and Jonny Storm, Jody is clearly vulnerable and Doug is able to stay alive in the tournament by picking up the win and the 20 points. At the same time this eliminates Jody who can’t now catch the other three who are all tied. (***)
  21. This is your classic match up, that to this day these guys are still having against one another. At this stage they are largely respectful friends with a competitive rivalry, which would change in 2003. With this being the second match of the tournament, Jody is in a must not lose position. If Jonny wins and moves onto 40 points then there’s no way he can catch him and he’ll be eliminated. With that in mind, as you would expect he wrestles at a frantic pace, although, it’s hard to say that’s solely because of the tournament storyline – that’s the way these two always wrestle! For those who hate spot-spot-spot matches, then I can see why when these two clash – especially in 2002, I think both became much more well rounded as they got older – that some would be turned off by the style. I love the chemistry and rapid transitions they have however and the familiarity they have with one another is shown in the opening exchanges where each hit the others finisher but only for two. This is far from the best match the two have had against each other, more a greatest hits package, with them both trying to throw everything they have out there – Jody with the desperation of trying to stay in the tournament and Jonny trying to eliminate Jody from contention. The end of the match is Jody connecting with his 720 DDT off the guard rail onto the outside and Storm being unable to make the count back in. This gives Jody 15 points, keeping him in the tournament for now, but with Jonny looking like he’s sustained a serious injury. (*** ¼)
  22. This is AJ’s second FWA appearance after he got over hugely in his defeat to Jonny Storm at British Uprising. At this stage none of the UK guys were heels in the company, meaning AJ takes on that role in the tournament, showcasing the cocky persona he had in TNA at this point. It also works well in this match as AJ is able to use his striking and the wide variety of signature moves he has that all look really vicious. Jody’s flexibility means he is the ideal guy to take the punishment that AJ is doling out and elicit a lot of sympathy. This is the best match of the tournament with some amazing exchanges between the two. Everything AJ does is with great intensity, and in storyline terms he is coming off the loss against Storm two months before when he’d tried to be more respectful and which hadn’t been successful. You can sense he’s coming in with more of a mean streak. AJ works really well when in there with other cruiserweight guys as he’s able to really throw them around despite not being much bigger than them and he rarely lets Fleisch build up significant momentum. Despite AJ being on top for most of the match, Fleisch gets some great hope spots in to keep the crowd invested, including a version of his 720 DDT while Styles is sitting on the ropes. In the end Styles has just too much intensity planting Jody with a powerbomb when he is coming off the ropes and then instantly hitting the styles clash. (*** ¾)
  23. Seasons Beatings was the last FWA show of 2002 and came at a time when the company was really starting to gain momentum. At the previous show Christopher Daniels had just won the British Heavyweight Title so this was about finding a No. 1 contender to go to America to get the belt back. To determine who would get the title shot, a round robin tournament between Doug Williams, Jonny Storm, Jody Fleisch and AJ Styles was devised with 20 points for a pinfall/submission win, 15 points for a count out/DQ win, 10 points for a draw and no points for a loss. The wrestler at the end of the night with the most points would be No. 1 contender. Given that matches involving Doug, Jonny and Jody were fast becoming the highlights of the British scene this was a card built around the premise of seeing them all face each other in different combinations. Doug vs Jonny brought with it the simple dynamic of a more powerful competitor against a high flyer. Doug is by no means a giant, but he dominates a lot of the match, with Jonny at this time being a great underdog seller with his wiry frame, and taking moves like it looked like it was killing him. The added storyline going in was that Jonny had never beaten Doug, who was being presented going into the tournament as the favourite, not least as he had been in the Iron Man Match to crown the first ROH champion that summer. Most of the match is spent with Jonny trying to up the pace, and hit and move, whereas Doug is trying to catch him with a submission or with his suplexes, given his superior technical skills. The familiarity of the guys in the tournament means that they are all able to wrestle at speed and most of the tournament matches are fun sprints, given both the X Division style being popularised at the time and also the structure of the tournament with each guy having to wrestle three times. Jonny picks up the upset victory by catching Doug with a flash pinfall to take the 20 points. (***)
  24. We are in the Broxbourne Civic Hall, which was the company’s main base for most of it’s run. It was a building that had a cool set up for wrestling with tiered seating on one side and a stage which the FWA also set up with seating that then gave off an appearance of being a bigger venue than the 450 or so capacity it had. It’s a venue that traditionally always had a hot crowd. Going into this match, Doug was in his first reign as FWA Champion and was already starting to be presented as the ace of the company. Timewise, it is just a week before the big Revival show which I’ve written about here: http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/39613-doug-williams-vs-eddie-guerrero-fwa-revival-king-of-england-tournament-02092002/ We are also in the midst of the main storyline going on in the FWA for most of 2002; the ‘Old School’ - veterans who didn’t like the new direction for wrestling in the UK and the newer, younger guys brought up on the Attitude era and ECW. This match plays into that, with Christopher Daniels being managed by the Old School’s manager Dean Ayass and brought into be a hired gun to take the title off Williams. When the promotion wide storyline had begun Doug was something of a tweener, but after rejecting the Old School’s advances he’s now very much in a face role. The nice hook is that Daniels has been brought in specifically as he already has a victory over Williams in the UK. This is a really fun match, and as you’d expect between these two, very smooth and technically sound. Both guys match up well and Daniels is excellent at playing the slimy heel trying to exploit any advantage or opening. Looking at the FWA roster at the time, Doug was clearly the most polished and best performer and he’s really enjoyable in showcasing his mat wrestling skills, incorporating a number of traditional British wrestling/WOS counters to keep Daniels off his game. Recognising that he is outmatched technically, Daniels is always looking to up the pace and when the match speeds up he is able to take control. I enjoyed his work on top in the match, as he kept working the neck and upper back, It was also refreshing that Ayass on the side didn’t get too involved to overshadow or distract from the match. Earlier in the show he’d been involved in a tag match and he sells his neck, which I guess was also an effective way of stopping him getting constantly involved. At this point in 2002 you could see why Daniels was so highly regraded on the indy scene and why he would be a key part of the early days of ROH and then TNA. He is already very polished and everything he hits is crisp and on point. I know some find him to be a guy that can be quite mechanical in the ring, but I’ve always been a big fan and in this match he brings a nice variety to his offence and moves that would become his signature spots. The match has a satisfyingly clean ending which puts Williams over nicely, showing he can defeat an opponent that already had a growing reputation. It’s a rivalry that interestingly the FWA would revisit later in the year and into 2003 and which also crossed over into ROH, and shows how well the two guys meshed. Their matches together in ROH are well worth seeking out, as is this one. (*** ¾)
  25. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bftPCKrQfpA This is just a couple of weeks after the big British Uprising show and kept up the FWA’s momentum nicely. On the undercard there is not too many big stories to note, the biggest probably being Alex Shane and Ulf Herman beating the UK Pitbulls for the tag titles. Given the very bloody and intense feud that Shane and Herman get into with The Family that runs for pretty much all of 2003, that’s a big moment. We are in Walthamstow Town Hall, which is a fun venue (I’m biased for having worked there), and one I’m glad that Rev Pro is now running again. The main event is Fleisch putting the belt that he won at Uprising on the line for the first time, with Daniels a late addition to make it a three way. With Fleisch and Williams both being faces, the addition of Daniels means there is an antagonist which helps the structure. At the beginning he is content to sit out while Fleisch and Williams go at it. It’s interesting that the Low Ki/Daniels/Dragon three way from the first ROH show was at the beginning of that year, as Daniels again takes on the role of being the more heelish and looking to take shortcuts. This match is in no way up to that standard, but there is a similar story they are trying to tell. As you’d imagine for the time, the action is fast paced with some pretty spotty selling, but it’s always engaging and you could tell that the UK guys were really starting to look at the style being worked in ROH as well as the X Division in TNA for inspiration. At this time, both Jody and Doug had been across to the US to compete for ROH, with Williams getting a pretty decent push. Doug is largely presented as the most dangerous of the three, being the more powerful but with the technical base, and he is coming off an impressive year when he’s been able to cleanly defeat both Eddie Guerrero and two weeks before this, Jerry Lynn. For most of the FWA’s run he was presented as the ace of the company and I like how in this match Daniels is largely trying to avoid him, which also plays into the feud they were having in ROH at the same time. A criticism would be that Fleisch - given he had just won the title in the big feel good moment at the end of Uprising I - feels like a bit of an after thought at times, although it’s more a comment on his size rather than his ability, that both the other two look to target him. He also still gets in some hugely impressive moments such as the springboard shooting star press to the other guys on the outside. This leads to the key part of the match with him selling a knee injury when landing, to where officials take him to the back and say he can’t continue. This being wrestling of course he ignores their best advice and comes storming back. It’s a decent way of trying to not make him look too weak in losing the title so soon. As befitting his character, Daniels takes advantage of Fleisch being injured to pin him and win the title in a pretty shocking moment. At the time I think a lot of people thought that Daniels being added to the match was just a way of adding cache and in terms of ‘having a good match’ and no-one expected him to win, not least as he wouldn’t be a regular and given Jody had just had his big crowning moment two weeks before. Reading Greg Lambert’s book, Holy Grail, on this period, he says that it was a way of raising the prestige of the title and getting more international eye balls on the FWA, while booker Alex Shane was also working with ROH to get them over for a show in 2003. He also says that it was a move designed to be shocking to the FWA fanbase that was very much a hardcore ‘smark’ audience. Looking back, I think it was a good move – with the FWA not running weekly shows, they didn’t need the title defended on every show and it was smart to try and raise the international prestige of the title. It also meant that the next show at the end of 2002 was centred around finding a No. 1 contender with a round robin tournament. Finally, the storyline of the title being taken hostage by an American was pretty compelling, and crossed companies to being a part of an ROH angle with Doug Williams trying to get it back. Overall, this is a fun match, with lots of action, that wouldn’t look out of place on a 2002/2003 ROH show, although I think at this time, Doug in particular was still trying to find himself, as in 2003/04 he would utilise his technical skills more. At this point I think he (along with a lot of the roster) was trying to work a more high flying/spot heavy style to fit in with the vibe that the company was trying to move away from the more traditional British style that in 2002 was seen as outdated. (*** ¼)