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  1. This is part 727 in the never-ending Alex Shane (plus friends) vs. The Family feud that takes up much of 2003 in the FWA. I’m not going to lie I feel like I see versions of this match in my sleep these days. The thing that I do enjoy though, is that a bit like Dreamer vs. Raven in ECW in that it involve lots of different players circling in and out. In this match the Family are represented by stalwart Paul Travell and then Ian DaSciple, who wasn’t very good at all, and would be pretty much gone from the company a year later as they were looking to up standards. This is very much a small show, at a small venue, in front of a small crowd – set up ‘theatre style’ with the ring on the stage and then the fans all on one side. Even though this was a ‘blood’ feud, with escalating violence on the FWA main card shows, here it’s very much ‘yay/boo’ type stuff, particularly early on, given the holiday maker type crowd. The match takes the same structure as most of the ones in this feud do – Shane dominates physically, but The Family take over when they can isolate Nikita. There’s a very basic and uninspiring heat segment, and I should note that as always in these matches, this is NO DQ. So its one of those strange matches where you can use weapons etc. but there’s cheating behind the refs back and early on, adhering to tags. If it’s going to be a ‘hardcore’ match, make it a crazy brawl! Nikita and Travell faced each other at British Uprising the year before and have good chemistry, but pretty soon the match breaks down and we get all the standard walk and brawl/plunder shots stuff. The ring being on the stage does help with the optics though. There’s some enjoyable stooging from The Family members taking the weapons shots, but it is a bit jarring when on others shows there has been blood and violence between the teams. Another (good) constant in these matches, is that the sequences between Shane and Travell are the highlights, as Shane was trying to get Travell over and he gives him a lot. There’s a really crappy ref bump as we hit the closing stretch as the faces get a visual pin, but I did bite on the nearfall where The Family do a switcheroo and Nikita kicks out of a belt shot. Travell then gets to kick out of Shane’s One Night Stand finisher, which I’m not sure was planned as the ref is just randomly staring at the floor, before he counters a second one into a tornado DDT on a tag belt for the 3. It’s pretty mindless, and fun at times, but as I mentioned at the start, if you’ve seen one of these matches, then you’ve seen most of them, and you do feel there’s a sense of diminishing returns as the rivalry goes on. (** ½)
  2. Alex Shane and friends vs. The Family in 2003 was essentially the FWA version of Dreamer vs Raven, with various different matches involving lots of different characters. Shane and Knight – not regular partners and teaming for the first time – had won the tag titles on the first night of the tour, with Stevie being a local replacement with both Nikita and Ulf Herman (Shane’s regular partners being unavailable). As had happened on the first tour, the title change was in part to draw interest in new markets but also breathe some life into the longer running feud I’ve mentioned. It’s never officially announced, but as with most of the matches in this feud, it’s NO DQ, and just like in most of the matches, Shane uses his size early on to dominate. The Family can’t get anything going until they get Knight in there, and then their superior tag experience as a team starts to show. Whenever Shane is in, he dominates, so The Family try hard to keep Knight in as long as they can, which was a nice story to the first half of the match where they largely stick to the tag formula. The second half then breaks down to become more of your standard ‘walk and brawl’ early 2000s hardcore match. Knight and Raj Ghosh just disappear for a bit, but to be honest that works fine as the sequences between Shane and Paul Travell have much better energy and excitement to them. As is the norm in these matches, Travell bleeds and takes some nasty bumps, but he also gets an impressive hurucunrana off the camera platform. The intensity of the match is let down by the ref bump finish, before Knight ‘plays dead’ to get rollup and retain. This is a match of two halves that felt bolted together, and Knight’s more comedy persona and style didn’t really fit with the blood feud that Shane and allies had been having with The Family. Talking of the title shots, to pop the local crowds but return the belts to where they belong for the more ‘canon shows’, The Family would win the titles back on the last day of the tour. (** ¼)
  3. This is a match that should’ve had a long build to it, and a program that you think the company would’ve looked to be a major part of their storylines in 2005, but was rushed to here because of Burchill’s departure for WWE. This was to be his last match for the FWA. In hindsight, and it’s always easy to be wise after the event, the company should really have utilised Burchill more effectively in 2004 and pushed him up the card sooner, but as is so often the case in wrestling, these things get held off until it’s too late. With Burchill’s departure imminent, you can see why they wanted to do this match when they had the chance. The hastily booked storyline going in, was that after British Uprising III a couple of weeks prior, Shane had jumped Burchill backstage believing that as he was leaving for the WWE, that there wouldn’t be any repercussions. Unfortunately for him, in kayfabe terms, Burchill’s contract had one more month to run until the end of the year and so Shane has screwed himself over. Given how sporadic FWA shows could be at times though, you could feel Shane’s decision had some logic to it… Shane is fresh off winning the British Heavyweight Title at BU3 but this is non-title due to Burchill’s departure, which at least helps to add some drama to the result, which would otherwise have been pretty telegraphed. Before the match we get some funny mic work from Shane, with him trying to weasel his way out of the match by saying that Burchill doesn’t want to risk injury before his big move to the States. That unsurprisingly doesn’t go too well for him and in the early stages there’s a lot of Shane running and stalling in an effort to escape. He’s actually the taller guy, but such was the Goldberg-esque rep the FWA had built around Burchill that the fans are very much bought into him being the one who should be dominating. It should be noted that Burchill is ripped here and much leaner than when he first appeared in the company. We get a number of opportunities early on for Burchill to showcase his power and agility – including a Samoan Crash and standing moonsault - which a lot of reasonably big guys on the indies can do now, but at the time, especially on the UK scene was revolutionary. As I’m finding a lot in my FWA rewatch, a number of matches that didn’t get much love at the time, are actually a lot better viewed now as tastes change. This match is a case in point. At the time, in hardcore wrestling fan circles, people were very much into smaller cruiserweight style or technical wrestlers, while big guys had a ‘WWE stigma’ attached to them. But today, ‘hoss’ matches or brawls between bigger guys are much more en vogue and I enjoyed this as a fun power match. Shane was far from a technical marvel – his counter wrestling at the beginning his really ugly – but as a brawler and a guy that could tell a story in the ring, he was usually able to make his matches compelling, and I think 2004 is a very strong year for him in-ring wise – arguably the best of his career. With him having newly won the company’s title and Burchill leaving, this needed to be far more competitive and even that most of the matches Burchill had been in up to this point. There was enough in the exchanges here that made me think they could have had a really good match if they had been able to have Burchill be the guy to end Shane’s title reign at some stage in the future. After a period of Shane being in control, we get a nice fired up run of power moves from Burchill, culminating in a really impressive looking C4 (standing Spanish Fly), although where due to his size and having to rotate it looked like Shane was perilously close to having his neck broken. We get a fun exchange of big moves; Burchill misses a standing Shooting Star Press, Shane gets a Chokebomb for 2, a second attempt is countered into a hurucunrana before Burchill misses a moonsault from the top rope. Shane going in for the kill hits his One Night Stand finisher…but just for two! Hits another, but once again a kick out. I can see why at the time some FWA fans thought this was killing off the champions finisher against a guy wrestling his last match for the company, but Burchill had been so protected and presented so dominantly that it needed that number of big moves to finish him off, which is emphasised by one of Shane’s security guards Stixx interfering and a final One Night Stand getting Shane the win. I liked this match, but the overbooking in Shane’s matches is something that I can feel (and that I recall from watching at the time) is going to get very old, very quickly. But considering they had to rush to this match, I enjoyed their chemistry. (***) After the match Burchill gets a standing ovation from the crowd and the locker room to wish him well before he left for WWE. Ultimately that was a move that didn’t really work out for him – although I like his run on (WW)ECW which had some fun little matches – but watching this in 2018 when NXT UK has just been established and so many UK guys are in such demand, the contrast with 2004 is incredible. Back then UK guys, and Europeans in general just didn’t get a chance in WWE. I think Burchill was definitely a guy that came around too early and that could’ve been a significant player in NXT UK if he was coming up on the scene now.
  4. 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.
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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. (****)
  8. 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)
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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)
  12. 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. (***)
  13. 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. (**)