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  1. The build-up for this match comes out of the burgeoning Corino/Alex Shane feud that ratchets up on this show (read more about that here) when Doug agrees to defend the FWA Title against Corino, in part to stick it to Shane (who was the FWA’s heel authority figure, both on and off screen). WOS legend Mick McManus is the guest timekeeper for the match which gives a nice nod to British wrestling history and also makes the match feel more bigtime. FWA Title matches at this stage were 2/3 falls and reflecting the need for both guys to pace themselves we get a methodical start, with Corino trying to hang with Williams on the mat but being outmatched and caught off guard by Doug employing a lot of old WOS counters. There’s a nice story that, getting frustrated and recognised he is outmatched when it comes to technical wrestling, Corino then tries to make this into more of a brawl, but Doug won’t be bullied and as regular now for NOAH he’s happy to go strike for strike as well. I really like how Doug is presented at this point- being smart and tough as the top face. Given Doug is dominating, the first pinfall feels on the one hand that it comes out of nowhere, but on the other, I liked that Corino recognised he was only going to get small windows so went for it with a DDT when one opens and ends up getting the cobra sleeper to go 1-0 up. Given it’s a 2/3 falls match, it makes sense that Doug taps quickly to avoid sustaining more damage. Now Corino has the advantage, he gets more aggressive trying to wrap up the match quickly against a now vulnerable opponent becoming more heelish in the process but not in a cartoony way. However, this ends up costing him, serving to fire up Doug who starts fighting like a wounded animal from underneath. I love Doug’s fire here, really snapping off his European uppercuts, and he responds with a revolution DDT to level things up. I really like the through lines in the match, with the aggressor getting sloppy in his determination to win to end the match quickly – and this time its Doug that makes that mistake. Following the start of the third fall he immediately goes to the top for his bomb scare knee drop but ends up being caught with a superplex. We then get both guys emptying the tanks with big moves, including the tease of a double count out when both get back in at 19. Corino again tries to go for the cobra sleeper, but this time with his foot on the ropes for leverage showing his desperation to try and win the title. Just as we are building to a crescendo, we get a ref bump and both guys end up getting visual pinfalls. While this does interrupt the flow of the match, it leads to Alex Shane and Jack Xavier getting involved, and Doug pinning Corino in the confusion. This is an instance when parts of one match have been sacrificed to push forward other interweaving storylines. That ends up taking away slightly from the final result, however the interconnected storylines running through matches was something the FWA was very good at in 2004, and sometimes you have to look at that bigger picture. In saying all that it’s still a damn good match though (*** ¾)
  2. Doug is the FWA Champion coming in, while Flash is representing the 'Old School' which was the main heel stable in the FWA at the time. British wrestling legend Mick McManus is at ringside for this, while there is an old World Of Sport ref for the match, which rather than be nice nods to the tradition and history of British wrestling are sadly red flags for the complete mess this match will devolve into. Flash cheapshots to start the match, and the early exchanges are the best part with both guys showing great fire and intensity and lots of snap in their strikes and chops. Barker tries to slow things down, but quickly realises that if its a technical battle then that plays right into Doug's hands, who will dominate on the mat, whereas when its a brawl the challenger has much more of a chance. After a flurry of offence, Doug gets a really nasty DDT off the top rope, but the old ref, after doing a standing 2 count WOS style then just calls for the bell?... to general confusion with no-one sure what's going on. We then get Dino Scarlo, who was off screen the FWA booker and on screen part of the Old School turning this into a 2/3 falls match, so Doug has gone up 1-0 rather than winning the match. You can already tell this is now going to go off the rails... After what seems an age, Doug goes on the attack against a still dazed Barker to try and finish off the match, which is a sound strategy and when the two guys can actually just wrestle straight the match is decent, but the old ref - think one of the Athletic Commission refs at MSG in the 80s - is so useless it ruins any momentum. Given how the story of the match goes, there's a chance that could be intentional, but I genuinely think he just didn't have a clue what was going on. Williams gets the Chaos Theory, but just as it looks like he's going to get the 2nd fall and retain, we get the next screwy moment as the bell rings again 'for the end of the round' and this is now being fought under European rounds. As rip offs of Over the Edge 98 go this is not the most compelling. Despite all this, Doug is still dominating, until Barker gets a low blow and a pin with his foot on the ropes (maybe a bit much?) to tie things at 1-1. Barker then destroys Doug's leg with a chair, with Dino Scarlo just liberally joining in as well, which makes you think - why bother with the elaborate changing the rules on the fly story for the match if the interference/cheating is just going to be so blatant anyway? Just have him interfere to cost Williams the match. Rather than be Steve Austin vs Dude Love, this is Lance Storm vs Mike Awesome from New Blood Rising in making no-one come out looking good. After using the chair, Barker continues to work over the leg. Doug manages a hope spot, but can't execute the Chaos Theory with his injured ankle which I liked, but then Flash gets an ankle lock and the ref just calls for the bell without Doug tapping which I liked less (why not throw a bit of Montreal in for good matter?) and Flash is the new FWA Champion. Because of what went before, and the general shoddyness of the screw job execution no-one in the crowd really gets whats going on so you don't even get the reaction to the hated heel cheating to win. The booking in this destroys what could've been a really good match given that Doug is a brilliant wrestler, and Flash Barker in the FWA was a more than decent enough worker. Mick McManus presents Flash with the belt, but again its not clear if he was involved in the Old School's conspiracy to get the belt or if he's just an old guy that like the rest of us doesn't know what's going on... just really bad * for the match and -***** for the booking.
  3. This is an FWA dream match, given it’s got the ‘three musketeers’ of the early 2000s BritWres scene, and arguably the most prominent import that the company would use (at least up to this point). Doug and Jody are the two top faces in the company, while Storm is the hot heel, and Daniels had held the FWA British Title earlier in the year. Then there’s the interconnecting storylines; Daniels had won the title in a three way with Doug and Jody, Doug had then beat Daniels for the belt, Jonny and Jody are of course long term allies turned rivals with Jonny turning on Jody earlier in the year and then Daniels had recently won the final match in the FWA vs ROH series at the Frontiers of Honor show…by beating Jody…thanks to interference from Jonny… just great stuff in terms of interweaving everything that the company was really good at doing at this point. Despite the ‘dream match’ vibe, the opening minutes are full of stooging and stalling, and you wonder if this is down to the setting – this isn’t an FWA ‘A show’, and I’m not sure they would’ve wrestled it the same way if not on one of their tour shows with a more kids and family crowd. That’s probably why it’s all a bit pantomime at the start. Once we get into things though, they pick up nicely, and there’s some really fast paced and smooth exchanges between Daniels/Fleisch and Williams/Storm. I also liked how Storm was desperate to avoid Fleisch until he could cheap-shot him on the outside and take over. Considering I’m not sure how many times, if at all, they would’ve teamed up, Daniels and Storm work really well together and both take turns utilising lots of tricks and shortcuts which helps to build the heat before heel miscommunication leads to a fired-up Williams hot tag. I adore Doug as a wrestler and doing this FWA rewatch is really making me see his fire and intensity, when previously I used to think he could be a bit cold and mechanical at times. This all builds up to a great sequence between Williams and Storm that ends with a revolution DDT for a near fall. The four guys do well to largely keep to the classic tag structure before we get to the home stretch and the big moves, which makes those mean more. A criticism I would have, is that while Jonny and Jody going through their usual sequences is always fantastic to watch, the feud they were building was meant to be more about hatred and I didn’t feel that here, but again, maybe that’s down to the setting and not being a ‘main show’ for the company. The ending comes when Fleisch catches Daniels with a flash pin, sending the crowd home happy and also giving Jody some payback for losing twice in big matches in the FWA to him. This is a good match, but you feel on a regular show it would be more balls to the wall and could've been a classic. (*** ¼)
  4. This is a banner match for the FWA, bringing with it lots of history between the two. This includes them first clashing in the UK all the way back in 1999 for the ill-fated UWA promotion (might have to go back and revisit that one day...), onto Daniels winning the FWA Title by pinning Doug and taking it ‘hostage’ to America for 6 months, to finally Doug winning the title back in Ring of Honor at Night of Champions (a hell of a match). A few months before this Daniels had pinned Jody Fleisch to win the FWA vs. ROH series thus justifying this shot at the title. The first thing to say about this match is that the two have fantastic chemistry. Daniels stalls to begin, knowing that Doug got the best of him last time out, and Williams dominates the early goings. Daniels is normally used to being able to ‘out-wrestle’ his opponents, but Doug is the superior ‘technical wrestler’ and Daniels only answer early on is to try to break up his opponents momentum by going outside. What I loved was Doug steaming out with a tope to stop Daniels from stalling further on the outside, meaning there was a reason for the normally grounded Williams to fly to the outside. But while he is finding himself outmatched technically, you can tell how smart a competitor Daniels is, and he continues to use tricks where he can to rile Doug up, and get him to make a mistake, and that’s where Daniels is able to capitalise when Doug lets his anger get the better of him. Daniels is then able to seize his opening to hit the Angels Wings for the first fall (FWA Title matches at this time were 2/3 falls). Recognising his title is now in serious jeopardy, Williams gets a brief flurry at the beginning of the second fall and a couple of flash pins, but Daniels is great at cutting off any momentum, just as it is building. Daniels strategy is then to try and wear Doug down by going for regular pinfalls, but tries one too many, as Williams is able to catch a reversal on a sunset flip to tie things up at 1-1. I liked that Daniels sold this anger at allowing himself to be caught and pinned when he was in control, and that it manifests itself in him not allowing the rest period between falls and taking it to the outside, where he will have the edge if this comes down to a brawl. But now the match has turned from a tactical encounter to a fight and its back and forth. I liked how with the tables turned, and Doug as the aggressor that it was Daniels who was looking to hang in and grab flash pinfall attempts where he can. There’s a great near fall where you think Doug has the match won off a bomb scare knee drop, but while Daniels survives that he is then vulnerable to the chaos theory and the winning fall goes to Williams to retain the title. This is not as good as some of their previous clashes, in particular their more high-profile match in ROH, however that is more of a sign of just how good their other matches are. These two always mesh so well together, and it’s nice after Williams won the belt in America to see him definitively beat Daniels in a title match in the UK as well. I really liked the stories they told through the 2/3 fall structure in this one. (*** ½)
  5. A very good back & forth sprint w/ Dragon showing good fire & Williams playing the role of the veteran-being-taken-to-the-limit very well. ***1/2
  6. This match is from the FWA’s British Breakout Tour, which was part of the company’s desire to become a more national promotion, branching out of the South coast and London area which was its base. We are in the glamorous setting of Cleethorpes on one of the nights of the tour in the North of England at the Winter Gardens, which was one of your classic British seaside music hall venues. This is very much a ‘house show’/B show type card, compared to the bigger standalone shows the FWA was putting on in and around the London area. Doug is a month on from defeating Christopher Daniels for the FWA Title at ROH Night of the Champions to begin his second reign. Worth noting at this point FWA Title matches were 2/3 falls. Hamrick would be a semi-regular for the FWA in 2003, and for this match is billed as ‘representing XPW’ which the FWA had a partnership with. In the opening exchanges, Hamrick is in full stooging heel mode, trying to convince the ref Doug’s used a closed fist on him behind his back. We also get a load of spots involving atomic drops, with the early stages being worked as a comedy match. It plays well to the family type crowd in attendance, but you have to think they wouldn’t have gone down this route in front of the regular more hardcore FWA fanbase. What’s good though is that Doug, as the top guy in the company doesn’t get portrayed as an idiot, and doesn’t fall for any of the mind games. Things start to pick up with some brawling on the outside, and from there we lead to a sequence back in the ring where William’s picks up the first fall with a tornado DDT. The start of the second fall sees Hamrick faking trying to leave, but again Doug isn’t your standard babyface idiot and continues to be on top. With his regular tours to the US, Doug is so smooth and confident in everything he does. One of the problems with the match however, is that every time it looks to be escalating, Hamrick rather jarringly goes back to the stooging and there’s an odd sequence in which he goes for a split legged moonsault, but ends up botching it and selling that he’s seriously injured. The ref calls for assistance with other wrestlers coming out, and given the old school/family seaside crowd, people seem to buy it’s a real injury, but he then hops up to superkick Doug and get the second fall. Usually on a fake injury angle you don’t go to the trouble of deliberately botching a move badly, but then I guess, he could’ve in kayfabe terms be covering the fact he’s made an error and sees it as a way of working an opening? Either way, it’s all a bit odd in the execution. The final fall is more serious and moves into a more typical indie back and forth contest with Hamrick getting a series of near falls, including his top rope leg drop. However, we then get a convoluted ending with the ref being knocked down when Doug has the match won with the Chaos Theory, allowing Hamrick to hit a low blow and a piledriver (illegal in the FWA) to seemingly win the title when Head Ref Steve Lynskey runs down to count the pin…however, as you probably guess, we get the original ref waving it off – not clear if it’s because he’s the designated official or if it’s because of the use of the banned piledriver – and restarting the match. From there, it’s another Chaos Theory and Doug retains. This ended up really disappointing me. If you’ve read any of my FWA reviews, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Doug Williams, who was consistently putting in excellent performances at this time, and I also like Chris Hamrick, but this is a really schizophrenic match alternating between stooging comedy and indie nearfalls, and includes both a fake injury angle and a Dusty finish that suffocates any of the good parts. (**)
  7. This is in the tried and tested tradition of putting a company ace up against an up and coming face where the rookie gets to shine, but ultimately falls to the veteran’s greater skills and experience. As befitting that formula, we get a fast start from Xavier with a series of arm drags and a good early nearfall of a sky high/elbow drop powerbomb. I really liked the sequence where Williams, showing his experience, rolls to the outside to break the initial flurry from Xavier and then moves away from his technical wrestling wheelhouse to strikes and punches after realising he’s now in a fight. However, we then get Xavier going to the outside when the match is going against him, showing he is learning, and earning a round of applause from Doug. We then get Doug slowing down the match and returning to his strengths, by working holds and him taking control. During this portion, Williams shows just how good a wrestler he is; everything is so slick and there’s real snap behind all his offensive moves. Xavier gets in some hope spots to keep the crowd invested, but while the match is on the mat there’s only going to be one winner, so when he creates an opening by moonsaulting over Doug, he realises he has to up the pace and he gets a close 2 off a rolling release X-Plex, which was one of his signature moves, and something Pete Dunne uses a lot now. This is where the match escalates – Xavier trying to keep up the pace, while Doug starts to go for some big bombs to try and put the youngster away, including a series of powerbombs, as the crowd is now really invested in the rookie hanging with the ace. Ultimately it’s William’s greater technical skills that end up winning the day with him getting a roll up into a bridge. This match though was successful in getting Xavier over as someone that could hang with guys at the top of the card. (***)
  8. This match stems from events in the build up to Uprising III, and then events from that show itself. At BU3, Ulf Herman had made his big return to the FWA after being out for a year following being turned on by Alex Shane. His return came during the Williams/Shane FWA title bout, but rather than get his revenge on Shane, his interference backfired and he inadvertently cost Williams the title. That’s your intrigue for this match – can they get along against Shane’s henchman? Williams also wants revenge on Legend (Just Joe of WWF fame) for bloodying him on the FWA title at Shane’s behest two months before this. Indeed, before the match Legend tries to foster dissent between Williams and Herman by reminding Doug of what happened in the previous shows title match, but the faces get the shine at the beginning and clear house despite a tease of them almost colliding again. Herman was massively over with FWA fans, but I think the polite way to describe is his in ring skills would be ‘limited’. Doug works the vast majority of the match for his team, which is understandable given how much of a class above he is the rest of the guys. The match is much more storyline/angle advancement than workrate, and while the story they are trying to tell – Doug keeps getting isolated and beat up two on one due to Herman’s short temper and him constantly trying to get in the ring illegally, playing up the fact Williams has good reason to be pissed off at him – makes sense, there’s just no interesting work to keep you invested. Both the heels are very bland with their offence, and there’s little to get inspired by; the heat segment on Doug feels very repetitive and much longer than it actually is. Ulf’s overness with the crowd does mean that when he finally gets in they are still behind his hot tag, but just as you hope the match can get some momentum, there’s an odd sequence where everyone misses moves off the top rope. It's really jarring and doesn't fit with the vibe of the match. We then run through a series of nearfalls, with Legend in particular really nailing Doug with a dragon suplex. As is his way, Ulf can’t help going for the weapons, and the stamping on Stixx with the rail looked particularly brutal. Just as at Uprising, Herman’s hardcore temper ends up costing them when in the confusion Legend is able to stop the Chaos Theory with a chair shot and then hit a Flatliner on the chair for the win. After the match Herman cleans house with the chair, leading to an accusation from Doug that he was the one that hit him. The match is more about storyline development than match quality, but even in saying that it is very laboured at times, with the heels bringing little excitement with their work. There was a consistent story to what the guys were doing, it’s just they weren’t doing it in a particularly interesting way. (**)
  9. 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.
  10. We are in Brent Town Hall. Going into this match Doug Williams was over a year into his title reign as the British Heavyweight Champion, although the commentators note he has a partially torn rotator cuff. The result of this is that while FWA Title matches were contested under 2 out of 3 falls rules, the injury means that FWA management have only sanctioned this as a one fall contest. Following his rivalry with Hade Vansen over the All England Title, where there were a number of controversial finishes, Zebra Kid was given the title shot as recognition of being the longest reigning All England champion. He is accompanied to the ring for this match by his (and Paige’s) Dad Ricky Knight. Because of the injury he’s coming in with, Doug, uncharacteristically, goes for a fast start hitting a close line right at the opening bell. Usually Doug is a wrestler that likes to work his way into a match gradually but here he goes to blitz Zebra early. While Williams is the more accomplished technical wrestler, by getting into more of a frenzied match he’s played into Zebra’s hands. That’s his kind of match, and he is able to take control with his kicks and strikes as well as using a chair on the outside; using it to set Williams up on and deliver an elbow from the apron and a DDT on it. As the ace of the company, Williams is able to absorb a lot of punishment, and he starts to unload some of his big weapons, such as the bomb scare knee drop from the top and a double underhook suplex from the top rope to try and get out with his belt. With the injury he’s coming in with though, the commentators are playing up vulnerability in Williams due to the number of gruelling title defences he’s had and his schedule in Japan and the US, and Zebra’s frantic style often has the champion on the defensive. This leads into the final stretch where Williams is down and Zebra Kid looks like he is about to claim the title by going up for his Zebra Crossing elbow drop from the top rope…until he is turned on by his Dad who pushes him off the top rope allowing Williams – not aware of what’s happened – to hit the Emerald Flowsion to retain. This is a fun match and I enjoyed that it was a contest where Williams was forced into more of a frantic brawl which he had to survive. At this stage he was putting on a great run of title defences against a wide variety of different opponents, very similar to the ROH title reigns of Samoa Joe and Bryan Dainelson. The ending of the match was due to build up to a personal grudge match - probably at British Uprising III, between father and son. While the feud would involve many of the Knight family members, fuelled by Zebra's decision to wrestle full-time for the FWA instead of his father's promotion, World Association of Wrestling, outside the ring factors – Zebra Kid being jailed for nine months for drink-driving – meant the storyline which had a lot potential came to an abrupt halt only a few months later. (*** ¼)
  11. As with British Uprising I the previous year, it’s good to see the show main evented by the FWA Title and main evented by two British guys. Over the year since that show Doug Williams had been firmly established as the ace of the company having brought the title ‘home’ by beating Christopher Daniels at ROH’s Night of Champions in March. Following that he successfully defended the title against a series of imports including Chris Hamrick, Juventud Guerrera, Christopher Daniels and Bryan Danielson. This is his first home grown challenger. This is a really well built up match. Back at Crunch 2003 in March, Doug defeated James Tighe in a match that showed that Tighe could compete with Doug, but wasn’t yet on his level. For much of the summer and autumn Doug was competing in ROH and NOAH, cementing his position as the best wrestler in the UK and as a trailblazer of sorts for the UK scene, while Tighe was able to pick up big wins and defeat two former FWA champions; Jody Fleisch and Flash Barker in a mini tournament to become No. 1 contender. With his momentum growing Tighe was also able to beat another former FWA champion in Christopher Daniels and then finally pin Doug in a non title triple threat match, also involving Flash Barker, in Newport in Wales two months before this to show that he was now ready to challenge. A simple story – very Japanese in booking - and effective in building Tighe up; it really felt like the title could realistically change hands here. Stylistically, it’s a match up that also clicked - Tighe as a younger version of Williams, looking to take his crown. That plays into the match from the start and the opening mat exchanges; these are two technical guys, proficient in that style. A reminder as well, that FWA Title matches at this point were contested under 2 out of 3 falls rules. For most of the first fall, Doug, showing that he’s the top guy in the company is largely in control with Tighe trying to work an opening on the leg to make use of his Texas cloverleaf. Williams mainly controls the head and neck with a series of front chancery’s one of which he turns into a reverse DDT on the floor. Tighe, feeling like he is being dominated on the mat tries to up the pace with a pair of dropkicks and also an exchange of forearm’s, but this just seems to piss Doug off. After a series of reversals where each looks to hit one of their signature moves, he is able to catch Tighe in a cobra clutch which he flips over in a version of the move I don’t recall seeing before, but which looks really painful. This is enough to get a tap to go up 1 fall to 0. We have breaks between the falls with each having a corner man and taking on water, both playing up to the WOS heritage and the rounds system but also helping give it that big fight feel. With Tighe still feeling his neck, Doug goes straight in for the kill and tries to hook the same move again, before transitioning into a cattle mutilation! He’d had a series of great matches with Bryan Danielson in ROH that year so I like that he was working that in as a move he had picked up. Doug is looking to keep the advantage and keeps working over the neck but gets caught with a snap German when charging in with a knee. Tighe realising this is his chance uses that as an opening to hit a flurry of a springboard back elbow, a hurucanrana and a brainbuster for a nearfall when Doug just gets his foot on the bottom rope. He levels up the match at 1-1 after hitting two Tighetanics after Doug actually kicks out of the first one. I liked this and the foot on the rope as it showed the resilience that Doug has even in dropping the fall, and that Tighe will really have to raise his game to take the title. Almost off the restart, Tighe gets a great nearfall reversing the Chaos Theory into a roll up. With both men in a sudden death environment now, the third fall sees the intensity levels rise and the match breakdown into more of a brawl and it spills to the outside with Doug taking a nasty bump on the outside when going for his revolution DDT off the apron. They work their way to the ramp where in a brutal looking moment, Tighe takes a Chaos Theory on the ramp! Tighe is clearly now running on fumes but somehow stays in the match kicking out of not just a revolution DDT, but a series of a pair of brainbusters followed by the Chaos Theory! Getting frustrated, Doug deviates from his game plan and makes an error by going to the top but missing a senton. This gives Tighe the chance to hit a desperation tiger driver but just for 2! Given it’s got him a fall already, it makes sense that he goes for another Tighetanic, but having been hit by it before, Doug is able to counter this time and go all out with a Dragon Suplex Chaos Theory to retain the belt. This is a great match, the best of the FWA all year in 2003, and probably to this point the best I’ve seen in the company history. From the opening exchanges, to the escalation, to the ebb and flow and then the hot finishing sequence, there is lots to love in this one. (**** 1/4)
  12. 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)
  13. 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. (***)
  14. 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. (***)
  15. 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)
  16. 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)
  17. I’m going to be repeating myself here with the matches from Uprising I, but this is another match with a very early 2000s feel to it. This was one of the big selling points for the show and the main event of the first half. Doug was the UK’s premier technical guy at that point, in terms of someone that was blending the WOS style with a more modern/Japanese orientated move set and Jerry Lynn was really hot at this stage, given he was getting a lot of rave reviews for his work in TNA in the early days of the X Division plus he still had the ECW cache. The result is the fans chanting for Lynn before he’s even come out. The beginning of the match is worked like your classic Lynn/RVD opening sequences with lots of quick transitions into a stand off. It all looks quite dated now, but at the time, the crowd are lapping it up. It also shows that while Doug is the bigger more technical guy, he’s wrestled Jonny Storm and Jody Fleisch a lot and so is able to keep up with Lynn’s more fast paced/cruiserweight style. As the match progresses, Doug tries to slow things down and works in a number of submissions which is much more his strength, whereas Lynn is always looking to up the pace. Both have some big impact moves in their arsenal, and Doug continues to evolve his style by incorporating more suplexes and throws that are consistent with his judo background. There’s lots to enjoy in the match, although you never feel it properly escalates, with much more of an exhibition feel, even as they start to trade big moves as the match progresses. At this time the FWA had a ban on piledrivers but the commentators note that this has been waived for this match given that is Lynn’s finisher. In the end that catches Lynn out and he gets caught by Williams in a cradle, similar to how Doug defeated Eddie Guerrero at Revival and showing that his technical skills have been enough to defeat more high profile opponents. (***)
  18. For more detail on what the King of England Tournament was see the link below to a write up of one of the semi finals between Doug Williams and Eddie Guerrero: http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/39613-doug-williams-vs-eddie-guerrero-fwa-revival-king-of-england-tournament-02092002/ This is the final of the tournament. Doug had defeated Eddie Guerrero in the semi-final, while Jody had to get through Drew McDonald, which played into the overarching New School vs Old School storyline that was going on in the FWA at the time. In that match, Fleisch takes a beating from McDonald before winning so he's coming in selling his arm. At this point, and for almost all his run in the FWA, Doug is nominally a face, but always with an air of detachment, that suits his technical ring style. In this match, because of the storyline injury to Fleisch's arm and the size difference, he plays a more heelish role, looking to work the arm but also dominate with his size and suplexes. You can see the comfort and familiarity the two already have with each other with lots of smooth sequences and it's always good for a tournament when the best match of the night comes in the final. Jody is great at being a underdog and getting the crowd behind him, with Doug dominating large parts of the match. At this stage, Jody could always be somewhat hit or miss, but here he hits his most impressive moves like the springboard shooting star press and 720 DDT dead on. The SSP gets a great reaction, and was a pretty revolutionary move for the time. One of the criticisms of Doug is that he can sometimes be somewhat cold and clinical, but here he shows a good vicious side and really throws Fleisch around. There are two crazy bumps - one where Jody gets suplexed from one side of the ring to the other off the top rope (admittedly in the smaller FWA ring) and another where Doug powerbombs them both off the apron that was particularly nasty looking. The small size of the UK ring almost makes the rollup finish a little awkward, but it works really nicely, with the twin storyline that Doug got a bit cocky while Fleisch just survived following all the punishment he took. It also works as a little nod to the Bret/Bulldog finish to Summerslam 92 (*** 3/4)
  19. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3vGhJD-GXs For a bit of backstory, the Revival show in 2002 is a pretty big moment in British wrestling, as it was the start, along with British Uprising later in the year, of the initial revival (sorry about the pun) of a scene that was basically dead for the 1990s and that started an initial upswing for the industry in the UK that lasted until about 2005/06, when it slipped back into the doldrums for a few years until the renaissance that we've had over the last few years. The King of England Tournament was a one off show designed to showcase what British wrestling could achieve and came at a time when because of the hotness of the WWF(E) and coming off the Attitude era, wrestling was massive in the UK to where WWF programming had been on Channel 4 in 2000 which was a channel that every house in the country got. The popularity was such that there was a wrestling radio show on a station called talkSPORT and it was the two hosts Tommy Boyd and Alex Shane that came up with the idea of this show. The goal was trying to put British wrestling back into the mainstream and show that it could be a viable TV product, something which outside of the WOS show on ITV at New Year in 2016/17 still hasn't been achieved. For a much better write up of all the history check out Greg Lambert's excellent book, Holy Grail. The event was filmed at the Crystal Palace indoor arena which was a much bigger venue that any UK show was being held in at the time and it was shown on a cable channel called Bravo, which had been the UK home of ECW and WCW towards the end of their runs. Watching the footage back, the set up and presentation is obviously not as slick or well produced as a lot of shows you'll see today, but I think the production and attendance is pretty good considering the budget that was being worked with. The show was centered around a one night 8 man tournament to be crowned 'King of England' which is actually the format that I might have gone with for the WOS show last year. Most of the competitors were UK guys, with the more well known names being the trio that helped build the scene: Jonny Storm, Jody Fleisch and Doug Williams, along with veterans like Drew McDonald and Robbie Brookside, but also intriguingly Eddie Guerrero during his time away from the WWE. This match is one of the semi-finals. For the time shown (about 10 mins) this is fun, although you can tell there are a couple of rough edits for time constraints that are a little jarring. Doug was the most technically sound guy on the UK scene but you could sense some nerves in his performance as there are a couple of rough moments. but such is the talent of both guys that they are not harmful to the match. Some of those moments may also come from Eddie not being used to the small FWA ring that is being used. There's not a particularly strong story to the match, but it's fun watching Eddie use his technical wrestling when in there with someone so proficient in the UK style and so sound himself in Doug. Doug is able to use his power while you can tell Eddie is the more wily and experienced of the two. The end comes when Guerrero goes for a cradle and it's blocked by Williams for the pinfall. I think this works nicely, as it shows Doug's smarts and technical skills, but is also a finish that works for not looking like they are pushing the home town guy too hard considering the reputation/status of Eddie (***)
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