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Found 73 results

  1. That is Squire Dave Taylor of WCW fame, and of course a British veteran. He’s brought in here as a mystery opponent for Drew McDonald, as part of the show long storyline that if any members of the Old School lose then they will be fired. On the face of it a slightly jarring, given Dave Taylor would seem a natural fit for the Old School, but it’s played up as him coming back to the UK to help the younger guys. Going into this match I was excited at the prospect of two tough veterans just laying into each other, but, while this match is technically solid, it’s really dull. I don’t mind a methodical pace, and there is a contrast in this match to what the younger guys on the card were doing, moving too fast and doing too much, but this tips over too much the other way. We some long battles over headlocks and a figure four, but I was hoping for much more of a heated brawl. Taylor doesn’t get to showcase much of his technical wrestling, while McDonald does little of interest. McDonald was a good character in the FWA and a good heel but very rarely were any of his matches any good, as he seemed reluctant to want to work with his opponent much, especially the young guys working the new indie style. Which is why I was disappointed in this one as I thought Taylor would’ve been the type of guy McDonald would’ve been more prepared to put the effort in against. The ending is fairly cliched as well, with McDonald’s manager Dean Ayass sacrificing himself as a distraction, allowing McDonald to hit the stunner for the win. This was the only match Taylor would work for the FWA. (* ½)
  2. This is essentially the beginning of the Family stable, a religious cult group that would become home to wrestlers on losing streaks or going nowhere with their career, with the idea that Brandon Thomas – ‘The Messiah’ – would give them direction. After the end of the Old School storyline, they would become arguably the top heels in the company in 2003. Before the match Paul Travell turns heel in his home town to become Thomas’ first member. In this match they are up against the New Breed, who in the early days of the FWA were it’s top tag team, but who are close to the end of their run as they would soon get squashed by the UK Pitbulls and then taken out by Paul Burchill at British Uprising a couple of months after this. This match is a bit of a mess. Despite being the company’s top team (the FWA’s tag division was never it’s strong point) the New Breed were very hit and miss. As they show here they hit some cool double teams, but were often attempting things above their skill level. In turn, Brandon Thomas was more of a personality than a wrestler, and while he has presence and charisma, brings very little to the table in being capable in ring. Travell for his part is still very raw here, but shows flashes of the decent worker he would turn into, and it’s his nutty bumping – which would become a staple for the rest of his FWA run – which makes this somewhat watchable. For the finish, the New Breed hit a double diamond cutter off the top rope, but rather than going for the pin go for a double van terminator, leaving Ashe to get hit behind the refs back with a chair, and Travell to score the win with a big splash from the top rope. This made sense to put The Family over to start building their momentum, but this one is really rough. (* ¼)
  3. This is a No. 1 contenders match for the FWA British Title, and part of the overarching Old School vs New School storyline in the FWA. Storm is the young up and comer, while Richards was a former champion who had been with the company since the beginning. The storyline for the night was that the Old School wrestlers had all been set the ultimatum that they would need to win their matches on the evening or be fired. The match has some fun exchanges, but is way overbooked with lots of interference from the Old School’s manager Dean Ayass. While Jonny is a high flyer, Richards is looking to ground him, but aside from a nice top rope German suplex, he doesn’t bring much to the table at all. Richards had good fundamentals but was a fairly uninspiring wrestler, which is why he made a much better trainer in the long run. Storm wipes out both Richards and Ayass on the outside with a plancha before accidentally taking out the ref with a superkick. With the ref down, Ayass goes to throw powder into Storm’s eyes but in cliched wrestling 101 fashion this backfires and a blinded Richards falls to the rewind rana. As a result Richards is fired from the FWA – and for once it’s a stipulation that sticks as that would be his last match ever for the company – although on the way out he gets a beatdown from his former Old School stable mates who take him out with a spiked tombstone in a decent angle that gets some good heat. (* ¾)
  4. It’s topical as I’m writing this, given just this week Kendo Kashin has been rather randomly named as a trainer at the WWE Performance Centre. Indeed, this is a battle of PC trainers, although not sure there’s much in this match that those down in NXT need to study too hard to learn from… Brookside had been a heel and member of the Old School stable that had been feuding with the younger FWA guys in the company’s main storyline for most of 2001 and 2002, but after clashing with Drew McDonald had been kicked out of the group and had now turned face. Kashin at this time was the AJPW Junior Heavyweight Champion, although the title is not on the line. He was an All Japan regular at this time and indeed he and Brookside would go on to team up for that summer’s Real World Junior Tag league. This is a solid technical match, as you would imagine from these guys, but as was the case for a lot of Brookside’s FWA matches, he just didn’t seem to fit in with the new indy style that the company’s fans were gravitating towards, particularly not as a face. I enjoyed the mat work and some of the classic World of Sport exchanges, but there’s not much to get your teeth into, and at just under 9 mins, at the stage when it looked like the match was just starting to build into something with potential, it ends rather abruptly. Kashin works the arm, trying to set up his armbar finisher, while Brookside in turn works on the leg. I enjoyed Kashin going back to the arm whenever Brookside was mounting offence as a way of regaining control, and that’s how he is able to block the Iconclasm first time around, although Brookside is able to hit it on the second attempt for the win. Technically proficient, but little excitement to this one (**)
  5. This is a mixed tag team match, with the main heat being on the Saraya Knight and Nikita interactions. Saraya Knight is the mother of Paige, while many will know Nikita as the future Katie Lea Burchill. Because of the very small number of active women wrestlers on the UK scene at this time, Nikita was often put in there with men, so it’s good to see her mixing things up with another female competitor. For anyone that’s seen Saraya Knight in action, you’ll know that she brings great intensity to her matches and as anyone that’s seen her Shimmer run will probably back up, she’s a fantastic heel. That’s in evidence in this match where she’s really vicious and full on in everything she does. The men are essentially just window dressing in this match and bring little to nothing to the table. Vansen would go on to be a major player in the FWA, however Cruz was a guy I had no idea who he was coming in, and I can’t remember him doing anything else for the company coming out. The exchanges between Nikita and Sweet Saraya are fun, if really rough at times – although that’s always been Saraya Knight’s style – she’s a Roddy Piper type wrestler, all intensity and brawling rather than a technician. There’s very little to the match really, with Nikita getting a hurucanrana into a pin for the win, although it didn’t look like that was potentially meant to actually be the pinfall with a botch from the referee. (* ½)
  6. We are at the Pyramids Centre in Portsmouth for this show. Portsmouth on the south coast of England was the original home of the FWA when it was initially the Fratton Wrestling Alliance, but despite the FWA Academy being based there this would end up being the last but one show they would run in the city. Speaking of the FWA Academy, this is a master vs. student match, with Sloan being the trainer of Tighe who has been his star pupil and protégé. Tension had been teased between the two of them due to Tighe accidentally costing Sloan the All England Title to the Zebra Kid at the previous show Vendetta. The teacher/pupil relationship is the narrative for the match; with the two knowing each other so well, the initial stalemates and counters make sense. Despite the familiarity the sequences aren’t as smooth as you might think however. Sloan gets the first advantage and starts to work the arm, and increases the aggression by throwing Tighe out of the ring and onto the ramp, which is a nasty bump. When Tighe returns the favour with a body slam on the ramp, it’s clear the ‘friendly’ exchanges are over. There’s some decent psychology with Sloan concentrating on the arm and going back to it to counter Tighe when he tries to get on offence. Tighe shows good resilience, but probably kicks out of too much as they seem to get a bit bored of the simple story they were telling in favour of big moves. In particular, Sloan hits a top rope superplex into a DDT that looks brutal and probably shouldn’t be just a nearfall. Tighe’s win comes out of nothing, when he rolls though a t-bone suplex into his Tighetantic finisher and feels very abrupt considering he was selling for most of the match. There were some nice moments in this, but I felt they could’ve done more with the teacher vs pupil storyline in terms of building it into the match structure. After the match they share a handshake, but when the Old School stable of disgruntled BritWres veterans comes out, Sloan then turns his back on Tighe to join the faction, where he would essentially become their lackey. (** ¼)
  7. This is face vs face going in, and played up as a dream tag match, between The New Breed – who were the No. 1 tag team in the company at this point (albeit the FWA’s tag division was never one of it’s strong points, mainly due to the shallowness of the UK scene at this time with anyone with ability being needed as a singles wrestler) while Jody and Jonny were of course the two up and coming top stars. There’s a handshake at the start, but the New Breed then jump Fleisch and Storm immediately after the bell to set themselves up as the heels in the match. The opening exchanges are very early 2000s indy stuff, looking very choreographed, but the dive sequence we get from everyone is fun and works to get the crowd fired up. This leads to Jody missing a Shooting Star Press from the top (a move he’d broken his wrist doing previously) and from there he’s now your FIP. Jody, because of his flexibility and his ability to make moves look like they are breaking him in half is always able to gain good sympathy, and while Ashe and Curve don’t do anything revolutionary they do the basics of tag team wrestling well enough that it leads to a good hot tag to Jonny after a few minutes. However just as it looks like the match is going to progress from a competent one into something more engaging it starts to fall apart. The hot tag was well built to but gets cut off too early, and what’s more the New Breed’s big double teams like a super bomb from the top rope and an assisted X Factor are really sloppy. Even then it would’ve been nice for one of those moves to be the finish rather than Jonny missing a moonsault and getting pinned, which feels very anticlimactic. I’ll always give a thumbs up for an established tag team beating two singles wrestlers, even when they are more high profile, and they did tell the story in the match of Storm and Fleisch not having as good continuity when Jody accidentally hit Jonny with the 720 DDT midway through the match. However Fleisch and Storm were clearly on another level in terms of talent and The New Breed were always a team that felt very indy; attempting big moves outside their ability while looking sloppy with their fundamentals. I liked this being built up as a dream tag team match in terms of the BritWres scene of the early 2000s, but it sadly just doesn’t have much coherence too it and it’s a bit disappointing all in all. (** ¼)
  8. This is part of the ‘Old School’ vs ‘New School’ angle which dominated most of 2002 in the FWA. These guys would be feuding on and off throughout the year, trading the FWA British Heavyweight Title and that would culminate in Jody beating Flash for the title at British Uprising in October. The two have really good chemistry, with Flash acting as an excellent base for a lot of Fleisch’s highflying and springboards, and Jody making Barker’s offence look really impactful through his crazy bumping. This is about 10 mins long and is all action, but without it feeling overly spotty. Through his size Flash dominates a lot of the match, but the fans are kept invested through Jody’s excellent selling and exciting hope spots. For his part, Flash was a guy that was deceptively agile and quick for a guy with his build, meaning he can equally bump really well for Fleisch’s offence. Towards the end of the match the FWA’s rather lax rules when it comes to weapons and DQ’s plays a part with a chair getting involved and Jody getting a good nearfall after springboard drop kicking the chair into Flash’s face. I enjoyed the psychology in the finish which plays off the arm that Jody broke the previous year; coming off the top, Flash smashes his arm with a chair and then Pillmanizes it with a leg drop on the chair. He then gets the win by making Fleisch tap to an arm bar. (***)
  9. This was the FWA’s attempt to put together a Royal Rumble, with the prize on offer a shot at the FWA British Heavyweight Title. Rather than 30 men, this is a 15 man rumble, as I’m not sure the FWA’s small roster could’ve coped with making it any bigger. This was also at a time when the depth of the talent pool in the UK was far shallower than it is now. It also means that pretty much everyone in the match is pulling double duty from wrestling earlier on the show. As with most rumble type matches, they are different to judging regular bouts, and while I wouldn’t say this is particularly remarkable in terms of its sequences or the action, it works very well in terms of interweaving a series of different storylines, setting up future matches and having nice call back spots to previous matches and angles in the company’s history. Some of the examples of the storylines that weave through the match includes the first three entrants being the guys that wrestled in the next generation three way at British Uprising III the couple of weeks prior to this. The next entrant is then James Tighe who has issues with all three guys. There’s a nice moment with the fifth guy in being Mark Sloan who trained Tighe and them teaming up for a series of double teams. This then segues to his current partner Stevie Knight entering with the nice comedy touch of playing up him being jealous about his partner working with his former pupil until he then eliminates Sloan ‘accidentally’. As I mentioned, the match works for also setting up future storylines and we get a classic underdog eliminates a cocky heel spot, with Spud eliminating Hade Vansen, who he has a future All England Title match with. Ulf Herman gets to play the monster role in the match eliminating several people when he enters, including comedy heel Knight who jumps over the top rather than face him. Herman then has to face all of Alex Shane’s security Martin Stone (NXT’s Danny Burch), Stixx and Leroy Kincaide who enter successively and who’ve all been tasked with making sure Herman doesn’t win and get to face Shane, the guy who stabbed him in the back. Earlier in the show Tighe had beaten Aviv Mayan via ref stoppage and then assaulted him again in the back, and while I question him being recovered enough to be in the Goldrush and instantly get some heat back by eliminating Tighe, I can see in storyline terms why they wanted to do it. It also leads to a good moment where in his frustration at being eliminated, Tighe takes out the next entrant Jonny Storm with a chair…Storm being the guy who Tighe forced to leave the company in a loser leaves town match earlier in the year and who had just embarrassed him at BU3. As I say, I think the multi-layered stories in the match are very well done. The last man in is Doug Williams, who having just had his near two year title reign ended weeks before and losing a tag match earlier on the show, is increasingly showing frustration at what he perceives to be fates conspiring against him. In the last few eliminations there’s a tease of tension between Stone and Kincaide, which is interesting as those two would go onto feud in IPW:UK over the years following this and also be the key rivalry during the FWA’s ill-fated comeback in 2010. The final two are Herman and Williams, each with their desire to get back at Shane but also with the tension hanging over them of Herman’s interference at BU3 having contributed to William’s defeat. With the two fighting on the ropes we then get Jonny Storm, having never been eliminated after being taken out by Tighe to re-enter and eliminate them both to a good pop. As I mentioned during the review, as a match it’s not got amazing action but weaves lots of stories throughout it, which is what I want from a rumble. It’s a great snapshot of everything that was good about the company during 2002-04 as we come to the end of that period and will see how the quality of the shows starts to decline in 2005. (***)
  10. 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.
  11. This is a match that got a very bad rep at the time, and in many ways it’s easy to see why – it’s way too long, and as was the case when some FWA wrestlers went up against imports at the time, the crowd didn’t buy them going toe to toe. But while I don’t think it’s very good, it’s not the abomination that it was painted as back in the day. This is for the All England Title – the FWA’s IC level belt – and Vansen has been champion for over a year. He’s just finished his feud with Jack Xavier at British Uprising III. Before the match he complains about being forced to defend against Ki claiming that it’s a vendetta on the part of FWA Commissioner Flash Barker as revenge for Vansen ending his career in storyline terms. I’m not sure if they were trying to build to a match between the two, but that’s where the storyline suggests it was heading. I’ll have to see in my rewatch as I go on if we get that match as I don’t recall it ever happening. As was the way with FWA booking between 02-04 there is nice continuity in the storyline, with Barker being Low Ki’s opponent at Frontiers of Honor back in 2003. At this stage in his career, Vansen was getting over as a cocky prick heel from South London, and while I think he’d had a decent in-ring year in 2004, he was still awkward and sloppy at times, exacerbated when in there with someone clearly on a much higher level than him. The storyline of the early part of the match is art imitating life – Vansen can’t hang with Ki, trying desperately to avoid his kicks but instead getting lit up with chops. This match has a lot of chops. That part is fine – as shown in his ROH run at the time, and indeed his current (2018) reign as MLW Champ, Low Ki is great to watch just battering his opponent. The problem with this match comes when it’s time for Vansen to take control. Despite what I said about the fact he’d been improved a lot in 2004 since being pretty dire in 2003, Vansen just didn’t have the skills at this time to put together a coherent or interesting control segment; there’s a bit of leg work, a bit of neck work but nothing to get invested in. His matches with Jack Xavier and Zebra Kid worked as they were frenzied, brawling type matches, but this just goes far, far too long. What’s more, the crowd had come to see Low Ki – who they perceive as being on a far higher level than Vansen – kicking the cocky heel’s arse, but what they get is having to see him sell in holds for long periods. There’s not really a big changing point in the match, Ki, after some prolonged selling just starts to take back control and hits multiple chops and kicks, as we at last get back to the story they set up at the beginning of a desperate champion trying to survive with his title. A springboard kick to the face gets 2 before Ki is able to lock in the Dragon Clutch, but before Vansen taps the 20 minute time expires. Playing back into the storyline before the match and FWA history, referee Steve Lynskey, just as he did at Frontiers of Honor in Low Ki’s match there denies the fans 5 extra mins, until the Commissioner Flash Barker – who was Ki’s opponent that day – overrules him and we get a restart. Ki immediately hits the Tidal Krush and once again hooks the Dragon Clutch, but with Vansen in the ropes, Lynskey DQ’s Low-Ki for not letting go of the hold, which was played up as part of his ‘heel ref’ persona and feeling slighted at having his authority undermined. It’s a pretty terrible end to a match that’s pretty bad, although not the complete shit show that it was perhaps painted as at the time. It’s not good mind. The simple storyline which they should’ve stuck to was Vansen being the sneaky champion trying every trick to escape with his belt, even if you still have the screwy finish, as at least the fans get the cathartic experience of watching Low Ki brutalise an opponent who the hate. Here they get neither. (**)
  12. This is Storm’s first match back since being reinstated via a petition after losing a loser leaves town match earlier in the year. He references that before the match, and the role his long term rival/friend Jody Fleisch played in him being brought back, although he teases he wants him in the ring again. For those keeping track, Storm is still declaring himself to be the XPW European champion even though he doesn’t have a belt and that company had gone out of business. Collyer at this stage was a regular with ROH, very much in the vein of the technical wrestler mould of a Matt Stryker or John Walters. And in this match he gets to exhibit a lot of those technical skills, matching up well with Storm. I’m always a sucker for a technician vs high flyer match which gives this a nice contrast in styles, but this was also at the time when Storm was beginning to move away from being a pure cruiserweight/X Division style wrestler and was starting to incorporate a lot more of the traditional British/WOS sequences and counters into his matches, as evidenced by the very British way he is able to escape a wristlock. There’s lots of really smooth transitions in this, but you feel that something a bit more emotionally engaging would take the match to the next level that I think it was capable of, and that it kept threatening to do. We get some duelling limb work - Collyer working at the neck and Storm the arm but nothing that ever really goes too far anywhere. In 2003, Storm had turned heel on Jody Fleisch in a heated angle, but with Jody’s absence from wrestling for 18-20 months, Jonny had gone from a hot heel into more of a comedy heel, and following the petition angle to get him back in the company was basically being treated by the fans as a face. As would be the case these days, his comedy heel antics such as a double springboard to the outside…into a headlock get lapped up by the crowd. It was clear he was now well on the way to being back as one of the company’s top faces. I enjoyed the first half of the match, even if it is a bit subdued, but it really gets fun in the closing stretch with both guys just cutting lose. There’s a Malenko/Mysterio vibe to the sequences with Collyer trying to nail power moves and a series of gutbusters, while Jonny is impressive in his sringboarding of the ropes connecting with both a double jump moonsault and rewind rana. Collyer’s frustration at not being able to finish Storm with the tiger driver and then the cloverleaf leads to his downfall as he changes his game plan to go up top for a super gutbuster, which is reversed into a DDT off the top rope for the win. Fun match. (*** ¼)
  13. 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. (**)
  14. This is the last FWA show of 2004, and just two weeks after British Uprising III, the apex of the company’s run. I’ve highlighted in the reviews of the matches from that show here on the board, that despite months of good build up, BU3 just didn’t live up to the hype. While I think if watched today it’s a better show than the reputation it got at the time, the fact remains the show made a significant loss, and for a company with little in the way of financial assets, that was a huge blow. The FWA would never reach the heights it would hit in 2004 again – it’s weekly TV show would also soon go off the air due to a lack of funds – but a decline in the quality of shows was not immediate, as shown by Goldrush. As I’ve done many times in my FWA retrospective here on PWO I’m going to quote Greg Lambert in his book Holy Grail on this time period: ‘It’s a commonly held myth that FWA started to downslide immediately after BU3. That’s not strictly true. Just two weeks after the Sky Dome, the first annual Goldrush at Broxbourne Civic Hall was a cracking little show. The FWA was right back on form that night, and most importantly, made money at the box office to ensure the company could keep going into 2005’. The opener gets the show off to a quality start in ring, but the fact that James Tighe – after main eventing (but losing) at both Uprising II and Uprising III is in the opener, shows the problem the FWA had with being able to build up names to refresh the main event scene from the Williams, Storm, Fleisch, Shane stalwarts. It comes about in storyline terms from the fact that Tighe had been the winner of a ‘next generation 3 way match’ at the first British Uprising and was pissed off about the successor 3 way match two weeks previously, of which Mayan was a part of. He’d already beaten the other two competitors – Spud and Ross Jordan – so is now after the hattrick. He’s also coming in frustrated off his loss to AJ Styles at BU3 and being embarrassed by the returning Fleisch and Storm after that match. The result is him taking it out on Mayan. I thought this was a really strong match, with the perfect heel/face dynamic. You can make a strong case that Tighe was the best wrestler in the UK in 2004 in terms of consistent match quality and he is impressive in working over Mayan, with lots of work on the back. He definitely gives off a Roderick Strong vibe at this time, mixing smooth technical wrestling with hard hitting strikes. While Tighe dominates a lot of the match, Mayan gets in some really well timed hope spots to keep the crowd invested. At this time he was a real prospect. Tighe was clear in the build-up that he didn’t want to just beat Mayan but make him tap out, so I liked the finish whereby Tighe wins the match with his Texas Cloverleaf, but Mayan passes out rather than taps. It gave Tighe the much needed win after his high profile losses in 2004, but also furthered his angle of getting increasingly bitter and frustrated, while Mayan looks like a warrior by passing out rather than submitting. (*** ½)
  15. From main eventing British Uprising II the previous year, 2004 was not a good year for James Tighe. Well in kayfabe terms. In ring, he was one of the company’s strongest performers. In a storyline sense, his failure to capture the British Heavyweight Title led to him losing a lot of matches, often in upsets to guys lower on the card than him. I don’t think a losing streak gimmick has ever really worked in wrestling, but it was with the goal in mind of building his frustration at losses to a heel turn. Given how impressive he was in 2003 and in the title match with Doug Williams I feel the FWA should’ve kept pushing him as face challenger at the title level, but with his lack of charisma, it was probably right that the fans would end up picking more outgoing and flashier personalities over him. Tighe faced off with Styles at Vendetta in July, in a match that began sportingly but that saw Tighe getting increasingly desperate to win against a big name - to well and truly snap his losing streak. In the match, Tighe was able to go toe to toe with AJ for large parts, but, starting to feel he was being outgunned, resorted to trying to use a chair. The end result would actually see Styles on the end of a very dodgy referee call – whether intentional or not a recurring theme for Styles’ matches in the FWA – and he ended up as the one getting disqualified giving Tighe the much needed, if tainted win. Which is pretty much the reason for this being a 30 minute Iron Man Match – to decisively find out who was the better man. As I’ve noted in the reviews of other matches on the show, British Uprising III was mainly booked on the basis of matches built on feuds, but the fairly clear aim was for this to be the workrate match to carry that requirement of a big indie show. This is the main event of the show and has the task of following the controversial end to the FWA Title match which initially has an impact on the atmosphere, but the massive pop that AJ gets brings the crowd back. The first 7-8 mins are wrestled very cautiously, but I enjoyed the feeling out process given that the match is going a half hour and it doesn’t make sense to go too hard too quickly, I could see some finding the opening stretch dull, but I liked the struggle in the holds and every counter being fought over. This is shown in them fighting over the headlock, including Tighe snatching one when AJ is going for his patented drop kick. AJ’s tactic is to up the pace, and following getting the drop kick, able to follow Tighe out, jump the guardrail and catch him with the superkick. This leads to a period of AJ dominating, until being caught and driven face first by Tighe. But just when Tighe is starting to feel confident and in control, he takes his eye off the ball going for a suplex and gets caught in a crucifix for the first fall. I liked that as Tighe is protesting, he almost gets rolled up for a good close near fall. Following a period of back and forth, they both fall to the outside on a hurucanrana that didn’t look very smooth, but added to the sense of struggle in the match. This leads to a double count on the floor during which AJ takes a nasty over head suplex into the guardrail, which is enough to allow Tighe to sneak back in and level things at 1-1. I really liked Tighe smelling blood and going in for the kill and secure that big career defining win; he doesn’t want the draw. AJ is finally able to break the momentum with the Pele kick and then hits a brutal looking brianbuster for 2, knowing he has to bring out the big guns. AJ then going for a chink lock didn’t really fit the storyline but the flurry of strikes is more like it and just as in their first match, Styles manages to once again break Tighe’s nose. As the clock ticks down, AJ is the one going for the win while Tighe is just trying to survive. With 3 mins on the clock he desperately fights out of the Styles Clash on multiple occasions, as the crowd go nuts knowing that it’s a kill shot this close to the end. Sadly for him a kick out from a powerbomb puts him naturally in position for the Styles Clash and AJ goes 2-1 up with 2 mins to go. With 10 seconds to go Tighe gets a great nearfall with a roll up to try and tie at 2-2 – the equivalent of a late chance in football – but Style sees the last few seconds out by ducking and weaving as the clock strikes down. Not a typical babyface way of doing it but very smart. Post match, Styles tries to show respect but gets a Tighe low blow for his troubles. Jody Fleisch, who had made a big non-wrestling return on the show after more than a year away tries to make the save but gets taken out by Tighe’s tag team partner Mark Belton. We then get the big return of Jonny Storm to the FWA as well, and after the tease of a confrontation with his long time friend/rival Fleisch, we get AJ as the peacekeeper and a reunion handshake to a big pop. In terms of a match, I think this is very good. Some may think the opening segment doesn’t have much going on, but I liked the struggle and the building of the match. The little stories interweaved without having to resort to big moves and kick outs is very much appreciated by me, although I did think the match had a higher gear it could’ve found as it went into the final stretch. The main downside is that for the second year in a row in the main event of the biggest show of the year, and as he often did when facing the top names, Tighe loses the big match again. (*** ¾)
  16. 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.
  17. This is for the FWA Tag Team Titles. For the year prior you’d be hard pressed to find a more over act in the company than Simmons, the loveable butler to the Duke of Danger. His reactions from the crowd had got to the point it had turned the whole Hampton Court act face, when traditional wrestling booking would’ve probably seen it building to a Ted DiBiase/Virgil master vs servant style match. The peak of ‘Simmonsmania’ was undoubtedly at Vendetta in July when Hampton Court won the tag titles from The Family in a double swerve that was executed perfectly. Unfortunately, as is often the way when it comes to underdog babyfaces, the chase and their big win is often the high point. Even just a couple of months later, you can already see the crowd starting to cool on the act. It doesn’t help that this match is not very good at all – the worst on the show. It never works out what it wants to be. That’s probably reflected in the challengers. Sloan and Knight were the classic wrestling ‘odd couple’ tag team that doesn’t get along; Sloan the stoic technician and Knight the loud, abrasive comedy heel. The vignettes the two would do on FWA TV throughout the latter part of 2004 were actually very funny, but in this match it results in a bit of a mess, with Knight trying to work seaside comedy and Sloan trying to work ‘indies/ROH’ style moves. Indeed all four guys just seem off their game. Colt Cabana is the guest ring announcer. He was in a ‘dark match’ that wasn’t included in The Wrestling Channel broadcast and you wonder whether he could’ve perhaps been better utilised on the main show. He teases a confrontation with Stevie Knight before the match, given both are comedy wrestlers. Comedy in wrestling is not for everyone, but I happen to enjoy someone like Colt’s ability to mould it with the wrestling. Unfortunately the opening comedy exchanges between Simmons and Knight here are pretty lame to an apathetic crowd. There is a really uninspired heat segment on Simmons leading to the Duke of Danger getting an incredibly underwhelming lukewarm tag. In fact the Duke is barely in the match at all. The finish sees Hampton Court’s manager Butter Cup the maid flirt with Knight ala Maria Kanellis/Karl Anderson and he follows her to the back, leaving Sloan isolated to eat the pin. This is a poor match that was a decent example of the fact the FWA operated a very small core roster. The UK scene of this point was nowhere near the massive depth there is today and in 2004 the FWA tag team division was basically non-existent. Teaming up more high profile singles guys like Storm/Fleisch and Tighe/Belton and having them go after the titles could’ve been a way of reviving it. (* ½)
  18. This is a scenario that I think shows how compelling storytelling can fall flat when a match fails to come together in the ring. Going in, this match had a number of interweaving and engaging storylines that deserved a chaotic and action packed payoff. In the end it falls massively flat. While other matches from British Uprising III perhaps deserve a critical reappraisal, this one still very much fails to hit the mark all these years later. The build up mainly centres on the disintegration of The Family; the religious cult heel group that had been the main antagonists in the FWA in 2003; and the baby face turn of Paul Travell. The increased levels of punishment Travell was taking in matches had led to the crowd starting to rally behind him. Having his head turned by the cheers of the crowd had increasingly put Travell at odds with The Family’s manager Greg Lambert and their new leader Drew McDonald. The resulting Family ‘civil war’ led to Travell turning his back on the group after suffering months of abuse and Lambert’s attempts to control him - costing the group the tag team titles. At the same time as Travell in storyline left the group, other members like Scott Parker and Ian DaSciple – holdovers from the pre ‘boom’ era of the FWA – also stopped being used by the company, meaning the birth of The Triad out of The Family’s ashes, comprising of McDonald, Raj Ghosh and a big jacked up newcomer called Thunder. Showing the strength of the company at this time to interweave different storylines, at the same time you had the rookie monster of the company Burchill being drawn in. In a match where a tag title shot was on the line, and in an effort to keep Burchill away from being able to challenge The Family, McDonald had interfered in a match between Simmonz and Burchill to give the former an unlikely upset count out win and end the latter’s unbeaten streak. So Travell and Burchill are the unlikely allies teaming up against a common foe. With the FWA determined to cement Travell’s face turn and push him to the next level, the original aim was to try to get Mick Foley in as their third man and help pass the ‘hardcore legend’ baton onto Travell. With that failing to materialise, Terry Funk was brought in to perform a similar role. When reviewing matches, I think most try to focus solely on what the people in the ring are doing without trying to factor in other things, either behind the scenes stuff or the booking. Sometimes in wrestling this becomes impossible to separate; what is being presented in the ring is a direct product of issues backstage. This is one of those examples. Knowing some of the tensions pre-match between competitors and clear differences in how they wanted to take things manifests itself 100 per cent in how the match is executed and why it comes across so badly. Greg Lambert’s book is incredibly enlightening for why this match is a mess, with the massively dysfunctional way it was put together, and the old school guys like McDonald and Thunder not wanting to do anything in the match that would put their younger opponents over. Onto the match then, and another moving part is Jimmy Hart as the special guest ref. In storyline this was an appointment by FWA Commissioner Flash Barker because of the duelling managers in Lambert and Dean Ayass on the outside, which had been another big part of the build up. The argument being that Hart would know their tricks as a legendary manager himself. While I like that idea, unfortunately, I’m not sure he really knows what he’s doing in the match… The match starts with some technical wrestling between Travell and Ghosh, but considering they are tag team partners that have broken up, you really want to see more aggression from them rather than exchanging hammer locks. The match quickly breaks down, but not in the fun crazy brawl sense rather in a messy incoherent sense. There are some fun punch exchanges between Funk and McDonald, as old veterans just going after each other, but as was clear from the way they intended to do business before the match, McDonald and Thunder barely sell or leave their feat, especially not for Travell, and not really for Burchill either. Thunder looks imposing with his look but he basically sucks and brings nothing to the table. This is his only match in the FWA. Travell brings some fun moments like an elbow drop off the apron to Ghosh on a chair and taking a back drop on the ramp, and Burchill hits some of his impressive power and agility spots, but too often he’s also forced to sell from opponents clearly not willing to work much with him. At previous FWA shows there had been quite a bit of heat on a Burchill vs Drew McDonald singles encounter but that’s something that we never get paid off. Given this match however that was probably for the best. Due to not wanting help Travell and Burchill to get over, McDonald – who had been a semi-regular for the company during the previous two years – was never booked again. In hindsight this should’ve been a crazy ECW brawl with lots of weapon shots and should not be the near 19 minutes long that it is. It’s just way, way too long. Travell ultimately ends up beating Ghosh to win the match in a pinfall that comes out of nowhere. There’s a nice ceremonial passing off the torch…or rather barbed wire baseball bat between Funk and Travell which gets a good pop but it will be interesting to see Travell going forward into the next year of FWA shows and whether this match achieved the desired result of getting him across as ‘the UK’s hardcore icon’. (**)
  19. This is for the FWA All England Title and a match well built up over the summer of 2004 as an offshoot from the Alex Shane/Xavier feud. That also culminated in a Last Man Standing Match. A large part of the issue for how this match was received at the time was trying to live up to that previous bout. At the finish of that match, Vansen had cost Xavier by interfering on behalf of Shane who in storyline was acting as his mentor. The pairing of these two as opponents was wrestling 101, taking Vansen – the cocky good looking heel from London and matching him with Xavier – the stocky, Hawaiian shirt wearing Brummie who had become something of a people’s champion. The two had clashed for the All England Title at Vendetta in July, which had ended in a double KO. This is another example of the strength of FWA storytelling and booking in 2004; a stipulation suiting the storyline and a call back to the beginning of the feud. Xavier had then pinned Vansen in a six man tag at Hotwired in September to show that he could pin the Champ. As mentioned, the main issue for this match was living up to both the LMS between Shane and Xavier in April (a match I’d rate as **** and which was well acclaimed at the time) but also the level of violence in the hardcore matches that the company had put on previously. The legacy of ECW and what fans expected of a match like this meant going in there was definitely a desire for a violent spectacle. As I’ll outline, despite the hard work of the guys, it was met with some critical disappointment at the time for failing to live up to the expected ‘level of extreme’ that people wanted. As is the case for the whole of this show in general though, being viewed many years later I think that’s unfair and its a very good match. The first five mins in particular are great, with real fire and intensity from both guys. This is a Last Man Standing Match so thankfully no locking up – Vansen charges straight at Xavier in the aisle way to start and they brawl all over the ramp and stage area. I really like the way they use the environment - Vansen with a hurucunrana off the support beams of the entrance, Xavier with a moonsault off the stage - and as it’s different to the other matches on the card it stands out. I love the hate in what they are doing – there aren’t long periods of setting up elaborate structures or finding comedy items to hit each other for cheap pops. When they get back in the ring they don’t rely on weapons shots, rather beating each other down with strikes and kicks. There also aren’t constant 10 count teases at this point to break the flow. However the match does slow down when Vansen uses a belt to choke out Xavier. This section arguably goes on a bit long, breaking the flow, but there is a nice spot where Xavier is hung up over the rope and Vansen hits him with some stiff kicks. Throughout Vansen plays a great cocky prick, but playing to the crowd gives Xavier an opening and he gets an 8 count by giving Vansen an X Plex off the apron. This looked brutal, but I like the way that as Vansen is close to the ring he can use that as an aid to get back to his feet rather than looking heroic for surviving the move. While earlier I mentioned that it was good to not have lots of ref counting spots to interrupt the flow, I think in the closing stretch it could’ve actually done with a couple more teases to properly get over the stipulation and build the drama. As the match reaches its climax, Xavier uses the title belt as a weapon, which ordinarily would be an odd move for a bayface – even in a no DQ setting – but it actually works as a call back to how Vansen used it on him to help Shane with the LMS in April. But then the match seems to loss it’s nerve; I really liked how it hadn’t relied on weapon shots, but perhaps feeling the pressure I talked about of having a big enough ending, Xavier wastes ages trying to find stuff under the ring which isn’t there to try to set up a guardrail to put Vansen though. In the end, Vansen reverses the attempt and gives Xavier a South City Driller DDT off the top rope through the barrier. It’s the double whammy of a spot that looked really painful to take but at the same time left the crowd underwhelmed. I think there’s a lot to like in 90% of this match, but it needed a hotter, more dynamic closing stretch. The result also meant Xavier coming across as a choke artist, given he lost the feud to Shane and then failed to win the title with his shot at redemption. In fact, the commentators had played up his repeated failures to win the All England Title against different title holders. So while I can see why the company wanted Vansen to win – he had the greater potential and more long term value up the card, it’s a massive shame that after a banner year in 2004, Xavier would never be that hot ever again. (*** ½)
  20. This is the only match on the card without a real amount of build-up or back story to it, although the storyline for Mark Belton is that he had never been given the opportunity to wrestle a big name import or US wrestler on an FWA show and felt disrespected. D’Lo had been a somewhat semi-regular for the company including challenging Doug Williams for the FWA Title at Crunch in April. Belton meanwhile, after some sporadic appearances was now being pushed as part of a heel unit with James Tighe and going into 2005 would be a much more featured performer. Reflecting the company’s goal to get behind Belton, this match looks like it was designed to get Belton over by giving him a win over an established imported name in D’Lo. While the logic is sound, the reality is very similar to Jack Xavier’s victory over Homicide at British Uprising II; the crowd just don’t buy the home grown guy at the import’s level. The fact the match is fairly bland and meandering doesn’t help. Belton stalls a lot at the beginning, which does elicit some heat, but when he starts to wrestle looks a bit nervous almost screwing up a hip toss to the outside spot. D’Lo in contrast looks really good when on offence, and gets a nice early shine segment including a springboard dropkick when Belton is on the apron (ala Chris Jericho), a flip over the ropes into a fakeout (ala Chris Hero) and then a stranding moonsault off the apron, all moves which I can never really recall D’Lo busting out before. Belton eventually takes over with a blatant low blow that he doesn’t even attempt to hide. The story the commentators push is that ref Steve Lynskey sees it but that it plays into the long running story of him being a corrupt official. It’s actually a nice little nod to what will happen in the title match later on, but is still very jarring for why it’s not a DQ, or at least a yellow card (I can’t recall if that was still a thing in the FWA at this stage). Once on top though Belton’s work is unfocussed and uninspiring – there’s no story to get into the match. D’Lo again looks good running through his hits but misses the Low Down. Belton then hits his top rope leg drop finisher for 2, although it doesn’t get much of a reaction as I don’t think the crowd knew it was one of his signature moves. The cheap ending of Belton faking a knee injury and then getting the win with a really ugly roll up while D’Lo is distracted puts a cap on a pretty blah match. (** ¼)
  21. And so we’ve reached British Uprising III, which if you’re into your BritWres history you may know as the biggest show the company would ever put on… but whose legacy would be part of the decline that would ultimately end up seeing the FWA go out of business in 2007. In terms of ambition and scope, Uprising III was the first (and only) time the FWA put on an arena show, running the Skydome in Coventry. This is an ice hockey arena with a capacity of around 3,500. I know in the current climate of All In, ROH getting 6,000+ for Supercard of Honor, ICW running the Hydro, and Progress running Wembley that this might not seem a big deal, but in 2004, it would’ve been a monumental achievement for a UK indie company to attract the amount of fans required to fill the building. It was a different time. As I’ve tried to document, the FWA had been putting on a run of successful shows to a fair degree of critical acclaim for the two years prior to this, but 2004 was a world away from the indie wrestling boom currently being experienced both in the UK and across the world. In the end, the company drew just under 1,800 fans that day – still I think it needs to be said, a hugely significant achievement and the biggest attendance in the FWA’s history – but it wasn’t close to a sell out and crucially not enough to make the money back on the resources put into it. In my view, even viewed with 2018 eyes, the production – in terms of the staging and lighting and the hype videos - were all very good. It’s just a shame there wasn’t the budget to sustain this level of investment. As I’ve done throughout my reviews of FWA matches and shows I really want to plug Greg Lambert’s book; Holy Grail: The True Story of British Wrestling's Revival – which is both an excellent read but also an invaluable resource for this period, given his role both in front of and behind the camera. His chapter on BU3 gives you great insight into why the event ended up not being the creative and commercial success that was hoped for. A lot of that has to do with the lack of organisational capacity of the FWA, with no real structure behind the scenes. However having re-watched almost all the FWA shows in 2004, it’s a card that in my opinion was built up excellently. Most of the matches on the show had several months of build up, with some great storytelling. 2004 was the year the FWA had a national TV deal courtesy of The Wrestling Channel and they used this as a tool to build up every match to where there was a reason for it to be happening and for you as a fan to be emotionally invested. In my eyes the show was built mainly on trying to attract fans through storylines and feuds, rather than ‘dream matches’ and big names. Despite the excitement going in, as you’ll see through the reviews of the matches, the event never seemed to capture the hype, although I think with 14 years of hindsight when I’m writing this, it’s a show that perhaps deserves to be seen in a more positive light. This opening match was marketed as a ‘next generation three way’ and the successor to the three way opener from British Uprising I that I’ve reviewed here: https://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/40001-james-tighe-vs-jack-xavier-vs-raj-ghosh-fwa-british-uprising-i-10132002/ That match was very well received, putting the pressure on the guys to deliver here. Indeed, while some at the time didn’t think it lived up to that match, I actually think this one is better. There is certainly more going on. As with the match from 2002, this is a pure spotfest. Spud - before he was a rockstar and well before being 205 Live General Manager – had made his FWA main show debut a couple of months before this and was already winning fans over. At this stage he was a fantastic undersized babyface flyer, eliciting a lot of sympathy from crowds, given he genuinely looked like everyone’s little brother. Jordan, and Mayan in particular were two young guys who had also been impressive for the company all year. There are far too many moves and sequences to recap here with all three busting out everything they have to try to win over the crowd and open the card with a hot start. It’s not as smooth in the transitions as it’s predecessor, but outside of the opening exchanges which are very much straight out of mid 2000s indie wrestling, I actually think this match benefits from being rougher around the edges and not *quite* as choreographed looking as the match from 2002. For the most part the match manages to stay away from the triple threat tropes of two men gang up on the other and then feign insult the other chooses to go for a pin, or throwing one guy to the outside so the other two can have a one on one match. As you would expect, Spud is a great sympathetic seller including one really sick looking bump when he gets wheelbarrowed head first into one of the ringside barriers Selling, or lack thereof, is of course a criticism you could make, but I don’t think there is anything *too* egregious or unbelievable, and the beauty of a three way match is that someone can be there to break up a pin rather than it have to be a kick out. Spud ends up getting the win when Mayan hits a springboard moonsault but is unable to cover (he’d come in with taped ribs) and Spud hits a phoenix star press off the top onto Jordan. This was a really fun X Division style opener that got the crowd into the show. (*** ¼)
  22. 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)
  23. Hotwired 2004 was the last stop before British Uprising III – the biggest event in the FWA’s history. It kept in play most of the key storyline’s heading into the big show and was another excellent event in a consistent run of quality shows for the company in 2004. Sadly however, rather than the FWA being spring boarded onto greater success, for many, this was the peak of the curve and the company would soon after start it’s downward slide. For Greg Lambert - both a performer with the company and part of the creative at this stage – in his book Holy Grail, September 2004 and this event was the FWA’s highest point. This six man tag was all about the ever escalating Hade Vansen and Jack Xavier rivalry over the All-England Title, but the strength of FWA storytelling in 2004 is that the other guys in the match are also interlinked. Vansen’s heel turn at the end of 2003 had really improved things for a guy that had been floundering as a bland and pretty unlikeable face, but his association with Alex Shane as his protégé is what got him over. Going all the way back to Crunch in April 04, his interference cost Xavier the last man standing match with Shane. Since that point, Xavier and Vansen had fought for the title at Vendetta in July – which ended in a double knockout – before Xavier won a Round Robin tournament in Enfield beating Vansen in the final to get himself another title shot at British Uprising III the month after. Vansen then is partnered by Stixx (still going on the UK scene today) and Martin Stone (NXT’s Danny Burch, just breaking into the business) who were both part of Alex Shane’s personal security team and therefore also aligned with Vansen. Xavier is partnered by two young guys - Aviv Maayan and Ross Jordan (still competing on the UK scene as RJ Singh) who had both been foes of Shane/Vansen in the summer, including Mayan getting a big upset win over Shane. This is a really fun 6 man tag, with lots of action, although you can tell a lot of the guys were still very green, with a few sloppy moments. We get some good heeling early on from Vansen, who is always looking to tag out when Xavier comes in, but that means the other guys get a good opportunity to showcase themselves. Stixx and Mayan have an excellent opening sequence, with their version of the famous Low Ki/Amazing Red exchange from ROH with some really rapid counters. As he has throughout most of 2004, Mayan looks really polished for a guy still very fresh into wrestling and it’s a real shame he dropped out of wrestling just a few years after this. All three faces get the chance for some shine early until Ross Jordan gets planted with a nasty powerbomb by Stone to turn him into the face in peril. There’s nothing too dynamic about the heat segment but even this early into his career you can see the potential in Stone – everything he does is sound and looks vicious. As is usually the case with a 6 man tag, we get a run of everyone hitting some big moves, including dives from all the faces to the outside. Stixx breaks up Xavier’s first attempt at getting Vansen up for his X-Plex finisher with a spear, but he manages to get it second time around to build their title match at Uprising III by showing he can pin the champion. (***)
  24. 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)
  25. We are back at the Broxbourne Civic Hall, the FWA’s main home, and this is AJ’s first time back with the company for over a year. The month before this James Tighe had put in a great effort against another high profile import in Low Ki, but continuing the losing streak he’d been on, he was unable to get the win. This is another big test for him to try and snap that streak decisively given the calibre of opposition. AJ is coming in with the TNA X Division Title, although this is a non-title match up. Unlike the contest with Low Ki, which had far more grappling and submissions, this is much more all out action with lots of high impact exchanges. It starts respectfully until AJ busts Tighe open nastily when he breaks his nose on his trademark drop down, leap frog drop kick. While this would’ve obviously sucked for Tighe, the sight of his own blood works to fire him up and he takes it to AJ with some real aggression including turning him inside out with a German Suplex. Tighe is so fired up that he actually ends us shoving the ref out of the ring when he goes to make a break. Both men stop to help the ref back in, but this will play into the finish later. Tighe has been so impressive in this FWA re-watch, particularly with his versatility and his ability to change his style depending on his opponent. For the most part he is able to keep up with AJ’s explosiveness hitting some big moves of his own like an underhook powerbomb and a swinging sit down uranage. Styles though, recognising he is getting over powered by a man clearly desperate to get a win at all costs starts to go aerial where he has the advantage and connects with a tope con hilo to the outside, even more impressive considering the guardrails were in fairly tight. With both men throwing everything at one another, and getting increasingly reckless we get another inadvertent takedown of the ref with AJ absolutely wiping him out with a discuss close line. Unlike earlier however, when AJ goes to check on the ref on the outside, this time Tighe kicks the rope into his balls to a chorus of boos. Further showing his desperation Tighe then goes to the outside for a chair only for an attempt to use it getting reversed. Fired up by the low blow AJ smashes the chair into the mat just as the ref is stirring, who thinking that sound was him hitting Tighe disqualifies Styles to more boos. Tighe’s celebrating and shouting “a win is a win” is glorious. The ending is pretty cheap and I can see turning people off, but in the context of the story that Tighe was a desperate man trying to do anything to get a win and it building up to the rematch it works. It also works - whether this is intentional or not - as one thing that has been consistent since AJ started appearing in the FWA is him being on the end of poor officiating and unlucky decisions. Finally, the way the match unfolds allows Tighe’s frustrations to finally turn into him becoming a heel. At times, it breaks down into a bit too much ‘your turn, my turn’, but the broken nose and the intensity they hit each with helps to make it a compelling match. (*** ½)
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