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Found 4 results

  1. 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. (**)
  2. 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)
  3. 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. (***)
  4. This was set to be Zebra Kid defending his All England Title against Flash Barker, a match originally scheduled for Hotwired the month before. That match never really got started due to the appearance of the recently fired Hade Vansen turning up to spoil the show and subsequently getting chucked out of the building. As you’ll see Vansen is very much the focus here. After Flash Barker’s entrance there is an announcement that Zebra Kid is not at the building and so the title can’t be defended. I’m not sure if this was a legitimate no show or storyline (Zebra Kid is back at the beginning of next year, although there is a five month gap in shows after British Uprising) but it means no match which the crowd is understandably unhappy about. However, the ‘fired’ Vansen is in the crowd and demands to be put in the match and for the All England Title to be on the line. In storyline terms the FWA commissioner Dino Scarlo had stood down so without him there the FWA officials at ringside agree to Vansen’s demands to ensure the fans get a title match. Not too much of this makes complete sense – why would they agree to these demands from someone they fired? And why does Vansen just happen to have his wrestling gear on under his clothes? (well, there is that maxim of always bring your gear) – but it all plays into the worked/shoot angle the company had been running with Vansen, and as we’ll see going into 2004 they had big plans and a big push for him in the works. The outside the ring/angle stuff is sadly much more interesting than what we eventually get within the match though. Flash has been a really consistent performer on the roster in 2003 but with the much less experienced Vansen having to lead large portions of the match there’s just nothing of any real substance or coherence to get invested in. Vansen was a guy with the look, and who had a lot of heel charisma but even when getting more experienced, struggled putting a match outside of the big spots together. He’s got some nice kicks – his background was in karate – but too often they involve incredibly convoluted ways in getting to them and what few transitions there are here are very awkward. The early stages are Vansen trying his best to avoid Flash, knowing he’s largely overmatched in a fair fight which leads to a chase on the outside and Barker putting his foot through one of the mesh guardrails attempting a super kick. Vansen follows this up by going after the injured leg with a chair before some pretty uninspired leg work on the inside. Flash makes a brief comeback but ends up crumpling after a leap frog and coming down on the injured leg. The finish is pretty surprising – both in that it’s clean and Flash submits – with Vansen winning with a knee bar. It’s a logical finish but the match before is non-descript. (* ½)
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