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  1. We are in Brent Town Hall. Going into this match Doug Williams was over a year into his title reign as the British Heavyweight Champion, although the commentators note he has a partially torn rotator cuff. The result of this is that while FWA Title matches were contested under 2 out of 3 falls rules, the injury means that FWA management have only sanctioned this as a one fall contest. Following his rivalry with Hade Vansen over the All England Title, where there were a number of controversial finishes, Zebra Kid was given the title shot as recognition of being the longest reigning All England champion. He is accompanied to the ring for this match by his (and Paige’s) Dad Ricky Knight. Because of the injury he’s coming in with, Doug, uncharacteristically, goes for a fast start hitting a close line right at the opening bell. Usually Doug is a wrestler that likes to work his way into a match gradually but here he goes to blitz Zebra early. While Williams is the more accomplished technical wrestler, by getting into more of a frenzied match he’s played into Zebra’s hands. That’s his kind of match, and he is able to take control with his kicks and strikes as well as using a chair on the outside; using it to set Williams up on and deliver an elbow from the apron and a DDT on it. As the ace of the company, Williams is able to absorb a lot of punishment, and he starts to unload some of his big weapons, such as the bomb scare knee drop from the top and a double underhook suplex from the top rope to try and get out with his belt. With the injury he’s coming in with though, the commentators are playing up vulnerability in Williams due to the number of gruelling title defences he’s had and his schedule in Japan and the US, and Zebra’s frantic style often has the champion on the defensive. This leads into the final stretch where Williams is down and Zebra Kid looks like he is about to claim the title by going up for his Zebra Crossing elbow drop from the top rope…until he is turned on by his Dad who pushes him off the top rope allowing Williams – not aware of what’s happened – to hit the Emerald Flowsion to retain. This is a fun match and I enjoyed that it was a contest where Williams was forced into more of a frantic brawl which he had to survive. At this stage he was putting on a great run of title defences against a wide variety of different opponents, very similar to the ROH title reigns of Samoa Joe and Bryan Dainelson. The ending of the match was due to build up to a personal grudge match - probably at British Uprising III, between father and son. While the feud would involve many of the Knight family members, fuelled by Zebra's decision to wrestle full-time for the FWA instead of his father's promotion, World Association of Wrestling, outside the ring factors – Zebra Kid being jailed for nine months for drink-driving – meant the storyline which had a lot potential came to an abrupt halt only a few months later. (*** ¼)
  2. Zebra Kid, fresh off unsuccessfully challenging Samoa Joe for the ROH Title the month before, is also sadly coming in here sans his somewhat legendary mullet, which he must’ve disappointingly chopped off in the time between that match and here. Mark ‘Five Star’ Belton was a newcomer to the FWA having appeared on the British Breakout Tour the company had been on earlier in the year. As Greg Lambert notes in his Holy Grail book, Belton was interestingly one of only a few ‘outsiders’ who came into the promotion at this stage, with the FWA very much sticking largely to a tight, home grown roster. Considering the huge numbers of high quality UK talent today, there really wasn’t that strength in depth at that time, however it did feel like the FWA should’ve been more open to refreshing their roster. As Lambert also notes, Belton had to overcome an initially hostile locker room after some comments he’d made on another show, but he does well enough here to earn a regular spot for the next couple of years and becomes a strong addition. Belton was a really good athlete who meshes well here with Zebra Kid and this is a fun, just under 10 minute sprint where they go balls to the wall. This is not a match with a ton of nuance, it’s two guys just hitting each other hard, and some of the strikes and kicks they exchange in the match are particularly brutal looking. Zebra Kid especially doles out some real punishment, and brings his usual intensity and frantic pace which made all his matches a spectacle. As the commentators themselves highlight when he hits a dive to the outside – Zebra was not a guy that was always technically refined, but he was effective nonetheless. Belton for his part wins over the crowd by taking the hits and connecting with some big moves of his own. One interesting note is that this is the first of two matches in the night where we see the card system that the FWA brought in, aping football (soccer) where the yellow card served as a warning, and a red card resulted in a DQ. I’ve always been torn on it – on the one hand it’s a bit corny, but on the other I liked that it was different and played into our own sporting culture. It could also be used to help the story of a match. The yellow card in this match was brandished to Zebra for hitting a piledriver, banned under FWA rules. The biggest disappointment though, is that what could have lead to an interesting story to weave into the match – Zebra Kid taking a yellow card and risking a DQ to cause damage – is immediately flushed away with Belton going right back on offence straight away. Zebra Kid retains his title with a nasty looking top rope DDT, followed by his Zebra Crossing (top rope) elbow drop, but Belton’s decent showing clearly contributed to him becoming a company regular. Post match, after both guys have left the ring we get an ‘impromptu’ appearance from Hade Vansen, who is clearly being transitioned into a heel role. The gist of his promo is that he’s sick of being overlooked (he wasn’t booked on this card), complete with some obligatory early 2000s “I’m shooting” stuff, but it works well enough, and I liked the angle where he took out a security guard when being escorted out, which was made to look pretty realistic. (** ½)
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT9d1IYyKJ4 As always before a Zebra Kid match, I’m obliged to tell you that he is one of Paige’s older brothers. This is supposed to be a non-title match, but Joe decides before the match that he “lives with honour”, so he’s putting the title on the line. This gets a big pop from the crowd, although as ever when a title gets put on the line, makes the result way more obvious than it already was. Interestingly enough, I believe this is the match where the ROH Title became a world title in ROH canon. This is a fun 10 minute sprint, although one largely dominated by Joe (as you would guess) after the Zebra Kid gets the initial advantage following some early strikes and throwing himself around as a human weapon, which includes a Cactus Elbow off the apron onto Joe, who was sitting on a chair. Watching him throughout his career, Zebra Kid/Roy Knight may never have been the most refined or smooth wrestler but I’ve always loved his intensity with which he does everything and he has some really nasty looking kicks and punches. His matches always bring a chaotic feel that draws you in. After the initial flurry, Joe catches him with his signature STO out of the corner and from then on is pretty much in control, spending the sizable chunk of the match throwing Zebra around and trying to kick his face off. Notably the Ole kick on the floor puts Zebra’s head through the wire mesh of the crowd barrier. Another fun little trivia note is that I think this is where the Ole Ole kicks start. The event was taking place on FA Cup Final day here in the UK, and the Ole singing from the crowd is very much patented on a football (soccer) chant. What’s more, after hitting it, Joe celebrates like he’s scored a goal with a run round the ring and a pretty decent looking knee slide celebration. Maybe he was just an Arsenal fan who won that game that day… Zebra gets one last brief flurry towards the end but when coming off the top trying to hit his finishing move the Zebra Crossing (top rope elbow drop) he gets caught in an arm bar. He gets to survive that and a subsequent big lariat but ultimately gets put away with a Rolling German into a Rolling Dragon into a Bridging German suplex to enable ROH to level at 2-2. I enjoyed this finishing sequence, as it was a great combination of moves, and I’m a fan when people don’t have to win by hitting a specific finisher. Joe was very good at this time at being able to win matches in multiple ways. The match overall is a fairly straight forward and largely one sided win for Joe, and there’s not really any drama in you thinking Zebra Kid has a chance of a victory, but as an intense sprint it’s fairly entertaining. (** ¼)