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  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  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. With 2004 seeing the introduction of the FWA’s new weekly TV show, it meant that matches from live events that were not a signature show and wouldn’t have often been part of a home video release were now being seen as part of TV tapings. It also meant much greater storyline development on smaller shows. This is a case in point. This match is from the Morecambe Dome, which before demolition was a great venue for wrestling. It’s domed roof kept in the atmosphere and it was a venue that translated well on camera. It was to become the Northern home of the FWA, which previously having been a Southern/London based promotion was trying in 2004 to become more or a national touring company. As we’ll explore in greater detail as we get into 2005, being a seaside town, it was also a venue that was home to much more of an ‘old school’ crowd with kids and families that were coming to see more traditional shows with clear good guys and bad guys. This was very different to the other audience that the FWA was largely catering to, the internet savvy ‘smark’ fan. On the one hand it leads to some really interesting shows with different atmospheres and a creativity in story lines to try and appeal to multiple audiences; in the long run however it was to produce a disconnect in the product that some of the more hardcore fans would eventually struggle to reconcile with. At this stage though in 2004, the momentum of the FWA was continuing to grow and they were putting on some of their strongest shows – the quality of this match reflects that. It’s a match that mixes so many classic wrestling storyline elements; David vs Goliath; cocky heel vs underdog; established name vs rookie and the result is a simple but highly effective match up. Shane was now the No. 1 heel in the company, and feuding with multiple different wrestlers simultaneously; Doug Williams, Steve Corino and Jack Xavier. Aviv Mayan was the star pupil from the FWA Academy who was now performing on the main cards for the company. In this match he plays his role as the fiery underdog to perfection. The opening exchanges see Shane stooging nicely, with Mayan not letting him into the ring until Shane is able to take control with a big boot. Because of his size and power, at any time it looks like Mayan is getting on top, Shane has the weapons to just cut him off with one move. Throughout the match Shane heels it up wonderfully, using the ropes for leverage and when the ref goes to check, raking the eyes, and given the make up of the crowd it works to really build the heat. He also sells Mayan’s fire by trying to get away from him through the crowd at one point, which gives Mayan the chance to score with a hurucanrana off a wall and onto the floor. Back in the ring, Mayan misses a moonsault and gets hit with a two handed choke power bomb for a good nearfall before the ref (a very young version of current Rev Pro promoter Andy Quildan) gets bumped. Shane goes for a chair but it rebounds on him when Jack Xavier comes in and puts Mayan on top for another good nearfall. I enjoyed that just as you thought Shane had survived the banana peel, he continues to get distracted by Xavier on the stage and gets rolled up for the shock defeat. This is a really fun little match – just classic wrestling storyline 101 and nothing over the top. It also worked nicely to build up the Shane vs Xavier Last Man Standing Match that was a couple of days after this. (*** ¼)