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Found 91 results

  1. The build-up for this match comes out of the burgeoning Corino/Alex Shane feud that ratchets up on this show (read more about that here) when Doug agrees to defend the FWA Title against Corino, in part to stick it to Shane (who was the FWA’s heel authority figure, both on and off screen). WOS legend Mick McManus is the guest timekeeper for the match which gives a nice nod to British wrestling history and also makes the match feel more bigtime. FWA Title matches at this stage were 2/3 falls and reflecting the need for both guys to pace themselves we get a methodical start, with Corino trying to hang with Williams on the mat but being outmatched and caught off guard by Doug employing a lot of old WOS counters. There’s a nice story that, getting frustrated and recognised he is outmatched when it comes to technical wrestling, Corino then tries to make this into more of a brawl, but Doug won’t be bullied and as regular now for NOAH he’s happy to go strike for strike as well. I really like how Doug is presented at this point- being smart and tough as the top face. Given Doug is dominating, the first pinfall feels on the one hand that it comes out of nowhere, but on the other, I liked that Corino recognised he was only going to get small windows so went for it with a DDT when one opens and ends up getting the cobra sleeper to go 1-0 up. Given it’s a 2/3 falls match, it makes sense that Doug taps quickly to avoid sustaining more damage. Now Corino has the advantage, he gets more aggressive trying to wrap up the match quickly against a now vulnerable opponent becoming more heelish in the process but not in a cartoony way. However, this ends up costing him, serving to fire up Doug who starts fighting like a wounded animal from underneath. I love Doug’s fire here, really snapping off his European uppercuts, and he responds with a revolution DDT to level things up. I really like the through lines in the match, with the aggressor getting sloppy in his determination to win to end the match quickly – and this time its Doug that makes that mistake. Following the start of the third fall he immediately goes to the top for his bomb scare knee drop but ends up being caught with a superplex. We then get both guys emptying the tanks with big moves, including the tease of a double count out when both get back in at 19. Corino again tries to go for the cobra sleeper, but this time with his foot on the ropes for leverage showing his desperation to try and win the title. Just as we are building to a crescendo, we get a ref bump and both guys end up getting visual pinfalls. While this does interrupt the flow of the match, it leads to Alex Shane and Jack Xavier getting involved, and Doug pinning Corino in the confusion. This is an instance when parts of one match have been sacrificed to push forward other interweaving storylines. That ends up taking away slightly from the final result, however the interconnected storylines running through matches was something the FWA was very good at in 2004, and sometimes you have to look at that bigger picture. In saying all that it’s still a damn good match though (*** ¾)
  2. These two would end up forming a union later in the year as heels, but at this stage, both are faces. Tighe is coming off a great 2003, arguably the most consistent in ring performer in the company outside of Doug Williams, but unsuccessfully challenging Doug for the British Heavyweight Title at British Uprising II at the end of the year. Belton hadn’t done too much in the company yet but was getting more opportunities. As a face/face matchup, we get respect at the beginning with lots of counters and escapes. While some of the exchanges are a bit rough, it feels nice to see some more traditional British WOS influences in there when the FWA style was usually very US indie inspired. Early on it feels a bit ‘exhibitiony’ but that sets the table as things get more heated as we go along. As the match progresses, Tighe’s strength and greater experience – in terms of being in higher profile matches – sees him get more dominant, while Belton performs his well as the underdog hanging in there. You can see some frustration starting to emerge in Tighe as he can’t put Belton away, and he gets caught with a flash pin after trying to hit one too many German suplexes. This was a really fun and competitive match between the two and continues Tighe’s run of strong matches from the previous year - however him getting caught in a flash pin (following on from his loss in the main event of BU2) is the start of a losing streak which will be the catalyst for his heel turn later in the year. (***) As a side note, Tighe had been granted a rematch for the title and being a good (naïve) babyface, he had put that title shot on the line in this match, adding more depth to why he would become increasingly frustrated.
  3. This is part of Storm’s brief run with XPW, which came about due to a working agreement with the FWA and resulted in the creation of the XPW European Title (a ‘title’ which would last longer than XPW and be defended in the FWA…well, a briefcase claiming to have the title in would be…). This is No. 1 contenders match for the XPW TV Title and came about due to a double pin in a 4-way No. 1 contenders match at the previous show. We open with some standard mid 2000s indie standoff stuff, but its more measured than usual, and there’s some decent chain wrestling going on. Lynn is a good base for Storm in this match and allows him to get over with the crowd by basing for his high flying. The early exchanges are good at helping put Storm over to the crowd at the ECW Arena that would have come in perceiving Lynn to be the bigger star. There’s lots of fun sequences in this, and the match manages to avoid devolving into full on spot fest territory. Both guys are faces, so the simple story is Storm trying to stick and move, while Lynn is able to counter some of Jonny’s high flying as the more powerful of the two. Lynn was very good at this point, coming off his great early TNA run in 2002, and this is a sort of budget version of his matches with AJ Styles from around this time (which is no way an insult, as those matches were great). Storm ends up getting the win with a wheelbarrow DDT, and while it may be went a little long with a few too many kickouts at the end, this is a good match. It shows the strength of his performance, that while Storm came in as the underdog, there’s a really decent pop when he wins. It’s a shame for Jonny that this is the one time in his career that he was getting a decent push with a US company, and that the company ends up going out of business a couple of months later. (*** ½)
  4. Doug is the FWA Champion coming in, while Flash is representing the 'Old School' which was the main heel stable in the FWA at the time. British wrestling legend Mick McManus is at ringside for this, while there is an old World Of Sport ref for the match, which rather than be nice nods to the tradition and history of British wrestling are sadly red flags for the complete mess this match will devolve into. Flash cheapshots to start the match, and the early exchanges are the best part with both guys showing great fire and intensity and lots of snap in their strikes and chops. Barker tries to slow things down, but quickly realises that if its a technical battle then that plays right into Doug's hands, who will dominate on the mat, whereas when its a brawl the challenger has much more of a chance. After a flurry of offence, Doug gets a really nasty DDT off the top rope, but the old ref, after doing a standing 2 count WOS style then just calls for the bell?... to general confusion with no-one sure what's going on. We then get Dino Scarlo, who was off screen the FWA booker and on screen part of the Old School turning this into a 2/3 falls match, so Doug has gone up 1-0 rather than winning the match. You can already tell this is now going to go off the rails... After what seems an age, Doug goes on the attack against a still dazed Barker to try and finish off the match, which is a sound strategy and when the two guys can actually just wrestle straight the match is decent, but the old ref - think one of the Athletic Commission refs at MSG in the 80s - is so useless it ruins any momentum. Given how the story of the match goes, there's a chance that could be intentional, but I genuinely think he just didn't have a clue what was going on. Williams gets the Chaos Theory, but just as it looks like he's going to get the 2nd fall and retain, we get the next screwy moment as the bell rings again 'for the end of the round' and this is now being fought under European rounds. As rip offs of Over the Edge 98 go this is not the most compelling. Despite all this, Doug is still dominating, until Barker gets a low blow and a pin with his foot on the ropes (maybe a bit much?) to tie things at 1-1. Barker then destroys Doug's leg with a chair, with Dino Scarlo just liberally joining in as well, which makes you think - why bother with the elaborate changing the rules on the fly story for the match if the interference/cheating is just going to be so blatant anyway? Just have him interfere to cost Williams the match. Rather than be Steve Austin vs Dude Love, this is Lance Storm vs Mike Awesome from New Blood Rising in making no-one come out looking good. After using the chair, Barker continues to work over the leg. Doug manages a hope spot, but can't execute the Chaos Theory with his injured ankle which I liked, but then Flash gets an ankle lock and the ref just calls for the bell without Doug tapping which I liked less (why not throw a bit of Montreal in for good matter?) and Flash is the new FWA Champion. Because of what went before, and the general shoddyness of the screw job execution no-one in the crowd really gets whats going on so you don't even get the reaction to the hated heel cheating to win. The booking in this destroys what could've been a really good match given that Doug is a brilliant wrestler, and Flash Barker in the FWA was a more than decent enough worker. Mick McManus presents Flash with the belt, but again its not clear if he was involved in the Old School's conspiracy to get the belt or if he's just an old guy that like the rest of us doesn't know what's going on... just really bad * for the match and -***** for the booking.
  5. This is something of an FWA dream match, given it’s the ‘three musketeers’ of the early 2000s BritWres scene, and arguably the most prominent import that the company would use (at least up to this point). Doug and Jody are the two top faces in the company, while Storm is the hot heel, and Daniels had held the FWA British Title earlier in the year. Then there’s the interconnecting storylines; Daniels had won the title in a three way with Doug and Jody, Doug had then beat Daniels for the belt, Jonny and Jody are of course long term rivals with Jonny turning on Jody earlier in the year and then Daniels had recently won the final match in the FWA vs ROH Frontiers of Honor show…by beating Jody…thanks to interference from Jonny… just great stuff, that the company was really good at doing at this point. Despite the ‘dream match’ vibe, the opening minutes are full of stooging and stalling, and you wonder if this is down to the setting – this isn’t an FWA ‘A show’, and I’m not sure they would’ve wrestled it the same way if not on one of their tour shows with a more kids and family crowd. That’s probably why it’s all a bit pantomime at the start. Once we get into things though, they pick up nicely, and there’s some really fast paced and smooth exchanges between Daniels/Fleisch and Williams/Storm. I also liked how Storm was desperate to avoid Fleisch until he could cheap-shot him on the outside and take over. Considering I’m not sure how many times, if at all, they would’ve teamed up, Daniels and Storm work really well together and both take turns utilising lots of tricks and shortcuts which helps to build the heat before heel miscommunication leads to a fired-up Williams hot tag. I adore Doug as a wrestler and doing this FWA rewatch is really making me see his fire and intensity, when previously I used to think he could be a bit mechanical at times. This all builds up to a great sequence between Williams and Storm that ends with a revolution DDT for a near fall. The four guys do well to largely keep to the classic tag structure before we get to the home stretch and the big moves, which makes those mean more. A criticism I would have, is that while Jonny and Jody going through their usual sequences is always fantastic to watch, the feud they were building was meant to be more about hatred and I didn’t feel that here, but again, maybe that’s down to the setting and not being a ‘main show’ for the company. The ending comes when Fleisch catches Daniels with a flash pin, sending the crowd home happy and also giving Jody some payback for losing twice in big matches in the FWA to him. This is a good match, but you feel on a regular show it would be more balls to the wall. (*** ¼)
  6. This is part 727 in the never-ending Alex Shane (plus friends) vs. The Family feud that takes up much of 2003 in the FWA. I’m not going to lie I feel like I see versions of this match in my sleep these days. The thing that I do enjoy though, is that a bit like Dreamer vs. Raven in ECW in that it involve lots of different players circling in and out. In this match the Family are represented by stalwart Paul Travell and then Ian DaSciple, who wasn’t very good at all, and would be pretty much gone from the company a year later as they were looking to up standards. This is very much a small show, at a small venue, in front of a small crowd – set up ‘theatre style’ with the ring on the stage and then the fans all on one side. Even though this was a ‘blood’ feud, with escalating violence on the FWA main card shows, here it’s very much ‘yay/boo’ type stuff, particularly early on, given the holiday maker type crowd. The match takes the same structure as most of the ones in this feud do – Shane dominates physically, but The Family take over when they can isolate Nikita. There’s a very basic and uninspiring heat segment, and I should note that as always in these matches, this is NO DQ. So its one of those strange matches where you can use weapons etc. but there’s cheating behind the refs back and early on, adhering to tags. If it’s going to be a ‘hardcore’ match, make it a crazy brawl! Nikita and Travell faced each other at British Uprising the year before and have good chemistry, but pretty soon the match breaks down and we get all the standard walk and brawl/plunder shots stuff. The ring being on the stage does help with the optics though. There’s some enjoyable stooging from The Family members taking the weapons shots, but it is a bit jarring when on others shows there has been blood and violence between the teams. Another (good) constant in these matches, is that the sequences between Shane and Travell are the highlights, as Shane was trying to get Travell over and he gives him a lot. There’s a really crappy ref bump as we hit the closing stretch as the faces get a visual pin, but I did bite on the nearfall where The Family do a switcheroo and Nikita kicks out of a belt shot. Travell then gets to kick out of Shane’s One Night Stand finisher, which I’m not sure was planned as the ref is just randomly staring at the floor, before he counters a second one into a tornado DDT on a tag belt for the 3. It’s pretty mindless, and fun at times, but as I mentioned at the start, if you’ve seen one of these matches, then you’ve seen most of them, and you do feel there’s a sense of diminishing returns as the rivalry goes on. (** ½)
  7. Alex Shane and friends vs. The Family in 2003 was essentially the FWA version of Dreamer vs Raven, with various different matches involving lots of different characters. Shane and Knight – not regular partners and teaming for the first time – had won the tag titles on the first night of the tour, with Stevie being a local replacement with both Nikita and Ulf Herman (Shane’s regular partners being unavailable). As had happened on the first tour, the title change was in part to draw interest in new markets but also breathe some life into the longer running feud I’ve mentioned. It’s never officially announced, but as with most of the matches in this feud, it’s NO DQ, and just like in most of the matches, Shane uses his size early on to dominate. The Family can’t get anything going until they get Knight in there, and then their superior tag experience as a team starts to show. Whenever Shane is in, he dominates, so The Family try hard to keep Knight in as long as they can, which was a nice story to the first half of the match where they largely stick to the tag formula. The second half then breaks down to become more of your standard ‘walk and brawl’ early 2000s hardcore match. Knight and Raj Ghosh just disappear for a bit, but to be honest that works fine as the sequences between Shane and Paul Travell have much better energy and excitement to them. As is the norm in these matches, Travell bleeds and takes some nasty bumps, but he also gets an impressive hurucunrana off the camera platform. The intensity of the match is let down by the ref bump finish, before Knight ‘plays dead’ to get rollup and retain. This is a match of two halves that felt bolted together, and Knight’s more comedy persona and style didn’t really fit with the blood feud that Shane and allies had been having with The Family. Talking of the title shots, to pop the local crowds but return the belts to where they belong for the more ‘canon shows’, The Family would win the titles back on the last day of the tour. (** ¼)
  8. Night 2 of the tour is from Bolton. Coming in, Tighe is the one with the momentum in 2003 having just pinned Jody Fleisch on the last big FWA show (Hotwired) and would go on to main event the biggest show of the year (British Uprising 2). Xavier by contrast has been up and down. I like that this match doesn’t start with the usual indie reversals and standoffs (a standard trope of many an FWA match at this time) and there’s some nice matwork at the beginning to enjoy. They each try some ‘mind games’ at the beginning to try and get the advantage, with Xavier winning the battle of wits to get a couple of close near falls. Tighe is the better, more in form wrestler of the two, so Xavier keeping him off his game is how he is able to get the advantage. As the match goes on however, you can see Tighe’s quality coming to the fore, and increasingly Xavier is having to go more high risk to hang in there. This leads to him taking a really scary looking bump off a moonsault to the floor landing on his leg. It would’ve been nice to see Tighe then go after the leg and show a more vicious or focussed side, but they then go to the finish fairly quickly after that. Xavier gets a close 2 count off a flatliner, but gets caught going up top, and Tighe his the Tighetanic off the ropes for the win. (** ¾)
  9. This is a banner match for the FWA, which brings with it lots of history between the two. This includes them first clashing in the UK all the way back in 1999 for the ill-fated UWA promotion (might have to go back and revisit that one day), to Daniels winning the FWA British Title by pinning Doug and taking it ‘hostage’ to America for 6 months to finally Doug winning the title back in Ring of Honor at Night of Champions (a hell of a match). A few months before this Daniels had pinned Jody Fleisch to win the FWA vs. ROH series and thus justify this shot at the title. The first thing to say about this match is that the two have fantastic chemistry. Daniels stalls to begin the match, knowing that Doug got the best of him last time out, and Williams dominates the early goings. Daniels is used to being able to ‘out-wrestle’ his opponents, but Doug is the superior ‘technical wrestler’ and Daniels only answer early on is to try to break up his opponents momentum by going outside. What I loved was Doug steaming out with a tope to stop Daniels from stalling further on the outside, meaning there was a reason for the normally grounded Williams to fly to the outside. But while he is finding himself outmatched technically, you can tell how smart a competitor Daniels is, and he continues to use tricks where he can to rile Doug up, and get him to make a mistake, and that’s where Daniels is able to capitalise when Doug lets his anger get the better of him. Daniels is then able to seize his opening to hit the Angels Wings for the first fall (FWA Title matches at this time were 2/3 falls). Recognising his title is now in serious jeopardy, Williams gets a brief flurry at the beginning of the second fall and a couple of flash pins, but Daniels is great at cutting off any momentum, just as it is building. Daniels strategy is then to try and wear Doug down by going for regular pinfalls, but tries one too many, as Williams is able to catch a reversal on a sunset flip to tie things up at 1-1. I liked that Daniels sold this anger at allowing himself to be caught and pinned when he was in control, and that it manifests itself in him not allowing the rest period between falls and taking it to the outside, where he will have the edge if this comes down to a brawl. But now the match has turned from a tactical encounter to a fight and its back and forth. I liked how with the tables turned, and Doug as the aggressor that it was Daniels who was looking to hang in and grab flash pinfall attempts where he can. There’s a great near fall where you think Doug has the match won off a bomb scare knee drop, but while Daniels survives that he is then vulnerable to the chaos theory and the winning fall goes to Williams to retain the title. This is not as good as some of their previous clashes, in particular their more high-profile match in ROH, however that is more of a sign of just how good their other matches between them are! These two always mesh so well together, and it’s nice after Williams won the belt in America to see him definitively beat Daniels in a title match in the UK as well. I really liked the stories they told through the 2/3 fall structure in this one. (*** ½)
  10. The Northern Exposure Tour was the second of two tours that the FWA would run in 2003, in an attempt to branch out of its southern base. The second tour was much more scaled down however, with just three nights instead of seven, mainly due to the local promoters that had ‘partnered’ with the FWA to put each event on pretty much all losing money. This first night of the tour is from the Morecambe Dome, which would become the company’s main Northern venue it would run going forward after this, and this is a first time in the FWA clash. This is face vs face, and so the early going is full of the standard early 2000s exchanges and indie stand-off sequences. Right from the start this shows that Fleisch is the quicker of the two, so I liked the basic storyline of Xavier realising he can’t hang with Jody and then switching things up and slowing things down. Xavier therefore becomes the de facto heel for the match, and I was impressed with how vicious he was being on simple moves and grinding in holds to show he was being more aggressive. This continues with Xavier locking in a really unique looking tarantula like move and then when Fleisch is hung up in the ropes dropkicking him to the floor where he takes a really nasty bump. Jody is always a good face in peril, and when it comes to his flying in this, is really spot on, wowing the crowd, who as I think I’ve said before on the FWA’s tour shows were more of a family audience than the FWA’s regular hardcore fans. While Xavier’s change in approach is successful in helping to control large sections of the match, his frustration grows when he can’t out Fleisch away, and that is when he tries to up the pace again and unleash the bigger weapons in his arsenal, moving away from the simpler ground game that had been working. Upping the pace though plays into Jody’s hands and leaves him vulnerable, and a 720 DDT out of nowhere gives Jody the win. The finish comes a bit out of nowhere, but shows the 720 is Fleisch’s kill shot, whereas Jody is able to survive Jack’s big moves like the rolling X-Plex. I liked the intensity in this match, and some of the rougher exchanges at times actually helped the match feel more rugged (***)
  11. We are in the Walthamstow Assembly Halls in London, and this is a quarter final match in the XPW European Title Tournament. For more info on that tournament should you have a particular need to fall asleep, I’ve written about it in the link above. Juvi would be a semi-regular for the FWA in the first part of 2003, and is representing XPW in the tournament. For someone that at this time was bouncing around a load of different companies, he looks really smooth and polished, and it’s good to see Jonny raise his game to keep up with someone with the talent and experience that Juvi has. The opening exchanges are really fun with a nice hybrid of Lucha, traditional British wrestling and the modern (well, modern for 2003) indie highspot style. There are lots of parity spots early on, which some may roll their eyes at given the ubiquity of that at the time, but it establishes the similar styles and game plan each is coming in with, and everything is done at speed and is on point. Juvi is the first to get more aggressive, with a nice flurry ending with a slingshot crossbody to the outside. Storm at this time could be a really sympathetic babyface with his wiry frame and the way he took moves which looked like it was breaking him in half. Both guys are essentially faces, but Juvi being the slightly bigger guy, and harder hitter works most of the middle portion of the match on top, building heat rather than letting it slip into too much of a back and forth which can often happen with indie cruiserweight style matches. Storm for his part is really good with his hope spots, timing them nicely to keep the crowd invested and onside. And that’s the main theme for a lot of the match; Jonny looking to stick and move and hang in there, while Juvy is the more aggressive, trying to unleash some big bombs like a torture rack powerbomb to break up any bits of momentum that Storm is able to get. As I say, while both were faces here, both are also known for being cocky and showoffs, and I liked that this played into the match with Juvi getting caught going up top after a nasty looking DVD where he could’ve had the pin, but instead was looking to hit a flashier move from the top. There’s a couple of great nearfalls with Juvi powering out of Storm’s patented rewind rana and then Jonny surviving a Juvi Driver to show his toughness. It’s in going for a second Juvi Driver that Storm manages to counter with a roll up for the win. This was really good, with the two guys meshing nicely, and Storm really brought his A game following up a strong end to 2002. The match is worked at a fast pace, but there’s also times where the guys let the action breathe, and Storm in particular is great at selling the beatdown he is getting for a lot of the match. I liked the desperation roll up ending, showing that Jonny was able to survive all the punishment and was able to take advantage when Juvi got cocky going for the second Juvi Driver. Good stuff here. (*** ½)
  12. This is for the FWA All England Title. Zebra Kid is coming in as the reigning champion, while Storm is coming in fresh off beating AJ Styles at British Uprising I a couple of weeks before this. Storm offers a handshake to start, but ZK responds with a slap and the two guys go at it while the ref is still trying to get the belt to officially start the match. That sets the tone nicely for what is essentially a 10 minute sprint with both guys going balls to the wall. There isn’t much selling, including Storm essentially just popping up right after a piledriver (which was confusing as this was banned move in the FWA) to go up top for a springboard drop kick, but there is lots of intensity as both guys empty a lot of their arsenals of moves. These two guys always had decent chemistry, and you get that nice contrast between Storm trying to take things to the air with a hurucunrana and moonsault from the top, while Zebra Kid brings plenty of strikes and kicks. I say this a lot in reviewing Zebra Kid matches – while he isn’t the most refined of wrestlers, I love the fire and energy he brings to his matches. The closing stretch sees Storm trying to go to the top, given that’s his most likely to route to victory, only to get crotched by Zebra pushing the ref into the ropes. Zebra Kid then hits his Zebra Crossing (top rope elbow) for the win. Post-match ZK starts to beatdown Jonny, only to get run off by James Tighe who earlier on in the night had become the new No. 1 contender to the title. (** ¾)
  13. This is a No. 1 contenders match for the FWA’s All England Title. These two, both FWA Academy graduates had been part of the 3 way match that had opened British Uprising two weeks before. Tighe had actually won the title shot in that match, but as Ghosh wasn’t the man pinned, being a good fighting babyface, Tighe agreed to put it on the line again here. Both men are coming in as faces, and with them both coming through the FWA’s training school together they know each other well, so we get a lot of feeling out and parity exchanges early on. That was very much the en vogue Indie style at the time but makes sense given the context of the story of the match. Tighe, being the bigger and stronger of the two, and also the better wrestler – both in kayfabe and non-kayfabe – then takes control by hitting a nice series of German suplexes. While Tighe dominates most of the exchanges, Ghosh is trying to stick and move to try and work an opening. When he does get some separation he gets a nice near fall off a springboard seated senton ala Rey Mysterio. It’s a short, fairly standard match between the two clocking in at around 6/7 mins, but the action we do get is good, and actually when it ends I thought it was just starting to click into something that could’ve been a pretty decent match if it had got a bit longer. As it is, Tighe counters out of a roll up to hit a standing shooting star press and then his Tighetanic (northern lights bomb) finisher for the win. (** ¼)
  14. 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)
  15. The growing momentum of the FWA in the latter half of 2002 came at the same time as the emergence of ROH as a company generating a significant buzz. With the featuring of Jerry Lynn and AJ Styles in prominent positions in the FWA, Christopher Daniels winning the British Heavyweight Title and in return Doug Williams being featured heavily in the States, a relationship between the two promotions was established. A joint card between the two was the logical progression. This brings us to Frontiers of Honor; a one night tournament between the two companies, featuring six inter-promotional matches. The concept was enough for another very strong attendance and the companies’ second show at the York Hall. A key note before getting into the opener is that unlike some inter-promotional shows, this is treated more like a sporting rivalry rather than an invasion or a heated grudge. As such, ROH wrestlers are not presented overtly as heels in their matches, outside of Christopher Daniels – who actually says he’s competing for himself rather than ROH. Given that so many in attendance were clearly excited to see US guys who were getting a lot of hype, it’s safe to say that was the best approach to go for rather than force a heel invading company dynamic onto the occasion that would have been somewhat tone deaf. What’s encouraging though, is that despite this, the home town FWA guys mostly get support as well rather than being turned on, which can sometimes happen when seen to be facing guys perceived as ‘cooler’ or better (something which can happen when ROH guys face New Japan wrestlers today for example). The opener between James Tighe and Paul London is very much a babyface vs babyface match, with clean action, and both guys getting support from the crowd. Listening to the ThROH The Years podcast on the PWO feed you can sometimes forget what a great babyface that London was at this point, able to elicit genuine affection and support from the crowd. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the match not having a defined heel, you don’t get to see that great selling from London. Tighe was a really promising technical wrestler at this stage, who was starting to grain traction with the crowd and he works the match in the style of a Dean Malenko in a WCW cruiserweight match in 96/97, looking to wear down a high flier with submissions and holds, but not in a necessarily vicious way, which would perhaps have allowed London to really rally people behind him. Early on there’s some nifty arm work from Tighe but nothing necessarily coherent that runs throughout the match, He does act as good base though and there’s lot of fun back and forth action. In particular is London’s impressive running shooting star press off the apron. Looking at their international reputations, it’s perhaps a shock that Tighe picks up the clean win with his Tighe–tanic finisher (a cross legged brainbuster), but he was starting to get a significant push in the FWA, with 2003-04 being arguably the peak of his career. It’s to Tighe’s credit at this stage that he looked so comfortable in there with a guy that would be signed to the WWE by the end of the year. This is an enjoyable opener that doesn’t overstay its welcome at a little over 10 mins, but I feel like if Tighe had been more vicious, and enabled London to generate that sympathy from the crowd it could’ve been something really good. The match puts the FWA 1-0 up. (** ¾)
  16. This match is for the FWA All England Title (the FWA’s IC equivalent belt). Zebra Kid had started the Tour as champion, had lost the belt to Chris Hamrick as part of the tour, who had in turn lost it to Jonny Storm, also as part of the tour. So Zebra Kid is coming in as the challenger here. The British Breakout Tour had been designed to help expand the FWA out of its regular markets, with the multiple title changes a tactic of drawing up local interest in other parts of the county. That could also be seen by the fact the FWA Tag Titles also changed hands on this show and then changed back again the next night on the last leg of the tour. Spoiler alert: with the title ending up back where we started on the Zebra Kid, it allowed them to effectively reset as they got back to their ‘regular’ shows. On a little trivia note, this night of the tour was back in the FWA’s original home base of Portsmouth but would be the last time the company would ever run the town. As might be expected, this is an all action match between the two, with little let up. Initially Storm manages to frustrate ZK with his quickness, until Zebra manages to use his aggressive style and being unafraid to put his body on the line to take control. Given his strength is brawling, I liked that he was always trying to throw Jonny to the outside and take it to the floor, while Storm was always trying to increase the pace which is his strong suit – it makes for a nice dynamic and storyline through the match. As is very much the way in indie matches, there’s a lot of back and forth, and I think that if Zebra Kid had managed to have a longer control/heat section it really would’ve helped Jonny’s comebacks get that little more steam and impact. Overall there is good fire and intensity from both - they don’t treat this as more of a ‘b show’ given it wasn’t one of the FWA’s more in canon main shows – and there’s a nice finish with Storm leaping to the top only to get German suplexed off the top. (***)
  17. We are on night 6 of the British Breakout Tour, which I’ve described in more detail here. Earlier on the tour, Hamrick had defeated the Zebra Kid for the FWA All England Title, so this is title vs title, with Jonny’s ‘prestigious’ XPW European Title also on the line. In storyline terms, Jonny was fresh off turning heel on Jody Fleisch, but given this isn’t your usual hardcore FWA crowd and probably only a tiny fraction of the crowd probably would’ve been up-to-date with all the company’s angles, Storm wrestles 100% babyface here. Hamrick tries the same stooging as in his match with Doug Williams earlier on the tour, but it works better here, matching up with Jonny’s more over the top character. Storm plays a good face in peril, keeping the crowd engaged with nice hope spots. Compared to Hamrick’s match with Doug Williams this is more of an all action, indie spot style contest, with big moves and fast sequences, including Jonny being vaulted onto the basketball hoop in the sports centre they are in and turning it into a rana. They spectacularly blow one of Jonny’s trademark rewind ranas, but Hamrick manages to win the crowd back into things with two sick looking piledrivers, including a sit down tombstone, Owen Hart/Steve Austin Summerslam 97 style. I chose to write off the logic gap of the piledriver being banned under FWA rules by thinking to myself that as it’s also for an XPW Title so it’s cross promotional rules (not that I was thinking far too much into a random match from 17 years ago or anything…). After a good series of nearfalls from both guys, Storm picks up both titles with a rana from the top. These two have good chemistry (they wrestle again later in the year at Hotwired) and match up well, and it ends in a nice gentlemanly handshake. It doesn’t fit with the fact that the company was just starting to promote Jonny as it’s new top heel but it’s a decent match! (***)
  18. This match is from the FWA’s British Breakout Tour, which was part of the company’s desire to become a more national promotion, branching out of the South coast and London area which was its base. We are in the glamorous setting of Cleethorpes on one of the nights of the tour in the North of England at the Winter Gardens, which was one of your classic British seaside music hall venues. This is very much a ‘house show’/B show type card, compared to the bigger standalone shows the FWA was putting on in and around the London area. Doug is a month on from defeating Christopher Daniels for the FWA Title at ROH Night of the Champions to begin his second reign. Worth noting at this point FWA Title matches were 2/3 falls. Hamrick would be a semi-regular for the FWA in 2003, and for this match is billed as ‘representing XPW’ which the FWA had a partnership with. In the opening exchanges, Hamrick is in full stooging heel mode, trying to convince the ref Doug’s used a closed fist on him behind his back. We also get a load of spots involving atomic drops, with the early stages being worked as a comedy match. It plays well to the family type crowd in attendance, but you have to think they wouldn’t have gone down this route in front of the regular more hardcore FWA fanbase. What’s good though is that Doug, as the top guy in the company doesn’t get portrayed as an idiot, and doesn’t fall for any of the mind games. Things start to pick up with some brawling on the outside, and from there we lead to a sequence back in the ring where William’s picks up the first fall with a tornado DDT. The start of the second fall sees Hamrick faking trying to leave, but again Doug isn’t your standard babyface idiot and continues to be on top. With his regular tours to the US, Doug is so smooth and confident in everything he does. One of the problems with the match however, is that every time it looks to be escalating, Hamrick rather jarringly goes back to the stooging and there’s an odd sequence in which he goes for a split legged moonsault, but ends up botching it and selling that he’s seriously injured. The ref calls for assistance with other wrestlers coming out, and given the old school/family seaside crowd, people seem to buy it’s a real injury, but he then hops up to superkick Doug and get the second fall. Usually on a fake injury angle you don’t go to the trouble of deliberately botching a move badly, but then I guess, he could’ve in kayfabe terms be covering the fact he’s made an error and sees it as a way of working an opening? Either way, it’s all a bit odd in the execution. The final fall is more serious and moves into a more typical indie back and forth contest with Hamrick getting a series of near falls, including his top rope leg drop. However, we then get a convoluted ending with the ref being knocked down when Doug has the match won with the Chaos Theory, allowing Hamrick to hit a low blow and a piledriver (illegal in the FWA) to seemingly win the title when Head Ref Steve Lynskey runs down to count the pin…however, as you probably guess, we get the original ref waving it off – not clear if it’s because he’s the designated official or if it’s because of the use of the banned piledriver – and restarting the match. From there, it’s another Chaos Theory and Doug retains. This ended up really disappointing me. If you’ve read any of my FWA reviews, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Doug Williams, who was consistently putting in excellent performances at this time, and I also like Chris Hamrick, but this is a really schizophrenic match alternating between stooging comedy and indie nearfalls, and includes both a fake injury angle and a Dusty finish that suffocates any of the good parts. (**)
  19. This is in the tried and tested tradition of putting a company ace up against an up and coming face where the rookie gets to shine, but ultimately falls to the veteran’s greater skills and experience. As befitting that formula, we get a fast start from Xavier with a series of arm drags and a good early nearfall of a sky high/elbow drop powerbomb. I really liked the sequence where Williams, showing his experience, rolls to the outside to break the initial flurry from Xavier and then moves away from his technical wrestling wheelhouse to strikes and punches after realising he’s now in a fight. However, we then get Xavier going to the outside when the match is going against him, showing he is learning, and earning a round of applause from Doug. We then get Doug slowing down the match and returning to his strengths, by working holds and him taking control. During this portion, Williams shows just how good a wrestler he is; everything is so slick and there’s real snap behind all his offensive moves. Xavier gets in some hope spots to keep the crowd invested, but while the match is on the mat there’s only going to be one winner, so when he creates an opening by moonsaulting over Doug, he realises he has to up the pace and he gets a close 2 off a rolling release X-Plex, which was one of his signature moves, and something Pete Dunne uses a lot now. This is where the match escalates – Xavier trying to keep up the pace, while Doug starts to go for some big bombs to try and put the youngster away, including a series of powerbombs, as the crowd is now really invested in the rookie hanging with the ace. Ultimately it’s William’s greater technical skills that end up winning the day with him getting a roll up into a bridge. This match though was successful in getting Xavier over as someone that could hang with guys at the top of the card. (***)
  20. This is another match that is part of the FWA’s overarching ‘Old School v New School’ feud that dominated the company in 2002. Parker had become No. 1 contender by defeating Justin Richards at the previous show Vendetta, in a match interestingly reffed by Jake Roberts. Flash is coming in as the FWA Champion, and with the belt on the line here, this is the first match on the show that creates some drama with the crowd and this starts with some good intensity. In doing this FWA re-watch, I’ve been really impressed by Barker, who is never less than solid in his matches. Here he is nicely vicious working over Parker’s ribs, which is a nice bit of continuity from them being injured by Doug Williams in the FWA Title tournament the previous year. Parker was a fairly decent hand, although would suffer as the promotion became more work rate heavy in the next couple of years and would drop down the card pretty much after this. Here though he has good fire, and I enjoyed the ringside brawling, making use of the old school WCW style entrance ramp and entrance way. Unfortunately, the match breaks down after this, and they seem to rush into the big kick outs, with each hitting the others finisher for a near fall, before interference from Mark Sloan (the old school’s manager Dean Ayass had been banned from ringside) see’s Barker get the win. After a decent start, the match doesn’t really progress anywhere, and you feel it was just an excuse to get to the post match stuff, which admittedly is very heated. (** ¼) Firstly the Old School do a beatdown on Parker including cutting his hair, which would ultimately lead to him heading into a losing streak and ending up turning heel as a member of The Family. Ayass then gets on the microphone and reissues a challenge for the title to Jody Fleisch that he had made in advance of the show, saying he can have that match right now if he can get to the building. This is a classic bit of heel bluster, with the commentators pointing out that Fleisch had been on tour in Japan, however we get the big reveal that Fleisch has made it to the building! And we have ourselves a second FWA Title Match… Flash Barker vs Jody Fleisch This doesn’t go long, although these too have great chemistry – Flash can move and bump really well for a guy his size, while Jody makes Barker’s offence look killer. Highlight’s include Fleisch’s signature shooting star press to the outside and a really nasty back breaker from Barker using one of the guard rail’s. During the match we get Ayass taunting Jody on the mic, which brings a great sense of urgency and the crowd are really behind Fleisch, who after hitting the 720 DDT wins the title! This impromptu match would ultimately culminate in the main event of the first British Uprising, with the disputed title put up for grabs in a ladder match, where Fleisch would ultimately get his big win.
  21. 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)
  22. 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)
  23. 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)
  24. 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 (**)
  25. 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)
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