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Found 81 results

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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. (***)
  7. 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! (***)
  8. 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. (**)
  9. 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. (***)
  10. 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.
  11. 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)
  12. 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)
  13. 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)
  14. 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 (**)
  15. 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)
  16. We are at the Pyramids Centre in Portsmouth for this show. Portsmouth on the south coast of England was the original home of the FWA when it was initially the Fratton Wrestling Alliance, but despite the FWA Academy being based there this would end up being the last but one show they would run in the city. Speaking of the FWA Academy, this is a master vs. student match, with Sloan being the trainer of Tighe who has been his star pupil and protégé. Tension had been teased between the two of them due to Tighe accidentally costing Sloan the All England Title to the Zebra Kid at the previous show Vendetta. The teacher/pupil relationship is the narrative for the match; with the two knowing each other so well, the initial stalemates and counters make sense. Despite the familiarity the sequences aren’t as smooth as you might think however. Sloan gets the first advantage and starts to work the arm, and increases the aggression by throwing Tighe out of the ring and onto the ramp, which is a nasty bump. When Tighe returns the favour with a body slam on the ramp, it’s clear the ‘friendly’ exchanges are over. There’s some decent psychology with Sloan concentrating on the arm and going back to it to counter Tighe when he tries to get on offence. Tighe shows good resilience, but probably kicks out of too much as they seem to get a bit bored of the simple story they were telling in favour of big moves. In particular, Sloan hits a top rope superplex into a DDT that looks brutal and probably shouldn’t be just a nearfall. Tighe’s win comes out of nothing, when he rolls though a t-bone suplex into his Tighetantic finisher and feels very abrupt considering he was selling for most of the match. There were some nice moments in this, but I felt they could’ve done more with the teacher vs pupil storyline in terms of building it into the match structure. After the match they share a handshake, but when the Old School stable of disgruntled BritWres veterans comes out, Sloan then turns his back on Tighe to join the faction, where he would essentially become their lackey. (** ¼)
  17. This is face vs face going in, and played up as a dream tag match, between The New Breed – who were the No. 1 tag team in the company at this point (albeit the FWA’s tag division was never one of it’s strong points, mainly due to the shallowness of the UK scene at this time with anyone with ability being needed as a singles wrestler) while Jody and Jonny were of course the two up and coming top stars. There’s a handshake at the start, but the New Breed then jump Fleisch and Storm immediately after the bell to set themselves up as the heels in the match. The opening exchanges are very early 2000s indy stuff, looking very choreographed, but the dive sequence we get from everyone is fun and works to get the crowd fired up. This leads to Jody missing a Shooting Star Press from the top (a move he’d broken his wrist doing previously) and from there he’s now your FIP. Jody, because of his flexibility and his ability to make moves look like they are breaking him in half is always able to gain good sympathy, and while Ashe and Curve don’t do anything revolutionary they do the basics of tag team wrestling well enough that it leads to a good hot tag to Jonny after a few minutes. However just as it looks like the match is going to progress from a competent one into something more engaging it starts to fall apart. The hot tag was well built to but gets cut off too early, and what’s more the New Breed’s big double teams like a super bomb from the top rope and an assisted X Factor are really sloppy. Even then it would’ve been nice for one of those moves to be the finish rather than Jonny missing a moonsault and getting pinned, which feels very anticlimactic. I’ll always give a thumbs up for an established tag team beating two singles wrestlers, even when they are more high profile, and they did tell the story in the match of Storm and Fleisch not having as good continuity when Jody accidentally hit Jonny with the 720 DDT midway through the match. However Fleisch and Storm were clearly on another level in terms of talent and The New Breed were always a team that felt very indy; attempting big moves outside their ability while looking sloppy with their fundamentals. I liked this being built up as a dream tag team match in terms of the BritWres scene of the early 2000s, but it sadly just doesn’t have much coherence too it and it’s a bit disappointing all in all. (** ¼)
  18. This is part of the ‘Old School’ vs ‘New School’ angle which dominated most of 2002 in the FWA. These guys would be feuding on and off throughout the year, trading the FWA British Heavyweight Title and that would culminate in Jody beating Flash for the title at British Uprising in October. The two have really good chemistry, with Flash acting as an excellent base for a lot of Fleisch’s highflying and springboards, and Jody making Barker’s offence look really impactful through his crazy bumping. This is about 10 mins long and is all action, but without it feeling overly spotty. Through his size Flash dominates a lot of the match, but the fans are kept invested through Jody’s excellent selling and exciting hope spots. For his part, Flash was a guy that was deceptively agile and quick for a guy with his build, meaning he can equally bump really well for Fleisch’s offence. Towards the end of the match the FWA’s rather lax rules when it comes to weapons and DQ’s plays a part with a chair getting involved and Jody getting a good nearfall after springboard drop kicking the chair into Flash’s face. I enjoyed the psychology in the finish which plays off the arm that Jody broke the previous year; coming off the top, Flash smashes his arm with a chair and then Pillmanizes it with a leg drop on the chair. He then gets the win by making Fleisch tap to an arm bar. (***)
  19. This was the FWA’s attempt to put together a Royal Rumble, with the prize on offer a shot at the FWA British Heavyweight Title. Rather than 30 men, this is a 15 man rumble, as I’m not sure the FWA’s small roster could’ve coped with making it any bigger. This was also at a time when the depth of the talent pool in the UK was far shallower than it is now. It also means that pretty much everyone in the match is pulling double duty from wrestling earlier on the show. As with most rumble type matches, they are different to judging regular bouts, and while I wouldn’t say this is particularly remarkable in terms of its sequences or the action, it works very well in terms of interweaving a series of different storylines, setting up future matches and having nice call back spots to previous matches and angles in the company’s history. Some of the examples of the storylines that weave through the match includes the first three entrants being the guys that wrestled in the next generation three way at British Uprising III the couple of weeks prior to this. The next entrant is then James Tighe who has issues with all three guys. There’s a nice moment with the fifth guy in being Mark Sloan who trained Tighe and them teaming up for a series of double teams. This then segues to his current partner Stevie Knight entering with the nice comedy touch of playing up him being jealous about his partner working with his former pupil until he then eliminates Sloan ‘accidentally’. As I mentioned, the match works for also setting up future storylines and we get a classic underdog eliminates a cocky heel spot, with Spud eliminating Hade Vansen, who he has a future All England Title match with. Ulf Herman gets to play the monster role in the match eliminating several people when he enters, including comedy heel Knight who jumps over the top rather than face him. Herman then has to face all of Alex Shane’s security Martin Stone (NXT’s Danny Burch), Stixx and Leroy Kincaide who enter successively and who’ve all been tasked with making sure Herman doesn’t win and get to face Shane, the guy who stabbed him in the back. Earlier in the show Tighe had beaten Aviv Mayan via ref stoppage and then assaulted him again in the back, and while I question him being recovered enough to be in the Goldrush and instantly get some heat back by eliminating Tighe, I can see in storyline terms why they wanted to do it. It also leads to a good moment where in his frustration at being eliminated, Tighe takes out the next entrant Jonny Storm with a chair…Storm being the guy who Tighe forced to leave the company in a loser leaves town match earlier in the year and who had just embarrassed him at BU3. As I say, I think the multi-layered stories in the match are very well done. The last man in is Doug Williams, who having just had his near two year title reign ended weeks before and losing a tag match earlier on the show, is increasingly showing frustration at what he perceives to be fates conspiring against him. In the last few eliminations there’s a tease of tension between Stone and Kincaide, which is interesting as those two would go onto feud in IPW:UK over the years following this and also be the key rivalry during the FWA’s ill-fated comeback in 2010. The final two are Herman and Williams, each with their desire to get back at Shane but also with the tension hanging over them of Herman’s interference at BU3 having contributed to William’s defeat. With the two fighting on the ropes we then get Jonny Storm, having never been eliminated after being taken out by Tighe to re-enter and eliminate them both to a good pop. As I mentioned during the review, as a match it’s not got amazing action but weaves lots of stories throughout it, which is what I want from a rumble. It’s a great snapshot of everything that was good about the company during 2002-04 as we come to the end of that period and will see how the quality of the shows starts to decline in 2005. (***)
  20. This is a match that should’ve had a long build to it, and a program that you think the company would’ve looked to be a major part of their storylines in 2005, but was rushed to here because of Burchill’s departure for WWE. This was to be his last match for the FWA. In hindsight, and it’s always easy to be wise after the event, the company should really have utilised Burchill more effectively in 2004 and pushed him up the card sooner, but as is so often the case in wrestling, these things get held off until it’s too late. With Burchill’s departure imminent, you can see why they wanted to do this match when they had the chance. The hastily booked storyline going in, was that after British Uprising III a couple of weeks prior, Shane had jumped Burchill backstage believing that as he was leaving for the WWE, that there wouldn’t be any repercussions. Unfortunately for him, in kayfabe terms, Burchill’s contract had one more month to run until the end of the year and so Shane has screwed himself over. Given how sporadic FWA shows could be at times though, you could feel Shane’s decision had some logic to it… Shane is fresh off winning the British Heavyweight Title at BU3 but this is non-title due to Burchill’s departure, which at least helps to add some drama to the result, which would otherwise have been pretty telegraphed. Before the match we get some funny mic work from Shane, with him trying to weasel his way out of the match by saying that Burchill doesn’t want to risk injury before his big move to the States. That unsurprisingly doesn’t go too well for him and in the early stages there’s a lot of Shane running and stalling in an effort to escape. He’s actually the taller guy, but such was the Goldberg-esque rep the FWA had built around Burchill that the fans are very much bought into him being the one who should be dominating. It should be noted that Burchill is ripped here and much leaner than when he first appeared in the company. We get a number of opportunities early on for Burchill to showcase his power and agility – including a Samoan Crash and standing moonsault - which a lot of reasonably big guys on the indies can do now, but at the time, especially on the UK scene was revolutionary. As I’m finding a lot in my FWA rewatch, a number of matches that didn’t get much love at the time, are actually a lot better viewed now as tastes change. This match is a case in point. At the time, in hardcore wrestling fan circles, people were very much into smaller cruiserweight style or technical wrestlers, while big guys had a ‘WWE stigma’ attached to them. But today, ‘hoss’ matches or brawls between bigger guys are much more en vogue and I enjoyed this as a fun power match. Shane was far from a technical marvel – his counter wrestling at the beginning his really ugly – but as a brawler and a guy that could tell a story in the ring, he was usually able to make his matches compelling, and I think 2004 is a very strong year for him in-ring wise – arguably the best of his career. With him having newly won the company’s title and Burchill leaving, this needed to be far more competitive and even that most of the matches Burchill had been in up to this point. There was enough in the exchanges here that made me think they could have had a really good match if they had been able to have Burchill be the guy to end Shane’s title reign at some stage in the future. After a period of Shane being in control, we get a nice fired up run of power moves from Burchill, culminating in a really impressive looking C4 (standing Spanish Fly), although where due to his size and having to rotate it looked like Shane was perilously close to having his neck broken. We get a fun exchange of big moves; Burchill misses a standing Shooting Star Press, Shane gets a Chokebomb for 2, a second attempt is countered into a hurucunrana before Burchill misses a moonsault from the top rope. Shane going in for the kill hits his One Night Stand finisher…but just for two! Hits another, but once again a kick out. I can see why at the time some FWA fans thought this was killing off the champions finisher against a guy wrestling his last match for the company, but Burchill had been so protected and presented so dominantly that it needed that number of big moves to finish him off, which is emphasised by one of Shane’s security guards Stixx interfering and a final One Night Stand getting Shane the win. I liked this match, but the overbooking in Shane’s matches is something that I can feel (and that I recall from watching at the time) is going to get very old, very quickly. But considering they had to rush to this match, I enjoyed their chemistry. (***) After the match Burchill gets a standing ovation from the crowd and the locker room to wish him well before he left for WWE. Ultimately that was a move that didn’t really work out for him – although I like his run on (WW)ECW which had some fun little matches – but watching this in 2018 when NXT UK has just been established and so many UK guys are in such demand, the contrast with 2004 is incredible. Back then UK guys, and Europeans in general just didn’t get a chance in WWE. I think Burchill was definitely a guy that came around too early and that could’ve been a significant player in NXT UK if he was coming up on the scene now.
  21. 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. (**)
  22. This is Storm’s first match back since being reinstated via a petition after losing a loser leaves town match earlier in the year. He references that before the match, and the role his long term rival/friend Jody Fleisch played in him being brought back, although he teases he wants him in the ring again. For those keeping track, Storm is still declaring himself to be the XPW European champion even though he doesn’t have a belt and that company had gone out of business. Collyer at this stage was a regular with ROH, very much in the vein of the technical wrestler mould of a Matt Stryker or John Walters. And in this match he gets to exhibit a lot of those technical skills, matching up well with Storm. I’m always a sucker for a technician vs high flyer match which gives this a nice contrast in styles, but this was also at the time when Storm was beginning to move away from being a pure cruiserweight/X Division style wrestler and was starting to incorporate a lot more of the traditional British/WOS sequences and counters into his matches, as evidenced by the very British way he is able to escape a wristlock. There’s lots of really smooth transitions in this, but you feel that something a bit more emotionally engaging would take the match to the next level that I think it was capable of, and that it kept threatening to do. We get some duelling limb work - Collyer working at the neck and Storm the arm but nothing that ever really goes too far anywhere. In 2003, Storm had turned heel on Jody Fleisch in a heated angle, but with Jody’s absence from wrestling for 18-20 months, Jonny had gone from a hot heel into more of a comedy heel, and following the petition angle to get him back in the company was basically being treated by the fans as a face. As would be the case these days, his comedy heel antics such as a double springboard to the outside…into a headlock get lapped up by the crowd. It was clear he was now well on the way to being back as one of the company’s top faces. I enjoyed the first half of the match, even if it is a bit subdued, but it really gets fun in the closing stretch with both guys just cutting lose. There’s a Malenko/Mysterio vibe to the sequences with Collyer trying to nail power moves and a series of gutbusters, while Jonny is impressive in his sringboarding of the ropes connecting with both a double jump moonsault and rewind rana. Collyer’s frustration at not being able to finish Storm with the tiger driver and then the cloverleaf leads to his downfall as he changes his game plan to go up top for a super gutbuster, which is reversed into a DDT off the top rope for the win. Fun match. (*** ¼)
  23. This match stems from events in the build up to Uprising III, and then events from that show itself. At BU3, Ulf Herman had made his big return to the FWA after being out for a year following being turned on by Alex Shane. His return came during the Williams/Shane FWA title bout, but rather than get his revenge on Shane, his interference backfired and he inadvertently cost Williams the title. That’s your intrigue for this match – can they get along against Shane’s henchman? Williams also wants revenge on Legend (Just Joe of WWF fame) for bloodying him on the FWA title at Shane’s behest two months before this. Indeed, before the match Legend tries to foster dissent between Williams and Herman by reminding Doug of what happened in the previous shows title match, but the faces get the shine at the beginning and clear house despite a tease of them almost colliding again. Herman was massively over with FWA fans, but I think the polite way to describe is his in ring skills would be ‘limited’. Doug works the vast majority of the match for his team, which is understandable given how much of a class above he is the rest of the guys. The match is much more storyline/angle advancement than workrate, and while the story they are trying to tell – Doug keeps getting isolated and beat up two on one due to Herman’s short temper and him constantly trying to get in the ring illegally, playing up the fact Williams has good reason to be pissed off at him – makes sense, there’s just no interesting work to keep you invested. Both the heels are very bland with their offence, and there’s little to get inspired by; the heat segment on Doug feels very repetitive and much longer than it actually is. Ulf’s overness with the crowd does mean that when he finally gets in they are still behind his hot tag, but just as you hope the match can get some momentum, there’s an odd sequence where everyone misses moves off the top rope. It's really jarring and doesn't fit with the vibe of the match. We then run through a series of nearfalls, with Legend in particular really nailing Doug with a dragon suplex. As is his way, Ulf can’t help going for the weapons, and the stamping on Stixx with the rail looked particularly brutal. Just as at Uprising, Herman’s hardcore temper ends up costing them when in the confusion Legend is able to stop the Chaos Theory with a chair shot and then hit a Flatliner on the chair for the win. After the match Herman cleans house with the chair, leading to an accusation from Doug that he was the one that hit him. The match is more about storyline development than match quality, but even in saying that it is very laboured at times, with the heels bringing little excitement with their work. There was a consistent story to what the guys were doing, it’s just they weren’t doing it in a particularly interesting way. (**)
  24. 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)
  25. From main eventing British Uprising II the previous year, 2004 was not a good year for James Tighe. Well in kayfabe terms. In ring, he was one of the company’s strongest performers. In a storyline sense, his failure to capture the British Heavyweight Title led to him losing a lot of matches, often in upsets to guys lower on the card than him. I don’t think a losing streak gimmick has ever really worked in wrestling, but it was with the goal in mind of building his frustration at losses to a heel turn. Given how impressive he was in 2003 and in the title match with Doug Williams I feel the FWA should’ve kept pushing him as face challenger at the title level, but with his lack of charisma, it was probably right that the fans would end up picking more outgoing and flashier personalities over him. Tighe faced off with Styles at Vendetta in July, in a match that began sportingly but that saw Tighe getting increasingly desperate to win against a big name - to well and truly snap his losing streak. In the match, Tighe was able to go toe to toe with AJ for large parts, but, starting to feel he was being outgunned, resorted to trying to use a chair. The end result would actually see Styles on the end of a very dodgy referee call – whether intentional or not a recurring theme for Styles’ matches in the FWA – and he ended up as the one getting disqualified giving Tighe the much needed, if tainted win. Which is pretty much the reason for this being a 30 minute Iron Man Match – to decisively find out who was the better man. As I’ve noted in the reviews of other matches on the show, British Uprising III was mainly booked on the basis of matches built on feuds, but the fairly clear aim was for this to be the workrate match to carry that requirement of a big indie show. This is the main event of the show and has the task of following the controversial end to the FWA Title match which initially has an impact on the atmosphere, but the massive pop that AJ gets brings the crowd back. The first 7-8 mins are wrestled very cautiously, but I enjoyed the feeling out process given that the match is going a half hour and it doesn’t make sense to go too hard too quickly, I could see some finding the opening stretch dull, but I liked the struggle in the holds and every counter being fought over. This is shown in them fighting over the headlock, including Tighe snatching one when AJ is going for his patented drop kick. AJ’s tactic is to up the pace, and following getting the drop kick, able to follow Tighe out, jump the guardrail and catch him with the superkick. This leads to a period of AJ dominating, until being caught and driven face first by Tighe. But just when Tighe is starting to feel confident and in control, he takes his eye off the ball going for a suplex and gets caught in a crucifix for the first fall. I liked that as Tighe is protesting, he almost gets rolled up for a good close near fall. Following a period of back and forth, they both fall to the outside on a hurucanrana that didn’t look very smooth, but added to the sense of struggle in the match. This leads to a double count on the floor during which AJ takes a nasty over head suplex into the guardrail, which is enough to allow Tighe to sneak back in and level things at 1-1. I really liked Tighe smelling blood and going in for the kill and secure that big career defining win; he doesn’t want the draw. AJ is finally able to break the momentum with the Pele kick and then hits a brutal looking brianbuster for 2, knowing he has to bring out the big guns. AJ then going for a chink lock didn’t really fit the storyline but the flurry of strikes is more like it and just as in their first match, Styles manages to once again break Tighe’s nose. As the clock ticks down, AJ is the one going for the win while Tighe is just trying to survive. With 3 mins on the clock he desperately fights out of the Styles Clash on multiple occasions, as the crowd go nuts knowing that it’s a kill shot this close to the end. Sadly for him a kick out from a powerbomb puts him naturally in position for the Styles Clash and AJ goes 2-1 up with 2 mins to go. With 10 seconds to go Tighe gets a great nearfall with a roll up to try and tie at 2-2 – the equivalent of a late chance in football – but Style sees the last few seconds out by ducking and weaving as the clock strikes down. Not a typical babyface way of doing it but very smart. Post match, Styles tries to show respect but gets a Tighe low blow for his troubles. Jody Fleisch, who had made a big non-wrestling return on the show after more than a year away tries to make the save but gets taken out by Tighe’s tag team partner Mark Belton. We then get the big return of Jonny Storm to the FWA as well, and after the tease of a confrontation with his long time friend/rival Fleisch, we get AJ as the peacekeeper and a reunion handshake to a big pop. In terms of a match, I think this is very good. Some may think the opening segment doesn’t have much going on, but I liked the struggle and the building of the match. The little stories interweaved without having to resort to big moves and kick outs is very much appreciated by me, although I did think the match had a higher gear it could’ve found as it went into the final stretch. The main downside is that for the second year in a row in the main event of the biggest show of the year, and as he often did when facing the top names, Tighe loses the big match again. (*** ¾)
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