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  1. 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)
  2. 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 (***)
  3. 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)
  4. 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. (***)
  5. This is the first of two qualifying matches for a No. 1 contenders match, with the winner of this match meeting the winner of Flash Barker vs Jack Xavier on a future show to determine who would get an FWA title shot at Doug Williams. Jody is of course, the biggest star in the company at this point, while Tighe had been putting on a series of excellent performances and is coming off a big win against Paul London at Frontiers of Honor. There is a contrast in that coming into this show, Jody’s burgeoning feud with his former best friend Jonny Storm has been costing him his focus and costing him matches. These two mesh together really well and this is an excellent match. While you could make the case that the opening sequences and reversals are too choreographed, the speed and precision with which they are worked is fantastic, and it helps to establish right from the beginning that Tighe is not out of his depth and can hang with someone of Jody’s calibre. Tighe is so smooth with his matwork, and watching him in 2003-04 makes me really wistful that his career tailed off at the time the UK scene was in the doldrums. The match also enables Jody to show off some of his technical skills, which he didn’t often show, and I thought he looked very competent on the mat. I particularly enjoyed his switching from an arm bar into an STF to try and prevent Tighe from getting to the ropes. The action is fairly fast paced throughout, and while it’s a common complaint of a lot of matches from the 2000s to this day, you just feel that if they had slowed down at times and let some of the sequences breathe then we could have had one of the best matches from the company all year. The mat wrestler vs the flyer is always a match up I enjoy, and Tighe also brings a lot of suplexes and high impact moves to the table. I loved his double chicken wing into a release German suplex. The second of the evenings Chekhov's Gun’s comes midway through the match, with the mention by the commentators of the popularity of Jody which can best be summed up by an enthusiastic fan in the crowd wearing a Dakko Chan mask, which was Jody’s masked character from when he wrestled in Michinoku Pro. This comes into play later in the match, when following a mid air collision and both men falling to the outside the ‘fan’ in the mask leaps the barrier and holds onto Fleisch’s leg making him lose by count out. The fan is revealed of course to be Jonny Storm. Following the reveal, Tighe gets on the mic to say he doesn’t want to win that way and they both ask the ref to restart the match. As was the case at Frontiers of Honor when there was a time limit draw between Low Ki and Flash Barker, we once again have FWA head official Steve Lynskey playing up his heel ref character by refusing the request and confirming that Tighe moves on. This is a really fun match, with some great sequences and exchanges. The count out interference ending is a shame, but it was all being designed to build the heat on the big Jody Fleisch/Jonny Storm showdown being planned for British Uprising II. Sadly, as I’ll document, we don’t get to that match. (*** ½)
  6. Going into the main event, things are tied between the FWA and ROH at 2 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw each. Daniels makes it known beforehand that he is not representing ROH, but the Prophecy. In fact, he’d actually been FWA British Heavyweight Champion just two months before this, having defeated Fleisch in October 2002. He lost the belt to Doug Williams at ROH’s Night of Champions in a match that I’d heartily recommend. Williams is actually an interesting absence from the card tonight, given his prominence in both companies, but I'm pretty sure that was because of commitments in Japan where he was part of NOAH. Fleisch was also someone appearing somewhat regularly for ROH at this time, but he’s not in his Special K guise tonight, rather as lead babyface for the FWA. Early on we get plenty of stalling from Daniels, with him threatening to walk and arguing with members of the crowd on the balcony. When Daniels finally gets in the ring, Jody’s signature gymnastics and high flying quickly sends him running for the outside again and more crowd arguing. Once the match settles down, Jody is actually the one that tries to take a more mat based approach and I enjoyed his working of the headlock to stay on top. The result is Daniels trying to up the pace which proves a mistake and Jody headscissors him and hits a quebrada. As in the AJ Styles/Jonny Storm match earlier in the night, they fight up to the ramp where Jody gives Daniels a snap suplex on the entrance platform and then disappears and returns with a chair, which he springboards off into a rana on Daniels. The spot is fun, but the fact he had to go back stage to grab a chair to then do a rana off felt very unorganic and takes you out of the moment. This was a criticism I had of some of the spots in his ladder match at British Uprising. When they return to the ring, Daniels is finally able to get some control, where he proceeds to work over the back and neck. The work is pretty consistent and I enjoyed The Best Moonsault Ever onto the back which then sets up a cross face. Fleisch gets a late flurry including a springboard Shooting Star Press, but Jonny Storm, cementing his heel turn, hits Jody with a chair as he tries a second one and Daniels picks up the win, and completes a come from behind 3-2 victory for ROH. At just under 25 mins, the match is probably too long, with lots of stalling from Daniels early on. I appreciate him trying to build heat, but you feel that comes at the expense of the match in the beginning. I actually liked Jody adopting a more methodical pace and working in some chain wrestling at times, showing versatility. There are lots of nice sequences, but a tighter match would make it feel more coherent. Even though the ending features interference I liked the story of Jonny allowing his personal jealously of Jody to get in the way of company unity, and it further escalates the issues between them which the company was looking at as one of the key storylines for the year. Further heat is added in the post match where Storm and Daniels try to piledrive Fleisch on a chair, until both locker rooms chase them off, however, Storm and Daniels take out the FWA’s acting Commissioner at that point – Dino Scarlo - with an absolutely brutal and hard-to-watch-with-2018-eyes chair shot. (*** ¼)
  7. This is a rematch from the final of the King of England tournament from Revival at the beginning of the year, in which Jody emerged the winner. This time coming in, it’s Doug who is under pressure following his opening defeat. This is not as good as the Revival match, which has a bigger, more high profile feel to it, but it was fun to see Doug wrestling a more high paced style reflecting his need for the points. There are some nice call backs to the Revival match, which the not always stellar FWA commentary team actually pick up on for once, in particular where Doug goes to powerbomb Jody off the apron, although this time it’s not successful. These two match up really well with one another and Doug makes a great base for Jody’s high flying. After two intense matches with AJ Styles and Jonny Storm, Jody is clearly vulnerable and Doug is able to stay alive in the tournament by picking up the win and the 20 points. At the same time this eliminates Jody who can’t now catch the other three who are all tied. (***)
  8. This is AJ’s second FWA appearance after he got over hugely in his defeat to Jonny Storm at British Uprising. At this stage none of the UK guys were heels in the company, meaning AJ takes on that role in the tournament, showcasing the cocky persona he had in TNA at this point. It also works well in this match as AJ is able to use his striking and the wide variety of signature moves he has that all look really vicious. Jody’s flexibility means he is the ideal guy to take the punishment that AJ is doling out and elicit a lot of sympathy. This is the best match of the tournament with some amazing exchanges between the two. Everything AJ does is with great intensity, and in storyline terms he is coming off the loss against Storm two months before when he’d tried to be more respectful and which hadn’t been successful. You can sense he’s coming in with more of a mean streak. AJ works really well when in there with other cruiserweight guys as he’s able to really throw them around despite not being much bigger than them and he rarely lets Fleisch build up significant momentum. Despite AJ being on top for most of the match, Fleisch gets some great hope spots in to keep the crowd invested, including a version of his 720 DDT while Styles is sitting on the ropes. In the end Styles has just too much intensity planting Jody with a powerbomb when he is coming off the ropes and then instantly hitting the styles clash. (*** ¾)
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bftPCKrQfpA This is just a couple of weeks after the big British Uprising show and kept up the FWA’s momentum nicely. On the undercard there is not too many big stories to note, the biggest probably being Alex Shane and Ulf Herman beating the UK Pitbulls for the tag titles. Given the very bloody and intense feud that Shane and Herman get into with The Family that runs for pretty much all of 2003, that’s a big moment. We are in Walthamstow Town Hall, which is a fun venue (I’m biased for having worked there), and one I’m glad that Rev Pro is now running again. The main event is Fleisch putting the belt that he won at Uprising on the line for the first time, with Daniels a late addition to make it a three way. With Fleisch and Williams both being faces, the addition of Daniels means there is an antagonist which helps the structure. At the beginning he is content to sit out while Fleisch and Williams go at it. It’s interesting that the Low Ki/Daniels/Dragon three way from the first ROH show was at the beginning of that year, as Daniels again takes on the role of being the more heelish and looking to take shortcuts. This match is in no way up to that standard, but there is a similar story they are trying to tell. As you’d imagine for the time, the action is fast paced with some pretty spotty selling, but it’s always engaging and you could tell that the UK guys were really starting to look at the style being worked in ROH as well as the X Division in TNA for inspiration. At this time, both Jody and Doug had been across to the US to compete for ROH, with Williams getting a pretty decent push. Doug is largely presented as the most dangerous of the three, being the more powerful but with the technical base, and he is coming off an impressive year when he’s been able to cleanly defeat both Eddie Guerrero and two weeks before this, Jerry Lynn. For most of the FWA’s run he was presented as the ace of the company and I like how in this match Daniels is largely trying to avoid him, which also plays into the feud they were having in ROH at the same time. A criticism would be that Fleisch - given he had just won the title in the big feel good moment at the end of Uprising I - feels like a bit of an after thought at times, although it’s more a comment on his size rather than his ability, that both the other two look to target him. He also still gets in some hugely impressive moments such as the springboard shooting star press to the other guys on the outside. This leads to the key part of the match with him selling a knee injury when landing, to where officials take him to the back and say he can’t continue. This being wrestling of course he ignores their best advice and comes storming back. It’s a decent way of trying to not make him look too weak in losing the title so soon. As befitting his character, Daniels takes advantage of Fleisch being injured to pin him and win the title in a pretty shocking moment. At the time I think a lot of people thought that Daniels being added to the match was just a way of adding cache and in terms of ‘having a good match’ and no-one expected him to win, not least as he wouldn’t be a regular and given Jody had just had his big crowning moment two weeks before. Reading Greg Lambert’s book, Holy Grail, on this period, he says that it was a way of raising the prestige of the title and getting more international eye balls on the FWA, while booker Alex Shane was also working with ROH to get them over for a show in 2003. He also says that it was a move designed to be shocking to the FWA fanbase that was very much a hardcore ‘smark’ audience. Looking back, I think it was a good move – with the FWA not running weekly shows, they didn’t need the title defended on every show and it was smart to try and raise the international prestige of the title. It also meant that the next show at the end of 2002 was centred around finding a No. 1 contender with a round robin tournament. Finally, the storyline of the title being taken hostage by an American was pretty compelling, and crossed companies to being a part of an ROH angle with Doug Williams trying to get it back. Overall, this is a fun match, with lots of action, that wouldn’t look out of place on a 2002/2003 ROH show, although I think at this time, Doug in particular was still trying to find himself, as in 2003/04 he would utilise his technical skills more. At this point I think he (along with a lot of the roster) was trying to work a more high flying/spot heavy style to fit in with the vibe that the company was trying to move away from the more traditional British style that in 2002 was seen as outdated. (*** ¼)
  10. In other posts on the site I’ve reviewed the main (and best) matches from the show, but just to touch briefly on some of the ones I haven’t mentioned, before we get to the main event… Zebra Kid vs Hade Vansen – this is for the All England Title. Zebra Kid is one of Paige’s older brothers while Vansen is known for being a guy that got a one week push to be an Undertaker Wrestlemania opponent before being mysteriously released the week after. This match is pretty nuts with no transitions to speak of, but all the moves they pull off, they throw themselves into 100% and the recklessness and chaotic nature of it actually makes for a pretty fun match. I’ve always enjoyed the work of Roy Knight (The Zebra Kid) and his brother Zack as they bring an air of chaos to their matches where a lack of polish actually helps them. UK Pitbulls vs The New Breed – this is for the FWA Tag Titles but isn’t really a match, more an angle. Before the match starts, future pirate Paul Burchill wipes out the New Breed who then get squashed by the Pitbulls who even by big man wrestling standards are absolutely huge. Will be interesting to chart the development of Burchill in the FWA, as at the time he was doing mind blowing stuff for a guy his size (although he was benefitting from being a ‘big’ guy in a UK scene where he stood out more). Robbie Brookside vs Drew McDonald – this is pretty boring with largely uninspiring brawling and lots of choking from McDonald. Brookside shows good fire, but it’s not a match where he gets to utilise his technical skills. You also feel that the crowd wasn’t very receptive to seeing these two veteran guys when everyone else on the card is working much more modern spot-orientated matches. Nikita vs Paul Travell – Nikita is the future Katie Lee Burchill, and actually someone that seemed to regress as she got more experience, as at this stage she looked really good, in terms of her execution of moves being crisp and being a great sympathetic babyface for the crowd to get behind. She’s always someone that had a great look – and her run in OVW is actually lots of fun – but for whatever reason it never seemed to click in ring in WWE on the main roster or in TNA. This is well worked in terms of Nikita being the underdog and getting in her hope spots, but maybe the match on the card that would go over better today given the prevalence of inter gender matches on the indy circuit. Ulf Herman vs Balls Mahoney – this is your standard ECW/hardcore/plunderfest with plenty of weapon shots and crowd brawling. Hard to really get invested in – even in 2002 this was tired – although both guys work hard and take some nasty bumps into tacks and with a barbwire baseball bat. At 20 mins it’s way too long but Ulf was a pretty important character in the FWA who became a cult favourite through his fire breathing entrance and copious amounts of swearing in his promos. Finally onto the main event, and a match that I actually found the most divisive and hard to nail down an opinion on. This is a ladder match, and going in the title was vacant due to a title change where Fleisch won the belt not being recognised. Most people probably know Jody – he was the rising star of the UK scene at the time and had won the King of England Tournament at Revival earlier in the year. Flash Barker is not as well known, and was a powerhouse guy with a really hard hitting style. Going into Uprising a key storyline for the year had been the rivalry between the ‘Old School’ who were veterans who didn’t like the new way the UK scene was going – and who Barker was representing – and younger guys like Jody, Jonny Storm and Alex Shane. I guess a bit like the New Blood/Millionaires Club feud from WCW but with the old guys as the heels in this case. It’s a good match up for the main event, with Fleisch being one of the guys the FWA wanted to build around, the linked Old School/New School feud to bring the heat and for being two British guys when there must have been the temptation to use one of the imports. The size difference and the way Jody sells Flash’s big moves like death also gives the match a natural storyline to follow for large parts with Barker absolutely brutalising him with some of the moves. In particular the suplex Fleisch takes on an upright guardrail had me wincing. I really enjoyed the intensity in the match and happily there’s little of the clichéd slow climbing, with the ladder – which takes a while to come into play – mainly being used as a weapon. On the downside however, and this is where I find it hard to rate a match that I enjoyed, higher, but at multiple times there are chances to go for the belt that aren’t taken in order to do big highspots. Until it gets right to the end there’s no urgency to actually climb to get the belt and you wonder if it might have worked better as a NO DQ match, where all the tables and chairs they do use could come into play, and allow them to work a more natural match around the sequences they were doing. Which leads onto the biggest and most famous spot of the match and arguably one of the most famous spots in BritWres history. This is where Jody vaults and springboards from the balcony at the York Hall into a moonsault to the floor below. It’s insane and perfectly hit and even now, having seen it dozens and dozens of times down the years still amazes me. However, it’s set up by Flesich going into the crowd to set up the ladder to climb up, while Barker follows him and stands there waiting. It’s such an amazing spot but the sad critic in me just wishes they could have found a more organic way of getting there. That really sums up my feelings for the match as a whole – there’s plenty of big bumps, excitement and drama, with some runs in that fit with the bigger companywide feud, but at times you get taken out of the moment by the big spots not feeling organic and people giving up the opportunity to go for the belt when they have clear openings. (*** ¼)
  11. For more detail on what the King of England Tournament was see the link below to a write up of one of the semi finals between Doug Williams and Eddie Guerrero: http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/39613-doug-williams-vs-eddie-guerrero-fwa-revival-king-of-england-tournament-02092002/ This is the final of the tournament. Doug had defeated Eddie Guerrero in the semi-final, while Jody had to get through Drew McDonald, which played into the overarching New School vs Old School storyline that was going on in the FWA at the time. In that match, Fleisch takes a beating from McDonald before winning so he's coming in selling his arm. At this point, and for almost all his run in the FWA, Doug is nominally a face, but always with an air of detachment, that suits his technical ring style. In this match, because of the storyline injury to Fleisch's arm and the size difference, he plays a more heelish role, looking to work the arm but also dominate with his size and suplexes. You can see the comfort and familiarity the two already have with each other with lots of smooth sequences and it's always good for a tournament when the best match of the night comes in the final. Jody is great at being a underdog and getting the crowd behind him, with Doug dominating large parts of the match. At this stage, Jody could always be somewhat hit or miss, but here he hits his most impressive moves like the springboard shooting star press and 720 DDT dead on. The SSP gets a great reaction, and was a pretty revolutionary move for the time. One of the criticisms of Doug is that he can sometimes be somewhat cold and clinical, but here he shows a good vicious side and really throws Fleisch around. There are two crazy bumps - one where Jody gets suplexed from one side of the ring to the other off the top rope (admittedly in the smaller FWA ring) and another where Doug powerbombs them both off the apron that was particularly nasty looking. The small size of the UK ring almost makes the rollup finish a little awkward, but it works really nicely, with the twin storyline that Doug got a bit cocky while Fleisch just survived following all the punishment he took. It also works as a little nod to the Bret/Bulldog finish to Summerslam 92 (*** 3/4)