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  1. 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)
  2. This is for the FWA Tag Team Titles. For the year prior you’d be hard pressed to find a more over act in the company than Simmons, the loveable butler to the Duke of Danger. His reactions from the crowd had got to the point it had turned the whole Hampton Court act face, when traditional wrestling booking would’ve probably seen it building to a Ted DiBiase/Virgil master vs servant style match. The peak of ‘Simmonsmania’ was undoubtedly at Vendetta in July when Hampton Court won the tag titles from The Family in a double swerve that was executed perfectly. Unfortunately, as is often the way when it comes to underdog babyfaces, the chase and their big win is often the high point. Even just a couple of months later, you can already see the crowd starting to cool on the act. It doesn’t help that this match is not very good at all – the worst on the show. It never works out what it wants to be. That’s probably reflected in the challengers. Sloan and Knight were the classic wrestling ‘odd couple’ tag team that doesn’t get along; Sloan the stoic technician and Knight the loud, abrasive comedy heel. The vignettes the two would do on FWA TV throughout the latter part of 2004 were actually very funny, but in this match it results in a bit of a mess, with Knight trying to work seaside comedy and Sloan trying to work ‘indies/ROH’ style moves. Indeed all four guys just seem off their game. Colt Cabana is the guest ring announcer. He was in a ‘dark match’ that wasn’t included in The Wrestling Channel broadcast and you wonder whether he could’ve perhaps been better utilised on the main show. He teases a confrontation with Stevie Knight before the match, given both are comedy wrestlers. Comedy in wrestling is not for everyone, but I happen to enjoy someone like Colt’s ability to mould it with the wrestling. Unfortunately the opening comedy exchanges between Simmons and Knight here are pretty lame to an apathetic crowd. There is a really uninspired heat segment on Simmons leading to the Duke of Danger getting an incredibly underwhelming lukewarm tag. In fact the Duke is barely in the match at all. The finish sees Hampton Court’s manager Butter Cup the maid flirt with Knight ala Maria Kanellis/Karl Anderson and he follows her to the back, leaving Sloan isolated to eat the pin. This is a poor match that was a decent example of the fact the FWA operated a very small core roster. The UK scene of this point was nowhere near the massive depth there is today and in 2004 the FWA tag team division was basically non-existent. Teaming up more high profile singles guys like Storm/Fleisch and Tighe/Belton and having them go after the titles could’ve been a way of reviving it. (* ½)
  3. Due to the relative lack of women’s wrestling options on the British scene at the beginning of the 2000s, Nikita continues to be booked in intergender contests. Because of this it’s almost to the point that she is playing a standard underdog baby face in her matches, rather than a female wrestling a man. A recent storyline had just been started whereby a £10,000 bounty had been put on her head. Given her popularity it was important to get Nikita on the card for the biggest show of the year, with Mark Sloan being the first person to try and earn the bounty. Another little note is that recent FWA arrival – loud mouth Northern wrestler Stevie Knight acts as misogynist ring announcer running Nikita down, although he makes it clear, he isn’t the person who has put the bounty on. The match plays very similarly to a lot of Nikita’s other singles contests in the FWA, with her getting an initial shine through some fast paced arm drags, head scissors and reversals before it settles into her being worked over to build sympathy with the crowd. It’s a formula that works well, and was effective for most of the year when she was a big part of the Showswearers/Family feud, however this match suffers from the common knock that I, and many others had against Sloan’s rather robotic in-ring style. He was not a bad wrestler per se – technically competent, and as in this match, he throws in a few cool looking moves - but nothing seemed to have any emotion, just moving between sequences as if he was a video game wrestler. Compared to Nikita’s match with Paul Travell at Uprising I the previous year, structure wise they are very similar, but in that match Travell was more vicious and brought character and personality. This feels rather soulless, and doesn’t have that sense of urgency to get over that a bounty is involved. As that storyline is just beginning, and being the more pushed and over person, Nikita picks up the win and we’ll see how her storyline progresses in 2004. (**)
  4. This match stems from the last show Vendetta, where they were tag team partners against Burchill in a handicap match. Both blamed the other for the defeat so here we are. Simmons, the wrestling butler to the Duke of Danger is starting his run as the true cult favourite of the FWA, getting more and more over to where the chants for him during his entrance and his matches is getting pretty deafening. The match itself is pretty inoffensive, but with not much of interest going on. Sloan as the more experienced of the two, and trainer of the FWA Academy controls most of the match with Simmons’ hope spots keeping the crowd invested. Sloan was always solid in the ring, but at times felt like he was going through the motions, and just going move to move without a lot of emotion. It’s a criticism that could also be levelled at some of the trainees that came through the academy. Simmons ends up winning with his Butler Buster (Block Buster) which was the right call considering the reactions he was getting. (**) As I mentioned in the match thread for the opener of this show, this event has a lot more angles to it as the company was looking at building up British Uprising II the next month. As such I’ll touch on a segment from later on in the night where the Duke of Danger – a stereotypical British aristocrat heel character – has a public workout. This is actually a pretty funny segment with him hitting some moves on trainees whilst Simmons gives them moves such as the ‘Swine Buster’ and the ‘Peasant Smasher’. This was entertaining, but designed to build up the Duke’s return to the ring and upcoming match with Burchill which is something he had been dodging for a year. It predictably ends with Burchill coming out and destroying the trainees while the Duke legs it, but I thought this was fun and served its purpose.
  5. This is interesting in that it’s an intersecting of two of the characters in the FWA that were getting most over. On the one hand you have Paul ‘not yet a pirate’ Burchill, who was getting the Goldberg push. Because of the general lack of really big guys on the FWA roster, Burchill was able to get over as a big powerhouse, given he could also do amazing high flying moves like moonsaults and standing shooting star presses. Think the things that Keith Lee and Jeff Cobb are now doing. He was basically ploughing through undercard guys, often in handicap matches and also getting over through his manager Dean Ayass and the disclaimer they would read before matches. Simmonz was the ultimate underdog who would get over to an unbelievable degree to where he would become for a time the most over act in the company. Starting as the downtrodden butler to the at that time heel Duke of Danger, he was someone the crowd was rallying behind, which, rather than going down the route of a Ted Di Biase/Virgil storyline would end up turning the Duke of Danger face as well. In this match the crowd are really behind him, but the company was not quite utilising him yet. Mark Sloan was actually the original founder of the FWA, and head of the FWA Academy. In this match though he is just a body to be sacrificed. This is a complete squash where Burchill gets the opportunity to show off all his power and high flying. He wins by a double knockout with both his opponents failing to meet the 10 count. (N/R)