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  1. 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.
  2. This is a scenario that I think shows how compelling storytelling can fall flat when a match fails to come together in the ring. Going in, this match had a number of interweaving and engaging storylines that deserved a chaotic and action packed payoff. In the end it falls massively flat. While other matches from British Uprising III perhaps deserve a critical reappraisal, this one still very much fails to hit the mark all these years later. The build up mainly centres on the disintegration of The Family; the religious cult heel group that had been the main antagonists in the FWA in 2003; and the baby face turn of Paul Travell. The increased levels of punishment Travell was taking in matches had led to the crowd starting to rally behind him. Having his head turned by the cheers of the crowd had increasingly put Travell at odds with The Family’s manager Greg Lambert and their new leader Drew McDonald. The resulting Family ‘civil war’ led to Travell turning his back on the group after suffering months of abuse and Lambert’s attempts to control him - costing the group the tag team titles. At the same time as Travell in storyline left the group, other members like Scott Parker and Ian DaSciple – holdovers from the pre ‘boom’ era of the FWA – also stopped being used by the company, meaning the birth of The Triad out of The Family’s ashes, comprising of McDonald, Raj Ghosh and a big jacked up newcomer called Thunder. Showing the strength of the company at this time to interweave different storylines, at the same time you had the rookie monster of the company Burchill being drawn in. In a match where a tag title shot was on the line, and in an effort to keep Burchill away from being able to challenge The Family, McDonald had interfered in a match between Simmonz and Burchill to give the former an unlikely upset count out win and end the latter’s unbeaten streak. So Travell and Burchill are the unlikely allies teaming up against a common foe. With the FWA determined to cement Travell’s face turn and push him to the next level, the original aim was to try to get Mick Foley in as their third man and help pass the ‘hardcore legend’ baton onto Travell. With that failing to materialise, Terry Funk was brought in to perform a similar role. When reviewing matches, I think most try to focus solely on what the people in the ring are doing without trying to factor in other things, either behind the scenes stuff or the booking. Sometimes in wrestling this becomes impossible to separate; what is being presented in the ring is a direct product of issues backstage. This is one of those examples. Knowing some of the tensions pre-match between competitors and clear differences in how they wanted to take things manifests itself 100 per cent in how the match is executed and why it comes across so badly. Greg Lambert’s book is incredibly enlightening for why this match is a mess, with the massively dysfunctional way it was put together, and the old school guys like McDonald and Thunder not wanting to do anything in the match that would put their younger opponents over. Onto the match then, and another moving part is Jimmy Hart as the special guest ref. In storyline this was an appointment by FWA Commissioner Flash Barker because of the duelling managers in Lambert and Dean Ayass on the outside, which had been another big part of the build up. The argument being that Hart would know their tricks as a legendary manager himself. While I like that idea, unfortunately, I’m not sure he really knows what he’s doing in the match… The match starts with some technical wrestling between Travell and Ghosh, but considering they are tag team partners that have broken up, you really want to see more aggression from them rather than exchanging hammer locks. The match quickly breaks down, but not in the fun crazy brawl sense rather in a messy incoherent sense. There are some fun punch exchanges between Funk and McDonald, as old veterans just going after each other, but as was clear from the way they intended to do business before the match, McDonald and Thunder barely sell or leave their feat, especially not for Travell, and not really for Burchill either. Thunder looks imposing with his look but he basically sucks and brings nothing to the table. This is his only match in the FWA. Travell brings some fun moments like an elbow drop off the apron to Ghosh on a chair and taking a back drop on the ramp, and Burchill hits some of his impressive power and agility spots, but too often he’s also forced to sell from opponents clearly not willing to work much with him. At previous FWA shows there had been quite a bit of heat on a Burchill vs Drew McDonald singles encounter but that’s something that we never get paid off. Given this match however that was probably for the best. Due to not wanting help Travell and Burchill to get over, McDonald – who had been a semi-regular for the company during the previous two years – was never booked again. In hindsight this should’ve been a crazy ECW brawl with lots of weapon shots and should not be the near 19 minutes long that it is. It’s just way, way too long. Travell ultimately ends up beating Ghosh to win the match in a pinfall that comes out of nowhere. There’s a nice ceremonial passing off the torch…or rather barbed wire baseball bat between Funk and Travell which gets a good pop but it will be interesting to see Travell going forward into the next year of FWA shows and whether this match achieved the desired result of getting him across as ‘the UK’s hardcore icon’. (**)
  3. This is another match that the FWA had been building up pretty much all year, with the Duke of Danger – a stereotypical British aristocrat heel – having been ducking the challenge of Burchill. He is one half of Hampton Court, alongside his butler Simmons, who was massively over as the put upon loveable baby face. Burchill meanwhile is coming in as the unstoppable monster with the Goldberg push that has been destroying lower card wrestlers – often in similar handicap matches – since debuting. The Simmons dynamic makes all this rather odd though. Whereas usually you might expect the crowd to be fully invested in the sneaky heel that has been ducking a challenger to finally get his comeuppance, because of how over Simmons was, and how entertaining the Hampton Court act had become, there doesn’t seem to be that desire to see the Duke get killed in the ring. This match is the first time that Burchill is forced to sell and take any sort of damage, with the Duke and Simmons getting a fair bit of offence in for a sustained period. At one point you even think they could get a count out win when Burchill takes a really brutal looking fall through the ringside table. It’s a match very strange in execution, and because of this it doesn’t really work. While there are fun moments, and Burchill again getting to show off his vast range of impressive moves, he ends up selling too much while the crowd is also fairly behind Hampton Court. Both acts would have been better off in different situations and in different matches. (* ¾)
  4. 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)