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Found 7 results

  1. 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! (***)
  2. After the slightly disappointing reception that British Uprising II received in October 2003, it incredibly took over five months for the FWA’s next show - New Frontiers. While that could’ve had a significant impact on the company’s momentum, it is arguable that across all metrics; attendances, visibility, storylines and in ring quality 2004 was the strongest year in the FWA’s history. However, by the time the year was out, the company was already on the path to its untimely demise. The biggest news going into 2004 was that the FWA had secured its first ever national TV deal, a weekly one hour slot on the newly established Wrestling Channel. For those outside the UK that may not be aware; The Wrestling Channel was available through pay TV on Sky and, at least initially, was a hardcore wrestling fans wet dream. The channel went after pretty much every bit of non WWE owned footage they could find and made deals with company’s across the world. This was something not even American’s had. On a random day, you could easily sit down for several hours watching the channel and take in a weekly TNA PPV, followed by an ROH event DVD spliced up for television, then action from the likes of New Japan, NOAH, CMLL, World of Sport, CZW, MLW, 3PW – a crazy line-up. As part of their line-up you also then had the FWA. This was seen as a big break for the FWA in their desire to break the mainstream. As noted, the need to create engaging television, meant the company creating more compelling storylines and much greater character development, and also saw the look of the on screen product become much more polished. However, as I’ll chart, this need to create a TV quality product would ultimately be one of the key reasons for the company’s demise; like many other wrestling companies before and since - the costs of filming TV ended up being more than the money coming in and after less than a year, their weekly show had been cancelled due to the lack of money to produce it. As Greg Lambert, who was part of the creative at the time, makes the comparison, there were many similarities between the FWA and The Wrestling Channel itself. Both were companies being pushed forward on a dream, but without the financial backing and infrastructure to support it. As many others in the wrestling industry have found, The Wrestling Channel wasn’t able to attract the amount of sponsors and advertisers it needed in order to cover the costs of the expensive footage it was acquiring. As the channel went on it was forced to cut down it’s hours it was on screen, drop some of the companies it was featuring and include more cheap old action movies to pad out the schedule, before it eventually ceased operation after around there years. But for now, back to March 2004, and the start of the biggest year in the FWA’s history. New Frontiers was to act as the company’s first TV taping. After the fire incident at British Uprising II, the company were now banned from the York Hall, so needed a new London venue, so we are in the old Brent Town Hall, which was just in the shadow of Wembley Stadium. Attendance was around 700 for this show. Despite not getting the big blow off with Jody Fleisch, Jonny Storm’s heel run in 2003 was one of the highlights of the company, with him getting great heat from the crowd. He is now very much locked into his persona here and great as the cocky, flashy Essex boy with the shit eating grin. His opponent X Dream is not someone I’m familiar with at all, but was a young German high flyer making his debut for the FWA here. A quick perusal of Cagematch reveals that he didn’t go on to make a significant name for himself in the business after this. As we’ll see, I believe he only returns for one more match in the FWA. Which is a shame as he performs very well in this match and gets over impressively with the crowd. He showcases some great high flying here, looking fairly well polished and honestly wouldn’t look that out of place in today’s X Division or on 205 Live. This match is a pure, unapologetic spotfest for most of it, but as you want in one of these matches, all the moves are hit cleanly and it sets a rapid pace. Storm brings the personality to the match, working in some tropes that maybe tired now – the crisscross into the chinlock for example – but that at the time get a really good reaction. He also tones down some of his own high flying to help get the crowd behind the guy they didn’t know coming in. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is for Storm’s XPW European Title, still being reportedly carried around in a brief case and now a year and a half or so after that company going after business. If you are looking for nuance and psychology then this is probably not the match for you, but in terms of an all action, go-go-go contest, then there’s lots to enjoy. (*** ¼)
  3. Before the match we see a really nicely put together video package on Jody Fleisch following his retirement the month or so before this. It’s a great video and once again, something the FWA was very strong at compared to other indie companies. For way of comparison, I’d argue that a lot of the companies’ production, particularly their videos was much better than ROH’s at the time. They were also way ahead of the curve when it came to developing their own entrance music for wrestlers – most of which were more than decent – so not having to worry about licensed music, particularly given that in 2004 they would get their first national TV deal. The package leads us nicely into this match, given that for most of the year the company had been building to a big grudge match between Jody and Jonny Storm. Unfortunately Fleisch’s untimely retirement was a huge blow to this show. Storm – coming in with a new shaved haircut and upgraded ring gear – looks much more the part now as the heel the FWA had been building him up as in 2003 and he makes sure to run down Jody in a pre match promo. While they weren’t able to have the big blow off they wanted the development of Storm as a heel was a real plus point for the year, although as I’ve started to document, he was already starting on a path to being more of a stooging heel when I think he could’ve been pushed up the card as a serious rival for Doug Williams. Credible’s ECW cache and being only a year or so removed from WWE means he gets a pretty good reaction and it’s a match which I was fairly looking forward to going in. He gets a lot of crap from being over pushed in ECW (which he was) but I’ve always thought he was a decent worker, who when matched with the right opponent could more than hold his own and have a good match. There’s stalling at the beginning with Jonny working his heel persona and he gets plenty of heat from the crowd, even if a lot of it has some lovely tinges of early 2000s homophobia to it. Credible takes things to the outside, and given his ECW background, it makes sense that he dominates early until posting himself with a low blow around the ring post. From there Storm’s control segment isn’t terribly inspiring although I appreciate him trying to work the crowd rather than just hit big moves. Unfortunately Justin Credible never really had any particularly exciting offence so his comeback isn’t anything to get to animated about. Credible gets a visible three count after landing the Tombstone, but that’s after accidentally super kicking the referee first. Storm gets a roll up with the tights for the win after Credible goes for a second tombstone. A fairly basic match but enjoyable in the way they worked the crowd. It’s still a huge shame we never got the big Jody/Jonny grudge match here as I feel it could’ve been much different to their more ‘exhibitiony’ contests they usually had. (** ½)
  4. There is a ton of backstory going into and around this match, so settle in… For the match itself, former ECW alum Chris Hamrick had been working regularly for the FWA during the summer and had won the All England Title from the Zebra Kid. He’d then put that up in a title vs title match against Storm’s (coveted) XPW European Title. Jonny was the one who walked out with both belts, before subsequently losing the All England belt to the former champ the Zebra Kid. Coming into this match, Hamrick, as former regular in XPW before the company folded is trying to win the title so he can retire it, arguing, perhaps logically, that it’s stupid to be carrying round a title from a dead company…although remember, this is a title where an actual physical belt was never made… The wider and bigger backstory though was the completely out of the blue ‘retirement’ of Jody Fleisch, just at a time when the company had been building up to a big grudge match with him and Jonny Storm at British Uprising all year. Since he had turned on him earlier in the year the company had successfully put lots of heat on Jonny and into the feud. To this day, it’s still something of a mystery why Jody decided to take a year out of the business when he was arguably the biggest star in the company and had been booked semi regularly in ROH. It’s often sighted that it was due to family circumstances, some nagging injuries or just general burn out. Whatever the reason it was a huge blow to the company, both for the big match with Storm being planned but also in the sense that the FWA would struggle to identify that top babyface to replace him. Jody’s absence is built into the story of this match, with Jonny making the demand that if he agrees to the stip that the XPW European Title is retired if Hamrick wins, then if he wins Jody can no longer wrestle in the FWA. I don’t know if the company knew he was going to be gone for a year at this point, but it works to give some sort of storyline behind why he would no longer be competing. With all that out the way, onto the match itself, which is a hard one to gauge. In a vacuum I think it’s a lot of fun – the beginning portion with them both stooging massively is proper end of the pier, classic boo the heel/cheer the babyface stuff with them both trying to work the ref to where it’s legitimately very funny. The opening stages is a great example of how to do comedy in a wrestling match but without exposing it. During this opening Storm causes Hamrick to get a yellow card which plays into the finish. My problem is that they had spent the past several months trying to get Jonny over as a serious heel for the big grudge match with Jody Fleisch, only to turn him here into more of a stooging heel. Perhaps with the big grudge match no longer happening they thought that didn’t matter as much. From the comedic opening the match progresses as you might expect to a more indie work rate contest, and there are a number of fun exchanges even if the match at just under 20 mins is perhaps too long for what they are going for. There’s a good story throughout of Storm trying to wind up Hamrick into getting disqualified and that’s the end of the match. With the ref distracted, Storm gives Hamrick a pile driver which is banned under FWA rules. When Hamrick reverses an attempt at a headscissors into a sit down pile driver of his own he is duly given a second yellow, leading to a red card and a DQ. If the big match with Jody had still been on the table then you would’ve liked Jonny to go over stronger, but you could already see they were starting to go in the direction of Storm being more of a stooging heel than a serious one. (***)
  5. Ah, the XPW European Title, where do we start with this one… As part of their growth and the desire to pull more international eyeballs onto the promotion, the FWA was continuing to look at where it could partner up with companies overseas. The partnership with ROH that had led to the joint Frontiers of Honor show the previous month was a logical and obvious move, the decision to work with XPW, perhaps less so. I won’t go into too much detail on XPW, other than to say they were a Pound Land ECW, owned by a Porn producer, with all the violence, but none of the nuance. I’m not sure exactly how the relationship between the two companies was first established, but from the ever reliable Wikipedia: “The championship was created in 2003 through a working relationship between XPW and the FWA. This was to be the flagship of the working relationship as the title would be defended throughout Europe and would appear on both promotions respective television programmes, however the title's primary home was to be the FWA.” As we’ll document, and as ever in wrestling, things didn’t really turn out like that. Shortly after this XPW folded, but the title itself did continue to be defended in the FWA. In a somewhat comical note, an actual title belt never existed, which led to the brilliant visual of Jonny Storm, the inaugural champion, supposedly carrying the title in a briefcase he carried with him to the ring. Storm was the winner of a tournament which had a British and US bracket. Some decent names were featured, so for interest (if there are actually odd people out there like me interested in the prestigious lineage of the XPW European Title), I’ve included the brackets below: Round One Zebra Kid vs Robbie Brookside Jonny Storm vs Juventud Guerrera Psicosis vs Simon Diamond Jerry Lynn vs Chris Hamrick Round Two Jonny Storm received a bye Jerry Lynn vs Psicosis Final (held at FWA Crunch 2003) Jonny Storm vs Jerry Lynn Perhaps this is where the WWE got the idea for the UK Title… So that’s the rather lengthy backstory, onto the actual match. Jonny is coming in full blown heel now, and pleasingly gets a lot of boos from the crowd. As we’ll see after another match that night, the company was going all in on trying to make him the top heel in the promotion. Super Crazy, with the obligatory ECW chants, was I believe with XPW at the time so it makes sense for him to be the first challenger. This is wrestled very much like an ECW match from 1999/2000, with lots of back and forth, and at times, some pretty non existent selling. At the beginning of the match they announce the contest as under ‘XPW’ rules, which means that a chair comes into play at one stage, but mostly the match is wrestled cleanly. For most of the match Storm shows he can hang with Crazy – including hitting a perfect moonsault from the top turnbuckle back into the entrance area - although when he tries some of the lucha sequences and the arm drags, you can tell he’s not as polished. Crazy is the one that actually slows things down at times, and I really enjoyed his transition out of a rana and a sunset flip into an STF. You can tell in general, that Storm was getting more comfortable at being a heel, taking more time to antagonise the crowd, rather than just going from spot to spot. Crazy for his part still looks good and consistent with the standard of performance he was putting in towards the end of ECW. A criticism of some of the FWA matches at this time, which I can readily see, is how many of them seemed to copy the tropes from ECW, and matches going on at the time in TNA/ROH, with the overuse of the choreographed stand offs and series of two counts and pinning combinations. I’m looking at these matches with 2018 eyes, and they always got a good reaction in 2003, but I’m very happy that the UK scene now has much more of an original style to it, and includes many more nods back to the WOS days, than was the case in the early 2000s. From the pin reversals you get a nice escalation into the exchange of some big bombs, including a massive sit down power bomb from Crazy where he catches Jonny springboarding in, but unfortunately the match ends on a flat note by going pretty much straight from there into Storm hitting a powerbomb of his own with his feet on the ropes. I can understand why it was done – it gives Crazy an out for losing and helps to put further heat on Storm, but just feels a bit underwhelming and that it could’ve been built to better. Still, this is a fun match, and a nice rebound for Jonny after a disappointing showing against AJ Styles the month before. (*** ¼)
  6. Masked SoCal Jr.'s making their XPW debut. Of course it's a wild balls to the wall spotfest with Super Dragon and Excalibur putting an absolute nasty beating on TARO and Rising Son. Surprised none of these guys ended up with several injuries after this. The crowd was cold to these folks, yet midway through change their tones.
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