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[2004-11-13-FWA-British Uprising III] Hade Vansen vs Jack Xavier (Last Man Standing)

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This is for the FWA All England Title and a match well built up over the summer of 2004 as an offshoot from the Alex Shane/Xavier feud. That also culminated in a Last Man Standing Match. A large part of the issue for how this match was received at the time was trying to live up to that previous bout. At the finish of that match, Vansen had cost Xavier by interfering on behalf of Shane who in storyline was acting as his mentor. The pairing of these two as opponents was wrestling 101, taking Vansen – the cocky good looking heel from London and matching him with Xavier – the stocky, Hawaiian shirt wearing Brummie who had become something of a people’s champion.   

The two had clashed for the All England Title at Vendetta in July, which had ended in a double KO. This is another example of the strength of FWA storytelling and booking in 2004; a stipulation suiting the storyline and a call back to the beginning of the feud. Xavier had then pinned Vansen in a six man tag at Hotwired in September to show that he could pin the Champ.

As mentioned, the main issue for this match was living up to both the LMS between Shane and Xavier in April (a match I’d rate as **** and which was well acclaimed at the time) but also the level of violence in the hardcore matches that the company had put on previously. The legacy of ECW and what fans expected of a match like this meant going in there was definitely a desire for a violent spectacle. As I’ll outline, despite the hard work of the guys, it was met with some critical disappointment at the time for failing to live up to the expected ‘level of extreme’ that people wanted. As is the case for the whole of this show in general though, being viewed many years later I think that’s unfair and its a very good match.

The first five mins  in particular are great, with real fire and intensity from both guys. This is a Last Man Standing Match so thankfully no locking up – Vansen charges straight at Xavier in the aisle way to start and they brawl all over the ramp and stage area. I really like the way they use the environment - Vansen with a hurucunrana off the support beams of the entrance, Xavier with a moonsault off the stage - and as it’s different to the other matches on the card it stands out.

I love the hate in what they are doing – there aren’t long periods of setting up elaborate structures or finding comedy items to hit each other for cheap pops. When they get back in the ring they don’t rely on weapons shots, rather beating each other down with strikes and kicks. There also aren’t constant 10 count teases at this point to break the flow.  However the match does slow down when Vansen uses a belt to choke out Xavier. This section arguably goes on a bit long, breaking the flow, but there is a nice spot where Xavier is hung up over the rope and Vansen hits him with some stiff kicks.

Throughout Vansen plays a great cocky prick, but playing to the crowd gives Xavier an opening and he gets an 8 count by giving Vansen an X Plex off the apron. This looked brutal, but I like the way that as Vansen is close to the ring he can use that as an aid to get back to his feet rather than looking heroic for surviving the move. While earlier I mentioned that it was good to not have lots of ref counting spots to interrupt the flow, I think in the closing stretch it could’ve actually done with a couple more teases to properly get over the stipulation and build the drama.

As the match reaches its climax, Xavier uses the title belt as a weapon, which ordinarily would be an odd move for a bayface – even in a no DQ setting – but it actually works as a call back to how Vansen used it on him to help Shane with the LMS in April. But then the match seems to loss it’s nerve; I really liked how it hadn’t relied on weapon shots, but perhaps feeling the pressure I talked about of having a big enough ending, Xavier wastes ages trying to find stuff under the ring which isn’t there to try to set up a guardrail to put Vansen though. In the end, Vansen reverses the attempt and gives Xavier a South City Driller DDT off the top rope through the barrier. It’s the double whammy of a spot that looked really painful to take but at the same time left the crowd underwhelmed.

I think there’s a lot to like in 90% of this match, but it needed a hotter, more dynamic closing stretch. The result also meant Xavier coming across as a choke artist, given he lost the feud to Shane and then failed to win the title with his shot at redemption. In fact, the commentators had played up his repeated failures to win the All England Title against different title holders. So while I can see why the company wanted Vansen to win – he had the greater potential and more long term value up the card, it’s a massive shame that after a banner year in 2004, Xavier would never be that hot ever again. (*** ½)

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