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TonyPulis'Cap

Member Since 22 Dec 2015
Offline Last Active Today, 01:35 PM
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Last Man Standing Match - Alex Shane vs Jack Xavier (FWA Crunch 04/11/2004)

19 April 2018 - 06:53 AM

This was a pretty legendary match in the fairly short history of the FWA and one which was heavily built to as a hook for the new FWA TV show. Shane was now firmly the focal point of the promotion, transplanting his off screen role as the company’s managing Director onto TV and looking to take the company to the next level with him at it’s centre. In storyline terms, a guy looking like Jack Xavier – stocky and wrestling in a shirt and shorts, a Mick Foleyesque figure – was not what he wanted in the FWA.

 

Reflecting the intensity of the feud, I love the beginning of the match as we jump right into it the action with Xavier jumping Shane from behind and hitting him with a sick chair shot that busts him open immediately. We also see some intelligent babyface work from Xavier with him taking out Shane’s security guards (including the future Martin Stone/Danny Burch) with chairshots and then leaping onto them and Shane with a somersault plancha. Xavier’s intensity in the early parts of the match are great and he battles Shane across the seating area on the stage and then hits a pretty mental looking tornado DDT from the stage to the floor! Last man standing matches can often get drawn out with lots of breaks in the flow, but the intensity and fire that both guys bring and the fact that the match doesn’t outstay it’s welcome at a shade under 15 mins means it doesn’t fall victim to that.

 

Added to that, both guys take some massive bumps. After Xavier’s initial flurry, Shane is able to take control by hip tossing Xavier off the bleachers to the floor below and then hitting a series of sick chairshots to the head that are pretty hard to watch with 2018 eyes. Xavier played a great babyface and his facials (as well as also getting busted open himself) really get across his fighting spirit. Shane also plays his desperation well, explaining why he needs to up the violence by setting up a table on the outside, although in another brutal looking bump he ends up getting speared through the ropes by Xavier with both men crashing through it (think Edge vs Foley from Wrestlemania 21, only without the fire).

 

Given all the punishment they’ve taken in the match, some might feel that Shane ultimately getting the win with his One Night Stand finisher might be underwhelming, but it works in the sense that both – especially Xavier – have taken a lot of abuse and the cumulative impact of that and the fact that Xavier looks to be getting to his feet before being taken out by a belt shot by All England Champion Hade Vansen. This is the start of an alliance and the transition of Xavier into a feud with Vansen, leaving Shane to continue his storylines with Doug Williams and Steve Corino. This is an excellent match that holds up to this day, with a great pace for a LMS match. Even in defeat, it was a match that also got Xavier over as a guy the fans were happy to rally behind. (****)


Alex Shane vs Aviv Mayan (FWA Live in Morecambe 04/08/2004)

19 April 2018 - 06:51 AM

With 2004 seeing the introduction of the FWA’s new weekly TV show, it meant that matches from live events that were not a signature show and wouldn’t have often been part of a home video release were now being seen as part of TV tapings. It also meant much greater storyline development on smaller shows. This is a case in point.

 

This match is from the Morecambe Dome, which before demolition was a great venue for wrestling. It’s domed roof kept in the atmosphere and it was a venue that translated well on camera. It was to become the Northern home of the FWA, which previously having been a Southern/London based promotion was trying in 2004 to become more or a national touring company. As we’ll explore in greater detail as we get into 2005, being a seaside town, it was also a venue that was home to much more of an ‘old school’ crowd with kids and families that were coming to see more traditional shows with clear good guys and bad guys. This was very different to the other audience that the FWA was largely catering to, the internet savvy ‘smark’ fan. On the one hand it leads to some really interesting shows with different atmospheres and a creativity in story lines to try and appeal to multiple audiences; in the long run however it was to produce a disconnect in the product that some of the more hardcore fans would eventually struggle to reconcile with.

 

At this stage though in 2004, the momentum of the FWA was continuing to grow and they were putting on some of their strongest shows – the quality of this match reflects that. It’s a match that mixes so many classic wrestling storyline elements; David vs Goliath; cocky heel vs underdog; established name vs rookie and the result is a simple but highly effective match up.

 

Shane was now the No. 1 heel in the company, and feuding with multiple different wrestlers simultaneously; Doug Williams, Steve Corino and Jack Xavier. Aviv Mayan was the star pupil from the FWA Academy who was now performing on the main cards for the company. In this match he plays his role as the fiery underdog to perfection. The opening exchanges see Shane stooging nicely, with Mayan not letting him into the ring until Shane is able to take control with a big boot. Because of his size and power, at any time it looks like Mayan is getting on top, Shane has the weapons to just cut him off with one move.

 

Throughout the match Shane heels it up wonderfully, using the ropes for leverage and when the ref goes to check, raking the eyes, and given the make up of the crowd it works to really build the heat. He also sells Mayan’s fire by trying to get away from him through the crowd at one point, which gives Mayan the chance to score with a hurucanrana off a wall and onto the floor. Back in the ring, Mayan misses a moonsault and gets hit with a two handed choke power bomb for a good nearfall before the ref (a very young version of current Rev Pro promoter Andy Quildan) gets bumped. Shane goes for a chair but it rebounds on him when Jack Xavier comes in and puts Mayan on top for another good nearfall. I enjoyed that just as you thought Shane had survived the banana peel, he continues to get distracted by Xavier on the stage and gets rolled up for the shock defeat. This is a really fun little match – just classic wrestling storyline 101 and nothing over the top. It also worked nicely to build up the Shane vs Xavier Last Man Standing Match that was a couple of days after this. (*** ¼)


CM Punk vs Raven (FWA New Frontiers 03/26/2004)

16 April 2018 - 06:47 AM

I’m a huge fan on the Indies when a storyline/rivalry crosses over different promotions. It adds a sense of realism and that there is a wrestling universe (rarely the WWE universe of course) where everything is interconnected. It enables you to feel wrestlers characteristics and motivations much more strongly. Over the past 15 years or so one of the best examples was the Raven vs CM Punk feud. I won’t go into too much of the detail, as I think there’s a fair amount of familiarity with it, but Punk’s straight edge lifestyle and Raven’s more ahem ‘colourful’ drug and alcohol past made them perfect opponents. 

 

Generally the FWA was decent at incorporating imports into storylines and not feeling throw away, however this match is fairly stand alone. Punk would complete a few more times over the coming tour this was a part of including challenging Doug Williams for the FWA Title, and Raven would return for a more prominent role in the company in 2005, but this feels mainly an attempt to tap into an over feud, between two talented ‘name’ guys to draw eyeballs.

 

Before the match we see Punk walking through the building into the bar area and cutting an excellent promo on the vices of the fans (and Raven of course) and the poison they are putting into their bodies. It’s a really good promo and already shows the charisma and presence Punk had. The less said about how my fellow Brits come across during their time on screen… The version of the match that I’ve got access to is the version shown on the FWA’s weekly TV show on The Wrestling Channel so it’s fairly disjointed and cut up and it’s hard to get a sense of the real flow of the match and the story being told.

 

Like a lot of their matches we get some stalling on the outside from Punk to begin with and then Raven getting on the mic to try and taunt him into losing his cool. Both look to try to take it to their type of match – Raven by trying to take it to the outside, while Punk wants to make it a more technical match. Having seen some of their ROH matches, this lacks the intensity of those contests and feels fairly paint by numbers – something which may have to do with the fact that I think their feud was starting to wind down. As mentioned, the ad breaks in the match and the clipping makes it hard to get a full sense of how good it is (and reflects my match grade), but what we get is still entertaining, carried by the rivalry and the charisma of the two. Pretty shockingly Punk ends up winning cleanly with the shining wizard following no cheating and/or no heel shenanigans. (** ½)


Alex Shane vs Jack Xavier (FWA New Frontiers 03/26/2004)

16 April 2018 - 06:46 AM

The biggest story coming out of British Uprising II was arguably Alex Shane turning heel on Ulf Herman. In 2004 he would become the No. 1 heel in the company, with them now being open on air about Shane being the Managing Director of the FWA alongside being an in-ring competitor. There is a pretty good promo that Shane cuts where he explains why he turned on Herman, sighting him – with his use of weapons and fire and his swearing in interviews - as a detriment to getting a TV deal.

 

The Shane/Xavier rivalry and the associated segments involving Doug Williams and Steve Corino show how far in 2004 the FWA would use the internet and ‘shoot’ angles to push its storylines forward. This match for example stems from an interview Xavier gave in which he criticised the company for pushing him TOO much. Hmmm… but the gist was that he felt he was being shoved down people’s throats and that was the reason some fans had turned on him when he had beat Homicide at Uprising II. In response Shane said that he should be grateful for the ‘push’ and that the reason some of the fans were beginning to turn against him was because of his lack of drive and lack of fire. I’ve never been a fan of talking about ‘pushes’ and ‘getting over’ on wrestling TV and that whole ‘the rest of this stuff is fake, but this is REAL’ rubbish, but back in 2004, this appealed to a lot of fans, and hadn’t been done in the UK before. The FWA was a company appealing to a hardcore, internet fanbase, and did mean that you could feel genuine animosity and believability in a lot of the angles they were presenting.

 

This is the storyline of the match, with Shane saying that Xavier needs to show fire and impress him, or risk losing his spot on the roster. I enjoyed him trying to fire him up with slaps and spitting at him, but then retreating when Xavier goes on the offence. As we’ll see in 2004, these too have good chemistry, with Shane using his size and playing the cocky bullying heel, and Xavier being the every man babyface able to take lots of punishment, however it’s clear that this match is setting the table for future matches down the line. They spend a lot of time brawling on the floor and up to the ramp way, and there’s not a huge amount to get invested in, but things pick up when Shane takes a really nasty looking tornado DDT off the apron and through a table.

 

At that stage it looks like we might get a double count out, but Shane ends up winning the match with his feet on the ropes. It’s obviously a cheap finish, but I do like the storyline in terms of Shane running his mouth about Xavier not having the fire and needing to step up as he’s not on his level, but that when he does he has to resort to cheating to be able to defeat him, It’s a fairly standard match overall, but as I say, sets the table nicely for their last man standing rematch which was one of the most well regarded matches in the company’s history (***) 

 

As I’m yet to be able to find a copy of the match, for now I’m going to add a note on the Doug Williams vs Steve Corino match on this show for the FWA Title. As previously mentioned, this comes from another of the shoot style angles the FWA was running with; Corino coming out of the crowd unannounced interrupting a match earlier on in the show. Corino and Shane have a face to face confrontation around the fact that Shane wouldn’t book Corino on the FWA vs ROH show the year before and was blocking him from appearing. We then get an interruption from Doug Williams saying that Shane told him he could take the night off but that he wants to defend the title against Corino. In an interesting way of getting to that match, Williams says that if he doesn’t get to defend the title then the fans can sue Shane for false advertising, which as just as well, given the lack of funds in the FWA coffers…

 

As I say, I haven’t been able to find the match outside of a highlight video to do a review, but it’s hard to imagine it not being pretty good, especially given the great matches Doug was regularly putting on at this stage. The bigger point is that this is the start of a 7-8 month build to Williams vs Shane.


XPW European Title - Jonny Storm vs X Dream (FWA New Frontiers 03/26/2004)

16 April 2018 - 06:44 AM

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)