The venue itself was superb, with the shape of the room and height of the ceiling, providing some great acoustics for the loud crowd. Although, calling this crowd simply loud feels like I'm doing them a disservice. This was perhaps the loudest wrestling crowd from start to finish I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of. There was no lull in this crowds enthusiasm and it certainly gave the performers in the ring a great soundscape to work with.
Let's take a look at the matches then...
Match 1 -
Damian Dunne (C) vs. Mark Andrews
for the British Lions Championship
The show kicked off with Damian Dunne defending the British Lions Championship against Mark Andrews. This match worked very well as an opening contest, with the two guys giving just enough of a taste of what they can do in the ring to get the crowd warmed up for the rest of the evening.
The wrestling throughout the match was clean and crisp, with Dunne spending a lot of the earlier stages of the match working over Andrews arm. Andrews was effective whilst working from underneath, as always he is an instantly likeable babyface so seeing him cut off everytime he attempt to make a comeback, meant that when he finally get in some sustained offence the crowd was red hot. It certainly helps that Andrews has one of the most exciting movesets in British wrestling, when you can pull out Super Hurracanranas and Standing Shooting Star Presses with ease, you're always going to get a great reaction.
The finish saw the dastardly Dunne distract the referee with the championship belt, allowing him to hit a low blow on Andrews, rolling him up to get the three count and retain the title. A solid finish to the match, unfortunately I felt the referee took a little too long to turn around and make the three count, meaning Andrews was down for a very long time. It was a little disappointing to see the earlier work on the arm not come back into play, but I'd certainly like to see what these two could do in a main event, compared to this opener.
Simon Brown suspends Damage, Joey Sanchez Open Challenge
I spent the entire of this segment, completely and utterly confused. That's partly my own fault for not being familiar with storyline and the wrestlers involved, but the poor PA system and talent speaking to closely to the mic. From what I deciphered General Manager Simon Brown suspended wrestler Damage for attacking an official on a previous show, whilst Joey Sanchez issued an "Open Challenge" to G John Chase. Less of an open challenge, more of a.....erm.....challenge. G John Chase then came out an made it a Gauntlet match, with Sanchez' first opponent being Chase' new client. It's difficult to really say if this was a good segment or not, or even if the promos were any good, because I just couldn't hear what was being said!
Before this match started, Sebastian Radclaw got on the mic to explain the history of his valet, a cuddly toy by the name of Skat Monkey. I really like Radclaw's character, but after the previous lengthy talking segment I found myself switching off from what was happening as Marshall X turned to attempt to steal Skat Monkey. Again the segment was hurt by the PA, I was relieved when Robert Rochester Rose came out to put an end to it.
Sebastian Radclaw vs. Marshall X vs. Robert Rochester Rose
This match never really clicked for me, for a number of reasons. Firstly, Marshall using Skat Monkey directly in front of the referee made absolutely no sense, especially when there was an extra man in the ring to create a distraction for the referee. Secondly, Rose added very little to the match, his moves were a little sloppy and he only hit a few of them anyway. Personally, I think this match would have been far better off as a singles match between Radclaw and Marshall X.
Radclaw went on to pick up the victory with a roll up on Rose, hopefully this will lead to a bout between Radclaw and Marshall X later on down the line, as I think the two characters could work very well together if given the opportunity.
The Vulture Squad vs Second City Collective
The first half main event began with...more talking. I understood why Ryan Smile was explaining the importance and background of this contest, I just could have done without it following on from one long talking segment, and the previous match that included a lot of talking. Credit to Smile who managed to come through quite clearly however, as he held the mic a little further from his face.
However, once Pete Dunne hit Nixon Newell with a strong forearm to the face to open the match, things really got going as the four competitors put on an exciting tag team bout. The in-ring action was technically sound, with a real intensity and depth to it, especially when Nixon and Dunne were in the ring together. The action was well paced, building nicely to each moment, with a good array of tag team moves like The Vulture Squad's Camel Clutch/Front Kick combination, and solo efforts like Smile's early Tope Conhilo.
Dunne spent a long time working Nixon's knee, which seemed to simply be a way of building for a hot tag to start with, so I was very happy to see it factor into the finish of the match, which saw Dunne kick Nixon in the knee and slap on a Texas Cloverleaf. Nixon did manage to make it to the ropes, but with the referee down he unable to stop Dunne dragging Nixon back into the centre of the ring for the submission victory, just after the ref came to. Big thumbs up from me on this finish, and with the teams now level on one a piece I certainly wouldn't say no to a rematch.
The dynamic of Dunne and Ryan Smile as a tag team was an interesting one, with Dunne working as an out and out heel, whilst Smile worked more of a tweener role. This idea could have fallen flat on it's face, but the Birmingham two pulled it off very well. As with another rematch, I'm intrigued to see where this partnership leads, it's certainly grabbed my attention.
Joey Sanchez vs. Marc Morgan with G John Chase
Following the interval, G John Chase brought out his newest client, Marc Morgan to be Joey Sanchez's opponent. It was my first time seeing both Sanchez and Morgan and I have to say I was impressed.
After some work on the outside before the bell rang, including a nasty looking baking tray shot to Morgan's head, the match settled into a strong storytelling bout. The psychology was spot on, as Morgan spent the entire match focused on Sanchez's arm. Things were kept interesting with some really nice offence from Morgan including an Old School transitioned into a Leg Lariat focused on the arm! A number of times Sanchez would attempt to fight back, only for Morgan to land another move on the arm. This would lead Sanchez getting caught in a Crossface, who managed to hold on despite Chase holding the ropes away from him.
With Sanchez seemingly gaining an upperhand with Morgan in a Sharpshooter, Chase distracted the referee, allowing a mystery man to run in and attack Sanchez and allow Morgan to pick up the victory. Another strong finish that advanced the storyline, as the mystery man was revealed to have joined Chase's stable alongside Morgan and Damage. I couldn't make out the name of the attacker on the night, but it would turn out to be Darvien Vayne, another name new to me.
Sanchez gets extra points for continue to sell the arm injury for the rest of the night, including when coming out sing "Happy Birthday" to young fan at ringside. It was something he didn't particularly have to do, but to those fans sitting directly opposite him as we were, the slight winch when clapping his hands was the icing on the cake.
Any review of this match would be incomplete without a mention to perhaps the greatest piece of heckling there has ever been at a wrestling show. With Sanchez gaining an advantage, some fine chap, belted out the words "Thunderfuck him" in reference to Morgan. I have no idea what "Thunderfuck" means, but whoever it was that shouted it out, I will find you and I will shake your hand for reducing grown men to giggling like girls for the majority of the car ride home.
Match 5 -
Dan Maloney vs. Edwards
Before this show, I had never heard of Edwards, let alone seen him wrestle. But that wasn't the case for the crowd in Dawley Town Hall, who gave him a terrific pop upon his entrance. He's certainly doing something right here.
The match was a lot of fun and a nice change of pace from the previous contest, mostly made up of a brawl on the outside, before the bell, including the use of a mop, an ice bucket and at one point a small child, in what became known as "child slam gate".
Bell to bell, the bout was relatively short, as Edwards hit a Rock Bottom and Swantom Bomb, which Maloney no sold, before hitting a Lariat to pick up the pin fall victory. Whilst I understand the reasons behind having Maloney no sell the Swanton Bomb, a move like this from a man the size of Edwards shouldn't have been brushed off in such a fashion, it makes it very hard to suspend disbelief in such situations.
Tyler Bate vs. Jay LethalFor The ROH World Television Championship
What a terrific match this was. It's not often that single match is worth the admission price alone, but this certainly was.
Face vs Face matches have the potential to be very flat, but the crowd split nicely between the two, including some electric duelling chants. The wrestlers returned the favour keeping a good pace throughout the bout, which went back and forth with a number of impressive reversals and sequences.
Lethal certainly wasn't turning up expecting an easy payday either, delivering some loud chops to Bate early on in the match, with Bate giving as good as he got. The match built nicely towards it's finish, with Lethal attempting to hit his Lethal Injection finisher a number of times, with Bate coming up with some inventive reversals, including a Reverse Aeroplane spin which got a nice pop out of the crowd.
When it's clear that one wrestler is going to win, it can be very difficult to get a crowd invested in the false finishes. Therefore, it's a credit to both involved that the false finishes were so good, that the crowd, including myself, were completely and utterly invested with everything they did in the ring. The false finishes came thick and fast towards the end, and at times I was convinced Bate was walking out with the title, especially following a Yakuza Kick into Sitout Powerbomb combination.
When Lethal did pick up the win, via Lethal Injection, the crowd was on their feet, applauding the sublime performance the two men put in. The crowd getting in the ring to lift Bate into the air is one of the strongest visuals I've seen at a show. Bate might have lost here, but it's a loss that has elevated with the SWA ranks, and in the eyes of the fans.
For a 17 year old, to be able to step into the ring with a man of Lethal's calibre and not look out of place is a testament just how far Bate has come in the last year. Has there been a more complete wrestler at such a young age?
The most important question following a wrestling show is "Would I go to this promotion again?" and the answer here would be a resounding yes. From the incredible crowd and venue to the top notch main event, I was entertained for the majority of the show. Whilst there was a few problem with the PA and maybe a bit too much talking in the first half, for £6 it was more than value for money.
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