Saturday, 11 October 2014

PWK VI "Elevate to the Summit" Review

It had been quite some time since I'd gotten my arse down to a live wrestling show, so to say that I was excited for my return to Pro Wrestling Kingdom in Birmingham would be a slight understatement. Would PWK reward my sheer excitement with a quality evening of professional wrestling? Let's find out shall we!


The Venue



Having previously attended a PWK show at the mac, I was pretty familiar with the surroundings. This continues to be a venue that doesn't look like it should be hosting pro wrestling, miles away from the crumbling social clubs and dingy nightclubs that dominate the British wrestling scene. Wrestling appearing in this venue alongside the musical performances and art installations that occupied the downstairs area can only be a good thing for the British wrestling scene, as it provides an opportunity to attract a clientele that might not attend a Brit-Wres show otherwise.

The set up for the show itself also continues to impress, with a slight alteration to the last PWK show I attended, with the entrance way moving to a different corner. The lighting rig present allows for more elaborate entrances, whilst also providing a nice look to the action inside the ring (something which I'd imagine will look incredible on the DVD's). A smoke machine is also used, although I'm not quite sure if this worked all the time, especially when the machine was left on for no particular reason. I'd like to see this machine used specifically when it adds to a wrestlers gimmick (Joseph Conners springs to mind here), with a discussion of how much smoke the specific performer needed. 


It also needs to be pointed out that the doors for the show opened a whole hour and a half after the advertised start time. Whilst Mad Man Manson and Sebastian Radclaw headed out to provide some entertainment for those waiting, this was two out of two PWK shows I've attended where there has been a delay in getting into the building. I believe this time had something to with the Ultimate X set up, and to their credit the PWK staff kept the fans waiting outside informed of the ongoing situation and there was plenty of things around the venue to keep everyone occupied. 


Match 1 

Matt Myers vs. Danny Hope

 

This was my first chance to get a look at Matt Myers, wrestling under a comedy super hero gimmick not too dissimilar from former WWE wrestler The Hurricane. He couldn't have had a better opponent to introduce me to him, as he faced "Delicious" Danny Hope. Any previous time I've watched Hope I've spent the entire match with a huge smile on my face.

The bout was a lot of fun to watch, as the two seemingly both worked as babyface, using a number of comedy spots to keep the fans engaged in the action. Whilst the comedy was funny, it's important that the wrestling is strong enough to provide a base for the rest of the action, luckily the majority of the wrestling provided here was smooth with the two bouncing off each other very nicely in the ring.

The match flowed nicely, peaking and troughing at the right times to get the crowd hyped up for the rest of the show. The pair knew when to lift the pace and when to slow it down to allow the comedy to come through, with referee Paul Winstanley also playing into the action nicely.


 I was impressed with a number of the moves that Myers pulled out, including nice tilt-a-whirl arm drag early on, a sequence that saw Myers flip out of a Back Suplex attempt and reverse into a Reverse STO and an attempt at a Phoenix Splash. There was however a nasty looking Standing Shooting Star Press attempt, where Myers seemed to catch his head on Hope as Hope attempted to roll out of the way, luckily the pair recovered quickly, not allowing the crowd to dwell on the accident for long. 

After Myers picked up the victory, with the two paying homage to the finish of the WrestleMania 14 main event, there was a hilarious interchange between the two about whether the match had gone to plan. Just to prove there was no hard feelings between the two, Hope and Myers performed Hope's infamous cat walk, much to the delight of the crowd. An entertaining opener, that was a lot of fun to watch.


Ryan Smile calls out The Bitter Youth

 

In a change of pace from the opener PWK Promoter Ryan Smile called out The Bitter Youth, in an intense, well-paced segment. Smile's opening promo was calm and collected, cleverly mixing real life situations, with on-going storylines, which whilst embellishing the storyline for those aware of those real life situations didn't take away for anyone who wasn't. 

Pete Stevens is operating as the mouthpiece for the group, which is also includes Damien Dunne, Chris Ridgeway and PWK Champion Pete Dunne (who wasn't present for this segment) and despite some clear nervousness early on in the segment I thought Pete handled his job here well and you could see him growing into the character as the show went on. 

Talking of growing, Smile's build from calm and collected to losing his shit with his former friends was done very nicely. The tension built to cresecendo with Stevens delivering the line "You ain't got no stones, but here comes Goliath" leading to Dunne and Ridgeway unleashing a vicious attack, finishing off Smile with a kick to the nadgers. Smile's selling of the old chicken nuggets following the attack was superb, everything from facial expressions to vocal outbursts of pain were spot on. This guy knows what it's like to get a kick in love spuds apparently!

Whilst I really enjoyed this segment, it didn't seem over with the crowd as well as it should have. There really wasn't any heat here. I'm not sure why this was, as it would seem that a large section of the crowd had been to PWK shows before and would be familiar with the ongoing storyline. Maybe it was the crowd just wasn't willing to give out heat? Maybe they were too hyped up from the comedy match before hand?

Match 2

Mad Man Manson vs. Sebastian Radclaw

33 Minute Iron Mad Man Match

 

How on earth am I supposed to review this match? Genuinelly one of the funniest things I've ever had the pleasure to watch.

The story of the match saw Manson and Radclaw not wanting to wrestle for 33 minutes, with the pair coming up with more and more ridiculous antics to get the clock to tick down. There was wrestling in slow motion, silent wrestling, at one point we went outside in protest the lack of Wi-Fi availability and then there was the longest game of Rock, Paper, Scissors that has ever been played.

The crowd played a massive part in this one, coming up with some great chants, including the "This is Silence" whispered chant and really adding an extra dimension to the section where both men attempted to cover each other with one arm. Both men knew exactly how to work the crowd to get the reaction they were after and Manson's constant conflab about El Ligero and Doug Williams had every smarky Brit-Wres fan in the room giggling like a school girl.



Top marks and big thumbs up for the finish as well, as Manson's Powerbomb attempt was reversed by Radclaw into a Sunset Flip, with Manson holding on to stop himself from going down. After the pair had a conversation about who should win, it was time for a reference to Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair's WrestleMania 24 bout, with the classic "I'm sorry...I love you" line, as Radclaw managed to get the pin for the win. I could probably pull up that this match ended straight after the pinfall, but I honestly couldn't care less. 

Match 3

Chris Ridgeway vs. Lana Austin vs. Bubblegum vs. Damien Dunne vs. Nixon Newell vs. Tyler Bate

Elevate to the Summit Ladder Match

 

 

Essentially this was a Money in the Bank Ladder match, under a name that nicely fits with the theme with the promotion. 

Continuing with the theme of the night, this match was paced to perfection, a good mix of spot based action and storytelling, it felt like everything happening in this match was happening for a reason, rather than "Spots for the sake of spots". When Lana Austin's Tilt-a-Whirl Stunner and Nixon Newell's Vulture Culture Destroyer are some of the less notable spots in a match, you know you've been treated to something special. Lana's dive off the ladder to outside, Nixon's moonsault off the ladder to the outside and Bate chokeslaming Nixon off the Ladder stand out as particular highlights. 

In terms of storytelling, you had two members of the Bitter Youth in the match, as well as Bubblegum who's pre-match promo pointed out his reluctancy to work a match with two women, throw into the mix the history between Bubblegum and Tyler Bate in the promotion and the six wrestlers had a lot to play with. The on-going story with Bubblegum, Nixon and Lana built perfectly to a spot where Bubblegum asked for one of the girls to make him a sandwich, whilst the other "sorted him out", it was perhaps not quite appropriate for the children in attendance, but the reaction when the girls destroyed Bubblegum, finishing up with Lana's Tilt-a-Whirl Stunner was superb. 

After Dunne, Lana and Nixon had all taken big bumps, the match was wittled down to Bubblegum, Chris Ridgeway and Tyler Bate going at it, in a series of solid exchanges between the three. Bubblegum and Ridgeway worked together, before realising each other were trying to sneak up the ladder, leading to some hard chops and fantastic hard hitting sequence between the two. With Bate and Ridgeway trading some beautiful suplexes, before Bate launched in an exhililarting sequence with Bubblegum, climaxing in Bubblegum getting crotched on the top rope after falling off the Ladder. It seemed the stage was set for Bate to pull down the briefcase, however that wasn't to be the case as Ridgeway climbed up the ladder and hit a big roundhouse kick knocking Bate off the ladder before retrieving the briefcase. 

This felt like a true War of Atrition with every big spot built up as a way of "eliminating" someone from the match, rather than just happening. This put a big smile on my face indeed. Everyone involved in the match brought something different to the proceedings and everything seemed to slot together perfectly. However, as with most multi-man ladder matches, the finish felt slightly anti-climactic after what had gone before it, but that's me being a nitpicky bastard.

Match 4 - 

YOLO Squad vs. The Hunter Brothers

 

 

This was my first time getting to see Ethan Silver and Drew Parker work together as the YOLO Squad. In fact, it was my first time seeing Drew Parker at all! I'd previously seen Silver work a Three Way bout for Kamikaze Pro in June, in which he hadn't really impressed me all that much, but seeing as he's only 17 I was more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and went into this one with a completely open mind. 

And Sweet Mama Benjamin am I glad that I did. The bout told the time tested story of Rookie vs Veteran, as Parker and Silver went toe to toe and back and forth with the boys from Tipton. With both teams working as babyface duos, no team spent too long in control of the match, continually shifting momemtum, although the majority of the crowd was decidely behind the veteran duo. There was some lovely work early on where each team worked the arm of an opponent for a short while, not really long enough to have an impact on the match later on, but it told a good story of YOLO Squad learning and attempting to up their game as the match went on. 


Whilst the story itself was strong, the action in the ring was also of a high standard, with a number of inventive tag team moves from both teams, including an Assisted Double Stomp from YOLO Squad and a Giant Swing/Dropkick combination from the Hunters. The strongest part of the match for me was a terrific back and forth sequence between Lee Hunter and Drew Parker, with both men keeping up a high pace, before Parker hit a ridiculous looking Standing Double Stomp. 

 The closing sequence was a break neck series of action with all four men involved. Beginning with Parker breaking up a pinfall on Silver following the Hunters Supercanrana/Frog Splash combination (which in inself was a great false finish), the foursome launched into a series of inventive superkick deliveries, before The Hunters finally gained the upperhand with a Neckbreaker/Backbacker combo on Silver and another Supercanrana/Frog Splash combo to Parker to obtain victory. With the crowd receptive to everything the four had to offer for the last few minutes, this was a superb way to end the match. 


Following the bout it seemed a "Show of Respect" would be next, however following a handshake the YOLO Squad hit the Hunters with a pair of slaps, before quickly fleeing the ring. A nice exclamation point to the story and a rematch with a more vicious and heely YOLO Squad is something I'd be very interested in. Whilst the younger duo weren't always as crisp as they could have been and there were a few occasions where the action didn't quite click, for a duo of this age to be putting on a match of this quality is something that should be commended. As should the participation of the Hunters who allowed the YOLO Squad all the opportunities that they needed here.  


Match 5

Joseph Conners vs. Dan Maloney

 


Before the match got under way, Joseph Conners was given some mic time, where he clearly got over his character and his on-going story in PWK well. Whilst Conners hit all the marks in terms of information, I would have like to have seen some more levels to the performance, as I did find myself switching off from everything being delivered in the same way.

This match was right up my alley way, with even more story-telling and psychology. A relatively short bout, started with Conners ramming Maloney back first into the ringpost on the outside and the story was set. The majority of Conners offence was focused on Maloney's back, with any Maloney comeback cut off with a move to said back. I haven't had the opportunity to see Maloney work babyface all too often, but I was impressed with no only his selling of the pain in his back, but a fantastic set of facial expressions that really got over the pain that he was feeling, allowing the crowd to really get behind the "Superbeast". 

The only real slip up in this match was on a Gutwrench Bomb attempt by Conners, but the pair quickly recovered and managed to flow into the next part of the match without having to do the classic Indy repeat spot. Both men managed to get a nice false finish in, with Conners hitting a Crucifix Bucklebomb and Maloney coming close off a Sitout Backbreaker Rack Drop.

 The finish itself saw Maloney attempt a Powerbomb, and whilst it was not clear if Maloney would be able to due to the back injury, the lights went down and something played on the screen, when the lights where back up Conners hit an Arm Trap DDT to pick up another pinfall victory. Whilst the stuff on the screen was less than clear, I enjoyed the way the finish was booked to allow both men to continue to look strong with the doubt of Maloney would have been able to deliver the Powerbomb playing well into this.


Match 6 

Mark Andrews vs. Pete Dunne (with Pete Stevens)

Ultimate X-Central Match for the PWK Championship

 

 

Going in to this match, I was a little apprehensive that it would be too similar to the Ladder match from earlier on, with both match types known for their aerial spots. These thoughts were quickly cast aside as Andrews and Dunne wrestled a clever and engaging match.

With Dunne working as PWK's top heel, he avoided any fancy offence and instead spent most of the match strategically working over Andrews with a series of stomps and kicks, whilst cunningly pulling back on Andrews fingers a number of times, which of course would make it more difficult to climb the X structure above the ring. This played well into a soot where Dunne grabbed Andrews fingers while Andrews scaled the structure before transitioning into his signature DT3 Pumphandle Facebuster. 

Whilst Dunne was busy heeling it up, Andrews was his usual flippy self pulling out a number of inventive spots using the structure, including droping from the scaffold into a hurricanrana, a leaping Sitout Slam whilst Dunne scaled the structure and a huge Missile Dropkick with Dunne in a similar situation. Throw a missed Standing Corkscrew 450, a Moonsault Spike DDT and Northern Light suplex transitioned in a Shooting Star Press into the mix and it's easy to see why a crowd would get vocally behind Mark Andrews. For me, he is one of the most natural babyfaces in the country, at the moment. 

Pete Stevens was at ringside to support his Bitter Youth stablemate and looked comfortable in this role, working the crowd nicely. You could see Stevens gain in confidence every time the crowd would react to something he would say. I'm interested to where PWK will take Stevens in the next couple of shows and watching him develop further as a performer.

Stevens would be involved in the finish of the bout attempting to call the rest of the Bitter Youth out to ringside. Damien Dunne and Chris Ridgeway came down the aisle, only to be met with a flurry of Andrews offence, finishing with a spectacular Tope Conhilo. This allowed Dunne the distraction he needed to edge closer to the belt, and whilst Andrews springboarded onto the structure to provide some last minute drama, it was Dunne who managed to retrive the belt and retain his title. A great ending to the match, with the crowd with the competitors every step of the way, both furthering the Bitter Youth storyline and allowing some tension to develop between Pete Dunne and Elevate to the Summit Briefcase holder Chris Ridgeway. Unlike the earlier Ladder match this was a satisfying and climactic finish, that left me wanting to see more.


Finally...


You may have noticed by the rest of the review, that I enjoyed this show, just a little bit! From top to bottom this was one of the best shows that I've seen this year, with each match providing something different to the rest of the card. Most of it all, I felt like I was given a reason to watch every match intently and follow the stories being told in the ring, this is the kind of pro wrestling that I enjoy to watch the most and it's the kind that will make come back as a paying customer for PWK in  the near future.


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