It's always fun going to re-visit Preston, which is surprising considering how miserable the place is. I spent three years there at UCLan and felt relieved when I left, safe in the knowledge I’d never need to visit the North-West section of GreyLand. Then as soon as I leave, Preston City Wrestling takes off in a big way and I find myself buggering back to it on a semi-regular basis. Life, eh?
I wasn't actually going to go to their Road To Glory two-day event due to a lack of commitment from mates. Going to wrestling by yourself can sometimes be fun but like a lot of things, they're much more fun with someone else. A vote of confidence, really. But on Friday afternoon one of my friends informed me''oh yeah, me and this guy are going and you can sleep on this guy's couch so you don't need to get a hotel'' and I fucked out of bed (Not to self: change to ''I left work'', makes me look more proper) as quick as possible and ran to the train station to get to Preston via Carlisle.
|The wonder of Carlise train station|
Oh yes, bloody Carlisle station. Every other train station in England has realised how useful those big neon boards are that tell you which trains are going where but OH NO, NOT CARLISLE. That's for those upper-class train stations. So everybody runs around looking for a station helper (or whatever they call Fat Controllers in 2015) to ask which train is theirs. ''The last VHS in Oxfam'' as Malcolm Tucker would say.
PCW's 'thing' is mixing up a range of imports new and old with the best wrestlers in the UK. That already makes for a unique experience but the shows being held in the Evoque Nightclub (in the middle of a dance floor, in fact) with fans nearly drowning in booze ensures there's no such thing as a dull PCW show. On the journey there, I was notified that Alberto Del Rio and Justin Gabriel (the two most prominent wrestlers in the advertising) would not be there. Gabriel was out due to VISA issues (a UK wrestling tradition almost as old as Big Daddy) and Del Rio was out with a leg injury (that didn't prevent him from wrestling days later elsewhere, just saying) but PCW managed to secure Carlito and Christopher Daniels as replacements so ''wunderbar'' as Tudor Tenpole might say.
I missed the first few matches (but I got to read some of Rik Mayall's autobiography on the train so swings and roundabouts) but arrived in time to see Bubblegum pin Ashton Smith to advance in the tourny. My mates and I stood next to the entrance ramp, so I was in fair position to throw praise at the good guys and hurl death at the baddies. I’m old fashioned though. In 2015, crowds are more than happy to cheer whoever the bloody hell they like, which presents us with situations like Matt Hardy vs. Rampage Brown.
Now, you’d expect the special guest to be the fan favourite, but because Rampage is generally considered one of the best wrestlers in the UK and is a PCW mainstay, the crowd was fairly split. This despite Rampage being part of the main Heel stable Team Single. Making this crowd even more complicated, PCW brings in people from everywhere (I currently hail from Newcastle and the guys around me had travelled from Leeds) and in the UK a wrestler’s hometown has an impact on if he gets booed or cheered. So even though big, bad Rampage spent most of the match pounding away and gloating against a former teen heart-throb, the air was filled with conflicting ‘’We all hate Leeds Scum’’, ‘’We all love Leeds Scum’’ , ‘’V1’’ and ‘’We Want Jeff’’ chants. So yeah, got all that? Christ that was like typing out a Games Workshop manual.
The anarchic crowd response fuels the action, even if sometimes the crowd loses itself and focuses more on entertaining themselves than respecting the match. Matt Hardy won after squeaking a pin to the sounds of high-pitched cheers and gravelly-voiced boos. The amount of imports PCW brings in gets criticised by some (to be cynical, they’re usually from UK wrestlers who probably see it as a spot they could be taking. BLOODY YANKS, COMING OVER HERE AND TAKING OUR JOBS etc.) But there’s no arguing with moments like Matt Hardy taking photos during the intermission at £20(!) a pop...and a large queue immediately forming. There’s method to this ma(tt)ness. Fair play to him but I went and got some Hooch (which like Matt Hardy was popular years ago).
Second half started and forget everything I said about the Heel/Face/North-East/North-West divides as Carlito wrestled T-Bone. T-Bone is a large tattooed man who everyone hates. And fears. There’s been a lot written about how the age of the Heel is over because wrestlers focus on cool moves to ensure they get a reaction (and get booked again), there’s no wrestlers that can be considered actual Heels. It’s a good debate to have, which is why it’s refreshing to see T-Bone wrestle. As soon as he hits the ring and the people next to me are sure he’s out of ear-shot, they start telling me stories of how T-Bone is genuinely T-Bone all the time. Other wrestlers may be cordial with wrestlers after shows....but not him. The best story told during his intro is how T-Bone stared at a fan for the entire time during his match, after the match and then after the show too, all the time staying silent. In the age of the fan feeling smarter than the wrestlers because they have the internet, T-Bone’s smarter than all of them put together. If Team Single is The Four Horsemen, T-Bone is Tully Blanchard: the evillest and most irredeemable of all Heels.
Carlito’s loved by the crowd because he’s cool and not T-Bone. To the dismay of the crowd, Carlito loses and T-Bone continues to make people uncomfortable.
Crowd gets really hyped for the next match, which is between the always lovable John Morrison and the beloved Will Ospreay. Last time I saw Ospreay wrestle was in IPW:UK and there were members of the crowd attempting to run in to save him from the beating he was receiving from Paul Robinson. I try and get a ‘’JoMo’’ chant going to the tune of Gary Glitter’s ‘’I’m The Leader Of The Gang (I Am)’’ but North-West people think that chanting a song by a nonce is in bad taste. They were all singing to Michael Jackson later on so fuck ‘em. Anyway, Ospreay is really making a name for himself as The Next Big Thing of UK Wrestling, which I think is unfair as the guy’s already made it in my eyes. Both men showcase their physical prowess (and JoMo still looks stunning) and ability to flip and flop without destroying the low ceiling with eventually JoMo taking it. Ospreay has that Daniel Bryan level of over, whenever he loses he gets cheered after. Good times here.
Next up, long-time favourite Martin Kirby took on surprise star Christopher Daniels. Daniels has been wrestling for donkey’s years but since the Bad Influence change he’s never been better. Both men take it up to Tim Curry levels of ham and embrace the crowd’s chants of ‘’Crystal Maze’’, ‘’which one’s which?’’ and best of all ‘’Martin Kirby’s wrestling his dad.’’ Both men excel in the fun, fast-paced wrestling genre and the result is...a fun, fast-paced match. Kirby took the win and danced to Numa Numa.
And your first main event (of three) was a big deal. A year ago, AJ Styles delivered the Styles Clash to Lionheart who ended up landing the wrong way and getting legitimately fucked up. No storyline or bullshit, the poor sod thought he would have to retire. One of the realest reactions I’ve been a part of was Lionheart announced his return at the PCW/ROH weekender to take on the former model (but still a cock) Joey Hayes. The crowd were overjoyed at the idea of the underdog returning, especially because they hate AJ Styles now (When Cedric Alexander explained his favourite match was against AJ Styles, everyone in PCW stopped what they were doing and booed unmercifully) and tonight in the main event, he returned...
...to a less than great reaction. Man this was sad. The noticeably quieter crowd (apparently because some people left now the imports had gone) were respectful but it didn’t stop people saying loudly ‘’yeah, Lionheart’s not very likable is he?’’ and being convinced Lionheart was going to turn heel in his big comeback match. Some crazy logic there. Despite teasing some neck-related moves, Hayes thankfully fell to Lionheart to give us a vaguely happy ending. Grim.
After the show, there was comedy from the reliably rugged and rough Chris Brooker and Billy Kirkwood. I don’t want to recap anything as it’d mean telling their jokes and that’s their bread and butter so just take my word for it (Lots of nob gags.) They finished their set with Karaoke with Dave Mastiff, the ref who looks like Garfunkel, Dave Rayne and Uhaa Nation. By now, everybody was aware of Uhaa’s imminent departure but it didn’t stop him tearing his shirt to ‘’Real American’’ and doing the Vince walk to ‘’No Chance In Hell.’’
The rest of the night got blurry as more Hooch was consumed, words were said and Chris Masters blanked me. Then we went to The Dog (the last open pub in Preston) and sang to ‘’Wanna Be Like You’’ and had those Vodka Slushies that are cheap and...none of this has anything to do with wrestling so I’ll end it.
UNTIL THE NEXT SHOW.
You can find out more about PCW on their website, Facebook and Twitter pages. You can catch Mr. Anderson, Davey Richards and Angelina Love there on 29th March, as well as Kevin Nash, Rob Van Dam, Eric Bischoff, Justin Gabriel, Juventud Guerrera, Maria Kanellis, Mike Bennett and Matt Taven on April 24th and 25th.
Don't forget our 24 hour Challenge begins at 4am on 30th March, with site founder James Marston attempting 24 articles in 24 hours for MIND, the Mental Health Charity. If you'd like to donate, you can do so here www.justgiving.co.uk/acrossthepondwrestling