It was a historic night for European wrestling as PCW presented the first iPPV event to be broadcast in HD. With 3000 fans on hand at the Preston Guild Hall and their usual mix of imported and home-grown talent, could PCW host a show to match this history making feat? Let's see.
Drew Galloway challenging for Sha Samuels' PCW Championship acted as the show's main event, with Galloway having earned his title shot earlier in the month in a ten man gauntlet at PCW's regular venue, Evoque. The first few minutes would involve some interesting pieces of booking as Samuels' faction, The Firm (The London Riots & Sammy Smooth) would end up getting removed from the ringside area for continual interference. This would be followed by ring announcer and Co-General Manager, Joanna Rose, announcing that she'd "just been informed" that the match was now a "No Disqualification". I struggled to work out the logic of having The Firm removed from ringside to then have the match declared No DQ before they'd even made it behind the curtain. Surely, The Firm just turn straight back around and head to the ring at this point?
Galloway and Samuels would seem like a good fit inside the ring and when they got the chance to get at it, they did manage to show just a slice of what they are capable of. The duo brawling around the crowd was a difficult thing for the PCW cameras to pick up, especially with the seemingly poor lighting of the guild hall, but what could be seen looked like a lot of fun as the two really went for each other. There was a great sequence of action inside the ring also, perhaps the best piece of wrestling on the entire show as well, where Galloway would pull off a butterfly suplex out of the tree of woe position, before Samuels would duck a Claymore Kick attempt, only to leave himself wide open for piledriver from Galloway for a strong near fall.
The closing part of the contest played up the No DQ element with The Firm finally coming back out and Samuels nailing a low blow on Galloway. There were a lot of twists and turns with Galloway able to take out both The London Riots and Sammy Smooth with a tope conhilo, before escaping the aforementioned sleeper hold. Galloway got a strong reaction for his near fall off a Tombstone Piledriver, which seemed to have convinced Preston that the match was over. After such a strong near fall, I was hoping to get a stronger finish that would manage to push the bout to the next level, instead Samuels simply locked in another sleeper hold to claim the victory, which felt just a little flat to me.
Lots of things would happen after that and eventually we'd see Noam Dar win the PCW Championship for the first time, fresh from competing in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic in Orlando. The last part of the show was a real clusterfuck, with The Firm attacking Galloway, T-Bone, Bubblegum and The Hooligans would make the save, before PCW owner Steven Fludder would get on the mic and demand a re-start, also adding Dar to the match. Firstly, Fludder said he didn't want a "screwjob" finish on his first iPPV, when there wasn't actually a screwjob finish. Then I don't quite get the kayfabe logic of bringing Dar out after the first match had taken place. Dar would win by locking the Champagne Super Knee Bar on Samuels, whilst Samuels had a sleeper hold on Galloway.
Oh my life, The Hooligans vs. The New Age Assholes was a painful 25 minutes of television. 25 minutes. 25 minutes. But the match itself was way under five. So what exactly happened the rest of the time? I don't even know. My notes say "much dicking around". That's about right. Mr. Anderson dicked about for a bit, Billy Gunn dicked about for a bit and The Hooligans dicked about a lot. There was a lot of dicking about. Anderson and Gunn somehow even managed to make the combination of their pre-match schtick painful to watch as they both dragged it on for forever. Having come directly after a non-wrestling segment, to have this much fannying around was more than frustrating.
It was great news to find out the Zak Knight can do a back flip, despite being by his own admission "fat". It would have been better news if he did it in the match and that this didn't lead to everyone else in the bout going to the top rope to pretend to do a moonsault. This was after the Hooligans had aimlessly wandered around ringside drinking beer and looking like The Bushwackers if the Bushwackers were from Norwich. I've seen these guys put in great performances in the ring for PCW, but I'd much prefer to see them focus on what they do in the ring than whatever this was. Maybe it came across better in the hall, but this kind of thing is not well suited to iPPV.
So, after so much stalling, the match itself would be good right, right? Think again squire, the match was probably worse than all the stalling. I'd have preferred everyone in the building to have tried to do a backflip than watch this match again. The finish was perhaps the only notable piece of action as Roy hammed it up, with wobbly legs and such, en route to falling between Anderson legs, before Gunn would deliver a Famouser. I don't think my description does justice to just how bad this was to watch. The Hooligans would go on to win with a school boy roll up on Gunn, taking advantage of the shenanigans. This was everything I've ever complained about PCW for, tied up in one match.
Rob Van Dam continued his undefeated record in PCW, making his first appearance since April 2015, to defeat Lionheart in a solid encounter. This was the case of a fairly simple bout, that was done well, with the crowd being at their loudest for the entire night. The duo kept things simple, with RVD able to run through a number of his back catalogue of moves, first as part of the opening face shine and then later en route to sealing his victory with the Five Star Frog Splash. It wasn't particularly exciting as home viewing, but I'm sure it fulfilled most of the fans in attendances needs in an RVD bout.
I've been fairly critical of Lionheart in the past, but he played his role well here, allowing the crowd to get their hit from the RVD bong and putting in a good showing when called up to go on the offence. He looked vicious on the attack, throwing RVD into the ringpost multiple times to add a bit of urgency to what was a fairly pedestrian bout in general. This was arguably the best booked contest of the night, making the most of it's two competitors and showing up their strengths well. Whilst RVD remains undefeated in the company, Lionheart has now lost six matches out of seven over the last three month for PCW.
For me, the best action of the night could be found in a three way bout between Toni Storm, Carmel Jacob and the debuting Saraya Knight. The three women produced a hard-hitting clash, with some big impressive moves and plenty of action. Kicking off with a lovely German Suplex from Storm, we'd go on to a fisherman's suplex from Knight onto the wooden floor, a nice suicide dive from Storm onto her two opponents and a nasty looking rope-hung DDT from Knight and Jacob to the outside.
The match did at times feels a little bit disjointed and despite having some cool moments of action, I felt it struggled to buckle down and hit it's stride. This wasn't helped by Knight constantly jumping the barrier to get into it with fans. Perhaps this was due to how the show was presented on iPPV, but there was more than once when we'd miss what was going on in the ring to see Knight throw some beer over a fan. This got even weirder when following Storm being able to pin Jacob for the victory, we'd see Knight jump the barrier again to snog a fan before pushing him to the floor and covering him in booze. I'm all for getting involved with the crowd to generate heat, but this felt like it was to detriment of the action, rather than improving it.
One of the matches that I was most looking forward to on this card was Team Single vs. London Riots as I'm a big fan of both teams and thought that their styles would suit each well and bring us a brutal tag match, with both teams beating strips off each other. On that count I came away feeling a little disappointing with the action. The two teams didn't seem to connect inside the ring as I was hoping they would, with the final few minutes of the match especially ending up in a bit of a mess. T-Bone slipping in a coast to coast attempt, with his opponent in a tree of woe position, before repeating the spot a few moments later was particular let down.
Where I think the match could have been saved was an early piece of story-telling that seemed to be thrown away way too soon. Rampage Brown would go for a piledriver on the wooden ramp, only to have the move reversed and take a painful looking back-body drop onto the wood. The London Riots could then take advantage of T-Bone and begin to control the match. I was beginning to get into this idea and was hoping we'd get to see some real moments of drama as Brown looked to recover, whilst T-Bone had to fight against both Rob Lynch and James Davis, therefore allowing the crowd to get more and more behind the babyfaces. Unfortunately, Brown seemed to recover way too quickly and the hot tag didn't feel as exciting as it should. Team Single would retain their belt after T-Bone hit an awkward dragon suplex and Brown closed the deal with a piledriver.
The opening contest would be a four corners match with Martin Kirby, Charlie Garrett, Sammy Smooth and Bubblegum all squaring off. This was a tasty start to the show with the four men working hard to produce some pacy action that would warm the hall up nicely. The bout started off slowly, mainly focusing on introducing the face/heel divide as we saw Kirby and Smooth align with each other as Garrett and Bubblegum attempted to fight passed their underhanded tactics. It took a while to really get going, but I feel it was worth it to get the live crowd settled and accustomed to the show style.
There was some nice exchanges in the latter half of the contest, as the match became saturated with near falls. There was a clever moment where Kirby was unable to complete a tower of doom spot, so had to call upon his tag partner, Joey Hayes, to help him, with Hayes distracting the referee, Joel Allen, by throwing his chest protector into the ring. Hayes would later play apart in the finish, as Garrett would attempt to chase him from interfering in the bout, causing the distraction that would allow Bubblegum to hit a 619 and then a beautiful Shooting Star Press to claim the victory. Based on his performance in the match, I was more than happy when I saw Bubblegum get the win, as he had been the matches MVP in my eyes, pulling out the best looking offence and looking very crisp in everything he did.
So, it was supposed to be Joe Hendry vs. Joey Hayes, but it turned into Joe Hendry and some guy off Britain's Got Talent and Joey Hayes and Martin Kirby. It was bad. Very bad. Firstly, I had no idea who the heels were supposed to be. Kirby and Hayes had been heels in the Four Corners match earlier in the night, but Hendry was singing and bringing out talent show contestants. The Britain's Got Talent fella even did some singing of his own, trying to get the crowd to sing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle's theme, but with the tune being so unrecognisable from the original, I doubt the crowd could even work out what it was. This is a guy that won a competition for singing. Hendry and his BGT friend would win the match after throwing Hayes and Kirby into each other. Yeah. Yeah.
Chris Masters also made his return to PCW to answer Iestyn Rees' "AlphaLock Challenge". Basically, Rees had been playing a Masters rip-off gimmick and Masters was back to claim it for his own. Masters at least bought some intensity to proceedings as he tried to get at Rees, I suppose. I wasn't a major fan of Masters last babyface run in PCW, so I didn't really get much out of this segment, as he would go on to batter Rees for hesitating to much in putting the AlphaLock on. At least, I got to shout "Dave Rayne" in a room on my own, as Rayne would be the one to re-introduce his former Legion of Boom partner to the promotion.
ATPW Scale Rating - 3.24/10
Yup, that's the lowest score I've given for a Brit-Wres show. Only Halloween Havoc 1998 currently sits lower on the ATPW Scale leader board. This show was not a good showcase for British Wrestling and I do hope that anybody who was checking out their first Brit-Wres show on PPV hasn't been turned off by the shambles that was Tribute to the Troops.
All credit to PCW for trying something new with the iPPV gimmick and the stream was reliable and clear throughout the show. Plus I suppose for £3 for the iPPV and most tickets being free, I guess there is a case to be made for "You get what you pay for here". However, with a huge crowd in attendance and the chance of a whole new audience online, I can't help but feel that PCW should have gone all out and put on at least one match that would create a buzz.
There is a specific market that an online PPV will play to and therefore that market needs to be catered to when choosing this business model. I'd like to think of myself as part of that market (well I bought the show, so I am), but this show definitely wasn't for me.