Thursday, 17 November 2016

Event Review: Attack! Pro Wrestling X Pop Punk - FSU v Chief Deputy Dunne & Pete Dunne

On 12th November, Attack! Pro Wrestling presented a unique event, alongside Pop Punk band, Junior at The Frog & Fiddle in Cheltenham, Gloustershire. The two elements were intertwined throughout the show, with the main event featuring band member Mark Andrews tagging with FSU partner Eddie Dennis against Chief Deputy Dunne (Damian Dunne) and Pete Dunne. With the likes of "Flying" Mike Bird, Chris Brookes, Wild Boar, "Ravin'" Danny Jones and Chuck Mambo also on the card, how would Attack!'s second trip to Cheltenham go down? 

Venue & Crowd - I love the Frog & Fiddle. This is only the second show that Attack! have run in the building and I'm absolutely in love with it. It's small and compact in the barn and even with just 100 fans in attendance, it can be incredibly tight with a ring in the middle, but that allows for a great atmosphere and brilliant interactivity. The crowd was hot throughout, for both the wrestling and the music, reacting to the action well and jumping on any opportunity to have a good ol' sing song. The mix of wrestling and music was used well and even with the ring only leaving room for a few people directly in front of the stage, it was still pretty sweet down the front when Junior were giving it the big ones. I'm not a music reviewer, so I'll be mostly sticking to the wrasslin' portion of the show as we continue.

The main event was an unannounced clash that saw FSU (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews) get a crowd-pleasing victory over "The Bruiserweight" Pete Dunne & The Anti-Fun Police's Chief Deputy Dunne in tag team action. The build-up made use of the unique set-up as after Junior appeared to be rounding off the evening, Andrews made reference to just how much fun he was having, of course, bringing out CDD, who used a Twitter exchange from earlier in the week as his fuel. CDD was quickly joined by Pete and a beatdown ensued, until Andrew WK's Party Hard hit, the crowd went nuts and Dennis came out to make the save. It was a flurry of excitement, that moved from one moment to the next at the right pace and concluded with an big main event being set up straight away. What's not to like about this? Nothing. That's what. 

The Dunne Bros and FSU have collided in PROGRESS and Fight Club: Pro and all four guys have plenty of history all over the UK and that showed throughout this tag tangle. The two groups have such a chemistry together that I'm actually surprised that they haven't faced off on more occasions. Because I'm a fool, all my methods of writing notes botched on me for the main event, so unfortunately I can't go as in depth as I would like to this, but the whole match was as crisp and pacy as you would expect. Andrews and Dennis are two of the best babyfaces on the scene right now, the Dunnes are two of the strongest heels, add into that the pre-match build and you had four wrestlers who had the crowd in the palm of their hands throughout. There was flips and tricks and reverse ranas and finisher teases and near falls and all sorts of good stuff, that was made stronger and more enjoyable by a solid structure that unfolded at a nice pace, as well as the hugely satisfying finish. Because my description of the contest is awfully vague (for the aforementioned reason) I would urge you even more than usual to check it out through the on-demand service

Match in a Sentence - Four clever workers with a shit tonne of chemistry and a great knowledge of what their audience wants, with a cool and unique set-up.

After some tunes from Junior, the wrestling portion of the show kicked off with #CCK (Chris Brookes & Mondai Lykos) successfully retaining the Tag Team Championships against Bowl-A-Rama ("Fat Cat" Lloyd Katt & Splits McPins) in a humourous comedy encounter, that got the crowd more than warmed up for the rest of the evenings festivities. The early portion of the contest was wall to wall silliness, that included a multi-man wet willy spot, before referee Shay Purser apparently lost his mind and grabbed Lykos' signature baking tray (not sure what use a damn dirty wolf has for a baking tray) and just started twatting people with it. Everyone went down to the almighty tray of baking. Then there was Katt needing to smoke a cigar for reasons, his cigar getting broken and then Bowl-a-Rama got their bowling ball involved in the action. The bowling ball actually looked pretty damn painful (because it was a bowling ball), especially when thrown into Brookes lower back (I have bulging discs in that region and almost fell to the fall just imagining how that would feel for my old old spine (I'm 23)) 

The final stretch of the match was all about the near falls, as the pace picked up and things seemed to get more serious with Bowl-a-Rama looking desperate to take those tag belts from Brookes & Lykos. The action went back and forth, there was a sick reverse rana from McPins, some brilliant last ditch kick outs and saves that were well-timed. The Gory Special/Blockbuster combination that #CCK do is a great piece of business, everything about it is just lovely. More of that move, everywhere, please. I still hate Brookes though, because Brookes is a slugpellet. Lykos is still a damn dirty Wolf. My hatred for the two characters will always make a match about seven times more intense. By the matches end, I felt like Bowl-a-Rama had been raised up a notch for having competed with #CCK for over 15 minutes and shown that there is perhaps more depth to their act than one might expect on a first glimpse. #CCK are developing into one of the best villain tandems on the scene and continued to show a versatility and willingness to mix up their style that will see them well in the new year.  

Match in a Sentence - A strong mix of comedy and graps, that set the tone for an Attack! show perfectly. 

Wild Boar in singles action! Boar went 2-0 in Cheltenham, with a victory over "The Human Drewplex Machine" Drew Parker. If you haven't seen Parker's "Extremely Confused" gimmick in Attack!, Parker took a knock to the head in September and has since taken on the personae of various ECW alumni, including Sab-Drew and Drew Jack. If you hadn't guessed this time around Parker believed he was 3 time ECW World Tag Team Champion Taz and it was glorious. From the entrance to the no selling with crossed arms to some Drewplexes, if you weren't enjoying this match with the glee of a child hearing sleighbells on Christmas Eve then we can never ever be friends. The japes of Parker's character were met with brutality by Boar, as he threw everything he had at Parker, including a brilliant Pop-up Powerbomb nearfall. Boar even managed to withstand a number of Tazmission attempts. The two characters slotted together well, with Boar's build and style suiting Parker's Tazz parody and creating a match that was ridiculously entertaining. The loss will only help endear Parker to the audience as the gimmick continues to gather steam.

Match in a Sentence - Stupidly entertaining stuff.

Another bonus match saw "The Not-So Ginger Anymore Jesus" Mike Bird best "Bronco" Brendan White, Chuck Mambo and "Ravin'" Danny Jones in a Four Way scramble match. This wasn't a lengthy encounter (8 minutes), but was choc-full of action, with all four guys able to get in a good showcase of their characters and what they could do in the ring. PROGRESS Wrestling's Mambo made a strong first impression on the Attack! crowd, with his laid-back surfer gimmick being easy to like and the ability to get a pop from a surfboard stretch showed that he'll fit in well in the weird and wonderful world of Attack! Taking bumps as Jones blew his rave whistle at him also helped to endear Mambo to his new audience. White also continued to impress as he develops including being involved in a freaky suplex spot with Bird and Jones. After a number of dives to the outside, Bird let his experience show as he conquered all three of his opponents with a flurry of offense including a double knee gutbuster as part of another sweet multi-man spot. With Bird heading into a match with Eddie Dennis to crown the first ever Attack! Champion on 20th November, this was definitely a cool way to set Bird up! 

Match in a Sentence - Fast and exciting four way with a vast array of strong personalities.

Any Other Business

  • The show concluded with Jim Lee celebrating his birthday with a cake, before Chief Deputy Dunne ended up taking a stunner from Junior's Si, complete with the iconic glass smash and Jim Johnston's I Won't Do What You Tell Me! 


ATPW Scale Rating - Fun (or 7.38/10)

Attack! is a brilliant promotion and this was another great show out of the outfit. Seriously, I love Attack! The main event was superb stuff, #CCK v Bowl-a-Rama was very good in a totally different way, Parker v Boar was just the right shade of silly and the Four Way was everything you'd want from that type of match and more. Not for a single moment did I find myself even feeling a little bit bored as every performer worked hard to keep everything they were doing interesting, entertaining and different. Junior's music was a good fit for the feel of the show and continued that interesting, entertaining and different style that I've began to associate with Attack! 

Show in a Sentence - Interesting, Entertaining and Different.

Match of the Night - FSU (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews) v Chief Deputy Dunne & Pete Dunne

All - James Marston

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Opinion: Power Struggle, The World Tag League and the Final Steps Towards Wrestle Kingdom 11

We’re approaching the end of 2016 and things are really hotting up in the world of New Japan Pro Wrestling, feuds are being firmly set in motion, wrestlers are scrambling for their desired belts and matches are being penciled in for the massive Tokyo Dome show on January 4th. Within this piece I am hoping to get those less familiar with the Japanese product hyped for the biggest show in New Japan’s calendar so before I go into anything else, here’s how the well-known ‘Road to Wrestlemania’ lines up with the New Japan shows.

G1 Climax (August) = Royal Rumble. We began setting our sights on Wrestle Kingdom 11 way back in August when Kenny Omega overcame all opposition in the round robin tournament and in doing so became the first foreign winner of the G1 in its current incarnation. Now you may be wondering how in the world this relates to the Royal Rumble, well, the prize for winning such a tournament is a guaranteed place in the main event of the Wrestle Kingdom. However, since this is a few months before WK, much like in WWE, there are a couple of hurdles along the way.

Power Struggle/The World Tag League (October/November) = Roadblock/Fastlane. You could also throw NJPW’s Kings of Pro Wrestling event into the mix here but I don’t want to boggle the mind too much so we will focus on these 2 today. Again as occurs in WWE, usually at these PPV’s we see the other, non-main event feuds pan out and not a lot of title changes happen, but that’s not to say they aren’t worth your time, especially given that Power Struggle (which will be talked about in depth further down the page) was fantastic this year.

Wrestle Kingdom (January) = WrestleMania. This is the big one. The showcase of the immortals. The show of all shows. Just like Mania, Wrestle Kingdom is the largest show in the Japanese version of the sport and fans flock from across the globe in order to see it in person at the famous Tokyo Dome. If you haven’t seen them already I would recommend checking out the highly acclaimed Wrestle Kingdom 9 and 10 events, they both have insane matches that can be enjoyed even without storyline context and way after their broadcast date. I think AJ Styles v Shinsuke Nakamura from 10 might be my most watched match this year so please treat yourself if you haven’t already.

Did you digest of that? I certainly hope so because now you’ve had your appetiser I’m about to head into the main course of this article; a review of the most important matches from Power Struggle and an overview and prediction for the World Tag League tournament and don’t worry, there will be a desert too!

Power Struggle Review

On 5th November, NJPW treated us to their annual Power Struggle event and before we go any further let me say this was a truly enjoyable show. Usually this event can suffer from being right before Wrestle Kingdom meaning nothing too important happens but the company pulled out something really special for us viewers, especially given the injury to scheduled main eventer, Michael Elgin. So here are my views on the most important matches from the night, 4 of which feature members of the Los Ingobernables De Japon group which I talked about at length last month, right here: 

Match #1 – IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title - Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa (Donny Marlow)) (C) versus CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI)

Tonga and Loa, A.K.A The Guerrillas of Destiny have engaged in a number of simply terrible matches this year. Their tangles with The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe) over the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles were muting fans and leaving everyone wondering whether the newly introduced Loa was the worst member to every join the highly-saturated Bullet Club.

Their pathway looked bleak and many groaned when they regained their straps but lo and behold, they had a very good match with Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI! Wrestling Jesus must have been smiling down on them because the match was very slick and the sequences between Tonga and YOSHI-HASHI were both especially impressive, including the mesmerising finish which saw Tonga reverse a pump handle slam into his cutter.

The pace slowed massively whenever Loa hit the ring but he is clearly improving and if the pair can get a few more solid matches under their wings during the Tag League they can perhaps soar higher and bring much needed prestige back to the floundering Heavyweight tag belts.

Match #2 – Super Junior Tag Team Tournament Final - Roppongi Vice (Berreta (Trent Barreta) and Rocky Romero) versus ACH and Taiji Ishimori

Roppongi Vice took on ACH and Ishimori in the final match of the Super Juniors Tag Tournament with the winner gaining, you guessed it, a shot at the Junior Heavyweight straps versus The Young Bucks at Wrestle Kingdom in January. Overall the tournament has been very fun this year with the action being fast paced and exciting from the first round to the last.

This finale was the best collision in the entire bracket too. Growing tension between Beretta and Romero was showcased, but the twosome overcame their differences and managed to achieve the win with a whole host of impressive tag team manoeuvres that played into the fact that Romero is the most experienced of the foursome. The tale of wise veterans versus young up-and-coming being perfectly displayed ad in the end the right team won; ACH and Ishimori will have their time but the biggest Junior Tag match available is Young Bucks versus Roppongi Vice.

Move of the match was undoubtedly ACH hitting a Shooting Star Press from standing on the mat, over the top rope, to the outside – I was stunned. If we see this match again down the road I would be all for it though, everyone knew what the crowd wanted and played to it wonderfully. All in all, a great end to an enjoyable tourney.

Match #3 – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title - BUSHI (C) versus KUSHIDA

The first match involving an LIJ member was this one, as BUSHI and KUSHIDA faced off once again for the Junior Heavyweight Championship, this time though, it was personal. BUSHI had essentially stolen the belt from KUSHIDA and the former champ was gunning for revenge from the off. He charged his foe and nailed him with strikes before heading to the outside for a horrible looking piledriver to the floor. It was nasty stuff from the babyface.
With a start like this the match was clearly going to be of different taste to their previous affairs and that thankfully continued as we saw many more submission based attacks being thrown in the mix alongside their usual supplement of suicide dives, (they look so much more vicious in Japan) top rope moves and finisher attempts.

After hitting 2 codebreakers and his MX, BUSHI was somehow unable to put his challenger away and in retaliation we saw another heelish move from KUSHIDA as he tore at the mask of BUSHI; will there be a hair v mask match down the line? I would be all over that! Following the tear KUSHIDA managed to lock in his hoverboard lock for what seemed like an eternity – BUSHI was forced to tap of have his arm broken and thus he relinquished his belt.

The result was certainly a shock and the whole contest was tremendous viewing; the chemistry between the two is off the charts. As KUSHIDA celebrated though, the New Japan time bomb counter hit zero and bursting from the shade in a quite insane jacket was Kamatitachi who had been over in CMLL and ROH on learning excursions. I don’t think too many could have predicted the bomb would have been him but the bout is now set for WK as KUSHIDA will be forced to defend his belt against the returning man in a match that could well steal the show at the Dome.

Match #4 – NEVER Openweight Title - Katsuyori Shibata (C) versus EVIL (Takaaki Watanabe)

Shocking moments from the night didn’t end at the Junior match either as the second Los Ingobernables de Japon member to compete was EVIL who against all odds and predictions defeated the fan favourite Katsuyori Shibata and took home the NEVER Openweight Championship!

This was easily the stiffest contest of the PPV as EVIL and Shibata beat the crap out of each other throughout. Watch this one and listen for the sounds of the elbows and kicks, they are truly disgusting; combine those noises with the sight of Shibata’s sleeper suplex and EVIL’s targeting of the champion’s injured shoulder with chair shots and you’ve got a match that makes you wince and entraps you within its grasp. Seriously, the stiffness is so intense that you cannot possibly look away.

EVIL’s victory was one via cheating, obviously. He chucked the ref out of the ring before nailing Katsuyori with the belt, a chair and finished off with a brainbsuter onto the chair and his STO finisher to get the win in a shocking finish. Shibata however has recaptured the belt in the main event of the recent New Japan event in Singapore, so it looks like he will still be going to the Tokyo Dome with the title, which many fans will likely be very happy to see.

Match #5 – Hiroshi Tanahashi versus SANADA (Seiya Sanada)

Ever since the G1, NJPW’s top man, Hiroshi Tanahashi, has been struggling to regain momentum as he has hit a roadblock in the form of LIJ and most notably, SANADA, who got the better of Tanahashi on the first night of said tournament. Clearly then this contest has been a long time coming and the animosity between them finally boiled over at Power Struggle.

Their first meeting at the G1 was marvelous and this one followed suit; both took big risks and little reward was forthcoming as they each missed top rope moves which allowed their foe to get back into the contest. Standout moves were surely Tana’s slingblade on the apron, Hi Fly Flo from the top to the outside and SANADA’s missed moonsault which blew out his knee.

SANADA attempted his dragon sleeper submission a ton of times but he could not get past NJPW’s A+ player. Having managed to avoid the move that destroyed him previously Tanahashi rose to the top as he has done many a time in his career and nailed SANADA with a couple of Hi Fly Flos, finally seeing off the man who has caused him such misery within the year. Both wrestlers had what I believed to be their best match since they last met and I hope they both go on to better things in the next few months as they as incredible competitors – with Tanahashi especially moving forward faster than you might think…

Match #6 – IWGP Intercontinental Title - Tetsuya Naito (C) versus Jay Lethal

Jay Lethal was ushered into the main event for Power Struggle as the mighty Michael Elgin suffered an eye injury in a tag match meaning that he was unable to attempt to win back the Intercontinental Championship from the Ingobernables leader. This would be the first main event match of Lethal’s NJPW tenure and after this strong performance maybe he will find himself in this position again sometime in 2017.

Naito kicked Lethal out of LIJ on an ROH show earlier this year and as former partners they clearly know one another very well, a factor which played heavily into the bout as they continuously countered each other’s offence. The challenger hit a number of lovely moves including a combo of back suplexes and later, Elgin’s classic bucklebomb and Elginbomb, but he couldn’t put away Naito who battled back with a beautiful set of corner dropkicks, a tornado DDT from the Lethal Injection before finally finishing Lethal with a Destino from another Lethal Injection attempt.

It wasn’t anywhere close to the Elgin/Naito amazingness we got treated to previously but it was still really fun to watch and a worthy main event of a wonderful Power Struggle card. The crowd were super into Naito and hung on every move in the match and every word of his very interesting promo that followed his victory.

During the promo a challenger arrived upon the ramp, and of course, it was TANAHASHI! Almost all NJPW fans have been predicting and wanting this match for months and it we will get to witness it at the Tokyo Dome this year. I’m excited and you should be too as when Naito and Tanahashi meet at last for the IC belt it will surely be one of the finest matches of the year. Do not miss it people!

World Tag League Preview

So that was the most interesting stuff that Power Struggle had to offer and it was truly wonderful watching material; now we have just one stop left before Wrestle Kingdom and that will be the World Tag League whereby the winners will be granted a title match on the January card, likely against current champions Guerrillas of Destiny . It seems fitting then that I have a quick bullet point look at the tag teams taking part and let you know how I think each will perform, so lets go!

Block A

  • Hiroshi Tanahashi and Juice Robinson: Tanahashi already has a match set for Wrestle Kingdom so there’s no way these two will be winning. But I like the pairing, Robinson will surely benefit from working with a seasoned pro and be able to take pins for Tanahashi.

  • TenKoji (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan): TenCozy have been in the business for longer than I have been alive and have done it all, now they are winding down and Kojima has other commitments with Ricochet and David Finlay. Might make the final in a happy moment for the fans.

  • BULLET CLUB (Yujiro Takahashi and Hangman Page (Adam Page)): 2 Bullet Club whipping boys with zero chance of doing anything of note.

  • Manabu Nakanishi and Henare: Another combination of a young lion with a longtime wrestler, Nakanishi will hopefully be able to tutor Henare along and let the upstart show off too. No threat to the title though.

  • War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe): War Machine are the only ROH team taking part and will surely follow Michael Elgin’s suit in getting over fast in NJPW as they are powerful gaijins. Given the weakness of the block they might well make the final and are a dark horse to be the ones competing at Wrestle Kingdom.

  • Leland Race (Jason Jones) and Brian Breaker: I have no idea who these guys are and won’t pretend to – they might be good, or they might do very little, most likely the latter.

  • Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa): The Bullet Club boys are already the champions so they almost certainly will not be winning the block but will likely come in a close second to keep them strong as champions. As mentioned, I hope they manage to put together a few decent matches.

  • Tetsuya Naito and A Mystery Partner: Naito said he would be bringing something special for the Tag League and hopefully his mystery man is someone interesting. A partner from the UK indie scene much like CHAOS’ Will Ospreay would be awesome, Marty Scurll anyone?!

Block B

  • Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma): GBH won last year’s Tag League and won the belts from BULLET CLUB's Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Since then they have been pretty anonymous and another league win would be surprising but beneficial for them. I don’t see it happening though.

  • Katsuyori Shibata and Yuji Nagata: I actually had to re-write this part after Shibata won his NEVER Openweight title back from EVIL, before that I thought these two could go very far but instead they will likely just have solid matches and come up short of the finals.

  • CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and YOSHI-HASHI): Hashi has massively improved this year and pairing him with Okada again may be unwise as he needs more protection than he did in 2015. No way they will win, watch their matches though, they will be entertaining.

  • CHAOS (Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii): This pair is my pick to win. Both are already big names in NJPW and can easily be the ones to bring prestige to the Heavyweight tag titles by having great matches each and every month. Plus, neither have anything set for WK yet and there’s no chance they won’t be appearing on the card.

  • Yoshitatsu (Naofumi Yamamoto) and Billy Gunn: Tatsu and Gunn? Yea, I don’t understand it either. They will probably be there for comedy purposes. No hope.

  • Kenny Omega and Chase Owens: Owens will likely be taking a bunch of pins for the team as they won’t be winning the block. Omega is ready for the main event at the Dome and nothing else.

  • BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale and BONE SOLDIER (Captain New Japan)) : Fale and Boner, are you having a laugh?! Fale might win a couple of matches to keep him strong, other than that, they’ll be losing a lot.

  • Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA and EVIL): In my opinion, these are the only guys who might top Goto and Ishii, especially since EVIL doesn’t have his NEVER Openweight title. Both LIJ have been in high profile matches towards the end of the year and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the twosome advance to the Dome. 1st or 2nd place inbound.
So the winners of the Tag League will almost certainly come from Block B with Goto/Ishii or SANADA/EVIL the pairings most likely to gain victory over all others and win the straps at Wrestle Kingdom. I would say Ishii and Goto have the best chance also because they would be babyface challengers to the heel Guerrillas of Destiny.

And that’s it done, Power Struggle was a blast, the Tag League should be a fun watch and we have 4 matches already set for the mighty Wrestle Kingdom 11 show on January 4th. So go and check out New Japan Pro Wrestling and get yourself ready for what might well be the finest PPV of 2017 – let us know what you think will happen and what you think of the current New Japan product, we would love to have your views.

Images - Thomas Brady & James Marston
Editor - James Marston 

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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Event Review: ICW In Your Face Space Coyote - Kid Fite v Joe Coffey 4

On 4th October, Glasgow based Insane Championship Wrestling held their first show in Wolverhampton, In Your Face Space Coyote, at Wulfrun Hall. Returning to the West Midlands for the first time since July, ICW presented a show that included Kid Fite searching for his first ICW victory over Joe Coffey, whilst Coffey looked to continue his warm up for Kurt Angle at Fear and Loathing IX. With Joe Hendry, Trent Seven, Tag Team Champion Mark Coffey, Bram and Matt Cross all on the card, would ICW make an impact on Wolverhampton like they have all over the UK? 

Venue & Audience - This was my first time at an ICW show, so expect that to impact the review a fair bit. I'm not a regular viewer of the product, I saw last year's Fear and Loathing show on VOD, but didn't make much of it, so haven't watch a full event since then. I tend to keep up with what's going on through Wrestle Ropes' results, so generally have an idea of who's got issues with who, who is being pushed etc. There were approx 150 people in the building, which looked very small because of the size of Wulfrun Hall, but the majority were extremly lively. Whilst the atmosphere would have been improved in a smaller venue, the audience did create a surprisingly good buzz, considering the large amount of space in the room.

Whilst Matt Cross and Wolfgang went on last, I want to talk about Joe Coffey's victory over Kid Fite in the main event slot. It was slightly longer (12 mins), which is almost certainly down to the crowd spending three minutes after the bell singing the riff of Coffey's theme music, Black Sabbath's Iron Man. Both men played it superbly, with Fite showing that he wanted things to stop, which, of course, was designed to get the audience to continue, whilst Coffey would let things die down, before encouraging once again with his signature chest beating. Those first few minutes were a real lesson in crowd control, helped by Wolverhampton being more than up for a sing a long. The actual wrestling didn't quite manage to match the crowd's energy for me, with a number of the bouts bigger spots and quicker sequences come across as a little awkward. A front dropkick that Coffey hit to knock Fite off the apron ended up looking like it hurt Coffey more than Fite. However, the crowd remained loud throughout and there was a nice near fall for Fite, with a low blow and brainbuster. Coffey would hit Aw Ra Best Fur Tha Bells (Discus Lariat) to continue his strong run, since winning and losing the World Heavyweight Championship on the same night in July, which has seen him defeat the likes Josh Bodom, Timothy Thatcher and Matt Cross. 

Match in a Sentence - A match that didn't connect as well as it should have in the ring, but one that demonstrated how over Joe Coffey is, even in an area he rarely visits.

The final match on the card was World Heavyweight Champion Wolfgang besting 2 time GSW Breakthrough Champion Matt Cross in a style clash that was a Match of the Night contender. The two worked together well, perhaps surprisingly seeing as this was their first match together, with Wolfgang, the big bruising heel champion and Cross the speedy and exciting babyface. The structure wasn't particularly complicated, but it was filled out with good timing and character work, as well as a couple of really cool spots. Both were over with the audience as a tired crowd remained involved, reacting to pretty much everything either guy did. One of the highlights, for me, was their scrap on the outside, where they put together a speedy sequence before Wolfgang would lift Cross up and crotch him on the guardrail. After brawling into the bar area, the match returned to ring and featured some top quality wrestling with the two going back and forth, including a brilliant near fall where Cross would dodge a punch from the brass-knucks covered fist of Wolfgang and hit a springback cutter. It would have been nice for the title to be on the line, just to give the show a bit more consequential feel, yet at the same time that could have lead to some of the crowd not buying into the Cross' near falls as much as they did.

Match in a Sentence - A big scrap, that was simply booked, but well performed, with a number of strong near falls.

"Big Kink" Jack Jester continued his fine run of form in ICW with a victory over Dan Moloney in a match that had a hometown gut-check type feel to it. Moloney is from the West Midlands and known for his work locally in Kamikaze Pro and Fight Club: Pro, so despite being mostly a villain, he got a favourable response from Wulfrun Hall and whilst there was a contigent of Jester fans, this almost created a home football game atmosphere for the contest. Jester spent a lot of time trying to get in the fans faces, pulling apart the guard rails as fans chanted at him, meaning that it was a good couple of minutes before anything really happened between Jester and Moloney. It was cool for the fans who were getting involved with Jester and speaks to the interactivity of these smaller tour shows, but it went on a little too long for me. Once it started the wrestling was decent, with Moloney taking advantage of the crowd, to work a style that I haven't seen him use before, whilst Jester played the bully role well. The finish made Moloney look great against one of ICW top stars as he was going toe to toe with Jester until a mule kick low blow and a Tombstone Piledriver gave the former World Heavyweight Champion the victory. 

Match in a Sentence - A solid encounter with a unique feel, that could have done with a little less stalling.

In the opener, the team of Zero G Champion Lionheart and Stevie Boy (accompanied by Kay Lee Ray) picked up a victory over Kenny Williams & Joe Hendry, following some interference from Hendry's former Local Fire partner, Davey Boy. The majority of the bout was a decent tag team affair where after Hendry & Williams shined early, Lionheart and Stevie were able to take control with plenty of help from KLR on the outside. This created some enjoyable activity as the villains used a t-shirt and external interference, including KLR being able to cut off what looked like a potential Williams comeback by pulling Hendry off the apron moments before the tag could be made. The finish however showed a lack of attention to detail as Hendry left the ring to brawl with Davey out of the Hall, however Hendry had been the legal man at the time. Whilst Williams fighting on his own against Lionheart, Stevie & KLR was an interesting story to watch unfold, as KLR removed the ref to stop Williams pins, both Lionheart & Stevie were attempting pins also, regardless of who was supposedly legal. This is a pet peeve of mine! If I'm expected to be invested in Williams attempting to get the tag earlier in the match, then why change the playing field and allow anyone to go for pins later on? 

Match in a Sentence - Some decent tag team action, with an story furthering angle for Fear and Loathing IX, but there needed to more attention to the detail.

Trent Seven continued the road towards his World Heavyweight Championship shot with a victory over 2 time Heavyweight Champion BT Gunn in a hard-hitting sprint. With both guys fan favourites in the brand, Fight Club: Pro star Seven got the majority of the fan support in his hometown. The duo put a real shift in across the nine minute outing, battering each other in out of the ring, with big strikes and suplexes. The chop sequence on the outside, where both would end up connecting with the ringpost was clever stuff, whilst the pair scrapping on their knees following a number of big moves (including Gunn kicking out of a piledriver) was cool, and had a great sense of building momentum, with both selling well. It's a shame that this felt like the adbridged version of a better match that the two could have had, as more time would have allowed some sequences the chance to breath. With another five or ten minutes and the chance and ability to explore, these two could produce absolute magic together.

Match in a Sentence - Good hard hitting shit, but not enough of it.

Former TNA King of the Mountain Champion Bram picked up a big win heading into the Battle for Control on 20th November, besting former World Heavyweight Champion Chris Renfrew with more than a little help from Black Label pals, Drew Galloway and Jack Jester. This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. When the duo focussed on what they do best, wild and crazy brawling, the match was a lot of fun. What's not to like about big blokes throwing other big blokes into walls, barricades and destroying the merch stand? I felt like once the match got back in the ring, it lost most of its intensity, with very little definition to make up for it. The contest wasn't helped by Bram's single fan in attendance yelling for her villainous bae throughout (someone had obviously had a little too much during the interval as she was nowhere to be seen throughout the first half). Things picked up with the finish that was a well worked situation, as Jester caused the distraction on the ramp, that allowed Galloway to come through the crowd with a chair and hand Bram the victory.  

Match in a Sentence - A firey brawl when outside the ring, that struggled when inside it, but had a cool angle for the finish.

Tag Team Champions Polo Promotions (Jackie Polo & Mark Coffey) continued to build momentum to their showdown with Team 3D (Bully Ray & Brother Devon) on 20th November, with a victory over first time team, "Smash Mouth" Chris Ridgeway & "Kiwi Buzzsaw" Travis Banks. This was the sleeper hit of the evening for me, as Ridgeway and Banks connected surprisingly well for a first-time unit, while Polo & Coffey heeled it up nicely, roughhousing the newbie team for a long portion of the match. Despite one gentleman loudly shouting "We Want Team 3D" (I can only imagine he expected the 8 time (WWE) World Tag Team Champions to be chilling in the back eating orange chips), Banks had the majority of the crowd support and his partnership with Ridgeway built from the hot tag onwards, with a number of sweet near falls for the team, including one off a nifty superkick and german suplex combination. The four built the match well towards the finish, that saw Coffey pin Ridgeway following a superkick and Polo Promotions' elevated German suplex double team (which I imagine has a snazzy name), with the move initially being teased on Banks, before a flurry from Banks & Ridgeway. The team of Smashmouth and the Kiwi Buzzsaw has potential, but my main takeway from this match was that I don't see nearly enough of Ridgeway at the moment and hopefully that will change in 2017!

Match in a Sentence - A cracking tag encounter, that made good use of it's time and built to an exciting climax.

Following the finish of Bram v Chris Renfrew, there was a busy af angle, that would lead directly into the Sha Samuels v Davey Boy match (see AOB). The main bulk of this would come from a Drew Galloway promo, where he talked about the injuries that had kept him out of competing on the tour (he was Trent Seven's scheduled opponent for this show), as well as addressing Mark Dallas' absense as the build for the Battle for Control continues. Galloway's promo was perfectly fine stuff, as he brought his trademark intensity, as one bloke shouted 3MB at him and Jack Jester and Bram kept Renfrew down on the ramp. Samuels would attempt to help out his team mate for Fear and Loathing IX but quickly got blindsided by Davey Boy and another steel chair. The beatdown of Samuels seemed to go on forever as Davey choked him out with his own scarf and smashed his leg with the chair. 

Segment in a Sentence - Managed the difficult job of promoting various angles, but went a little too long and lost the majority of my interest by the time the Samuels v Davey match began. 

Any Other Business 

  • Despite the vicious attack from The Black Label and Davey Boy before the match, Sha Samuels was able to roll-up Davey in a short, but well paced encounter, with Joe Hendry acting as a distraction on the ramp.

  • Following Trent Seven's victory over BT Gunn, Stevie Boy and Kay Lee Ray attacked Gunn on the ramp, with Wolfgang attempting to blindside Seven, only for the hometown star to rebuff the attack, before cutting a strong promo thanking the fans and vowing to defeat Wolfgang for the World Heavyweight Championship on 20th November.

  • The show concluded with Trent Seven making the save for Matt Cross, hitting his Seventh Heaven Piledriver on Wolfgang, before posing with the World Heavyweight Championship in a bostin' moment to send the fans home happy and promote the upcoming Seven v Wolfgang cage match on 20th November.


ATPW Scale Rating - 5.31/10

In Your Face Space Coyote was a relatively enjoyable night of professional wrestling in the style that you would expect from ICW. Polo Promotions v Ridgeway & Banks, Wolfgang v Cross and Seven v Gunn were all good matches and definitely the highlights of the evening. Some of the booking was a little frustrating, because of the need to heavily push Fear and Loathing IX. It was shame that names likes Grado (pulled earlier in the week), Lewis Girvan and Kay Lee Ray (dropped to a valet role) didn't wrestle on the card as they were three of the ICW regulars I was most looking forward to see. Big Damo's departure to WWE also took away a name heavily associated with the brand this year. However, it was cool to see West Midlands based guys like Dan Moloney and Travis Banks getting slots on the show, with the mostly savvy crowd recognising this and creating a great atmosphere for those matches, that is unique to these ICW tour shows.

Show in a Sentence - A decent wrestling event, that was a little overpriced at £19.

Match of the Night - Ridgeway & Banks v Polo Promotions

Words and Images - James Marston (@IAmNotAlanDale)

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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Opinion: Donald Trump and Wrestling - A Match Made in Heaven or Hell?

I can envisage a future where our world has been devastated and is almost beyond recognition: a few lone survivors hunt for scraps on a desolate Earth that has been ripped apart by warring superpowers. Most of civilisation as we know it has long since passed, decimated by The Greatest War of them all, the inevitable end result of the insatiable greed of nations governed by increasingly ruthless, bloody-minded demagogues. The only remnant of this era of distrust and fury are huge, golden statues, memorials to the cult of personality that led humanity down this dark path. In this bleak future, I see myself, tired and fraught, leading my children through the overgrown wilderness once known as New York. In the centre of the marshland, where the contaminated air is at its thickest, stands the golden statue of one Donald Trump, one of the agitators accused of stoking the fires of hate that caused the world to burn. My son looks at me: curious, confused, afraid.

“Dad, who is that man?”

Reflecting on the complex turmoil of years past, I wonder how to answer him. I pause and respond.

“He managed Bobby Lashley at Wrestlemania 23. He shaved Vince McMahon’s head and then Stone Cold beat him up”.

Seeing that this is a wrestling blog and Trump is as controversial and divisive a figure as they come, political chatter shall be kept to a minimum (although I’ll go on record and say that I wouldn’t have voted for him myself). What will be considered here is Trump’s long standing links with the wrestling industry. When the relationship began in the 1980s, it was as a business venture on Trump’s part: hosting the much sought after Wrestlemania events at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City in 1988 and 1989 (the only time that consecutive Mania’s have been held in the same city) was seen as quite the coup for the savvy operator. In the coming years, Trump was often seen at ringside at various Manias (I’m not sure if he made it to many house shows) with his appearance at WrestleMania XX being a prime example of ironic foreshadowing. Whilst being interviewed by a former governor in Jesse “The Body” Ventura, the topic of politics came up. Jesse asked Trump if he would support Ventura’s own candidacy and stated that it may be time “to put a wrestler in the White House”. As Trump smiled (and maybe formed an idea in his mind), Jerry Lawler questioned whether we would ever see the New York mogul run for President. Hey America, between WWE and The Simpsons (see episode: Bart to the Future), President Trump really should come as no surprise…

Trump’s legacy in wrestling will always be tied to The Battle of the Billionaires. Playing the babyface to Vince McMahon’s classic heel, Trump made his presence felt on WWE television, questioning the direction and quality of the product following the infamous Donald Trump vs Rosie O’Donnell skit on Monday Night RAW (truly one of the worst segments in the history of the flagship show). As McMahon bristled at the sight of his rival, Trump dropped money on the audience (this could prove a crowd pleasing move worth revisiting when the presidency gets tough). Weeks later, Trump returned to RAW and challenged Vince to a fight; despite being a former WWE champion who had beaten The Undertaker, Triple H and Steve Austin, Vince thought better of tangling with The Donald (sorry...Mr President) and instead suggested that they find surrogates to fight for them. With the added wager of hair vs hair, the main attraction of WrestleMania 23 was set. 

Trump was to give the rub to heavily pushed young star Bobby Lashley (although the rub was somewhat undermined by Trump referring to him as Bobby Lindsey in interviews) while Vince led "The Samoan Bulldozer" Umaga into battle. The match was okay, Vince had his head shaved in a memorable angle and Austin hit Trump with the worst stunner in history. Pause and reflect on that: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin has stone cold stunnered the President of the United States. The PPV buy rate was the best in WWE history at that time and Trump more than contributed to this. The character he cultivated in The Apprentice bore more than a passing resemblance to Mr. McMahon (they even shared the same catchphrase) and could be viewed as an equal: his composure on the mic and overly confident demeanour complemented Vince’s own style. Indeed, this run is probably justification enough for Trump to be considered worthy of his place in the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.

I was at the Garden the night that Trump was inducted. Whereas live crowds in 2007 had tended to cheer Donald (as they did during his brief return in 2009), by 2013 the tide had turned. Trump was booed viciously and I remember remarking to my brother that no-one on the roster had that level of heat. That is why Trump is so pro wrestling: he conjures strong reactions wherever he goes, reactions he often manipulates artfully. Like a political John Cena, you can either love him or hate him: to some he is a babyface, the people’s champion ready to save the working man from the cruelty of modern life; to others he is the ultimate heel, a conniving and corrupt individual of limited morality, consumed by greed and lust. However you feel, you do feel something: there are no shades of grey here. And that is wrestling at its most effective: Trump is a showman who knows what his audience wants and how to give it to them. He has Hulk Hogan levels of skill in reading a crowd and providing them with the perfect response at that precise moment: be it working them into a frenzy of hate and leading them in unified chants; tenderly raising a child in the air for a cheap pop; or showing rare humility as he did in his acceptance speech late last night. He even knows how to execute a turn: he switched from Republican to Democrat in 2001 and turned back again in 2009. Gotta keep that gimmick fresh.

So now that the resident of the White House follows Vince McMahon on Twitter, can we expect to see politics and wrestling combine in the future? We can be sure that Trump will not go near a ring during his presidency and probably wouldn’t even return after his term is up. Trump is now too famous, too prestigious a catch for wrestling and for many, that, understandably, will be seen as no great loss. But Trump is already a part of WWE history. When you re-watch WrestleManias he is, as Vince attested in his HOF induction, ingrained in the fabric of many shows: the arena might be his own; he might be sitting front and centre at ringside; he might even be blowing Austin’s signature move. In the years to come, Donald Trump may well alter the course of American and World history, adding to his already complex and infamous legacy: he surely will be a topic in political studies for generations. But when the day eventually comes when my son asks me who he this man is, my response will start with Bobby Lashley.

Words - Sean Taylor-Richardson (@GrownManCenaFan)
Images & Editing - James Marston (@IAmNotAlanDale)

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