This weekend I had the opportunity to travel to England to see the Battle Britannia events promoted by Southwest based 4FW (not to be confused with F4W!) and my prevailing thoughts after two shows of quality wrestling were that not only is the future of 4FW very promising, but that the future of European wrestling just gets brighter and brighter. The reason I made this trip was 100% due to the fact that two of the best international performers in the world, Fujita Jr. Hayato and Kenny Omega, would be on the shows facing Zack Sabre Jr in singles bouts. However as great as those matches were, it was seeing the quality of the young and upcoming talent in the ring that really had me excited when the shows were over. Last week at wXw's 16 Carat in Germany I had the opportunity to see mainland Europe's rising stars such as Robert Dreissker, Jay Skillet and Hot & Spicy. This week it was "Dynamite" Pete Dunne, Owen Phoenix, Benham Ali, Wild Boar and Mark Andrews who proved themselves to be ones to watch in the UK.
Friday's show was located in lovely Chipping Sodbury, a quiet town that looked straight out of the 1960s. Friendly people all around and almost no chain stores in sight. The Town Hall (I didn't even know such places still existed) was the venue for the show and it provided a quiet the classy environment for the show. Anytime I get chandeliers at a wrestling show I'm a happy man (as long as they don't get smashed Davey Richards/Jimmy Rave style). Being around before the show started I was extremely impressed with how polite the young members of the roster were, going as far as to introduce themselves to me one by one when I came in. I conversed with a few of them and could see instantly that these kids were well trained, not just in the ring, but in terms of how to represent their company well as people.
The first match of the night was an eight man tag featuring eight of the aforementioned younger performers. You had a clear face team and a clear heel team, and it was easy for the crowd to get into. The match was short and action packed with the standout performers being Welsh wrestlers Mark Andrews and Wild Boar. Andrews is a bleach blonde high flyer who looks crisp in everything he does. Boar is like a pitbull, short in stature but extremely aggressive and powerful. Veteran Sha Samuels took on The Saint in a match most memorable for giving us the first dose of Gilligan Gordan vs. the elderly senior citizen in the front row. Gordan, a throwback heel manager, was not in the old timers good books at all! Samuels won after interference and a stump piledriver.
Next up was the debut of Fujita Jr. Hayato on European soil. 4FW have formed a relationship with Michinoku Pro and recently had Jinsei Shinzaki (the former Hakushi is the WWF) over to cement the deal. Both sides are extremely happy with the prospects of the relationship as it gives the younger wrestlers from both promotions a place to go to experience a different type of setting, and it also gives 4FW a chance to use legitimate Japanese stars like Hayato, The Great Sasuke and others. Hayato faced off against Pete Dunne who is about to get his first taste of Japan later this week. He will have a lengthy stay over there and will no doubt eat, sleep and breathe wrestling like most do when staying in a Japanese dojo. Dunne hung with Fujita here and looked very worthy of selection. To witness the Tohuko Jr. Heavyweight champion live and in person was an awe-inspiring thing. I may have never seen a crisper, more technically sound perfomer live before. He was incredible. Every movement he made in the ring sucked you in and every bit of offense he delivered to the youngster made the crowd react with shock. It was a really good match and Hayato won it with his K.I.D guillotine choke.
Our second heavyweight contest of the evening once again featured the Gilligan Gordan vs. Old Man motif, as the heel manager this time lead Dave Mastiff (perhaps the best heavyweight in the UK) into battle against Eddie Ryan. This time the old man (who was adorned in badges - http://i.imgur.com/92AcojA.jpg ) got the last laugh with Ryan successfully defending his heavyweight title in a solid bout. 4FW’s two most featured young stars, Sheik Benham Ali and Owen Phoenix then battled for the junior title in an exciting athletic match which showed the potential of both guys to be through the roof. At less than 20 years old each, they are scary good. Ali won with a sick brainbuster followed up quickly by the camel clutch.
The main event was dream match No. 1 of the weekend – Zack Sabre Jr of Pro Wrestling NOAH vs. Kenny Omega of DDT. We got to see the side of Omega that was best shown during his run with All Japan’s junior title. He acted sort of heelish but in a completely whacky and innovative way that the crowd ate up. It was as massively entertaining live as it is on tape. Zack continued to prove that he is right now one of the top ten in-ring wrestlers of 2013, wrestling at as high a level as he was last weekend in Germany. They traded big moves down the stretch before Zack succumbed to the Croyth’s Wrath.
We moved about 45 minutes East to the more metropolitan Swindon for Night 2’s action and were treated to another excellent show. The attendance was well up from Night 1, with the Swindon venue being 4FW’s home base. After Benham Ali suffered a bad ankle injury at a seminar in the afternoon, there had to be some creative booking done to sort things out. Pete Dunne was moved from his junior title match with Ali into a three way with Boar and Andrews. After a cracking opening contest, Dunne was blindsided by a “healthy” Ali coming out and saying the title match would now go down as planned with Dunne already exhausted. But of course, 30 seconds in, Dunne got a small package and won the title to a huge ovation.
Our two heavyweight contests from Night 1 were switched up for Night 2 with the winners and losers facing off. First Mastiff defeated The Saint (and proceeded to attack him outside the ring postmatch) and then Sha Samuels defeated Ryan following a lot of Gilligan Gordon interference and became the new heavyweight champion. Kenny Omega went two for two not just in terms of wins but also in terms of having awesome matches as he and Phoenix had a terrific bout which once again saw Omega prevail using The Croyths Wrath. It was a pleasure seeing the DDT star live and he really comes across as exactly that – a star!
Before the main event, we had another showcase match for the younger stars of the promotion, this time a six man tag. They all did a really good job and got a great reaction from the fans. Most notable in the match was 16 year old Volkan Aslam aka “The Turkish Delight” who is scarily talented for his age and experience. He is being nurtured by the promotion the right way and is being put in matches at the behest of one of the biggest names in the business who was incredibly impressed with the young man’s talent. He not only as the athletic skills but he also is extremely entertaining pulling off a very flamboyant character in the ring (throwing a Turkish Delight chocolate bar at the fans being a personal highlight).
And then it was time for Dream Match No.2 – Zack vs. Hayato. It was every bit as stiff and technically sound as one would expect. They kicked strips off each other, fought tooth and nail for submissions and delivered some crunching suplexes. The bout featured one of the great spontaneous moments I’ve experienced at a wrestling show as a strike flurry ending in a Hayato headbutt happened a half second before the lights went out. The crowd without hesitation began a “knocked his lights out!” chant. It was a great moment and thankfully the lighting issue was fixed quickly. The finishing stretch was incredible with Sabre even busting out the rare Minoru Special No. 2 much to my pleasure. But it wasn’t enough as Fujita got himself another win with the K.I.D, and the sound of his one of a kind entrance music (I Believe by TOK) filled the building along with the sound of a well deserved standing ovation.
I had a really great time and was really impressed by not just the wrestlers but the promotion as a whole. 4 Front Wrestling is one of the most professionally run indy groups I’ve come across. The shows were run really well, their wrestlers all look the part, the setup looks good, the graphic used in the promotion of the show were very sharp and they even go the extra mile with little things such as custom made Japanese style tracksuits for the guys to wear. I would definitely recommend checking out these shows on DVD when they come out and if you can attend any of their upcoming shows you won’t be disappointed. The May shows feature Shelton Benjamin and Ultimo Dragon, and big things are planned for October too.