By Alan Boon for WrestlingObserver.com
1) We’re under ATTACK!
Of all the promotions in the UK, the ones that pique my interest the most are those that carve out their own little niche, do something different, and offer something you won’t find anywhere else. With ongoing storylines enhanced -- rather than interrupted -- by the combatants appearing as video game, Halloween, super hero and other characters, ATTACK! Pro-Wrestling are certainly a different beast in that regard. Formed in 2011 by the Dunne brothers in Birmingham, the company now runs Cardiff and Bristol with a solid roster that includes many of the UK’s top talents. The fact that these talents were part of ATTACK!’s roster before they broke out onto the wider scene is a testament to their position as more than just a comedy promotion.
To close out a 2015 that began with one of their principals (Mark Andrews) leaving for TNA and included hosting Chikara-Pro on their UK tour, ATTACK! promoted the Under The Misteltour double-shot this weekend with two sold-out shows in Bristol and Cardiff. They brought in Zack Sabre Jr for the first show as a mystery partner for Nixon Newell against her former tag team partner Chris Brookes (who tagged with the underrated Martin Kirby), featured two title changes for their main title (the ATTACK! 24/7 title, which is now back to being defended 24/7 after the villainous Pete Dunne suspended that particularly quirk), and had their main heels – the Anti-Fun Police - do the most heelish thing ever and give away spoilers to the new Star Wars film. They’ve already announced their February dates (which already have sold out) but they’ll be back on Wrestlemania weekend with another double-shot. You could do much, much worse than head west, like the elves to the Undying Lands, and check out a little slice of unique.
2) It is possible to survive Vince Russo.
Not many companies survive having Vince Russo as a booker, but for IPW:UK, it was just another bump in the road. Okay, so it was a storyline appointment, and he only appeared on a couple of shows so his wrecks-appeal was limited. His stench lives on, though, with his aide The Puppet (played by scene veteran Sam Gardiner) still trying to exert influence despite Russo losing a multi-man contest against IPW:UK owner Dan Edler two months ago. On the second part of a double-shot (very much en vogue this weekend, it seems), The Puppet tried to ruin Christmas by appearing as Santa Claus but was put down in a very violent match by Jimmy Havoc, and thus the man usually most greeted with the most horrible of swear words saved Christmas. It was all part of a wider angle that saw the return of heel referee Artemis on a very storyline-heavy card, and the show set up many of the plots that will take IPW:UK into 2016.
Earlier in the show, Tennessee Honey became the first IPW:UK women’s champion in a match which saw the return of Jetta (as special referee), the reunited Swords of Essex (Paul Robinson and Will Ospreay, who is uniquely playing heel here) beat the team of “Blackbelt” Tom Dawkins and Scott Starr, and Sammy Smooth defended his IPW:UK All-England title against Jon Ryan. That title can trace its lineage back to 2000 and the FWA, and was actually named by this writer! The main event was a wrestling clinic between Sabre Jr and respected veteran Johnny Kidd, held over traditional British rules, and with Steve Grey as special referee. Kidd came out on top, beating his younger opponent by two falls to one.
The night before at their adults-only Hardcore Lottery show, Sabre Jr had competed in the titular tournament, overcoming London Riot James Davis in a “Submission Match” to meet Jimmy Havoc (who’d beaten Clint Margera in a “No F’n Rules Match”) and Jon Ryan (who’d downed Snare in a “Dual Chairs Match”) in the three-way main event. Again held under “No F’n Rules”, the veteran Ryan surprisingly overcame the king of British hardcore and the submission specialist to take the honours. 2016 will see the promotion venture outside their Kent base for the first time in an age and, while IPW:UK don’t make the headlines that PROGRESS or ICW do, it’s worth keeping an eye on what’s going on in the Garden of England.
3) The first rule of Friday Night Fight Club is...
Talking of Insane Championship Wrestling, they held their final show of 2015 on Friday night, a “TV taping” for their weekly on-demand show, Friday Night Fight Club. While ICW’s core business is their well-attended live shows, the ICW On-Demand service brings in a chunk of their income and – more importantly – new fans outside their Glasgow base. While some promotions are content (and perhaps only able) to merely upload recordings of their live shows on their on-demand channels, ICW offers a little bit more for your money which sees few complaints about the monthly fee of just $6.99 (£4.69). Chief amongst these is FNFC nd the upcoming episodes will see the biggest stars of ICW – and the GZRS – up on your big/little screen.
This week’s tapings, on the heels of the last set two weeks ago, saw all four ICW titles on the line with ICW Heavyweight champion Grado taking on “The Bastard” Dave Mastiff and “The Scouser” Zack Gibson in a three-way defence. New women’s champion Viper defended against Kay Lee Ray, Zero-G champion Davey “Boy” Blaze fought Liam Thomson, and the tag-team champions The Polo Club took on The 55’s Sha Samuels & Kid Fite in a re-match from their cracker at the massive Fear & Loathing show. Also appearing at the tapings were Big Damo, Jack Jester, Mikey Whiplash, and Joe Coffey. The episodes will go live over the Christmas weekend.
4) The people of Nottingham are confused.
Nottingham, a city in the East Midlands with a 300,000 people and a huge student population, is an ideal place for a wrestling promotion. So it’s no surprise that it has at least three with ICW also making regular stops at the Rock City venue in the city centre. While Southside Wrestling Entertainment is developing its own brand, the other two promotions must cause a little confusion. House Of Pain (HOP) wrestling are an extension of the wrestling school run by scene veteran Stixx, and functions largely as a place for his students to develop their talents. They did a triple shot over the weekend at venues across the city, while at the same time, House Of Pain: Evolution (or HOP:E) also ran a show there. HOP:E were the original extension of the wrestling school but a falling out between promoter Harvey Dale and Stixx resulted in the current situation. While HOP are content to run local shows for their trainees, HOP:E have bigger plans, and also run nearby Mansfield and Derby, as well as a show in Milton Keynes last month. The history of professional wrestling is a story of splits and schisms and it’s somehow reassuring to know it’s still happening, somewhere.
5) You can’t stop the shows!
Down in That London, the Resistance Gallery opened its doors to Lucha Britannia once again for a Christmas-themed show and burlesque spectacular. Alongside turns from Lilly Snatch-Dragon (a striptease dressed as an Ewok), the Virgin Xtravaganzah! (a sacreligious rap), and Snake Fervour (sultry sword-swallowing), there was some actual wrestling, main evented by champion Fug being dethroned by a newly-rudo Cassius. Also on the show was an amazing bout between Neo Britannico and Pure Britannico, who may or may not resemble Will Ospreay and Blackbelt Dawkins when they’re not in the RetroFutureVerse. Up in the Midlands, Alternative Wrestling World ran the Brierley Hill Civic Hall, and featured former FWA stars Kevin O’Neill and Brandon Thomas, as well as the products of its academy.
Given O’Neill is at least partially responsible for Rockstar Spud and Dave Mastiff, it’s safe to say that there should be some good stuff coming out that school and onto those shows. Out east, Falling Starr Wrestling ran in King’s Lynn (scene of a recent Global Force Wrestling show), and headlined with a main event won by “Santa” Bulk (formerly of the UK Pitbulls), a man who definitely doesn’t need to stuff his costume to play the fat man of the North Pole. Finally, in Liverpool, TNT Wrestling presented Cold Day In Hell, which saw Bubblegum pick up the TNT Heavyweight championship in a triple-threat match against Mark Haskins & Rampage Brown. The show also featured Sweet Saraya, Viper, the UK Hooligans, Dave Mastiff & Big Damo.
It’s Christmas this weekend, but the shows don’t stop -- they just slow down. I’ll be at a Southside show Sunday featuring Joey Ryan’s penis, and there’ll be other shows to report on, so join me again next week!
(Thanks to John Lister for help with this week’s column!)