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The Week In British Wrestling: Will Ospreay to Japan; Freddie Mercurio waves goodbye

Will Ospreay

1) ICW made must-see TV.

Despite three or four of their top guys being on the TNA UK tour, Insane Championship Wrestling still managed to have a HUGE night of TV at the Friday Night Fight Club tapings at the Garage in Glasgow. New ICW Heavyweight champion Chris Renfrew made the first defence of his title against Mikey Whiplash, in a match which included barbed-wire, drawing pins, and tables. The ICW Women’s and ICW Tag Team titles were also defended on the show, which also included Zack Gibson, Noam Dar, Joe Coffey, and the rest of the usual ICW crowd.

The promotion’s annual Bammy Awards were handed out at the taping and one moment that may have further implications down the road saw Red Lighting hand the award for Best Mic Work to Renfrew. Lighting informed Renfrew that it was not company policy to attack TNA, which brought out Mark Dallas. He & Lighting went back and forth on the mic’, until Renfrew attacked Red Lightning and declared himself a “Mark Dallas Guy”.


Tidal Championship Wrestling

2) Tidal had a big weekend.

The northern cities of Darlington and Leeds are Tidal Championship Wrestling’s home territory, and this past weekend saw them hold two shows, one in each city, with the promotion’s championships defended on both shows. On the first, el Ligero saw off the challenge of Perfect Purdie to defend his TCW title, while TCW Open champion Dan James retained his title, but only by count-out against HT Drake. In Leeds, two days later, Ligero defeated Chris Ridgeway, and James once more got himself counted out, this time against Liam Lazarus.

Lazarus also worked the Darlington shot, seeing off a most un-Kimala-like “Ugandan Warrior” Nsereko, but the big attention on Sunday was on the quartet of visitors from the ProJo, PROGRESS’s training school in south London. While south eastern fans are used to seeing these guys pop up on cards here & there, the north rarely gets to see them, and if reports are anything to go by, it may be too soon for Jack Sexsmith to return with his brand of sexually-ambiguous horseplay anytime in the near future! Going down a little better with northern crowds were The Omega, and the tag-team of Sweet Jesus – Pastor Bill Eaver & Chuck Mambo.

With similar roots in event promotion, it’s no surprise to see some crossover between Tidal & PROGRESS, and it can only benefit the northern scene – and the UK scene as a whole – to encourage these partnerships.

3) TNA POP'ped in to use our best lads.

The UK may be the last place in the world that TNA can still draw a crowd but that didn’t stop them loading the cards for their tour last week with a trio of Britain’s finest to augment the likes of Drew Galloway, Grado (or Odarg...), Bram, Mark Andrews, and Rockstar Spud. After initially holding a vote to see which of Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, or Big Damo would be brought onto the tour, they decided to bring all three, although strangely neglected to use the latter two on the opening night in Manchester. Ospreay did get a run out, however, losing to Andrews in a short match which was taped for Xplosion. The others got their chance on the remaining two shows, and Ospreay got used more as the tour went on, and they all seemed happy about the experience.

The big story that broke from the tour was that TNA found out Ospreay had signed with New Japan – he starts on April 10th, and will be in the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament – and that they were far from happy about it. Different stories have come from various sources, but it is surprising that, given he was about to (in their TV timetable, at least) depart for Japan, they didn’t use him to showcase their stars and their TV to audiences who wouldn’t otherwise watch. Breakout stars don’t come along often – and I think we can agree that Ospreay is one of those now, right? – and you miss them at your peril. At least some of TNA’s UK fans got to see our best, and may find their live grappling pleasure somewhere more local in future.

Freddie Mercurio

4) A crossover star said goodbye.

Live wrestling crowds can be hard to win over. That’s even more true if the crowd contains a fair amount of non-wrestling fans, and if you can have them eating out of the palm of your knucklelock-applying hands, you’re a better worker than ninety percent of those plying their trade in the business. One place you find a good percentage of the crowd with absolutely no interest in the minutiae and detail of professional wrestling is Lucha Britannia, where the audience is made up of equal parts hipster & funseeker, with the odd braying city boy and wrestling fan thrown in. In front of that crowd you need to learn to work in a completely different way, something that can’t be taught (or at least not outside the London School of Lucha Libre, it seems).

Lucha Britannia’s top star was Freddie Mercurio. I say “was” because last week was farewell with the group, losing his title – and a Loser Leaves Lucha Britannia match – to Cassius in the main event of the show. Lucky people in Toronto may get to see him play his trade over there, but we’ll miss him in that converted railway arch in east London.

Also on the show, Marduk Malik continued his reign of terror by winning his second King of Lucha Chaos title, and has recruited worshippers who fight on his behalf, while the Church of Darkness, led by el Cardenal, still cause terror and havoc; this time out Santeria & Zombie Janey fought Diablesa Rosa & the newly-técnico Lagarta de Plata, to the delight of the crowd. Freddie may be gone, but the RetroFutureVerse still has stories to tell.

5) There were lots and lots and lots of shows.

Despite their champion, Jimmy Havoc, being otherwise occupied on the TNA tour, IPW:UK didn’t miss a beat with their SwanleyDome event at the White Oak in Swanley, Kent. Babyface personality Dean Ayass called out the absent champion, who obviously didn’t answer, but heel referee Artemis refused to grant Ayass’s charge Jon Ryan a title match on his behalf. While Havoc was missing, All-England champion Sammy Smooth was in attendance, and defended his title against ROH’s Donovan Dijak, and Paul Robinson continued the Swords of Essex’s campaign against “Blackbelt” Tom Dawkins.

The show saw the return to action of women’s veteran Jetta, and also featured Johnny Kidd, James Mason, Jonny Storm, and The London Riots. The Riots were also supposed to be in action on GOOD Wrestling’s debut card, at the Craufurd Arms in Wolverton, but James Davis’s absence forced Rob Lynch to recruit Cy Gregory to form the MK Riots to dominate Terry Isit & Danny Jones. The show was headlined by Doug Williams pinning Joseph Conners, and also had appearances from Pastor Will Eaver, Wild Boar, Stixx, and Jack Sexsmith, who went down a STORM with an unfamiliar crowd. GOOD return in April.

In the heart of the Midlands, at the Collingwood Centre in Birmingham, Kamikaze-Pro presented Hostile Tak3over, which saw all the company’s titles on the line in one match – an All Or Nothing six-man featuring Robbie X, Ryan Smile, Damian Dunne, Pete Dunne, and the Hunter Brothers. Smile got the vital pin, over Pete Dunne, to become the new Relentless Division champion, after help from a mystery man later revealed to be Marshall X. Also on the show were Marty Scurll, Toni Storm, Nixon Newell, Clint Margera, and Mark Haskins. New Generation Wrestling continued their warm-up to their big May date in Hull with a show in Pudsey, West Yorkshire.

Full Force featured NGW Heavyweight champion Nathan Cruz seeing off the challenge of Lionheart, but identity of the next man to get a shot at the title might have to wait as Rampage Jackson & Zack Gibson went to double DQ in their number one contenders’ match. Also on the show were Bubblegum, Joseph Conners, El Ligero, Wild Boar, and "Flash" Morgan Webster, and the NGW action continues this spring with a nationwide tour.