One of the things I enjoy most about wrestling is when there’s something you can get behind and follow – someone to root for and to urge on to triumph, someone to want to see suffer and get their comeuppance. Not too difficult to do (one would think) when you’re broadcasting globally every week; but a bit tougher when you’re a UK company and run a handful of times a year, and your audience is bound to have a collectively short memory.
How fortunate, then, that FPW, for their second anniversary show, ‘Crowning Glory’, hit on the simplest and best of all wrestling fables – the title challenge.
It might seem odd that FPW have managed to run for two years without crowning a champion; as compere and co-founder Matt Burden said in the ring today, it was something they’d discussed as soon as they came up with the idea for a promotion. So this may be judged as long overdue, and well deserving of the occasion being immortalised in cupcakes (see image, above left).
And it was just as straightforward and compelling as anyone could have wished. The eight men left standing at the end of February’s Reloaded rumble were the eight quarter-finalists, beginning with Marty Scurll, the mahogany-hued grinning joker, against Jimmy Havoc, a seething snarling bad’un. Scurll enjoyed taunting Havoc, who rejoiced in his win.
Noam Dar, a young man of whom I have been a fan for a long while, showed unexpected comedy chops (and a surprisingly nice smile) against Joel Masters. Dar is invariably booed by English crowds; Masters is known to FPW as Sir Thomas Chamberlain’s enforcer; nobody knew who they should be cheering. The confusion of this particular match-up was encapsulated by Dar’s questioning of his opponent: “Are you the bad guy? Am I the bad guy?” It transpired, thanks to Dar’s cunning yet dastardly tricks, that he was, indeed, a bad guy; and Masters enjoyed the novel sensation of rapturous applause from the Wallington crowd.
Chamberlain himself managed to beat the ever-popular El Ligero; though he made use of Earl Jonathan Windsor’s interference, he also picked up a clean win, forcing the Mexican Sensation to tap.
The last quarter-final, between Greg Burridge and Ashley Reed, may have seemed a foregone conclusion, what with the Cockney Crusader being by far and away the most popular guy on the FPW roster with the fans. Reed revelled in the hatred emanating from the youngsters in the audience; while Burridge lost his fluffy dice on his roll into the ring and had to borrow a pair from an adoring worshipper. Reed began the contest with a slap, leading Burridge to declare, “No more fun and games!” and begin a feisty, fantastic contest. “Shoulda gone for the fun and games, my friend,” declared Burridge just before he confirmed his win.
The first semi-final was a surprising one – with the audience still unsure whether they were supposed to be cheering for Masters or not, they didn’t quite know how his match against his lord and employer Chamberlain would pan out. Chamberlain was telling his minion to lie down and be pinned; Masters underwent an existential crisis, clearly wanting to throw a few punches and see if he could get the win himself, but eventually money talked, and Chamberlain progressed to the final.
Havoc returned to face Burridge, and what’s more, he had changed from his white tights into black, just in case we weren’t sure how evil he was being today. He proceeded to smack Burridge all round the hall with a folding chair, concentrating on his opponent’s knee, still encased in a brace after those much-discussed injuries of some years ago. Burridge, being a superhuman kinda guy, was resurgent and sneaked the win, but that mattered nothing to Havoc, who continued to pound on that knee even after the bell had rung.
Just to give the crowd time to catch their breath, Douglas Douglas Rockefeller introduced the first two members of his Foundation – Terry Striker and the Warden, both apparently having their US citizenship fast-tracked, and looking a bit like a low-rent Village People. They were up against the Flying Aces, Paul Robinson and Will Ospreay, and what a brilliant match it was. Striker and the Warden are loathed of old by FPW fans; Robinson and Ospreay’s leaping and flying astounded the young’uns, who became Aces fans if they weren’t already.
Then a marvellous singles final ensued. Chamberlain attacked the heavily limping Burridge from behind en route to the ring, much to the audience’s dismay. Burridge got his revenge by throwing Chamberlain through the tuck shop table, through the merch stand, and then round the hall, inviting small children to slap him – all while wearing an ill-gotten Sin Cara mask. After interference by Masters, Windsor and Havoc, Chamberlain forced his opponent to pass out, meaning that referee Chris Roberts had no choice but to stop the bout.
That made Sir Thomas Chamberlain FPW’s first-ever champion, much to co-founder Steve HD Evans’s disgust, leading to the announcement that he’d already got the first title defence scheduled – against Paul Robinson, at June’s St Helier Festival. As Chamberlain and his entourage left the ring, Burridge struggled to his feet and told the crowd he would be aiming for a rematch and to get his hands on that belt as soon as possible.
Simple. Superb. And the best UK show I have seen in a long time.