Sunday 3 July 2011
The 1st Andre Baker Memorial Show Report By Paul Dyer
Wanted to apologise for the lateness of this column, between a dislocated finger and a fried motherboard it’s been a tough month!
Over 12 years ago, February 6th 1999 to be exact (I’m anal, I keep records!), on a cold and very wet night in Birmingham I saw the stiffest wrestling match I have witnessed in my 28 years as a fan. Steve Logan’s K-Star Wrestling had a working agreement with Hammerlock Wrestling, to use some of their wrestlers on Logan’s shows.
This particular night, the show was basically a Hammerlock show except the opening match between two of Steve’s students. Hammerlock stalwarts such as Jon Ryan, Sebastian P. Sterling, Dean Champion, Rob Carlin and not to mention future NWA World Heavyweight Champion and “Deal or No Deal” veteran Gary Steele all competed on the show. The main even that night was something special, something that I’d not seen live before, it was pure violence masquerading itself as a “fake” wrestling match. That night Jonny Moss and Alex Shane wrestled a no contest with Justin Richards and Andre Baker. I’ve seen shoots that were not as hard hitting as this match, it was a total Japanese strong style match taken to the limit. Hearing the thud of every punch and forearm shot echo through St. Teresa’s nightclub sent shivers down my spine and makes me 12 years later, smile with fond recollections.
This was my first and unfortunately the last time I would ever see Andre Baker work. The agreement with K-Star fell apart and I never made the trip down to Kent, something I now regret. Andre trained nearly every single wrestler on that show and trained them very well. All the guys were competent professional wrestlers, some were green but you could see the potential and some were extremely good to where you couldn’t see the mistakes that invariably creep in through a match, which to me is the ultimate compliment to Andre’s training. Andre passed away at the young age of 45 last year and on the 21st May I attended the 1st Annual Andre Baker Memorial Show.
My day began too damn early for my liking as I met THE Phil Jones for the drive down to Maidstone from a somewhat sunny Cardiff. Wrestling geekdom ensured as we listened to various wrestling themed podcasts on the way, including my personal favourite the Bryan & Vinny show from F4WOnline/WrestlingObserver.com, we slightly “cooled it up” with the new Beastie Boys album “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two”! Finding the elusive Travelodge was a chore but we’re two grown men of reasonable intelligence and not to mention we had a homicidal Satnav, so after lucking into finding it and I truly mean lucking out we set out for Motepark Leisure Centre.
When you go to a smaller show you never know what the setup is going to be like, whether the PA system is going to work effectively or whether the ring will move 4 inches every time someone takes a bump. But this setup was well produced, nice ring and the video screens were a very nice surprise. The show kicked off with the ringing of the timekeeper’s bell 10 times with all the wrestlers coming out and everyone standing and then a really well put together tribute video played, kudos to those involved in the production of that. After a very nice speech by MC Dean Ayass we had the first match in the Andre Baker Memorial Cup pitting Hammerlock veterans Jon Ryan and Paul Tracey against each other. Ryan came to ringside with “the advisor to the stars” Mike White and let me tell you it took a real talent to get the crowd to boo after such an emotional and well done opening but White’s skill on the mic accomplished it and then some. The match was very well done by both guys and featured lots of liberal interference during the course to setup the piledriver finish that put the dastardly heel into the final.
Second match of the night featured two more Hammerlock vets as the babyface duo Jonny Moss and Danny Garnell went at it. Another fine match, only marred slightly during the opening few minutes as the crowd didn’t know who to cheer for. Whether planned or on the fly Garnell switched to subtle heel and the match started to really pick up, both are quality performers and it showed in this very nice match. The finish came as Moss, using a variation of Andre’s sunset flip powerbomb to the outside for the countout win. I have to give Jonny huge credit for this as he protected Danny all the way using his own legs so he didn’t even touch the floor on the initial bump.
Mayhem ensued as the Hardcore Tag match went on next. Seek 'n' Destroy against Jimmy Havoc and Kurrupt was a wild, hard hitting brawl that took place all over the ringside area and in the crowd. A very good brawl ended as Tony McMillan was powerbombded on a car door, yes a car door! I’ve been watching a long time and it takes a lot to surprise me but this did it! The wrestling side of the evening took a back seat for a little while as Gary Steele was inducted into the British wrestling hall of fame. Gary looked in good shape and seemed genuinely appreciative of the reaction the crowd gave him after many years out of the business.
The obligatory battle royal occurred with Exodus, Devilman, Muscle Manson, Team Ireland (I marked out for one of these guys as he had the best “Boogie Nights” tache ever!), Guy Thunder, Jay Steerling, Anton Green, Umar Ibrahin, Michael Bishop, Mike Mendoza, Majik, T-Bone and Iron Jekkle all competing. It was decent enough for what it was with Team Ireland dominating until the end until the surprise entrance of Gary Steele (still in his street clothes!) eliminated all three members and was declared the winner.
The strangest match of the evening as Majik took on John Richie. The match was contested under old school rules with public warnings being in effect which lead to a very strange finish. Richie playing the monocled heel got disqualified and seemed visibly furious including getting out of the ring and calling everyone amateurs to the ring announcer. Could have been working but this seemed genuine from where I was sitting. Up to the finish the match decent enough with both playing their roles well and having the crowd going. In another nice moment on the show Andre was inducted into the British hall of fame which included some of his family members accepting on his behalf.
Now we come to the easy match of the night and the reason for my travel to Kent, Zack Sabre Jr versus then IWGP Junior heavyweight champion Fergal “Prince” Devitt.
This was a fantastic match from bell to bell with some nice flying mixed with the New Japan Pro Wrestling (if it’s good enough for Punk it’s good enough for me!) strong style thrown in for good measure. This was (and I usually dislike giving match ratings but what the hell) an easy ****1/4 match with the finish being a Bloody Sunday (Lifting single underhook DDT) for the pin. My only gripe with the match was Sabre chewing gum all the way through the match and Fergal has in the past too, guys this is meant to be hard hitting and “real”, chewing gum detracts from what you’re doing, knock it off! With the next statement I do not mean to say that anyone on this isn’t a good worker but the difference between Fergal and everyone else on this show was evident. He is unbelievably smooth and always on point during the match, and that truly is the difference between a good worker and a fantastic worker. I highly recommend you getting a hold of the 2011 Best of the Super Juniors and watch Fergal do what he does best.
After a great match we come to this! It was just an awful match, from start to finish. Hugh Munges & Devin Byrne beat Tank & Cell (it was a strange thing to hear people chanting his name!). Before the match officially started Cell tried a dive over the top rope onto Munges and Bryne and crashed and burned. That really didn’t help as they were already in the unenviable position of going out after the previous match, this well and truly killed the crowd. I took this opportunity to go for a much needed bathroom break so if you really want to know what happened buy the DVD.
Last match of the show was the finals of the Andre Baker memorial tourney with Jonny Moss against John Ryan. Another fine match including Dean Ayass running into thwart the devilish Mike White as Moss won with a top rope hurrcanrana. After the match the ring filled with the wrestlers and Andre’s family as the show closed. I was highly entertained with the show and it certainly was well worth the trip down.
If you are on twitter please follow Hammerlock wrestling @Hammerlock and while you’re at it mine is twitter.com/theszbien
Stu's note: I want to personally thank Rob Brazier of Last Chance Photographs for supplying the pictures for this report. Please visit Rob's page to view more photo's from this show and other shows he has worked on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lastchancephotographs/sets/72157626700899391/