Wednesday 6 February 2013

PCW Road To Glory Night 1 Review By Aiden O'Brien

(Left: Kid Fite shoots Brian Kendrick into the corner - Credit John Searle)

The Road To Glory tournament started on Friday the st of February and only two weeks to the day since PCW's 2013 opener, More Bang For Your Buck (review elsewhere on this site). With only two weeks in between shows you would ordinarily worry that the draw could be massively affected, but if anything the Friday night show had just as many people in the crowd, if not more, than the January show. This is in part due to the PCW's promoter, Steven Fludder, making sure all his events are well publicized and advertised well in advance. Also this show marked the start of PCW's first ever double shot as the tournament would conclude the next night and also include a bonus afternoon show presented by Pro Wrestling EVE so the appeal of a wrestling weekender attracted a fair share. Not content with a tournament line-up, a good amount of the best wrestlers currently active in the UK today and EVE as a bonus for fans of womens wrestling, PCW also brought over former WWE wrestlers Brian Kendrick, Paul London and Super Crazy. All three were rare treats to the UK Indy scene as London was only last seen in December 2010, Super Crazy last wrestled a UK Indy in June 2003 and this was Brian Kendrick's UK Indy debut.

Opening the show was what I would consider my MOTN as Martin Kirby beat Dean Allmark. This was a great opening match, fast paced, some high spots and tense near-falls by the end of the match. Even though they've been in the same ring together this was a first time ever singles match and they worked together really well with the obvious intention of going all out to steal the show. Things started with a feeling out process as they exchanged holds and reversals before they built up to the big moves like Allmark's suicide dive onto Kirby going into the second row, a top rope superplex, the back-cracker onto Kirby hung up in the ropes, Kirby's release powerbomb/facebuster, Allmark's top rope double stomp to the back of Kirby caught on the second turnbuckle. Kirby stole Marufuji's flipping snapmare move which was an incredible sight and will be a brilliant addition to his repertoire, and the audience was stunned when it wasn't the finish. Allmark managed to hit his second corner springboard moonsault but Kirby managed to kick out. In the end the finish came as both men had each other in what appeared to be a double pin small cradle, but the ref raised Kirby's hand as winner. Fantastic start to the show and the weekend.

Before the next match between Bubblegum and April Davids could take place, Bubblegum took the mic to speak from the heart as the man behind the character, Pip, stating that this match could end up being his last as he is due for knee surgery and had cancelled his March bookings. He requested to be able to go out with his head held high in a fair match against Davids but when he went to shake April's hand he instead raked her eyes and went for a roll up victory which she managed to kick out. From there a furious April rocked Bubblegum quite convincingly with elbows and even though April was the smaller and lighter of the two, her forearms and elbows looked deadly. But she didn't stop there as she began to german suplex Gum repeatedly and when he went to reverse it she laid him out with a belly to back suplex with her arms crossed through his legs and also hit a suicide dive onto Bubblegum outside the ring. PCW Heavyweight Champion T-Bone proved to be a distraction on the outside and it was his presence that Bubblegum used to gain control of the match as for one of the few times in his career, he was the one with the strength and power advantage. He even displayed that dominance with a "sex pin" cover onto Davids, which he later admitted gave him a little bone. After that Davids used a display of colourful language that really endeared her to the crowd and almost took Bubblegum's head off with a yakuza kick in the corner. But T-Bone still had a larger part to play in the match as when Bubbleum took time to regroup outside the ring, Bone stepped into the ring and punched April square in the face. All it took was a running double knees onto the laid out Davids for Bubblegum to take the win and advance. Great little match, one of the best matches of the night.

Next up CJ Banks scored the upset win over former PCW Heavyweight Champion Kris Travis via count-out as once again T-Bone made his presence felt. This was a decent match that started back and forth but Banks began to press the advantage to show just how much Travis losing the Title to Bone only two weeks before really took it's toll on him. Banks really worked the back with a series of backbreakers as he worked towards his Texas Cloverleaf finisher. In all honesty I can't really remember that much about this match, it wasn't bad by any means, it was just there until the finish. A finish which I know did not sit well with most. Bubblegum ran in and got onto the ring apron to distract the ref, but Trav saw T-Bone climb onto the ring apron on the other side and kicked him down. Travis hit a dive through the ropes onto Bone, but Bubblegum immediately pounced and the two attacked Travis together outside the ring, T-Bone powerbombing Travis down onto the floor and the two continued to stamp on Trav as the ref counted Travis out. Very weak finish, especially with the ref counting Travis out while watching Bone and Bubblegum attack him through out the count and the fans were very upset with that and took it out on the ref with several chants. Post match T-Bone shook Banks' hand and then took the mic to state that he cost Travis this match because he wanted to face Travis one on one in a straight singles rematch from the previous fortnight, Title on the line. That at least took out some of the sting of the finish to the match.

Brian Kendrick made his UK Indy debut by defeating Kid Fite in a fine back and forth match. Kendrick was very over as soon as he made his entrance, wearing the ring jacket used during his "The" Brian Kendrick days and he had the swagger and poise you'd expect from a former WWE superstar. I've never been really keen on Fite singles matches and felt he always excelled as a tag team wrestler as part of the PCW Tag Team Champions, Fight Club, with Liam Thomson but he managed to hold his own and go back and forth with Kendrick. Starting with a little bit of comedy as Kendrick had the overwhelming crowd support against a vocal minority of Fite fans which resulted in both encouraging the dual chanting. Again like Travis and Banks before it, I can't really remember that much about the match except for enjoying it at the time and that Kendrick looked motivated and didn't half-ass it. They had a brilliant strike exchange near the end and it took Kendrick's third attempt at the Sliced Bread #2 before finally hitting it and getting the three count. Not a bad little match but after 4 shows, not that much of it was ingrained in my memory.

After one former WWE superstar it was Kendrick's former tag team partner Paul London making his PCW debut against Joey Hayes. I was wondering what kind of Paul London would make it to Preston, the one who returned to the Indies in 2010 with new found fire after his release from WWE or the one from 2011 he began to drift out of wrestling, no-show and have lost a lot of his motivation and love of wrestling. By the time his 15 minute (!!!) entrance as he went around the venue several times shaking fans with practically every single fan in the building while dressed in his spaceman suit and genuinely looking to be having the time of his life, it almost didn't matter how he performed in the ring after that entrance and London and Hayes facing off with chairs, two chairs, kids and bigger kids as weapons outside the ring. But I'm happy to report that London more than pulled his own weight and his drop-sault continues to be a thing of beauty. This match was an exercise in the mastery of stalling. This was almost the art of stalling. After spending so long on his entrance going up and down the venue it wouldn't be hard to imagine London being blown up by the time he got in the ring, so Hayes constantly wrangling London's arm, chinlocks, sleeper holds, etc all kept him grounded so when London exploded backs with the drop-saults, leg lariats, etc, it looked all the more impressive and was built up very well. Hayes accidentally busted London open on his forehead which created an extra level of drama towards the end of the match. Paul London managed to hit a double stomp from the top rope onto Hayes back, but had to do his Shooting Star Press off of the second rope to avoid the chandelier above, but Hayes moved after London's delay. One teenage kick took London down, but it was the crossface that finished him for Hayes to get the submission victory in his biggest ever match. It's rare for Hayes to get to face an import, let alone a former WWE superstar so for him to get the win like that in such a clean manner was a big deal. Post match Hayes continued to attack London until Brian Kendrick made the save and in a little moment I loved London grabbed hold of Hayes' leg when he tried to escape so Kendrick could rain fists down before he was finally able to break free and high-tail it out of the ring.

(Right: Andy Wild has Noam Dar in a Boston Crab - Credit John Searle)

In a match I really looking forward too, Noam Dar beat Andy Wild. I know after seeing Wild two weeks ago I was yet to be overly impressed with Wild as while there's no denying he's a fantastic wrestler, he was just lacking that spark in his match against Hayes. Here against Dar he was a lot more focused, concentrating entirely on out-wrestling and keeping up with Dar as Dar allowed himself to play to the crowd just that little bit so Andy came across a lot more intense with his one-track mind. The two exchanged hold for hold wrestling and strikes as they showed off how well they knew each other with little counters and reversals to keep the match at an even keel. Just some great wrestling on display between two of Scotland's best right now and I am sure their well praised match in the finals of Pro Wrestling Elite's Title tournament is more than deserved as these two had the chemistry together to have a gripping contest in their sleep. I do still think Wild is this generations Doug Williams - Not a bad thing for the places he's been, promotion's he's wrestled for and the people he's shared a ring with - And Dar truly is the most talented young wrestler I've seen in quite some time. Wild is also a little hoss as he was able to throw Dar around with belly to belly suplexes, the second one throwing Dar right into the turnbuckle. Dar hit a great suicide dive through the ropes that really fired up the crowd. The two threw a lot of bombs as Wild was able to kick out of Dar's fisherman buster and Dar survived Wild's tiger driver. Wild utilized the boston crab whereas Dar prefers the knee bar. In the end it was the knee bar that took the win, Dar capitalizing on Wild climbing the turnbuckles from inside the ring and kicking Wild's leg out from under him. After Dar's incredible double stomp directly onto the knee with the leg hung on the bottom rope, always a move that gets an audible reaction from the crowd, Dar finally got Wild to tap with the knee bar. Great little match but not the show stealer I was hoping for unfortunately but still a damn good match.

Post match CJ Banks attacks Dar with a flying knee, making a clear statement in regards to their match tomorrow evening. But then Dave Rayne's music hits as he saunters down to the ring, MITB briefcase in hand as the crowd goes crazy. Banks steps aside to allow Rayne to cash in, but Dar takes Rayne by surprise and takes him down with a knee bar. Bare in mind that just over two weeks ago Rayne was involved in a car crash and at the show two weeks ago was on crutches with an obvious knee injury, but Rayne managed to get to the ropes. With Dar exhausted from the previous match, that was his last ditch effort to save his PCW Cruiserweight Championship and in a relatively short space of time Rayne was able to hit his pedigree finishing move to become the new Cruiserweight Champion and the crowd went absolutely bat-shit mental at his victory.

After the technical skills displayed in the previous match, Kay Lee Ray vs Carmel Jacobs was an intense brawl from start to finish. These two have had several high profile battles against each other all varying in their match stipulations and levels of brutality. On this occasion they had to work within the confines of a regular match although when they got outside the ring, the rules were a little bit more lax. Carmel attempted to attack KLR as soon as her back was turned on the turnbuckle but Kay Lee was able to flip over her and take advantage of the match. Minutes later Carmel was sent flying through the front, second and third row after an irish whip from KLR. The addition of Sara-Marie Taylor as Carmel's stable mate helped sway the match back in Carmel's favour and inside the ring they exchanged holds and submissions but with more intensity behind them than the game of human chess seen in Dar/Wild. Kay Lee Ray showed exactly why she was offered the chance to wrestle and train in Japan over the Christmas and New Year period as she's never looked better, but Carmel really kept up with her every step of the way and it's obvious to see why PCW put this match on as a replacement of what should've been Emi Sakura defending the Pro Wrestling EVE Title against Jacobs. In fact, with the girls history, this may have been the better match. Kay Lee Ray hit an insane hurricanrana off the steel crowd barrier onto Jacobs, narrowly avoiding banging her head on nearby chairs on the way down, but it was those high-risk spots that proved to be her un-doing as Carmel got her knees up on KLR's swanton bomb attempt and an air raid crash took the victory for the leader of the glamour gym. Great match and a taste of what was hopefully to come on the EVE afternoon show the next day as KLR and Jacobs were announced as entrants #1 and #2 for the 15 Women 3 Minute Warning match main event.

And now for something completely different as Dave Mastiff faced Mad Man Manson. This was the third time I've seen this match-up and they managed to completely mix it up from the two previous matches as while it was short, there was a lot of big laughs in this one. Starting with a headlock into the ropes for the shoulder tackle, Manson was unable to move Mastiff at all. And he wasn't able too on the next running shoulder tackle. He tricked Mastiff into trying to knock him down, but Manson merely slapped him with authority. Later Manson teased a dive out of the ring onto Mastiff, but then stopped himself to ask Mastiff if wrestlers really fly over the top rope? And whether Mastiff would promise to catch him if he did> Mastiff promised to catch him, but Manson didn't believe him. Instead Manson demanded that Mastiff prove he would catch him as means of a trust exercise. Mastiff got back into the ring and positioned himself behind Manson as Manson shut his eyes and prepared to fall into Mastiff's arms.... But Manson install tipped forwards instead of backwards and went face first into the mat. Mastiff didn't appear to be too terribly bothered about this and went back to striking Manson, but when he whipped him into the turnbuckles Manson, very unsuccessfully attempted to perform Nigel McGuinness' turnbuckle headstand but couldn't quite work out how you did it. To show him how it was done, Mastiff was able to get his 300 pound frame and hold it in perfect position up-right on the turnbuckle, even doing jumping jacks with his legs while perfectly balanced. For Manson there was only thing to do with Mastiff in this position - Spiderman upside down kiss!! This royally pissed Mastiff off so he laid into Manson with punches in the corner and had to throw the ref away. Manson reversed and began to return the favour to Mastiff but again the ref got involved so Manson pushed him down. Both men continue to go at it and then both threw the ref down so the ref called for the bell and declared the match a no contest. Dave was very annoyed by that and showed it by punching the ref, but Manson then pleaded mercy for the ref and in one of my favourite moments of the night began to cut a promo like the Old Spice commercial used in Manson's very famous "I'm on Dave Mastiff" video. Yep, that's where it was all heading as Manson ended up tripping down to the mat and then momentarily climbing onto his back.


And in the main event Super Crazy defeated El Ligero in a result which took me completely by surprise. Crazy arrived to the ring carrying his GHC Jnr Heavyweight Tag Team Championship which was an unexpected bonus. Ligero has been wrestling UK Indy's for years now but this was I believe the very first time he ever stepped in the ring with an authentic luchadore in an English ring so he really stepped up his game and the lucha inspired offense between the two of arm drags and hurricanrana's all looked crisp. Outside the ring Crazy threw Ligero through the chairs and then even wheelbarrowed him down jaw first onto the steel railing. Reliving ECW's glory days he brought a chair into the ring to kick it right into Ligero's face and even referenced his former adversary, Tajiri's tarantula move in the ring ropes. After an extended mexican surfboard, Crazy went for his triple moonsaults but Ligero was able to avoid the third from the top rope. Super Crazy went to the outside to regroup but was met with an incredible tope from Ligero. The two then brawled around the venue and in a surprising turn of events it was Ligero to hit a moonsault from an elevated platform onto Crazy, the same move that Crazy is known for. Back inside the ring Crazy was able to claw back into the match with an elevated high-angle facebuster and a standing moonsault that looked all the more impressive due to Crazy's ever increasing frame. Ligero turned the tide with a springboard kick and a big splash from the top rope but Crazy kicked out. Ligero managed to take Crazy down with the C4L (springboard swinging DDT) but the momentum took Crazy outside the ring. It was only a short while later that Crazy hit Ligero with a high-angle Liger bomb for the three count. A great main event match, but I'll be honest that Crazy's lack of selling and out-right shrugging off a fair bit of Ligero's main offense irked me probably a lot more than it should have.

Ordinarily I would say Friday night shows of a weekender usually end up being weak or disappointing. You'll find there's a fair few matches that don't achieve that potential due to wrestlers saving something for the next night. But this was another strong PCW show and the equal of the January show. You had a fantastic opener with Kirby and Allmark and I would love to see a rematch down the line as you could tell they both gave it their own, but there's still something more left to discover. Bubblegum vs April Davids was the best inter-gender match I've ever seen and Davids is in my eyes the best female wrestler active in England today. Neither Kendrick nor London disappointed in their matches and the match between London and Hayes ended up exceeding expectations. Dar and Wild had a great technical match. You had a special moment when Rayne cashed in the MITB and won the PCW Cruiserweight Championship. Kay Lee Ray and Jacobs had an intense women's match. Mastiff and Manson a very funny comedy match and worth it alone for the "I'm on Dave Mastiff!" moment. And then a very worthy main event between Super Crazy and El Ligero. So a fantastic start to the weekender and did not suffer from Night 1 syndrome at all.

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