Wednesday 18 September 2013

AWW 10th Anniversary show – Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Sunday 15th September 2013

Before travelling to any wrestling show, I always wonder if the time spent on the road will be worth it. After my previous experience of AWW (back in February) I had no doubt that it would be. That show saw an excellent ladies match between Emi Sakura and Shanna, as well as some top UK and International talent. This time would be no different as the likes of El Ligero, Nathan Cruz and Mark Haskins would be joined by former TNA star Doug Williams, and two exciting Japanese wrestlers in Kenbai and Hiromu Takahashi.

These two Japanese guys both put on great matches; first, Kenbai took on El Ligero in a match that I fully expected to be a great one. I wasn't disappointed as both men started with excellent, and flowing sequences resulting in a stalemate each time, showing how equally matched they were. This wasn't going to be a walk in the park for either man. Towards the end, Ligero seemed to show signs of frustration as he couldn't put his Japanese opponent away – trying for three-counts at every opportunity before throwing Kenbai to the floor – hoping to gain the victory by count-out. After an exciting ending, Ligero managed to roll up Kenbai for the win – an excellent showing by both men. It's matches like this that melt my smarky heart and make me realise that I am still just a fan underneath it all!

Hiromu Takahashi took on Nathan Cruz in the other 'International' offering. This had great sequences at times but differed from the Ligero/Kenbai match; hard hitting throughout and what I would call the war of the night. Both men were physically drained by the end as Cruz would take the victory.

Other than the star-studded main event, two other singles matches were on the card, pitting some of the best UK talent against each other. The opening match of the night saw former TNA Bootcamp contestant 'Party' Marty Scurll take on the ever-popular T-Bone. Bone's strength and intimidating look took centre stage as Scurll would run away in the early going. Really great work from Scurll throughout to get the crowd to hate him; T-Bone instantly loved as a result. I've lost count of how many opening matches that I've seen T-Bone in this year and it's credit to him as he puts on a great show everytime and gets the crowd 'warmed up' leading into the rest of the night.

The pop of the night, for me, went to Mark Haskins. The Oxford native came out to a huge ovation against his very bearded opponent, Saul Adams. The early part of the match would see duelling 'Yes' and 'No' chants as well as a 'Sh*t Matt Morgan' chant that was quickly thrown out as Haskins would remind that part of the audience that there were kids present. I still don't understand why some people don't think about that kind of thing when at shows. None of us – fans or wrestlers – need to swear to have a good time and put on a great show. Much of this match was entertaining with Haskins grabbing a handful of beard at every opportunity. Despite Adams getting the somewhat surprising victory, Haskins would trash Adams' feather boa and mirror, infuriating the bearded, vain, Sensational one.

With all the star names that I've mentioned above, there was also a six-man tag team match between some of the AWW's brightest prospects. Charlie Garrett, Matt Lightening and Daniel Valentine would be victorious over the heel team of 'The Real Deal of Sex Appeal' Tukay, The Judge and Sam Wilder. Most notably for me was the performances of Garrett and Tukay – Tukay in particular as I haven't seen him wrestle since the February show. At that show, he was also in a six-man tag match but seemed a little nervous and a little too 'smiley' for a heel. He seems to have improved greatly since then – looking mean at times and giving great facial expressions depending on the situation in the match. It makes me happy when I know that there are youngsters that are taking their wrestling training seriously and I think Tukay is right up there in that respect.

The main event saw four gentlemen that were looking to resolve issues from the previous show. The new AWW Champion Johnny Storm, the former champion Brandon Thomas, the claimant to being the next AWW Champion Stixx, and former TNA Star Doug Williams all had scores to settle in this one. The main situation that I could see in this match was that Stixx is a dominant force that will, in the near future, challenge Johnny Storm for his AWW title. As the faces entered the ring they would charge their opponents' corner only to have Thomas bail out of the ring and Stixx refusing to budge; firmly locking eyes with the new champion. This would continue throughout as Stixx would show the gap in size between him and Storm. Luckily, Storm's lightening quickness would show through at times as he got the better of both larger opponents. The ending would see Storm and Stixx brawl to the back leaving Thomas to fall prey to the experienced Williams.

T-Bone defeated 'Party' Marty Scurll
Charlie Garrett, Matt Lightening & Daniel Valentine defeated Tukay, The Judge & Sam Wilder
El Ligero defeated Kenbai (Match of the Night)
'Showstealer' Nathan Cruz defeated Hiromu Takahashi
'Simply Sensational' Saul Adams defeated 'Star Attraction' Mark Haskins
AWW Champion 'Wonderkid' Johnny Storm & Doug Williams defeated Stixx & 'The Messiah' Brandon Thomas (w/ Violet Vendetta)

Overall, an excellent show from top to bottom. All the matches with top UK talents delivered and the six-man tag match was performed at a really fast pace at times which made it really enjoyable and exciting.

It's shows like this that make the travel time MORE than worth it. I believe the next AWW show is sometime at the end of November and I think I'll be needing to make the trip back up to Wolverhampton!

For my work (on WWE and British Wrestling) please visit and follow me on Twitter @jimmosangle

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Sunday 8 September 2013

Bret Hart: The Dungeon Collection DVD Review By Shaun Nichols

The Dungeon Collection is the latest WWE release for Bret, and is basically a collection of rare matches throughout his career and as such haven't been seen on previous releases. It's a three disc set that covers his career from Stampede all the way through to his ill-fated run in WCW.

Before each match he gives his thoughts on the match or his opponents. Some of these are really interesting such as the 'Hitman' gimmick was a cross between Dynamite Kid and John McEnroe. Or why Owen Hart changed his style for his feud with Bret in 1994. Others are where he just says nice things and others are just really strange with the 'highlight' being where he thinks Ric Flair doesn't understand psychology which is a ludicrous thing to say.

I'll give my thoughts on what I believe are the best things on each DVD and my general thoughts overall.

Disc 1

The best thing on Disc 1 is a singles match against Dynamite Kid from the WWF in September 1985, it really is very good but before the match starts we get Bret saying that Terry Funk called it a master class and Randy Savage compared it to being back in school. It's very good as I say but it's not that great.

Other matches include an intriguing 10 minute draw against Buzz Sawyer from Georgia in 1979 which is a pure wrestling match in front of a crowd that didn't know him at all. Another couple of matches from Stampede against Dynamite Kid and Leo Burke which had great crowd reactions but had cheap finishes which only led to further matches we aren't going to see.

An early match against Mr Perfect from 1989 gives an interesting taste of the classic matches that would follow a couple of years later but were slightly hindered by the fact that WWF fans hadn't seen enough of Mr Perfect to see him a big star.

Another contender for match of the disc, was a very exciting tag match where the Hart Foundation battled The Islanders in front of a really hot crowd in Philadelphia for the Tag Titles in 1987. Where the fans were pretty convinced they were going to see a title change.
Bringing up the rear is a very rare match against Andre The Giant from Milan in 1989, this really was a disappointment as at this point Andre couldn't really do much at all. Though it's pretty funny to hear the Italian crowd chanting for Hulk Hogan.

Disc 2

On paper this looks to be the strongest disc as it features 20 minute matches against Tiger Mask II (Misawa) from the Supercard held at the Tokyo Dome in 1990 and also a long TV main event against Flair where Hart defended the I-C title.

Both of those matches are good but nothing more, the Misawa match is hindered by the fact we don't get any commentary track. Also Miswa's style just wasn't suited to playing the Tiger Mask character so it's not particularly exciting to watch in large parts. The fans react to that as it's only until in the closing few minutes that they show any real interest.

The Flair match from November 1991 just didn't click. I don't think that the WWF really knew how to push Flair in his first run. He was cutting great promos saying he was the best wrestler and they booked him to where he had to cheat or rely on interference to beat any average midcarder.

A more interesting match supported by an inspired Bobby Heenan on commentary was against The Undertaker in January 1992. At this point The Undertaker was all about the gimmick and was aided considerably by a sterling effort by Paul Bearer. This was about Bret doing battle against the unstoppable monster and was very good from a storyline point.

Ending disc 2 was another match from Milan but this time against Bam Bam Bigelow, this another good but not great match but is interesting to see that the Italian fans see Bret as a major singles star by this point.

Disc 3

The strongest of the discs in my opinion, it starts out with the best match on the entire set and a very pleasant surprise. Bret defending the WWF title against Diesel at King of the Ring 1994 PPV, not even the awful commentary including ex-NFL star Art Donovan (who had no idea what was happening or who the wrestlers were) could ruin it.

Special mention must go to the great work by Shawn Michaels on the outside, there can't be much funnier sights than a rather tubby Jim Neidhart desperately trying to chase a smirking HBK. This was a fantastic effort by Bret and one of Kevin Nash's all time best matches. Even with the slightly unsatisfying DQ finish this is still comfortably over ****.

Also we get a very entertaining 10 minute streetfight against Owen just before Mania XI which is by the numbers but still great due to the brothers talent. An entertaining match against Jean Pierre Lafitte who had an awful pirate gimmick and a match based on a stupid story of Bret having his jacket stolen and he wanted it back.

Also very good was a match from South Africa against Steve Austin in from September 1996, this was when he was on his hiatus from the company though he officially returned also against Austin at that year's Survivor Series. The match starts pretty slowly features lots of good basic wrestling and an amusing bit of commentary by Owen Hart who tries to convince Jim Ross that his brother has now come around to his way of thinking.

The set closes out with two of Bret's matches in WCW, the first was against Booker T from Nitro in January 1999 and is a very fun encounter with Booker getting plenty of his offence in and Bret playing crafty heel to perfection.
Closing out is his match against Sting from the Mayhem PPV in a WCW Title tournament semi final, what's clear is that no-one really cared. We had a completely pointless run-in by Lex Luger that ended up being ignored. I think it's only included to remind fans how dreadful WCW was in the final 18 months.

Overall Thoughts

I actually had really high hopes for this set and there are some pretty enjoyable matches on there but I actually expected a little bit more. It isn't as good as the first Bret Hart set of 'The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be'.
Saying that there is plenty to enjoy just don't expect it to be the best WWE release because it really isn't. The top five matches I would say are as follows.

1. vs. Diesel
2. vs. Dynamite Kid (the WWF 1985 match)
3. vs. Steve Austin
4. Hart Foundation vs. The Islanders
5. vs. Booker T