WZW is becoming one of the UK’s fastest growing promotions, since its interception in 2002 it has grown and grown with a loyal and increasing fan base. Operating from Tyneside, by founders Gary Graham and Carl “General Trent Steele” Turner, the company have put on shows around the North East of England and on the Borders of Scotland.
They have used superstars such as Alex Shane, Birchall, Mark Sloan, Iceman, and most recently Jake “The Snake” Roberts. But not only does WZW bring in wrestling starts, it actually runs two training schools, one based in Teesside and one on Tyneside, helping create some of the future stars of British wrestling. Last weekend saw WZW take their first tour to the border regions of the UK with huge success, having over 1000 fans attended their Dumfries show , and many more jam packed crowds in their 3 other shows in Carlisle and Annan.
I had wanted to attended a WZW show for several months now, but hadn’t managed to. So when I heard that WZW would be heading down to my home town of Stockton on Tees, I couldn’t exactly miss this opportunity could I? I had heard some petty good things about WZW, and also some bad things, but I wanted to make my own mind up. Now while I say this was a WZW show, officially it wasn’t, it was actually a show promoted by an independent source branding itself as Independent Pro Wrestling (IPW) but it was practically a WZW show, featuring WZW talent and the brand new WZW ring, which looked very professional, and much better than their previous ring, from what I had seen of it. It actually looked rather out of place in the college hall, as it was a ring very worthy of being out of a larger US promotion.
The show was coming from Stockton’s Sixth Form College gym, which from my memory of playing many unsuccessful games of badminton there was a fair size hall which would be ideal for promoting a wrestling event. The bell time was around 7.00pm, so I decided to get there roughly about 6.30, to ensure I’d get a seat but also ensure that I wasn’t going to be too early like I am for most things and be sat around waiting for ages. As planned I arrived at the college for 6.30, paid my money and went in. I was pretty surprised at the lack of people there, considering Stockton had been pretty much deprived of wrestling for some time, I envisioned a full house, but there was still time, another half an hour or so for the place to fill up. 7 O’clock came and there place had filled up marginally, there was still some empty seats scattered around the place, and in all honestly there can’t have been that many seats laid out in the first place, so I’m not sure what the total attendance was, but it must have disappointed WZW officials.
Dire Straights’ “Money for Nothing” hit the sound system and out came the ring announcer dressed very sharply in a white suit which looked very Night Fever-ish, he welcomed us to the show and then introduced the evenings referee, who from what I gather was actually making his professional debut as a referee, and I’d just like to say he done an outstanding job all evening, great debut for him.
It was time for the first match as the Sex Pistols “ God Save the Queen!” hit the sound system, The Commonwealth Connection made up of Tim “The Canadian Crippler” Strange and John Britain entered the ring. Tim the promotions “arrogant” Canadian made his way down to the ring carrying the red and white maple leaf flag and got straight on the microphone riling the crowd with the usual banter of Canada being Number 1 and of course the usual insulting comments about the home town, which certainly got the crowd against him and his partner. The team took on two youngsters by the name of Diesel and Donnay. The match between the two teams was surprisingly entertaining, Strange and Britain played the role of the old school heels while the two youngsters played the role of the battling faces trying to overcome the heels. Strange and Britain used cheap tactics to get a victory over the two youngsters, much to the distaste of the fans. While Britain was more quiet, Strange was vocal and he played the role of the loyal Canadian quite well, not sure how long he had been playing this role, but honestly I would have thought he had been doing it for some time, overall a good effort by both teams.
The second match of the evening was announced as a singles match featuring Stevie Lynn a up and coming new WZW talent who had recently advanced from WZW’s Nu Breed school, he would be facing Ritchie Saint, a guy who I knew very little about. Again it seemed that Ritchie was playing the role of the old school heel, in which he again played pretty well. Ritchie held the advantage for the most part beating down on Lynn, however Lynn battled back to snatch the victory in what was again a good match from both a wrestling point of view and a entertainment point of view. Both Lynn and Saint have good skills, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lynn rise some what in WZW and the UK Wrestling scene as a whole.
Now the third match featured BCW’s Highlander and another WZW youngster, who I’m afraid I can’t actually remember the name of. I was going to write this on Saturday straight after the event, but I never got around to doing it, until today, which is a week later, and my memory is all to pot, plus I’ve got a cold and feel like crap, so that’s sort of a good excuse. Anyway back to the match, Highlander is certainly a guy I wouldn’t like to cross, he came over very well as a heel, and he got the crowd easily on his back. From what I remember both workers displayed good in ring skills, and Highlander managed to get the victory. Overall it was a fair contest.
Two more of WZW Nu Breed talents in action now, as Carbon took on Juvenille. A good solid bout from both of the guys. Carbon looked good in the ring and certainly seemed to know his way around pretty well, and executed some fine looking moves. He seemed to execute his moves well and accurately whilst also being quite over with the fans. Juvenille played the role of the cocky heel, in which he was also able to back it up in the ring with some solid in ring work. Eventually Juvenille got the victory over Carbon after a nice looking spear. Overall nice match.
Tag team match up next as the team of The UK Express made up of Spitfire and “Union” Jack Myers were to face the team of Full Pack made up of Iain Robinson and Micky L. There’s nowt like a bit of UK patriotism to get the fans behind you, and that’s exactly what WZW did with the team of Myers and Spitfire, as they came to the ring with the colours on the Union Jack on their attire. While the UK Express might have represented the UK, Full Pack represented something very different, as their gimmick was a total, and intentional rip off of the US Independent tag team, The Backseat Boyz. I’ve only seen a few Backseat Boyz matches but I know enough to tell these guys are a tribute to them, donning the silver pants, coming down to their entrance music, and acting like Acid and Kashmere, Full Pack were the UK’s own Backseat Boyz. But unlike the days of the Undertaker’s who were about a foot shorter than the real thing and the Kane, who’s only feature that resembled the real Glenn Jacobs was a mask, which could be bought for about a fiver at the merchandise stall, this tribute gimmick works, because its so funny and not taken to seriously.
Moving back to the match, The UK Express came down to a fair old pop from the crowd, while Full Pack, well Full Pack weren’t met with so many cheers. I’m not going totally off topic, but if you hadn’t realised, and I’m pretty sure that 99.9% of the people living in the Tees Valley area were quite aware that our local heroes Middlesbrough FC won Carling Cup not long ago, the biggest and only piece of silverware in the clubs history. So getting back to wrestling, the last thing the crowd wanted to see was Full Pack coming down to the ring donning the black and white stripes of Newcastle FC, which they did, this of course led to some easy heat on Full Pack. The match was extremely entertaining to watch, with Spitfire displaying some first class wrestling. Myers and Full pack also displayed a good degree of wrestling ability. As a tag team Full Pack seemed to be able to work better than their opponents, but not necessarily in the ring. The ring side antics of Iain Robinson and Micky L were very entertaining indeed, with the pair often embracing one another, and quite often dismissing claims from the crowd that they were an item, the pair were extremely effective at getting heat from the crowd, this was the most noticeable when a young family started shouting “Gay Boys!” at the pair while watching the match. The UK Express got a well deserved victory over Full Pack, as the small crowd in the college gym hall chanted “Boro……..Boro…….Boro!”, in an obvious attempt to rub Full Pack’s face in it even further.
The main event of the night was a Triple Threat Lumberjack match featuring 3 WZW mainstays, General Trent Steel, Iceman and Domino. General Trent Steel, or GTS as he is more commonly known as, is well, I suppose the UK’s own Sgt. Slaughter, now I’m not saying that he is trying to be like him, or he is a tribute to him, because I don’t think he is but it was the easiest comparison I could think of. Basically he is pulling off the old Military Man gimmick, and quite well from what I saw of him, as I have already stated he is also actually one of the founding members of WZW, as well as one of the promotions trainers. The second individual in this match was Iceman, well this guy has built quite a reputation from himself around the UK, billed as the “UK’s Hardcore Legend”, Iceman has been quite controversial in the UK, particularly when he took part in the Backyard Wrestling Video Game Launch show in a Ultra Violent Hardcore Match. But there has also been a lot of positive press about the guy, while his “hardcore” reputation is well known, he is also regarding as a good solid performer and outstanding asset to the WZW team. Iceman has been with WZW from the launch of the company and has also worked around the country for various promotion, and along with GTS he helps trains some of the younger talent in the WZW training school. Finally there is Domino, who had just actually returned from a successful OVW training trip not long before this event. Domino also has appeared on various UK shows, plus he has worked in the US within Dory Funk Jnr’s, Funkin’ Conservatory, where he has held a title or two.
Getting down to the match, first we were introduced to Iceman, who slowly motioned his way down to the ring, he walked down slowly with a blank expression on his face, not acknowledging the crowd nor anyone else, he then got in the ring and waited patiently for his first opponent. Suddenly out of the sound system came the tune from The Great Escape , as General Trent Steel made his way to the ring, with cane in hand. As GTS came down he got some cheap heat from the front row audience by throwing the usual insults their way. Last, but not least came Domino, very much the fan favourite of the night. Just as we were about to kick off, the locker rooms emptied out, of course, this was a Lumberjack match, nearly forgot about that.
Ok, match kicks off. Well it sort of kicks off, as Iceman refuses to fight and jumps on the turnbuckle and tells GTS and Domino to fight with each other. A reluctant GTS and Domino finally start to fight with each other. Both men do a bit of basic wrestling, and then GTS cowers, and tells Iceman to get in the ring. Again a bit of wrestling, and Iceman backs off again. Eventually, all 3 men are in the ring and the match starts to pick up. Iceman and GTS, the two heels of the match double team Domino, throwing him out of the ring in the hands of the lumberjacks.
The lumberjacks beat down on Domino until the face lumberjacks come to his rescue, this results in an all out war, with the entire locker room brawling with one another. The match continues like this for the most part, with a few nice spots off the top turnbuckle into the ringside area. Some how, I can’t actually remember how, but Domino picks up the victory, leading the heels and faces to fill up the ring and have a right old brawl with one another, obviously the faces clear the ring of the heels and celebrate. All in all, not the best match in the world, but what can you expect. When the audience, which was very small by the way, is made up of mainly parents and their younger children the shows boundaries have to be tight, no hardcore stuff, no tables, no blood , just good old entertainment, which the WZW guys did provide.
The guys provided some comedy spots which worked well, overall it was for the family, most fans of the mat based wrestling style would have been disappointed with this match, but at the end of the day, it did exactly what it said on the tin.
The gym hall probably had less than a 100 people in, which was a huge shame because these WZW guys gave it 100% all evening. The week previous to this event at Dumfries saw over 1000 people jam pack into the show, so when less than a 100 people turned up for this event, WZW management must have been very disappointed. But, while the crowd was small, and probably not as vocal as many crowds, most will have almost certainly went home happy, because WZW provided some good family entertainment. No tables, no hardcore matches and no blood, just plain old entertainment, which was nice to see for a change.
I don’t think the poor turnout was an actual reflection on the talent of the WZW wrestlers, I think it might be down to one of two reasons; Firstly Stockton doesn’t have many wrestling fans, or secondly this event was not advertised as much as it could have been. I’d probably go with the latter choice, because I only saw an advert for the show on the good old Talk Wrestling Online forums. I actually never saw one poster advertising the event, maybe that was because I was looking in all the wrong places, or in actual fact there wasn’t that many about.
No matter how good the show is, how good the matches are, if nobody knows about it the attendance will be rubbish. Promotions who don’t have the best in ring talent, exploit other avenues to drag in audiences, by having adverts in locals newspapers, and having accurate and full scale canvassing to promote the event. In the short term it will probably be quite an expensive process, but in the long run I’m sure it would be cost effective and generate publicity and audiences for shows, which will then result in more ticket sales.
Moving back to WZW, if you think about what Carl and Gary , along with the WZW talent have done in a matter of less than two years it’s an achievement. They have built a promotion from nothing, to a company who have regular events, who’s first tour sold not far off 2000 tickets, which in the UK Scene is a big deal. While they did bring in some FWA talent and Jake “The Snake” Roberts to work the shows, WZW still contributed a lot to the shows. WZW have some good talent, a lot are still learning, and need to polish off their character and skills a bit more, but I’m sure they know this, and WZW will be the place for them to do this. Other stars like GTS, Iceman and Domino are great assets to the company, and certainly play apart in its success. Many say WZW are on their way to rival FWA, I’d certainly agree with this statement, they promote solid shows, help create new talents and overall are a good company.
Overall my first taste of WZW was probably in actual fact one of WZW’s poorer show compared to what I have heard, but I really enjoyed it. While the crowd was small, and it lacked a Jake Roberts and Alex Shane confrontation, it was certainly worth the price of admission.
To find out more about WZW see: www.wzwuk.com