We’re dipping into our HighSpots subscription for this show, as 3CW returned after a break of three and a half years with “Encore”.

Having run since 2004 in and around the North-East of England, 3CW started to slow down their schedule before pumping the brakes in April 2013 – before returning with this show in Hartlepool at the end of 2016.

Personally, I haven’t “really” been to a 3CW show, even when I lived up north. I say “really” – the promotion did take over the running of a show in January 2007, picking up the reins when 1PW initially went under. That whole show’s also on Highspots, and we’ll get around to that someday, even if the whole thing was a nasty mess (that’s covered well in the unofficial 1PW chronicles, “All Or Nothing”).

In their time away, the promotion vacated all but one title – the North East title, which going in had been held by Prince Ameen for over 2,000 days. To be fair, it wasn’t one of those “won the title on the last day and held it whilst the company was closed” deals, as Ameen had defended the strap against the future Killian Dain and Dragon Aisu before 3CW closed their doors. As for the other titles: Drunk and Disorderly (Chris Cannon and GBH) were no longer wrestling, so those belts were vacated, whilst the 3CW Triple Crown Championship was vacated ahead of a tournament to crown a new 3CW champion, because… reasons.

The show opens with a replay of the finish of the last match in the “old” 3CW, where Chris Whitton pinned Martin Kirby to become the final ever 3CW Triple Crown Champion back in 2013. The ring they used then looked absolutely tiny, and my God, the production values in the intervening years have soared. We fade away from Whitton’s celebration to a video package of “today” with (presumably) Whitton and other roster members talking about how times have changed. So, the “new” 3CW has the exact same set-up as NGW – same canvas, same entrance way, the works. Except this lot have proper music, rather than the TV-friendly themes… and Stevie Aaron’s the MC, who tells us that we’re starting with a party, as the Vengaboys signal the arrival of Liam Slater.

Liam Slater vs. Martin Kirby
We’re dealing with time limits here, so I’m hoping this leads to a draw just to show they mean a thing. Martin Kirby’s here with his WCPW music and video… Hartlepool is “just down the road” from WCPW’s headquarters, so any kind of a tie-in is perhaps to be expected.

Surprisingly this is their first singles encounter, and they worked pretty well for an opening match, with basic, kid-friendly stuff to play to the casual crowd that’d packed the building. Barely minutes into the match, we get a sort-of “shall I?” (a typical plea from the wrestler to get an approval from the crowd for a move), as Slater took down Kirby with an arm-lift.

Slater tries to break Kirby’s neck-bridge, but ends up getting monkey flipped instead as Kirby plays the fool. That’s the sort of thing I love about smaller shows like these, guys like Kirby get to play to the crowd with little things, sometimes in an overly-hammy way, that are usually shed from their acts on televised shows. Slater gets a full nelson in, and keeps going back to it as Kirby tried to escape… then finally reversed it only for Slater to break free and take him back down with another monkey flip. Kirby finally blocks the flip by dumping Slater in the turnbuckles, before a running backbreaker saw the former 3CW champ collect another near-fall.

Kirby mocks the crowd as he hauls up Slater for a stalling suplex, giving the fans an impromptu counting lesson, which seemed to leave some in shock that they could get past 20! Yeah, I jest, but the suplex ended in an eye poke, as Kirby celebrated and collected another two-count.

Slater mounts a comeback though, backdropping out of a Sable Bomb and replying with a folding powerbomb of his own for a two-count. Kirby gets back in with a slam, but his insistence at trying the Zoidberg Elbow sees him caught with a Finlay roll… only for Slater to miss the resulting headbutt of the top and fall into a Sable Bomb for the win. Basic, yes, but a hell of a lot of fun too as the revived 3CW got off on a good note. ***¼

We segue to a video from “earlier this week” of two un-named guys approaching Stevie Aaron outside the venue in Hartlepool. These guys are trying to get into 3CW, but nobody’s returning their calls… They actually accost Aaron as he gets out of their car, but Stevie at least tells us they’re called Leon and Stan, before giving the lads an e-mail address to get booked. He returns seconds later with an offer, as he’ll make a call to see if they can take an opening on the card.

In fades a cult-ish music video. There’s a lot of baby dolls and dismembered body parts here, before we’re shown Dragon Aisu… reanimated. Back in the arena, and hey, it’s the guys who were begging to be on the show… they suddenly have music and a video. They’re called the Rogues Gallery: Leon Mercer and Stan Kellitt. If those names ring a bell, then you’ve probably watched a lot of WCPW, as those guys did a squash against Primate about a month or so before this.

Rogues Gallery (Leon Mercer & Stan Kellitt) vs. Dragon Aisu & Chris Renfrew
Helpfully, one of the Rogues Gallery identifies himself on his gear… they’re going up against the returning Dragon Aisu, who has James R. Kennedy as his manager. Aisu’s billed as coming from Hell, so insert your insider reference/joke here! The last time I saw Aisu wrestle would have been at the aforementioned 1PW/3CW show in 2007, and his in-ring career’s largely mirrored 3CW… although I hear he’s also picked up a side-gig what’s more cultured.

Kennedy is Aisu’s mouthpiece, and introduces his “mystery tag team partner”: Chris Renfrew – a former ICW champion, who’s better known in Scotland than south of Hadrian’s Wall. They try and pass this off as a squash match, as the Rogues Gallery are clearly out of their opponents’ league, but let’s see.

Mercer starts by getting slapped by Aisu, but he returns those strikes… to little effect until Mercer hit an enziguiri to send Aisu into the ropes. Aisu gets mad that this wasn’t a squash, so he just tags in Renfrew as Kennedy declared “this should be over by now”. Not with those slaps it won’t! We get the “family-friendly” handshake/cheapshot spot, as Renfrew takes Kellitt into the corner for some wild chops, before he misses a missile dropkick as Kellitt strung some offence together, prompting Renfrew to dive in fear for a tag back to Aisu.

Aisu grabs the mic and threatens to kill the crowd if they don’t shut up, getting some brief-but-easy heat, as he then returned to the ring to trade spinning backfists with Kellitt. Well, it’s certainly different from chops… although I’m not sure how family friendly “come on, you son of a bitch” is!

After getting out-struck, Aisu came back with some wrestling, including a Mr. Perfect neck flip and a clothesline, before Renfrew tagged in to use some more underhanded methods as the veterans started to wear down the rookies. Once he’d landed a clothesline, Kellitt made the tag out to Mercer, with the pair battering the Scot with double-team clotheslines for a near-fall, before Kennedy got involved, holding down Mercer as he looked to hit an elevated clothesline… how was that not a DQ?

Aisu returns to fish-hook away on Mercer’s nose, as he then started to wear away on the rookie with a chinlock. An attempted comeback ended with a dropkick as Renfrew did more of the same, with Aisu inciting Kellitt into the ring so he could have the ref distracted for a low blow to Mercer.

They throw Mercer into the ropes, where we get a good view of some bruising around his collarbone, but he was able to break free of Renfrew and bring Kellitt back in for some corner-to-corner clotheslines. Aisu’s targeted with atomic drops as the rookies almost won it with an uppercut, before their clothesline version of the Hype Ryder got a near-fall as James Kennedy pulled Aisu’s foot onto the rope.

Kellitt tried to confront Kennedy after that, but he was taken out with a forearm from Renfrew as Mercer was left to take a vicious snapmare driver, then a crossface as Aisu got the submission. Not sure why you need two finishers to beat a rookie, but there you go! Very simplistic stuff, as you’d expect for a pair of newcomers, but while I’m glad this wasn’t the threatened squash match, this plodded on for ages as it felt like they had to squeeze in the bad guy tropes. Manager cheating (twice), riling up the other guy’s partner, talking down to the crowd… leave something for the guys on the rest of the card, why don’t you?! **

After the match, Renfrew, Aisu and Kennedy posed for the crowd. There’s something about having a George Michael lookalike leading anything to do with a demonic heel group that doesn’t mesh well.

We’re backstage next with a promo from Liam Slater, who addresses his loss to Martin Kirby. It’s a brief one, but he hopes to get a win next time he’s in 3CW…

WCPW Championship: James Scott vs. Joseph Conners (c)
Longtime Britwres fans may remember Scott as Darkside – he’s going as “The King in the North” here, against as-then current WCPW champion Joseph Conners. Now THAT dates this show!

Scott tries to ground Conners early with a headlock as he focused on the head and arm of the champion, as Conners bailed to the outside after some shoulder tackles. He stalls on the outside for long enough for Scott to land a plancha into him, before being put in a seat for a running knee on the floor.

Conners reverses a suplex that sent Scott across a merch table – which in a strange twist for wrestling, didn’t break…something it did once Conners took a DDT through it as those metal legs buckled with some force. From there, Scott dragged Conners to the ring to score a near-fall as a handful of kids continued to scream “this is awesome”.

The champion rebounded with a push-down stomp out of the corner for a two-count, before giving Scott a Snake Eyes into the ring post as they did a bit more brawling around the crowd, with Scott grabbing at a fan for help to avoid Conners’ offence. Back in the ring, Scott edged ahead with some forearms before Conners leapt over an imaginary man… and into a release Dragon suplex.

Scott looked to force the issue, but he dropped Conners onto the apron from a fireman’s carry position… allowing Conners to just about slingshot back into the ring with an awkward DDT for a near-fall. A second attempt’s caught and turned into a Detonation kick, but Conners wiped out the referee on impact… which didn’t seem to be planned as John Myers didn’t stay down and counted a near-fall.

Isn’t it wonderful how resilient refs can be at times?

Scott looks to fly, but Conners rolled away and landed a clothesline for a near-fall, only for Scott to try again for that Fireman’s carry. This time he knocked down the ref – who’d used up all of his health points moments earlier – meaning that there was nobody around to count the pin on a Tiger Driver from the former Darkside. Of course, Scott counted his own pinfall, then went to revive the ref… allowing Conners to try for a belt shot. That failed, but the mule did not, as the belt shot succeeded on the second try as the champion successfully retained. A pretty decent title match here – even if the result wasn’t ever in doubt – and an easy one for this crowd to get into as well. ***½

Another video follows as we get a backstage promo from Mercer and Kellett after their loss. Kellett demands the camera zoom in on his bruised chest as Mercer vows they’ll return and use the bruising to inspire them to victory.

Ace Matthews’ face pops up on the video screen as he sings along to Stan Bush’s “The Touch” – his entrance video seems to be him superimposed over a load of things. I’m not sure what the gimmick is… a slightly less chubby Grado? A comedy babyface, I guess, which is better than the gimmick he has in NGW which is “I play sports”.

Matthews cuts a promo before the match, declaring himself “your favourite wrestler”, before saying “it’s great to be back in Geordieland”. I’m not sure whether he meant to goof up that line, but that gets him booed… until he reads the word “Hartlepool” on his hand. The “comedy babyface” act turns to “grating heel” as he vows to make the crowd like him – Ace – by buying his merch. Somebody stop the pain.

Ace Matthews vs. Screwface
Oh, hi Screwface! Can you say “SPLAT”? Ace tries to get him to give him a thumbs up, but instead he twists Ace’s thumb before spraying mist… sending Ace scurrying to the outside for cover. Screwy gives chase and kicks Ace’s shin as he returned to the ring, before having the other thumb jabbed in his eye. He shrugs off a Stinger splash before superkicking Ace during a leapover attempt, as a ripcord by the thumb into a big boot earned him the quick win. You’ve gotta love a good squash match!

We’re going now to “earlier this week” footage, and it’s George Michael fanning himself with money. Sorry, it’s James R. Kennedy again, and he’s vowing to take down the former Team Dormanstown – Chris Whitton and Kid Richie – with the pairing of Alex Gracie and Drake. Yes, Prospect are in 3CW, and I really don’t get what role Kennedy has here as he’s flitted from managing Dragon Aisu to Prospect. In the same show.

Prospect (Alex Gracie & Gabriel Kidd) vs. Chris Whitton & Kid Richie
For some reason, Drake’s not here… so a reluctant Gabriel Kidd is subbing for him as “the replacement”. That kinda makes the pre-tape we saw mightily redundant, no? Apparently Lucas Archer and Drake are out trying to find a loose Primate – a story that’d make sense for anyone there who follows WCPW. Kidd’s there on the orders of Prince Ameen, who’s wrestling later but isn’t out here for some reason.

This was Whitton and Richie’s return after being dormant during 3CW’s closure, and they’re out in Union Jack jackets that’d be more befitting holiday camps. Gabriel Kidd’s clapping along in time to their theme, “Papa’s got a brand new pigbag”, which irks the rest of Prospect. We can add Alex Gracie at being really good at working with more intimate crowds, a la Martin Kirby… particularly when those aspects of his game go by the wayside on TV.

Kidd and Whitton start us off with wristlocks as they hum the Pigbag song, which I’m already finding grating. A dropkick sort-of takes down Whitton, as Kidd wants to sing more, which forces Gracie to tag in and immediately pratfall into a series of armdrags from Whitton. Richie tags in as the tandem work over Gracie, with a slingshot senton forcing him to tag back out to Kidd… because Alex didn’t want to be hit in the face.

Richie keeps up with headscissors before a ripcord Angle Slam gets him a two-count over Gabe, only for Gracie to hold the ropes open as Kid took a spill to the outside, where James R. Kennedy got involved to cheat some more. Gabriel Kidd argues with Kennedy over that, but what the hell did he expect from him?! A really quick two-count follows for Gracie, as he tagged in Kidd to chop away at RIchie. It leads to one of those comedy spots, as Gracie and Richie were back-to-back, spinning around so Kidd “accidentally” chopped his partner. That led to some shoving between the two as Richie lands an enziguiri before finally bringing Whitton back in to clear house on Gracie, finishing off with a dropkick to his face for a near-fall.

Whitton calls for a tornado DDT, but Gracie escaped and countered with Eat Defeat, then a full nelson slam for a near-fall. The “home team” hit back though with a pair of low dropkicks for a two-count, before their attempt to finish it was paused when Kennedy got involved again. That quick counting ref almost messed up the finish as Gracie’s O’Connor roll got a two-count, before Richie schoolboy’d Gracie for the win. A pretty good, short outing for the returning tandem – who didn’t look too out of place on their first match back. ***

After the match, Kennedy tried to attack Kidd from behind… he’s caught, but Gracie capitalises by kicking Kidd low. Out comes Dragon Aisu for some reason to continue the beatdown as Whitton ends up taking the microphone to challenge Aisu, Gracie and Drake to a trios match at “The Fight Before Christmas” the following month… against Whitton, Richie and Kidd. Kennedy accepts, as he leads his team away – including Aisu whose face was as white as Kennedy’s trousers!

Another “earlier this week” video follows with Prince Ameen reintroduces himself… he’s got a challenge to the past or present 3CW roster, and he’s coming with a surprise!

Back in the arena, Ameen comes out in full dress – which is so odd to see given what he’s usually wearing the few times he’s out for WCPW. We’ve got half an hour left in the video, which is making me worry that we’re going to get a long Ameen match… or just a lot of him pointing and talking down to the crowd.

Stevie Aaron talks up Ameen’s history, mentioning that he’s lost his fortune… and has since re-acquired it. That’s enough as Ameen snatches the mic back, rambles about demanding respect, and this is a segment that feels like it’s already gone too long. The surprise is that Ameen’s still the North East champion, since they forgot to vacate that particular belt, I guess. Eventually Ameen’s open challenge is answered… by a white screen? It’s Si Swan, who apparently used to be called Lance Thunder here, and was the original 3CW champion.

Swan apparently had a match scheduled against Andy O’Sullivan… who hasn’t wrestled since 2014 (cheers, Cagematch!), so Ameen tries to beg off. Swan says that he’s agreed with Andy to call the match off so Si can get the title shot. But what if Andy wanted it?!

3CW North East Championship: Prince Ameen (c) vs. Si Swan
Ameen cheapshotted Swan from behind at the bell, but Si sprung back with a crossbody and some short shots before working a basic match, going over Ameen’s arm.

Swan backdrops Ameen over the top rope to the floor early on, then rolls to join him on the floor as they wander around ringside, trading chops and slaps before Ameen whipped Swan into the ring apron. When Ameen’s in charge, it’s a fairly basic, late 80s-style brawl, and perhaps a style that’d have been best suited to the opener, rather than the main event.

Swan nearly nicks it with a roll-up after slingshotting Ameen into the corner, but the champion instantly hits back with a clothesline that sent the gum flying! A backbreaker follows, before Ameen grounds Swan with a bear hug, with some added leverage by getting his feet on the bottom rope. I’m not sure how much pressure those few inches added, but at least he was able to hit a high-impact spinebuster for a near-fall.

Ameen sidesteps Swan and throws him to the outside as he looks to collect a count-out, before instead opting to drop a knee over Si’s back as the pace slowed to a crawl. The pair trade right hands as they fight to their feet, with Swan leaping over Ameen in the corner and following with a scoop slam that almost won it… but Ameen grabbed the bottom rope rather than kick out to save his title. Swan looks to go up top to finish off the champion, but Ameen dives to the ropes and crotches him on the turnbuckle as he chose to go for a superplex instead. Si blocks it and punches Ameen down to the canvas as one kid was going absolutely mental ahead of a top rope legdrop for another near-fall for Si.

Swan tried to lift up Ameen for a fireman’s carry, but his back gave out… only for him to hit a Samoan drop for a near-fall as the champ came off the ropes. We get a ref bump as Ameen pulls the ref into harm’s way – the same one who took the bump in the earlier title match too, so he really had no health points left! – allowing Ameen to hit a low blow and a DDT. But there’s no ref, so there’s nobody to make the count… not that that mattered, as Ameen wanted to make sure, so he took out Si with a belt shot for good measure.

Finally another official comes down to make the two-count for Ameen as the initial ref is taken to the back under his own steam. Lightweight! Ameen then sets up for… a Destroyer? Nah, it’s a Pedigree that’s countered out of into a death valley driver, and that’s enough for Si to win the title! I’ll be generous and say that this wasn’t the match I’d have chosen to end with, and I put a lot of that down to Ameen, I’m afraid. *½

After the match, Si and his daughter celebrated with the title, and we fade to black! As a return, 3CW’s first show back wasn’t too bad. Yes, there were parts which felt distinctly “last generation” – Ameen is Ameen, and with all apologies, it felt like his and Dragon Aisu’s in-ring work was from another era. As for the rest of the in-ring stuff, it was solid, and that’s without doing the “grading on a curve” thing of adjusting expectations for a smaller, family-friendly show.

We’ll keep dropping in on their relaunch, but I’d hope there’s more variety in faces – as opposed to “the guys who used to work for 3CW before they folded” and the same handful of names who do the WhatCulture/NGW loops.