3CW busted out some rare international imports, as Jeff Cobb and Matt Riddle headlined their summer supershow in a rather bizarre tag team match.

We open with the sweeping vistas of Middlesbrough – featuring the Transporter Bridge and the Riverside Stadium – before the opening package covers the ongoing storylines. The Rogues Gallery can be finished in 3CW if they don’t win today… and there’s a fair bit of WCPW footage too as we’re getting Matt Riddle on this show. No, I can’t believe it happened either.

Stevie Aaron is your ring announcer again, and he’s doing double duty as a commentator alongside promoter Mike Groom.

3CW Tag Team Championship Tournament – Semi-Final: Hubba Bubba Lucha (El Ligero & Bubblegum) vs. Chris Whitton & Kid Richie
3CW need to crown new champions because most of their old ones are no longer wrestling. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch – Chris Whitton’s here and he ended as the last champ of the “old” 3CW, but the last tag team champions (Chris Cannon & GBH) don’t seem to have wrestled a match since the old 3CW closed, so… there you go! Whitton and Richie were former four-time tag champs in the old 3CW – back when their pairing was called Team Dormanstown – so you’d think they’d be the favourites here.

It’s a fairly tentative start as Ligero took Richie into the corner, before the pair swapped wristlocks and hiptosses. It’s a fluid and impressive opening gambit that got the crowd going. Tags get us to Whitton and Bubblegum, who keep the pace up, before a pratfall took Whitton down… only for him to pop back up with a dropkick as the former champs started to double-team Bubblegum.

Ligero gets a double-team with simultaneous dropkicks, before Bubblegum eats a diving Blockbuster-esque neckbreaker from Richie as those former champs look to be rolling back the years! The smaller ring of 3CW makes this a faster-paced encounter than you’d expect, and that speed at least helped to get Hubba Bubba Lucha back in it, with Bubblegum chopping Richie down to the mat.

A standing moonsault from Ligero gets a near-fall, but Richie gets clattered in the corner before he’s slingshotted into a death valley driver from Bubblegum for a near-fall. Bubblegum keeps up the pressure with an Octopus stretch, but Richie escapes and rolls him into a grounded headscissors that nearly forced the submission… only for Bubblegum to find a way to tag in Ligero!

Richie hits back as he forces Hubba Bubba Lucha into an accidental DDT/neckbreaker combo, before Whitton returns to clear house, landing a Sky High powerbomb for a near-fall on Bubblegum. A receipt comes with a superkick from Bubblegum, then a handspring roundhouse kick before a double-team pancake flattens Richie.

Ligero gets the tag in to hit the Mexican Wave… but somehow Richie kicks out at two! Whitton manages to come in and hit an Air Raid Crash as Richie follows in with a senton bomb… and that’s enough to get the win! Chalk this one up as an unexpected banger – everything clicked here it seemed, and whilst some stuff may have not been as crisp as you’d like, this was a match that you’ll want to rewatch down the line. Get this watched! ****

Ace Matthews vs. Liam Slater
Until recently, I didn’t twig that Benji – Ace Matthew’s waterboy here in 3CW – also played one of Spike Trivet’s “private school chums” in NORTH. Small world, huh? Ace’s overbearing self winds up the crowd, as does his brief karaoke…

Ace has bad news – apparently his best friend and tag team partner David Graves isn’t here. That’s a bizarrely random thing to ram home, given that Matthews and Graves have only tagged together once in 3CW. What isn’t bizarre here is more football-related shade before Liam Slater comes out with another new theme… did they leave the Vengaboys tape at home?

It’s basic stuff to start – Matthews takes Slater to the corner then gives an ironic thumbs up… which Slater grabs and wrenches on. It’s holiday camp stuff – and not in a bad way either, since it works with the largely casual crowd that 3CW tends to draw. Maybe not so much with those non-casuals who came for the bigger names, but that’s not their audience!

That ring doesn’t look too sturdy as some duelling rope running lifts up one side of it ahead of a crossbody from Slater, who sticks rigidly to the “shall I?” school of matches here. Ace escapes a full nelson with elbows, then rolls outside to get some water… Slater gives chase, clotheslining Benji in the process, and when Slater feels guilty about it, that just opens the door for Ace to cheapshot him.

A slam set up Ace for a Vader bomb, but that comes up short, so Slater mounts a comeback with close-range uppercuts, only for Ace went for a gutwrench suplex and ended up saving it as a facebuster. Slater comes back again with a double axehandle off the middle rope as he goes in with some clotheslines and a back suplex for a near-fall.

Out of nowhere, Slater hits a standing Sliced Bread as Benji gets on the apron to distract the referee… David Graves then comes out to shove Slater off the top rope, allowing Ace to hit a slam for the win. Ace Athletic hug it out afterwards… and I knew they were pushing Graves’ non-appearance way too much. As a match, this was fine, but about as basic as you can get. **

Ace Athletic beat down Slater 3-on-1 afterwards, only for Martin Kirby to come out to make the save… with music! Kirby wants a match, and since the “Grafter” Graves is there, dressed to compete, he’s chosen.

David Graves vs. Martin Kirby
I know he’s not been around much, but the “grafter” gimmick feels very bare bones. Surely everyone in wrestling is a grafter… apart from Orange Cassidy, I guess.

Ace Matthews hangs around and causes a nuisance, allowing Graves to attack Kirby from behind to start the match, before grounding Kirby with some crossface punches. I know on the last show Kirby had a bit of a phantom turn, but he’s clearly now a good guy here… and the crowd get behind him too.

A headbutt to the gut rocks Kirby, who tries to escape with a sunset flip before sitting up to avoid a sit-out splash from Graves. With a sore backside already, Kirby kicks his arse some more and gets a two-count out of it as the relative veteran eased in front.

Graves gets sent hard into the corner with an Irish whip, but manages to get a boot up to stop an onrushing Kirby. An injury’s feigned as Graves distracts the referee to allow for some cheating from Matthews, but he still can’t put away Kirby, who comes back with a crossbody off the ropes for another two-count.

Kirby’s forced to hang on through a grounded cobra clutch, which he elbows free of before running into a back elbow as Graves continued his impressive showing. Again he feigns injury as Matthews and Benji choke Kirby in the corner, and commentary starts to pick up on Graves’ right sleeve for some reason.

Another Kirby comeback sees him take Graves into the corner, before Matthews tries to restrain Kirby on the top rope. That’s no DQ, but Ace and Benji end up getting ejected instead, leaving Graves on his lonesome as he went on to miss a charge in the corner… and now Kirby rebounds yet again with flying forearms!

The Puppy Power shoulder charge connects, but Graves catches another crossbody and turns it into a slam for a near-fall, only for Kirby to use the ref inadvertently for a superkick for a near-fall. Graves accidentally spears the ref, which of course is the cue for a visual pinfall and the bad guys to come back out to attack Kirby 3-on-1.

Eventually the bad guys mess up, accidentally clotheslining Graves as Liam Slater hits the ring to drop Ace and Benji with clotheslines… Graves takes an uppercut before a Sable Bomb from Kirby proves to be enough for the win. Thoroughly enjoyable stuff here, with David Graves showing that whilst he may not has as much of a character as Ace, he’s got the basics down pat and could have a pretty good future for himself. ***

3CW Tag Team Championship Tournament – Semi-Final: Sons of Ulaid (Rory Coyle & Bás Bán) vs. Rogues Gallery (Leon Mercer & Stan Kellitt)
The pre-match gimmick here is that if the Rogues Gallery didn’t win, they’re done with 3CW. I don’t know if Bán has a new mask, but it looks pretty low-rent compared to the more flesh-like hood he has in NORTH.

The Sons jump the rookies at the bell, as referee John Myers struggled to keep things under control, as Bán looks for a double chokeslam, before accidentally getting his man instead. With Coyle out of the ring, the Rogues double-team Bán, who clotheslines back before clubbing away on Kellitt in the corner.

Commentary notes that although the Sons of Ulaid are representing the Damned Nation, they’re the only representatives on this shows as neither Gabriel Gray nor Dragon Aisu are there. Nor, indeed, are the “reserves” of Drake or Lucas Archer…

Leon Mercer gets the tag in and drops Bán with enziguiris, only for the big man to come back with a fallaway slam instead as the Sons turned their attentions to wearing down Mercer next. Kellitt’s attempt to get the referee to see the flagrant double-teaming just works against him, as Mercer remained cornered… but then chinks started to emerge as Bán forcibly tagged himself in.

Bán gets used as a human battering ram by Coyle, but it goes awry… so Coyle has to prevent a tag out as Mercer then tries again to beat some 1-on-2… only for Bán to solve the problem another way, by chokeslamming Kellitt onto the apron instead. Well, that’ll stop them from tagging a fresh man in!

The Sons keep up the deliberate offence, before Coyle accidentally boots into Bán in the corner… Mercer capitalises with a roll-up, and that’s enough for the slip-on-a-banana-peel win! Bás Bán claps like the simpleton he’s portraying at this… and the Rogues Gallery stay in 3CW! It wasn’t too much of a match, but the Rogues aren’t horrible in the ring, just they’ve been pretty much used as tackling dummies. **¼

So we’ve got the Rogues Gallery vs. Chris Whitton and Kid Richie in the finals for the titles at the next 3CW show later this month…

Joseph Conners vs. Si Swan
Since 3CW returned Swan – the former Lance Thunder (why’d he ever give that name up?!) – has had a brief run with the North East title, and has since become a bit of a bridge between the old and new 3CW. Conners seems to be the favourite in Middlesbrough, although that could be because he’s had more exposure…

Commentary’s more keen about talking about how the show’s being released in the early stages. I’d love it if a promotion ironically released shows on VHS only. Kinda like how PWG does with their DVD releases…

I digress, but then again this match does start off achingly slow, as Conners heads outside for a mouthful of water, before locking up with Swan in the corner once more as headlock takedowns and escapes ensue. Swan gets off a dropkick before he elbows away Conners and takes him down for a crossbody for a near-fall.

Swan tried for the Thunder Driver, but Conners slips onto the apron and hangs him in the ropes as the former WCPW and Southside champ looked to use his unfair advantage. Backbreakers, slams and elbows kept Conners in front as Swan had to show heart to escape a rear chinlock, before getting a near-fall from a sunset flip.

Conners responds with a back elbow that sent the spittle flying, before sending Swan flying to the outside… and back inside, this turned into something of a fight as Swan lands some clotheslines, before they trade punches and kicks. Swan lands a bodyslam out of the corner for a two-count, before another Thunder Driver gives way to a sunset flip and some indy’riffic pinning attempts!

A neckbreaker from Swan gets a two-count, but he misses another charge into the corner, allowing Conners to land the slingshot DDT for a near-fall. Conners mouths off to the ref, which gets Swan back into it with a slam… before he leaps off the top rope and stops short of a boot. Another Thunder Driver attempt is escaped, and Conners switches it into the Don’t Look Down hammerlock DDT for the win – a decent match, with Swan not looking too bad, but this seemed to be a “Conners wants a title shot” set-up than anything else. **¾

The video package ahead of the main event tells us nothing about how the match was set – not that it needed anything, mind you! It’s the match that the crowd seems to have come to see, and I swear that’s one of WCPW’s cameramen prominently in the front row!

Rampage Brown & Jeff Cobb vs. Matt Riddle & Alex Gracie
With all due respect to the 3CW champion, Alex Gracie is by far and away the odd one out in this quartet. We started with Cobb and Riddle bearing down on each other as Stevie Aaron made a bad pun on the show name on commentary.

Cobb’s first takedown is too close to the ropes, so he can’t capitalise, which leads to a shove-off and a slap-off! Riddle goes for a cross armbreaker, but it seems to be too close to the ropes – something that Rampage pointed out. So Cobb offers him the mount, but Riddle just cartwheels over him into a rear naked choke as the Middlesbrough crowd reacted to the submission teases… only to see Cobb stand up and Judo throw the Bro.

Gracie randomly gets a chant of “corn rows” going, which gives way to a chop battle that draws reactions and leaves both men stinging as Gracie tells Cobb to “not hit Bro in the face”. It’s weird seeing Alex Gracie as a plucky babyface…

Speaking of, he tags in against Rampage, and Rampage easily bulls him into the corner and clubs him to the mat. On paper, it’s a mis-match! Gracie fights back with some right hands, out-pacing Rampage before landing a diving uppercut to take him to the floor. When he returns, Rampage chokes Gracie in the ropes and corners him so Jeff Cobb can have a go… and have a go he does.

Chops. Lots of chops. Clotheslines too, as Gracie’s kept as far away from a tag as possible, with pumphandle fallaway slams from Cobb helping to do the trick… before he nearly shocks Rampage with a small package, only to be met with a big clothesline after the kick-out. The Gracie beating continues, at least until he made the hot tag to Riddle who cleared house with forearms and chops on the bigger men.

Rampage eats an Exploder, whilst Cobb takes more forearms ahead of a diving uppercut from Gracie. Cobb’s thrown into a leg lariat from Gracie, before Riddle’s back senton gets just a two-count as the “champion team” enjoyed a resurgance. An overhead kick and a Bro to Sleep from Riddle allows him to drop Rampage with a bridging German suplex for another two-count, before things look to get a little spotty… leading to Gracie landing Eat Defeat on Rampage.

A Fisherman’s buster from Riddle gets another near-fall as Cobb lays into Gracie with ease, before that tandem powerbombs and piledrives Riddle for fun. Cobb’s Destroyer and a Tour of the Islands nearly get the win, but Gracie breaks the cover up at the last second, and now Cobb’s left in there with Gracie and Riddle.

A series of knees leave Cobb loopy, before he staggers into the Fall From Gracie… and that’s enough for the win! Well, it’s a weird choice having your champion in this sort of match to take a load of punishment – on one hand it shows that he’s battle-hardy, but at the same time it also shows that he’s not in the same league as the other three. A fun main event, and one that delivered exactly what the fans coming to see Riddle and Cobb wanted. ***¾

After the match, Rampage attacked Gracie and threw the 3CW belt at him, before demanding a title match because “you didn’t beat me”. Gracie accepts the challenge, but commentary tells us of Joseph Conners demanding a title shot “backstage” (which we don’t see)… so Joseph Conners vs. Alex Gracie is our next title match for September’s Darkest Deeds event.

3CW’s 2017 has been quietly successful, I feel. After their reboot at the end of 2016 looked wobbly – yes, I’m looking at that Christmas show… – the company’s grown from strength to strength. Solid cards in front of decent, albeit casual, crowds. Success doesn’t come overnight, but 3CW’s staying true to themselves and are resisting the temptation to always put the flavour of the months on their shows.

If you’re cherrypicking, watch the first and last matches from this show… but at the very least, check out the opening tag team match. Yes, 3CW may not be your go-to promotions, but so far this year, they’ve not let you down!