3CW’s final double-header of the year saw them head to Northallerton for a show headlined with a wacky blend of War Games and the Survivor Series as Alex Gracie again took on the Damned Nation!

Project Lucha (Martin Kirby & El Ligero) vs. Kings of Catch (Aspen Faith & Lewis Girvan)
It’s a pair of 3CW debuts for Girvan and Faith as Stevie Aaron noted that Project Lucha may struggle as a team despite their exploits in the past. Girvan kinda looks like a massively slimmed down Rhyno, and he’s watching on as Faith is taken to task by Kirby in the opening moments.

We’ve got our first “shall I?” of the night as Ligero’s tagged in, as Faith’s long hair is used in place of an arm wrench as Kirby returns to drop an axehandle across the ponytail. A proper good guy move! Lewis Girvan finally makes the tag in, but Kirby stays on top of him until a double-team from the Kings looked to go a little wonky. Ligero comes in to break up a pin but all he does is distract the ref as Kirby’s double-teamed – to the sound of some screaming protests from the kids in the crowd – but Ligero’s able to get the tag in and kick Faith down ahead of a teased C4L… but it misses as Ligero forces the Kings into an accidental self-Sliced Bread that nearly wins the match.

Duelling mounted punches in the corner ended up leading to the tide turning around, as Ligero takes a rolling neckbreaker and a top rope splash as Kirby makes the save… and the referee just seems to have lost all control when it comes to tags. He’s still able to count pins, and marks a near-fall from a Kirby roll-up, before Ligero caught in the Afterburner – a double stomp package tombstone – for the win. Well, if you didn’t think the ref’d lost control, that confirms it – going from counting a pin for Kirby, to counting the pin on Ligero! Suitably chaotic, and whatever the Kings did certainly turned them on the casual crowd, so it’s gotta go over as a win for that! **¾

We get a brief recap of “the first meet” – the skirmish between Luke Menzies and Rampage Brown in that gauntlet back at Darkest Deeds – because the full-on singles match is next!

Rampage Brown vs. Luke Menzies
Menzies was announced as “The Hammer”… do I detect a future feud with another Hammer on the UK scene, Justin Sysum?

Commentary notes that there’s been a friendly nudge to the referee that there has to be a winner here, before pointing out that Menzies is actually signed to WWE. So this is kind of a “already been” versus “about to go” deal as the two powerhouses clonk into each other early on. Menzies catches Rampage off guard with a series of overhead belly-to-bellies – such freaking strength right there folks – before Rampage escapes a German suplex on the apron by charging Menzies into the ringpost. He followed up by knocking him off the apron and into the guard railing, as we seem to be going for a count-out, but Menzies makes it back in… as the Rampage fightback continues, with Rampage willingly bending the rules as he took advantage of Menzie’s lack of experience with plenty of chokes and eye rakes.

An Irish whip into the corner literally moves the ring as Rampage follows in with a clothesline for a solid two-count. More clubbing blows and kicks keep Menzies in the corner, as Rampage then drags him down to crotch him in the ringpost… but Luke reverses it, pulling Rampage into the post instead, before mounting a comeback, with a Judo throw taking the veteran down.

A tiltawhirl slam nearly gets the relative upset, only for Rampage to kick out before he’s taken up for a superplex that Menzies pulled off with ease. He’s not able to make it pay by going for the pin, but he is able to try and follow up with a jackhammer, only for Rampage to escape and land the piledriver for the win. Pretty short at around seven minutes, but given Menzie’s lack of experience, this was extremely encouraging to see. A star in the making, perhaps? ***¼

Another music video leads us into a “3CWomen” tag match… and one that would have a rather odd face/heel alignment pretty much anywhere else.

Sammii Jayne & Charli Evans vs. Jetta & Little Miss Roxxy
Always easy to hate, Sammii Jayne’s partner here was… Charli Evans? I’m so not used to seeing her jawing with the crowd in this kinda way, but hey, when you’ve already flipped a bad guy in Jetta (and slightly less so in Roxxy), then anything’s possible.

We get the boo/yay appeals to the crowd at the start of the match, and once a match breaks out we start with Jetta and Sammii. Jetta instantly grabs a pair of knuckle-locks as she tries to spin over Sammii with headscissors, only for the Scotswoman to catch Jetta in an armbar as the pair swap wristlocks. The chain wrestling continues as Jetta grabs, and holds onto a hammerlock, but something happened in that reversal as Jetta quickly lets go and tags out to Roxxy, who instantly goes for Sammii with a wheelbarrow bulldog that almost gets the win.

With Jetta pretty much out of action, this turned into a virtual handicap match, and a situation that Sammii and Charli took advantage of, with Evans enjoying a series of forearms to Roxxy, before handing her off to Sammii for a near-fall. A chinlock’s fought out of by Roxxy, as she mounted a spirited comeback, blasting into Jayne in the corner with a big boot.

After Roxxy lands a crossbody, commentary notes that Jetta’s been told not to return to the ring – the injury she suffered was a legitimate broken wrist that required surgery. An X-Factor from Roxxy nearly does it, as does a Code Red, but in the end the numbers game overwhelms her as a death valley driver and the Rings of Saturn from Sammii eventually forces the submission. Considering how early it was in the match when Jetta had to depart through injury, this wasn’t too bad for something called on the fly – again, taking in Roxxy’s experience into account. Enjoyable to watch, but now 3CW would have some work to do as their main event on the night night would be thrown out of the window. **¾

The Kings of Catch quickly hit the ring afterwards and throw the referee out of the ring. Aspen Faith plants Roxxy with a tombstone, as the Kings (and Queens) stood tall as Lewis Girvan cut a promo after the fact… addressing the (as yet uncancelled) steel cage match between Jayne and Jetta.

Another video package follows, showing how Amir Jordan won the 3CW North East championship at the last show, thanks to some help from Si Swan. Today, he’s got a match against Ace Athletic… who are out in their Team Sports uniform for a change. They have a discussion over who’ll get the match, and it seems we’ve got David Graves as the wrestler, Benji as the time keeper, and Ace Matthews as the commentator. Oh, they have a referee too: Prince Ameen. Yeah, the fix is in.

3CW North East Championship: David Graves vs. Amir Jordan (c)
Jordan’s got Si Swan out with him as back-up, or as another body out there for wackiness. Time will tell.

Ace Matthews stays true to his word and delivers play-by-play during the match, while Ameen plays heel referee, slow-counting breaks for Graves and fast-counting them for Jordan from the off. Ameen’s easily distracted, as he’s focusing more on the folks outside the ring rather than Jordan and Graves trading wristlocks, before Jordan armdrags himself away from trouble.

Yeah, we’re all waiting for the interference, as we get the picture-in-picture gimmick focusing on Ace Matthews for some reason. Jordan stays in control with armdrags and headscissors, but he’s taken into the ropes as Graves chokes on him… with Ameen being more worried about his headdress than any rules. Graves gets a fast-count on a cover as the shenanigans continues, but even aside from the fast counts, Graves is able to maintain control with headbutts to the gut. More cheating’s ignored by the ref, although Benji whimpers away when Si Swan confronts him, and the regular commentary team talking over Ace at ringside is making for a really hard-to-follow match.

Jordan mounts a comeback with some running axehandles and an enziguiri to Graves, before a crossbody off the top gets a slow/regular two-count. Still, Graves manages to get back in and gets a suplex in for a near-fall, before Jordan lands an Ace crusher… which opens us up for more tomfoolery – Benji gets on the apron to distract the ref (who doesn’t), while Ace puts Graves’ foot on the ropes in full view of Ameen.

Well, I’d rather have a ref who doesn’t have to play along as being useless, I suppose.

Jordan finally throws some right hands to get rid of Benji and Ace, before Si Swan tries to confront everyone… Jordan’s outside with him as Graves takes the opportunity to attack the champion from behind, before planting him with a headlock driver in the ring for a near-fall… thanks to Si Swan putting a leg on the rope. In the midst of that, Ace Athletic do the substitution gimmick again, with Ace Matthews taking Graves’ place… just in time for Swan to lay out Graves with a belt shot. That proved to be a distraction too far as Benji’s bucket’s used on Amir, but Swan pulls Ace outside again and punches him out as we apparently don’t get a DQ… because Benji gets substituted into the match!

Of course, Benji’s useless in 3CW land, and he quickly falls to an Ace crusher for the pin – despite Ameen’s attempt to hold up the pin. Enjoyable fare in spite of the over-the-top shenanigans, and Amir seems as shocked as anyone that he actually got the W. For the part of the match he was in for, Graves looked really good – another name to add to the potential breakouts for 2018 right there. **¾

Ameen shook Amir Jordan’s hand after the match, so I guess that’s a hatchet buried?

We go to another flashback as Chris Whitton revealed last month that he’d suffered torn knee ligaments and was having to take time off. In his stead, Gabriel Kidd was announced as a replacement tag team partner, but the newly-minted Kidd Connection ended up dropping the straps to the Rogues Gallery in that frantic four-way elimination match.

3CW Tag Team Championship: Kidd Connection (Gabriel Kidd & Kid Richie) vs. Rogues Gallery (Stan Kellitt & Leon Mercer) (c)
The challengers received separate entrances, with Chris Whitton out alongside Kid Richie… and I must say, Whitton moved pretty well for someone who had bad knees…

Richie starts out strong, going straight for Kellitt as he tried to take him into the ropes… but instead he’s able to grab a wristlock as the veteran tried to wear down the champion on the mat. Kellitt escapes, but his attempt at grounded headscissors are easily escaped as commentary mused over how many times the Rogues had to dodge bullets.

After that initial exchange, Gabriel Kidd tags in against Leon Mercer… but Mercer surprises him with a pair of armdrags and a dropkick as he tried to surprise Kidd. Things almost go south quickly during a sequence where Mercer was to have been propelled away by Kidd’s legs, but there’s not quite enough purchase on it, and Mercer narrowly escapes landing on his head a la Sabu. Richie makes a blind tag in to Kidd, as does Kellitt, and it’s the relative newcomers who regain the advantage as Kellitt grabs a chinlock while Chris Whitton tried to rouse the crowd from ringside. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as intended, as the Rogues continue to isolate and double-team Richie… until he’s able to make the tag out to a resurging Kidd, with Gabriel taking Kellitt into the corner for a running boot.

A Northern Lights suplex from Kidd has Kellitt on the back foot, but a follow-up slam led to a blind tag from Mercer… Kellitt takes the slam as Richie follows up with a senton. The ref doesn’t make the pin, because Kellitt wasn’t legal, and in the confusion, Kidd’s rolled up by Mercer as the champions retain! This was a bit of a strange one, with Richie taking a lot of the offence as he seemed to be installing himself as the team leader by default. The match itself was alright, if not short. ***

Gabriel Kidd tries to apologise to Richie afterwards, but Kid Richie’s pretty worked up about it. The Rogues exit quickly, and that’s a sign because Kidd gets the microphone to tell the crowd that the “better team won”. That didn’t sit well with Richie, nor with Chris Whitton, as Kidd’s speech almost came across as condescending to the veterans… especially when he was apologising for losing “their” tag titles.

Which explains why the renamed Dormo Dynasty turned on Kidd as his rousing battle cry was emphatically shot down, as Whitton saw Kidd’s defeats as him ruining his life’s work. Whitton promises to give Kidd a beating, and just as Gabe tried to talk him out of it, Kid Richie superkicks Gabe, before they put the boots to him. The crowd didn’t really boo much, but hey, at least the Dormo Dynasty have something behind them now other than being generic white meat babyfaces..

The Rogues Gallery returned to make the save, before challenging Richie and Whitton for a tag title match. It was accepted, and we’re all wondering whatever happened to Whitton’s knee injury?
Another music video builds up to our main event – and my God, we’ve got the blue bars. Bestill my beating heart!

We get a graphic advising that eliminations are by pinfall, submission and exiting the cage. It’s basically Survivor Series mashed into War Games, condensed into a single ring, with entries starting after 5 minutes and repeating every 2 minutes, with the Damned Nation starting out… because these guys watched the Vince Russo TNA years and know how NOT to do this match!

Winter Warfare: Team Gracie (Alex Gracie, Primate, Screwface & Joseph Conners) vs. Damned Nation (Chris Renfrew, Dragon Aisu, Drake & Bás Bán)
Gracie drew the short straw as he started out the contest with Chris Renfrew, who had Rory Coyle at ringside, despite commentary telling us that Coyle was injured.

With just the one ring, this is going to get awfully crowded, I fear, but we start with Gracie taking Renfrew into the corner, before “shall I?”ing it up as he went to throw the Scotsman into the cage bars. Of course it’s blocked, but Gracie almost gets an early elimination as he fought against the clock to avoid being put at a disadvantage. Gracie almost gets the pin with a full nelson slam, but Renfrew kicks out and the cage door opens for the next Damned Nation member to join… it was originally flashed up as Drake, but the pause button is quickly hit as Dragon Aisu’s music hits instead, as he takes his time getting to the ring as Gracie’s subjected to two minutes of a handicap match… although he starts out well by countering a double suplex into a neckbreaker.

Not much happens as I swear those two minutes were short, and it’s Primate who heads out to even things up, charging into Aisu with a spear before throwing Renfrew over with a belly-to-belly suplex! The Damned Nation pairing get thrown into the steel cage before they respond with some low blows as time winds down ahead of the entry of Drake as it becomes 3-on-2 for a couple of minutes.

The Damned Nation trio weren’t really going for pins though, as they were instead content to throw Primate and Gracie into the cage. Gracie mounted a brief comeback, but he quickly takes a Dragon Driver, a running knee and a stunner as Chris Renfrew scores the pinfall to eliminate Alex Gracie! Well, that’s a thing, eliminating your champion first! The clock ticks down again as we go back to 3-on-2, with Screwface partnering Primate… but it’s a case of someone being thrown to the wolves, as Screwface went straight for Renfrew before having a crack at overcoming the numbers game. Screwface reverses a Stunner and hits a Cross Rhodes… and there’s your next elimination as we’re back to 2-on-2.

Primate accidentally spears Screwface for a near-fall as the strange bedfellows had trouble working together, and it was going from bad to worse as Rory Coyle tapes Primate’s hands together outside the cage, before Bás Bán joined the match. Screwface tries to take a shot at Bán, but it’s ducked away from before Screwface eats a few moves, including a Dragon Driver and a scoop slam as Bán secured another elimination.

So we’re down to Primate and whomever the last man is, but Dragon Aisu’s somehow got a Singapore cane as a helpless Primate’s worn down in the ropes. There’s only one man left, but can Joseph Conners really do much? Well, he takes his sweet time for the intro in his music to finish before appearing, so he’s clearly in no rush to help Primate, but at least he swings the cage door in Bán’s face as he launches in with fire, before that numbers game again takes hold. Conners climbs to the top of the cage for… reasons… but Primate comes in to help pull folks down before Conners completes his dive out of the corner with a crossbody into the Damned Nation. That’s enough to eliminate Drake, but Bás Bán tries to bum-rush Conners as Primate misses a charge and goes through to the cage as Rory Coyle takes advantage by trapping Primate’s arm and whacking a chair on it outside the cage… and that’s another elimination.

So we’re down to Joseph Conners against Bás Bán and Dragon Aisu… but the numbers game quickly backfires as he’s able to get free and shove Bán into Aisu, before going after the masked dungaree lover. Bán puts the brakes on and hits a slam, but doesn’t go for a cover as Rory Coyle again insists on getting involved… and that backfires even worse. He tried to signal to Bán to grab a chair, but Bán leaves the cage and eliminates himself.

Nevermind though, Bán heads back in with a chair, despite the referee’s protesting, but Alex Gracie returns to make sure Bán disappears… so we’re down to Conners and Aisu for the final stretch. Aisu uses the chair to get a near-fall, before wedging it in the turnbuckles and of course, he’s not able to throw Conners into it as he instead goes for a Dragon Driver and instead almost gets rolled up for the pin. In the ensuing action, the wedged chair comes free, so they go to a plan B, where Aisu tries to swing the chair at Conners… we get the comedy “chair bonks off the rope, into the bad guy” spot, before Aisu falls into the Don’t Look Down as Conners escaped Winter Warfare as the sole survivor!

With the complex rules, this could easily have been a mess, but 3CW actually pulled it off – the rapid-fire entries meant that the match didn’t get stale, and the frequent eliminations saved us from a ring that would have gotten too full to pay much attention. With any luck, this’ll become a regular fixture in the 3CW calendar, as it helped set the table for future title contenders going into 2018. ***¼

The opening night of 3CW’s Fight Before Christmas weekender was a quietly good show as the promotion fought through an awkward injury that could really have derailed things. In addition, the storyline progression with the Dormo Dynasty spices things up a little, and of course, the continued development of Luke Menzies is always nice to see – hopefully he’ll be around for a little while longer!