3CW’s year ended with an injury-changed card, as Hartlepool got some shocks and two cage matches for their money on the Fight Before Christmas.

The customary music video opens things, focusing on Si Swan – who’d announced his retirement match would happen here – before cutting to some panoramic shots of Hartlepool and finally going inside the Borough Hall. Stevie Aaron announces that Jetta’s off the show with injury, and in place of her steel cage match we’ll have Alex Grace vs. Chris Renfrew for the 3CW title… in the cage!

Charli Evans vs. Little Miss Roxxy
So we’ve got half of yesterday’s women’s tag match here, with Charli again in the unfamiliar role of being a villain.

Roxxy’s out with Drake and Satchel Jones for… reasons. Apparently this is Drake’s official exit from Damned Nation, which is a bit of a leap given he was fine with them just one night earlier. Roxxy starts up by laying in some forearms before landing a ‘rana that took Charli into the corner. A snapmare out and a back senton nearly gets Roxxy the early win… but Evans comes back with some face-washing boots and forearms in the corner as the Aussie was firmly in control.

Charli pulls Roxxy into a seated surfboard, pulling her up into a cradle submission before walking her into the corner to bonk her head into the turnbuckles. Finally Roxxy mounts a comeback, hitting a handstand kick before climbing into an Octopus stretch on Charli… and that’s the cue for the Kings of Catch to hit the ring as Sammii Jayne, Lewis Girvan and Aspen Faith team up for a Cerberus bomb… and of course, the DQ. What we had before the DQ was fine, but clearly storyline. *¾

Aspen takes the mic and brags about Jetta’s injury, before promising to send Roxxy to the same hospital that Jetta’s in. They tease a spike tombstone, but Drake and Satchel make the save. I’m pretty sure next to nobody in the crowd knew who Satchel was as there was deafening silence that allowed us to hear their trash talking. Roxxy gets the mic though, and she vows that she’ll not suffer Jetta’s fate. She offers to take the spot, and we have our women’s cage match – Roxxy vs. Sammii later tonight!

Elimination Tag: Ace Athletic (Ace Matthews, David Graves & Oli White) & Prince Ameen vs. Luke Menzies, Gabriel Kidd, Amir Jordan & Si Swan
It’s Survivor-ish Series, as Si Swan retires in this eight-man tag! Ace Athletic’s got a new lackey in the form of Oli White, a trainee out of Yorkshire. Of course, Ace botches the intro, confusing him with Benji, while Prince Ameen is with the overbearing guys, despite seemingly turning good on the prior evening’s show.

Amir tries to out-psyche Graves early with some dancing, as we cycle through tags, quickly taking us to Si Swan and Ace Matthews, with the latter eating some punches in the corner. Commentary’s going perhaps a little overboard on their thanking Swan during the match, but he almost gets the first elimination with a middle rope legdrop to Matthews.

Luke Menzies comes in next, and faces off against Oli White, who begged for the tag… and yeah, Menzies ragdolls the kid, launching him across the ring with a slam, then an overhead belly to belly. A Jackhammer follows as Menzies tags in Amir for a senton bomb, and there’s the first elimination – thanks for coming, Oli! Ace Matthews quickly rolls up Amir with a handful of tights for the next fall, before going for Menzies… yeah, that’s not smart. Menzies goes for Ace, fighting him to the back as we get a double count-out. Man, Luke’s very vulnerable to those double count-outs, eh?

We’re left with Ameen, Graves, Swan and Kidd… Graves eats a running boot in the corner before a pancake and a lariat left the Grafter down… and now we see Chris Whitton and Kid Richie appear on the stage, wearing new gear. Si Swan comes out to remonstrate, distracting everyone was Richie superkicks Kidd and puts Graves on top for the pin. It’s down to Si Swan vs. Ameen and Graves, and yes, Si gets his moment in the sun, capitalising when Graves accidentally forearm’d Ameen, finishing off the Grafter with a spinebuster, before Ameen became the last man left for his team. Swan countered a pedigree into a death valley driver for a near-fall, before Ameen lands that Pedigree as Si kicks out too!

Ameen grabs Amir Jordan’s 3CW North East title belt… but the referee disarms him. While the ref’s distracted, Swan kicks Ameen low before getting the death valley driver for the win. Fun enough, but that flurry of quick eliminations was a bit of a waste. I’m smelling a rat with this Swan song though… **

After the match, Amir Jordan returns to the ring to tend to Ameen, who was still laying after that low blow. Ameen wants no part of it though, and he’s back to being a baddie, disgusted by the dancing, walking away from the music.

Martin Kirby vs. Joseph Conners
There’s a lot of jawing early on as Conners and Kirby play to the crowd, while commentary refers to their previous match in WCPW a year or so earlier.

Conners keeps playing to the crowd, before overcoming Kirby with a sunset flip as he outlasted the Thirsk-native’s attempt to throw him back outside. Kirby’s in full on comedy mode, and not just because of the Mr Blobby tights, claiming that Conners was pulling his hair. Kirby manages to get a ‘rana out of the corner as the pace quickens, with more headscissors taking Conners down once more ahead of… a chinlock.

A stalling suplex leads to a poke to the eye from Kirby, but Conners replies to that “dickhead move” (as commentary called it) with a diving clothesline as he looked to return some favours, going back to the chinlock before Kirby succeeded in throwing him to the outside. Kirby keeps up with an inverted atomic drop and some rope running to confuse Conners into a Slingblade as Kirby picks up a near-fall amid it all.

The Sable Bomb’s called for, but Conners counters, eventually hitting a tiltawhirl backbreaker for a much-delayed two-count. Reversed go-behinds eventually gave way to sunset-flips and reversed pinfalls, with the indy’riffic pins leading to the win as Kirby confused the ref into helping him hit Conners with a neckbreaker… and a backslide from that gets the pin. Enjoyable stuff for the casual crowd, but it’s a surprising loss for Conners as he builds himself up as a good guy here. **¾

Dragon Aisu vs. Rampage Brown vs. Screwface vs. Primate
Four big lads fighting for a crack at the 3CW title here – and we pair off instantly as Primate and Aisu go for each other while Rampage and Screwface brawl outside.

There’s a lot of “two-in, two-out” stuff, with folks pairing and breaking up pretty randomly as the entire ringside area just became their playground. Screwface nearly snatches a win with a triangle armbar on Primate, but he powerbombs his way free before Rampage rushes in to kick away a spear attempt.

Aisu and Rampage come next, trading chops until Aisu snaps in with a Dragon Driver to Rampage… Screwface avoids one too before Primate gets in a spear to Screwface, but everyone’s left laying, so we’ve got no pin attempts. With everyone back on their feet, it’s back to the slugfests, but Screwface takes a spill to the outside, where he remains as Primate spears Aisu… only to get thrown into Screwy outside as Rampage steals the pin! Pretty short, but very intense and fun while it lasted. **¾

We get a recap of what happened last night in Northallerton – where Gabriel Kidd lost the tag title match before he was turned on by Chris Whitton and Kid Richie. It’s worth noting that Whitton’s “I’m on the shelf” speech was a false alarm, as his knee injury proved to be nowhere near as serious as first thought. Hence the “Dormo Dynasty”’s heel turn.

3CW Tag Team Championship: Dormo Dynasty (Kid Richie & Chris Whitton) vs. Rogues Gallery (Stan Kellitt & Leon Mercer) (c)
The Dynasty had new music to go along with their new attitude, and they were jumped as the tag champions took the Dynasty outside early with their opening flurry.

Kellitt and Mercer follow them, as the challengers are brought back in for mounted punches in the corner and a good old-fashioned coming together, by way of an accidental clothesline. Whitton eats a double suplex as Richie gets popped up into an awkward neckbreaker, leaving Whitton to take some more double-teaming for a near-fall.

Mercer’s spinning heel kick gets another two-count on Whitton, but the veteran stops shy of a dropkick as they take over, coaxing Kellitt into distracting the ref as they double-team Mercer. A running blockbuster gets Richie a near-fall as the rookies are worn over – and continue to fall victim to their lack of experience as Kellitt bites every time he’s the victim of a cheapshot.

Mercer’s able to get a shot in with a double DDT that left the challengers so loopy that Whitton tried to pin his own man, before Kellitt finally gets the hot tag in. A clothesline leads to an accidental DDT on the challengers… and all of a sudden Si Swan and Gabriel Kidd appear in the aisle. Apparently Whitton was trying to walk out on the match, but instead he takes a Hart Attack for a near-fall as Swan pulls out the referee. Swan lays out the ref, then Gabriel Kidd… and the jig is up. Swan’s retirement was a hoax – he’s joined the Dormo Dynasty! A second ref appears once the chaos dies down, and he counts the pin after Whitton was draped over Mercer… and we have new champions! A bit of a wacky way to reset the titles, but it seems that 3CW now have a stable of bitter-ish veterans to contend with! ***

After the match, Swan powerbombs Kellitt as the three-man Dormo Dynasty stood tall – while Stevie Aaron has a breakdown on commentary…

Steel Cage: Sammii Jayne vs. Little Miss Roxxy
There’s no escape the cage rules here – it’s old school pinfall and submissions only! Of course, this was meant to be Jetta vs. Sammii, but the injury suffered on night one led to this rejig – and what I’m confident was the first ever cage match in Roxxy’s career.

Roxxy’s a little worse for wear after the beatdown earlier in the show, but she charges straight into Sammii as she unloaded on the EVE champion in the opening stages. It’s quickly put to a halt as Jayne throws her into the cage repeatedly, before Sammii puts her head between the blur bars and wrenches away on it.

There’s a lot of Sammii sandwiching Roxxy into the cage, with a wheelbarrow attempt ending abruptly as Jayne swung Roxxy… yep, into the cage. Roxxy eventually climbs up the cage to escape the onrushing Sammii, and almost gets the win out of that, before using the cage to springboard off for a bulldog for another two-count. Roxxy keeps trying for pinfalls, but she bounces off a boot in the corner from Jayne, who keeps up with a Snow Plow for another near-fall as the local lass Roxxy still has some fight left in her… as shown by a wild DDT out of nowhere!

The tables turn again though as Sammii teases a superplex… right as the Kings of Catch hit the ring. Well, that’s the point of the cage gone!

Roxxy kicks away Jayne, who spills into Aspen Faith and Lewis Girvan, before Roxxy dove into them. A Code Red would have won it, but Faith breaks it up, and it’s now three-on-one, with the Kings hitting the Afterburner (spike tombstone). Satchel Jones and Drake arrive too late to make the save, but they manage to scale the cage for a pair of crossbodies to leave the Kings laying.

The referees try to unlock the cage so they can get rid of the extra bodies, eventually succeeding, leaving Sammii and Roxxy in the ring. A schoolboy nearly does it for Roxxy, but she quickly runs into a series of powerbombs, with a sitout powerbomb getting Sammii the win. Considering the experience, this was a really good outing from Roxxy, fighting a losing battle as the underdog here. **¾

After the match, Sammii grabbed the mic and crowned herself the Queen of the Cage – which is when Jetta, in a cast, appears on the stage. Jetta calls out Sammii for always needing help, calling her a cheat, before promising to return when her wrist heals to have that cage match eventually!

Steel Cage for 3CW Championship: Chris Renfrew vs. Alex Gracie (c)
This was set-up after Renfrew eliminated Gracie early in yesterday’s Winter Warfare cage match, and we’ve got the possibility of winning via escape for this one.

Gracie goes straight for Renfrew, charging him down with a clothesline before cornering him with some of those mounted punches. Renfrew kicks Gracie low as he was about to get sent into the cage, before attempting a Stunner… but Gracie hits Eat Defeat instead as the challenger was left laying. Gracie goes to escape the cage, but the Sons of Ulaid – Rory Coyle and Bás Bán – come out to neuter that. Renfrew tries to capitalise with a rolling death valley driver, but rather than escape the cage he just bumps fists with Bán, as he looks to just wear down on Gracie instead. It looks like Coyle and Bán are adopting the “Sick Boys” moniker that NORTH fans gave them… but they are pretty helpless as Gracie fights back, taking Renfrew up to the top rope for a superplex attempt.

Except Renfrew escapes and dumps Gracie in the ring before he tries to escape the cage… Rory Coyle bites away on Gracie as the Damned Nation guys try to cheat, adding more sneakiness when Bán and Coyle try to drag Renfew out, only for Conners and Primate to head out to run off the Sons of Ulaid.

With the interference chased away, we’re back to one-on-one, with Gracie easily slamming Renfrew. An attempted missile dropkick from Renfrew’s blocked as Gracie slingshots him into the cage, before a full nelson slam put down the Scotsman… but Gracie didn’t go for the cover. Instead, he tries for something else, but Renfrew counters it… and that too gets countered into a Boston crab as Dragon Aisu wanders out to break it up.

So, about that cage stopping interference? Yeah, I know, it’s not the 70s anymore!

Aisu and Renfrew continue to wear down Gracie with sporadic double-teaming, but a double neckbreaker stops that as Gracie makes another comeback, splashing Renfrew and Aisu in opposing corners, before sidestepping as the pair ran into each other. They recover though, as Aisu shoves away a Fall from Gracie as Renfrew planted Gracie with a pop-up powerbomb for a near-fall, and that’s the cue for Aisu to leave as he went to look for some plunder. There’s another save as Screwface comes out to neutralise Aisu, before using his chain to tie the cage door shut.

Gracie nearly capitalises with a roll-up, then hits Eat Defeat as Aisu and Renfrew brawl to the back to complete the cavalcade of run-ins… and the finish comes when both men try to sprint over the proverbial line as they exit the cage together… but Gracie hits the floor first, narrowly retaining his title! A pretty solid main event, with the usual array of interference, but considering this wasn’t a cage match until pretty late in the day, this was a solid crack. ***

So 3CW’s Fight Before Christmas was a pair of shows that could easily have been derailed by injury – but they managed to take those lemons and make proverbial lemonade out of it. It’s always odd when smaller companies run cage matches, but 3CW made it work… perhaps not a show you’ll find any match of the year contenders on, but these were definitely a pair of shows that you’ll find some enjoyment out of, even if you loathe casual audiences.