It’s time for our final Frontier Wrestling recap, as we look at the last pair of episodes of FWA TV.
We’ll pick up on episode 29, which opened with Flash Barker asking Drew McDonald “who the hell is Chris Harvard?”; McDonald puts down Harvard as someone who wasn’t even good enough for the WWF (whoops), and we cut to our opening titles.
We have a flashback from five weeks back when Alex Shane’s match with Drew McDonald ended in a no-contest – and the mass turn of Shane’s security team. A replay of Shane introducing Chris Harvard as his tag partner for tonight’s main event follows, and it looks like this is a one-match show!
Drew McDonald & Flash Barker vs. Chris Harvard & Alex Shane
By the time everyone’s had their entrances and played to the crowd, we’ve got about 18 minutes left – usually I’d say that’s long by FWA standards, but we did have that Williams/Brookside 15 minute match not too long back…
We start with a jump attack as Shane is taken to the outside as McDonald peppers Harvard with shots in the ring. Shane and Barker go into the crowd, with Barker throwing his former boss into the merchandise tables as it’s clear the early focus is on keeping the rookie Harvard down. Shane and Barker end up on the stage as Harvard drops McDonald with a crossbody, only to miss a second one as we get the indy wrestling curse of having to track things going on at the same time… and just about catching everything.
Flash Barker returns to the ring as Shane sells, and it’s the former security guard’s turn to work over Harvard, who finally blocks a suplex and slams Barker down… only to miss an elbow drop. Barker connects with a headbutt off the middle rope to give McDonald a near-fall – and the “Highlander from Hell” added in a move I hardly expected in the form of a dropkick. By now, I’m starting to think that this was some form of initiation for the rookie Harvard, but that wasn’t the angle they were going, especially as Harvard caught Barker with a back suplex as we went to a commercial break. Shane tags in once we’re back and he cleans houses with slams to both Old School members, before dropping Barker with a pumphandle cutter.
Another powerslam follows as Shane lands a springboard leg drop for a two-count, before missing a somersault leg drop as Barker rolled away. McDonald tags back in and lands a clothesline as some double-teaming keeps Shane at bay… at least until he comes back with a Shane-sation kick to knock Barker off the apron as he turned his focus to Barker. Shane gets caught with an RVD-esque legdrop across the barriers by Barker, and finally Chris Harvard gets involved, only to be cut-off by McDonald as the match spilled into the floor. The fancam follows Shane and Barker in the stairwell on the way out of the arena, as Harvard started to get the upper hand on McDonald… and we’re told by Mark Priest that Shane and Barker are the legal men, so they should be counted out by now, right?
Well, McDonald and Harvard go into the crowd too, and the camera finally picks up Shane and Barker on the (sparsely-populated) upper level. I don’t like where this is headed, as New Jack… I mean Alex Shane poses to the crowd on the balcony, only to be cut-off by Barker as Harvard and McDonald eventually head back to the ring. Harvard gives McDonald a back body drop, then a death valley driver! Dean Ayass comes out to break up the pin, before Jonny Storm rushes out to take Ayass to the back – just as Shane and Barker return to the ring.
So no insane dive then… thank God!
The bedlam continues as Harvard throws himself onto the crowd barrier as Shane tries for the One Night Stand… but he’s holding Barker up for way too long, and Justin Richards comes out and literally punches Shane in the groin. More run-ins as Nikita takes out Vixen (Drew’s hitherto un-named valet), whilst Scott Parker put paid to Richards. Barker dumps Shane with the Flash in the Pan (aka the Cross Rhodes in later-life), as the New Breed rush in to attack Barker. Stixx and Pliers run in to get rid of the Breed after they’d wiped out Barker with a Total Elimination, and this has gone well into over-booked territory. Another Shane-sation kick misses as Barker gets out of the way, and as those two fight outside, McDonald hits Harvard with a Stunner… and we get yet another run-in as Jody Fleisch goes after the Highlander.
After barely registering some kicks from Fleisch, McDonald flattens Fleisch with a clothesline, but the youngster comes back with a kick from the apron, then a springboard spinning heel kick. All while the referee watches and doesn’t call for a DQ. Another run-in as Dino Scarlo sticks his nose in, but he’s dispatched by Fleisch, who hits a springboard shooting star press to the floor.
Going back to the ring, Harvard and McDonald continue to trade shots, but there’s still time for more interference! Robbie Brookside comes in with a Kendo stick, but he misses and hits McDonald by mistake, before taking a lariat from Harvard… more interference as Doug Williams comes in and drops Barker with a Revolution DDT, and Alex Shane literally slumps onto Barker to claim the win. ***
This was a pretty decent main event until we had the masses and masses of run-ins. I get that they had to continue the Old School/New School feud, but my God, this was like TNA on acid. Which was impressive since the overbooked TNA main events were a good 3-4 years away at this point!
So, after that bedlam, how does the FWA mark their final TV show? Well, it starts with a recap of that uncomfortable angle where Dean Ayass and Justin Richards cornered Jane Childs, only for Scott Parker and Nikita to make the save.
Scottie Rock vs. Jack Xavier
That’s Scottie with a backwards e… just because! Xavier’s valet finally gets her name on TV – and it’s spelled “Cami”. Apparently Xavier is from Tipton, which makes him part of a conveyor belt of wrestlers from that part of the Midlands in recent years.
When the match gets going, Rock tries for a pin from a snapmare, and unsurprisingly gets a one-count. Another one-count comes from a Fireman’s carry as the start out with some more technical wrestling… and I suddenly see Scotty Rock as a smaller, shaven-headed version of Stixx. Now I cannot unsee…
Rock hits a top rope crossbody for a near-fall, before trying for a submission with a Fujiwara armbar – but Xavier was way too close to the ropes. A slam and a legdrop gets another two-count, but Xavier comes back with a release suplex that gets him his first near-fall. Another Fujiwara armbar comes as Rock impressively counters out of a powerbomb, but again Xavier gets the ropes, before he’s sent to the outside with a back body drop.
Xavier keeps grabbing his shoulder, but that just leaves him open for a somersault plancha from Rock, who then ended up posting himself as Xavier avoided a clothesline by the ringpost. From there, Xavier goes under the ring for a chair, but that just gets sent into his face courtesy of a baseball slide, and that looks to have busted open the rookie.
With the bloodied Xavier down, Rock tries to go up top, but he’s crotched by Cami, which lets Xavier kick him to the mat. Cami gets involved again with a baseball slide to Rock’s crotch as the referee checks on the bleeding Xavier, before the Xaviator (Styles Clash) gets the win. For a TV match, this was really good – showing how much these guys had progressed over the course of six months’ worth of shows. ***
After a commercial, we’re back for the final match from Acton – and it’s the returning Jonny Storm in action!
Justin Richards vs. Jonny Storm
No entrance for Richards, but we do get a brief pre-match promo from his mouthpiece, as Dean Ayass claims that the “Wonderkid” has made the biggest mistake of his life. Sadly, this being 2001, every word Ayass said was echoed with “What?”.
Ayass offers Storm the chance to walk away from the match… which he rejects, so Ayass just sits out in a chair in the aisle. I bet that chair comes into play.
Storm clotheslines Richards with his own towel early on, before landing a springboard flip dive onto the head of Richards in the aisle. Storm then tries to shoulder charge Richards onto the floor, but he recovers and drops Jonny with a bulldog before toning things down with headlock takedowns.
Richards keeps up with those takedowns, before he starts to work on Storm’s left leg, and of course, we get the heel manager stuff with Ayass choking Storm in the ropes as Richards had the referee distracted. Eventually, Storm elbows out of a chinlock, only to be dropped by a knee to the midsection as Richards goes back to a rear chinlock.
Thank God they didn’t try to paint this off as “boring” Justin Richards – else he’d be a sock in the crotch away from becoming a British version of Jonny’s namesake Lance…
Storm comes back with a cannonball in the corner, then a Bronco Buster (because… 2001), before a slam sets up for a moonsault that gets a near-fall. Richards ducks dome clotheslines… then goes back to a headlock takedown, which Storm again fights out of. Jonny goes for some leg lariats, but he accidentally clobbers the referee, which means that his nice-looking rewind ‘rana is for nought since there’s nobody to make the count.
After scoring a visual pin, Storm celebrates, but Ayass comes in with a chair and hits Storm on the back with it. At least it wasn’t to the head, but the chair shot was called out as being so weak, I doubt it’d have moved a hair on Storm’s head! Storm grabs the chair and waffles Ayass, who gets a hand up (keeping up the Twisted Genius character in ‘01!), but Richards comes back to catch Storm in a chicken wing and the referee calls the match almost instantly. **½
As a match it wasn’t too bad – perhaps a little too repetitive, but they needed to establish Richards as the “Old School youngster” by reinforcing his mat style. Nikita in her TV shirt makes the save, before Scott Parker makes an appearance as well as the Old School members clear the ring.
Mark Priest signs off “until next week”, but apparently that was all for Frontier Wrestling on My TV in Portsmouth. After that, the FWA took a slightly different track, with their Crunch event in Hoddesdon featuring a tag title change as Ulf Herman joined the Old School to win the titles with Drew McDonald, whilst we also had a tag match based on the angle that closed out the last show as Nikita and Scott Parker faced Justin Richards and Dean Ayass.
Alex Shane wasn’t on that Crunch event, instead, saving himself for a much bigger show that’d take place a week later – as the FWA co-promoted a show with Tommy Boyd and talkSPORT radio called Revival. The tournament saw the coronation of a “King of England”, featuring guys such as Doug Williams, Brian Christopher and Eddie Guerrero on a show that inspired a number of future players on the British wrestling scene.
The FWA would continue to grow – albeit without Alex Shane for a spell, as the leader of the New School picked up a neck injury in a match against Karl Krammer a month after the Revival show – and would end up expanding across the UK before burning out, ultimately closing in 2007 after a cross-promotional feud with IPW:UK.
A comeback would be attempted in 2009, featuring several names who became major players such as Marty Scurll, Zack Sabre Jr and the future Jack Gallagher, but as Greg Lambert detailed in his book “Holy Grail: The True Story of British Wrestling’s Revival”, that lightning never could be recaptured, and so the FWA fizzled out once again.
So, did the FWA learn any lessons from the last promotion that received television exposure in the UK? Well, yes! Unlike the UWA product, everyone on FWA TV looked to at least have had some training – which meant that were no “so bad, they’re good” matches with the likes of Big Papa T.
The biggest detriments to the show though came in the era it was filmed in, and its timeslot. We mentioned throughout our reviews that the 30-minute show length meant that they were faced with a choice of having one long match and maybe an angle, or several shorter matches with angles throughout – and that latter choice led to matches that came across as rushed.
High impact, low selling – those kind of matches sure did grab the attention, but likely left a number of viewers frustrated at how big moves rarely meant anything because… well, you had to get ready for the next one! By the end of their run, things had been toned down to the point where the matches were more than just indy’riffic spot-fests.
As a show, you have to count this as a success, if only in terms of increasing exposure and getting the wrestlers acquainted with television. That being said, the FWA didn’t actually return to Portsmouth until after the series had finished airing, so we never knew if the local show increased local gates – and sadly, some of the shows that aired could have done with that sort of exposure, given the empty seats visible in Harrow and Acton. What did help though, several years later, was the FWA’s presence on The Wrestling Channel, but that is a story for another time.
All-in, this was a wrestling show run by people who knew the business. Characters were developed throughout the card, and after originally souring on “heel Alex Shane who uses moves fit for a babyface”, even I was rooting for the Showstealer by the end!
It was night and day from what the UWA was churning out – and whilst it may have been a product of its time, a lot of it holds up today.