Last week, we reviewed the latest episode of the NGW television show, “British Wrestling Weekly”. That was the eighth show of the current series, so we may as well take it from the top…
#TLDR: Genuinely a one-match show, the season three premier of the NGW TV show was filled in its entirety by a three-way match for the NGW title, as Nathan Cruz defended against Zack Gibson and Rampage Brown… with a finish that was an insult to the intelligence anyone who’d watched any other wrestling before this show.
The Full Review: NGW’s TV show is clearly aimed at novices and people who had seen little-to-no wrestling before. If you want to watch along, season 3, episode 1 is currently up on YouTube – it starts with Alex Shane plugging Fighting Spirit Magazine with the same voiceover we hear throughout each episode. You know what they say about a stopped watch…
We open up at York Hall, and there camera pans to show several fans with foam fingers with “HURRAY” written on the finger, and “BOO!” on the wrist. Nothing else sums up olde worlde British wrestling like foam fingers, is there? Dave Bradshaw on commentary plugs British Wrestling’s “Ultimate Showdown” – a three-way title match between Zack Gibson, Rampage Brown and Nathan Cruz. This should be really good!
We skip back to a clip from “one year ago” where Nathan Cruz won the NGW title from Rampage Brown, and then it’s bits of a sit-down interview with Cruz. I do like how they caption everything as “wrestler / hometown” to hammer home the British feel of it. Cruz carried two title belts after he won the title, since NGW were apparently playing off the Razor Ramon/Shawn Michaels two-title-belts storyline. The interview was pretty generic, babyface happy at being the champion, and all that sort of stuff.
The package flips to Zack Gibson, who credits NGW for giving him the chance to make an impact in the Davey Boy Smith Memorial cup. This was a really good piece where Gibson put over how British wrestling used to be the place where people came from around the world to learn… then the British scene became a clone of America with tribute shows. Gibson credits NGW for moving away from that. They show some clips of the FWA (apparently, the only other promotion that’s existed in England recently).
Then we go to Richie West, the on-screen GM character. Yeah, I’m not thrilled at how this is already taking us to the worn out “evil authority figure” storyline. They’re building up to a storyline between Richie’s group, “The Control”, as they look to take control over NGW. Back to Cruz who recaps the story behind the three-way, and now they introduce a new character: Caz Crash from “The Proven”. He puts over Rampage as the man who made the NGW champion, but ultra generic talking head comments here. More from Gibson to build up the three-way, and finally they wrap it up.
This started off well, but by the end it was starting to drag badly. Could this not have been split throughout the show? If I were a new viewer tuning in and expecting wrestling, I probably would have tuned out, given that this took up the entire first segment (~10 minutes) and all it was talking.
Personally, I didn’t like how all of the positives were NGW-centred.I get why that was the case, since it’s NGW’s TV show, but it goes back to the naming: British Wrestling Weekly shouldn’t be focussed on just one promotion, as it falsely gives new fans the impression there is only one promotion in Britain. But that’s just my two cents… or should I say, my tuppence?
We get more shots of the crowd as we lead into the title match… but first, a commercial break and a plug for WrestlePlus. Think I’ll pass on that service.
We return, and it looks like this is a one match show. Rampage Brown is shown making his way to the stage, along with NGW Managing Director Richie West. Zack Gibson comes out next, as Alex Shane on commentary calls him “the second coming of Big Daddy”. You what?! Cruz got a smattering of boos for some reason, but not quite the full-on Roman Reigns reaction. Oh, and we even got the “one fall” bollocks… PROGRESS, you’ve got a LOT to answer for.
NGW Undisputed Championship: Rampage Brown vs. Zack Gibson vs. Nathan Cruz (c)
Finally, with the show 19 minutes old, a match breaks out! We’ve got 24 minutes left, so this should be really good given who is involved…
Gibson and Cruz make a beeline for Rampage at the bell, as they argue amongst each other to see who’s going to beat him down. Yeah, it’s not an elimination match, but this early on, what does it matter? Cruz takes down Rampage with a dropkick, before Gibson clotheslined Rampage to the outside.
Cruz and Gibson then start windmilling punches at each other, before Cruz is whipped into the turnbuckle as Rampage returns. A crossbody off the middle rope takes down Gibson, before Cruz lands a knee strike on Rampage. Cruz dumps Rampage across the top rope, then knocks him to the outside with a knee strike, as Gibson goes flying to the outside with a tope, where Cruz follows onto Gibson with a plancha.
Gibson backdrops Cruz into the crowd, but the champion replied with a kick to the head before climbing back over the barricades. Rampage sweeps Cruz’s legs and powerbombs him onto the apron as they cut to a commercial break. Just a small nitpick, why does the outro/intro to the break have to be so long? When WWE does the “we’ve got to go to a break!” spiel, they literally do go to a break, not play whatever-the-Raw-theme-is-this-year for a couple of seconds first and flatten the viewer’s anticipation.
Back to the action, it looks like not much has happened as Cruz is still down selling the apron powerbomb as Gibson rushes in with strikes to Rampage. Yes, it’s a nitpick, but if you “had to go to a break”, why not keep the tape rolling and show a clip after you return, rather than picking up seemingly where things left off?
Rampage and Gibson end up back in the ring, and a powerslam takes down Gibson as they replay the apron powerbomb, before Rampage clobbers Gibson with some crossface punches. Brown whips Gibson into the turnbuckles for just a one-count, and Rampage continues the assault, dragging down Gibson into a rear chinlock.
They again replay the apron powerbomb, and in slow-motion it looked extra painful. Back to live action, and Gibson forced out of the chinlock and took down Rampage with some leaping forearm smashes, then a back body drop that Rampage took as a flapjack. Gibson drops Rampage with a T-bone suplex, and gets a near-fall from there as Rampage clings onto the bottom rope.
Gibson tries for the Shankly Gates armbar, but gets drilled with a Rampage Driver (aka the Falcon Arrow), but Cruz slides in from nowhere to break up the pin at two, and nails a slingshot belly to back suplex, before going for the Showstolen, only for Gibson to break it up and try to lock up Cruz in the Shankly Gates.
Hyperbole overload as Alex Shane calls this “the most televised global episode ever”, which sounds like something WWE would have rejected when they came up with the tagline for Raw as “TV’s longest-running weekly episodic program.” Still, if the character here was to be the Americanised hype-merchant/pitch-man, he’s doing a bang-up job!
Gibson gets out of the hold and tries for the Ticket To Ride (aka BUSHI’s MX – which they called the Merseyside Drop here), but loses that and fights out of the Showstolen (Michinoku Driver), before both men bang heads out of the corner. Rampage Brown took full advantage with a Samoan drop for a near-fall as Gibson rolled to the outside to safety, then Rampage looked for a piledriver, but Cruz countered it into a Texas cloverleaf.
Rampage was left in the middle of the ring, but Gibson dived in and grabbed Rampage’s hand to prevent him from tapping, then attacked Cruz as this turned into a three way fight… well, it did, until Cruz was restrained against the barrier by Richie West on the outside. An enziguiri from Gibson was followed up by a Ticket To Ride from the top rope, but somehow Cruz got himself free and broke up the cover.
Another Ticket To Ride sent Cruz into the corner, and Gibson did the throat-slit motion before dropping Cruz onto the top rope. Rampage pulled Gibson off the ropes and knocked him down with a forearm, before going up for a superplex on Cruz… which turned into a super Samoan drop, whilst Zack Gibson came in to powerbomb Rampage to complete a mini Tower of Doom spot!
From there, Gibson piled Rampage and Cruz on top of each other, then went for the Shankley Gates on both men. They both fought free though, before Rampage was sent to the outside by Cruz, and Gibson rolled up Cruz into what was originally a pinning combination, but he rolled and turned it into another Shankly Gates. Gibson got distracted by Rampage on the apron, so released the hold to knock him off, but turned around into Cruz’s Showstolen finisher, and that was almost the match, but Richie West pulled out the referee as Mark Haskins and “The Proven” (Caz Crash and Sam Wilder) were came out… only to be taken out by a plancha from Cruz.
A convenient/badly-timed ad break followed, and we returned to see Cruz and Mark Haskins exchanging blows on the outside, before the locker room empties in the form of Matt Myers, Liam Slater, Colossus Kennedy and Stixx to even up the odds. More bodies and referees come out from the back – awkwardly shambling down the stairway – and they try and break it up… but they just provide a convenient platform for Nathan Cruz to go flying. Gibson goes up top to join him, and it ends up with Cruz suplexing Gibson onto the pile on the floor. That was insane!
For the first time in any triple-threat match I’ve ever seen, the referee starts a count-out, with Gibson and Cruz on the floor. Gibson grabbed the leg of Cruz to prevent him from getting back in, and the referee waves off the match as a count-out.
What the actual hell?! Since when did triple-threat matches ever have count-outs? Apart from this spot, it was never even teased on commentary or in the match. Through the eyes of a new fan, I can see how it makes sense (unless you ask “why was Nathan Cruz not counted out when he was hurting from the apron powerbomb?”)… but as a fan who’s watched almost any previous 3-ways, this was an insulting finish. The match before was really good as a three-way, but this finish mortally wounded it. ***¾
[note: this finish apparently happened on an episode of Raw in July 1998 – where Triple H and X-Pac beat the Rock in a 3-way… but in that case, two men won, not one]
Post-match, they confirm that Cruz retains the title because this didn’t end in a pinfall, submission or a knockout. How about going over how triple-threats don’t usually have count-outs? The fighting continues with Cruz and Rampage in the ring, and amongst those at ringside, before Cruz clotheslines Rampage to the outside.
Cruz then corners Richie West, who then grabs a microphone… and threatens to sue Cruz if he touches him. Because legal threats always work in professional wrestling. Standard heel stuff after because West feels that Rampage should have been the champion, and he builds up to the Control/NGW match, adding a stipulation that if the Control team wins that multi-man tag, Brown wins the title.
Cruz mocks West’s complaints, and accepts the stipulation… on the proviso that if the NGW team wins, the Control disbands. There’s no response from Richie West, and the Control head to the back. The show ends with Zack Gibson grabbing onto Nathan Cruz’s title belt, as if to signify that he wants a shot… and we get one last cynical moment.
“Concept Created By Alex Shane”?! I would hope that they don’t mean it the way it came cross, but I’m pretty sure plenty of other people had the concept of televising wrestling matches. And yes, some of them allegedly shared that same God complex too…
We cut away to a promo with a guy whose hometown isn’t in the UK… it’s Sami Callihan, who is listed as being from “Ohio”. Which is the equivalent of saying “Nathan Cruz, Yorkshire”. Callihan plugs the British scene as being the hottest scene in the wrestling world these days. They then go to Mark Haskins, who seems bitter at not having the same level of notoriety as your Adrian Nevilles and Zack Sabre Jrs. This is building up to a Haskins/Callihan match for next week. Except it’s not on YouTube. Ah well…
As a show from top to bottom, this was infuriating to watch. Through my eyes as a wrestling fan of over 20 years, I can see why they’re making the moves they are – why they started this season premiere with sit-down interviews and recaps (even if they did go way too long). But to build up such a match and give a screwy, crappy finish… I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the new fans didn’t return after being burned like that.
You can argue that WWE does it all the time – building up big matches and then short-changing fans on the finish, but that’s usually done to build up a bigger match. Is the multi-man Control/NGW match bigger? Storyline wise, perhaps, but given that this took place on an event called “Ultimate Showdown”, having a main event end in a count-out is insane. Would WWE have ended WrestleMania on a count-out? Well… they almost did, but at least they pulled back and gave a proper finish in the end.