Time for a look at the debut of the Variety Wrestling Show, as Wrestle Carnival finally made their bow.

Quick Results
Joe Lando pinned Callum Newman, Danny Black & Maverick Mayhew in 9:25 (**¾)
Submission Match: Chris Ridgeway defeats Jay Joshua in 12:00 (***)
Joe wins a gauntlet match over Terry Isit, Hari Singh, Charles Crowley, Jerry Bakewell & Lion Kid in 29:06 (**¾)
Warren Banks pinned ELIJAH in 11:37 (***¼)
Lizzy Evo pinned Chantal Jordan, Ivy & Skye Smitson in 11:33 to retain the CATCH Women’s Championship (***)
Gisele Shaw defeats Heidi Katrina by 2 falls to 0 in a best-of-three falls match at 11:59 (**½)
Charlie Sterling submitted Brady Phillips in 19:37 (***½)

Having been hyped for what felt like 18 months, Wrestle Carnival finally held their debut show earlier this month in Nottingham. With previously-mooted debut shows in London and Milton Keynes having gone the way of the dodo because of lockdowns, the Portland Centre in Nottingham became the launchpad for the spiritual successor to 2019’s WrestleGate Pro.

There’s no flashy intro or anything, we’re straight in with clips of entrances a la PWG. Commentary comes from the pairing of Dave Bradshaw and James R. Kennedy.

Maverick Mayhew vs. Callum Newman vs. Danny Black vs. Joe Lando
We get off to a cracking start as the ref calls for the bell… and there is none. So I’m timing this from when the ref first calls for it…

Newman passes off Lando for a double DDT, before Lando’s headscissors and standing moonsault drew an early two-count. Mayhew’s in with a ‘rana and a dropkick to Lando, but Newman’s backflip kick cracks Mayhew ahead of a running shooting star press. There’s a 619 in the corner from Newman, before Black’s headscissors/headlock takedown put him ahead. Black asks for – and gets – an elbow from Newman, then a palm strike, before he wheelbarrowed Newman to the outside, then followed with a tope’d Stunner on the floor. Mayhew dives over Lando into the pair of them on the floor, before Lando’s corkscrew Asai moonsault followed.

The dives keep coming, while Newman went after Black in the ring, springboarding for a missile dropkick. Black’s rolling Koppo kick stops Newman in his tracks, but he’s then stopped up top by Lando ahead of a fallaway moonsault slam as the movez keep coming. All four fight back to their feet, trading blows as Newman gets caught with an Awful Waffle from Mayhew. Lando spikes Mayhew with a ‘rana, while a cross-armed Ranhei from Black nearly put Lando away. Newman’s pumphandle wheelbarrow driver almost gets the three-count on Black… a slingshot Destroyer on Mayhew’s next from Newman, who doesn’t go for a pin, and instead eats the mat on a Phoenix splash, while Black lands a 450 Elbow. Lando’s shooting star elbow breaks up the cover… and allows him to steal the pin on Newman for the win. As an opener this was fine, but the crowd didn’t seem to go as nuts as you’d have hoped to get this going. **¾

Submission Match: Jay Joshua vs. Chris Ridgeway
We get a bell!

There’s a tentative start as Ridgeway and Joshua lock-up, before a triangle armbar from Joshua ended in the ropes. They next try for dualling leglocks, but they roll into the ropes for a break, before a half crab from Ridgeway was quickly broken up as they again got to the ropes. Ridgeway rolls Joshua in for an ankle lock, but that too ends in the ropes as Ridgeway held on into the ref’s count. In response, Joshua forces Ridgeway into the ropes as he went for a half crab, and gets booed as the break wasn’t immediately given, before the pair changed tactic and started throwing elbows.

Joshua caught a kick, then hit an uppercut to the inner thigh as Ridgeway was forced to throw back… only to get caught in a key lock as Joshua lifted him up off the mat, with Ridgeway finally finding a way to the ropes. A Dragon screw from Ridgeway offers an immediate response, as did an ankle lock, but again Joshua’s able to get to the ropes. Another Dragon screw keeps Joshua down ahead of a STF and a tied-up crossface as Joshua had to spit out his gumshield to bite the ropes for a break. Kicks keep Joshua down as Ridgeway’s third Dragon screw was blocked… they go for cross armbars, but neither man could lock it in, endlessly countering each other’s until Joshua finally got a grip.

Joshua switches it up, but Ridgeway gets to the ropes as the pair resorted to strikes, leaving Ridgeway down on the mat. A head kick from Joshua has Ridgeway loopy, but he’s right back with an armbar attempt, before a guillotine forced the stoppage. This was fine between the bells, but without any backstory presented (at least on commentary) this was just “there” – with little reason to want to back either man over the other. ***

We then cut to Charles Crowley being given the microphone. He’s at home in a carnival, but he doesn’t like this particular clown show. He finds Nottingham’s local football rivals (it’s Derby), then gave this Carnival “four out of ten Crowleys.” That’s extremely generous for a carnival that “has nothing”, and they call me a generous marker.

Gauntlet Match: Charles Crowley vs. Lion Kid vs. Jerry Bakewell vs. Hari Singh vs. Terry Isit vs. Joe (Big Guns Joe)
We start with Crowley and Lion Kid, and apparently there’s a mystery entrant – in the form of “a fan that wins a fancy dress contest.”

Crowley pulls a fist out of his top hat, which disgusted Dave Bradshaw on commentary, who was expecting a proper magic trick. Lion Kid retaliates with headscissors, but gets caught on the top rope… only to kick Crowley down. A crossbody’s caught and turned into a stalling suplex, as Crowley then went to loosen Lion Kid’s mask, following with a clothesline and a back senton for a two-count. Lion Kid sidesteps a charge as Crowley eats the ring post, before a senton from Lion Kid misses. Crowley lumps in with a triangle armbar, throwing in a mandible claw too as Crowley won the first fall. Hey, if Crowley’s doing the “demented ringleader” character, then why not do the Mankind screams with the move?

Between falls, Crowley undoes Lion Kid’s mask, as we get another masked man out in the form of Jerry Bakewell. There’s a bakery pun that gets the reaction it deserved on commentary, as Crowley has his top hat knocked off his head by Bakewell, only for Crowley to return the favour in the name of comedy. Except Bakewell has another flatcap in his trunks, and dons it as he went to work. Some rope running ends with a Rear View from Bakewell, then a Fisherman suplex for a near-fall. Rolling snapmares dizzy Crowley, while a kneedrop gives us a two-count as Bakewell controlled with some butt bumps in the corner. Crowley tries to come back with a triangle mandible claw, pulling Bakeway down as he then went for the armbar for the stoppage.

Out next is Hari Singh, who was listed as a “protege of Pete Dunne.” The bell takes its sweet time again, as Crowley tries another magic trick. Singh’s seen it all though, and wants to try his luck in the top hat… and finds the same fist that Crowley used earlier. Crowley pushes Singh out of the corner and hits a twisting suplex in return, before a triangle armbar was countered by Singh, who powerbombed his way free. From there, a Yakuza kick in the corner from Singh lands, and that’s enough to take out Crowley from the match. As Crowley exits stage left, throwing a tantrum, Terry Isit comes out “for his debut.” Technically isn’t this everyone’s WrestleCarnival debut? Isit started on offence, catching Singh with a spinning heel kick ahead of a German suplex attempt, before finding some more luck with armdrags. A kick to the ribs and a handstand legdrop gets Isit a two-count, before an Irish whip sent Singh sailing through the corner to the floor.

A knee strike from Isit leads to Singh countering back with a Northern Lights suplex for a two-count, before Isit stepped aside from a back cracker. Singh’s booted and met with a sit-out uranage jawbreaker… but it’s not enough for the three-count. Isit throws in a swinging DDT, and that’s enough to get the win. All that’s left is the winner of the “fan’s fancy dress” contest. Everyone looks for the fan, but in lieu of anyone making an announcement, Isit apparently gets to pick out a fan. He’s dressed as Juan Cena, and introduced as “a fan”. We get yay/boo stuff from the “fan” and Isit, before Isit almost lost to a roll-up as the “fan” shook his hand. Isit throws in a suplex, but the fan returns with Cena-ish shoulder blocks and a spin-out back suplex.

The fan, who looks like he’d be more at home removing straps, does the Five Knuckle Shuffle, before an Attitude Adjustment nearly got the win. Those five moves of doom, not this time! A bicycle kick and a uranage throw dumps the fan, before the fan returns with a drop toe hold and a STF. Commentary notes the fan’s got “guns” that are rather large, as Isit elbowed free, but his roll-up’s countered as the fan – who called himself Joe – sneaks out the upset with the three-count. The gauntlet perhaps ran a little long, but the punchline at the end was kind of what you’d expect for the audience. **¾

Post-match, Will Kroos comes out to the ring and shoved Joe into the corner, before decking him with elbows and stomps, only for Joe to try another Attitude Adjustment, before he low bridges Kroos to the outside. Kroos grabs a chair from under the ring as security comes out from the back to get between them, but one of them – identified as Blake – teamed up with Kroos to get rid of security with dualling powerbombs. A pair of body attacks sandwich Joe, who’s then squashed under a chair with a back senton by Kroos.

Elijah vs. Warren Banks
We’ve a tentative start as Banks and Elijah locked up into the corner.

Banks pulls ahead with a leapfrog and a leg lariat, taking Elijah into the corner before a shoulderblock took him down. A torture rack is escaped by Elijah, who then hits an enziguiri as he looked to take some control, landing a back elbow off the ropes for a two-count. Banks backs Elijah into the corner, and rolls free as Elijah came back with a cravat neckbreaker for a two-count. Uppercuts have Banks on the back foot, but he’s back with a clothesline, then a running knee to keep Elijah in the corner. A boot offers some respite, but Banks comes back with more knees and a Michinoku driver for a near-fall.

Elijah leaps over a spear as Banks hits the ring post, before an Electric Chair saw Banks get dropped in the buckles. A diving elbow to the neck from Elijah leads to another two-count, before a roundhouse kick was ducked, with Elijah instead hitting a crucifix for a two-count. From there, he heads up top, but misses whatever he was going for before a Banks spear led to Elijah rolling to the outside. After getting thrown onto the apron, Banks gets charged into the corners as Elijah softened up the shoulder… but Banks gets free from a Graveyard Smash, only to fall to it seconds later for a near-fall. Elijah keeps going after Banks’ arm, but Banks broke free, only to get pulled back into the buckles, before another spear took Elijah out of the air. From there, a torture rack into a facebuster drops Elijah, and that’s enough for the win in a pretty good match – even if the crowd didn’t seem to be too much into it. ***¼

CATCH Women’s Championship: Lizzy Evo (c) vs. Skye Smitson vs. Ivy vs. Chantal Jordan
Before the match, Evo quizzed Jordan about her presence – Chantal was apparently subbing for Heidi Katrina, who’d been taken out of the match for reasons.

Evo’d won the CATCH Women’s title a little over a week earlier, so this was her first defence… and we start with Evo going for Jordan… before Ivy tried to join in, only to get backed into the corner. Jordan pulls ahead by tripping Evo and Ivy into the corners for dropkicks, before Smitson came in with some body blows on Jordan. A leaping knee knocks Chantal down as Evo took over on Smitson, landing a clothesline as Chantal returned with some more kicks. Ivy dives in on Chantal’s legs, holding her for Evo to charge the youngster into the corner, as Ivy then offered a partnership with Evo. It’s taken up by the champion, as they double-team Jordan into the corner. Ivy grabs her baseball bat to choke Jordan with, before a gutwrench suplex took Jordan down… Evo’s back to land another clothesline, while Ivy’s dropkick to the side of Jordan kept the beating up.

A running boot’s next from Evo, who chokes Jordan in the ropes, before Ivy suckered Evo in for a roll-up for a near-fall. Yep, that partnership wasn’t going to last, but Smitson runs in to boot Evo for a two-count as Ivy tried to form a new alliance. Skye doesn’t fall for it, as Jordan returns with kicks for all, then targeted Evo in the corner with forearms. Evo takes Jordan up top for a superplex, but gets shoved into Smitson and Ivy on the mat, before a splash into the trio put Jordan ahead… even if she didn’t go for a cover. Jordan misses a head kick and takes a German suplex from Evo, before Ivy caught Evo with a facebuster off the top… Smitson picks up Ivy with an Air Raid rash to keep the moves going, before a Ki Krusher from Jordan was broken up by Evo… who’s kicked by Jordan and covered for the three-count!?

Except Evo’s arm was under the rope, and the ref waves off her call… even though Evo could have moved between the pin being made and the ref going for the belt. Amid the conferring, Evo grabs her title belt and cracks Jordan with it, which means when the match was restarted, Jordan was laid out. A Virgil Van Strike knee follows, and that’s the win for Evo, who retains her title… but I’d not be surprised if the crowd were confused by what went on, given the announcement was just “restart the match”. A deflating end to what was a decent match, but did this even need to be a four-way? ***

Best Two Out Of Three Falls: Gisele Shaw vs. Heidi Katrina
This was meant to have been Shaw vs. Martina… but Martina’s attacked by Shaw with a chair, and has her beer poured over her. I mean, it was Red Stripe, so there’s no big loss. Shaw throws Martina into the shuttering, Gisele called herself “the gold standard in this country,” then challenged anyone from the locker room… and after some false starts to her music, Heidi Katrina takes the spot.

Katrina charged at Shaw to start, having been hit with the mic before the bell, and came in with a dropkick in the early going. Uppercuts keep Shaw in the corner, but Gisele pulls Katrina out of the corner by her hair, and takes over for a spell. A kick to the back of Katrina gets a two-count, but Heidi’s back with a flying legdrop to Shaw in the ropes for a two-count. Shaw’s suplex adds a two-count for her, as some ground and pound follows, with Katrina being kept on the back foot. A running knee to Katrina in the ropes lands, but a second one misses… Shaw recovers with a roll-up, before the pair brawled outside, with Shaw throwing Katrina into that metal shuttering.

Shaw returns to the ring to take a count-out, but Katrina’s back to her feet and looks to get back to the ring… only for Shaw to step through the ropes and kick her down at 9. Weirdly, the ref doesn’t restart the count, despite Shaw having left the ring, and ends up counting out Katrina at 7:06 to put Shaw 1-0 up. Katrina gets back inside to start the second fall, but is instantly on the defensive before she clotheslined Shaw out of the corner. The pair trade elbows as they get back to their feet, but it’s Katrina who pulled ahead with a suplex for a near-fall. A fallaway slam’s next from Katrina for another two-count, but Shaw’s in with a Randy Orton-ish backbreaker, then a knee for a two-count, before going to the armbar.

Shaw lets go as she couldn’t get into the right position, instead throwing strikes from above before a butterfly suplex from Katrina led to Shaw going outside. As the ref’s checking on Shaw, Lizzy Evo runs out and clocks Katrina with her CATCH title belt, and it’s elementary as Shaw picked up the win to get the clean sweep here. What they did was fine, but just too short – with that curious refereeing decision not helping matters. **½

Charlie Sterling vs. Brady Phillips
Sterling gets the relocated home-town pop in Nottingham, and he started off on the upper foot, taking Phillips into the ropes with a lock-up.

Phillips returns the favour, then pushed away a side headlock… only for Sterling to cling on. The ropes force a break, but Sterling reapplies the side headlock on the mat. Phillips gets free and lands a headlock takedown of his own, but Sterling gets to his feet, pushes free, then resists a shoulder tackle. Phillips tries to trip up Sterling, but Charlie drops down for another side headlock, before a hair-pull from Phillips briefly gave him an advantage… until Sterling replied with a dropkick. A baseball slide from Phillips is neutralised by Sterling, who hits a series of backbreakers in the ring before a whip into the corner gave Sterling a couple of two-counts.

Sterling takes Phillips’ eye across the ropes, then lands an uppercut, before a backbreaker kept the focus on that lower back. A Thesz press from Sterling’s caught as Phillips chucks him into the ropes, then the ring post as the match turned on its head. Back inside, a suplex is good for a two-count as Sterling was kept grounded, with a back elbow off the ropes putting him back there. Phillips drags Sterling towards the corner, then headed up top for a 450 splash… Brady rolls through, but got met with a knee from Sterling before the pair rolled through into an inside-out suplex to the floor. Both men get up, but slide enough into the ring to break the count and return to the floor, where they trade strikes ahead of rolling back inside at the count of 9.

The hockey fight continued for a spell, but Phillips ends up running into a half-and-half suplex, returning with a Code Red that nearly ends things. A tiltawhirl backbreaker from Sterling puts him back on track, along with a powerbomb, before a springboard moonsault out of the corner gets another two-count. Phillips’ back body drop frees himself from Sterling, who’s taken into the corner for uppercuts… but Sterling gets free with an over-the-shoulder backbreaker. After a two-count, Sterling goes for the Cloverleaf, but Phillips spins free and hit back with an over-the-knee brainbuster…

Phillips looked to go for the Shattered Dreams to Sterling in the corner, but got lifted to the floor as Sterling followed up with a moonsault off the buckles, before a belly-to-back superplex dumped Brady for another two-count. Another crack at the Cloverleaf’s turned into a cradle, but Sterling kicks out and keeps the back-and-forth pinning counts going until an errant attempt at a diving cutter crushed the ref. With no ref, Phillips hits a reverse ‘rana, then hit the Magnum Opus – a DDT out of the corner while Sterling was set up for the Shattered Dreams. Of course, there’s nobody to count, so Phillips heads backstage and returns with the other ref. At least someone had initiative, especially since nobody came out to check on the poor first ref! Brady gets a two-count after all that, then had his eyes raked as he tried for a Cloverleaf on Sterling.

Sterling cued up a superkick, but stops himself as the ref was pulled in harm’s way… a low blow’s missed by the ref, who then counts two on a roll-up, before Phillips’ senton bomb lands in Sterling’s knees. From there, Sterling’s gutwrench powerbomb and Cloverleaf has Phillips in trouble, leading to the quick tap for the win. Perhaps a little overbooked given there wasn’t anything obvious on the line in the main event, but a well worked match as Sterling leaves the first show with a win. ***½

Wrestle Carnival returns on September 12, October 9 and November 14 at Nottingham’s Portland Centre – that October show was just announced with Chris Ridgeway vs. Jonathan Gresham in a Pure rules main event.

As a standalone show, the debut event for WrestleCarnival was perfectly fine – as long as you weren’t going into the show expecting “Britwres at its peak” levels of events. While one of the big knocks on Wrestle Gate Pro was that the promotion never seemed to get handle on what they wanted to be – particularly with the Japanese fly-ins. This time around, from what’s being announced thus far, the “Variety Wrestling Show” looks to be nodding more in the direction of Ring of Honor, which isn’t as niche of a tie-in at least. I was a little disappointed the opening show just felt like “here’s matches” without much of a backstory – but at least they started a couple of storylines here to get away from that “live wrestling in your town” vibe.