The Hot Topic: New Blood

Rob Taylor

Welcome to another instalment of THT… I was pleased with the level of feedback about the first Greatest… column I put up last week. Many of you seemed irate that Curt Hennig did not figure in the top 5 and someone like Davey Boy Smith did. As I said in the column, Smith figured highly because his matches for the title were the only time to date an IC title match has headlined a “Big 4” PPV event and he made the successful transition to main eventer. For the record I had Hennig at #7 on the list, sadly his injuries and “in and out” WWE career prevented him from being higher in my book.

The Greatest Series continues in my next column with the TV title, the top 5 are chosen please do send in your comments when you see the list.

To clarify what I am doing with the series, I aim to cover every major title with a few rules. Titles after the WWE buyouts will be treated as seperate titles, so for example, the World Heavyweight Title belt Triple H holds now will not be in the “Greatest WCW Champions ever” The belt JBL holds will not be the focus of “The Greatest WWF champions ever”. A special “post buy” out column will clear up the greatest of the “modern era” champions at the end!

First off as ever, my thoughts on the weeks events.

The Royal Rumble was the best WWE PPV event since Wrestlemania XX, it was marred slightly by the timing errors leading to the botched Rumble finish, but more importantly it also saw Team GB retain the Suplex Cup over on the WZ Columns lounge. Remember, WZ is the only site where YOU can be the one writing the columns, through the WZ Wannabes… By the way, my grammar is not terrible. There is still a problem with the columns board that replaces punctuation marks with ? every time… It is annoying, the “unhindered” text can be found over at the lounge…

Both Batista and Cena are ready and will make fine champions, Randy Orton has lost his way a little, maybe this concussion thing will get him back to being the cocky arrogant guy, just no amnesia for Christ sake, could we handle “The Search For Randy Orton”?. Anyone who remembers WCW of early 1992 will know what I mean…Mick Foley…we will never forget…

Edge seems to be the guy “lost in the shuffle” for Wrestlemania. Shawn will be fighting Kurt after all; Foley will probably get Hassan, Benoit and Jericho look to be headed for a showdown… My ideal for him? Edge Vs Rey Mysterio in a cross promotional match. But who on the RAW roster can he face in a match that will mean anything?

The wrestling business is traditionally an entrepreneurial one. Anyone with the finance, the desire to be a part of “The Game” and the willingness to take a few risks along the way can, in theory start up their own promotion. Usually new promotions are started by those already in the industry. Wrestlers open training schools, which put on shows and become promotions; others have been figures in a more backstage role; deciding to “put their money where their mouth is” and run their own show.

It is refreshing to see that, there is a 3rd option, as seen with the debut show of LiveWire Wrestling Entertainment, in Peterborough, England this past Friday. The amazing part? The promoter, Lawrie Jarvis was celebrating his 18th birthday on the night of the show. As an 18th birthday present, Lawrie”s father Paul had agreed to back “LiveWire Wrestling Entertainment: Friday Night Showdown” at the Cresset Theatre in their hometown of Peterborough. Living only 20 miles away, I was intrigued enough to attend, not only that but to talk to the man behind the show.

British Wrestling has long been regarded with sneers; it has different rules to the US style, different customs and character. Traditionally, matches were wrestled in rounds of 5 minutes, 2 out of 3 falls was the norm and referees would issue a “Public Warning” before finally DQ”ing someone and a ringside Grandma”s handbag was the only “foreign object” to fear.

In the “70”s and “80”s wrestling was a staple of Saturday afternoon on “World of Sport” and a massive ratings winner, regularly drawing millions of viewers. Stars like Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, and Mick McManus mixed it up with future stars like Fit Finlay, Rob Brookside, Steve Regal, Davey Boy Smith and even “Bronco” Owen Hart. By the late 80″s the appeal of this style waned with its stars and bad publicity, Big Daddy never recovered from accidentally killing an opponent with his trademark Big Splash, and died himself shortly afterwards. At the same time the WWF hit the airwaves with the advent of Sky TV. Who wanted to watch 50+ year old wrestlers in trunks grapple for 20 minutes when hot new stars like The Hart Foundation, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan et al were on Sky with high impact, high flying, exciting moves?.

Over the past 2-3 years, the UK scene has seen somewhat of a revival, with small promotions starting up around the country and thanks to the dedication of the guys involved, a legitimate scene has developed. Hammerlock signed a deal with the NWA and later FWA stars such as Jody Fleisch, Alex Shane and “The Anarchist” Doug Williams have been seen in Ring of Honour amongst others. One of the feds gaining exposure is Revolution British Wrestling, who supplied the talent to LiveWire for the evening.

Early on it was clear this event was looking to be different from the pack, as well as the wrestlers, the advertising promised Las Vegas style Showgirls and a Stand up Comic On the card the major draws were British legend Johnny Kidd, a veteran of many years standing and the British Middleweight Champion “Misfit” Jorge Castano. The undercard featured some excellent young talents like Dragon Pheonix, Andy “Boy Simmonz” and “Sadistic” Jack Storm.

I made it to the venue, a good 3 hours before “Doors Open”, and met with Lawrie Jarvis, despite it being his 18th birthday, and just hours away from his dream coming to fruition, he was calm and collected, something more admirable considering the first “hiccup” had arrived. The wrestler who was driving the van with the ring and some the other wrestlers was sick and not coming, so Dad had to drive to London to pick it all up. Discussions continued, the event had been in the planning stages since October, Lawrie cited his inspiration as being the live RAW event in Manchester that month. A mere 4 ½ months later, he was hosting his first show under his own “Livewire” banner.

Lawrie explained to me his aim was to promote a family based show that focused on the action as opposed to “soap opera” elements, while at the same time adding a little “Glitz and Glamour” to proceedings. He felt that there was an opportunity within the market for a new promotion to “take it further”. The show had been expensive to put on, and was a lot of work, but there were many great people in the business who were willing to help.

Come 6pm the bar opened and the foyer began to fill up, with a mix of all ages, plenty of kids, parents and several older wrestling fans. There was a buzz around the place, everything was ready… Showtime!

The show kicked off with the “Showgirls” and then we were into our opening bout between Johnny Kidd and Tex Benedict, who got rather upset when announced mistakenly as being from London, England, not London, Arizona. After he had sang a few bars of The Star Spangled Banner and really got the crowd on his case the match began. Kidd was clearly the fan favourite and the match was a solid 10 minute encounter, marred only by a malfunction of the 2nd rope, with Kidd emerging the winner with the rope being promptly fixed we came to match 2 which pitted “Sadistic” Jack Storm against Sean Adams, this was an exciting encounter which saw Storm come out on top. Both guys were over with the crowd and showed real potential for the future.

Match 3 saw Andy Simmonz square off with Eamon O”Neil. Simmonz was especially popular with the young audience; both men wrestled a high impact style, with near falls aplenty. Sadly, the match was slightly marred by that troublesome 2nd rope rearing its ugly head once more, but to both athletes credit they carried on with high risk and top rope moves. Simmonz scored the win with a Snow-Plow type move.

After intermission, there was an angle/routine involving the comedian Steve Smiley and Tex Benedict. While this was clearly aimed at the adults in the audience it was rather risqué for a young audience. After another performance from the Showgirls, it was time for match #4, which pitted “Sensation of The Nation” Rob Hunter against Morales. Morales was one of the most impressive guys of the night, despite being of a bulkier build he was surprisingly agile and hit some great high impact offense including a sit-out Jacknife which literally moved the ring! Despite winning over the crowd, Morales came up short on the night.

Then came the surprise of the night, what had been advertised as a singles match between Jorge Castano and Dragon Phoenix became a Triple Threat, the 3rd wrestler was none other than “Wonderkid” Johnny Storm, who has been seen in TNA and Ring of Honour in recent years. Phoenix made an impact by coming to the ring to the refrains of “Agadoo”, wearing an afro wig that would make Tito Jackson proud, but once in the ring he was all business. How good was this match? It had everything, near falls, a great heel in Castano but more importantly it had the “Holy S***” factor. One example was Phoenix nailing both opponents with a somersault plancha, with all 3 literally landing 2 feet away from my seat; another was Storm nailing Jorge with a top rope hurricanrana for an agonisingly near fall. It was not enough however and Castano got the unpopular pin with his foot on the ropes. The final match was a Battle Royal won by easily the most popular of the night, Andy Simmonz.

The show was excellent, with great work from the wrestlers involved and plenty of excitement; Lawrie Jarvis” mission was accomplished. The crowd of around 150 left happy and wanting more, Parents who had simply taken their kids had a good time and were as engrossed as their offspring, which is certainly a major key to lasting success.

There are many pitfalls faced by those wanting to start a promotion in the UK, stereotypes of bygone eras often colour peoples opinions. Venues are expensive to hire and marketing costs for professional looking items are equally costly. Without this expenditure, the risk in terms of finances and making a loss is high. Most high calibre wrestlers are already involved in promotions; the “Indy” scene of the US is not something that has travelled; which means as in Livewire”s case, it is necessary to work with other promotions to get a good level of talent. Wrestling clubs like the one I attended in my youth are few and far between, so those who want to learn have to either live near a school or travel distances to train. However for those brave enough to try to make an impact, like those behind and who wrestled this first Livewire show, the reward could be a place in the forefront of a growing marketplace that WWE itself is only too eager to tap.

It is important though to remember that it took many years and many millions of advertising and sponsorship dollars to make a WWE, WCW or even ECW even get to a TV screen TV is the lifeblood of wrestling, and in the UK, the only TV outlet for wrestling is either with Sky…or The Wrestling Channel, which has a limited viewership. To crack the glass ceiling of TV exposure, realistically one of the “big 5” non satellite based channels would need to become interested. Channel 4, traditionally the home of “on the edge” programming, got cold feet with WWE programming a few years back and recent attempts by ITV with “Transatlantic Wrestling Challenge” and the dreadful sounding “Celebrity Wrestling” that we have to look forward to in the coming weeks, there is a danger of Wrestling becoming somewhat of a parody, not taken seriously by the potential audience. This is arguably going to be the hardest thing for small feds like Livewire/RBW or even larger ones like FWA to overcome to make that leap to “the next level”. There will always be a grass roots fan base, making the masses love their British Wrestling again is a challenge I look forward to seeing accomplished someday.

I am be very interested to hear from fans of the UK industry, to find out what they think about small promotions starting up, as ever my address is…Don”t be shy…

Part 2 of “The Greatest” will be up in a few days, so get ready.

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