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Blast From the Past: WrestleXpress!~


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Found this article from a few years ago. If you thought 1PW was fucking mental, you should try reading this. Some lad tried to get this promotion called WrestleXpress off the ground in this country. He tried to get everyone from Hogan, Hall and Nash to Jonny Storm on the show. I remember this happening, but never read the full story before.


Then they found out he had no money and they arrested him. BRITWRES~



There was a time when all anybody was talking about was WrestleXpress, now two years on and Ryan Aaron Hewson is preparing to appeal after being convicted of several crimes arising from the formation and then dismantling of WrestleXpress. “WrestleXpress was a concept that I personally created. I wanted to provide the wrestling industry with a highly competitive wrestling promotion that was based in the UK. I had intended on moving in on the wrestling scene before the spring of 2001 when WrestleXpress was initially setup.” Obviously someone that wasn’t willing to do anything by halves Ryan waited for the right moment before WrestleXpress became a reality. “I was waiting for the right opportunity to arise and then I intended on seizing it with both hands. That opportunity arisen in early 2001 when ECW ceased promoting wrestling shows because it went into administration and when WCW was finally sold to the WWF. I would have described the wrestling business as being very healthy and still generating strong revenues all round when all of this was happening. For the first time in our business, a huge gap in the market had been left wide open and it was anybody’s taking. Anybody who had the necessary wrestling business acumen and financial resources could have capitalized. I chose to step in their first, but I knew that the gap that WCW and ECW left would not last long so if somebody was going to build another potential #2 wrestling promotion in the business, it was now or never.” While this gap in the market was available Hewson who was still just 19 at the time decided he was going to do something other companies weren’t doing. “That’s why I wasted no time in setting WrestleXpress up in March 2001 and less that two months later, we had a star studded line-up

and tickets on sale selling like hotcakes. I was tired of little attempts being made by other British wrestling promoters saying that they would be the next big thing in British wrestling and that they would revive the business. I’m not knocking the heart and passion that these other British wrestling promoters equally share, but I disagree with the so-called starting at grass roots level. If you start at grass roots, then you’re likely to stay at grass roots.” While monetary gain was a large factor, Hewson had a moral feeling that British wrestling really did deserve to be in a better place. “If you’re going to legitimately claim that you intend to revive British wrestling then at least try and do it on the large scale that it deserves. WrestleXpress was about being full of grandeur; making an impact and delivering what the UK wrestling fans were craving to see.” There was no denying that WrestleXpress was going to be big, but according to Ryan this was always going to be the plan. “I always intended WrestleXpress on being bigger than all the other British wrestling predecessors that went out to be the next big thing. Ultimately, a wrestling promotion’s goal is to launch their product on television. That was always a goal that we were going to set out and try and achieve. Initially, our card was to feature

Rob Van Dam, Steve Corino, Juvi, Psicosis, Madusa and Sonny Onoo. We were also going to be the premier wrestling event that brought the NWA UK Hammerlock and the FWA together for the very first time. The British wrestling fans used to perceive these two wrestling promotionsas the UK's biggest. I later learned that not only was there two much bad blood between the two promotions, but they weren’t so big after all. I eventually realized that there would have been too much politics involved in trying to get these two promotions to work together and give each other a bit of leverage.” Knowing that there were two established companies that he wanted to work with, he tried to book the show around the two but unfortunately for Hewson, he was not the diplomat he would have needed to be to bring them both together.


“In the early stages, I had discussions with Andre Baker, Elisar Cabrerra, Alex Shane and Dino Scarlo. It was my intention to have inter-promotional matches between the two promotions take place, but the commitment and enthusiasm from both promotions in doing so wasn’t there a 100%. We therefore, decided to change tactics and proceed with just the FWA. It wasn’t too long however, before I realized that we were going to have equally as much backstage politics in dealing with just them on their own even without Hammerlock’s inclusion on the project.” Many people said that when this line up was released it looked like a pay per view quality line up. This also fueled the speculation about the event being televised. “Once word on the TV deal and negotiations got out, things were getting more serious and everybody wanted to be a part of WrestleXpress. We were willing to work with the FWA and allow them to be a part of WrestleXpress, but our gripe was that if we were going to do so, then it was only fair that we safeguard ourselves. We wanted a percentage of the proprietorship of the FWA brand name because we were intending on plastering the FWA brand all over the place with ours and were thinking about leading down to a WX VS FWA battle of the promotions. Our argument was that if we were putting in the big money and overall effort, then we would at least be entitled to a percentage of the proprietorship for the FWA brand.“ Straight away thinking of the long term future that WrestleXpress would hopefully have in the business it was important to Hewson that he wouldn’t be walked all over because he was knew to the business and investing large amounts of money in this event. “We didn’t want the FWA making a name off our backs and financial resources and then becoming our biggest competitor at a later date now that would have been potential corporate suicide!” While at the start it looked like Hewson was going to be going in the friendly way offering spots on the show to two other promotions, but things ended up being planned to go in the complete opposite direction. “We were going to be paying thousands of pounds for the wrestlers, flights, hotels, the TV setup, etc. What would the FWA have been paying? Nothing! Elisar Cabrerra even told me that the FWA have very little money, which at that point led me to question working with these guys further. When the FWA negotiations over the proprietorship of their brand name didn’t materialise, we set out to get the key FWA guys who we wanted to sign exclusive contracts with WrestleXpress, which would have paid them a weekly retainer. We would have also allowed them to work for other UK dates at our discretion, but we would have prohibited them from working for the FWA and Hammerlock. UK fans or the FWA won’t be aware of this, but we were also planning on getting the FWA to bring their FWA title to our event and we were going to bury it and their promotion on TV. That’s right, remember the Madusa throwing the WWF Women’s title in the trash can scene in WCW? Dejavu and that’s what you call being a ruthless aggressor!” Obviously the main attraction was the big names on the show, something you wouldn’t be able to see at your normal British wrestling event. Obviously this wasn’t an easy task, although Hewson took some modern techniques to trying to book workers. “It wasn’t as difficult as one might expect. I contacted several wrestlers by email and negotiated a deal with them to appear on the WrestleXpress show. With some wrestlers, I had to deal with their agents. Once we got Sonny Onoo on board, he and I had lengthy discussions on how we could accelerate WrestleXpress and make an incredible impact. I eventually hired Sonny Onoo as our Head of Internet Talent Relations with pay and expenses. Sonny and I worked through a mutually attractive deal and we setup two working contracts with him and his company out in the States. It was actually Sonny who suggested that he could bring Bischoff and Jimmy Hart to the table. Both of those are big individuals in wrestling with a lot of public notoriety in wrestling and it was an honour to have them both on board.” There were many reasons that the big names were added, although the cost increased a lot, there were going to (hopefully) be beneftits.


“As we were going to be filming WrestleXpress with our original intention to bring it to Pay-Per-View, we realised that we needed a lot more big named talent and so we set about adding the likes of Curt Hennig, at Ernest Miller, Stevie Ray, Mike Tenay, etc. If the fans were either going to be buying this event on Pay-per-View or on home video at a later day, we wanted to give them value for money. The big named talents also allowed us to make a huge impact on the industry and more and more people were beginning to sit up and take notice of WrestleXpress.” The problem was that things weren’t going well and with the ever increasing costs, more money was needed, although due to the large amount of preparation work that had been put in and publicity on the internet, there were more others of investments. “My business partner, Dave Whitby and I were disagreeing over the share-holdership of the company before September 2001, but the real serious acrimony begun in the September. That’s when things started to come apart. It was in September 2001 that I discovered that Dave Whitby had been making transactions to the WrestleXpress Entertainment Limited bank account behind my back, which I happen to have proof of. It was during September 2001 that Whitby had claimed that his father wanted to invest more money in WrestleXpress having heard about us and seen what we were doing via the website. Whitby gave me false reassurances that the capital from his father would be invested on certain dates. When the money failed to show up in September, I was becoming more sceptical about whether we were going to see the money at all.” Whitby then threw the whole show into even more chaos and things started to go down hill quickly. “Then during mid-September, Dave Whitby became incognito, people found it difficult to contact him. Whitby owed money to Sonny Onoo, the business, and myself but it became impossible to contact him. Jimmy Hart was even trying to get a hold of him, but was unable to.”


It was at this point that Ryan knew he had to take action, and took actions as soon as he could. “I eventually decided to freeze the WrestleXpress bank account because I feared that Whitby was committing fraudulent transactions on the WrestleXpress business account. I consulted my lawyers and told them of the problem before the Police had ever shown up or arrested me. My lawyer personally visited the bank where the business account was held and shortly after, the Police suddenly turned up. I faced a tough choice in having to decide whether to continue with WrestleXpress and risk having Whitby withdraw the money out of the bank that I had given him access to earlier in the month or to freeze the bank account until I discovered exactly what was happening. Wrestling fans can blame me all that they want for the cancellation of the WrestleXpress event. I perceive those who do as merely using me just to vent their anger out on because they are disappointed that the most eagerly anticipated independent wrestling event in British history did not take place.” “If it makes them feel better, then fine, but I would urge them to ask themselves what they would do if they were faced with a similar situation? If you discovered that you business partner was making transactions behind your back and became impossible to contact thereafter, what would you do? Would you risk leaving that bank account open just so that some wrestling fans will not be angry because the wrestling event did not take place?” It was at this point that Hewson had to ask himself that question and he decided that he still wanted the show to happen, but he was going to have to see if someone else would take the responsibilities of running the show, that person was Scott Conway the promoter of The Wrestling Alliance. “I made an informed decision to freeze the WrestleXpress bank account in order to find out exactly what was happening behind my back and I was prepared to take legal action if necessary against Whitby. In not wanting to let the wrestling fans down, I negotiated with Scott Conway to transfer the event over to him. If those wrestling fans still say that they would not have froze a bank account for a business, which belonged to them when suspecting that fraudulant activity was taking place, then they are more ridiculous than they care to believe. You don’t have to like, but you have to live with it!” Ryan was working hard to set up deals with an number of companies, in various roles for WrestleXpress. “We were working with included Event Merchandising Limited, Arena Television Limited, DBC (U>Direct), ITV Digital, NTL, OnDemand, Planet Ice Limited and BT, which is all that I can think of right now. If there was any other company that I haven’t remembered, then I’m sorry that I missed you out!” One of the more important factors of the show was that it was televised either on pay per view or a cable or other digital channel. “We worked and negotiated extensively with U>Direct. We had a perfect Pay-Per-View deal and I still have copies of the PPV contract safe if ever I needed to negotiate a new PPV deal at a later date. I haven’t provided a copy of the PPV contract on the website because it contains sensitive PPV information that should not be available to the general public. We also did our research on the PPV market in Europe from Screen Digest industry standard reports. We

were just 3 days away from signing and announcing to the public our PPV deal until I suddenly got a call from the head of PPV sports division at U>Direct informing us that their company had gone into administration. Not only was I stunned to hear the news, but I was also gutted to say the very least. We had poured a lot of money and energy into getting the PPV deal right through negotiations and having the contract appraised.”


But this didn’t put an end to WrestleXpress immediately, there were plenty more places left to go, it was just a question of time, money and energy. “However, our efforts for not giving up on PPV should be commended because we got right back up and went to alternative PPV providers in the UK. I even had a telephone discussion with Jay Hassman about doing Pay-Per-Views in the US, but we decided that if we were going to try and enter the US PPV market, then we should leave it until 2002 and once we had the revenue coming in. The US PPV market is vastly economically different to that of the European PPV market. We met with ITV and NTL about showcasing our PPVs jointly with Front Row and ITV Select. Both were very enthusiastic about taking our PPVs on, but it had become too late to be able to have the October event on PPV. We therefore, planned on taping the October event and using it to launch a weekly TV series. ITV Digital put us in contact with ITV1 and ITV2 and their Directors to negotiate a weekly TV deal. It was at this stage that David Whitby and I had our problems and WrestleXpress fell apart before the next TV deal as a replacement for U>Dire ctcould be successfully finalised. TV was always at the forefront of our agenda because that’s where the real money is in wrestling, which is why we hadmany meetings with the PPV and TV companies.”


With many top independent stars already booked on the show, there were still more that Hewson had wanted to bring over. Including some top names. “There were many other individuals who we either had conversations with or discussed bringing them over for WrestleXpress. I personally spoke with Gregory “Hurricane” Helms and told him that we’d like to have him on the show, but he later signed with the WWE. Jerry Lawler was spoken to about appearing at WrestleXpress and he was willing to work for us. We contemplated on bringing Rowdy Roddy Piper in for WrestleXpress. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were spoken to about the event and we were seriously considering bringing Hall and Nash over to the UK to sit on the front row during the Main Event and interfere at the end of the match to align with Eric Bischoff.” With this being such a big budget show it was important that WrestleXpress made money off as many possible branches of merchandise possible, they could not rely on ticket sales alone and if a pay per view deal would have been struck it would have take a great deal of time before any payment to them from the company would have been made. “It wasn’t merely about selling the tickets to the event and then selling off a few home videos. We were looking to open up various revenue streams over the long term as a major wrestling promotion. We were looking and planning beyond October 20 in 2001. There was the merchandise, ticket sales, videos, DVDs, CDs, computer games, etc. We were looking at possible ways to commercialise the website and generate money from WrestleXpress.COM. Our ultimate potential source of revenue would have been from the Pay-Per-Views, which is why we were putting in huge efforts to get a PPV deal. I will go on record to say that there is no other British promotion today that has gone out to the extent that WrestleXpress did to revolutionise the UK wrestling industry and turn it upside down. No other British promotion has been as far as WrestleXpress in attempting to secure long term TV deals in the UK.” For someone that had no experience in the wrestling business away from his computer screen, he talks as though he is very wise in the dealings of everything from workers to television channels. All of this is opinion, which anyone can form, yet his views on two of the companies top companies are easily outspoken. “The FWA would probably say that they got themselves a slot on Bravo last year, but that was a one shot deal. I also could have told the FWA that Bravo don’t have have any faith in wrestling. They also don’t have a high regard for wrestling. I’ve dealt with Bravo during WrestleXpress. Bravo were only paying approximately

Edited by Ian_hitmanhart
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If those wrestling fans still say that they would not have froze a bank account for a business, which belonged to them when suspecting that fraudulant activity was taking place, then they are more ridiculous than they care to believe.


Yeah. How dare those ridiculous fans care more about a wrestling event going ahead than they do about the dodgy goings on of the promoter and his ex boyfriend

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Me and a bunch of mates bought tickets to this fiasco.


The Wrestling Alliance ended up honouring the tickets that had been paid for at a show they put on in Dagenham (I think). That show ended up having Steve Corino, The Sandman, Earthquake, Horace Hogan and a roster of TWA and FWA guys. It was actually a pretty fun show, but nothing compared to the grand plans we had all paid out expecting.

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Steve Lynskey's shoot interview had a cool story about Ryan Hewson.


If I recall rightly, Hewson asked Lynskey to get him some 'big' wrestlers for a promo shoot for WrestleXpress. Lynskey got The UK Pitbulls and Drew McDonald [who cancelled several dates to be available] only for Hewson to not like the look of McDonald when he saw him.


Lynskey put a call into Drew while Hewson was in the room to tell him that his services were no longer required [meaning he had lost out on money for the dates he cancelled also] to which Drew apparently said 'Put that fucking cunt on the line' which Lynskey promptly did. Although what McDonald said to Hewson is not known, the colour apparently drained from his face and, I believe, Drew did get paid.


I'm sure Lynskey can correct any inaccuracies himself but I'm pretty sure that's the story as best I remember it.

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I remember being genuinely gutted when this fell apart. It was at the height of my independent wrestling love, and this thing looked like it was going to be amazing. It was clearly doomed from the outset.


I've only ever planned on going to 3 independent wrestling shows of note, 1 was this bollocks, the other was the GWF (was that was it was called?) fiasco in Blackburn, the other one actually went off smoothly (FWA in Newport).


Hopefully, DragonGate goes off without a hitch next week :)

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