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Great post and attitude Mark. Fuck me, it's Jewish Darren who I remember having chats with at various wrestling shows (not just FWA) around Mark Petar's VHS / TV combo. So you're actually living in the USA? I have a lague memory (could be wrong) but didn't you do some sort of "USA loyalist" gimmick at some point? Around 2003?

Yeah, my gimmick for most of my "career" was an American...living the gimmick!
You weren

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You weren’t Tex Benedict, were you?

Wooo hooo Sherlock, you don't fuckin say.
Sorry. I didn’t realise it was common knowledge amongst the forum’s members, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked. Edited by Your Fight Site

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So what does everyone think was the FWA's best match? I always think the match between Jonny Storm and Doug Williams at Harrow high school was amazing, I also think the Jonny and Jodie match from Revival was in amazing (although not technically an FWA show)Do you know that the FWA actually wanted to push Solid Gold Scott Parker as it's lead babyface, but fan apathy turned them on the idea, then they were going to push Hade Vansen as the lead babyface but the audience actually hated him too. The person who should of been the lead babyface for the company was Alex Shane but he was so obsessed with the internet fans not loving him that he felt he had to be a heel and thus the FWA lost it's only real chance at having a Rock like babyface lead them into glory. Crazy!

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Mo's probably presuming you have sigs turned on.

Mo's presuming he actually read the guys posts, wherein he talks about being Benedict, mush.
No, have signatures disabled, and skimmed past the post where it was mentioned. Sorry.

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I was a massive fan of the FWA back in the day. With the demise of WCW and ECW in 2001, I had started getting more into different wrestling promotions from around the world in order to satisfy my interest in the old slap n' tickle. It would lead me to getting into more Japanese stuff than I had been, getting into CZW and eventually leading me to the likes of ROH, NWA-TNA, PWG, IWA Mid South, MLS, etc. It had been part of that curiosity in mid-2001 that led me to discover FWA.

 

I had been to British wrestling shows in my local area before and seen them advertised all over the place, but they were always the AMERICAN WRESTLING one-off touring pantomime shows. Fun for the night, but not particularly offering the long-term investment or satisfaction I was looking for. FWA shows had received some coverage in the wrestling magazines of the time and, together with the TalkSPORT radio show, it sounded just like the type of thing I was interested in. Storylines, feuds, a regular cast of characters, guest US wrestlers I'd heard of from ECW and the like, etc. I started picking up the official FWA video tapes from Strong Style Tapes (which were compilations of FWA's TV series on a local Portsmouth cable TV channel) and became a fan. Looking back now, it was all a bit ropey. A tiny ring, small crowds, shows filmed in school halls etc, but at the time it was different to anything else I'd seen. There was promotional branding all over the place. There were exciting, progressive matches more like something you'd see in ECW, CZW, etc, displaying an array of styles. Technical, high-flying, hardcore, it was all there. The episodic nature of the shows meant I could follow the characters from show to show, understanding who they were, what they were up to and why they were fighting. It was all very endearing, and I was excited that this was a domestic product. Way back in 2001, Doug Williams, Scott Parker, Kerry Cabrero, Alex Shane, Jody Fleisch, Jonny Storm, New Breed, Drew McDonald, Mark Sloan, Paul Travell, James Tighe, Jack Xavier and more became names I was familiar with and interested in seeing.

 

I attended 'Revival' at Crystal Palace the following February, the first time I'd ever travelled the length of the country purely for a British wrestling event, then did the same for other 'bigger' BritWres events in the same vein during 2002 like GWF's 'Battle of the Champions' in Preston, Dann Read's 'Dawn of a New Era' in Ipswich and FWA's 'British Uprising' in London and 'Seasons Beatings' in my first of my something like 20+ trips to the Broxbourne Civic Hall. All these featured the hard-working core of British wrestlers that I was now invested in, rated and was interested and excited to see. The names on a poster meant something. I knew who they were, and I cared.

 

From the start of 2003, I made sure that I made the arrangements and attended each and every FWA event. Walthamstow, Broxbourne, Brent, Bethnal Green and more was the start of a time when I would be travelling down to London every couple of months, purely for the purpose of catching the wrestling. I went to shows in Morecambe, Bolton and Cleethorpes. Sometimes, to save on costs of hotels, etc, I'd wander the streets all night or sleep in railway stations or on park benches. The atmosphere at those 2002-2004 FWA shows was pretty great. Just about everyone there was the same as me. They were people who knew the wrestlers and the storylines, enjoyed the type of wrestling on offer and were equally as enthusiastic and responsive to it. The characters were over and, especially in Broxbourne, there was plenty of two-way 'banter' between the audience and the wrestlers. There were chants, songs, props etc and plenty of unique ways of heckling the heels. It was a real sense of 'community', like this was 'our' promotion to be fans of. When I think now of the people I'd regularly meet up with, travel with, chat to, sit with or generally hang out with at those early FWA events, I think there's probably only myself and 'Gadge' that didn't go on to be wrestlers, referees, promoters, ring announcers, interviewers, managers, official photographers, cameramen or anyone else involved in 'da biz'. That wasn't for me - I never had any intention of becoming involved in any way, shape or form.

 

After 'British Uprising 3' in Coventry, it all seemed to die down. Loads of reasons why, but it just wasn't the same. It's like they had had their time, their story had been told and it just ran out of steam. People point to the cutbacks and the lack of imports in 2005 when compared to those 2002-2004 glory years leading to fans becoming less interested. That's certainly part of it, but it's also fair to say that they seemed disorganised, disjointed, lacked momentum and lacked creativity. Like many others, I just lost interest in FWA. One of the main reasons for that for me personally was other promotions, particularly IPW:UK in Orpington, sprang up that actually started doing the 'FWA thing' (regular storyline-based episodic shows in front of a regular, enthusiastic audience, featuring the best in-ring style around, with a few added import guests) better than FWA actually ever did and soon overtook it for my attention (and I wrote some thoughts about the attraction of IPW:UK in an article here not so long back).

 

By mid 2005, I felt the now-regular FWA shows in Morecambe had actually been superior to the 'main' FWA shows down south for quite some time. Although they were sort-of aligned to FWA storylines, they also kinda did their own thing. The Morecambe audience had their own stars, their own show-to-show storylines, more of a family-friendly approach and more logical and consistent storytelling. The shows had a completely different feel. The Morecambe cards, like the IPW:UK shows in Orpington, continued to represent and satisfy my own interests in a pro wrestling product - interests that, quite naturally, had developed and 'grown up'. I continued to enjoy the Morecambe shows (including the continuance as 'XWA' since 2007) immensely all the way right up until last summer when they stopped.

 

When they decided to go out with the big IPW:UK vs. FWA feud, it gave us the chance for a last little bit of fun. FWA was presented as an invading army of former stars, and me and my friends decided to dig out the old FWA t-shirts from the back of the wardrobe and cheer them on (and thoroughly wind up the resident Orpington regulars) on the way out.

 

I caught the first 2 Broxbourne dates of the FWA's comeback, but thought it was all a bit rubbish so didn't bother following them after that. It was like RQW Mk2 - a bit crap.

 

In all, FWA gave us some great times and great memories, as well as paved the way for the scene as we know it today. Even some of today's promoters that never even saw the original FWA are being influenced by it without even realising it. Thinking back, a lot of it probably wouldn't be thought of as that good now, and there was a lot of rubbish that often gets over-looked when taking a rose-tinted look back, but during those years it was the best around and we had never seen anything like it before. There were late doors, seating chaos, ticketing confusion, late finishing times, long periods of silence without updates - all things that just wouldn't be accepted these days, and I have no idea why we did at the time. I suppose we put up with it because we thought it was worth it. It was fresh, it was different, it was exciting and it was ours.

 

I still look back on it fondly. It was certainly of it's time, and that time did indeed pass by, but at that time it was pretty special. It was a date on the calendar to look forward to. It was the first promotion I would ever consider travelling the length of the country to see a 'normal' (as in not 'Uprising' or 'Revival'-level) event on a regular basis, because I didn't want to 'miss out'. It got me into the habit of expanding my horizons and travelling around the country to see British shows and promotions that caught my eye.

 

In terms of the clasic FWA matches themselves, I have always maintained that Alex Shane vs. Jack Xavier in the Last Man Standing match from 'Crunch 2004' in Broxbourne was my favourite all-time FWA bout. FWA fans had never really taken to Jack, despite (or probably because of) him being pushed to the moon in FWA with victories over top US indie stars (including Homicide, who was one of the absolute top on that scene in 2003), and the original bout between Shane and Xavier in Brent a couple of months prior was a bit crap. However, for the LMS rematch, everything just clicked and all of a sudden everyone was utterly engrossed in the story of the main, headline top heel taking on the plucky every-man underdog who'd never give up. That plot was executed perfectly over the course of that single match, and was an enthralling, gripping, dramatic and, most importantly, exciting piece thrilling action. There was character, brawling, drama and set-piece high-spots, as well as subtle nods to things they'd done previously for those paying attention. One of those contests that just dragged you in and rewarded you.

 

Others that stand out as my own personal absolute favourites include the Shane vs. Corino main event from 'Hotwired 2004', Doug Williams & Jody Fleisch vs. Jonny Storm & Christopher Daniels from the 2003 'Northern Exposure Tour' in Bolton (well, Horwich), AJ Styles vs. Jody Fleisch from 'Seasons Beatings' in 2002 and James Tighe vs. AJ Styles from 'Vendetta 2004' but, truth be told, it was all pretty much a great journey at the time. I've probably only seen these bouts back once, if any, since seeing them live, so no idea how they hold up now.

 

Recently, while sorting out my loft, I came across a big box with all my old FWA videotapes, DVDs etc and thought it might be a decent project to watch them all back more than a decade later and share memories of the time as well as thoughts on the shows looking back now and put it all up here on the UKFF. Might still do that, if folks were interested (though I have the annual UKFF UK50 coming up in a couple of weeks - that usually takes a good while).

 

I've probably got enough and seen enough to write my own damn book one day...

Edited by Big Benny HG

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Great post and attitude Mark. Fuck me, it's Jewish Darren who I remember having chats with at various wrestling shows (not just FWA) around Mark Petar's VHS / TV combo. So you're actually living in the USA? I have a lague memory (could be wrong) but didn't you do some sort of "USA loyalist" gimmick at some point? Around 2003?

Yeah, my gimmick for most of my "career" was an American...living the gimmick!
You weren

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What happened to that questionaire/paper you were writing on british wrestling darren?

Hey Hitman,I spent many hours working on this, I think I called it The Gold Belt Standard of British Professional, and had some preliminary discussions with FSM magazine about them publishing it. This was about the time when they had a change in editor (moving from James to Martin), and the new editor was not in any way interested. I think this was a shame, as I was proposing a unique qualitative study whose aim was to document and provide a snapshot of the UK scene, highlighting best practices, and making some recommendations to improve the UK scene. At that time, I felt i was in a good position, with contacts in almost every promotion, and at every level (promoter, worker, photography, videography, website design etc.), plus I really did have no personal agenda. Alas, it never saw the light of day.

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I think Ben sums up my FWA experience as well, minus the Morecambe for me though. Never made it that far. As for matches can I throw in Doug Williams vs Chris Hamrick at the Cleethorpes Winter Gardens. Most convincing mid match injury angle I have ever seen and a match that had everything from comedy under the ring crawling by Hamrick, to top notch wrestling, and Hamrick's great throughthe top 2 ropes back bump to the outside.

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Chris Hamrick was by far and away my favorite import the FWA ever brought in. He was not particularly well know, but his matches were solid, his timing was impeccable, and he knew when to throw in the right amount of comedy (much of which I borrowed (cough cough stole) in the Tex Benedict early days).

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