Until very recently the history of British Wrestling – in the post World of Sport era – was littered with organisations that promised a lot but would end up going broke months later. So many promoters would come along and proclaim a new golden age of British wrestling (thanks to them, obviously) without fully realising how impossible such a feat would be in the late 90’s – early 2010’s.
It was a frustratingly familiar pattern: new promotion comes along, books huge name foreign talent at exorbitant rates, fails to shift the required amount of tickets to sell out consistently, fails to put over the local talent and develop their own stars, runs up debts, starts to bounce cheques and then, before you know it, events are cancelled at the last minute. Leaving both fans and workers alike stranded with seemingly no way of getting a refund.
1PW was another example of a promotion that had been through the ringer despite a bright start. In their first threeyears of operation they’d run over forty events (usually around the Doncaster area), some of which drew in excess of 1500 people, an extremely healthy figure for an independent British Wrestling promotion at the time.
They had a plethora of talented British and internationalworkers at their disposal but could never quite get their finances in order and had been liquidated in 2007 before miraculously restarting operations the same year.
By 2011 the company had relocated to Ellesmere Port and was running about four shows a year, one of which took place the night before Last Stand and was aptly titled Road to Destiny. The road, in this instance, was via a tiny working men’s club in the middle of nowhere.
That card was notable for two things: 1. I deliberately overpaid for a Kid Kash 8×10 because, as I told him at the time “I came to see you too, don’t sell yourself short”. 2. Zack Sabre Jr made Lionheart look like a world beater before inspecting the lights for him in the World Title Tournament Semi Final main event. Even back in 2011 ZSJ was one of the best wrestlers on the planet.
Other than one great match and a brief interaction with a surprisingly modest former ECW TV Champion the card was more of a warm up for the British talent than it was a pit stop on the road to destiny. The following night, however, was far more eventful, and not necessarily for the right reasons.
Notes from the Audience 2. The One with the False Dawn
Event: 1PW Last Stand
Date: May 28th, 2011
Location: Queensferry, North Wales
Arena: Deeside Leisure Centre
Well, it wasn’t really an arena, it was a leisure centre with surprisingly comfortable bleachers where my friend Danny had already set up camp. Once I got myself settled in he told me that earlier in the day Kevin Nash had been stood outside the entrance to the Q&A session collecting the entry fee from the fans himself.
In a surprise to absolutely nobody familiar with 1PW’s history the company hadn’t paid him what they’d negotiated and he was reduced to getting cash direct from the fans, while simultaneously staring daggers at the sheepish members of management who’d let him down. When management can’t even get the arrangements in order for their top draw you know things are dire, little did I know just how dire they were.
Mark Haskins & PAC vs The Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll & Zack Sabre Jr)
Sometimes opening matches are exciting, fast paced affairs that are a promoter’s way of preparing the audience for the quality that’s in store on the remainder of the card. This match was two of those things. The exchanges between all four competitors were crisp, the double team moves wereinnovative (including 2 consecutive Shooting Star Press’ from PAC and then Haskins) and unlike anything most of the people in attendance were used to seeing from either WWE or TNA.
The match was so good in fact that no one participant appeared better than the others; they were all stars and all showed they were destined for bigger and better things than wrestling in a leisure centre in front of less than 300 people (yes, there were not many people in attendance despite the presence of Kevin Nash, Road Dogg and Rhino). Scurll and Sabre Jr went over after PAC was super kicked out of mid-airand hit with the Steve Guttenberg Cameo (a Michinoku driver with added dropkick to the back).
Project Ego (Martin Kirby & Kris Travis) vs The Manhattan Project (Rhino & Krimson)
The second match of the night was another tag team bout which, despite the talent of Kirby, Travis and Rhino, wasn’t a patch on the opener. Project Ego worked over both Rhino and Krimson with some classic heel tactics and cheating untilSterling James Keenan (who can currently be found working for WWE as heat magnet commentator Corey Graves) ran out and attacked the Project Ego boys for a DQ finish and a big pop from the crowd.
Krimson then proceeded to do his best Great Kabuki impression and sprayed Kris Travis with a ridiculous amount of poison mist before Trav was nearly gored out of the building by Rhino.
The interference, misting and gore got a massive pop from the crowd, and the subsequent promo from Keenan – promising chaos, destruction and cats and dogs living together in 1PW –had people genuinely excited for the future of the company, and the possibility of faction warfare. Obviously that didn’t happen.
According to Kris Travis (as quoted in James Dixon’s excellent book All of Nothing which chronicles the many highs and lows of 1PW’s existence) this match came about because certain imports refused to work with some of the home grown talent.
Despite the obvious frustrations this caused both he and Martin Kirby really enjoyed working with Krimson and Rhino and nearly convinced Rhino to allow Trav to go for pin attempts by planting his crotch over Rhino’s face. I say nearly, Rhino considered it for a few seconds and then flat out refused.
M.O.B. (Jimmy Havoc, Keith Myatt & Ruffneck) vs Bubblegum, Joey Hayes & Sam Bailey
Mega heel Sam Bailey came out to an uncensored version of Kanye West’s “Power” at an event full of kids. Sam Bailey is amazing! Despite this being the third tag team match in a row the participants tried to make it stand out by almost immediately abandoning a normal match format in favour of beating the crap out of each other around the ring and into the crowd.
The fans generally approved of this choice, but were already pretty worn down by the multiple successive tag matches. Jimmy Havoc, in typical Jimmy Havoc fashion, allowedhimself to be thrown at full pace into about 4 rows of seats, wiping out 10-15 hastily abandoned chairs in one go.
It’s hard to explain to people in 2020 what the 2011 version of Jimmy Havoc was like; he was a cruiserweight but didn’t really wrestle like one, he was kind of hardcore but didn’t look like it (he still wore the loose pleather ¾ length shorts that many cruiserweights favoured at the time). He was a good worker that didn’t quite fit into a specific role. Little did anyone know he would go on to become one of the biggest draws and most over performers in the last 20 years of British wrestling.
Ruffneck (at this point a member of the 1PW managementteam) battered your writer’s favourite wrestler Joey Hayes with a running powerslam, then smashed Sam Bailey with an F-5, then, after pinning him, got on the mic and asked if anyone in the audience wanted to see him, Myatt and Havoc “kill” Sam Bailey.
He didn’t get the response he anticipated as the majority of the audience (myself included) weren’t actually that interested in witnessing a murder. Thankfully he spared Bailey’s life (and the audience from having to attend years of intensive counselling).
1PW Openweight Title: Noam Dar (c) vs Bad Bones vs Kid Kash
This match came about because the planned main event between Kevin Nash and Bad Bones was cancelled for one of three reasons (depending on who you believe). Reason 1: Kevin Nash refused to work with Bad Bones. Reason 2: Nash wasn’t feeling great and only wanted to work a tag match to avoid further injury. Reason 3: Nash was annoyed with the behaviour of management before the event (as well as his lack of payment) so he decided to lighten the load on his body and mess with their plans at the same time.
Honestly, after the way some of the workers had been treated, I wouldn’t have blamed any of them for making the event as easy on themselves as possible, especially those that had multiple surgeries in their past.
Unfortunately the upshot of this was an annoyed Bad Bones – who’d been demoted from his main event spot – working with an annoyed Kid Kash (another fly-in that hadn’t been paid) working with the talented, up and coming 18 year old Noam Dar.
Dar tried to work with Bad Bones only to be stiffed and thrown out of the ring. Dar then tried to work with Kid Kash only to be stiffed even harder and thrown out of the ring. Bones and Kash worked with each other professionally, but when it came to their younger opponent they both laid their shots in thick, especially Kash (who seemed to be in an even fouler mood than usual).
After randomly throwing Dar into a fan, mercilessly battering him some more and killing his comeback spots before they’deven started Kash smashed Dar with a vicious brainbuster only for Bad Bones to break up the pin. Thankfully the unnecessarily stiff beating came to an end when Dar scoredthe victory with a fluke roll up on Bad Bones. Your all conquering champion ladies and gentlemen.
After the match Kid Kash chased down the victorious Dar, battered him some more, dragged him back into the ring and hit a double underhook piledriver on the rookie while Bad Bones stood by, staring blankly at the brutality (just as he had for most of the match while selling).
Backstage various members of the 1PW roster were furious with Kash, Bones and management for what had just happened. Kris Travis told the management team in no uncertain terms that if Kid Kash was booked on any future events he and a number of other British talents wouldn’t work for the company ever again.
Choosing loyalty to your friends over potential earnings; if only more people in life were as classy as Kris Travis was.
1PW World Title Tournament Final: Lionheart vs Darren Burridge
A face vs face match was an odd booking choice after the fans had just witnessed an all heel triple threat match, but at this point most people in attendance were just waiting for the main event to start.
As much as I want to it’s hard to say anything too positive about this match in hindsight. Burridge was just back from a near two year injury lay off and Lionheart was a decent worker but he was no Kurt Angle.
The previous night’s display of technical wizardry was still fresh in mine and my friend’s mind as we watched the two top contenders for 1PW’s premier title kick and punch their way through the penultimate match of the night. The crowd were deathly silent until a ref bump was followed by Burridge pinning AND forcing Lionheart to tap out without an official conscious to make either call.
The match suddenly turned into an impromptu, live action version of Cluedo when head booker Adam Curtis (not the documentary filmmaker) made his way down to the ring, handed Burridge a wrench and encouraged him to cave Lionheart’s head in with it. Burridge said no (maybe he’d have preferred a candle stick?) and discarded the weapon, only for Lionheart to pick it up and, without a moment’s hesitation, smash Burridge with it himself.
Lionheart then nailed Burridge with a frogsplash and made the cover for the three count to become the new (and last ever) 1PW World Champion. Curtis jumped in to celebrate with the elated Lionheart; it had been a set up all along. The heel turn was complete when Lionheart got on the microphone and complained about his lack of opportunities in 1PW (despite having just won the World Title against one of the promotion’s figureheads) and gloated about being the top guy in a company that more closely resembled a sinking ship thanthe future of British wrestling.
MAIN EVENT: 1PW World Tag Team Title Match – Kevin Nash and Road Dogg vs Fight Club (Kid Fite & Liam Thompson) (c)
Billy Gunn was supposed to tag with Road Dogg against Fight Club but was stopped at customs because he didn’t have the right type of visa and proceeded to say the wrong sequence of words to the wrong person, who then promptly barred him from entering the country and put him on the next flight back to the states.
As a result of that (and the previously mentioned Kevin Nash/1PW management shenanigans) the main event was changed to this. Road Dogg came out to a live rendition of his WWE theme music, as performed by a local band who did a commendable job until he got in the ring and wanted to cut his usual pre-match promo.
The sequence of events went something like this:
Road Dogg, “Cut the music!” All the band members do as they’re told, except for the drummer, who’s in a world of his own. “CUT THE MUSIC!!!” Screamed a frustrated Road Dogg who is once again ignored by the drummer. “HEY!!! LARS ULRICH!!!” The drummer finally realises what’s going on and immediately calls a halt to the mylar thrashing. He looked like he wanted the earth to open up and swallow him whole.
Kevin Nash then came out to a big pop from the 300 or so people in attendance, it was clear that most of the audience were here to see either him or Road Dogg. Having seen him in the flesh I can fully appreciate why Vince McMahon keeps hiring and pushing monsters; seeing someone who’s seven foot tall in person is a surprisingly powerful experience.
Fight Club actually got a decent reaction as well, this actually made sense since – for a while in the 2010’s – they were the go to heel tag team for promotions up and down the land. Fight Club spent the first few minutes working over Road Dogg as Nash looked on helpless/disinterested on the ring apron.
Road Dogg actually bumped pretty well for Fight Club and managed to squeeze in his usual repertoire of flashy punches and signature moves before tagging in Nash. Big Daddy Cool hit a flurry of arching right hands and big boots before mistiming a snake eyes attempt with Kid Fite and nearly dropping the poor sod flat on his arse. Big Sexy then smashed Fite with a Jacknife Powerbomb before getting bonked over the head with Charles Boddington’s briefcase and laying down for the three count.
Let me repeat that: Kevin “Big Sexy/Big Daddy Cool/Diesel/Oz/Vinny Vegas” Nash jobbed to Fight Club after a solitary briefcase whack to the noggin. The audience were stunned.
Fight Club retreated to the back while Nash and Road Dogghotdogged for the crowd before a group of UK based talents walked over to the merchandise tables and started schmoozing with the people in attendance. The last sound anyone heard at a 1PW event was Sam Bailey heeling it up on the microphone while simultaneously trying to shift some gimmicks.
A lot of the workers on the show didn’t get paid until after midnight because of the rampant disorganisation. Kid Fite elected to take his payment in the form of DVD’s he could sell at other shows, whereas Kid Kash decided to just threaten Danny Rodd until he got paid. He got his money beforemidnight.
The Swindon show that was scheduled for the next day was cancelled, as was Road Dogg’s appearance at a nearby storewhen Danny Rodd told him he would have to get himself to Swindon (a change from the original plan), take his own merchandise to the store, sell it to the 400 or so punters queuing outside and split the proceeds with Rodd (who would get 25%) and the store owner (who would get 50%). Road Dogg politely declined.
Shortly after these cancellations an attempted tour of Dubai – that would have supposedly involved the 1PW regulars doing several shows with Shawn Michaels, Jushin Liger and Steve Corino – came to nothing. I can’t imagine Michaels would have ever seriously considered this tour if he’d spent more than 30 seconds asking Kevin Nash for his input.
While this was happening various members of the management team quit the company and pointed the finger of blame for all the chaos squarely at Danny Rodd. Refunds were claimed, money was lost, people fell into crippling levels of personal debt and 1PW never ran another show again. They officially closed their doors in August 2013.
So many wrestling promotions have collapsed in this fashion it’s almost become a cliché at this point. Until the last five years it happened with such regularity that you could actually spot the downfall coming months before it inevitably did based purely on past experiences.
Thankfully the UK wrestling landscape in 2020 is as healthyas it’s been in decades. There are many different promotions for people to ply their trade at and career progression is now a real possibility if you have the talent and the drive to achieve it. One last thought though: if you do become successful enough to try your hand at promoting please avoid the pitfalls outlined in this article. The negative ramifications can beutterly devastating for yourself and dozens of others.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Martin Kirby and Keith Myatt for their help with this article. Most of the backstage information is sourced from the excellent James Dixon book “All or Nothing” which chronicles the fascinating history of 1PW.