British wresting is undoubtedly going through a boom-time at the moment, and I, like many other grapple-fans, try and absorb as much of the good wrestling from around the country as possible. Having heard lots of good things regarding Tidal Championship Wrestling, I jumped at the chance to review one of their DVDs and see for myself.
The DVD presentation itself is good, with the individual matches available via Chapter Selection and an bonus ‘extra’ of the event highlight-reel. A brief run-through of the card via the DVD menu reveals a lot of competitors that should be very familiar to most fans of UK and North American independent wrestling; so although I may not be entirely clued-up when it comes to ongoing storylines, the talents on display are a known quantity and have first-class potential. Following a brief introduction by Tidal Announcer Aaron Beatup, we have our first match.
‘International King of #SWERVE’ Shane Strickland vs. ‘The Gimmick Killer’ HT Drake
Making his first TCW appearance in two years, Shane Strickland (AKA Lucha Underground’s Killshot) is taking on Tidal regular HT Drake, in what should be a great bout to open the show. Strickland attempts to execute his familiar athletic, lucha-inspired offence in the early going (including a superb topé) but resorts to his excellent striking and kicking game, as he often finds Drake reducing the space to employ a closer European style.
Drake is no stranger to a bit of high-flying either, with a couple of notable springboard attacks, but takes his greatest spell of dominance through submission holds and suplexes, grinding Strickland down through attrition, slowing the pace and removing the space. You can’t keep a good man down for long though, and Shane Strickland is a lot better than ‘good’, so he uses his returning dominance to land a few more spectacular attacks. HT Drake, however, snatches the surprising win, rolling Strickland up opportunistically despite his ascendency, and leaving the American incredulous, sitting on the mat. Excellent bout to open the show.
TCW Women’s Title Ironman 3 Way Match: Violet O’Hara (c) vs. Lana Austin vs. Ruby Summers
Women’s wrestling is another sector that is taking full advantage of this heady boom-period, thankfully shedding the misogynistic dismissals it has suffered throughout the years. We get to enjoy the fruits of this, with nice Ironman matches instead of four minutes of bikinis and bitchiness.
Austin starts the match brightest, nabbing the first pin from Summers with O’Hara spilled ring-side, but pays for it immediately at the end of some nice teamwork. The diminutive champion has some explosive power and buckets of resilience, whilst Ruby Summers takes after the style of her mentor, El Ligero, with sweetly executed moves from the cornerpost. Conversely, Lana Austin takes the tactical approach, sniping and ambushing her opponents where possible for several 2 count pin attempts.
In the aftermath of a jaw-dropping three woman stacked superplex, Summers pinned Austin to make it 0-1-1, with O’Hara taking advantage of Austin’s complacency in showboating to level the pinfall scores shortly after. As the time limit approached, with O’Hara stranded on the floor and in time-honoured Ironman match tradition, Summers’ pin attempt on Austin was interrupted by the bell. The prospect of a sudden-death pinfall victory sparked some deep reserves of determination from all three athletes, but it was O’Hara who successfully retained her title, thanks to a potent Shining Wizard. A gruelling but fantastically entertaining match.
The Service (Sean Only & Dan James) vs. Sebb Strife & ‘The Ugandan Warrior’ Nsereko
The Service seem to rile the crowd somewhat, as they make their entrance, but it is Strife and Nsereko who gain initial control, largely by ‘cutting the ring in half’ to keep James in their corner with some good teamwork. Once the aggressive and athletic Sean Only, recently returned from injury, received his tag the match opened up more.
Sean Only obviously identifies Strife’s brawling prowess as a threat, as he sneaks around the ring to ambush Sebb and throw him into the barriers. This allows The Service to employ some nefarious double teaming, and gain the pinfall victory. A solid Tag match which should build a bit of fan ire against the returning Service.
Hardcore Match: JD Boom vs. Addy Starr
I mentioned the renaissance in Women’s Wrestling earlier, and this match embodies the logical extension of it. Whilst an inter-gender Hardcore match may challenge some peoples’ preconceptions, I have no such issue. In fact, considering that there is history between these two including a barefoot Lego match, I’m quite looking forward to it! Starr increases the stakes by putting her place in Tidal at risk – if she loses she’s gone for good.
There are various ways a good hardcore match can go, and this one took the ‘Weapons Fest’ route. Softball bats, party poppers, the standard issue folding chairs and even a ladder was employed for the first time in TCW, but the star spots were saved for a huge bag of Lego spread over the ring and thoroughly mixed with drawing pins.
Addy Starr’s custom barbed-wire chair makes an appearance, with both athletes crashing across it, although Starr may have regretted interjecting a spare strand of the wire into the bout, as Boom uses it to cut at her face and force the submission. A great match with novel weapons ticks this Hardcore fan’s boxes.
Joseph Conners vs. Pete Dunne vs. Chris Hero
Conners and Dunne have done plenty to establish themselves as top names on the British scene, and matches like this against Chris Hero, one of the biggest names in independent wrestling over the last decade, have been their just reward. The bout itself had a distinctly different feel to most Triple Threats that I have seen recently, with all three grappling and chain wrestling together rather than one competitor constantly out of action at the apron, occasionally rotating, while the others essentially fight one-on-one.
The remarkably tight tactics of the match mean that no athlete is able to get a controlling grip, Hero using his trademark strikes and elbows, Dunne his great grappling ability and Conners lightning speed. The Brits team up briefly on Hero, but that entente is quickly broken too. The knife-edge match is won very opportunistically by Conners, pinning Dunne, when Chris Hero found himself stranded outside the ring. This is a great exposition of striking and catch wrestling, but even more for its notable structure.
TCW Tag Team Championship: The Proven (Caz Crash & Sam Wilder)(c) vs Go Team Sports! (Ace Matthews & David Graves)
This match opened with a Pokémon-based skit, that marginally turned me off of it from the outset. I’ve got nothing in particular against the monster-fighting franchise but, not having much to do with it since the 90s, I was a tad ambivalent to the cheap pop-culture pop. The wrestling was good, and nicely paced, with free-flowing throws and The Proven working tactically on Matthews’ ankle.
David Graves’ regular tag partner BA Rose makes an appearance to support his friend whilst also becoming a distraction, particularly to Ace, who gets submitted by Caz Crash to retain the title. A good narrative to the match for regular Tidal fans, as well as some solid tag-action, just not one I personally connected with.
TCW Open Championship – Mountevens’ Rules (Max. 6 Rounds, 2 Out of 3 Falls): Liam Lazarus(c) vs Jigsaw
This match attracted my attention when I perused the card earlier, largely because I love to see how modern athletes work within the framework of old-school British rules. Liam Lazarus (AKA Liam Slater) is a very good technical wrestler, and Jigsaw has a weighty reputation for this particular form of grappling from his time in CHIKARA.
Round One opens up a display of chain-wrestling that is associated with these rules, with both guys working on bending back each others’ arms in spectacular fashion, but ends with some shoulder charging that signals a style change that continues into Round Two with more open throws and strikes. Jigsaw recorded the first pin by countering Lazarus’ backslide pin attempt into a roll-up, Liam respectfully shaking hands after.
Round Three has another shift in style with more submissions being employed, Lazarus in particular working in several severe-looking armbars to great effect, as Jigsaw eventually succumbed to one, tapping out to level the scores. The sudden death nature of Round Four gave the competitors some urgency, both went at it full throttle, and it looked like Jigsaw had it when he caught Lazarus mid-flight with a dropkick, but his pin was rolled-through for Liam to retain. This was a brilliant example of a World of Sport / Mountevens match, fully expansive and expressive, not just an excuse for gratuitous chain-wrestling that they so often become.
TCW Championship ‘The Mexican Sensation’ El Ligero (c) vs. Rampage Brown
The final, eighth match of the DVD is one between current Champion El Ligero and former holder Rampage Brown although, for very good reasons, it takes quite a while to actually start.
Ligero halted his entrance mid-ramp to ambush Rampage, and both took the opportunity to soften each other up prior to the bell sounding, effectively turning this into a streetfight, at least initially. The barricades, merch’ table, venue bar and even a cashpoint are used to bounce and bash the wrestlers, before they eventually make it to ringside. An impressive counter by Rampage of El Ligero’s Rana from the apron leads to the Mexican being battered, pendulum-like, against the barriers.
Even after the athletes had made it to the ring and the bell had sounded, the shenanigans continued as The Service tried to interfere, only to be stopped by Brown. Ligero takes full advantage of Brown’s loss of focus to gain the ascendancy, but can’t get any more than a two-count even after smashing the Title Belt into Rampage’s head. Rampage rallies against Ligero’s frustration, first power-bombing, then pile-driving the Champion to pick up the 1-2-3 and regain his crown. Another great match that changed up the tactics and tempo, and considering how widely ranging the battle was it may come over better on DVD than it would live, but that’s no slight on this type of match.
This was a well put together wrestling card, offering a wide range of well constructed match types catering excellently for the casual wrestling fan as well as hardcore fans, involving fantastic independent wrestlers of note. Tidal Championship Wrestling have a great product here, and it comes through on this DVD.
TCW return to the O2 Academy in Leeds on Sunday October 2nd for ‘Each Dawn I Die’ with another fantastic card… check it out on their twitter @TIDALWRESTLING.