It is our first blog of the New Year and to paraphrase The Rock, we wanted to "start strong". In 2014 we wrote a trilogy of articles in which we highlighted top UK talents (see parts one, two and three). This year, we plan to go on tour, highlighting some of the UK's best promotions and the events they hold. Regular readers will know we finished last year with a visit to IPW:UK, one of the top independent promotions and met head honcho Daniel Edler. Having had such a good time, we opted to return to IPW to launch our tour.
An independent promotion can live or die by its communications and it is a testament to Daniel that IPW has one of, if not the best maintained web presence of the major indie companies. Thus even before arriving at the venue we had all the details we needed and were looking forward to the event. Little would anyone have known on arrival that it was a winter's eve, following a rainy day. The hall was packed with extra chairs required.
When Eddie Guerrero complained to veteran announcer Jim Ross about being the first match on a card, Ross told him it was a golden opportunity to steal the show. Enter Will Ospreay and Scott Star. Ospreay is a ball of pure energy whose reputation clearly precedes him, given the crowd were chanting his name within 10 seconds of his entrance. Star meanwhile, played the heel role expertly, engaging the baying mob from the get go and ably suffering the bleats of the crowd which mocked his goat-like ring attire.
Watching at such close quarters is arguably more enjoyable than some of the larger arena shows. The pace is fast and the experience certainly delivered in 3D, as the front row found out early on when moving to avoid an incoming wrestler. Highlights included Ospreay's handstand springboard enzigueri and amazing 'Destroyer' DDT finisher.
Next out were the 'Monsters' eXodus and Snare, an imposing pair indeed. eXodus in particular with mask and chains used his force and size to excellent advantage. They faced hometown boys Duggan and Donnelly, collectively D&D a speedy and agile pair. Having been to the last IPW match it was enjoyable to see the continued storyline concussion angle in relation to Donnelly, who played the underdog role well. The Monsters won with an emphatic double choke slam.
It is a testament to Dan Edler that the matches flowed so well and there was no room for boredom before the interval as ex-WWE superstar Mason Ryan faced British Boot Camp star Dave Mastiff. It is not easy to wrestle a match in which both men play a 'face' role but Mastiff and Ryan did so with aplomb. We were treated to skilful grappling, huge displays of power and even some tongue in cheek comedy. It was a visual treat to see Ryan and Mastiff slam one another and the two of them trying to knock each other down as the ring trembled underfoot. The crowd were gripped, voicing respect for both men and constantly demanding more. Whilst Mastiff took the win, the two shook hands to end an immense first half.
Another benefit of IPW events is that there is little talk and lots of action and the second half began where the first left off. As we have previously highlighted, Jimmy Havoc is a serious talent. His entrance music and appearance are appropriately intimidating and his fierce crowd interaction provokes an incredible reaction. He plays a part so brilliantly evil, it makes you want to cheer him and is to all intents and purposes, the perfect heel. This then was no pushover opponent for "Wonderkid" Jonny Storm. A veteran himself though, Storm was not intimidated. Both men wrestled with real character and kept the audience engaged throughout the athletic, pacey match. Havoc took the bout with a Rainmaker and having not dropped a match in 2014, he begins 2015 as he means to continue, unbeaten.
The penultimate match saw 'Cuban Heat' face 'Earl' Jonathan Windsor. We were won over from the start of this bout by the comedy assist from the Mexican Eagle. Encouraging the crowd to join in a Daniel Bryan tributary 'Si' chant, the Eagle commandeered the mic and led the introductions before offering ringside banter throughout the match. To be fair to Windsor and Heat, they delivered in the ring and the crowd were well onside. It was another Bryan tribute - the running knee - that saw 'El Jonathan Windsor-o' (embracing his Mexican heritage) take the win.
It is difficult to call the preceding matches an undercard but in the tables, ladders and chairs battle between the London Riots (IPW champs) and the 'Leaders of the New School' (LDRS) Zack Sabre Jnr and Marty Scurll, IPW had booked a phenomenal headline bout. A contract hanging ominously above the ring guaranteed the LDRS an IPW tag-team title shot anytime, anywhere but on losing they would be forced to disband for good.
It is difficult to say enough complimentary things about this match, which had the crowd 'popping' repeatedly. Within minutes, Zack Sabre Jnr had placed one of the Riots on the lap of a woman in the front row before kicking him in the head inspiring full throated chants of "this is awesome". The LDRS dominated from early on and proved emphatically why they deserved the headline spot, giving the crowd what they wanted in spades. High points included a Riot being hip-tossed into a ladder, cracking it in half and later being thrown from one ladder into another, evoking a round of "you just killed him" chants. The action subsequently moved up onto the stage where Scurll gave and received suplexes. The riots had a number of come-backs in the match which proved just how serious a team they are but it was Scurll in the end who climbed the ladder and retrieved the contract for the win. The crowd erupted in a standing ovation and richly deserved it was.
IPW puts on high quality events and generate a positive atmosphere. There is no question that it was worth the drive, the investment of time and money. Sabre Junior and Scurll spoke to the crowd before they exited the ring, with the former saying the UK scene is hot at the moment. Judging by IPW's standards, it's on fire.