Last night, Collar & Elbow were in attendance at Future Pro Wrestling‘s first birthday show, FPW FutureMania. It was a night of big action and even bigger names in Surrey, England – but it almost didn’t happen…
Regular readers of this site will know by now that the FPW team are friends of ours: indeed, only a few weeks ago, we spoke with the three founding members in an in-depth interview about how the organisation first came about, and its lofty ambitions for the future.
So it was against this backdrop that I was looking forward to attending my first FPW show at Wallington Hall in Wallington, Surrey on Saturday 5th May. With a card promising well-known UK stars such as Johnny Storm, Jody Fleisch and Doug Williams, plus a host of homegrown talent, this one had all the markings of being very special indeed. Yes, I was definitely ready to make the long trip to Surrey…
…until I got a call, 24 hours beforehand, saying that the team no longer had a venue for the show.
Yes, after months of promotion and build, some serious spanners were thrown in the works at the eleventh hour, and as such Wallington Hall was no longer a viable venue for the event. With some quick fire thinking, however, the team managed, under an extremely tight deadline, to source an alternative venue, and one that dwarfed the original ‘FutureZone’ in stature: the 600-seater Canons Leisure Centre in Mitcham.
It all seemed to be back on track, and so I began my cross-country journey to Mitcham – only to receive a call at 3pm, halfway down the M3, from FPW co-founder and man-on-the-mike Matt Burden, saying that the second venue had fallen through, but that they had unbelievably managed to find a third venue, only a stone’s throw away, for tonight’s event. I was given the address with one caveat: keep this one off the internet. FPW FutureMania was going to go ahead – and it was happening guerrilla-style.
The reasons why, and how, this all came about are not completely clear as of yet – but that didn’t stop an angry Steve ‘Heavy D’ Evans shooting to the European Uppercut team ahead of the show.
So, eventually, the event did take place – albeit in a far smaller venue in central Mitcham. That in itself is disappointing to say the least, given the level of talent competing on the night, and the fact that a big part of the evening was a wrestling memorabilia charity raffle in aid of Cancer Research UK. Finally, at 7:45pm the show got underway – and I now had the opportunity to see whether the event - and FPW – would live up to the hype.
An action-packed card from top to bottom
I’ve been to a number of small UK shows over the past 20 years, but one thing that really stood out to me as a point of difference from the outset was the community – almost family – feel that had been cultivated ahead of the show and that was clearly prevalent on the night; helped in large part, I suspect, by the consistency of the roster and the strong characters offered up by the promotion.
The first half of the card saw children’s favourite Bagheera take on Da Big J Dizzle, and, despite the size difference, the two pulled off a snappy, fast-paced opener that quickly got the crowd going, with Bagheera taking the popular upset victory on his larger opponent.
Next up, Terry Striker faced off against Rob Cage in a no DQ match which saw the two literally brawl throughout the entire hall. Heel Striker picked up the win after spraying deodorant into Cage’s face. The rascal.
The third match of the night was a six-man tag team bout which promised big action – and more than delivered. Master Joel, Earl Windsor, and my new favourite heel, Sir Thomas Chamberlain – known collectively as ‘The Lords of the Ring’ - faced off against the team of Andy Boy Simmonz, Jimmy Havoc and, in a major coo for FPW, Impact Wrestling‘s Doug Williams.
The tag match offered some great action from both the faces and heels, with ‘The Lords’ demonstrating classic heel strategy, working on Williams for the majority of the match and cutting off the ring with double – and triple – teaming. Havoc displayed some strong, fast-paced offence when given the opportunity, but ultimately the win went to the dastardly trio.
After a break which saw several hundreds of pounds raised in a charity auction – thanks in no small part to the European Uppercut team, who pledged a very generous amount for some signed vintage shades from Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart - it was back to the action.
A lot was at stake in match four: Greg Burridge put his ‘dice’ on the line (best not to ask) against the long flowing locks of Phil ‘The Warden’ Ward. Given that the dice are an integral part of Burridge’s face act, we all knew where this one was going – but that didn’t make it any less fun. Burridge and The Warden faced off in a best-of-three match: a dance-off, followed by an arm wrestle, and concluding with – shock horror – a wrestling match. Burridge got the popular duke, and then used The Warden’s own handcuffs against him, chaining him to the ring ropes and butchering off a large chunk of his hair. I felt for Ward watching this hack-job – that looked like it really did hurt more than just his pride.
The penultimate match was a spirited triple threat affair, pitting monsters Snare and the truly colossal (by UK standards) eXodus against ‘The British Luchadore’ Paul Robinson. I was particularly impressed by Robinson in this outing, who told a great underdog story in this clash, and picked up the victory on the masked eXodus after hitting a perfect mid-rope 619.
Finally, main event honours went to The Bhangra Knights (who, cheap plug, have possibly the best t-shirts currently available on the independent scene) taking on veterans Jody Fleisch and Johnny Storm. As expected, this one more than delivered the goods: it’s always a joy to watch Fleisch and Storm in action, and The Knights provided the perfect foil to the duo’s high-flying maneuvers. Ultimately, it was The Knights that picked up the win – but they didn’t have much opportunity to celebrate their big victory, as they were immediately the victims of a surprise run-in from The London Riots tag team, setting up a ready-made match for FPW’s next show.
And with that, FutureMania came to a close. It wasn’t a show without its faults, and the setting for the show was far from ideal. But the very fact that the event took place at all, after so many setbacks, is a testament to the commitment of both FPW’s founding trio, and its roster of supremely talented workers.
The six-match card featured something for everyone, and was suitably family-friendly, without alienating the more mature members of the audience.
FutureMania offered six, strong bouts, a host of memorable and distinctive characters, and, best of all, storyline continuity – all in an incredibly intimate setting which both engaged the audience in attendance and made them feel like an invaluable part of the show. If last night’s show was anything to go by, then the future for FPW is very bright indeed.
To view all of the photos from last night’s show right now, visit the Collar & Elbow Facebook page right now.
This article was written by Ben Veal.