Sunday, 16 September 2007

UK Round-Up on TWC - Retro Review

Two years ago The Wrestling Channel were in need of footage for a new show, designed to promote British wrestling and wrestlers, most notably those who weren’t featured on the weekly Frontier Wrestling Alliance show. When the FWA’s TV show went on hiatus towards the end of the 2004, UK Round-Up was born, hosted by Powerslam writer Mo Chatra, and with “Hardcore” John Atkins and “Charming” Don Charles handling commentary duties. But did the show achieve what it set out to do? Let’s look back at the matches and the overall content of the series.

The first match saw Garage Pro Wrestling action, with “Dangerous” Damon Leigh facing Joey Hayes, although this one actually took place on the FWA’s Unsigned show. I didn’t think much of this one when I first saw it, and my opinion hasn’t changed. The match lacked intensity, and it was more like a training match, with Leigh getting the win with a reverse pile driver.

On to WAW, as Frankie Sloan took on Hot Stuff. Throughout the match Atkins and Charles showed that they hadn’t done their research, as they referred to Hot Stuff as a youngster making his way in the business, although at the time of filming he was a ten year veteran. The shortcomings of the commentators aside, it was a good back-and-forth match from the two veterans, with Hot Stuff continually fighting back despite Sloan throwing everything he could at him. Eventually, Hot Stuff got the win with a sunset flip out of the corner.

On to RAMWA, as champion Martin Stone faced Leroy Kincaide. The camera angles were pretty poor in this one, making viewing somewhat difficult at times, and it also looked like several cuts were made, which didn’t help matters either. Apart from these drawbacks, the match wasn’t that bad, with the referee taking a snooze, Kincaide missing his spinal tap off the top, and Stone getting the title retaining win after a head-and-arms suplex.

On to episode two, with another match from an FWA show, with Spud against Jack Storm. Now this one was a whole lot better than the previous FWA match, between two guys who know each other so well and who wrestled with great intensity, putting on a great match. As the match was fought under FWA rules, Storm was denied the winning pin after the illegal pile driver, and after some more great action, Spud eventually got the win after a bulldog from the top rope. Another example of how Spud is one of the best in Britain at the moment.

From WZW, at the FWA Unsigned show, we saw Dominion against Spitfire. A bout that started off slowly saw some good use of holds, although the psychology was a bit questionable at times, especially when Spitfire suddenly broke off a hammerlock to try a high-risk move off the ropes. The victory came when Domino connected with a variation of the Ace Crusher.

Again at FWA Unsigned, Morat Bosparos challenged Stixx for the FWA Academy title. This was one of those matches that promised much but in the end didn’t really deliver. There were times when Bosparos’ offence looked sloppy, although there were other times when it looked great. Stixx here showed just why he was promoted to the main roster a short time later with some great action. The bout ended with both men brawling on the outside and getting counted out.

Episode three began in WAW, with the Zebra Kid defending the British title against Paul Tyrell. Having been at ringside for this match, all I can say is that I was very disappointed with the way this was presented on television. The WAW championship match rules were never explained, a couple of rounds were edited out, which spoiled the flow of the match, and the outcome wasn’t properly explained either, with both men getting counted out while brawling on the outside. If you want to see this match how it should be seen, get a copy of One Night in Yarmouth on DVD.

With my tape missing a couple of matches because the guy I borrowed it from already has IWP’s The Gathering on DVD, it’s on to episode four, and back to FWA Unsigned as AIWF-GB’s Dirk Feelgood and Johnny Phere go up against each other. Phere had impressed me a great deal during his stint with WAW in the summer of 2004, and both men impressed me in this one, an enjoyable match with Feelgood getting the win with an Ace Crusher from the top rope.

We then move on to an FWA show at the Morecombe Dome, as Spud makes another appearance against Cameron Knite. Knite had impressed me a great deal the last time I saw him in FCW, and he impressed me again here. There were no face/heel divisions here, just two guys pulling out all the stops to put on a great match, with Spud getting the win, leaping halfway across the ring from the top rope to land on Knite.

With another couple of matches missing (again from IWP’s The Gathering), we moved on to an FWA Academy match, with Max Voltage taking on Eamon Shrahan. The two academy graduates worked extremely well together, despite the difference in their wrestling styles, Shrahan’s traditional wrestling against Voltage’s high-spot based game, with Voltage getting the win after a 450 splash off the top rope.

On to the next episode, with Charlie Rage facing Darren Burridge at FWA Unsigned. Normally when I’ve seen these two against each other Rage as worked as the heel, with Burridge as the face, but it was the other way around in this one, and although the ideologies were changed here, they still put on a good match, with Da Pukka One winning after his unique variation of the hip toss.

Back at the FWA’s Morecombe Dome show, Leroy Kincaide made his second appearance of the series against Ross Jordan, a match of speed against power. Although Jordan put in a few comebacks, Kincaide dominated with his superior power, and after a hard fought encounter, he got the pin after his spinal tap finisher.

Then it’s on to the final match of the series, the match that earned a great deal of praise, and was definitely the best in the series as Premier Promotions made their only contribution as Colt Cabana wrestled Johnny Kidd in a traditional British rules match, best of three falls, fought over six rounds. So what can I say about this match that hasn’t been said before? It’s an award-winning technical classic, a great example of the Premier Promotions product, with both Kidd and Cabana putting in a great effort, and the American visitor came from a fall behind to get the win with a roll-up.

So did UK Round-Up achieve what it set out to do? If it set out to provide filler material after the FWA ran out of footage for their show, then judging by some of the comments of announcers Atkins and Charles, then the answer is yes.

But did it really promote the wider UK scene outside of the FWA? Sadly, the answer is no.

Although the majority of the matches were of a very good standard, exactly half of them were actually from FWA shows, wrestled and filmed under FWA conditions, and while it was good to see the likes of WZW’s Domino and AIWF-GB’s Johnny Phere, it would have been better to see them wrestle in their own environment, in front of their own crowds. Most of the time the fans at the FWA Unsigned show had no idea who they were watching, and it spoiled the overall atmosphere of these particular matches.

Production wise, apart from the cuts made in several of the matches, this can’t be faulted. The film quality was excellent. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the show’s front of house personnel.

There’s no denying the fact that Mo Chatra is a talented writer, one of the best in the business at the moment, and his knowledge of the Japanese wrestling scene is second to none. But Chatra’s performance as host of the show is a good example of how a good writer doesn’t necessarily make a good presenter. His delivery was very strained, almost wooden at times, and it was obvious that he only got the job because of his connections with both the FWA and The Wrestling Channel.

As for the commentators, John Atkins and Don Charles just didn’t get the job done. By the end of the series some of Charles’ sayings and mannerisms became extremely annoying, and the lack of research with regards to some of the wrestlers and their moves left a lot to be desired. It also looked highly unprofessional when, with regards to the matches from FWA Unsigned, we heard John Atkins the commentator while seeing John Atkins the ring announcer at the same time.

But the main problem with UK Round-Up may have been because it was the FWA and their production team in charge of the project, and not The Wrestling Channel themselves. No doubt they saved a bit of money by using some of their own footage from their Unsigned and Morecombe Dome shows, but it’s a shame that fifty percent of the material came from their own shows, and not from “outside” sources.

At the end of the sixth episode, the last words heard were Don Charles saying “see you next year”. There never was a second series of UK Round-Up, and it doesn’t look like there ever will be, which is a shame. With numerous British promotions now filming most of their shows for DVD release, there’s certainly plenty of footage available, but I doubt it any of this would be used for a second series. Given the problems that the first series faced, I really can’t see several British promoters working together in perfect harmony to get the sort of show the fans want to see back on TWC. One can but hope though.