Preston City Wrestling – along with London’s PROGRESS and Glasgow’s Insane Championship Wrestling – is undeniably one of the “Big Three” promotions in the UK. They draw sell-out crowds over the course of a weekend to Evoque nightclub, and do a roaring trade on DVD and merchandise sales, which is what they depend on to bring in a sizable percentage of their income; and in turn allowing them to put on arguably the most star-studded shows on these shores.
Their annual Road to Glory tournament, which determines the number one contender for the Heavyweight Title at their big August anniversary show, is one of the jewels in the PCW crown, and draws a wide range of international and home-grown talent.
This year was no different; with the likes of Alberto (Del Rio) El Patron, Matt Hardy, John Morrison, Christopher Daniels, PJ Black (Justin Gabriel), Chris Masters, Uhaa Nation and Eugene all scheduled to appear over the course of the weekend. Unfortunately, respective injury and passport problems meant El Patron and Black were unable to appear, so Ricardo Rodriguez and Carlito were drafted in as last minute replacements.
“Card subject to change”, and all that.
Show One on Friday 13th March kicked off with PCW mainstay and huge fan favourite, El Ligero taking on Ricardo Rodriguez in an all “Mexican” affair, although funnily enough, Ligero didn’t seem to understand Ricardo’s pre-match Spanish. This was a fun opening match, with Ricardo working in some of his absent mentor’s signature moves, before El Ligero got the win with a big tornado-DDT to advance to the quarter-finals of the tournament.
Next up was two of the UK’s premier heavyweights: Dave Mastiff and Sha Samuels. Mastiff has to be one of the best “big men” working in the business today. His hard-hitting, powerful style is complimented by surprising quickness and agility for a man of his size. Samuels on the other hand, is an amazing character-heel, who is both supremely hateable and incredibly funny. This match disappointingly went to a double-count out pretty early on; a real shame for one of the most exciting sounding matches on the card. Both men brawled all around the ringside area, ignoring the ten count, but Samuels grabbed Mastiff’s legs from behind as he tried to get back into the ring on nine.
That double-elimination meant that Cruiserweight Champion, Bubblegum’s win over Ashton Smith in the next match gave him a bye into the semi-finals. This was an exciting back-and-forth match, with Bubblegum up to all of his nefarious antics and drawing a tremendous amount of heat from the crowd. Eventually after a ref bump, a low blow and his Pedigree finisher, Bubblegum picked up the win. Smith was very impressive in defeat, and hopefully he is featured prominently going forward.
Next up was non-tournament action… A game of musical chairs, organised by Eugene.
Charlie Garrett, Noam Dar, Dave Rayne, Viper and ring announcer/interviewer Richard Parker all joined Eugene in competing for the prestigious win. Dar didn’t seem too impressed and eliminated himself at the start, before Garrett and Parker lost out. Dave Rayne then pulled away a chair from Eugene to eliminate him, before Viper shoved over Rayne for the big victory. Eugene then Stunnered Dave Rayne for his cheating ways, before escorting Viper to the back. Good, quick, little comedy segment, before the first half main event.
One half of the PCW Tag Team Champions, Rampage Brown took on a tag team legend, Matt Hardy in that last match before the interval, and it was another really good, back-and-forth contest. Hardy battled through all of Rampage’s power-moves and got a win with the Twist of Fate. Rampage – unsurprisingly to anyone who’s familiar with his work – looked as if he belonged in the ring with the likes of Hardy, and despite the relatively straight-forward loss, due to the match being in the middle of the card, Brown showed why he is so highly regarded on these shores.
After the break, Rampage Brown’s partner, T-Bone took on Carlito and immediately got an apple spat in his face. T-Bone was able to survive the veteran’s offence and eventually out-power him for the win, and advance in the tournament. It was another decent match, which was enjoyable enough due to the novelty of seeing Carlito, as well as his entertaining mannerisms and reactions.
Next up was a quite unbelievable high-flying spectacle, as John Morrison took on Will Ospreay. This match was simply incredible, with both men flipping and diving all over the ring (and out of it), including Ospreay hitting a Space Flying Tiger Drop onto Morrison and the first couple of rows of the crowd. Morrison eventually got the win after hitting Starship Pain on the third attempt. This match prompted PCW commentator, Greg Lambert to tweet that it was the best he’d ever seen in the promotion; which is high praise indeed, considering Finn Balor and Kevin Owens’ classics with Kris Travis.
That match was followed by another clinic, with Martin Kirby going up against Christopher Daniels. These two put on a suitably outstanding follow-up to Morrison and Ospreay’s match of the night, with myriad reversals and crisp chain-wrestling. Kirby picked up the win after Daniels hesitated on going for the Best Moonsault Ever and was pulled down into a Fameasser for the three count.
The main event of Show One was the return of Lionheart. While defending the PCW Championship in the Saturday night main event of last year’s Road to Glory weekend, Lionheart received a broken neck while taking the Styles Clash from AJ Styles and has been out of action ever since. This was his first match back in any promotion, and there was real emotion coursing throughout the venue, as many of the same fans (and Lionheart’s elderly parents) who witnessed the sickening injury where there in attendance for his return.
It was a solid, if unspectacular main event, with Lionheart defeating established antagonist, Joey Hayes with a Torture Rack-Cutter, to end the night on an upbeat note.
The Saturday afternoon show kicked off with a couple of fun matches featuring all-fan favourites: with Matt Hardy beating El Ligero with his Twist of Fate in a tournament match and Carlito besting young Charlie Garrett with a Back-Cracker in non-tournament action. Both these matches featured entertaining bits of comedy and really good crowd interaction, especially from the ex-WWE guys.
Chris Masters made his first appearance of the weekend, coming out to face his former tag team partner, Dave Rayne. Poor Dave was brutalised by The Masterpiece, tapping to the Master Lock, as Masters prepared for his Loser Leaves PCW match for the Heavyweight Title in the evening show.
PCW Champion, Uhaa Nation was in action next, and he also went into the evening show with momentum: defeating Joey Hayes with the Uhaa Combination, in another non-tournament match. Uhaa is an incredible talent, and his popularity with the Preston crowd has to be witnessed in person to do it justice. Hayes is an equally unpopular heel, so this match was a lot of fun; the fans were really into it from start to finish.
After the interval there was an eight-man tag team match; with Christopher Daniels, Sha Samuels, Bubblegum and Rampage Brown, taking on Eugene, Noam Dar, Dave Mastiff and Will Ospreay. Another fun match; with comedy spots involving Eugene, and Bubblegum desperately trying to stay out of the match, with his semi-final match coming up in the evening. Sha Samuels picked up the win, by throwing a suspicious-looking white substance into the eyes of Eugene and rolling him up for the win.
The remaining two quarter-finals in the Road to Glory tournament rounded off the show. First, T-Bone was able to sneak past John Morrison, following some chicanery and the help of his feet being up on the ropes for leverage. Morrison still exudes star quality, and anyone who’s seen him in Lucha Underground will know that WWE should be ashamed of how they squandered his considerable talents.
In the main event, Lionheart outlasted an injured Martin Kirby to progress to the semi-finals. Kirby seemed unsure of whether to attack Lionheart’s head and neck, only to receive an angry response from the Scot. Kirby went for a scary-looking Suicide Dive to the outside, which Lionheart sidestepped, leaving Kirby to crash and burn through the chairs at ringside; in a really ugly looking bump. Lionheart took advantage of the hurt Kirby, hitting his signature Rock Bottom and Frog Splash finishers on the way to the win.
The climactic Saturday night show kicked off with one of PCW’s signature six-way matches. Martin Kirby outlasted Christopher Daniels, Will Ospreay, Dean Allmark, Charlie Garrett and Joey Hayes in a crazy spot-fest, with lots of multi-man moves and insane dives and flips to the outside. This was a really fun way to start the last show of the weekend; with Kirby hitting his Fameasser on Allmark for the win.
Lionheart then beat T-Bone in the first tournament semi-final. T-Bone sadistically targeted Lionheart’s neck throughout the contest and dished out a brutal-looking beating. However, Lionheart was able to survive and despite T-Bone kicking out of his big moves, he managed to roll up the big man and advance to the final.
T-Bone’s Team Single stable-mate, Bubblegum was able to shock Matt Hardy in the second semi-final: using every dirty tactic in the book, before hitting an impressive-looking Inverted-Hurricanrana and hooking both legs for the three. Bubblegum’s mega-heel act was the perfect foil to Hardy’s beloved fan reactions, and there was genuine shock in the room when Bubblegum advanced.
With Fight Club’s scheduled opponents, The Hooligans unable to appear due to an injury, the Scottish tag team were then joined by Sha Samuels and Rampage Brown for an eight-man tag team match against Eugene, Carlito, El Ligero and Dave Mastiff. There was plenty of comedy spots in this match, with the heels constantly being freaked out by Eugene’s strange antics. In a call-back to the afternoon show; Samuels tried to use his powder on Eugene again, only to have it knocked back into his own eyes, and Carlito was able to hit the Back-Cracker for the win.
The second half started with the Loser Leaves PCW Match for the Heavyweight Title. Chris Masters and Uhaa Nation are both extremely respected, hated and loved respectively by the PCW fans, and the atmosphere was suitably electric. With Masters unable to put Uhaa away, he picked up a steel-chair. Ring announcer, Joanna Rose immediately announced that the new General Manager had made the match a No-Disqualification Match. Masters attacked Uhaa with the chair, but Uhaa was able to kick out. This prompted Rampage Brown and T-Bone to run down and begin a three-on-one beat-down, which eventually proved too much for Uhaa to fight off. Masters regained the PCW Championship and the NXT-bound Uhaa Nation was “fired” from PCW.
After the match, Joanna Rose came into the ring and hugged Team Single and Masters, announcing that she is the new GM and that she had turned on her friend, Uhaa because he wasn’t willing to give her any “benefits” with their friendship. She went on to say that her new friends would provide her with said “benefits”, so she set-up Uhaa to lose his job. Meanwhile, Uhaa was being helped to the back by the referees and security; ousted as champion and from PCW.
Heel authority figures are over-done in wrestling these days, but Joanna is certainly talented enough on the microphone to justify her bigger role within the company. A female character going “bunny boiler” after being rejected by a man is a very Attitude Era type of plot development, and one that would be better staying there. However, there was lot of anger and shock from the crowd, and the angle certainly got the intended fan reactions.
The crowd were brought back up again, as Noam Dar took on John Morrison in a rematch from December 2012. Dar had said earlier in the day that, that win over Morrison was the match that put him on the map and positioned him to triumph in the 2013 Road to Glory tournament. He intended to use this match to springboard back into prominence again, and said that the bad attitude he’d shown since his drop down the card was over. With that, he entered to his old “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” entrance music, ditching those heelish Arctic Monkeys. Morrison and Dar served up another barnstormer of a match, with Dar displaying lots of fire and battling qualities. Morrison escaped from Dar’s Champagne Super Knee-bar on multiple occasions, while Dar continually thwarted Morrison’s attempts to hit Starship Pain. After exchanging a series of kicks to the head and Dar kicking out of the Moonlight Drive, he eventually lost following a Springboard Roundhouse kick to the face, and Starship Pain. It was easily match of the day and up there with Morrison and Ospreay’s Friday night effort. Hopefully Dar’s showing will indeed move him back to the main event scene in PCW.
Next was a Women’s match between Toni Storm and Viper. Aussie, Storm showed a lot of personality as a smiley fan favourite and was a good foil for the mega-popular powerhouse Viper. Storm kept Viper on the ropes, but was eventually over-powered and soundly beaten. After the match, Viper said that she had loved her first official PCW match and wanted another one immediately, which brought out Joanna Rose and T-Bone. Viper was able to rock T-Bone for a brief spell, but eventually lost after a straight punch to the face and a Tombstone. The man-on-woman violence, along with T-Bone’s groping of Viper during the match seemed like another retrograde booking choice, but it will definitely be interesting to see Viper as one of the top rebelling heroes against Joanna Rose’s new heel stable, if that’s where the story’s heading.
The main event featured Lionheart’s attempt to end his injury -comeback triumphantly against Bubblegum in the Road to Glory tournament final. In line with the rest of the evening, Joanna Rose and her new henchmen came out on top and ruined Lionheart’s personal road to redemption. Despite Noam Dar, Dave Mastiff and Dave Rayne coming out to even the odds against Team Single and Masters on the outside and forcing them to the back, the beating Lionheart had taken from T-Bone earlier and then later during the final proved to be too much, as Bubblegum managed to hit his Pedigree for the clean win.
The show ended with Lionheart being helped to the back this time, as Bubblegum, Rampage, T-Bone and Masters posed on the four corners with their respective title belts and Rose stood in the centre of the ring holding aloft the tournament trophy. Bubblegum’s (eventual) clean wins over Hardy and Lionheart possibly points to a future face turn, as the smallest and most charismatic member of Team Single looks to use his new number one contender-ship and challenge for the Heavyweight title down the road.
Post-show, Uhaa Nation came out to thank the fans and praise them for all the songs and chants they have made for him during his run, which were immediately all sang back at him. It was a fitting send off for Uhaa, who will undoubtedly go onto bigger and better things in the NXT and the WWE.
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This was another sterling weekend of in-ring action, along with the massive crowd reactions and interactions, which makes PCW so unique and special. The Vince Russo style booking at the end of the final show should have been avoided, but is acceptable as long as it was nothing more than a device to move the various pieces into place heading into the summer and building to the Fourth Anniversary Show in August.
Preston City Wrestling are the undisputed kings of the multi-show weekenders, and the talent on display here once again showed just why they are. With PROGRESS venturing into doing back-to-back shows in May, and Insane Championship Wrestling looking as if they are going to become a full touring promotion, the re-birth of British wrestling looks like continuing for the foreseeable future. On the evidence of Road to Glory 2015, PCW will continue to be at the forefront of the revival.