by Ben Corrigan
In the face of potentially strong competition from local favourites Wigan Warriors at home in the Super League play-offs, England playing their opening match in the Rugby Union World Cup and Preston City Wrestling simultaneously running 20 miles away with a loaded line-up, eleven-year old Hindley establishment Grand Pro Wrestling defied the odds last Friday night and drew a packed crowd to their home at the Rose Club for Back to School. As usual here, this was a crowd that knew the wrestlers, knew the stories and (while a little slow to get into things in the first half) was eventually hot for what they were seeing, providing some great reactions.
It was a fun show, definitely one of GPW’s ‘set up’ shows rather than the ‘payoff’ (think an episode of Raw, rather than a PPV), but the second half in particular was very enjoyable indeed, with all three matches providing exactly what I was hoping for. The headlines in terms of storylines and notable developments were the advancing feud between Joey Hayes and the Dylan Roberts/Soner Durson/Danxig triumvirate, as well as a six-man tag team main event six-man tag that seemingly set up a host of heel challengers for lead face Bubblegum’s Heavyweight Title.
The conclusion of that thoroughly-entertaining headline bout saw Ricky J McKenzie score the pinfall on champion Bubblegum after hitting him in the head with the title belt (though it appeared he accidentally used the British title rather than the Heavyweight belt to commit the act). The show then came to an end with the victorious trio of GPW’s British Heavyweight champion T-Bone, the prior Heavyweight champion RJM and the most recent Heavyweight title challenger Craig Kollinz all stood over the fallen champion, arguing and posturing over which was going to beat Bubblegum for the belt. Whether this leads to a multi-way title match, a qualifier between the three baddies to earn a shot or simply a series of Bubblegum title defences is yet unclear, but what is certain is that the main event title scene has a clear direction and purpose to carry it through the end of the year.
The Hayes versus Roberts situation stems from the North West Rookie League, which this year was a series of tag matches pairing each ‘rookie’ with a mentor/’pro’. Long-time crowd favourite Joey was assigned newcomer Soner Durson, who subsequently turned on him to join forces with Dylan and his own rookie Danxig. The story supposes that Roberts, also now somewhat of a veteran of GPW, is jealous of the support and adoration the audience have for Joey while he himself is shunning and treated with disdain. ‘Back To School’ was supposed to feature the Hayes versus Durson grudge match, but it was announced early in the show that the bout was cancelled due to Hayes being injured. The cynic in me was quick to think it was to excuse his absence due to the head-to-head PCW show he was also booked on, but that wasn’t the case as he did appear a couple of segments later to reschedule his match with Durson for Friday Night Thriller next month, with an added stipulation that if he wins he gets the bout with Roberts that he’s been after. They didn’t say if that would be on the same show or on the last show of the year (which I think might have been put back a week from the original date, now on the first Friday of December, otherwise it clashes with PCW’s ROH Supershow). There are unofficial rumours of Dylan stepping away from wrestling at the end of the year, which could presumably be what his feud with Joey is building to in storyline terms. It would be a shame if true, since month-after-month at the moment he’s undoubtedly producing the best work of his entire career. Joey did indeed compete for PCW later that night (though I’m not sure of the level of his involvement, and it was a comedy match with the GZRs), but it does appear to be a legitimate injury as he also missed his scheduled FutureShock tag match on Sunday. Roberts and Danxig later won the final match in the North West Rookie League, crowning Danxig as the overall tournament victor.
Also of note was the first battle of the former Island Brothers, Tabu and Rio, which was an impressive story-driven match that sets up things to come in an intriguing way.
The unwritten theme of the entire show had been in moving the newer, less-established names forward from having entertaining matches on the undercard to the point they can be accepted as attractions you want to see in their own right. While GPW is built on a solid foundation of talented established headliners like Ligero, Bubblegum, Kirby, Hayes, T-Bone, Banks, Gallagher, Gibson, Smith, Cyanide, Leigh and Rayne, they’ve all wrestled and feuded with each other to the point you need fresh names, fresh matches and fresh scenarios to keep things interesting.
Again, they were filming the show with multiple cameras and recording live commentary, but still no sign of any new DVDs or digital downloads for anything done in the last 12 months.
’Lone Wolf’ Nick Maguire beat El Ligero with the headlock driver/Dragon Driver/Original Dirty Deeds. So far this is a feud that has fizzled rather than boiled. Trying to put intensity into the situation, Ligero jump-started match with a JOHN WOO shotgun dropkick then was all over Maguire. A minute or so in, staff remembered to turn the house lights out, but hadn’t switched the ‘spotlights’ above the ring on, so the room was plunged into murky darkness for a couple of minutes as Ligero and Maguire just kept on fighting. That distraction killed the audience and thus destroyed that early momentum and intensity. From that point, the match wasn’t bad, but just lacked any spark. Ligero was distracted trying to retrieve his stolen cape and walked straight into a nutshot on middle rope to set up the finish. Maguire nicked the cape again afterwards.
Alex Jones-Casey beat ‘Magnificent’ Matt Brooks and Jumpin’ Jimmy Jackson in a 3-way, pinning Jackson after a curbstomb. This was billed as determining the runner-up in the North West Rookie League, though I have no idea how that works out. AJC was looking for a microphone to do his usual student protest piece, which couldn’t be found anywhere, to the point people were thinking it was a fuck-up, only for Matt Brooks to emerge using it during his own entrance opera-singing entrance. That was funny. Jackson, former Jim Nastic, lived up to his old ring name by doing a backflip on stage and walking on his hands during his entrance. He’s got great aerials and athletic ability but at the moment just needs to work out how to tie it all together in the ring. Basic 3-way psychology where the two heels teamed-up on Jackson for most of the match, only to disagree and start fighting over the win at the end. Alex The Student’s mates the Bad Lads (Micky Barnes & Drill) appeared at ringside for the distraction that led to the finish.
This was where they announced the Joey Hayes injury and cancellation of his Soner Durson contest.
Martin Kirby’s Ridiculous Trousers (with Sheikh Mohammed Rizzy Khan and The bodyguard) beat Chief Wahoo Thunderfoot after the bodyguard attacked Thunderfoot. Kirby was supposed to be facing Chris Ridgeway, but the Sheikh announced he wasn’t there (no idea why – I think he did give a reason, but the sound system was so bad I didn’t make it out) and brought out occasional character Chief Wahoo Thunderfoot instead. A very basic Kirby showcase, with all his usual entertaining baddy staples like the Zoidberg Elbow, “SHUT UP KID” etc. This was the debut of his new Sheikh-sponsored look for Kirby, who with his bald head, bare feet and new trousers actually resembles a Hare Krishna.
Dylan Roberts, Soner Durson and Danxig all came out at end of match to slap Wahoo around and call Joey Hayes a coward for backing out of their match. Joey emerged, proving he was actually there, but was held back by referees. This was the angle described earlier. Another note on Roberts is just how convincing he is on promos now. I distinctly remember a few years back a babyface Roberts being absolutely shown up on the mic by Jack Gallagher, and Roberts just standing there dumbstruck like a scolded schoolboy out of his depth. It completely killed any credibility Dylan had as a good guy for the rest of that run. Now, he’s intense, assured, confident, convincing and pretty damn scary.
The interval was next, with GPW Tag Team Champions the Midnight Bin Collection coming out for in-ring photos, which proved popular.
The second half started with Midnight Bin Collection coming back out once again draw the raffle.
Dylan Roberts & Danxig (w/ Alan Alan Alan Tasker) beat The Circus (‘The Ringmaster’ Nicholas Cartier & Noah w/Melanie Price). As a result, Danxig is the winner of the 2015 North West Rookie League. Mel was walking around saying “Yay, I’m good now”. I’d previously written, and I quote, “Danxig isn’t great”, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t look decent here. I’m not convinced by his look, but everything else he did here was spot on and he looked a prospect. Finish came when Mel was knocked off the apron into Tasker’s arms, and he ran off with her to the back, effectively kidnapping her. Cartier went after him, leaving Noah prey to a double-team strike sequence from Roberts and Danxig for the win. This match was so, so much fun, with very good performances from all involved. The heels had the heat on Cartier for an eternity, which had the effect of drawing everyone in in a big way, desperate for Noah’s eventual crazy hot tag. A group of kids of the front row was getting very agitated at Roberts and he was doing his best to antagonise them to the point they were throwing stuff at him, and he spat on the floor towards them. This caused some pissed-up woman sat up near the bar to go MENTAL at Roberts, rushing to the barrier to launch a foul-mouthed tirade of abuse at him. She stuck her hand right in his face and he pushed it away, which caused her to start shouting “ASSAULT! THAT’S ASSAULT! I’M GOING TO REPORT YOU!”. You couldn’t make it up. This seemed to amuse Roberts even more, who was winding her up the entire time he was walking to the back.
Tabu beat Rio (w/Simon R Valour) with a wheelbarrow face-plant. Story here was that these two had dominated GPW’s tag division for years as the Island Brothers under the guidance of Valour. In 2015, Tabu wrestled in singles and started falling out with their oppressive manager, eventually decking him last month. This was what brought Rio, absent for all of 2015 to that point, back to defend his manager, as the Brothers imploded. Great storytelling in this one, and aside from a dodgy patch when they started going through their finish, the work was really good too. These guys are both talented, but Tabu in particular has something and could potentially be special, potentially even with a different gimmick (and I do wonder if this storyline at the moment will lead to him becoming ‘civilised’). Rio kept refusing Valour’s attempts to interfere on his behalf, wanting a fair fight with his brother. The crowd quiet to begin with, but the match won people over and by the time they were going for the nearfalls the audience was hot for the action. Afterwards, Tabu offered Rio a handshake and Rio was on the verge of accepting before Simon interjected, then Rio reluctantly joined the beatdown of his brother.
T-Bone & Ricky J McKenzie & Craig Kollins beat Bubblegum & Midnight Bin Collection (BINMAN & Jett Fashion w/Chrissy From New York). A very strong main event, again lots of fun. The villains isolated and worked over Jett forever, before BINMAN could even tag into the match, dominating and whipping up a storm. BINMAN’s eventual fight back included hiptossing his own tag partner over the top rope onto the assembled devious collective below.
The next show is ‘Friday Night Thriller’ on 23 October. As we continue to build towards the traditional big year-end season-ender, I can’t see any reason why I won’t be there…