LDN Wrestling Comes to Staines
On Saturday the 9th of July Britain’s largest touring wrestling promotion, LDN, came to Staines for the first time. A loaded card promised a night of extreme entertainment. All three of LDN’s singles champions, including Junior Heavyweight Champion Chris St Clair and Capital Champion Richard Parliament, as well as local favourite Billy “B-Rey” Reynolds, would be in action. Perhaps the biggest attraction of the night, though, certainly for this reviewer was the bout which would see British Heavyweight Champion (and former Marshall Law guest) Travis defend his coveted title against the legendary World of Sport star Johnny Kidd. Having never seen Kidd wrestle in person I was most eager to finally get the chance to do so. I was also eager to see how Travis would cope with the traditional British style, knowing that his training has included plenty of the fundamentals but having myself only seen him in American rules matches before.
LDN continues to grow in popularity as the success of this event shows. Queues were long and the demand for tickets was such that more chairs were being brought in and set up mere minutes before show time. The total crowd was around about 400, much bigger than the crowds at the promotion’s last shows in this area, which is a testament to the success of the promotion. Come 7:30 it was time for the first match, which saw former British Champion Yorghos taking on Chris St Clair. This was very much England versus Greece, as Yorghos showed no respect for the nation he once represented as champion, instead constantly harping on about his princely ancestry in Greece. The match itself was a good opener to the show and was a tale of the bigger and stronger Yorghos dominating his young opponent for much of the match, only for St Clair’s impressive determination and will power to keep forcing his way back into the match.
For those of you that have never attended a wrestling show live, I can only tell you that, once you do, your respect for the wrestlers will increase tenfold. Television does not do the impact of slams on the canvas justice. The noise will surprise you if you have not been there before. The bout spilled out of the ring on more than one occasion. Early on St Clair managed to throw Yorghos out onto the hard floor mere feet from me, following it up with a suicide dive that caught the Greek just as he was rising. The thud of the impact of flesh on floor was enough to make one wince in sympathy. Make no mistake about it, these men are tough. Inevitably, his inability to put the younger man away began to frustrate Yorghos and he began resorting to dodgy tactics. Finally, he secured the pinfall by resting his feet on the ropes to give himself an unfair advantage. Utterly shamelessly, he then gloated as if he’d just won the British Championship. I did not appreciate having his Greek flag dragged over my head either!
Next up was one of the most popular products of the LDN Academy, the Peckham Playboy himself, Hakan. He, however, was facing a stern test, taking on feared masked wrestler The Dark Lord, accompanied as always by his Manager. Yet to be pinned or forced to submit, The Dark Lord is a tough prospect for anybody but Hakan is hardly the sort to be intimidated. I expected this match to be a case of The Dark Lord trying to “ground and pound” the quick, high-flying Hakan but the match quickly took a different turn, spilling out of the ring and turning into an all-out brawl. The Dark Lord wasted no time at all in breaking rules, picking up the ring steps and slamming them into Hakan, who also had to deal with cheap shots from the Manager’s walking stick, chair shots and goodness knows what else! Realising that he was in a war, Hakan wisely fought fire with fire and made sure that The Dark Lord soon found out that weapons can just as easily be used against you.
This brutal affair did eventually return to the ring where, ultimately, it turned out to be the relentless assault of The Dark Lord that was most effective. The unfortunate Hakan was eventually caught in a sleeper (or rather, choke) hold and knocked out, putting another notch in The Dark Lord’s win column. The valiant Hakan eventually insisted on leaving the ring unassisted, the vicious red welt on his back a grisly testament to the punishment that he had just endured. Nevertheless, he wasn’t quite done with The Dark Lord, as we were to find out later on.
However, following that it was time for tag-team action, pitting Capital Champion Richard Parliament and his partner, William Gaylord (pronounced g’lord, apparently, although neither the audience nor ring announcer Mr Bagga were having any of that) against Joshua Jackson and local hero Billy Reynolds, better known as B-Rey. This match was tremendously entertaining, not least for the way that Parliament and Gaylord were losing their rags as the crowd taunted them. Indeed, Richard Parliament impresses me more every time I see him wrestle. His ability to rile up a crowd is second to none in the British business at this moment; the more so as he is utterly unbridled in his response, thereby egging them on to still greater catcalls and boos. His excellent gimmick is, of course, a major factor in this, as it provides him with a never-ending source of material, such as his claim at this show that he had hacked the phones of his opponents in order to get inside information on their strategy. Nevertheless, it is Parliament’s commitment to the gimmick and willingness to engage with the crowd that is making him a success, not the gimmick itself. Knowing that he was coming back after a recently fractured rib only increases my admiration. If you are a British wrestling fan and you haven’t seen this man yet, make sure that you do.
Another man that is improving is B-Rey. It’s about two years since I last saw him work and, while he was good then, he seems to have come on a bundle since. His style is more balanced now and he worked well as the good guy in this match. The match was a good example of tag team wrestling psychology. Once the villains got the upper hand they worked over Jackson in the ring while the crowd got more and more desperate to see B-Rey make the tag. Gaylord and Parliament kept Jackson isolated as long as possible, even distracting the referee so that we got the old favourite “ref didn’t see the tag” spot when Jackson finally managed to make it back to his corner. When B-Rey eventually did receive the hot tag the crowd went nuts and he cleaned house effectively until the bad guys again managed to get an unfair advantage. From there it was B-Rey’s turn to be the good guy in peril until the momentum turned and the hometown hero was able to get the pinfall, to the utter delight of the audience. That took us up to the interval, but Mr Bagga assured us that we would see all of those wrestlers again as our main event would be an over-the-top-rope Royal Rumble style Battle Royal.
After the interval and a much needed drink (Mr Bagga wasn’t the only person losing his voice that night!) I settled back in ready for the big British Championship match. This match was contested under traditional British Mountevans rules (named after Admiral Lord Mountevans), which differ somewhat from the rules of American pro wrestling. This would be a match consisting of 6 3-minute rounds, the winner to be determined by scoring two pinfalls, two submissions or a knockout. Each round ends after 3 minutes is up or as soon as a fall is scored. If the result is a draw at the end of the sixth round then the champion retains his title. Many of the younger fans would have been seeing this type of match, which used to be the norm when I was a kid, for the first time. It does lead to a very different type of match. First to come out was Travis, who emerged with his customary exuberance, high-fiving all and sundry, including yours truly (though I am sure he did not recognize me, being half-concussed when I interviewed him last year!) and seemingly the same crowd-pleasing individual he always has been.
Johnny Kidd entered the ring next, looking in terrific shape as always, even though it is now over thirty-three years since he made his debut. Both men received a terrific reception from the audience. As is usual in these matches, the first round was pretty low-key, each man feeling the other out and pacing themselves for all six rounds. A few of the younger members of the audience, unused to this style got a little frustrated at this point but of course, the action picked up in intensity in the second round. The wrestling skill of both men was a joy to behold as they worked through hold and counter-hold, seemingly evenly matched. However, in the second round Kidd trapped Travis in a pinning combination and secured the first fall. At that point, Travis snapped. What had been a fair and sportsmanlike contest suddenly became anything but as Travis resorted to any measures to hold on to his title.
Perhaps the younger man had been taking his legendary opponent lightly? Whatever the case, at this point he knew that he had a real struggle ahead if he was to hold onto his championship so, as far as he was concerned, it was anything goes. He was spitting water in Kidd’s face, using objects as weapons, blind-siding the veteran at the beginning of rounds, anything he could get away with in fact and, in the end, he was lucky not to be disqualified. Nevertheless, it worked, to an extent. Travis soon secured the equalising fall when he forced a submission out of Kidd and the bout was perfectly poised as they headed into the final round. It was impossible to call at this point but as the time ran down, it was the old stager Johnny Kidd that shocked the nation by securing his second pinfall and winning the British Heavyweight Championship for the first time in his illustrious career.
Travis, of course was desperately disappointed but that does not excuse his unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of the match. It is the tradition in British wrestling that a new champion has the belt placed around his waist by his defeated predecessor. Travis seemingly agreed to do this, only to take the opportunity to deliver another cheap shot to the new champion. Kidd then took the opportunity to tell Travis a few home truths about how his behaviour had degenerated over the last few months, the upshot of which was the news that Kidd will give Travis a rematch within the next thirty days. Keep up with the schedule on the LDN website to find out when this match will occur because I guarantee that it will be a cracker. Incidentally, for American fans, if you are anywhere near Reading, PA on the 30th of July, Johnny Kidd will be wrestling at Chikara’s upcoming Chikarasaurus Rex – King of Sequel event, taking on the equally legendary Johnny Saint.
Finally, it was time for the main event in which eight men would battle it out to be the last man standing in an over the top rope battle royal. It will surprise nobody to learn that the vast majority of the crowd were willing B-Rey on in this one and indeed, when we got down to the final three he was still there, battling it out with Hakan and The Dark Lord, whose battle went on as though their match had never ended. For B-Rey, it was not to be this time, however, as The Dark Lord first knocked Hakan over one rope and then threw B-Rey out at the other side of the ring. However, unbeknownst to the masked man, Hakan was clinging on to the top rope and lifting himself up – neither of his feet had touched the floor. As he skinned the cat, Shawn Michaels style, The Dark Lord realised his mistake and came charging in, only for Hakan to catch his head between his feet and rana him out of the ring, a la Rey Mysterio. The Dark Lord may not have been pinned yet but he was not the winner in this battle.
The issue between Hakan and The Dark Lord was clearly not over and one got the impression that they would fight all night if allowed. It was left to Mr Bagga to step in and solve this problem and he did so with a blockbuster announcement. LDN will return to Staines in January and when they do, Hakan and The Dark Lord will meet once more. This time, however, the loser will be fired from the company. What’s more, the match will be a Ladder Match! Again, keep an eye on the LDN website to make sure that you don’t miss out on this one. All in all, this was probably the best LDN show that I have attended yet. The fact that we got to see the British Championship itself change hands was simply the icing on the cake. As usual, the show took in a number of styles but for me there can be no doubt that the match of the night was Johnny Kidd’s victory over Travis.
If you would like to know more about the old days of British wrestling, then check out my earlier article Everything Stops At Four ‘O’Clock!