A review of Rock N Wrestle at the Ironworks on the 25th of October, 2013.
Growing up back in the 70s you had two TV choices on a Saturday afternoon; it was either the second half of a rugby league match on Grandstand with Eddie Waring enthusing about ‘up and unders’, or ITV’s World of Sport and Kent Walton and his trademark welcome of “Greetings, grapple fans” as he took us around the town halls and the big names of the time such as Mick McManus, Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki.
In those halcyon days these were characters and household names. At its peak it attracted as many as 12 million viewers and had fans from across the spectrum ranging from the Queen to Frank Sinatra. However, in 1988 Greg Dyke called time on it, and British wrestling was no longer on our screens. The football scores coming through on the teleprinter never seemed the same after that with no wrestling to precede it.
It was with a mix of nostalgia and trepidation that I made my way down to the Ironworks for Rock ‘n’ Wrestle by Premier British Wrestling. The American brand of wrestling which gained in popularity in recent years was big, brash and all about the razzamatazz. It just wasn’t British and wasn’t what I wanted to see. The coupling tonight with some rock music made for an interesting mix, with two bands billed; The Groove Bones and Toby Michaels Rolling Damned. As it turned out the music was there to supplement the entertainment and at times it linked in with great effect.
First up was a three way match between Saqib Ali, Steve Xavier and Kenny Williams. With bouts decided by a single submission there was no place for errors and Kenny Williams proved worthy winner in some fast flowing action. This may not have been a format that I knew, usually it was two in the ring or tag team, but it set the scene for the night and began to buoy the crowd.
Next to enter the ring were the girls. Firstly, Carmel who was snarling and making no friends at all dishing out verbals to the audience. Kay Lee Ray used Carmel’s negativity to get the crowd on board with her as she entered and took the fight to Carmel.
In a bout which swung one way then the other, Kay Lee finally succumbed to an unpopular winner in Carmel.
The wrestling, which was taking place in a ring in the centre of the hall, took a short breather as we turned to the main stage for a couple of songs from Toby Michaels’ Rolling Damned. Energy levels didn’t drop from those witnessed in the ring. Toby has been known to destroy his body for his music and tonight was no exception as he crawled about the stage putting everything into ‘Hound Dog’, but this was nothing compared to what we were to witness later.
Final act before the interval was a heavyweight clash between Jack Jester and Davey Blaze. Jack Jester riled the audience,in particular putting the frighteners on young one lad, as he made his way to stage armed with what appeared to be a large corkscrew. But for every pantomime villain there is the good guy, and he took the shape of Davey Blaze.
It was a bout that had as much action out of the ring as it did inside with the referee struggling to keep control as first it spread across one of the tables it then ended up in front of the bar. It was also a bout that involved much tormenting, mainly between the younger fans and Jack Jester, but good won through even if Jack Jester did try some underhand tactics. Jack, though, was not finished there.
No doubt upset at losing he then vented his anger on band front man, Toby Michaels, claiming favouritism with him only getting recorded and not live music as he entered the arena. A fired up Toby Michaels took exception to this and leapt off the stage to confront Jack Jester from the safety of outside the ring.
However, egged on by a crowd angry with Jack’s antics Toby sprung into action only to be repelled by Jack as he failed to enter the ring and ended sprawling across the floor. Jack leapt out and showed Toby why you should really not mess with a wrestler. Toby was a sorry state by the time PBW staff stepped in to rescue him.
With that we caught our breath and headed into the interval before returning to a rock number from The Groove Bones as they heralded the final two bouts of the night.
The penultimate match up was between man-mountain T J Rage who arrived Bane like menacingly into the ring accompanied by his mouthy manager, Charles Boddington.
To counter this you would expect someone just as fearsome, but instead we were greeted to the entrance music of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ and the carefree and somewhat camp Grado. He looked like a lamb, albeit a chubby one, to the slaughter.
In the bout which provided the most humour, and in many ways a throwback to those days of yesteryear, the level of banter between the crowd, and by that I mean the primary school aged kids who were in their element, and the participants reached new levels.
Grado appeared to be a up against it from the beginning as he often had to fend of Charles Boddington who would be joining in on the blindside of the referee as T J Rage was getting constant ticking offs by the referee. With the odds stacked against him, Grado saw through to what was at the start an unlikely victory.
The fifth and final match was another three way bout for the PBW heavyweight championship with ‘Bad Boy’ Liam Thomson defending his belt against B T Gunn and Davey Richards. Of all the match-ups this was probably the most slick as each participant had the upper hand at one stage or another and a three count came so very close on many occasions. However, when all seemed lost, ‘Bad Boy’ Liam Thomson pulled out the stops and retained his title much to the displeasure of the crowd.
So with that the crowd filtered out as a further show was announced for the 21st of March next year. I’m sure most will be back, especially those excited kids (and a few grown ups) who left clutching their merchandise and autographs. The world may have moved on from the days that wrestling graced our TVs but the the same pantomime surrounds the matches maybe with the exception of the front row grannies who always felt the need to hit the bad guys with their handbags. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it was two hours of fun, and no little skill, which Toby Michaels will no doubt testify to this morning.
So in the words of the late, great Kent Walton ‘Have a good week …til next week’.
Update: We are pleased to announce that Toby Michaels is recovering well from his ordeal and this morning (Saturday) as seen by his band’s tweets;
— Toby Michaels (@thetobymichaels) October 26, 2013
Whilst a lucky escape Toby, retains his sense of humour.
— TMRD (@RollingDamned) October 26, 2013