For the first time in just over a year, Great Bear Promotions returned to Sandbach Town Hall for the third incarnation of the Junior Heavyweight Cup. After Damien Dunne’s success in 2013, and Tyler Bate’s success last year in Middlewich, which man, or woman, would follow in their footsteps and claim tournament glory?
Both Bate and Dunne would have the chance to reclaim the tournament trophy, but each found challenging opponents in their way. But before the tournament got underway, the lively audience in Sandbach were treated to a pre-show match featuring up and coming Welshman Drew Parker, and Jet Fashion.
Since the first time I saw Parker last year at a BWP show in Prestatyn, the youngster has improved greatly, and could be one to watch in years to come if his rate of improvement continues. With Parker claiming the victory in a match where Fashion dominated proceedings, it was soon time to begin the 8 person Junior Heavyweight Tournament.
The reigning champion, Tyler Bate was up first, competing against one of the UK’s top all round performers in Dean Allmark. And as expected, this match was a prime example to anyone watching why British Wrestling is so highly rated at the moment.
With a 15 minute time limit in effect, both men told a story using traditional holds, and tried to outwit one another in what was a lively back and forth encounter. Allmark demonstrated why he is one of the best performers in Europe, and I believe that many a promotion in the UK would benefit from ‘Xtreme’ Dean working on their shows on a regular basis.
But in the form of Bate, Allmark came up against an opponent who was desperate to retain his trophy, and with mere minutes remaining, it was the youngster who won via pinfall. After the match, it was great to see Allmark show his respect for his opponent, and raised his hand in front of an appreciative crowd.
The second qualifying match of the night saw the 2013 Champion Damien Dunne take on ‘The Priority’ Chris Ridgeway. Ridgeway is a man I’ve seen a lot of good things written about, and from the matches I’ve seen online, is one of the top young performers in the North of England.
Dunne on the other hand, is a man whose reputation has increased over the past twelve months, and it is clear to see that he has worked hard on his craft, with bookings for PCW and Southside prime rewards.
Although not quite up to the high standards of the previous match, Ridgeway and Dunne still put on a match that would keep the British Wrestling purists happy. Both men were given the opportunity to demonstrate mat skills that they may not necessarily bring out at other promotions. Despite the best efforts of the man from Barrow-In-Furness, Dunne demonstrated why he is a former Junior Heavyweight Cup tournament winner by getting the victory, but only after a sneaky low blow when referee Des Robinson wasn’t looking.
Our third qualifier saw Great Bear regular Chris Brookes, take on the eccentric Aussie Toni Storm. Storm, who has been on a long tour of the UK, showed that she was more than capable holding her own against male competitors, and in my honest opinion, it was only a lack of stamina that hampered her in this match.
In a match that continued the high standard of the previous matches, Brookes and Storm focused more on the storytelling side of Wrestling, with the Aussie relying on her craziness to try and distract her male opponent. But Brookes hasn’t challenged for the Great Bear Grand Championship in the past for no reason, and demonstrated those qualities by making Storm submit, and to ensure his progress to the final of the tournament.
The final qualifier of the night was also, without a shadow of a doubt, the match of the night. Two of the UK’s top performers went one on one as Martin Kirby took on ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll. You don’t need me to tell you how good these guys are, and the only downside of their match was that it was subject to a 15 minute time limit, as were the previous 3 qualifiers. But in the space of those 15 minutes, both men put on an absolute clinic on storytelling, ring awareness, crowd interaction (which sometimes saw younger members of the audience cross the line) and demonstrated why British Wrestling has the reputation it now has.
After working their way through the venue, and only 30 seconds remaining, both men went all out for the victory. However, with 1 second remaining, Kirby managed to roll Scurll up and get the 3 count to progress to the tournament finals.
After a short interval, the show returned with its second inter-gender match of the night as Senor Santos Sr. took on the ever impressive Nixon Newell. Newell is by far one of the most improved performers of either gender in the UK at the moment, and has clearly benefitted working against male competitors for companies such as ATTACK! And Fight Club: Pro.
On this night against her larger opponent, it appeared as though Newell would be outmuscled, as Santos took all of the early initiative. But as the match wore on, Nixon found herself getting back in the match, and ultimately gained the pinfall, and with it, a well deserved victory.
It was then time for the main event of the evening, as the four qualifying match winners met in an elimination match to crown the 2015 Junior Heavyweight Cup Winner.
All four men initially aimed to figure each other out, before the match descended into a brawl, with each man trying to gain any advantage they could. Pushing each other to their limits, Tyler Bate would see the defense of his trophy come to a crashing end, as he and Chris Brookes were eliminated in quick succession.
It was soon Kirby and 2013 Champion Damian Dunne. And as the fresher man, Dunne took the early advantage, taking the fight to the man from North Yorkshire. But Dunne came unstuck late on.
Attempting the same low blow that worked so effectively against Ridgeway earlier in the night. Although he landed the blow, he missed with the running knee, which allowed Kirby to hit the Famous-er, and become the 2015 Junior Heavyweight Cup winner to send the crowd into rapturous applause.
All in all, this was one of the best shows I have seen Great Bear put on in their history. Tyler Bate without a shadow of a doubt has all of the attributes to make huge waves in this business, and can only benefit working with future legends such as Dean Allmark in future. Allmark, as always, didn’t disappoint, and is someone who in my eyes is one of the top performers in the UK, with very few weaknesses.
Damian Dunne continues to improve, and his work has transformed greatly in the past 18 months. His work has been rewarded with spots on shows outside of his West Midlands base, and if he continues to improve at this rate, he will be a regular throughout the UK in no time.
Chris Ridgeway is someone who I’d like to see more of, and if his work for Paid Promotions is anything to go by, he’ll be someone seen on the cards of promotions throughout the world in the years to come.
Chris Brookes is another, who like Dunne, continues to improve, but may need to add even more to his repertoire if he is to progress to the upper echelons of the UK Scene.
Toni Storm has impressed me greatly over the 2 times I have seen her this year, and despite her potentially lacking a little stamina, has one hell of a gimmick and could follow her countrywoman Emma to the United States if she can keep up her work ethic and performance level.
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