Last of the Summer Graps

I’m back to blogging after a relaxing summer break - well, I say relaxing, but parts of it were kind of gruelling. As anyone who has put up with my incessant social media posts on the subject will know, I spent three days at the end of August walking coast-to-coast 90 miles along the route of Hadrian’s Wall, the ancient Roman barrier between England and Scotland. It was the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever completed, but my friend Dan and I survived our blisters and seized-up joints to make it to the finish line, albeit barely! Including offline donations we have now raised over £3600 for CALM - a charity that works to combat the epidemic of male suicide in the UK - and I want to say a special thank you to all of the fans and colleagues who donated. You helped us get more than three times our original target, and it really meant a huge amount to me. If anyone still wants to donate, it’s not too late! Our fundraising page is at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/coast2coast4calm!

Anyway, although it’s now kind of old news, I haven’t posted here since it was announced that Defiant Wrestling is permanently shutting its doors so I thought I should provide a few thoughts about that. Although I’m obviously very sad that it has ended, the news has given everyone involved a chance to take stock and to reflect on what an unbelievable ride it was. I will never forget the thrill of being a part of WCPW (as it was originally called) during its meteoric rise in the second half of 2016 when it was arguably the hottest thing in independent wrestling, its 64-man Pro Wrestling World Cup tournament in 2017 that allowed me to have a front row seat and provide a soundtrack for some of the greatest matches I’ve ever witnessed, and the chance to work with some of the people in our industry who I most admire. Most importantly of all, I built friendships there that will last a lifetime and gained experience that has made me much better at what I do: there is nothing quite like calling a live pay-per-view for a global online audience to make you hone your skills as a commentator, and being able to learn from the likes of Jim Ross, Jim Cornette, Matt Striker, Stu Bennett and others was beyond invaluable. I also learned a lot from both of my regular co-commentators, Alex Shane and James R. Kennedy: at the risk of inflating either of their egos, they are both consummate professionals who helped bring out the best in me. With apologies for the cliché, WCPW/Defiant really did feel like one big, weird, dysfunctional family and I will forever be grateful to have been a member of that family.

Fortunately I haven’t had much time to sit around feeling sad about the end of that particular journey as I’ve had lots going on elsewhere. Just over a week ago I was back in Berlin to commentate on GWF’s fourth annual 30-man over-the-top-rope Battlefield match, which (spoiler alert) was won by AEW star Angelico, who it's always an absolute pleasure to see live. He now goes on to challenge John Klinger at Legacy in November - the biggest show on the GWF calendar which this year has been extended to two nights (get tickets here). Klinger himself had a fantastic title defence against Speedball Mike Bailey on the same show - a clash of two very different athletes which made for a thoroughly absorbing championship match. You would be a fool to miss it, so do yourself a favour and check out the whole show now at wearegwf.com! The Battlefield match wasn’t the only match of its type that I’ve called recently: HCW’s own 25-man rumble was two weeks earlier (see it here), and was another showcase of the incredible conveyor belt of young talent that is being produced in Budapest. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Hungary really is one of the untapped resources for up-and-coming wrestling talent: to name but three, check out Justin Wylde, Peter Tihanyi and Boldo Brown - all still under 20 years old and all with the world at their feet if they keep working hard. Also on this same show, be sure to watch the classic David v Goliath situation that was Icarus’s HCW title shot against the monstrous Renato Makai, and the tag title match between the Budapest Bastards (Renegade and Nitro) and Cro-Wrestling (Kris Jokic and Deno Babic) - all highly entertaining stuff!

Next up for me is a trip to Nottingham on October 5th for a big double bill: Frontline Wrestling in the afternoon, followed by a history-making evening in which Wrestle Gate Pro will crown its inaugural champion - either Rampage Brown or Lucas Steel will get that honour, and I shudder to think what those two will do to each other in their efforts to secure victory. The quarter-finals of a tournament to crown the first ever Open Gate champion will be held that night too, and much more besides - plus the guys from WrestleTalk will be hosting a live edition of their Wrestle Ramble show in between the Frontline and Wrestle Gate Pro shows. So it’s a bit of an all-day extravaganza (get tickets to it all here), which is the perfect answer to the doom-mongers who have been declaring the demise of the UK scene. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of British wrestling’s death have been greatly exaggerated...

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