I sing the praises of WrestleZone on a daily basis, sometimes too much. If you attend a show like Christmas Chaos 2019 though, you’ll be able to fully understand why.
The night was always destined to be an emotionally-fuelled evening, seeing as it was maybe going to be the last ever match of Johnny Lions, depending on if he and Scotty Swift won or lost their Steel Cage Match. However, that doesn’t mean it was all sad news. The rest of the show was filled with all the usual shenanigans you can witness when you attend a WrestleZone event – hilarity, brutality, and other words ending in ‘ity’ were all on full display at the Danestone Community Centre.
When you take a look at the card that had been put together for the night’s proceedings, I found it impossible not to head along, even if my throat felt like it was trying to escape my body. Thankfully, there were no coughing fits in sight (god bless you, Strepsils inventor), so I could enjoy the night, which began with our VIP ticket holders bonus match.
VIP Ticket Holders Bonus Match
The Rejected (Chris Archer & Kaden Garrick) def. The Foundation of the Future (Zach Dynamite & Bradley Evans) by Pinfall
Judging by his new attire, Kaden Garrick is now the official third member of The Rejected, joining Chris Archer for the pre-show bout against Foundation of the Future members Zach Dynamite and Bradley Evans. Dynamite and Evans presented Archer and Garrick with FOTF shirts as early Christmas presents (what nice lads), with The Outcast and The Prospect returning the favour by handing their rivals a pair of punches. Should we all be taking this sort of advice, punching our family and friends on Christmas morning if we don’t like a certain present? I know from experience that my sister busts out a mean knife edge chop, so I personally think I’ll leave those actions with The Rejected for the time being.
Dynamite and Evans used their experience as a team to keep Kaden in their corner for the early stages of the bout, with The Mad Dog (who entered in a Santa beard because dogs love the festive season, obviously) showing off his power, battering Garrick with everything he has in his arsenal, including a sick boot to the side of the skull. Kaden would overcome the onslaught though, avoiding a Swanton Bomb attempt from Dynamite (clearly been watching his Alan Sterling tapes), giving himself the opportunity to make the tag to Archer. The former four-time Tag Team Champion came in like a house on fire, flying all over the place to get his schtick in without being booted in the face like his partner. Things would break down from here, as any good tag team match does, with both Dynamite and Evans attempting to double team The Outcast. After Kaden helped his new partner land on his feet from a double suplex, The Foundation of the Future found themselves both being laid out, with Evans being on the receiving end of a nice spinebuster/Poison Arrow combination (shades of everyone’s favourite tag team, Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler) as the new Rejected pairing scored their first victory in two on two action.
A fun match this. The Rejected and The Foundation of the Future always seem to have tremendous chemistry whenever the members face off with one another, especially when Bradley Evans and Chris Archer go head to head. Can’t beat a classic big man vs little man bout, which is helped by the fact that WrestleZone is primarily a family-friendly promotion with usually interactive crowds. Having Kaden Garrick officially in The Rejected now makes for some interesting roads further down the road. In my eyes at least, it should be this way all the time, having Kaden and Chris Archer as the team while Mikkey Vago heads into singles competition. As much as I enjoy watching Archer in singles action, it just makes more sense (to me at least) to have the two smaller guys as the team with the bigger lad, albeit only slightly, going for the singles titles.
Ted O’Keefe w/Dino Del Monte def. Mr P by Pinfall
On to the main card, the scheduled Handicap Match was turned into a singles bout as Dino Del Monte had seemingly suffered a knee injury during the training for the bout as he hobbled to ringside on a crutch. That’s the sort of rigorous training The Outfit go through, not at the WrestleZone Training Academy, not at the Fife Pro Wrestling Asylum (some of Andy Wild’s trainees were stationed around ringside), but rather at The Outfit’s own personal training school. Although Ted attempted to goad Mr P into forfeiting the match since it was changed, things took a turn when O’Keefe ambushed him with a microphone. Technically, it was still a Handicap Match in terms of the support from ringside – Ted was being shouted on by Dino, while the audience were firmly in the corner of the former Tri-Counties Champion. Mr P’s a big fan of shouting ‘STOOPID’ at his opponents these days it seems – well, that and battering heads, both his and his opponents’.
P attempted the corner ten punches, an all-time go-to fan favourite move, with O’Keefe managing to turn it into a spinebuster. I need to mention here that Ted performed a flip, and although he failed to connect with it, he’ll be murdering folk on Twitter if they fail to mention it. Eventually, Mr P synched in a sharpshooter, which is when the moment happened. Completely shocking scenes as Dino Del Monte had been feigning his knee injury all along, using his crutch to assist Ted in reaching the ropes to escape. A rollup saw Ted O’Keefe come out victorious in the match, ending 2019 on a high for The Granite City Gangsters.
The Handicap Match likely would’ve been a decent bout, but this singles match between Ted and Mr P was still a really fun match. It’s always good when the crowd gets involved with the matches, cheer the good guys, boo the bad guys, etc, although I would be lying if I said I didn’t chuckle a bit when no-one chanted along the first time P went for the corner punches. Don’t have a clue why I enjoyed that as much as I did. Anyway, Ted O’Keefe gets his win back over Mr P from Halloween Hijinx to put them at a 1-1 tie for the time being. Still in shock that Dino was lying about his injury. What sort of man does such a thing?!
Shawn Johnson vs Bryan Tucker ended in a No Contest
Bryan Tucker’s new theme suits him perfectly. The opening lyric? “Do you remember my name?” – exactly what he’s complaining about since returning to in-ring competition, I’m sure Cultaholic’s Tom Campbell and Ross Tweddell could make their own song from that, right? Don’t youuuu, forget about Tucks. Anyway… Tucker’s constantly been claiming that everyone forgot who he was when he disappeared from WrestleZone in September 2018, no-one cared enough to reach out to him. His match with Shawn Johnson was never going to be a match per se, but rather a fight. That’s what we got from the moment Shawn came through the curtain, coming out when Bryan was still next to the announcer’s desk berating Len Ironside.
The fight went literally everywhere. Backstages, outside the venue, all around ringside, poor Dennis Law had a tough time getting both guys in the ring for long enough to ring the bell. Tucker eventually got the upper hand, using his belt to lash Johnson’s back repeatedly before waiting in the ring for his opponent. Just when it looked like Law was finally able to begin the bout, Tucker headed for the hills as he blew the match off, with the official decision being a no contest.
A bit disappointed we didn’t get any actual match here, but can’t be complaining with what’s happened so far. The animosity between the duo is too high for them to have a full-blown match, so they need to just be brawling all over the place. Perhaps Len was holding too much back when signing the match when he made it a normal match – surely we’ll be seeing some sort of stipulation added to it further down the line. I don’t know about the logistics of getting a steel cage up the stairs of the Northern Hotel, but that would be a fantastic stipulation for this sort of rivalry come Aberdeen Anarchy. Again though, I imagine it would be a nightmare getting it in that venue, so maybe not. Either way, this one is far from over.
Connor Inglis def. Crusher Craib by Pinfall
From one intense rivalry to another. Crusher Craib and Connor Inglis went to war with each other in the annual Christmas Brawl, each man coming to ringside with some weapons of choice while the ring was filled with Christmas presents. Obviously, these boxes were opened immediately, with Connor finding himself being far more successful as he was lucky enough to gain the tinsel-wrapped kendo stick, which he used to its full potential. From there onwards, several classic Christmas Brawl items made their way into play, including the sledge, the tinsel-wrapped steel chair, the bag of Christmas baubles, and some sort of spray (let’s assume it was snow in a can).
I’m not entirely sure what caused this, but Connor suffered a nasty cut on the lip at one stage, although it’s no surprise really. Crusher was whaling away on him with the tinsel kendo stick, using it too much so that it went from being a blunt object to a sharp one. So, like any sane person, what did The Creator of Carnage insist on doing? Going back to his Regal Rumble 2018 days by pulling a mahoosive kendo stick that was also wrapped in tinsel. He didn’t want to go down the William Sterling route of using a normal weapon in a themed match at the risk of getting disqualified. Honestly, it’s a joke that kendo stick exists. Who needs anything that long (behave)? Crusher failed to win after whacking Connor with the unnecessarily long kendo stick and he failed to win after slamming Connor through the Christmas baubles. Only one thing left – the boxes. A superplex through a pile of Christmas-themed boxes was perhaps as extreme as you can go in a Christmas Brawl.
Even that wasn’t enough though. The fighting spirit we’ve come to expect from the WrestleZone Training Academy upstart was once again on full display, with the pele kicks, diving forearms, and the Buddy Murphy-esque knee strikes coming out of the tank. Eventually, a picture-perfect frog splash while Crusher lay on the broken baubles was enough as Connor Inglis scored his third pinfall over Crusher Craib, this one being a decisive victory as opposed to a ‘fluke’ rollup. Following the match, Connor once again offered his hand to Crusher, with the big man accepting and showing his respect to one of his greatest rivals. Down on one knee and everything. Amazing.
322 days. That’s how long there was between Summerhill Showdown on January 19th and Christmas Chaos on December 7th. During that time, Crusher Craib and Connor Inglis tore the house down time and time again. No matter the occasion, the fan support for Connor Inglis has grown astronomically, which is always helped by the fact he was wrestling a lad twice his size. The duo have left behind them one of the greatest rivalries in WrestleZone history, at least in my opinion. It’ll be interesting to see where both men go from here, but if they ever want to revisit their past further down the line, I for one won’t be objecting to that.
Undisputed WrestleZone Championship – Triple Threat Match
Damien (c) def. Andy Wild and Bingo Ballance by Pinfall
The first of three championship matches now, with the WrestleZone return of Bingo Ballance as he and Andy Wild challenged Damien for his Undisputed Championship. A few laughs at the start of the bout, with what appeared to be one of FPWA’s Wee Wrestlers giving The Revolutionary his honest opinion of him with a thumbs down, leading to a fan-off with Damien and Bingo finding their respective fans to combat The Dad Bod God’s FPWA support. Nothing too major, but a good wee laugh nonetheless. Once things properly got underway though, Wild showed his two opponents exactly why he has the amount of support he has, barging past the pair of them and wiping them clear out. Stovies, man – they’ll do some superb things to your body.
Seeing as their alliance against Andy wasn’t working out, Damien and Ballance slugged it out, with The Zenith of Zero-G busting out some of those unique never-seen-before moves that he’s always using. Andy Wild soon came back into play as part of a tower of doom sequence that sent Bingo Ballance flying to the other side of the ring, but it didn’t quite take him out of play. Just as it looked like Wild was setting up for DA BOMB (so deadly, it’s all capitalised), the Irishman dumped him over the ropes, eventually receiving a flying Codebreaker from Damien for his troubles as another successful defence was marked for The Revolutionary’s reign as Undisputed Champion. A quick embrace between the three post-match following an epic Triple Threat Match.
This was always going to be a great match. When you put Damien, Andy Wild, and Bingo Ballance in the ring together, of course you’re destined to have a show-stealing performance from all three. They always give it their all, no matter who it is they’re in there with. It was interesting throughout the bout to see how many fans were cheering Andy Wild over Damien. Both men are adored by the WrestleZone fans, but the support for Damien since he left Sterling Oil has usually been deafening. They weren’t technically booing Damien, rather opting to cheer for Andy over him. It’ll be interesting to see if that remains the case going forward, or if it was just because the Danestone Community Centre are huge Dad Bod God fans.
WrestleZone Tri-Counties Championship – Fatal Four Way Match
Alan Sterling def. Jason Reed (c) w/Agent W, Mikkey Vago and Ryan Riley by Pinfall
Captain Alan Sterling is the best thing going in Scottish wrestling today. Don’t even @ me. Everything about it is wonderful. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but Alan is far more suited to being a comedy wrestler than a serious one. Don’t get me wrong, he’s excellent as a serious performer, as his time in Sterling Oil proved, but he’s much more enjoyable to watch when it’s clear he’s having the time of his life doing the stupid stuff. He spiked Jason Reed with a DDT right off the bat, removing The One For The Future from the majority of the bout. After taking a quick swig of Ryan Riley’s protein shake, he started Alaning up brother, clotheslines flying all over the place. Superb.
A turnbuckle was exposed during the match, but referee Mikey Innes with his striped Santa hat on (#FESTIVE) was left unable to do anything about it due to the rules of a Fatal Four Way Match. Ryan Riley and Mikkey Vago brawled for a good chunk of this one, with the animosity between The Foundation of the Future and The Rejected seemingly not over quite yet. Jason Reed snuck back in to try and steal a pinfall as has been common throughout his reign as the Tri-Counties Champion, only to find himself flying head-first into the exposed turnbuckle. Both he and Sterling were on the receiving end of Stunners from Stone Cold Mikkey Vago, and with The Heavy Metal Hooligan and The Inspirational One taking each other out, Alan fell on top of Jason to (accidentally) win his first singles championship in WrestleZone history.
First off, I’m devastated that Jason Reed lost the title. Since he won it in April, he’s had some amazing title matches, and even became the first person to defend it outwith WrestleZone when he defended against Alexander Dean, Fraser Thomas, and The Sam Barbour Experience at a Discovery Wrestling show in July. However, maybe this is a sign he’s moving on to bigger things, such as the Undisputed Championship. We’re now just a few months away from the first two-night Aberdeen Anarchy in May, which means the Regal Rumble is even closer. What better way to make wrestling great again than to headline one of the nights of Aberdeen Anarchy, and perhaps head back to Fife as the new Undisputed Champion? Aside from that though – YES! Alan Sterling is the Tri-Counties Champion. Just imagine the nonsense he’ll get up to with the gold around his waist. Now that Caleb Valhalla has returned from his duties carrying out Alan’s charity work in Africa, HMS Sterling can set off towards the Summerhill Hotel for January 25th. All aboard lads and lasses.
WrestleZone Tag Team Championships – Titles vs Career Steel Cage Match
Blue Thunder & William Sterling def. The Swift Lions (Scotty Swift & Johnny Lions) (c) by Escape
Grab the tissues, it’s time to talk about Johnny Lions’ retirement match.
It was a tense night. Would it or would it not be the last ever match of Johnny Lions? If he and Scotty Swift lost their WrestleZone Tag Team Championships to Blue Thunder and William Sterling inside the steel cage, then the answer would be yes. There was a nice touch here with Swift wearing a pair of Lions’ trunks, while this was also the first time I’ve heard the pair officially announced by Martyn Clunes as The Swift Lions. They’ve certainly come a long way since Johnny insisted that he and Scotty form a team about a year and a half ago. Immediately, Sterling attempted to leave his partner high and dry, to which Thunder asked if he was that much of a coward. Sterling’s answer? Yes. At least he’s honest, I guess. As we’ve come to expect from Steel Cage Matches in wrestling, it’ll never be as easy as that to escape, especially not when there’s so much on the line.
The blue bar cage, as always, was used throughout the match to inflict pain, with The Tenacious One in particular taking quite a whips into the walls. That didn’t stop him hitting a Lion Cutter on William Sterling though, while he would then later on receive a front suplex off the top courtesy of Blue Thunder. Just when it looked like Johnny Lions was on the verge of escaping the cage, he saw that The Red Haired Warrior was in trouble. So, what does he do? Stands atop the cage, and dives off on to Thunder and Sterling. For a man who’s in his late 40s (right?), he seemingly has no care in the world about what he does to his body. There was the chance it would be his last match though, so you can’t really be having a go at him for going balls to the wall.
Everyone was back down inside the cage, with The Swift Lions being supported on by the fans in attendance, whereas The Thunder Baddies (as Billy once put them) were willing to do whatever it took to become two-time Tag Team Champions. They had an opportunity, so Swift and Lions looked to escape, only for the latter to be caught by Thunder and Sterling, who sent him off the top rope with a double powerbomb. Retirement match or not, Johnny Lions took a lot in this one – poor lad. The move apparently knocked him clean out by the looks of things, as Swift had to drag his motionless body across the ring and out the door. Swift escaped. Thunder escaped. Sterling escaped. Lions was too late.
The in-ring career of Johnny Lions had come to an end. A stunned silence took over the Danestone Community Centre, with that silence soon turning into an uproar of appreciation. A well-deserved standing ovation for Johnny, a man who has spent the last 15 years giving his all to Scottish wrestling. At this stage, what happened in the ring didn’t matter, everything was personal now. William Sterling and Blue Thunder each shared a hug with the man who originally gave them the platform to do what they love. The locker room emptied, everyone standing around the ring chanting ‘thank you, Johnny’, leaving Lions in a puddle of tears.
His retirement speech that followed – man, there was nothing that could’ve prepared you for it. It was clear as day just how much WrestleZone had changed his life in so many different ways. Lions explained exactly how he felt in the early days of the company, stating that he was ready to pack it in years ago after being left at his lowest point in life. The sole reason he didn’t give up then was down to Scotty Swift, with Lions then going on to give props to the likes of Connor Inglis and The Fife Delight, who will keep helping WrestleZone produce quality show after quality show. It was just a very emotional moment all around. Every single fan, wrestler, crew member, etc. showed Johnny how much he meant to them. There wasn’t a single person who wasn’t clapping their hands for The Tenacious One.
I mean, what else is there to say about this? The match itself was truly excellent, and in a way, it all comes full circle for Blue Thunder. It was last year’s Christmas Chaos where he realigned with William Sterling to start his pursuit of the Tag Team Championships, with the winning of the titles coming one year later. Fair play to him. Without a doubt, WrestleZone just won’t be the same without Johnny Lions kicking about. He ensured to make every match a memorable one just by being himself and having a wee laugh here and there. At least he got to achieve one of his career goals by competing inside a steel cage not once, but twice. Cheers for everything, Johnny. A truly one of a kind talent.
Well lads, what a way to end 2019 for WrestleZone. I most likely say this at the end of every year, but this may have been their best year yet. Consistent sold out shows up and down Aberdeen and the surrounding areas, some of the best stories in Scottish wrestling at the moment, producing some of the finest up and coming talent via the WrestleZone Training Academy, and who could forget, they had PAC at Aberdeen Anarchy. The Bastard himself. What more could you ask for?
I’m saying 2019 was perhaps their best year yet, however, 2020 is looking to be even better for WrestleZone, and they’ve only announced three (technically four) shows thus far. Summerhill Showdown on January 25th from Aberdeen’s Summerhill Hotel will feature what WrestleZone are describing as a hero (that’ll be announced later tonight, likely at 6pm), their set to present their first of many shows live from the WrestleZone Training Academy on March 7th, and the first two-night Aberdeen Anarchy takes place on Friday, May 15th and Saturday, May 16th from Aberdeen’s Northern Hotel. All that, plus presumably the usual set of bigger shows – the rumbles that will become regal, the nations that will see battles, the Halloweens that will feature plenty of hijinx, and the Christmas’ where chaos will break out.
So yeah, if you’re not onboard the WrestleZone hype train yet, I thoroughly recommend getting on at the next stop. You won’t regret purchasing the ticket, let me tell you that for free.
VIP Ticket Holders Bonus Match – The Rejected (Chris Archer & Kaden Garrick) def. The Foundation of the Future (Zach Dynamite & Bradley Evans) by Pinfall
Ted O’Keefe w/Dino Del Monte def. Mr P by Pinfall
Shawn Johnson vs Bryan Tucker ended in a No Contest
Christmas Brawl – Connor Inglis def. Crusher Craib by Pinfall
Undisputed WrestleZone Championship – Triple Threat Match – Damien (c) def. Andy Wild and Bingo Ballance by Pinfall
WrestleZone Tri-Counties Championship – Fatal Four Way Match – Alan Sterling def. Jason Reed (c) w/Agent W, Mikkey Vago and Ryan Riley by Pinfall
WrestleZone Tag Team Championships – Titles vs Career Steel Cage Match – Blue Thunder & William Sterling def. The Swift Lions (Scotty Swift & Johnny Lions) (c) by Escape