‘Card Subject To Change’.
It’s the phrase that’s printed on the face of almost all tickets to any wrestling show and for good reason. Sometimes even the best laid plans of those in charge of professional wrestling storylines have to bow to events outwith their control. Paul London, the original scheduled opponent of Target Wrestling Heavyweight Champion Shady Nattrass, suffered a knee injury only a few days before this event. Not only was he advised not to wrestle but his doctor apparently also informed him that getting on a plane from the USA to the UK would be a very bad idea also. So severe was his injury that he was also forced to vacate his Target Wrestling High Octane Championship. Paul London might be from the States but Carlisle seems to have taken to him like a first born son. For this reason the news is a bitter blow but the fans gathered in The Venue tonight have been promised a replacement. His identity remains a secret for now.
I’ll have to take this opportunity to say what a fool I have been. Since January 2015 I’ve been attending Insane Championship Wrestling shows up in Glasgow. I regularly buy a ticket for a show at The Barrowlands or The Hydro, pay for train tickets up from Gretna and a hotel room. Target have been running wrestling shows in Carlisle for four years now and, until the middle of last year, I hadn’t been to one. I thought it was going to be a case of ‘invite ex WWF/E American big name in for ticket sales’ quickly followed by ‘supplement undercard with some people pretending to be WWE wrestlers’. When one of the 90’s ECW heroes Raven was booked last year I went along expecting my suspicions to be confirmed. I’m very happy to say they were not. Target Wrestling have a definite vibe going on in the city of Carlisle and it’s beginning to gain pace.
This is the biggest crowd Target have had to date and the start of the show is actually delayed by five minutes due to the number of people still getting into the building at 7pm. I’ve brought two friends with me tonight, one who was with me for the Raven show and another who hasn’t seen much wrestling for the last ten years or so.
Ryan Devlin is the master of the whole show and he, complete with his name on the background screen in the Disney font, gets into the ring and picks up the mic. He hasn’t had much of a chance to say anything when Shady Nattrass walks to the ring. Rather that wish Paul London well, Shady says that he simply ‘couldn’t be bothered to come to the UK and wrestle in front of you idiots’. According to Target’s ‘Franchise Player’ there will be no title match tonight as he’s taking the night off. Then the lights go down…
I’ll have to interrupt again here and admit that your correspondent has never watched Lucha Underground. The Robert Rodriguez produced, Tarantino inspired, gritty wrestling show has passed me by. The introduction of Angelico pretty much flies over my head. The coincidence is that he’ll be doing that in a literal fashion for many of the crowd later tonight when he announces that he’s taking Paul London’s place in the main event. A furious Shady only just escapes a battering there and then before hauling his belt out of the ring and heading for the back.
The opening contest of the evening pits Mikey Whiplash of Target’s heel group ‘The Guest List’ against Carlisle’s own Karnage. Karnage used to be in a team with Damon Havok and I started to attend shows just as Karnage broke off from that pairing and went full babyface. Watching him wrestle now I wonder how he was ever a heel as the crowd absolutely love him. As the crowd chant his name he has a grin from ear to ear. Whiplash quickly decides to rub that right off his face by introducing it to the canvas in quick manner before following up with sustained attacks on the left leg. After stomping on Karnage’s ankle Whiplash wraps it around the bottom rope to add pressure. Karnage then took what looked like a really nasty bump to the outside involving cracking his shoulders against the ring apron.
Whiplash carries on this assault throughout the first half of the match. Gradually the Carlisle man makes his comeback. Karnage’s arsenal may be a bit limited right now but what he does do he does well. Karnage manages to kick out of many of Mikey Whiplash’s more powerful moves as we get deeper into the match. Eventually Karnage gets a sit down powerbomb to connect giving him the pinfall victory. This was a great match to open the show with. It told a great story, had some brilliant action and the result should hopefully spin Karnage off into new heights for his singles run.
Like The Joker and Batman it seems like The Coyote Kid and Medallion will be fighting forever. This match formed the third part of their trilogy of wars and was dubbed a Botchergate Brawl (for those unaware, Botchergate is the home of many pubs and clubs in Carlisle which includes The Venue). All weapons are legal tonight. These two actually had a really good No Holds Barred Match a few months ago which ended with them mangling each other through ladders. They’ve both set the bar fairly high for this.
The introductions and up being quickly swept away. Ryan Devlin seems a bit perplexed as to who exactly he’s introducing as the wrong music plays. First we see Medallion’s graphic on screen followed by Coyote’s music, then Coyote himself walking to the ring and then finally Medallion who brings a chair for company before whacking it over Coyote’s head before the match begins officially.
I cannot fault the effort that both men put into this match but, as I said before, their standards were pretty high from the last time. They go out to the crowd fairly early with a couple of painful looking suplexes to the arena floor. We are also treated to duelling kendo sticks as both men take it in turns to bray each other over the head. A short while later, up on the stage, a bag of drawing pins is emptied and Medallion ends up taking a dive into them.
For weeks on end we’ve heard about the possibility of a Fake Medallion roaming free around Target Wrestling. As one Medallion is laid out in the middle of the ring The Coyote Kid is distracted by his opponent’s theme music hitting again as another version of the masked man appears in the aisle. This enables the ‘real’ Medallion to gain an upper hand. It’s like Doink at Wrestlemania 9 all over again but we’re not sitting around in the car park of a casino for the pleasure.
The pendulum swings back as Coyote gets a wooden board covered in Target stickers and sets it up in one corner. Medallion’s associate Ivy Mist interrupts proceedings by spearing Coyote through it instead. There follows a steel chair swinging session as both Mist and Medallion take it in turns to set about Coyote Kid. Eventually The Kid falls to the numbers game as Medallion is declared the winner. Both wrestlers have shown obvious talents for this kind of weapons based match and I’m interested in what happens next with them.
Only a small handful of things can bring Carlisle to a standstill. The 1745 Jacobite siege, the council shutting Castle Way for more development works and the entrance of Polo Promotions to a Target show. Jackie Polo and Mark Coffey are an extremely popular tag team all over the country but, for the second month in a row, their match takes a fair while to get started due to the crowd chanting their name. They’re here tonight to face Martin Kirby and James Scott of The Guest List who are the current Target Wrestling Tag Team champions.
Now Target Wrestling is a family show, there are kids as young as five or six in the audience tonight. This memo doesn’t quite reach one section of the crowd however as the rousing (pun intended) cry of ‘James Scott’s a wanker’ echoes through the building. Martin Kirby gets on the mic and asks them to stop or The Guest List will walk out of the ring and we’ll never see them in Target again. It’s about as effective as the supply teacher asking the class to ‘quieten down a bit’. As the chant continues both members of The Guest List walk off down the aisle. Ryan Devlin gets on the mic to say that Polo Promotions will be declared tag team champions if The Guest List don’t make it back to the ring for the ten count.
They just about do and we have a match on our hands. It turns into something quite fantastic as well. The three big components of a great match are all here with the wrestlers involved all being great talents, the story being well built and the crowd getting well behind the whole thing. After going back and forth Jackie Polo is sent to the outside and Mark Coffey has to fight off both members of The Guest List alone. The work here by Kirby and Scott is smooth and brilliant looking. The match builds to a Jackie Polo hot tag as he cleans house with both heels bailing.
I need to take a moment here to mention Marc Allan, the superstar DJ and leader of The Guest List. As the guy who acts as the glue to keep his group of heel wrestlers together he’s an absolute joy to watch. When I say ‘an absolute joy’ I mean that you cannot wait for his character to get battered around a bit to cure him of his own ego. He reminds me of (and I hope he takes this as the compliment I intend it to be) Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan.
Mark Coffey manages to get a high angle German suplex* in that sees Martin Kirby’s head very nearly hit the light rigging. Marc Allen also gets involved as Polo Promotions haul him into the ring. Eventually the boys from Glasgow get the job done and The Venue goes absolutely crazy. I’ve watched Polo Promotion face The Dudley Boys at The Hydro at ICW’s Fear and Loathing and the crowd response to their win tonight exceeded that night. Jackie Polo gets on the mic to say thanks to the Target fans for making this win all the better for them. Carlisle loves Polo Promotions and it seems obvious that the feeling is mutual.
After a short break during which Grado is available for photo ops we move on to the second part of the show.
Paul London’s injury not only means Angelico being here tonight but also the vacating of the Target Wrestling High Octane Championship. The next match is still called a ‘Number 1 Contender’s Match’ during the introductions from Ryan Devlin (who really needs to pack some Strepsils for next months as his voice was going by this point). It’s a Fatal Four Way involving Michael Chase, ‘Turbo’ Josh Terry, Damon Havok and DCT. When DCT is introduced as ‘The International Sex Hero’ my non-wrestling watching mate nearly chokes on his beer.
‘How the hell can you have a Number One Contender match for a vacant title?’ thought I as all four wrestlers were in the ring. Ryan Devlin reads my mind by announcing that the winner of this match will be crowned champion. What a save that man.
I really, really enjoyed this match. All four put in a superb shift but the shining light of the entire thing was Josh Terry who I had heard so much about but never seen in person. His aerial ability is a thing to behold including a marvelous standing Shooting Star Press. The two heel wrestlers often team up in the beginning but start to fall out after they break up each other’s pin attempts. Michael Chase ends up getting lambasted from the fans for not being able to match Terry’s flips. At one point he looks like he’s going to attempt his own Shooting Star but just runs across the ring to headlock his opponent instead. After some brilliant exchanges from all involved Josh Terry picks up the win by pinning Havok. It’s another fantastic moment for the crowd. If you were going to replace London with anybody in this match then Terry would seem the most obvious choice.
Joe Coffey’s heel character as part of The Guest List is amazing. From walking to the ring swigging champagne a few weeks ago to telling everybody that The Guest List ‘is the greatest thing going in Target Wrestling’ he’s a major part of a really good night so far. He’s facing UK (and Impact Wrestling) sensation Grado tonight. My two friends were wondering why I’d advised them to learn the lyrics to Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ and their answer happens right now.
I’ve heard plenty of people have a go at Grado for not being ‘a serious wrestler’. Whilst it’s true he does tend to work far more comedy into his matches than most it firstly suits his character and secondly ends up being entertaining as hell. There’s a fair bit of stalling as Grado pats down the ref and asks for his help getting down from the ropes.
Once we do get underway though they both have a really solid match. Joe Coffey’s technical wrestling meets Grado’s crowd pleasing antics. Watching Joe slowly boil over with rage at all this was a highlight of the evening. At one point Joe Coffey has Grado in a Camel Clutch whilst taking out his chewing gum, pretending to wipe his arse with it before sticking it in Grado’s mouth. Speaking of Joe’s arse, it ends up being on show once Grado pulls his trunks during a Sunset Flip attempt. Eventually Joe wins with a Boston Crab and the rest of The Guest List run to the ring to attack Grado whilst he’s down. Polo Promotions then get in to even up the numbers and we have something of a stand off for a few minutes.
Next up is our main event of the evening with Angelico taking on Shady Nattrass for the Target Wrestling Heavyweight Championship. Before getting to that though it’s probably time to ask why Shady Nattrass isn’t a bigger name in the UK scene. The nickname ‘Franchise Player’ isn’t just something they’ve tagged him with for no reason. Shady has had high quality matches with talent who have gone on to feature in WWE’s training programme NXT such as Roderick Strong and huge indie names such as Ricochet. He’s probably the foundation stone which Target in built on but I reckon he’d take any other promotion by storm as well especially with his whining heel gimmick.
As the introductions are made a small section of the crowd start pointing towards Angelico and chanting ‘He’s on Netflix’ (Lucha Underground is on the streaming service on the US at least). If somebody starring in a Netflix show came to Carlisle to act in a play at The Green Room Theatre the local press would be all over it. I have no idea why it’s not the same here. Minor gripe over with, moving on.
The match starts with Angelico taking charge and Shady trying desperately to avoid an absolute beating. Whilst everybody seems to be thinking that Angelico will be doing all the flip fighting tonight it’s actually Shady who busts out the first Flying Headscissors. Both combatants go toe to toe until Angelico gains the upper hand. Angelico also has three attempts at getting Shady up for a Buckle Bomb, he wriggles out of two but the third one is the charm. With Shady prone in the middle of the ring Angelico goes all the way to the outside of the ring and the other side of the stage to take a huge run up. He dives over the top rope towards Shady who manages to catch him with a Cutter on the way down and pins him for three.
It was a brilliant main event. When you consider that they had about four days to build towards it then it becomes even more impressive. Having never really heard of him beforehand Angelico impressed me greatly and Shady put on a main event performance as he always does. I’m already getting the mental image of Shady standing in the ring holding the Heavyweight title aloft, telling everybody he’s beaten everybody before Paul London’s face appears on the video screen saying his knee is good to go and he’s flying over to relieve Shady of his gold. On that night The Venue will truly go crazy again.
I depart the Venue as Ryan Devlin is thanking everybody for coming out to see the show. As we walk out towards another Saturday Night Botchergate my two friends both say they’ve had a cracking evening and want to come back for the next show. A lot of people often express surprise when I tell them I love going to watch professional wrestling because the British scene, to most people, is still about Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks slapping each other in the face before wobbling a bit. It’s far, far more than that and is well worth checking out if you fancy something a little bit different as far as Carlisle’s nightlife goes. Seriously, get down and try some Target Wrestling because something truly brilliant is getting moving in the Border city.
Information about next month’s show can be found right here.
*Bloody hell, it’s The Old Man of Hoy innit? Totally skipped my head whilst writing this originally.