Mike Reviews – ROH Vs FWA: Frontiers of Honour (17th May 2003) – Part One
By Michael Fitzgerald on 4th August 2021
It’s time for another ROH Wednesday!
This week we’ve got a special show from 2003 where ROH takes on the FWA. The FWA (Frontier Wrestling Alliance) was the main UK based indie of the time and regularly featured the likes of Doug Williams, Jody Fleisch and Jonny Storm on its events.
ROH and FWA had friendly relations with one another, so they agreed to get together for a show where they would face off in six match series to see which company came out as the overall victors. There are also some FWA matches on the under card, featuring the official in-ring debut of Paul Burchill before he went across to America to play a pirate.
This show comes on two discs, so we’ll do disc one this week and disc two next Wednesday.
The event is emanating from York Hall in London, England
Calling the action is the regular FWA crew of Tony Giles and Nick London
We actually get some pyro to open us up and the crowd is jazzed.
The ring announcer confirms that the Code of Honour will apply tonight, which gets some boo’s, but the FWA rules of red and yellow cards won’t apply.
Paul London (ROH) Vs James Tighe (FWA)
Tighe was a very technically sound wrestler who the FWA had earmarked for a big push, with a Heel turn in 2004 getting the ball rolling. At this stage he’s still an up and coming babyface though, and London is working as a Face as well so we get a respectful wrestling contest to start us out. The wrestling itself is decent, with both men working a mixture of the technical and high-flying styles, so they match up quite well and London is game to work with Tighe and have a good match.
I have to say that the camera work is decent actually, as they’ve got a multi-camera shoot and the director isn’t too trigger happy with the cuts. Tighe shoves London off the top rope to the floor and works over the arm back inside, but London fights back and then gets a Shooting Star Press off the apron to a standing Tighe outside of the ring in an impressive looking spot. We get some near falls back inside following that, and it remains good action with the crowd being invested.
London keeps selling the arm throughout, even when he’s getting some offence in back inside the ring, and Tighe gets a chance to show off some of his move-set with a bridging Blockbuster Slam and a nice German Suplex with a lovely bridge for two. Tighe gets to hit a big high spot of his own as well by getting a lovely Asai Moonsault to London outside the ring, as this has been a solid opener and the crowd has enjoyed it. London tries the Shooting Star Press, but Tighe rolls out of the way and gets a Northern Lights Bomber (Called the “Tighe-tanic” in a cute bit of word play) followed by a standing SSP for the win.
WINNER: JAMES TIGHE
SCORE: ROH 0 – 1 FWA
A good start to the show, with both men getting a chance to show what they can do and a receptive crowd that enjoyed the action. London also did a lot to make Tighe look good there, including letting Tighe beat him with his own move
Both men make nice following that and shake hands.
Mikey Whipwreck (ROH) Vs Jack Xavier (FWA)
Xavier was kind of the Mikey of the FWA, in that he was a loveable underdog who grew in ability until he could hold his own. His two biggest feuds in the FWA were with Alex Shane and Hade Vansen, with him ultimately losing in both cases, which was kind of the story of his career. Mikey is super over with the FWA crowd, likely because a lot of them had been fans of ECW back in the day so Mikey was a recognisable big name to them. Mikey seems to be really fired up by it as well.
Mikey is a member of Special K, so he doesn’t shake hands to start because they don’t do that, but the announce team doesn’t seem to have been clued in on that. Mikey is another ROH guy who is happy to make the FWA guy look good, by taking a bunch of bumps for Jack in the early going. Jack crashes and burns on a dive to the floor however (hitting the wooden floor with a sickening thud) and that allows Mikey to take control of the bout and ring the bell on his nether regions.
Mikey sends Jack into the front row and then pays homage to former partner Mick Foley by flinging himself into the crowd with a big running dive, but it looks like Jack was able to dodge it, meaning Mikey found nothing but floor waiting for him. Jack tries a big back senton splash from the top rope back inside, but Mikey moves and then follows up with a big super kick for two. These two are taking some man-sized bumps in this one so far.
This has been more of a brawl and spot-fest, whilst the opener was more of a technical battle with some high-flying thrown in, so it’s felt different and has kept the momentum of the show going. It’s been mostly back and forth as well, with Mikey controlling at certain points but Jack always never far away from getting himself back in, so the bout as succeeded in making Jack look like he’s on Mikey’s level. Jack wins a slug fest and then gets the Jack-Liner (Downward Spiral) for two.
The near falls continue to come, with Mikey arguing with the ref after one of his allowing Jack to pop up with a last gasp Enziguri for a double down in a fun moment. Jack gets a version of the Saving Grace called the “Xaviator” but Mikey kicks out at two and then follows up with a Tajiri styled buzzsaw kick in a neat call back and the Whippersnapper for two, as Mikey is giving Jack a lot of stuff here. Mikey looks to finish Jack off, but Jack counters with a roll up out of nowhere and that’s enough for three.
WINNER: JACK XAVIER
SCORE: ROH 0 – 2 FWA
This was totally different from the opener in the way it was structured but it was still a good match, with Mikey doing a lot to make Jack look good whilst Jack sold well throughout. It kind of highlighted how the FWA should have really done more with Jack than they did, as he genuinely could work
Mikey is mad following that, but is eventually the bigger man and shakes Jack’s hand to put him over even more. I’ve got to give Mikey props for how he worked that match actually, as he probably could have easily come in and clobbered Jack without giving him anything and gotten away with it due to being Mikey Whipwreck, but he genuinely worked very hard to make the home promotion guy look good and I really appreciate that.
Low Ki cuts a promo backstage. He’ll be wrestling Flash Barker later, and he puts him over before going to his usual catchphrases.
Double Dragon (Raj Ghosh and Ross Jordan) w/ The Duke of Danger, Simmons and Buttercup Vs Burchill w/ Dean Ayass
Ross Jordan is the only one of this bunch still wrestling I believe, although he has a reduced schedule these days. He’s a really good wrestler and a lovely chap to boot, but he’s here to be killed to make Burchill look like a monster. The deal here is that it should be The Duke (think Lord Steven Regal) and his butler Simmons getting clobbered here, but he’s weaselled out it and put the poor Double Dragon lads in there instead due to a bogus injury.
Burchill’s gimmick at the time was that he’d come out and destroy people before matches, but this is the first time he’ll have an official match. Ayass does a really great bit before the match starts where he essentially reads out a verbal disclaimer notifying Double Dragon that they are entering this match at their own risk and Burchill will not be responsible for any broken bones they may or may not suffer. I’m surprised Paul Heyman hasn’t lifted that for Brock actually.
Burchill was a mostly normal sized guy in WWE, but in Britain he was bigger than the average size of most of the wrestlers so he looks like an absolute monster when in there with Double Dragon, who are essentially Cruiserweights by American standards. Both Ghosh and Jordan take some insane bumps in order to make Burchill look good, including a moment where he gives both of them an overhead belly to belly suplex at the same time.
This is genuinely one of the most impressive squashes I’ve seen, as Burchill looks like an absolute beast when it’s all over. He not only does big power stuff but he also throws in a good mixture of high-flying in as well, looking like a terrifying monster hybrid wrestler. Of course it didn’t translate to WWE due to him not being as physically as impressive there as he was here, but they probably could have done more with him than they did. That being said, Burchill’s knees were destroyed due to working this style at his size. Burchill ends up knocking both guys out and walking away, the damage done.
Fantastic squash, with all three guys playing their roles perfectly
Burchill is instantly over following that, and within a year WWE was already looking at him.
The Family (a cult-like Heel faction) cut a promo about how they are prepared to sacrifice, because then good things start to happen. They will be taking on Ulf Herman, Alex Shane and Nikita in part two.
AJ Styles (ROH) Vs Jonny Storm (FWA)
Styles and Storm had a classic bout with one another in the autumn of 2002 when Storm was still a babyface, but since then Storm has gone Heel. Storm was the XPW European Champion at the time, although the company wasn’t long for the world, with him winning the belt being the catalyst for his Heel turn. He cuts a Heel promo prior to the match, just to make sure he gets booed even in this inter-promotional series. AJ is of course mega over anyway, but that only helps.
This is another example of good match-making though, as we get our fourth styles change of the evening, as both men are working the RVD/Lynn style counter stuff at the beginning, but Storm is fully playing up to his Heel character to give us a proper Face/Heel divide for the first real time of the evening, and the crowd is into seeing Styles give Storm a good battering so it has great heat to go along with the great action.
Some of the fluidity and speed of these moves is really impressive, with both men knowing that they don’t have to hold back because the other can keep up with them, so they just go all out and its thrilling stuff at points. Storm heels it up though with a mule kick, which should have been a DQ really but you can argue that the FWA ref turned a blind eye because he wants his side to win, and he also gave Mikey some leeway in the second match too so fairs-fair I guess.
Storm’s character work changes the match from being just an exhibition of MOVEZ to one that tells more of a story, with Storm being a cocky jerk who has Styles on the ropes a few times but stops to hotdog and it allows AJ a way back in with a Pele kick. The crowd heat is consistent throughout, and the match has a fantastic atmosphere as a result, and the action is really good high-octane stuff throughout, with Storm bumping like a Crash Test Dummy for AJ’s big moves.
Styles even takes a back body drop onto the entrance ramp at one stage, as the ROH guys continue to impress me with just how hard they are working here. As someone who used to go to shows at local town halls where the one American who was booked might treat the show as a night off most of the time, seeing all these imports bust their backsides when they probably could have gotten away with doing far less has made me have a lot of respect for them as professionals.
The finishing stretch has some big near falls, including Storm even getting to kick out of the Styles Clash at one stage, whilst Styles gets to kick out of Storm’s Re-Wind Rana finisher as well. Storm gets Shingo’s Last of the Dragon move (He called it the “Wonder-Whirl”) but Styles kicks out of that as well, so Storm sets him up for a rana off the top. Styles blocks that however and tries the Styles Clash from up there, but Storm slips out of that and finally does get the rana for two in a great sequence.
The fans were so unhappy that they didn’t get to see the second rope Styles Clash there, it was brilliant. Sadly the eventual finish is a bit flat, as Styles gets the Springboard 450 and makes the cover but the ref hesitates a bit on the three count and it lessens the reaction when Styles wins. That’s a shame as the match was going along nicely until that point
WINNER: AJ STYLES
SCORE: ROH 1 – 2 FWA
This wasn’t quite as good as their first one (British Uprising 1 if you’re interested to see it) but it was still a high-octane exciting bout, with some good Heel work thrown in by Storm as well so it didn’t just feel like a collection of high-spots but an actual match that was telling a story
Storm teases that he’ll shake hands following that, but he of course cheap shots AJ instead, leading to Jody Fleisch having to make the save for Styles before Storm brains him with a chair.
Right, that’s disc one in the bag. I hope you’ll all join me next week for the conclusion when we look at disco two as ROH Wednesday’s continue!