Next Show: Morecambe Dome, 7 April

Greg Lambert THE TRUTH ABOUT XWA – An Interview with Greg Lambert

As 2007 edges ever closer to its climax, www.xwawrestling.com spoke to XWA owner Greg Lambert for his exclusive comments on the XWA’s debut year, his favourite moments of the past 12 months, his controversial views on the XWA’s standing within the UK Internet wrestling community and his plans for the promotion’s future.

 

Q: As the first year of the XWA draws to a close, how do you think it has gone?

GL: I think it’s been a great first year for the XWA. This year for the first time Mark (Kay) and I have been able to take full control of our own wrestling company and have been able to pursue our vision of what we believe a British wrestling show should be; without being answerable to anyone else. Attendances at The Morecambe Dome have been up this year compared to when we were the FWA and The Dome fans continue to be absolutely magnificent and provide the best atmosphere of any wrestling venue in the country. This year we also debuted at The Hexagon at Lancaster and Morecambe College, which is another superb venue for wrestling and we will be running more shows there in future.

 

Q: Just remind everyone exactly what you mean by your “vision of what a British wrestling show should be”?

GL: The XWA offers a great night out that can be enjoyed by anyone aged three to 103. We put on a well-booked, well-structured show with strong storylines and strong characters, and some outstanding wrestling from an incredibly strong roster of the best wrestlers in the UK today. It is American-style wrestling, but with mainly all-British talent and our shows have a distinctly British personality and a northern flavour. As mentioned before, the XWA fans are among the most passionate in the country, they are emotionally attached to what we do and the atmosphere at our events is second to none. 

 

Q: Perhaps the biggest news story of 2007 in British wrestling was the death of the FWA, who lost a ‘Losing Promotion Ceases to Exist’ match with IPW:UK on March 25. Over six months on, what are your thoughts on the demise of the FWA?

GL: With hindsight, I think it was for the best. The FWA had its day and its demise was inevitable because both the management and the fans had lost their passion for the FWA. The best possible finale for the FWA was for it to go out in a blaze of glory and then for everyone associated with it to move on and do their own thing. Final Frontiers was an amazingly heated, emotional night and a cracking, memorable show –so it was certainly that blaze of glory I’m talking about. Now we’re moving on with the XWA.

 

Q: What do you say to those who say the XWA is just the FWA under a new name, and you are making a mockery of the ‘Losing Promotion Must Fold’ stipulation at Final Frontiers by continuing to run shows under a new name?

GL: The XWA is not the FWA – it has a completely different ethos. Our style of show is not the style of show the FWA was famous for. The FWA was adult entertainment for smart wrestling fans using plenty of international talent, kind of like 1PW is today. The XWA is entertainment that can be enjoyed by all wrestling fans but using mainly British talent. And I must also mention that we open the doors on time, start the show on time, and our shows rarely last more than three hours! But there are similarities between the FWA and the XWA – for example, we decided to continue the lineage of the FWA’s two main titles, the British Heavyweight Championship and the British Flyweight Championship, to ensure there was at least some continuity between the FWA and the XWA.

 

Q: What have been your personal highlights of XWA shows this year?

GL: Coming out at the start of War On The Shore, absolutely bricking it, and having to explain to the Morecambe fans that the FWA was dead, and then to hear the entire building chanting “XWA!” within 30 seconds, was definitely my highlight of the year. But there have been so many others. Jonny Storm beating Robbie Brookside for the British Heavyweight Title at War On The Shore was a fitting climax to a year-long story with many twists and turns. Stevie Knight’s heel turn has provided some real heat – the Morecambe fans truly loathe him for his actions this year.

The XWA fans chanting “That was awesome!” after the Battle of Britain final between Sam Slam and Johnny Phere was a spine-tingling moment. That chant is so over-used in other promotions to the point that it becomes meaningless, but it was the first time it has ever been chanted at an XWA event and never was it more appropriate. And to see the fans embrace The Manchester Massive as two of their biggest favourites after chanting “Kill the Chavs!” with such venom at every show for two years, was also a great moment. I predict 2008 will be a big year for Declan (O’Connor) and especially Joey (Hayes), who is a breakout star waiting to happen.  Vendetta was a brilliant show from start to finish, especially the debut of Sam Slam. It was amazing to see how he got over in just one night as possibly the most popular star we’ve ever had.  Finally, it still gives me goosebumps every time the XWA fans chant “Morecambe Raffle!”

 

Q: Any other XWA wrestlers who have impressed you this year?

GL: Zak Zodiac is another 2007 debutant who has shown a lot of promise. We have given Johnny Phere a real opportunity this year and he has risen to the occasion. During his ‘Year Of Phere’ undefeated streak he has proved he is possibly the most underrated talent in the UK today. Why he doesn’t get booked more often by other promotions is beyond me - he has presence, a unique look, dedication and ability, and is such a fantastic character. The Ross Jordan-El Ligero feud has been a cracker. These guys have been the two best Flyweight wrestlers in the country this year and to see them go full-pelt at each other for show after show has been a real pleasure. And I’m very excited about ‘The Best of the North West’ division and thought ‘Dangerous’ Damon Leigh’s intervention in the launch match at Battle of Britain bodes for a very interesting future indeed.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to at Last Fight At The Prom, the grand finale to the XWA’s year at The Dome on Saturday November 24?

GL: I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Sam Slam and Darren Burridge FINALLY get their hands on Stevie Knight. That will be a hugely heated situation. I’m also really excited about the Mexican Streetfight between Jordan and Ligero, that really could be a British Match of the Year candidate. And I also think Jonny Storm versus Johnny Phere for the British Heavyweight Title will be a tremendous match. This is the first time these two have ever met in the ring, and it’s a fascinating clash of styles and personalities between two guys who are incredibly dedicated to putting on the best match possible for the fans. We’ve seen some amazing British Heavyweight Title matches in The Morecambe Dome over the years, from Doug Williams v Christopher Daniels in 2003 to Alex Shane v Raven in 2005 to the Jonny Storm v Robbie Brookside v Hade Vansen triple threat in 2006. Seriously, Storm v Phere might just rival all of them.  It’s going to be an awesome show all-round. It always is at The Dome.

 

Q: What are your plans for the XWA in 2008?

GL: Well, I can announce that Saturday March 1 2008 will see the very first ‘Best of the North West’ show at The Hexagon – an event dedicated entirely to the fabulous wrestling talent we have in the North West of England. There’s been so many phenomenal wrestlers from the North West down the years – The British Bulldogs, Marc ‘Rollerball’ Rocco, Marty Jones, William Regal, Johnny Saint, Jackie Robinson, Billy Riley of the famous Snake Pit gym in Wigan, Bert Royal, Vic Faulkner to name just a few– and we want to showcase the current generation who are following in these legends’ footsteps. Mark and I will be scouting other promotions throughout the North West between now and then and we have already been massively impressed with the North West talent we have seen. So we can promise the XWA fans that ‘Best of the North West 1’ will see the debuts of several new faces who have never wrestled for the XWA before.  And the show will climax with a very special match to determine exactly who is the best wrestler in the region – the man who can truly call himself the Best of the North West.

By the way, I really hope this new division helps give the wrestling scene in the North West the recognition it deserves. I think the XWA and also GPW should be mentioned among the best promotions in the country, but sometimes I feel we are overlooked. Maybe this is because we’re not on TV – which is by our own choice, by the way – or because we don’t have a large base of Internet fans attending our shows. It’s a shame, because XWA consistently outdraws, has a better talent roster, puts on more enjoyable shows and is a much better live event experience than most other top UK promotions. Yet many Internet fans still perceive other promotions to be superior. We’d like these fans to come and see what XWA has to offer, so we can change their minds.

 

Q: Why do you think XWA doesn’t get credit from the Internet?

GL: It’s mainly a geographical thing. We’re out on a limb here in Morecambe so we don’t get a lot of the Internet fans travelling to our shows. So we don’t get many comments about our shows on the Internet, which is a little disappointing when we know we’ve put on some great shows this year, but that success isn’t really getting across to the ‘hardcore’ British wrestling fan base. We don’t need these fans to give us recognition, because our shows draw well with locals, but it’s always nice to strive for wider interest in our product. Next year we hope to do just that. Thanks to an agreement between three top North West promotions, XWA, GPW and FSW, we hope to run North West Weekenders in 2008 – with GPW on the Friday, XWA on the Saturday and FSW on the Sunday. Hopefully having the chance to watch three shows up north in three days will encourage a few more ‘hardcore’ fans to travel, and spread the word that North West wrestling is just as good as anything else on offer in the UK – if not better!

 

Q: You mentioned geography. Why should wrestling fans travel specifically to Morecambe?

GL: There has never been a better time to come to Morecambe because the place is buzzing. We have a League football club for the first time in the town’s history, Morecambe’s flagship building The Midland Hotel has been renovated by award-winning designers Urban Splash and is opening next spring, and the entire town is in the middle of a continuous regeneration process as a result. And the wrestling is pretty good too!

 

Q: What about the breaking news this week that The Morecambe Dome will close in the next few years?

GL: Yes, The Dome is going to close, it’s just a question of when. There is a strong likelihood that The Dome will be replaced with an even better venue when that time comes. We also have the Hexagon and a few alternative quality venues in mind. Obviously it will be a very sad day for Mark and I, and for the XWA, when we have so say goodbye to The Dome but there’s nothing we can do about it and we will make the best of the situation as always. One thing we will say to British wrestling fans is they should come and experience a show at The Dome, while they still can…

 

Q: Finally, anything else to look out for from the XWA in 2008?

GL: Mark Saturday April 12 2008 onto your calendars in indelible ink, because this will be a very special date for the XWA. On that date we will host the fourth annual War On The Shore at The Morecambe Dome – but not only that, it will be the first anniversary of the XWA and the fifth anniversary of Mark and I promoting wrestling shows. And we can promise a very special night to mark this bumper anniversary occasion.

Aside from that, we have recently secured some exciting new additions to the XWA roster – not just from the North West, but some of the biggest stars UK wrestling has to offer – and they will be appearing on our shows in 2008. So stay tuned everybody, because in 2008 the XWA will continue to put on the best shows, in front of the best fans, in the best venues the UK wrestling scene has to offer. And if you don’t believe me, come and see for yourself!