Showdown Show-stopper in Stoke
Saturday 18th July 2009: one of the World of Sport’s most prestigious wrestling venues played host to LDN’s Legends Showdown spectacular, an evening that promised the best of British action both old and new, and had more than enough names - good and bad alike - to live up to that assurance.
The action kicked off with the LDN Capital belt on the line – a statement which seemed to come as something of a shock for holder Danny Garnell. His opponent was the acrobatic Hakan, a youngster who ended up in hospital very recently at the hands of the mysterious Man in the Mask, Kendo Nagasaki. Despite Garnell holding the title he did not dominate the match but eventually came out victorious with the one fall he needed.
Before the second match, Sanjay Bagga proudly announced that no Legends Showdown would be complete with the Legends Parade. The first veteran to grace the canvas was none other than Bobby Ryan, former British Lightweight champion, a man who dominated the 70’s wrestling scene along with other great names such as Steve Grey and Jim Breaks. Interestingly enough, it was The Victoria Hall in Hanley where Bobby took the title from Jim Breaks in the mid seventies. Johnny Kincaid was the second legend in the parade, receiving a lifetime achievement award. Johnny took the microphone and relived some of his memories but was disappointed that he had been unable to fight on the evening due to doctor’s orders. The third and final legend to make an appearance was probably the biggest shock of the evening – certainly to me anyway – the former British, European and World Mid Heavyweight champion, Marty Jones, also collecting an award from LDN. Holding the frame aloft, Jones spoke to the crowd and it was pretty obvious that he really missed his involvement with the scene. He also mentioned that current WWE stars, Finlay and Lord Regal still called him regularly.
The start of the second match was pretty controversial as Stoke star Keith Myatt came into the ring before Marty Jones had finished, stole the microphone and hurled abuse at the former star, refusing to show one ounce of respect for a man who has probably forgotten more Myatt will ever know. Jones was finally allowed to leave the ring but not before removing his jacket for a taste of the action, but it was Alan Lee Travis (Myatt’s opponent) who stopped it from escalating. True to form, Myatt’s rule-bending incited the crowd to fever pitch as the action moved from the ring to the floor to the ring again, and finally the stage of the theatre, before ending up back in the ring where an unfortunate incident knocked the referee clean out of it. Enter, Marty Jones who had obviously had enough, and for the first time in years showed us why he was one of the biggest stars in the game and precisely why Myatt should have respected him. Travis did win the match and whether or not he needed Marty’s help we’ll never know. Myatt had plenty to say afterwards and threw out a challenge to Marty Jones. All I can say is: watch this space.
An already angered crowd was driven further over the edge when Sheffield grappler Blondie Barret entered the ring carrying The Kendo Nagasaki Sword of Excellence. His opponent was the 2007 Golden Grappler champion, Johnny Kidd. Once again, it was Barret’s rule-bending that created a furious battle not only between the two wrestlers, but also the crowd and the officials. Despite various injuries throughout the bout, Kidd eventually came out on top, winning by two falls to one. At that point however, Barret refused to hand over the sword, claiming he did not see anything on his contract.
After the break, another LDN title was on the line: holder Jon Ritchie rose to the challenge of David De-ville, fought out under spirit rules with the winner needing two falls, two submissions or a knockout to decide. If we thought we’d seen everything so far, we were wrong. Ritchie and his butler Ponsonby caused a near riot, which resulted in water flying in every direction, with members of the crowd challenging them both to a fight to the death in the ring. Ritchie dominated the first couple of rounds but the tables turned when De-Ville gained the first fall in the third. However, experience prevailed and Ritchie secured the two falls he needed to keep the belt: but not before a tantrum saw him leave the ring, refusing to return.
The final match of the night was the Johnny Saint Open Challenge match. The only person to take him up was a man who had already fought earlier in the evening, Johnny Kidd: a repeat match of the main event of Legends Showdown 2007 in the Broxbourne Civic Hall. Two true masters of the sport gave us all a lesson in grappling: wrestlers and members of the audience alike. It was once again fought out under Spirit Rules and, in all honesty, was the type of match that didn’t require an official. Both men, real ambassadors for the sport, wouldn’t know how to break a rule if they were taught from now till doomsday: a sheer pleasure. The only sad fact of it all was that the hall was less than half full. But what can you do when you do not have the power of television to help?
Before the event finished an announcement was made, and one I had expected to come at some point throughout the night. The Victoria Hall in Hanley is considered to be Kendo Nagasaki’s stomping ground: a venue where he unmasked Count Bartelli and, also had his final official fight. Grappling fans more recently will also remember he had his controversial Sword of Excellence Ladder Match at the hall last year with the Greek wrestler, Yorghos. The message from the masked man of mystery was that the dark clouds were gathering once more, signifying the Samurai Warrior’s return to the ring. LDN owner Sanjay Bagga welcomed the message and told the crowd they would be returning to Stoke next February in the half term week, and if Nagasaki wanted to join them he would be more than welcome. So, what with the promise of Marty Jones and Kendo Nagasaki possibly on the same bill, British Wrestling still has a hell of a lot to live for. That said: see you all in Stoke next year. But before that, I may get to see some of you in Kent at this year’s August reunion.
Ray Clark 2009.