Wrestle Carnival, the brainchild of promoter and former Wrestle Gate man Gary Ward, has, in a very short period of time, proven itself to be one of the most exciting British wrestling promotions in the game right now, gaining a major and ever-increasing buzz amongst fans on the UK scene as 2021 progressed.
November 14th 2021 saw the Carnival guys and gals put on the 4th event, and their final event of the year: Carnival Mania, played out in front of a very enthusiastic crowd at the promotion’s home base, Nottingham’s Portland Centre. Anticipation was huge after the last show, October’s PURE, proved to be such a big hit. We were not disappointed.
First off; there were some people missing from the audience due to train cancellations. The fact that Wrestle Carnival and Gary Ward reached out to fans on social media after the event and said they would move their tickets to the Carnival’s next show, Carnival of Champions, on January 30th. It really must be mentioned because it was such a classy and kind thing to do. Let’s be honest: the group is essentially a start-up and needs all the money it can get early on. And yet, such a gesture to the fans is one of absolute decency will only serve to strengthen their relationship with their audience. Wrestle Carnival has my total respect for that.
But let’s get to the graps. To paraphrase Pinhead (of all people), Wrestle Carnival had such sights to show us at Carnival Mania. The main event saw ‘The Answer’ Joe Hendry take on the legitimate ambassador of British Wrestling, Doug Williams, in an ROH Pure Rules match. Hendry had previously challenged Williams to the match at Carnival of Honor, claiming he needed to beat someone of the statue of Doug Williams to elevate himself into the top bracket.
Whether Hendry had achieved that elevation remains to be seen, but he put on a very good Pure Rules match with the legendary former ‘Anarchist,’ showing no mercy by sending Williams to the floor and then attacking him furiously as he tried to re-enter the ring. Williams for his part displayed some lovely suplex work and showed off those smooth technical skills that made him an ROH Pure Champion all those years ago.
Hendry ultimately used his ring savvy to get the win, forcing Williams into using all his rope breaks so that he had no choice but to tap out. With the first Wrestle Carnival champion due to be decided in January, could we see ‘The Answer’ ride the momentum from this win into obtaining Championship gold? He’s due to face Axel Tischer at Carnival of Champions, but knows what the future will bring?
Carnival Mania also proved to be a big showcase for the women’s talent on the roster too. Wrestle Carnival has definitely made a point of supporting women’s wrestling, and Carnival Mania saw no less than three women’s matches, just under half the card, and it just goes to show how exciting the women’s wrestling scene in the UK at the moment.
In particular, Rhio and Emersyn Jayne had a cracker of a match, with the fans solidly behind Rhio, as always, and Emerson Jayne giving the audience a few choice words while mauling the fan favourite. Rhio came out on top though, much to the fans’ delight.
Meanwhile, Ivy and Lana Austin hit hard and heavy on the way to an impressive Ivy victory, and Alexxis Falcon and Gia Adams took a big victory over Visage and Heidi Katrina in an extremely fun encounter that saw all four women have moments to shine, particularly the fascinating Visage, who showed off her star quality here in the Carnival ring. At first, I thought the result was an upset, considering the quality of Heidi and Visage, but of course, it’s Alexxa Falcon and Gia Adams—we’re talking about real talented performers
It wasn’t just about the grappling though; there were some choice angles played out brilliantly to further storylines and give a sense of continuity between shows. After the trio of Powerhouse Blake, Will Kroos and Brady Phillips (who worked really well as a trio—form a stable, lads?) defeated Nathan Cruz, Sean Kustom and Myles Kayman, with Kayman accidentally nailing Cruz to set up the finish, a furious Cruz lashed out his partners before walking off in disgust. Something tells me that’s not the last we’ve seen of Cruz’s temper…
And then there was Charles Crowley.
The kingpin of BDSM and self-defined “Pure Spectacle,” Mr Crowley’s entrance was notable for his carrying a golden balloon to the ring. Taking the Carnival theme a bit far, surely? In fact, it was a gift to one of his opponents in this handicap match, Crowley’s long-term nemesis Lion Kid, who Crowley had unmasked at Curtain Call.
What neither Lion Kid nor we in the audience were expecting was for Crowley to burst the balloon with a pin, unleashing an explosion of powder to blast into Lion Kid’s eyes, blinding him and leaving him at ringside for most of the match! What a great heel move! And he says he doesn’t deserve those ‘twat’ chants!
Kid’s partner, Big Joe-C was more than capable of handling Crowley, even if the swine did unmask him to reveal…Big Guns Joe! Who, of course, hasn’t been on the best terms with Crowley in recent months either.
As Lion Kid got back in the match and was able to get a measure of retribution by pinning Crowley, the celebration was rudely cut off by the appearance of Terry Isit, who joined Crowley in beating down Joe and Lion Kid and snuffing out any sense of resolution Lion Kid might have felt by pinning Crowley. Did I mention the word ‘twat’ before?
Seriously, though, Crowley is an astonishing performer and Carnival Mania was no exception.
But what was the match of the night, I hear you ask? Well, I’ll happily tell you: NORTH. WEST. STRONG.
Pitting two members of the deadly wrestling stable against each other was a great idea, and Chris Ridgeway, hot on the heels of his furious encounter with Jonathan Gresham last month, and Luke Jacobs did not disappoint. Extremely hard-hitting, as you might expect, this competition of skill and stamina and no surrender was perhaps a little more competitive as you might expect. Yes, Ridgeway might be the leader of North West Strong, but Jacobs went toe to toe and hold for hold with him, as well as blow for bruising blow (and judging from the sheer volume of them, they were bruising), proving why North West Strong has become such a force to be reckoned with on the UK scene.
In the end, Ridgeway made Jacobs tap, but the outcome never felt inevitable, which is a credit to both wrestlers and the story they were telling. The crowd were solidly behind both men and Luke Jacobs got as big a round of applause as Ridgeway as he staggered his way to the back. A physical war, no doubt, but one in which both men came across as winners.
When you throw in an opening four-way that saw suicide dives and moonsaults to the floor galore, with everybody’s favourite rapper-wrestler Man Like Dereis taking victory, and Jay Joshua beating Elijah after a smooth slow-burn pure-style contest, and all in all Carnival Mania proved to be another great show from Wrestle Carnival, a promotion that, in the space of four month’s worth of shows, has quickly proved itself to be one of the most exciting British promotions around today.
It has variety; it has talent; it has a great aesthetic (check out those colour schemes and the very professional video and pyro display at the entranceway), and it has an audience that, to its credit, really does want to enjoy itself. Watching live wrestling is as much about the atmosphere as it is about the grappling, and Wrestle Carnival has this in abundance.
Carnival Mania will soon be available via Wrestle Carnival’s Patreon—come join the Carnival!