Inaugural Wrestle Carnival Champions Crowned at ‘Carnival of Champions’

‘Carnival of Champions’ Review—January 30th

After the major buzz that Wrestle Carnival garnered on the UK wrestling scene in 2021, what better way to set out their stall in 2022 than by crowning their first Champions with the King and the Queen of Carnival belts?

Well, we get that and we got it with style. But we got a hell of a lot more than that. Carnival of Champions might rival Pure for my favorite Wrestle Carnival show to date. There was emotion, drama, violence, and some set-ups to what is going to be an interesting 2022 indeed.

Let the Carnival of Champions begin…

Charles Crowley Is Your Men’s Wrestle Carnival Champion

Both the Men’s and Women’s Championships were decided in gauntlet matches, with 8 entrants entering into a battle royal scenario and the final two combatants wrestling under normal rules until a pinfall or submission finally gave the winner the gold.

The men’s gauntlet saw everyone’s favorite twat (don’t worry, it seems to be everybody’s pet name for him) Charles Crowley make his usual flourish of an entrance and proclaim that he was scared…of being the best wrestler in the company!

Crowley had every reason to be scared though, what with the hard-hitting likes of Dean Allmark, Jay Joshua, and everybody’s favorite hard bastard Chris Ridgeway all competing for the title too. Add Big Guns Joe, Tommy Kyle, Warren Banks, and Brady Philips into the mix, and Crowley should have had every reason to be concerned.

Still, one man’s pain is an audience’s gain, and Dean Allmark and Chris Ridgeway engaged in gentlemanly competition, taking turns to see who could kick a hole through Crowley the hardest was a thrillingly vicious sight to behold. In turn, Crowley squealed like a petrified pig before trying to eliminate Warren Banks, balanced on the apron, by biting Banks’ fingers. What an absolute swine!

All eight men ended up duking it out in the ring before a single-elimination occurred, but once they did, the eliminations came thick and fast. It came down to Ridgeway and Crowley, with the easy money being on Ridgeway (my pick before the match began). And yet! Crowley managed to quickly reverse a submission attempt into a roll-up to take the shock 1-2-3! Charles Crowley is your first Wrestle Carnival Men’s Champion!

Charles Crowley poses with the Men's Wrestle Carnival championship
Credit: Head Drop

A great match with a surprise ending, but not because Crowley doesn’t deserve it. In fact, Mr. Twat (as I affectionately call him not to his face) has been one of the real shining stars of the BritWres scene since it began to open up again after numerous pandemic lockdowns. He’ll be money for Wrestle Carnival—it’s a matter of old school. Everybody will want to see the heel they secretly love to hate, get an arse-kicking in the hope this will be the night he finally gets his comeuppance.

Very smart booking. Congratulations, Charles Crowley!

Alex Windsor Is Your Women’s Wrestle Carnival

I’m not sure if this match had to be shortened a little, what with the Gabriel Kidd-Yota Tsuji match seemingly going long (more on that later), but in any case, the ladies made it work and it led to a nicely fast-paced, urgent contest. It never felt rushed, and that is to the competitor’s credit.

The women’s gauntlet was made up of Lana Austin, Chantal Jordan, Rhio, Jetta, Mercedez Blaze, Lizzy Evo, Alex Windsor, and Charlie Morgan, this match featured the cream of the crop of British women’s wrestling—so much so that only entrants couldn’t contain the talent! Alexxis Falcon and Gia Adams made their way to ringside partway through the action to claim that you can’t have a gauntlet and you can’t crown a women’s champion without them.

Charlie Morgan and Jetta disagreed with that assessment, as the pair teamed up to eliminate Falcon. As Jetta went after Adams though, with both women Dangling over the ropes, Charlie Morgan tried to eliminate Adams and ended up doing so by sending Jetta out of the ring as well. Morgan was mortified by the error, but Jetta was furious—pulling Morgan over the top rope in revenge and berating her at ringside. Wow! Shame to see a friendship turn sour, but if we get a rematch from their brilliant match at Pure then let battle commence!

In the end, the action came down to perhaps the two favorites, Rhio (my pick) and Alex Windsor, who had the momentum of beating Impact star Jordynne Grace at Pure behind her, as well the confidence of knowing that she is currently the RevPro Undisputed British Women’s Champion. But would she prove a little too overconfident and leave herself open to the attacks of Rhio, who is getting a lot of buzz around her at the moment?

For a moment, it looked like Rhio would do it. After some lovely exchanges between the pair, Rhio started dropping Windsor with some big power moves, going for the cover after each one to try and catch Windsor out. It was not to be though, with Windsor battling back and finally locking Rhio in the sharpshooter, forcing the submission to claim the vacant gold.

Alex Windsor poses with the Women's Wrestle Carnival Championship
Credit: Head Drop

Again, it was a smart pick. Windsor is clearly at the top of her game at the moment and is riding a wave of momentum at the moment as the RevPro Women’s champ. Rhio, meanwhile, looked great in defeat and still has plenty of time to claim the title in the future. The ending one on one segment between Rhio and Windsor certainly suggests a rematch between the two for the title would be one hell of an encounter.

Congratulations Alex Windsor!

I think Alex Windsor may have to deal with a different challenger first, though…

Challenges Lain and Hints of Confrontation Given

The end of Carnival of Champions saw Alex Windsor and Charles Crowley pose together and celebrate with their new belts as the crowd cheered them on (OK, some people might have been calling Crowley a twat). It was such a feel-good ending, with Windsor looking to enjoy she was perhaps getting more cheers than Crowley. Charles was in his element. A great way to send the audience home, then.

Except, Man Like Dereiss (01! 21!) and the baseball bat-wielding Ivy had other ideas. The pair came out to confront their respective champions, Windsor dismissing Ivy’s gestures with the bat at Alex’s belt, while Crowley debated how quickly Dereiss had eliminated him during the gauntlet match at Pure (“three seconds? It was more like five seconds!”)

Dereiss and Ivy soon took their leave but the seeds have been sown. The champions appear to have found their first challengers. Indeed, Alex Windsor and Ivy will go at it at Wrestle Carnival’s first show outside of Nottingham on February 17th, Thursday Night Carnival at the Assembly Rooms at Tamworth in what should be a cracker, while Charles Crowley will defend on the same show against RJ Singh, a match I’m sure Dereiss will be watching very closely.

Meanwhile, former NXT UK star and Nottingham’s own Joseph Connors gave a heartfelt promo which, while poking a little fun at WWE (talking about every career having highs and lows and describing WWE as a high, he added “one of the lows was also wrestling for WWE”), he talked about how his own worst enemy had been his mind and that he was far from done, nor would he let his mind be his enemy anymore. But as he made to leave, Nathan Cruz’s music kicked in and the man himself appeared, only to walk slowly like a predator around the ring, before giving a hollow laugh and welcoming Connors back. Could we see these two going at it in a Wrestle Carnival ring soon?

Nathan Cruz stares down a watching Joseph Connors
Credit: Head Drop

Nottingham Strong Style & A Bad Night For Chairs

In what was perhaps the match of the night, hometown boy Gabriel Kidd faced his perennial New Japan rival, Yota Tsuji, in what was a dramatic, violent, and very emotional encounter. I didn’t realize until Kidd made his entrance and hugged an older lady that I had been sitting one row behind and slightly to the right of Kidd’s family who had come out to watch him in action. That, and the clear love on display from the hometown crowd for their wrestling son, really gave the match an extra level of emotion, especially with the beating Tsuji laid down on Kidd in the early going.

Indeed, Tsuji beat Kidd all around ringside before he told our part of the audience to move. Move we did, and Tsuji used Kidd as a bowling ball to knock down our chairs like pins. It looked like it hurt like hell as well. Must have been strange for his family to see Gabriel sprawled among chairs on the floor! Earlier in the evening, Will Kroos, in a cool beef-slapping match with Powerhouse Blake against Reece and Rogan, made good use of the chairs as well, sending one of his opponents crashing through the audience and about three rows of seats. It was not a good night to be a chair…

Back in the ring, Kidd and Tsuji took things more into familiar Strong Style territory, obliterating each other with some of the hardest slaps, strikes, and forearms I’ve seen live outside of watching Minoru Suzuki at Royal Quest. The pair battered each other silly until Kidd finally took the advantage with the tombstone piledriver to take the euphoric 1-2-3 as the hometown crowd roared its approval.

This review just doesn’t do justice to this extremely physical match. it was a war of attrition, a battle of wills, and it came down to who wanted it more, and in front of Gabriel Kidd’s home crowd, this was his night. He gave a moving speech after, talking about his difficulties with his mental health and how he feels he’s back on track, doing what he loves and being great at it. He talked about how the likes of himself, Tsuji, Clark Connors, and others were no longer New Japan Young Lions—and that included the man at the back watching the match…Alex Coughlin! I turned around and there he was, watching the speech quietly and appreciatively. I didn’t even know he was there! That was a cool moment. As was Tsuji giving Kidd’s mother his fan as a sign of respect.

It’s matches and moments like this that remind you why it’s such a great time to be a wrestling fan. I honestly never thought I’d hear people chant “Yota, Yota Tsuji” to the tune of “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.” God bless wrestling.

“I’m An Axe Man!”

Joe Hendry takes to the turnbuckles at Carnival of Champions, wearing a forensic suit and brandishing an axe
Credit: Head Drop

But from beautiful emotion, we go to one of the funniest wrestling moments I’ve witnessed live. Alex Tischer, the former Alexander Wolfe in NXT and NXT UK and current wXw Unified World Wrestling Champion (a beautiful title in the flesh), was there to defend his title against Joe Hendry. But Joe wasn’t particularly intimidated…

Tischer raged in the ring as Hendry’s new entrance video played, a parody of The Shining where Joe was hiding in the bathroom whilst a second Joe, with a bizarre photoshopped image of a smiling Tischer’s face, hacked at the door with an ax, before Billy Gunn’s classic Attitude-era theme, ‘Ass Man’ kicked in, with the words changed to ‘I’m an Axe Man’ and some lyrical references to nipping down to B&Q to purchase an ax! Maybe it was the nostalgia, but I was nearly crying with laughter! As I was also when Hendry finally emerged in a forensics outfit, marching around the ring with an ax. Patrick Bateman, is that you?

The two men had a lovely, slow-burning European style encounter, with Tischer getting a little more heelish as the match went on and Hendry getting some real momentum by the end. But it wasn’t to be—Tischer took the win and that beautiful wXw belt back to Germany with him. Still, Hendry looked impressive here and I really can see a title in his future.

Final Thoughts

Carnival of Champions was a class show from start to finish, showing why Wrestle Carnival is getting the buzz it is currently. The two gauntlet matches were fun and full of energy, with two great inaugural champions crowned that will represent the brand well. There was genuine emotion from Joseph Connors and Gabriel Kidd, a cracking slice of Strong Style between Kidd and Yota Tsuji, hilarity from Joe Hendry, and hard-hitting beef slapping from the Pure Beef lads, Kroos and Powerhouse Blake. Future confrontations were set up well and naturally, and even crowd-pleasers like Man Like Deiress and Taonga got the audience going in the preliminary bouts. There was such a good atmosphere and that lent itself to making this a great show.

Promoter Gary Ward has talked to me before about the importance of having variety on Wrestle Carnival cards. Well, variety is there but, equally importantly, so is quality. Carnival of Champions proved just that. Keep your eyes on the Carnival gang—they’re doing special things.

Written by Chris Flackett

Wrestling obsessed since '91. Lived through the Monday Night Wars and is still here to tell the tale. Major fan of Strong Style, technical and Super Jr. Wrestling, as well as big versatile hosses smacking the hell out of each other. Lives in Manchester, England.

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