New Generation Wrestling Live in Pudsey

   There is an old wrestling proverb, paraphrased from Thomas Aquinas' meditation on religious faith, which truly captures the essence of the art-form:

"For those who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not understand, no explanation will suffice."

   I fit clearly into the former category and nearly always have: I'm an unrelenting believer in this unique blend of pantomime, athletics, morality plays, meta-textual drama and soap opera. Since I was a young child I have been captivated by the larger-than-life characters who command the squared circle - I marveled at giants with fists the size of bowling balls dueling against gymnastic underdogs courageously propelling their bodies through the air with the grace of a gymnast but the impact of a wrecking ball. These were comic book characters brought to life and Hulk Hogan was the greatest hero of them all. To me, and countless other Hulkamaniacs across the word, he still is.

   So, when I heard British grappling league New Generation Wrestling were coming to my neck of the woods (Pudsey Civic Hall), there was no way I could possibly turn down the opportunity to attend the event. Tickets were booked instantly and all that was left was to wait impatiently for January 30th to come.

   To those who still believe professional wrestling to be populated with barely mobile giants such as the fondly remembered Big Daddy or Giant Haystacks, NGW would come as something of a shock. Their roster, consisting of the creme-de-la-creme of British talent, is largely filled with true athletes whose technical acumen, fitness and toning is astonishing. It is little wonder that El Ligero, the charismatic luchador, and Bubblegum, the NGW GenX champion, are held as amongst the most talented performers in the entire industry by many in the know.

   The show, which consisted of seven matches plus an intermission, impressed from top to bottom and on every conceivable level. Whilst NGW broadcasts weekly on free-view and at BritishWrestling.TV ,  the evening made no assumptions that we'd be up to speed on the story-lines, who was feuding who or why - before each bout, then, large screens would present the lively audience with recaps of on-going story-lines and present context to the matches we were about to witness. This was a neat touch and a testament to the phenomenal story-telling the promotion featured throughout the night.

   The evening begun with the arrogant and brash Bubblegum defending his GenX title against the heroic Matt Myers. The stipulation of the fight was that a winner must be crowned within a ten-minute time limit put in place to encourage the competitors to seek a quick victory, taking risks they otherwise may not. Of course, despite his cockiness, Bubblegum showed a cowardly streak: every time Myers got the upper hand, the reigning champion would bale to ring-side to collect his thoughts and breath. The tactic, to the crowd's dismay, proved successful.

   As Myers finally appeared to vanquish his foe, the referee began his three-count which was interrupted by a bell signalling the time limit had expired. A draw signified that Bubblegum would keep his title. Myers, of course, was despondent, begging and pleading for a further five minutes to give the bout a conclusive victor. Win, lose or draw, he said, he was willing to put a large amount of his own money on the line for nothing more than the opportunity to win the title. These were the actions of a hero we could truly root for. Sadly, before Bubblegum could give an answer, Lionheart - a cold, methodical heel from Ayr - jumped Myers from behind and laid him out with one devastating finisher after the next. This calculated ruthlessness foreshadowed the nights main event rather pleasingly.

   As Bubblegum vs Myers demonstrated, NGW is an incredibly well-booked promotion which gives us reason to care for each match and to become emotionally invested in the action which unfolds before us. Over the course of the evening we met an array of well-rounded characters who elicited real enthusiastic and cathartic reactions from the crowd. Stixx, the salt-of-the-earth warrior, took on a brace of corporate-chosen villians; mod "Flash" Morgan Webster (hailing, brilliantly, from "A Town Called Malice") fought The Wild Boar; the gargantuan Rampage Brown, aided even further by an outside entourage, took on the intense Zack Gibson.

   Yet, the twin peaks of the night consisted of the tag team bout (pitting El Ligero and Liam Slater against Dara Diablo and "The Righteous One" Joseph Connors) and the title-match main event (which saw reigning champion Nathan Cruz retain over the menacingly mechanical Lionheart). Whilst Cruz had the audience in the palm of his hand with his explosive offence and a winning smile, Lionheart perhaps stood out as the greatest performer on the card. Boasting a powerful and ominous presence, Lionheart wasted not a single movement, radiating a threatening aura even in the stillest of moments.

   In an evening of high-flying and crowd pleasing spots,  however, one of the stand-out moments featured Liam Slater sacrificing victory to protect his brother (celebrating his 16th birthday in the front row) from his menacing foes. El Ligero appeared angered upon realising what had occurred at the match's conclusion; however our masked superstar soon came to the conclusion that sometimes there are more important things in life than wrestling. In this one particular instance they may have been correct but, on this night which made me feel young and un-jaded once more, there's not much which can top it.

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