EWW needed momentum. So far, we had produced two shows and were getting attention from the British wrestling fans, but mainstream interest was non-existent. We weren’t the only ones having this problem. There was a lot of talk about TV from both the UWA and the FWA, especially with the proliferation of more television channels, but still the stigma of British Wrestling’s past haunted us all. Everyone had their media contacts and we all did our best, but we knew that our key to was to build a following. This meant more exposure of our brand and storylines. We did not want to stay at Exeter Hall. The plan now was to get moving on “The Armageddon Tour” and to book as many dates as possible. Unfortunately we just did not have the money and with both Stu and me in full-time employment it was difficult to promote a run of our own shows. We needed to selectively partner with other promotions and get bookings.
Appropriately enough for our diverse brand, EWW’s first booking outside of its own promotion was not on a wrestling show. Malcolm Martin ran a kickboxing club in Wiltshire and was set to hold a fight night in Calne, where he booked the tag team rematch to “Storm Rising” along with a production of Dead Souls. Following our cue, he named the entire event “April Armageddon”. We attended a meeting at the venue and discussed putting on our next show in his region. Malc advised that rather than use the leisure centre hall we should book a studio venue called The Olympiad in neighbouring Chippenham. We would use our showing at Malc’s fight night to kickstart our advertising campaign in Wiltshire.
Malc dutifully wrote up a review of “Storm Rising”, despite being the show’s MC and an active character. It was published in “Combat” magazine, but was nothing like the first spread he had been able to convince his editor to run. Nevertheless, EWW would continue its relationship with the magazine throughout 1999. Israel got a section on the front cover connected to his victory at a tournament Combat had hosted.
The soon to be rising action movie star, Scott Adkins also got a front page feature. I had first met Scott when I was auditioning people to appear in my first incarnation of Dead Souls. My rather opportunistic kickboxing head instructor at the time had extracted him from the auditions and was now playing the role of his agent. Scott would go on to appear with Jackie Chan and various other stars, carving out a progressive career in action films. A man with amazing natural talent, Scott was a very adept tumbler and performance martial artist who could do just about any trick he tried. He also had legitimate acting ability and got himself parts in several drama series, such as “Doctors”. Scott and my old instructor would also be booked to perform a demonstration at the show.
Stu, Josh and I attended a meeting with Malc at the leisure centre venue and discussed the booking of Jonny Storm and The Dominator versus Jodie “The Street Devil” Fleische and The Dominator as well as the Dead Souls routine, “Krystal”. We had immediate concerns regarding the production. Due to the size of the venue, we were going to have problems with lighting. A staple part of what we were trying to put over was the aesthetics of a well-produced product. The Dead Souls routine relied a lot on creating a strong visual display. We always entered with large pythons draped over at least one of the performers. We used colour wash lighting effects and strobe to go with the various tracks being played. Likewise, we wanted to create fantastical entrances for all our wrestling stars. This seemed even more relevant on Malc’s show, which was predominantly a series of kickboxing matches and we needed to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the card. All of this was achieved in the end, but not to the standard we wanted. However, this would be the least of our worries on the night.
My lasting memory of our visit to Calne was the fish and chip shop we stopped off at on the way home. I have eaten at some very dodgy places in my life, but never have I seen “Meat and Chips” listed on a menu. No description of the species from where the flesh was derived. Suffice to say that my twisted curiosity did not lead me to order this native delicacy.
My relationship with Kadamba had progressed on from the night of “Storm Rising” despite being very ill-suited. She was keen to be involved in showbusiness as a singer, but probably just wanted to be famous. In many ways, she was the prototype for the century that was to follow. Since 2000 there has been an explosion of talent shows, z grade movies and live shows that use fame as a currency. We would almost find ourselves swept up in it as professional standard recording equipment started to come in at the consumer end, turning computer technicians into film camera operators, and artists of all different varieties would be encouraged to “collaborate” on a range of projects to “boost their profile”. Such remarkable double standards are staggering when one considers the derision we place on the Victorian freak show. At least “freaks” of old were paid professionals who were under no illusion about their career. The same cannot be said for many of the poor people who end up getting roped into working for free on various projects or put on TV talent shows.
Despite us being “an item” Kadamba seemed to think going to auditions for the TV show, “Blind Date” was perfectly acceptable. During our time together she didn’t proceed. However, I got her a role in our show. We were toying with the idea of having Fighting Spirit arrive with an angelic virginal figure. What I was to learn about Kadamba’s background prior to me and the problems we would encounter in our relationship, the irony here was laughable. Ronnie made her costume and she would appear dressed in a long white dress with a white hood, hands holding golden glitter that she would throw prior to Lee making his entrance. The next time glitter and cheers would meet Kadamba she would be in a cheap strip club.
Around this time Alex Shane introduced us to Sophia Smithers He recommended her as an ideal dancer for the Dead Souls performance. Strychnine had rehearsed dutifully for “Storm Rising” and we got on well with her, but I wasn’t convinced about her long-term suitability. Sophia became one of the most switched on members of the group. Her vampire look might have been a little on the nose for our Gothic style, but she completely understood where the whole concept was going. She looked the part and was a part of the Gothic subculture. She brought her own costumes to the production too. I let her take on the Goddess of Original Innocence Lost moniker, but with the added name, “Adela”. Malc had sourced it in a book of mythology. The original Adela was linked with serpents and so it seemed quite apt.
The night of the show brought with it plenty of the usual headaches. We may have only had two spots on the immense card, which would go on for five hours, but we were supplying the ring and lighting. Our work involved a fair amount of props too as well as two Burmese pythons. The ring crew were two hours late and tensions began to mount. As I previously mentioned, the lighting was a real problem and just didn’t have the production equipment to kill the house lights.
The Dead Souls contingent was made up of The Dominator and Jonny Storm tag team, Pain and Pleasure as valets, and Adela and Instinct in the production as well as additional ringside valets. Representing Malc’s EWW side was Fighting Spirit and Jody “The Street Devil” Fleische tag team with Kadamba and Tai Pan as valets. In addition to a goblet of Kensington Gore, the barbed wire baseball bat, a sugar glass bottle, the sword and other Gothic props, we brought back the barbed wire board we had tied to the ring post at “Storm Rising” and bought an aluminium bin and some pasting tables from a local DIY store. The pasting tables were a last minute resort. We had been opposed to them during our shows, having gone for trestle tables instead, but had nothing else available at the time.
We named the EWW section of the show, “The Beast with Two Backs”. This was a reference to the sexual remark made in Shakespeare’s Othello, riffing on the bestial element of our product and also the fact that it was tag team. The title did not really catch on and I marked it down to being one of our sillier and more pretentious artistic indulgences. Our presence on the card wasn’t being given much attention anyway. Malc had several martial arts demonstrations booked throughout the night, as he often did with his kickboxing events, but the main audience were there to watch their friends and family fight on the card. This included an entire junior division of various age groups that would take up the first hour or so. However, most of the audience had come to see their home champion fight before the interval. The trouble with having so many people fight from the gym and the extra demonstrations was that it made for a very long show. We were scheduled to appear at the end of the show. This had been decided in order to finish the show with a bang and also because certain adjustments had to be made to the ring for the wrestling.
Unfortunately this really worked out badly. A good amount of the audience had already gone home after the pre-interval championship bout. As the night progressed, patience wore thin with our crew and small number of supporters. My mum came backstage several times to warn me about how long we were being left. The audience was getting progressively more drunk and tired, and Stu’s father was becoming less patient. He was already enraged with the decision that had been cast on the main kickboxing match. Although the home crowd were happy their man had won, Stu’s dad wasn’t and angrily called “Fix!” from his seat. His anger swiftly switched to Malc for leaving us so long to come on and my mother feared that these two might end up having a bout of their own.
Some might have called it karma for paying LJ to lean on one of FWA’s flimsy tables at their debut show, but we lost one of our pasting tables to St John’s Ambulance during one of the fights. The medic leant on one to get into the ring after a knockout during a kickboxing match and went through it like a treat.
In the dressing room Stu and I dealt with the extended build up in our totally different ways. He sat still and focused. I paced and wound myself up for my performance. Here and there we all enjoyed ruining Jody’s love life by asking him to “Come back to bed!” whilst his girlfriend (she who had shared the flannel to sleep under on my room floor during our first visit to the FWA) was on the phone. In order to relieve tension showbusiness people often regress to such juvenile distractions.
Dead Souls finally made their appearance just before midnight, which was somewhat appropriate timing in a dramatic sense if not a practical one. We both made our entrances with the pythons wrapped around us. Sophia then performed her own dance to the Curve song “Crystal” as Debbie had done at “The Declaration”. Like Strychnine before her, Adela’s character was a lot more sexualized in her dancing and this, of course, got the drunken hoots and calls from the Calne audience going. I then jumped into my signature aerial split off the top of the corner post into the ring to perform my solo martial arts routine with the Chinese broad sword. Stu’s mother thought I had turned a forward somersault I had jumped so high. In truth, I was so wound up I am amazed I didn’t clear the ring. We finished the routine with a dance and martial arts routine together whilst the Dead Souls anthem, “Malice Through the Looking Glass” by Cradle of Filth, played. The act got a respectful applause.
We returned as part of Stu and Jonny’s Dead Souls entourage, carrying all the various props. Lee and Jody then made their entrance and the match began. Looking back, the match was on a par with the extreme high jinks we used in the previous “Storm Rising” bout. We made use of all the props and shocked the audience with the bottle break whereupon Lee juiced an impressive gusher on his head. There were shouts of “Easy! Easy!” from the audience in reference to the Big Daddy days prior to this stunt, but the video shows a degree of respect being shown as the stunts became more daring and the fights made their way into the crowd. We really didn’t give a shit at this stage and Dead Souls were as antagonistic as possible to the Calne audience, which was courting danger given the town’s reputation and the amount of alcohol that had been consumed that night. When one man pinched Sophia’s arse he received a customary spewing of Kensington Gore in the face, as she happened to be carrying a filled goblet at the time.
I had come in with a bare top to sell my second barbed wire bump with more effect. Unfortunately this stunt did not go very well. Lee was laid out on the board and then Stu flipped me over to land on him, only for the hero to move out the way and my bare back to receive the spikes. We missed, so I asked Lee to body slam me onto the board immediately after our “failed” attack. I missed again and the board became hooked onto the seat of my costume bottoms. The video reveals the Spirit of Instinct trying to discretely remove the wire from his costume as he slithers out of the ring.
The chairs were used liberally, as was the ring bell and the rather pathetic tables. I was able to pull off a flying back kick into the bin as it was held by Lee and dent it. The match ended with a win for the faces, as Jody was scheduled to perform a shooting star press (a somersaulting aerial manoeuvre that ends in a pin) onto the prone body of Jonny. Jody, who had previously performed some outrageous stunts off a balcony on Phil Lowe’s ill-fated BWA show, decided to tone down this final move for us. He performed a frog splash instead. This might have been to do with the fact that we continued to use a padded boxing ring rather than a proper wrestling ring, which annoyed a lot of the high flyers.
Looking back the show did get quite a lot of “heat” from the tired and drunk midnight audience who had mainly come to see kickboxing bouts and we decided to progress with the hybrid show in Chippenham. Malc was very apologetic about the whole night. I had a lot of sympathy for him, as the show was a lot to organize and he had a lot of his club members to satisfy. He didn’t need to book us for the night, but believed in our product and had got us on the front page of “Combat” magazine. Our relationship with him would continue to be a happy one until my final show and we remained friends afterwards. We left Calne having been involved with a very different type of project altogether, little realizing things would continue to get weirder and more experimental.
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