|Operated By||The Russeliser|
Midlands Wrestling (MW) was a professional wrestling promotion that was founded in England in 2000 by Dean Baxter, and closed when his successor, The Russeliser, declared bankruptcy in April 2005.
The company became known for its loyal fan base as well as its tendency to push the envelope with storylines. The group has showcased many different styles of professional wrestling, ranging from lucha libre to hardcore wrestling.
Russell Championship Wrestling (RCW) bought the rights to MW and its library after its 2001 closure and Russell Championship Wrestling in a full-time fashion on February 9, 2007 MW has promoted an annual MW-brand event called MW Last Stand and in March 2007, it became a separate brand of MW programming.
MW was founded in 2000 under the name Castle High Wrestling as a member of the British Wrestling Alliance (BWA). After owner Dean Baxter had a falling out with head booker Jim Daniels. Baxter chose Jim's friend and GCW alumnus The Russeliser to replace him. Russell's first show with the promotion was MW Backstreet Batlle '01 March 18, 2000 at Castle High School Field (which would eventually be dubbed The MW Arena) in Dudley. Some people have accused Russell of stabbing Jim Daniels in the back and taking his job. The popular belief is that Jim's Drug abuse and unstable behavior was the real reason for his departure from MW.
When MW was branching out, professional wrestlers had far more cartoonish gimmicks. The product was marketed more towards children than the 18-35 male demographics that MW was aiming towards. There were also far more taboos such as blading and women getting regularly beaten up by the male wrestlers. Russell saw MW as the professional wrestling equivalent to the grunge movement.
In 2001, Shane Wright's non-compete agreement with Esteban Flourentinou who purchased World Class Wrestling from Wright in 1998, was up and he decided to start promoting with the BWA again. Wright went to Dean Baxter and asked him to hold a tournament for the BWA World Heavyweight Championship at the MW Arena on August 27, 2001. BWA President Dennis Coleman thought that Wright and Baxter were going to try to monopolize the title (much like Wright did in the 1990s) and told them they didn't have the BWA board's approval so he took control over the tournament. Baxter was upset at Coleman for his power plays so Baxter and Steven Davies. who was booked to win the title against Scorpion planned to have Davies throw the title down after he won it and break MW from the BWA. In a now classic post match speech. Steve Davies said that he didn't want to be a part of an organization that "died" seven years earlier (presumably when Shane Wright sold his BWA super territory to Flourentinou Broadcasting in 1998).
After MW withdrew from the BWA and officially changed its name from Castle High Wrestling to Midlands Wrestling, it became an underground sensation. The group would showcase many different styles of professional wrestling, popularizing bloody hardcore wrestling matches and the 3-Way Dance. MW was always intended to be counter-culture and a grittier alternative to multi-million dollar organizations such as World Wrestling Entertainment(WWE) and WCW. In addition to their hardcore match types, they provided an alternative to British wrestling with technical wrestling that was common overseas. International stars such as Edward Gilbert Wolfboy and Iceman anchored a solid technical wrestling core in MW. Mysticus, Get Psycho, The Manz and Juventus brought a lucha libre style rarely seen in the national wrestling promotions.
Wrestlers such as Steve Davis, The Great Ringwraith, The Crow, The Russeliser, Scott Taylor, Adam Green, Naveed, The Judgement and The Animal were seen as being too dangerous for the multi-million dollar companies and were given a chance in MW. They also helped launch the new MW at this time. One of the promotion's marquee feuds was the long-standing feud between Ringwratih and Crow, which involved many MW wrestlers over a period of two and a half years. Another was between Crow and The Russeliser, which included the crucifixion angle, one of the most controversial angles in wrestling history.
After noticing MW's growing popularity, the "Big Two" (World Wrestling Entertainment) and the World Class Wrestling started adopting their ideas and hiring away their talent. While the WWE had somewhat of a working relationship with MW (going as far as allowing cross-promotional angles, and providing financial aid to Russel's for a considerable period of time), WWE refused to even mention MW by name (the sole exception being a passing remark by The Crow in late 2002), referring to it as "barbed wire city" and "a major independent]] promotion" that wrestled in School halls during a segment directed at The Spirit.
Vince McMahon claimed that he put Paul Russell on the WWE's payroll as compensation for the talent (namely Animal), Aaron Armstrong, Adam Green and Chris Tranter leaving MW for the WWE. On the other hand, Russell believed that Eric Bischoff never compensated him for MW bred talent such as The Wrecker, The Crow, Wolfboy, Iceman, Get Psycho, Pluto Nash, Michael Andrews, The Judgement (Johnny Groyce and Richard Bunn) and Clive Jameson leaving to go to WCW.
Beginning Of The End
In March 2003, John King suddenly left MW to join WCW even though he was still the reigning MWW World Heavyweight Champion. There were rumors that Eric Bischoff wanted to drop the MW belt in the trash can on television, as he did with the [WWE Women's Championship with Alundra Blayze. This led to threats of legal action from MW, so King agreed to return to MW to drop the title to anyone - which turned out to be Animal, who was working for the WWE at that time. This would mark the only time that a WCW contracted wrestler would wrestle against a WWE contracted wrestler in an MW sanctioned event.
In August 2004 MW began to broadcast nationally on The Dudley Network (for what was initially a three year contract). Despite no advertising and a low budget, MW became TDN's highest rated show. MW on TDN was cancelled in October 2004 October 6, in favor of WWE RAW moving to the network.
To this day, Paul Russell strongly believes that the lack of a national television deal (especially after the TDN ordeal) was the main cause of MW's demise.
MW struggled for months after the cancellation, trying to secure a new national TV deal. On December 30, 2005, MW Weekly aired for the last time and MW Last Stand was the last PPV aired on December 31, 2005 MW Battle Royal was going to air on January 11, 2006, but because of financial trouble it was cancelled before January 11. Despite help from the WWE, Russell could not get out of financial trouble and filed for bankruptcy on April 4, 2006.
The liabilities of the company totaled $8,881,435.17. The bankruptcy filing included hundreds of claims, including production companies, buildings MW ran in, TV stations MW was televised on, travel agencies, phone companies, attorney's fees, wrestlers, and other talent. Wrestlers and talent were listed, with amounts owed ranging from $0 for Sabu and Corn H. Smith to hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars. The highest amounts owed to talents were Ringwraith ($150,000), Tommy Marelli ($100,000), Joseph Williamson ($50,480), Steve Davies ($48,000), and American G ($47,275).
A few months after the promotion's 2005 demise, MW resurfaced as a stable as part of the GCW Invasion storyline. As a participant in the inter-promotional feud between Shane Wright's WCW and Brian Smiths GCW, MW was initially "owned" by The Russeliser and harbored no loyalty to either promotion. Soon after, it was revealed Stephanie Wright was MW's new "owner", and she would soon conspire with her brother Shane to oust their former friend from his leadership position in the Gangsta Championship Wrestling. With the creation of The Armageddon, the inter-promotional feud shifted into an internal power struggle among the Wright family. The defection of GCW superstars to The Armageddon continued the shift as less focus was placed on WCW and MW performers. The feud lasted six months and concluded with GCW defeating The Armageddon at the 2001 War Games. The GCW's victory also marked the end of the Invasion storyline, and WCW and MW wrestlers were reintegrated into the GCW.
The strong sales of both The Rise and Fall of MW and Forever MW prompted both Russell Championship Wrestling and Steve Davies to run MW reunion shows in 2006. Davies first Midlands Homecoming show was held before RCW's MW Last Stand and subsequently went on tour.
There were several distinctive fans that were always in the front row at ECW shows. Among them were Sign Guy,Tye Dye Guy, Hat Guy (also known in the Dudley area as Straw Hat), Faith No More Guy, and Kato. They gained their respective nicknames because Sign Guy always had different creative signs with him, Hat Guy always wore a straw hat and Hawaiian shirt, Faith No More Guy bore an uncanny resemblance to "Big" Jim Martin, former guitarist for rock band Faith No More and Kato resembled OJ Simpson house guest Kato Kaelin. Regular patrons of MW Arena events were given Club MW status by the promotion and were able to reserve seats ahead of the general public. Many members of Club MW were present at Steve Davies's 2006 Midlands Homecoming shows in Dudley, and at MW Last Stand
Crowds at MW events were well known for their rowdiness and distinctive chants that either supported or demeaned what was transpiring in the ring. MW chants such as "You fucked up!" and "Holy shit!" became infamous during those shows, and are still used by fans of other promotions.
In MW, there were virtually no rules. Weapons were abundant, with much blood spilled. There were referees, but their role was normally limited to counting pinfalls and acknowledging submissions, occasionally performing tag team maneuvers with a wrestler during the match, several times becoming the winner of the match themselves though not officially a part of the bout.
MW was known for making popular several types of matches:
- Russelised Rules Match
- Roof Match
- 10 man Monsters Ball
- High Incident
- 3 way dance
MW was also infamous for regularly holding "Bring Your Own Weapon Nights" at the MW arena in the early days of the promotion. Fans were encouraged to bring their own weapons to give to wrestlers, as fighting in the crowd was a staple of MW matches. A Pound shop located next to the MW Arena often supplied the bulk of the weapons, with fans purchasing them while they waited in line for each show. Memorable weapons included crutches, a large piece of cardboard with the words "Use Me!" handwritten on it but actually concealing a full-sized Stop sign, a two-man kayak, a Leonard Cohen vinyl record, a VCR (with remote), and a Nintendo Entertainment System. An accident actually helped put an end to Bring Your Own Weapon Night when wrestler Adam Green, believing the weapon he was holding to be an inexpensive aluminum pan, swung the object full force into The Russeliser's head. When he heard the resulting "clang" noise, he realized the object was in fact a cast-iron skillet, and The Russeliser's resulting injury put him out of action for two weeks.
Also, RCW promoted the MW Last Night Stand PPV with the "MW Rules Match", with the same rules as a No DQ match or Street Fight but was regularly contested between former MW wrestlers, most notably Wolfman and Buzzaw.
- MW World Championship
- MW Tag Team Championship
- MW World Television Championship
- MW FTW Heavyweight Championship