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Review: WWE legend Gangrel headlines another superb All Star Wrestling show at Ipswich Corn Exchange

PUBLISHED: 12:34 28 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:23 29 February 2016

All Star Wrestling action at the Ipswich Corn Exchange. WWE legend Gangrel taunts the crowd. Pic: Matt Stott

All Star Wrestling action at the Ipswich Corn Exchange. WWE legend Gangrel taunts the crowd. Pic: Matt Stott

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The Ipswich Corn Exchange was treated to a thrilling night of wrestling on Friday.

All Star Wrestling action at the Ipswich Corn Exchange. Former NXT star Oliver Grey knocked out of the ring. Pic: Matt StottAll Star Wrestling action at the Ipswich Corn Exchange. Former NXT star Oliver Grey knocked out of the ring. Pic: Matt Stott

There was well-executed, high-flying action under the bright lights, engaging storytelling with matches ending with either natural, satisfying conclusions or in controversial disarray, cutting comebacks from villains to overzealous audience members (“Shut up you ugly woman!” / “I don’t suck!”), Mexican star Black Fire making a winning UK debut with a roll-up pin against the unfortunate Austrian Adrian Severe, and an international tag-team main event featuring WWE legend Gangrel, the insidious, bloodthirsty vampire.

What more could you want from a live, family-friendly show in Ipswich on a Friday night? It was all courtesy of the renowned British wrestling promotion All Star Wrestling (ASW).

By design and presentation, it was family-friendly, that is. The heroes and villains were easily identifiable through their demeanour, entrance music and ring attire (but most of all if they came out brandishing a large Union Jack or skull and cross bones flag), and enjoyed taking selfies with children (and once with this eager reporter, embarrassing his companions) or making cut-throat gestures. They whipped up wild frenzies of “Fight! Fight! Fight!” and “We Want More! We Want More!”

But gladly there were also sequences of intricate, sophisticated manoeuvres to please the more mature fans who enjoy witnessing and savouring the fine, kinetic art of wrestling. It wasn’t all just headlocks and urging the crowd to respond with boos or cheers. There were superplexus and one mesmeric, match-ending 450 splash off the top turnbuckles, exquisitely performed hurricanranas, vintage arm-drags and snapmares, and an array of submission holds.

All Star Wrestling action at the Ipswich Corn Exchange. Pic: Matt StottAll Star Wrestling action at the Ipswich Corn Exchange. Pic: Matt Stott

There were five matches in total. Former NXT star Oliver Grey (will the West Country man ever return to Triple H’s WWE rising brand?) and veteran Londoner James Mason were counted out in a triple threat match after the elimination of Rampage Brown. Dangerman HT Drake had earlier disposed of Action Man Tony Spitfire and Justin Hammer defeated ‘The Tank’ Kayden Lane.

Then in the main event, pleasingly and surprisingly against the haunting backdrop of his original WWE entrance music, Gangrel appeared. The wrestler achieved worldwide fame during the WWE’s (then WWF) peak years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. With his vampire gimmick, he fronted a group named The Brood, joined the Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness demonic faction, and even wrestled a rising star named The Rock in August 1999 live on Raw, the flagship show watched by millions. He certainly timed his career very well, and no-one could blame him for still using the same beloved character today.

He joined the ASW for a brief tour of the UK and made his way to the ring in his established attire and treasured goblet of blood. He was known for drinking and spewing this blood-like liquid in the ring before his bout commenced and he performed the same trick here.

Most of the children in attendance – and young families make up the majority of the audience – were probably oblivious to his background and the significance of his appearance, but I found a nostalgic pleasure to it all.

Despite his age of 47, he moved very well, performing one swinging neckbreaker and following it up with a diving elbow with agility and speed. I felt like chanting “You’ve Still Got It!”, but was aware I’d most likely be chanting it by myself and cause further embarrassment.

Gangrel teamed up with ASW champion and fellow American Sam Adonis in their match against Deano and young TNA (Total Non-Stop Action, the closest rival to the WWE) star Zema Ion. I looked up Zema’s Twitter account to assess his popularity and he is closing in on 200,000 followers.

And it was Zema who performed that mesmeric 450 splash to claim a victory for the good guys. It capped off a very entertaining and fulfilling night of wrestling, for all sections of the audience.

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