With the big story in 2019 Britwres being “WWE’s signing everyone”, the obvious next question is this: who’s scouting for the next generation?
In the past, pundits have praised New Japan for their long term booking of what some call “stocking up the bench”. To borrow a sports analogy, that’s the equivalent of a football club “blooding a youngster” with the aim of using them in the first team down the line – with New Japan having done this really well with the Young Lions of old, and more recent example being Juice Robinson.
When it comes to the British scene, it really feels like the “stock the bench” analogy is being done in one of two ways: either by having such a big, vague roster that when you substitute people in, it’s more like bringing someone in from the cold… or you’re having to do something akin to Bolton Wanderers (to keep the football analogy going) and bringing in a slew of new faces to fill the card.
We’ve already covered some of Rev Pro’s issues in our reviews, and while this was by far the least of their issues coming out of their Summer Sizzler weekend, there’s a noticeable list of departures going into the promotion’s next show in October:
- A-Kid – signed to NXT UK
- Josh Bodom – persona non grata
- El Phantasmo – now full-time in New Japan
- Gabriel Kidd – training at LA Dojo
- Aussie Open – booked for wXw World Tag Team Festival
- David Starr – out due to storylines
So that’s seven names “definitely” off the October show. Thanks to @Monkey_Buckles on Twitter, we can get a better idea of how big a miss that group is going to be. Based on Rev Pro’s UK shows so far, they made up over half of the top 13 wrestlers with the most Rev Pro matches this year… that’s quite a hole to leave in the card. It’s perhaps an indictment that Kidd only debuted with Rev Pro at the end of March – so all of his 14 matches came in a little over five months.
So, considering that the return of the Contenders in March was “stocking up the bench”, and its hardly possible to put a rocket pack on that many people in that short a period of time… what happens now? Sure, Aussie Open will likely be back in November, but rumours continue to mount over their involvement in New Japan’s World Tag League, which’ll rule them out of December’s show. Add in that Rev Pro’s two singles champions (Hiroshi Tanahashi and ELP) are all-but exclusive to York Hall shows in the UK, and the top of those Rev Pro cards are looking threadbare, before you even consider what happens with the Southside acquisition.
What’s the answer? Short term pain for long-term gain, unfortunately.
For a while now, it’s been acknowledged that the general path into the promotion is to help out: be part of the ring crew, badger your way into the building and help out any which way, be it taking tickets, running errands… hell, even being a cameraman. Apart from for Michael Oku, has that really worked? Save for the those putting in the odd appearances here and there? Remember that spell where Chuck Mambo had a few bookings? Cassius? Even if you want to scratch deeper and bring up names like Jody Fleisch and Jonny Storm?
Rev Pro sorely need to bite the bullet and add a clutch of new names – and names that they’ll be able to use going forward. Debuting the young Callum Newman on October’s Cockpit is a start – but be warned: not everyone will land or connect with crowds, and perhaps yes, some may get snatched from under you by NXT UK. At this point, with the high-profile departures, this isn’t something that can be solved by just moving people up the card and perhaps throwing out an extra Contenders match (or, dare we say it, an ultra-rare women’s match?)
The talent is out there. Virtually every promotion on the UK scene has found and is utilising names that Rev Pro aren’t. Throwing some random names out there: ATTACK have been using Nico Angelo and Danny Jones as of late (Danny, incidentally, has been at Cockpit shows… just not in the ring)… IPW, as maligned as they are, have been giving shots to the likes of Warren Banks. Heck, there’s even personal favourites like Gene Munny, who ought to have been getting higher profile breaks (outside of the “already in the ring” stuff on IPW’s short-lived TV show) before this weekend’s Natural PROGRESSion Series… what happened there?
The last time Rev Pro threw names out there in one go, outside of the Contenders division, was over two years ago, when Ashley Dunn, Ash Draven, Cara Noir and Malik were in a six-man tag at Live at the Cockpit 16. Since that show in May 2017, Ashley Dunn’s been back once, and never been back… Draven went MIA in Rev Pro until two appearances at the start of 2019… Cara Noir had another match three months later then never came back… while Malik never even had that. That’s hardly any kind of run to give someone when you’re trying out new faces – especially since a lot of those runs have been in different venues.
A lot of time has passed since then, and while any new influx of talent will be seen for what it is, unfortunately… needs must. Especially if Rev Pro have any intentions of expanding into former Southside venues, they need to introduce and establish fresh faces. Perhaps not to the PROGRESS levels where certain faces only appear 2-3 times a year, but as long as we’re in the current climate, Rev Pro can’t get away with everyone being on every show for too much longer.
Now, this isn’t strictly a shot at Rev Pro. On the US scene, as the exclusivity contracts in those AEW deals begin to kick in, they’ll be facing similar issues. Bigger promotions probably already have people looking at talent, be it a dedicated liaison, or perhaps even some random person, be it a camera man, video editor, ring crew or whoever. On the flip side, if you really are a one-man-band, perhaps you’re a little behind the curve and should begin to do a deep dive on the wider scene. Beyond asking about “mates who are free” or names from the past who are toying with the idea of a comeback. New talent is there, ready and waiting to be established. Connect with fans who go to these shows. Do more than a regular “tag wrestlers you think we should use” tweet – which, as WrestleCircus showed, can quickly go very badly if you don’t handle it well… and don’t get me started about promotions whose women’s divisions seem to have dried up for the same reason!
The long and short of it is this: the talent is absolutely out there – but expecting them to come to you in a crowded marketplace may not be the way to go.