OTT’s first show of 2019 kept the fire burning between some former best friends as the road to Homecoming continued.

We’re off to the Ringside Club in Dublin for OTT’s first show of the new year – and there’s new opening titles for the Contenders show too! We open with Amy Allonsy on the run, as she locks herself in a toilet as Debbie Keitel and Valkyrie find her… and threaten her if she turns up for their scheduled trios match. Hey, what do you know, a segment with some villainous females that doesn’t use the B word.

From there, it’s Aonghous Og McAnally and Sockless Tony Kelly for the intros, which included a fan telling Kelly “New Year, Worse Don”, which is a burn that might need more than some cold water to save. Thankfully, he’s interrupted by Jose Idle to rescue his bit, as we get into our opening match… but not before Jose threatens to “take (his) hand and fist” Kelly. My God.

Club Tropicana (Captain Sexsea & Aidan Epic) vs. Curtis Murray & Steven Carvel
Curiously, Aidan gets the lower key intro, which I hope isn’t tipping off something down the line… especially since Aidan’s already had short-shrift as he’s done some rather low-fi updates to his flag.

Their opponents today actually get a promo. Or at least “The View” Steven Carvel, who’s got a glittery robe that rather belies his place on the card. I’m not a fan of how he overshadowed the NLW champion Curtis Murray, but it is what it is…

Murray looked to end it early with a roll-up on Sexsea, which prompted some boo/yay comedy from Aidan Epic in the corner. Headscissors from Murray don’t really affect Sexsea, whose response works, before both men tag out. Or so we thought, as Club Tropicana kept tagging each other until they figured out that neither of them were bigger than Carvel.

Hell, not even Tony Idle was bigger, but he did serve a distraction as Sexsea and Epic slapped Carvel in the back. They quickly beg off, but send Carvel into the ropes, only to get taken down with a double clothesline as Carvel began to use his size advantage well. Sexsea’s charged into the corner, where he’s hung up… but Aidan Epic stops himself from giving some accidental Shattered Dreams, before an attempt to kick Bishop Brennan in the arse ends with Aidan giving said Shattered Dreams. Ow.

With Sexsea otherwise occupied, Epic’s taken down with a leg lariat for a one-count before Murray came in and slapped him from a Muta Lock for a two-count. Aidan manages to beat the numbers game with an assisted cutter, but he has nobody to tag out to, at least until the heavily-taped up Sexsea returned to take Murray into the corner with some machine gun chops.

Epic tags back in as Club Tropicana can’t help but run into Murray’s boots, before they propelled him into a cutter from Epic for a near-fall. Carvel trips Sexsea out of the ring as Murray again focuses on Aidan, before Carvel tagged in and lands a fireman’s carry gutbuster for a solid two-count. A superkick from Sexsea stops a springboard from Murray, before Carvel’s shotgun dropkicked in the corner – wrecking a turnbuckle in the process – as it’s time for some slip ‘n’ slide!

The sliding headbutt finds its mark on Carvel for a near-fall, with Murray pulling out the referee… and among all of the chaos, Carvel low blows Sexsea for a second time before a slingshot Fisherman’s suplex gets the win. I liked the finish, but this pairing of Carvel and Murray isn’t clicking with me. I’d like to see Carvel in a singles match or two to get a proper handle on the guy… **¾

Carlos Romo vs. Calum Black
Ever since “Big Dave” gave A-Kid the full five, more and more promoters seem to be feeling the need to split these guys up. So while A-Kid’s in the main event, Carlos is a proving ground for another OTT newcomer.

Please stop shoehorning chants into “Baby Shark.” Thanks in advance…

Romo goes after Black from the off, but neither man can really get much of an upper hand early until Black just POUNCES Romo off the ropes. An O’Connor roll from Romo’s stuffed as he instead has to come in with a leg lariat to get a two-count, before a snapmare and a punt to the back left Black down for a two-count.

Romo finally starts to work over Black, targeting the right arm to try and neutralise the size differential, taking Calum down into a trapped arm/armbar combo. Black finally hits back, but Romo again took him down by the arm before wrapping it around the ropes as the Spaniard showed some rather uncharacteristic aggression.

Some rope running led to Romo leaping into Black with a mounted keylock, but that just played into Calum’s strengths as he switched up into a suplex to get himself free. Using his knees, Black hits back as he somehow manages to hit an X-Plex with his damaged arm for a near-fall. Black can’t follow through on a powerbomb, but he can flip out of a backslide as Romo instead nails a Code Red for a near-fall.

The match descends into a striking battle from there, with Black using his good arm for a discus lariat before he hoisted up Romo for a powerbomb that almost ended the match. From there though, Romo catches Black with a springboard cutter for a near-fall before switching into an armbar for the rapid submission. A good match where the proverbial “David” beat the inexperienced Goliath – Black showed plenty to me here, and given time I can see him being a decent staple on the main roster of OTT. ***

Backstage we see the “King of Contenders” Connor Andrews declaring that he’s done with the Open Canvas open challenge deal. We then see Andrews come out with his ridiculous crown and robe, which of course draws the “Burger King” chants. He’s quickly interrupted by Phil Nelson, who has an old timey strongman gimmick, and it turns into a match…

Connor Andrews vs. Phil Nelson
Andrews isn’t in his gear as it turns out that Open Canvas really isn’t dead.

A chop to Nelson doesn’t work, as he’s then caught and hurled across the ring with a fallaway slam, before an avalanche and a butterfly suplex kept Andrews flying. One stalling suplex later, and Nelson looked for a full nelson… but Andrews rolled outside to try and avoid his Angry Biker lookalike.

Nelson followed him outside, and ends up catching a crossbody off the apron as he then press slammed Andrews through the ropes and back into the ring. He takes too long going back in himself though, as Andrews chop blocks the knee away, giving him a focal point for the rest of the match.

Except he tries to slap the back of Nelson, which just seemed to hurt his hand more. Andrews took his shoes off, so he’s wrestling in socks (I see what they did there). As a tactic it works horribly, as Nelson headbutts him, before a reverse STO and a Koji clutch out of nowhere got Andrews back into it… only for Nelson to stand up with ease and wreck him with a backbreaker.

Nelson gets back in and messes around with the turnbuckle to distract the ref, allowing him to wipe out Nelson’s knee with his own weightlifting belt, before a curb stomp gets the win. A very sneaky win as Andrews took a bit of a pounding and somehow came out with the win. **¾

Debbie Keitel, Valkyrie & Veda Scott vs. Raven Creed & Katey Harvey
Originally a trios match, this started out as a handicap match as the bullying of Amy Allonsy earlier paid off with Amy not coming out…

Veda Scott holds back as the other four went at it, and yeah, she was kind of a spare part in this particular format. She tries to call the shots, but Valkyrie and Keitel powder to the outside before Creed blasts her with a headbutt. On the outside, we head up into dives with Creed’s tope finding its mark, before Harvey heads up top…

What happened next was unfortunate, as her body press somehow went through the middle of all four women on the floor, meaning Harvey hit the floor hard, breaking both elbows and an arm in the process.

The match threatened to stop as Raven Creed has to fight this 1-on-3 down while folks tended to Harvey. Creed charges Keitel into the ring post before she’s swarmed, but the crowd are understandably silent given what happened. There’s a sudden cheer as Harvey got back to her feet, but the match continues as Creed’s cornered.

Veda comes in next to club away on Creed, before a rake to the eyes left Creed in more trouble. Valkyrie’s suplex is good for a near-fall, but Creed’s back with a clothesline as the numbers game just persisted. A headbutt cracks Keitel, who retaliates with a German suplex for a near-fall, as the one-way traffic continued.

Valkyrie’s back to dish out a body blow in the corner, before a huge release suplex Creed gave Raven an opening… and she keeps the momentum up with clotheslikes as Veda Scott seemed to be the only woman standing. A spear in the corner and a diving knee gets Creed a two-count as Keitel returned to break up the cover, only to take a headbutt and a Blue Thunder Bomb as Veda nearly fell over herself breaking up the cover. Another headbutt from Creed gets rid of Scott, as Keitel’s apparently legal, taking down Creed with a full nelson facebuster for the win. That’s the win for Keitel over the OTT Women’s champion, even though the referee needed to clarify he’d counted the pin as they all just about rescued something from a horrendous situation. Continuing the match will do something for Creed’s reputation as a fighting champion, as seen by the crowd’s reaction to her, but there’s only so much you can do in a handicap match like this.

More Than Hype (LJ Cleary, Darren Kearney & Nathan Martin) vs. Lads From The Flats (Paddy M & Workie) & Martina
Paddy and LJ start us off, with LJ working over the arm early on, taking Paddy down in a wristlock… that’s flipped out of as a waistlock instead restrains LJ.

LJ can’t quite get to the ropes to free himself, before his escape led to armdrags and headlock takedowns as the pair just shot into each other. A dropkick from LJ proved to be a death blow, as Paddy M stopped in his tracks, returning only to slap LJ as he fell for a high five. Oops.

Workie tags in next, but he has to negotiate the ropes before a double axehandle off the bottom rope accidentally found Paddy. Darren Kearney’s in to catch Workie with a dropkick after a hell of a series with LJ, but he’s lifted onto the apron and returns with a springboard crossbody… that misses. Martina tags in to try and capitalise, but Nathan Martin’s in too, prompting Martina to go “all psycho” before she chopped him.

There’s chops for Darren and LJ too, before Workie saves her from a double-team brainbuster, with the Lads from the Flats helping out with superkicks as Paddy M’s in with… a Bionic elbow?! Nathan mauls Paddy as More Than Hype took over, keeping Paddy in their corner as frequent tags came into play.

More than Hype throw in some lucha posing here, before a double clothesline left Nathan and Paddy down on the mat. Tags take us back to LJ and Martina, with LJ rolling out of a sunset flip before taking Martina down with a knee for a near-fall. She’s got a knee for LJ too, along with a Fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall, following in with a buzzsaw kick as Darren Kearney had to make a timely save.

Kearney’s superkick finds its mark, as does Workie’s elbows, but his Sky High powerbomb needed Nathan Martin to break it up as we’re seemingly under lucha tag rules. A legdrop from Paddy M breaks up another cover as LJ then caught him… an enziguiri from Martina, then a satellite DDT keeps the Parade of Moves going as a brainbuster brought the breathless series to an end.

Again, Kearney breaks up the cover, but gets forearmed repeatedly by Martina, before they sprinted again into a LJ frog splash for a near-fall. Martina’s left alone with all of More than Hype, who go all circus-like… but they push LJ into a flying Seshbreaker by accident, before a TKO and a Paddy M senton finds its mark for the win. My word, this was a gorgeous sprint of a trios match – with just about everything hitting the mark too. Hunt this one down and you won’t be disappointed! ***½

After the match, Paddy M declared that since they beat “the best team in this country” (More Than Hype) they must be up there as the number one contenders. That prompts Corvin and Bonesaw of the Kings of the North to head out, sort-of offended, and challenged them to beat the best team in all of Ireland… but inside a steel cage. Three on two, for the OTT tag team title (so, Dunkan Disorderly isn’t a thing now?) I surely hope it’s not in the Tetanus Cage…

There’s a wee little brawl at the end too as the Kings tried to beat down Martina, but they were quickly sent packing.

Terry Thatcher vs. David Starr
One day on from beating Timothy in wXw, David Starr’s got another Thatcher to deal with… and a crowd that wasn’t exactly on his side after his recent antics with Jordan Devlin.

Starr rolled to the outside at the start of the match as he tried to disrupt Thatcher’s game. An initial lock-up sends Thatcher into the corner, before a single leg takedown had Thatcher on the mat, with Starr’s bid for a toe-hold having to change into a Trailer Hitch as he appeared to look down on Thatcher.

Some heckling from the crowd winds up Starr, who takes it out on Thatcher with a series of chops before he ended up running into some armdrags from Terry. As soon as Thatcher teased the arm, Starr scrambled into the ropes before coming back with more chops, only to run into a back elbow as the momentum shifted all over the place. Thatcher stretches on Starr in the ropes, before a missed dropkick sent Thatcher sailing to the outside… Starr follows with a tope as he then took aim at the crowd who were heckling him earlier. And of course, they continue to heckle Starr with chants of “you’ll never beat WALTER.” Oof.

Starr throws Thatcher back into the ring, as he proceeded to hit some Junkyard Dog-esque headbutts as stomps to the head drew a near-fall. A knuckle lock keeps Thatcher down briefly, only for him to power free and clock Starr with forearms… which in turn led to a Koppo kick from Starr as he caught everyone by surprise.

A springboard clothesline out of the corner has Starr even more confident. It backfires, of course, as Thatcher pulled Starr down by the leg, then came back in with forearms, only for Starr’s chops to take us back to square one. Starr tries a springboard crossbody out of the corner, but Thatcher just about counters into a spinebuster instead. There’s a huge shotgun dropkick too as Thatcher tried to edge ahead with more dropkicks, taking Starr out… until a tornado DDT’s avoided.

Thatcher’s still got forearms and enziguiris though, which leaves Starr rocked ahead of the eventual tornado DDT for a delayed two-count. Starr rolls outside, but slips back in with a jack-knife pin that almost caught the referee for a near-fall, but Thatcher gets his dive off anyway with a crossbody press off the top, catching Starr on the floor.

Back inside, a double stomp misses… but Thatcher sails across the ring with a top rope elbow for a near-fall, before a charge into Starr gets caught and turned into a backslide. One superkick and a Pretty Pumped later, and Starr rocks Thatcher with another thrust kick as we head outside for an eventual Cherry Mint DDT from Starr. That DDT took Thatcher to the outside, as he’s thrown into the crowd some more, then carried to the back of the room in a fireman’s carry as Starr just drops him on the floor, returning to the ring to take a count-out.

Of course, OTT uses a 20 count, so the ten count’s a bit anticlimactic, as Thatcher gets helped back towards the ring by the crowd… eventually beating the count! He probably wished he didn’t though, as Starr scoops him into a Blackheart Buster for another two-count, before proceeding to trash talk.

A massive lariat from Starr rocks Thatcher, who staggers back into his opponent for another one… a third one’s blocked as Thatcher kicks the arm, as he begins to work on Starr’s injured shoulder, dropping it to the mat with an arm whip. Braces up… braces down… but the referee stops Thatcher’s charge, and of course it’s a ruse as Thatcher shoves the referee aside before Starr rolled him up tight for the pin. A sneaky finish to a really good match, which saw Starr escape with the W and more of the crowd’s ire. ***¾

Mike Bailey vs. Scotty Davis
Scotty Davis is quickly losing his tag of being one of Ireland’s best kept secrets, as he racked up stellar match after stellar match in 2018. Can he start 2019 on the same track?

Bailey didn’t blink when Davis came at him at the bell, so we instead start with feinted-out kicks as both men looked to land the first blow. It’s Davis who lands the first takedown, going for Bailey’s leg before an attempt to grab a toe hold ended with Bailey breaking the hold and shoving his foe away.

Davis gets a little wound up, which wasn’t helped when Bailey caught him with the cavalcade of kicks, before Davis comes back with some Gator rolls to take Speedball to the outside. Scotty follows him outside, but he runs into a dropkick from Bailey, who then bowled him deep into the crowd to catch folks unawares. Still on the outside, a snapmare and a low dropkick from Bailey keeps Davis down, before he’s rolled back in and met with a series of kicks and stomps to Davis’ legs.

A slam leaves Davis down for a frog splash, but Bailey can only get a two count from that, as Davis began to fight back with a series of forearms. Bailey throws Davis outside and quickly follows with a Golden Triangle moonsault, before another stomp back in the ring misses… so Scotty Davis dumps him high up with a release German suplex. Ow.

There’s more Gator rolls from Davis after he’d swept Bailey’s legs, finishing with a Fisherman’s suplex for a two-count. Davis looks for a finish, but instead he just runs into a Bailey superkick as the Canadian unleashed more kicks and a standing corkscrew press for… yep, a two-count! A second attempt at a Fisherman’s suplex is stopped as Bailey slisp free and lands another kick, following up with more mid kicks before Davis caught one and turned it into an Exploder! Bailey’s taken outside as Davis hits a nice tope con giro into the front row, as we stay in the crowd, where a Gator Roll took Speedball deeper into the crowd. Holy christ, that looked nasty! The referee’s count is still rolling through, but both men beat the count… and quickly head onto the apron as Davis threatened a German suplex, only for Bailey to miss a moonsault knees on the apron. Ow.

From there, Davis brings Bailey back into the ring the hard way with a deadlift Fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall, before he rolled Bailey into a Rings of Saturn, throwing some elbows for good measure as Bailey got a toe to the rope! Bailey retaliates with a standing moonsault slam for a near-fall, before a battle of palm strikes left Bailey momentarily loopy… he’s back with a missile dropkick to the back of Davis.

A roundhouse kick into the corner sets up Davis for a Flamengo Driver, but it’s still not enough as Davis kicked out at two! He’s only on all fours though, as Bailey looked to capitalise with the Ultima Weapon shooting star knees… those miss, as Davis comes back with more kicks before the Supremacy gator roll gets him the huge W! My God, as an 18 year old, Scotty Davis is inhuman. A kid his age should not be pulling these kind of matches out of the bag, and yet… here we are. If you’ve not heard of his name, then you have now – and I have a feeling in the next few years, a lot more people will take attention of him on the world stage. ****¼

A-Kid vs. Jordan Devlin
With Jordan Devlin a matter of weeks away from facing David Starr, he’s got a bit of a test here to close out the first Contenders show of 2019.

Devlin’s left hamstring is taped up, which could play into this one as Devlin’s got another import to slay. Still, at least it wasn’t in the opener! Devlin starts by feinting some kicks early on before he took A-Kid into the ropes in a rather aggressive manner? A takedown from A-Kid, as Devlin had to slip free before he grabbed the wrist of A-Kid, keeping him down by just the wrist. On the mat, A-Kid slips out of headscissors and floats into a front facelock, only for Devlin to get free also as the fast-paced ground work continued.

An arm-lift suplex puts A-Kid back on the mat, with Devlin again tweaking the wristlock as the arm work looked to be causing A-Kid some issues. From a knuckle lock, Devlin forces A-Kid back to the mat for some two-counts, before a test of the Spaniard’s neck bridge led to a floatover and an eventual wheelbarrow armdrag to catch Devlin unawares.

A springboard from the apron sees Devlin crack A-Kid with a gamengiri, sending him crashing to the floor, but Devlin follows him out as we’ve some more crowd brawling, with chops sending A-Kid around ringside, as a spinning back suplex sees A-Kid dumped onto the apron. Back in the ring, the boots are put to A-Kid in the corner, with Devlin sneaking in a legdrop as we saw a more focused, aggressive Devlin as he prepared himself for that number one contender’s match next month.

The standing uranage/standing moonsault combo lands for a near-fall, before Devlin switches body parts, working on A-Kid’s leg. A shot from A-Kid is just laughed off by Jordan, who offers up some more free shots before a chop sent A-Kid crashing to the mat, with Devlin following through with an inverted figure four with some extra showing off for the hell of it. A-Kid does get to the rope, but his legs are clearly compromised, as he falls to the mat twice after chopping Devlin: once from his chop, and again when Devlin slapped him silly.

Devlin keeps up on A-Kid, ramming his knee into the mat, before an armbar out of nowhere caught Devlin unawares. A-Kid manages to take him outside with a dropkick, before a springboard moonsault off the top rope saw him crash into Devlin on the outside. Back inside, Devlin’s met with a missile/shotgun dropkick for a near-fall as A-Kid found his way back into the match, following through with a superkick, and a Northern Lights that he rolled through into a standing moonsault for a near-fall.

A-Kid tries for a Fisherman’s suplex, but Devlin’s block just led to the move being countered into a Destroyer for a shock two-count. A missed PK means that Devlin can hit another uranage, but the follow-up moonsault misses as Devlin ends up taking a superkick for another close call! Back-and-forth palm strikes follow as the pair unloaded on each other, before A-Kid caught Devlin in a standing Spanish fly… only for Devlin to grab the neck, stand the pair back up and land one of his own as an instant response!

A-Kid tries to chop his way back in to break up Devlin’s wrist control… but Jordan holds firm, headbutting the Spaniard before pulling him up into a snap Saito suplex for a near-fall! One package piledriver later, and that’s all folks. A valiant effort, but a cracking main event as Jordan Devlin had to fight to get past A-Kid. ****

We’re not done yet though… as Devlin celebrated his win, David Starr come out, with ice-pack on his shoulder. Of course, Devlin wants to fight, as the locker room emptied out to try and separate the two. That was a bad idea though, as Starr then caught out Scotty Davis with a Trapped Arm Bob Fossil piledriver on him, as the remainder of the trainees had to hold Devlin back from hitting back. Starr keeps on antagonising Devlin, before he broke free and piledrove Captain Sexsea on the floor, as he then walked away leaving a pile of Devlin’s trainees in his wake.

For those who look on these Contenders shows as “B shows”, we’re getting reasons to watch them, as OTT are firmly using these shows to build up the “bigger cards”; kind of like how Rev Pro use their Cockpit shows to build up York Hall cards. On this show, the last two matches knocked it out of the park, while nothing fell flat – save for the unfortunate injury to Katey Harvey, which made an already difficult handicap match a virtual mountain to climb for the inexperienced folks in the match. Obviously we send our best wishes to Katey for a speedy and a full recovery.

We’ll close on a positive: That finishing segment was epic. Without touching (almost), David Starr and Jordan Devlin poured more fuel onto their fire, as both men’s own personal quests to beat WALTER threatened to consume each other before they could get to the Austrian.

OTT ended 2018 on a high, with many calling them the best promotion in Europe. While the loss of the Tivoli means that these Contenders shows are (right now) the only regular shows right now, the promotion isn’t just sitting on their hands and waiting for things to happen. They’re making the most of what they’ve got – without overly saturating the Contenders shows and removing their whole reason for being.  Roll on Homecoming in Tallaght!