OTT kicked off their new year with a mouthwatering show at the Tivoli – as everyone headed back for Martina’s Gaff Party.

I’ll be honest, this was a show I was thinking of skipping, but after hearing so much about what was on offer… The show opened with a video of a hungover Martina the morning after a house party, and she’s on the hunt for a bunch of OTT regulars. Eventually, she stumbles her way back to the Tivoli, and it’s time for our opening schtick. Defend Indy Commentary? Only if it’s good…

They announced that the advertised Pete Dunne vs. Matt Riddle match was off, despite both men being in the building. Instead, they’re both facing mystery opponents, with the crowd being urged to cut them some slack rather than boo. One countdown later, and we’ve got another segment.

Out comes Justin Shape, wearing braces as he’s presumably out to explain why he turned on the Gymnasties last year. Shape says that he doesn’t have to answer any of the fans questions, before launching into his new catchphrase “thanks for being a fan”. Shape brings out his new affiliate and best friend – William J. Humperdink, who’s playing a Donald Trump-esque “Let’s Make OTT Great Again” character.

Logan Bryce is accompanying Humperdink for some reason, and it’s Billy Boy who instantly gets chants of “Gerry” (for the kayfabe owner of OTT). William’s taking credit for the Ospreay/Ricochet match they had in December, and I’m guessing this is a new heel GM storyline, as they take “credit” for pulling the Dunne/Riddle match too. The crowd chant “boring”, and I’m kinda agreeing with this. Do we really need another heel GM storyline in 2017, especially one that’s not exactly being subtle in referencing Trump for heat?

Finally he’s cut-off by Martina who comes out to a very-blurry camera (Rev Pro would have been proud of that!), and it looks like the old Ward Section have disappeared, as they’ve replaced an Irish flag with another with “Session Section” on it. She’s here to get the authority figures out of her gaff party, but they’ve brought a present for her… it’s an “earlier tonight” video, and it’s the arrival of Jinny!

Martina vs. Jinny
Hooray for the return of Jinny, boo for them adding in a surname that she doesn’t use.

This was Jinny’s first match in OTT since last April, and the crowd sure remembered how much they disliked her. Especially since she’s got new-ish gear that really fit the fashionista’s character. Martina started by charging into Jinny with a Thesz-ish press, only for Jinny to instantly counter with a Japanese armdrag into the turnbuckles An uppercut from Jinny rocks Martina, but she comes back with an O’Connor roll attempt, then finally a roll-through into a near-fall after some rope-running.

A kick’s caught by Jinny, who sweeps the leg back into a facebuster for a two-count, as the offence continued with stomps and a choke in the corner. Jinny rushes in with some running knees in the corner to knock down Martina, and this is really one sided, as Jinny hits a snapmare than stands on Martina like she’d been hunting. Martina finally fights back with a forearm and a release Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall, but she’s quickly tripped and caught in a Jushin Liger-esque seated surfboard. Despite powering out, Martina’s rolled up for a near-fall but she comes back with a series of clotheslines, then a release German suplex as Jinny slumps into the corner.

Jinny swerves a Bronco Buster, but she gets caught in a Tarantula in the other corner. A mouthful of beer’s sprayed in Jinny’s face, but she comes back with a big boot, only to take a headbutt and a Codebreaker. Martina tries to go up top to finish things off, but she’s caught in the middle turnbuckle… which is the perfect place for Jinny to hit the Facelift for the win. Martina’s like a reincarnation of the Sandman – in that the act sucks you in, but at least this version can go in the ring! **½

After the match, Jinny gets the microphone and puts down Martina and Ireland some more. Jinny tells the crowd that in two years she’s taken over the UK and all of Europe, before promising to make Martina’s life hell.

Eddie Kingston vs. Justin Shape
Shape’s apparently drawn gear inspiration from a pair of Big Damo’s old tights… and is it me, or should the gimmick change have included a name change, given how “Justin Shape” only worked as a joke with the Gymnasties?

Shape attacks Kingston from behind as the match instantly spills into the crowd, but Kingston fights back by chopping him around the ringside area. Kingston threatens to suplex him, but he ends up getting thrown into the ring post, then back into the ring as he covers up from some elbows from above. Shape pulls the referee aside, as William J. Humperdink chokes Kingston in the ropes, before Shape rakes the eyes. A simple shove knocks Shape down into the corner. So he tries to fire back with forearms. Which work as well as you’d expect, so he drops a knee into Kingston’s head.

Kingston finally blocks a couple of corner charges, as he dumps Shape with an STO, then throws in some machine-gun chops in the corner. A belly to belly takes Shape down, as does a pumphandle Exploder, which gets a near-fall, before a DDT and an elbow to the back gets Kingston another two-count.

Out of nowhere, Shape hits a Cobra Clutch into a Codebreaker for a near-fall as Kingston grabbed the ropes. After some more back and forth chops, Shape hits a spin-out suplex for another two-count, but Kingston kicks out and lands a lariat and a backdrop driver… but Logan Bryce gets involved with a low blow, and that’s your DQ. Just in time for Bryce to give him a spit-laden slap. Well, this was a match, I guess, they got over Shape and his crew as heels with a dirty finish, but I just couldn’t get into this at all. **½

The Gymnasties make the save as Sammy D lays into Bryce, only for Shape to come back and make it two-on-one. B Cool’s on the outside, but he doesn’t do squat, and that’s not a joke. Sammy gets the microphone and says that the Gymnasties can go onto higher heights…and thankfully the B Cool hesitance wasn’t a cue for a heel turn just yet!

We move to a backstage video, “live” of Tyler Bate again prodding away on a phone as only he can. Angel Cruz comes in and congratulates him, and Cruz thinks he’s a WWE UK champion. Tyler rebuffs him, then jumps when Cruz flips open what looks like a knife, but its actually a comb.

Back in the arena, the crowd go wild, because the next match’s graphic just flashed up…

Mark Andrews vs. Mark Haskins
This was Haskins’ first match back from injury, and he started with some chain grappling as he and Andrews exchanged headlock takedowns before an eventual stand-off.

A test of strength forces down Andrews for a couple of near-falls, before he monkey flips his way free, only to find his wristlock quickly reversed as the back-and-forth continued, ending with Andrews catching the ropes with his shins as he went for the Northern Lights suplex/moonsault combo. Haskins fakes out a dive, then follows up with a tope that sent Andrews into the wall, as the Welshman took a back suplex onto the ring apron. Back inside, a slam and a knee gets Haskins a two-count, and he follows up by driving a series of knees into Andrews back as he wrenched away with a chinlock.

Another back suplex takes down Andrews as a double knee drop gets Haskins another two-count. Haskins thinks he’s got a wheelbarrow on Andrews, but a bulldog sees the tables turn as that Northern lights into a standing moonsault ends up connecting without the ring ropes getting in the way. Dive time follows, but it’s not Andrews who hits it at first, as both men fake out dives before a tope con hilo takes down the returning Haskins.

A slingshot into a standing moonsault gets Andrews another two-count, but he takes too long in following up as Haskins charges him off the top rope, before ultimately rolling through and dumping Andrews with a death valley driver for a near-fall. Haskins rushes back in with a snapmare and a superkick, before they trade shots in the ropes, including a 619 to an onrushing Haskins, and a Stundog Millionaire to end a fantastic sequence.

Good God, even after three months off, how good IS Haskins?!

Haskins sits up like the Undertaker from that Stundog Millionaire as they trade shots, ending with Haskins flipping out and delivering a forearm, then a powerslam off the ropes and a crossface from the kickout. Just as Andrews thought he had the ropes, Haskins snatches back on the free arm and turns it into a Rings of Saturn, before Andrews gets his foot on the bottom rope.

Another insane sequence begins as Haskins tries for the armbar again, but he switches it into a pumphandle driver… which Andrews rolls out of and goes for a stomp, only for Haskins to catch a roll-up, and turn it into a Sharpshooter attempt from the kick-out. Andrews pushes away, so Haskins goes for the roll-up death valley driver again, but that too is countered into a standing Shiranui for a near-fall.

This is phenomenal!

Andrews goes to the top for a shooting star press, but he lands on his feet… then goes for a standing shooting star press for another near-fall. Haskins follows him as he tries to go up again, but Andrews hits some pump kicks to the head, before another Stundog Millionaire attempt is pushed out of, and Haskins finally gets that bridging armbar! It’s countered with a crucifix pin for a two-count, but Haskins gets back in to that Sharpshooter, and he sinks in way too deep as Mark Andrews is forced to tap out.

Good lord. How’s THAT for a first match back from injury?! An easy match-of-the-year contender right there folks. ****¾

Out next to crash the party are the Body Bros – whose names seem to change every time they’re out. Of course, they get chants of “steroids”, as Adam “Flex” Maxted, Brian Abs and Carl Curl have a present for Martina’s gaff party. You can barely hear Maxted over the crowd’s chanting, but in the end they get to reveal their presents… a can for Martina, and a tub of “fat burner”. Martina chops away at the Body Bros, but the lights go out before they can get at her… and the lights pop back up to reveal Drew Galloway in OTT!

The crowd goes mental as somehow Adam Maxted is oblivious to it all, eventually taking a diving boot and a Futureshock DDT. Everyone leaves happy, especially after Drew’s promo where he recapped Irish wrestling history, before revealing that he’ll be back for their April show: ScrapperMania. Complete with sign-point!

Matt Riddle vs. Marty Scurll
Well, isn’t this a beauty of a match? Scurll was a replacement for Pete Dunne, whose advertised match I guess was yanked because… politics. They did the “mystery opponent” thing, with the crowd popping big time for the unadvertised Scurll’s entrance video and music… but of course, commentary had to play the asinine “if this is who we think it is” line. That’d be the dumbest bait and switch… unless it was, I dunno, Clone Riddle as Marty Scurll?

With these two, this match couldn’t be anything but special. Riddle’s grappling-based offence mixed with an unwillingness to get sucked into Scurll’s mind games made this a joy to behold. Scurll had answers to Riddle’s grapple game, but of course the former UFC star was at worst on the same level, grabbing a rear naked choke, rolling Scurll to the mat in the opening stages.

They exchange armbars back and forth, with Scurll slipping out into a bow-and-arrow hold that was quickly negated as Riddle clung to the ropes. Riddle got his rendition of Spandau Ballet’s “Gold”, and another Papa Hales shout-out (with the love for that man, someone really needs to check to see if they’re not family!), all whilst Scurll was trying to hush the crowd. Just so he could welcome Riddle with a chop. Riddle’s return… was an even harder chop!

Riddle swerves an apron superkick, before lashing into Scurll with a big chop, as he deadlifts Scurll with a series of rolling gutwrench suplexes. Yup, Riddle is a phenom. Scurll fires back with kicks, before throwing Riddle into the seated area as he mocked the Spandau Ballet singing. Back in the ring, Scurll wears away on Riddle with a backbreaker, and a running knee strike, only to get dumped with a German suplex as the Bro hit back.

An Exploder suplex takes Scurll down for a leaping back senton for a near-fall, before a brainbuster gets a similar result. Scurll tried to snap the fingers, but Riddle slapped his way free – to a chorus of boos – only to fall to the “Just Kidding” superkick. From there it was time for a chicken wing, but Riddle kicked himself free, before catching another “Just Kidding” en route to an upkick. Scurll dumped Riddle on his head with a lariat for a near-fall, before getting the finger snap from the kick-out.

Marty tried for another finger snap, and turned Riddle’s counter into a chicken wing, before Riddle rolled into the ropes to force a break. Scurll superkicked a kneeling Riddle, who just kept firing back up, only to take an apron superkick as Scurll tried to end things… but Riddle again came back with open hand strikes and kicks… only for one of them to be caught and turned into a toe snap!

Which is why you should wear boots, bro!

A Gotch piledriver comes next, but Riddle kicked out at one! From there, a Bro To Sleep and the Tombstone Slam follows as Riddle gets a two-count, but the back and forth continued with an inverted torture rack slam and a powerbomb as Scurll took to stamping on Riddle to soften him up for what proved to be the match-ending chicken wing. There’s two great matches in a row here… good luck following that lads! ****¼

Jordan Devlin vs. Mike Bailey
This is where the import overload starts to hurt in my mind – you’ve just had Riddle/Scurll and Haskins/Andrews… all of a sudden, “Speedball” doesn’t feel special outside of building up Devlin’s anti-import character. Kudos to whomever brought the “I can’t believe it’s not Balor” sign – that cracked me up!

Bailey’s offer of a handshake is slapped away, so he starts by trying to kick away at not-Balor, who responds by dragging Bailey in and knocking him down with shoulder tackles and going for kicks of his own. They miss, as Devlin’s rocked by the cavalcade of kicks, as Bailey fakes out a dive… then catches a Devlin kick and replies with another one of his own.

Finally Devlin gets some major offence with a chop-block to the left knee of Bailey, as he looks to go to work on that, kicking away at Bailey as he pulled an Ali on the mat. A Muta lock forces Bailey to reach for the ropes, before he hits an enziguiri from the ground, and then charges into the corner – missing with a knee strike with the bad knee. Devlin snaps back in with a knee bar on the bad knee, again forcing the Canadian to reach for a rope break.

After swinging and missing with a kick using his bad leg, Bailey finally connects with a roundhouse kick – on his good leg – at the third attempt. Bailey followed up with some knee strikes in the corner, again using the bad knee, and right about then I figured that perhaps he should have put some kind of mark on one of his knee pads to remember which one to not use.

Bailey remembers the knee after landing from a shooting star press, as he gets a near-fall from a standing Shiranui. Another blocked kick with the bad knee leads to a Dragon screw, but Bailey comes back with a crane kick, only to miss a running corkscrew shooting star press as Devlin hits back with a Tiger suplex for a near-fall. They exchange forearms for a bit, before Bailey hits the moonsault fallaway slam from Devlin’s crossbody attempt.

Devlin hits back immediately with a brainbuster, before he’s backdropped to the floor as Bailey countered a package piledriver. The Canadian quickly joins him with a springboard moonsault to the floor, but he takes too long to follow up back in the ring as he’s kicked on the top rope… before coming down and using the bad knee for some kicks. At least he winces from those as Devlin his a diving knee for another two-count.

Devlin kicks away at that bad knee again, but Bailey backdrops out of another package piledriver as he hits the moonsault double knee strike to the chest. Another kick to the head with the bad knee gets a two-count, before Devlin ducks some more kicks, then takes another… before he rolls away from a top rope shooting star knee strike. With Bailey rocked, Devlin lands the package piledriver, and that’s more than enough. Fine for what it is, but Bailey’s gonna Bailey. If he’s going to do a match with selling a body part, at least be consistent – and that’s so often Speedball’s downfall. ***¼

A video aired next to plug OTT’s next fly-ins for ScrapperMania in April. They’re holding it at the National Stadium in Dublin (or the 2,000 capacity National Boxing Stadium, in case anyone thinks they’ve lost their mind and were trying to run in a massive venue!), featuring Will Ospreay, Ryan Smile, Ricochet and the Bullet Club: in the form of the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega. Yep, the Tivoli lost their minds for that!

The Social Elite (Paul Tracey & Charlie Sterling) vs. Angel Cruz & Tyler Bate
Cruz’s entrance video includes a singalong/karaoke bit, which I can see the crowd taking to, give it enough time. The storyline was that Cruz was going to be going it alone, since he’d been blown off by Tyler Bate earlier in the show… but Bate turned up and saved the day anyway. Full credit to OTT for digging out “Hedge Slammer” (or “Get Up 003”, the library music that WWE used for him in the UK tournament).

Well, Tyler Bate’s tagged with Angel Cruz before, but this feels really off-key compared to how the rest of the big names had been used.

Cruz launched into Tracey with a forearm, and was instantly shoved down as the Social Elite tried to go two-on-one with Tyler… and looked to come off worse as they mocked his waving. Bate low-bridges Sterling to the outside, before giving both of the Social Elite dropkicks… and they replied by snatching Tyler’s moustache.

Once Tyler had taken care of that, Cruz tagged in, but quickly got dropped by a lariat from Tracey. Cruz recovers and knees Sterling, before pulling his trunks down for Charlie’s usual arse-out spot. Another knee to Tracey misses, as Cruz gets suplexed as he was placed on the back foot. Tracey pulled the phantom tag spot for the hell of it, as Sterling missed an elbow drop, before Tracey returned (for real) to prevent a hot tag.

The Social Elite head outside and get caught by Team Prick (Peter and Rick; Angel’s security detail), but they run into each other as Cruz continues to take a beating. Finally, Angel comes back by reversing a suplex, then rolls away from Sterling’s standing moonsault as Tyler gets the hot tag.

Bate clears the ring then gives Sterling an Airplane Spin. Tracey falls for bop and bang, as does Sterling, who staggers down then gets deadlifted up into a bridging German suplex for another two-count. Cruz comes in and eats a piledriver for a two-count, before Tracey eats a Koppo kick.

Bate throws Cruz into Sterling, then hits Tracey with that Tyler Driver ‘97 and that’s enough for the win! This felt a little on the rushed side, but decent for what it was – a Tyler Bate showcase! **¾

All that’s left now is our mystery main event…

NLW Championship: Pete Dunne (c) vs. Ryan Smile
Blurry-cam returns for Dunne’s entrance, and the crowd becomes unglued for Ryan Smile and his shiny new cape. Well, mostly unglued, going off whom was in the crowd.

With the crowd giving both men duelling chants, Dunne hugs Smile… then drops him with a Pedigree for an opening two-count, because WWE contract. After a few German suplexes, Dunne sinks into a rear chinlock on Smile, before ending a series of leapfrogs from the challenger with a good old-fashioned forearm smash.

Smile comes back with a dropkick as he tried to take over, succeeding with a flying ‘rana off the top rope to send Dunne to the outside… but he sidestepped a tope as Smile wiped out a staffer, before returning to hit a tope con hilo as Dunne somehow avoided everything. Poor security guards. A third dive was aborted as Dunne pulled the referee in front of harm’s way, before Smile finally succeeded with the across-the-turnbuckles tope con hilo!

Despite taking that dive, Dunne took Smile to the wall for some chop/punch combos, before Smile’s lifted onto the stage for another tope attempt. Back inside again, Smile scooped up Dunne for a tombstone, but it’s reversed as Dunne gets an early two-count before floating over into the Cattle Mutilation. Wonder if that move hurts more from a vegan?

Eventually Dunne rolls back over into a pinning combination as he slaps away at a grounded Smile, before getting planted with a Blue Thunder Bomb as the match continued to see-saw ever so delicately. An enziguiri from the apron and a missile dropkick sends Dunne flying into the corner, before a satellite DDT keeps the things going in the All Day Star’s favour.

Well, that was until Dunne just clocked him with a forearm on the top rope. Smile fought out of something on the top rope, as he laid into Dunne with more forearms, only for the Bruiserweight to fight back and even invite more shots! A single forearm from Dunne sent Smile onto his arse in the corner, before the release suplex dumps Smile awkwardly. The Bitter End is only good for a near-fall though – and we’re back to that move not quite being a finisher!

Dunne tries to go for Smile’s ear, only to get knocked down with another superkick, before running into a headbutt and an enziguiri from Dunne, who then got rocked with some more superkicks from Smile. Another superkick makes Dunne roll back to his feet, before Smile countered another Bitter End into a DDT, leaving both men laying!

Both men sat up, cross-legged, and exchanged vicious slaps before Dunne grabbed the nose and pulled Smile up for another release suplex… except it was countered with a brainbuster and a Springboard Cutter! Smile heads up top to try and finish off the champion, but he takes way too long and Dunne pulls the referee on top of him as Niall Fox takes the brunt of a top rope splash.

Dunne hits back with a low blow and another Bitter End… but OTT only has one ref, so that’s for nought… until Fox stirs and makes the slowest count, leading to perhaps not as loud a pop as you’d expect for Smile kicking out. Dunne goes to the fingers as he snacks on Smile’s digits, leading to chants of “that’s not vegan”. Smile returns the favour, and gets booed for it, before dumping Dunne with a Destroyer! Another trip to the top rope follows as he hits a big splash, then heads across for a frog splash, but the referee’s still stirring… and of course, Dunne kicks out at two!

Smile heads back to the top once more, hitting a Frog Splash to the back, and that is enough for the win! OTT has a new champion – and after stellar showings against Marty Scurll and Chris Hero in recent months, it’s the All Day Star who ended out on top! ****¼

Dunne handed Smile the title at the end, then bowed to the crowd for what was hopefully not intended as a farewell, as the show ended with Smile celebrating with the gold.

What Worked: Turning a negative into a positive – if politics (as rumoured) robbed us of a Dunne/Riddle match, the replacement against Matt was a hell of a fill-in – and the match they put on did not hurt one bit.

What Didn’t: At parts, the crowd did not seem to be into the main event – or at least, following the face/heel norms. The rather muted response to Smile winning the title, as opposed to the roar that you’d have expected given his story here. It didn’t help that he’d beaten another star that the OTT fan considered as one of their own, but that reaction just felt weird.

Thumbs: With three really great matches, I can only go thumbs-up. With a bit of a caveat:

In spite of the hot crowds and good matches, OTT flirting on what The Internet’s Alan Boon would call “not my graps” territory with me, largely because of how the group’s infatuation with “bringing the best over” seems to be forcing the development of talent onto the backseat.

There’s a growing number of folks taking shots at OTT for not doing much to cultivate local talent, and they have a point. Even a year ago, the promotion only had the odd “loaded” card… which is good for the fans, but if/when the time comes when the fly-ins dry-out, who’s left? The poster for ScrapperMania 3 only shows one “native” talent in Martina (three, if you count the Kings of the North), which sort of the point. WWE gets flak for relying on part-timers for WrestleMania, and this is the closest you’ll get to it on the indy level.

As long as they put out star-studded cards, people will come – especially when there’s precious little competition in Ireland – but with more and more “super indy”-style groups in the UK, and across the world, it may be a case of enjoy this while it lasts.