June 12, 2016 saw England’s Revolution Pro Wrestling host yet another in a line of indie dream matches, with a card at London’s York Hall headlined by Kurt Angle taking on Zack Sabre Jr. And since I’ll be at Rev Pro’s next big show this Sunday – featuring Messrs. Shibata and Ishii – it’s only right to catch up on their last banner event.
This would be Angle’s second match since leaving TNA (the first being on the much-lauded UR Fight pay-per-view in March), but first we’d have a loaded undercard featuring the best of Britain… and a couple of fly-ins.
Marty Scurll vs. Noam Dar
Unfortunately it seems that Revolution Pro watermark takes precedence over everything, including the captions introducing the wrestlers, which seems a little odd that they haven’t adjusted one or the other to suit. As such, the captions can be pretty much useless to new fans.
Barely five miles away, Scurll is a frequent headliner for PROGRESS at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, but here in Bethnal Green, he’s jerking the curtain. Here in RPW, he’s more of a clap-along-to-the-music heel than the evil villain he is elsewhere.
We’ve got Oliver Bennett and Andy Simmons as the face/heel announce duo, and before the wrestlers have even locked up, I’m thinking of reaching for the mute button. Hopefully their commentary isn’t going to be as anachronistic as it seems on paper.
Scurll starts with a takedown of Dar, with neat reversals back and forth with neither man able to get an advantage. Dar almost reversed out of the strait jacket, but Scurll regained the hold and took him to his knees, only for Dar to flip back and finally reverse the hold. A low dropkick decked Scurll again, only for the “Villain” to go for a chicken wing. Dar blocks it but gets sent to the outside, then takes a superkick off the apron.
The fight continued around ringside, with Scurll landing a succession of chops, before returning to the ring with an armdrag and then a leg scissors around Dar’s left arm. Dar rolled up Scurll for a near-fall as he tried to escape, but the Scotsman struggled to find a way back into things, especially when Scurll raked his eyes!
Scurll sent Dar to the outside and connected with a tope, before another attempt at the apron superkick saw Dar sweep the leg and send Scurll crashing to the apron. Dar dropped Scurll with a dropkick as the Villain had tried to go for a back body drop, and despite almost having a chicken wing locked on him, Dar stayed on top of Scurll.
A small package saw Scurll get a two-count, as Dar kept going for the Champagne Super-knee-bar. Scurll hooked away at Dar’s face after dumping him on the top rope, but Dar avoided a back superplex, only to take a kick to the legs. Dar nearly scored the win after backing out of an elevated DDT, with both men scoring near-falls from roll-ups, before a knee to the head, then a kick got Scurll another near-fall.
Scurll looked to stay on top with a finger snap, but Dar replied with a headbutt, only to be taken down with the “Just Kidding” superkick. Scurll no sold a bicycle kick, then landed a knee lift and clotheslines, knocking both men down, and almost giving us a double knock-out as well. Scurll hit a superkick to the kneeling Dar before popping up for… a leg sweep from Dar as Scurll rushed in on the Scotsman. A rake to the eyes saw Scurll avoid the Champagne Super-knee-bar, before Dar rolled out of a Gotch-style tombstone piledriver and eventually lock in the Champagne Super-knee-bar.
Scurll broke the hold via the ropes, before again going for the eyes, leading to some retaliation as he was swept off his feet again by Dar. Scurll avoided a double stomp, but landed the Gotch-style tombstone for a near-fall, which he turned into a finger snapper after the kick-out, before Dar was finally caught in the chicken wing, giving him no choice but to tap out. A really good opener, and one that would have given most other cards trouble in following. ***¾
Before I move on, another word about the commentary. This pairing may be something I’ll grow to accept, but on first listen, the Bennett/Simmonz partnership is grating, and it’s all down to Andy Boy. Oliver Bennett’s commentary sounds almost like it should belong on the BBC at times, sounding like it’s been styled on BBC’s radio coverage of tennis or golf (and in fact, Bennett does commentary for Eurosport on the side, so there’s a reason behind the “professional” style he brings to the table).
I know commentary in wrestling these days is a lost art, but I’d be so much happier if Simmonz wasn’t playing the heel so much, or at least had lines that didn’t make him look stupid. Still, I’d rather have someone playing a cliched heel with stupid lines than deliver cliched-but-wooden performances.
Pete Dunne vs. Martin Stone
Dunne’s cruiserweight title isn’t on the line here, especially since Stone had over 80lbs on him. This was Stone’s first appearance in RPW in eighteen months, as he’s since become a regular in the Florida/Georgia indie scene since his release from NXT.
Dunne sent down Stone with a wristlock in the early going, before Stone reversed it into a chinlock and then an arm whip after finally freeing himself. Stone was unmoved by a series of shoulder tackles, with a good old fashioned eye rake getting the job done. At least until Stone floored Dunne with a shoulder tackle of his own!
Stone sent Dunne to the outside, where he did a finger snap (already, two spots from the first match repeated in the second!), before ducking a chop as Dunne ended up sending his hand into the ringpost. Back inside, Dunne regained the advantage, choking Stone in the ropes, before biting away at Stone’s pinkie finger.
Repeated clotheslines got Stone back into things, with a cutter getting him a near-fall. After missing a charge in the corner, Dunne took an enziguiri, before a missile dropkick from Stone sent the “Bruiserweight” to the mat. Dunne landed a release suplex for a near-fall, then a sit-out powerbomb for another two-count, before falling to a pop-up powerbomb from Stone, then a knee strike and headbutt.
Stone caught Dunne in a crossface, but he worked free and landed a pumphandle facebuster for a near-fall. Dunne slapped away at a kneeling Stone, then landed a German suplex which was quickly returned, with Stone hitting a rolling lariat to deck Dunne. Stone followed that up with the London Bridge (draping DDT from the top rope), but Dunne kicked out.
Dunne fired back with a leaping forearm strike, and teased using a belt strike, before kicking Stone low, and landing the pump handle facebuster for the win. A good match with a jerky finish – great effort from both guys, as you’d expect. ***¼
Big Daddy Walter vs. Big Damo
Big Daddy vs. Giant Haystacks this ain’t! Walter grabs a headlock to start with, before they exchange a bunch of shoulder tackles, with the pair bouncing back and forth between themselves and the ropes like they were Newton’s cradle.
Walter grabbed the ropes to avoid a German suplex, and followed up with an Earthquake-style sitout splash for a one-count. Some European uppercuts kept Walter on top, before he hurled Damo across the ring with a gutwrench suplex for a near-fall. A brief sleeperhold kept Damo on his knees, with a big boot putting him down for a two-count.
More big boots from Walter kept Damo down, as the Northern Irishman invited the shots, before the tide turned as Damo dropped Walter from a Fireman’s carry then landing a back senton. After a brief period on defence, Walter fired back with a missile dropkick, before connecting with clotheslines into the corner and a butterfly suplex for just a one-count. The pair traded big boots for a near-fall, before a dropkick just about sent Damo into the turnbuckles.
Walter got caught on the top rope by Damo, as they teased – and delivered – a superplex… and the ring stayed intact! Walter landed another big boot, then a German suplex and a lariat for a near-fall as Damo threatened to not stay down.
After a sleeperhold, Damo tried for the Ulster Plantation, but couldn’t get Walter up, with the Austrian instead taking a dropkick into the buckles and another back senton, then a Vader bomb for a two-count. Damo got on top of Walter with some repeated elbows as he went for a STF-like submission, forcing Walter to submit. For a big guy’s match, it wasn’t quite as good as they’ve been capable of in the past, but it was worth seeing. ***
Mike Bailey vs. Will Ospreay
This is the first time I’ve seen Mike Bailey – and given that he’ll not be appearing in America any time soon, it’ll only be groups like Rev Pro where you’ll see them. Will Ospreay got a standing ovation for his first big match in the UK (with respect to the RCWA and HOPE promotions) after winning the New Japan Best of Super Junior tournament. Sadly, most of this was talked through by the commentary team, intent on getting over the heel/face acts.
Ospreay genuinely looked stunned by the reaction he got, unfortunately we got the return of the commentators the second the crowd stopped chanting. I’ll just tune out of the commentators for this, as Simmonz’s heel act suddenly morphed into “go away” heat with myself.
Once they got underway, they both kicked each other at the same time, before Ospreay went for a wristlock, as the York Hall crowd launched into “F*** you Vader” chants. After some headscissors sent Bailey to the outside, Ospreay faked out a dive to huge applause.
Back in the ring, Bailey took Ospreay into the corner with some rapid-fire kicks to the chest, but Ospreay returned the favour with some Kojima-like rapid-fire chops. They went back and forth with taekwondo kicks and chops, before Ospreay locked in an Octopus hold in the middle of the ring. Ospreay went for a Vader bomb, because of course he did, and Bailey kicked out at one… because of course he did!
Bailey grounded Ospreay with a chinlock, then went back to the taekwondo kicks and an axe kick for a near-fall. Ospreay tried for a springboard handspring, but he took a dropkick mid-handspring, before going to the outside to recuperate – only to be promptly met by a moonsault press from Bailey from the inside out to the ring.
Ospreay finally landed a springboard spinning kick after returning to the ring, before connecting with a kick to the head of Bailey in the corner. A Phenomenal Forearm sent Bailey to the outside, where he took a diving corkscrew moonsault by the stage steps, and then a DDT on the way back in for a near-fall.
Bailey blocked the Rainham Maker, connecting with a roundhouse kick at the third attempt, but Ospreay landed a lifting reverse DDT, standing moonsault and a springboard corkscrew splash off the middle rope for a near-fall. That was just insane! Ospreay springboarded back into the ring for a Code Red as we saw a series of pinfall attempts and reversals, ending with a near-fall for Bailey after a double-knee.
A series of jumping knee strikes in the corner staggered Ospreay, as did a spinning taekwondo kick before Bailey landed a standing corkscrew star press for a near-fall. Bailey followed that up with kicks to Ospreay’s chest, before getting sent into the corner with a forearm strike. Bailey avoided Ospreay’s “Cheeky Nandos Kick” (the superkick whist the opponent’s head is stuffed under the turnbuckle), and replied with another roundhouse kick.
Bailey almost won it when he countered a suplex into a hurricanrana pin, but Ospreay kicked out at two. Bailey replied with some rapid-fire kicks, before eating a one-man Spanish Fly for another near-fall. They returned to trading strikes and kicks, before a massive headbutt sent Bailey flying into the corner for the Cheeky Nandos Kick. Ospreay landed on his feet from an imploding shooting star press attempt, and was rolled up for a near-fall as Bailey then missed a moonsault double knee strike.
Ospreay looked for the OsCutter out of the corner, but Bailey turned it into a back cracker before some more kicks almost put Ospreay away. Bailey missed a shooting star press, then took another corkscrew kick from Ospreay, who then went up to the top for an imploding 450 splash, getting yet another two-count, with the OsCutter finally putting paid to Bailey. Another outstanding display from the new British sensation, almost at the level of that Ricochet match. ****
Josh Bodom vs. Chris Hero
Bodom is one of the guys that Rev Pro is looking to make a star, and since he’s only had two matches in “rival” group PROGRESS, it’s safe to say that he could be “their” guy.
After slapping Hero, Bodom quickly took an arm whip to the mat, but Bodom responded with a wristlock that downed Hero, only for him to use the Ospreay-like see-saw kip-ups to escape. Unsuccessful with a few himself, Bodom tried to get Hero to launch into the ropes for a shoulder tackle. Instead, all Bodom got was a big boot to the jaw from the veteran, followed by a stiff bodyslam and a back senton after a couple of chops failed.
Bodom dropkicked Hero off the apron after Hero’d flipped himself over the ropes, and the action quickly spilled outside as Bodom went to work on Hero’s left arm in a bid to nullify the ripcord elbow. Back inside, Hero blasted Bodom with a stiff elbow shot as he looked to buy some time, but Bodom quickly got back on top with a kick to the head for a near-fall.
Another roll-through attempt led to Hero kicking out before a pin was even attempted. Hero recovered with a discus forearm smash for a near-fall, before Bodom connected with a pop-up into a knee strike for a near-fall of his own. Hero nailed an enziguiri to daze Bodom, who replied with a spinning kick for another two-count. Bodom found himself knocked off the apron with a big boot as the action swung back and forth. Hero went for a dive and faked out at the last minute, flipping out over the rope and onto the floor, before Bodom was successful with a tope of his own, before a second tope was blocked and met with an elbow strike.
Keeping the action outside, Hero peppered Bodom with shots, levelling him with an elbow strike that sent Bodom to the floor. Bodom caught Hero on the way back into the ring with a see-saw facebuster, using the ropes for leverage, getting a near-fall in the process – just seconds after having been laid out with an elbow strike too? Hmm… More back-and-forth ended in Hero landing a piledriver for a two-count, then a pair of discus elbows to the back of the head for another near-fall.
Hero went to finish off Bodom with a ripcord elbow, but it got turned into a backslide for a near-fall, before Bodom went to grab the referee in a ploy to cause a distraction. Unfortunately, that didn’t work as Hero stepped aside and caught the attempted mule kick, and hit a punch to Bodom instead. In response, Bodom brushed aside Hero’s arms, which led to a ref bump, before hitting a low blow and hitting Hero’s discus elbow for the win. That seemed a little clunky as a finish, with Hero having taken most of the match only to lose. Still, the action was good, even if the match ran a little long. ***¾
Post-match, Bodom issued a challenge for Tomohiro Ishii for Rev Pro’s July show… and that’s our match.
Revolution Pro Wrestling British Tag Team Championship: Joel Redman & Charlie Garrett vs. The Revolutionists (James Castle & Sha Samuels) (c)
We got underway with a jumpstart as Charlie Garrett launched onto the champions with a tope con hilo, before Joel Redman landed a gutbuster and a Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall. Garrett came in with a diving elbow for another two-count, then a standing moonsault for some more near-falls.
Garrett and Redman combined for another two-count, but Redman’s crucifix powerbomb was a bit lax, and allowed Castle to make the tag to Samuels, but the champions ended up taking a double suplex nevertheless. The challengers followed that up with stalling suplex, as Castle was suplexed onto Samuels. Redman ended up kicking Samuels’ braces off of him, as a distraction allowed Castle to come in and suplex Garrett into the turnbuckles.
Samuels took off the remainder of his braces and used them to whip Garrett across the head, before Castle came back in to help keep the champions on top of things. Castle raked the eyes of Garrett, who came back with a leg lariat, before ducking the onrushing Samuels and landed a corkscrew senton. A hot tag was made to Redman, who dropped the challengers with German suplexes and belly to bellys. Redman finally pulled off an Exploder on Samuels, before catching Castle with a spinebuster off the top rope, which nearly ended in a win for the challengers.
Another innovative double-team saw the challengers get a near-fall with a shoulder-breaker/neckbreaker combo on Samuels. Castle went for a knee trembler, but was caught by Redman, whose tombstone piledriver only got a two-count as Garrett landed a brainbuster on Samuels.
The champions looked to use their belts to force a disqualification, but like Pete Dunne earlier on they were caught… only for the second belt to be used behind the referee’s back, but Redman was able to kick out. Castle went up to superplex Redman, but it got blocked, as Redman landed a tombstone piledriver, before Garrett landed a corkscrew senton to win the titles. A really good, albeit short and mostly one-sided tag match, and about the first thing on this show that felt like it actually had any repercussions! ***¼
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kurt Angle
Sabre Jr’s RPW British title wasn’t on the line here, for obvious reasons. Kurt Angle came out to his WWE theme (hi, Jerry McDevitt!), and got a funny mixture of rapturous applause and “You Suck” chants.
During the intros, they ran down ZSJ’s credentials – with some of them getting much less reaction than others (like that NOAH junior heavyweight tag team title run)… whilst Kurt Angle’s intro was just one long cheer, with his credentials having “living legend” added to it. Paging Larry Zybysko!
They started with repeated headlock attempts, taking down Angle who went for the ropes for a break. As ZSJ worked an armwringer, Angle responded with a straight punch, then tossed him out of the wring – distinctly un-technical! Back in the ring, another punch took ZSJ down for a one-count, before Angle went to a rear chinlock. A clothesline sent ZSJ to the mat for a two-count, and it was back to the rear chinlock once more. It was all Angle for a while, as he punctuated moved with rear chinlocks, almost to the point of irritation, leading to ZSJ having to power out of one and slide free of the hold.
ZSJ downed Angle with a spinning uppercut, as the pair moved to trading strikes, with Sabre Jr landing a springboard kick out of the corner, then a PK for a near-fall. Angle evaded a charge in the corner and landed a German suplex, before dropping ZSJ with an Angle Slam for a near-fall.
The York Hall crowd responded to that with chants of “you’ve still got it”, but were quickly muted as ZSJ caught Angle in an armbar, but Kurt rolled through and transitioned to the ankle lock, dragging ZSJ into the middle of the ring, before another armbar attempt was turned into a roll-up for a near-fall by Angle.
Kurt kept on the offensive with rolling German suplexes, hitting three in a row, before seeing an Angle Slam attempt reversed and turned into a double armbar in the middle of the ring. Angle flipped out of the move though and went back to the ankle lock, and after dragging ZSJ into the middle of the ring, he scissored the leg, giving no other result than a tap-out for the win.
Going into this, you couldn’t have expected a long mat classic, and on paper, a ten minute TV-style main event could easily have left you feeling cheated. That being said, for Zack Sabre Jr. against a 2016 Kurt Angle, this was as good as you were ever going to get, and will likely leave you with a tear in your eye wishing that we couldn’t send Kurt back in time and get Angle at the peak of his career against Zack Sabre Jr. ***¾
The key thing about this show is that you shouldn’t go into it making comparisons with any other promotion, let along London’s noisier neighbour. Rev Pro is NOT PROGRESS, nor should you expect it to be. Yes, the ring announcer is also an owner, like PROGRESS, but that’s where things stop.
RPW’s York Hall shows are brightly lit, and generally looked to have a more mainstream look and feel to them, as opposed to the charismatic, punk-rock feel that PROGRESS have hung their hat on. Sure, there were a few annoyances (and what show doesn’t have nagging points), such as commentators not laying out so they can continue their heel/face shticks, or camera cuts being edited in little too late, so we saw shots before they focussed, or cameras panning to the floor as the cameraman repositioned himself. Although the camera focus issues got worse as the show go on, overall this was a solid, albeit barely tarnished product (if we’re going to use the “polished” analogy).
A lot of the talent is the same, and some of them are used differently, but whereas PROGRESS flow their stories between shows, Rev Pro seem to have storylines as an undercurrent, with “dream matches” instead headlining the shows.
Of course, the benefit of this is that the fans who want to follow the storylines still get them, whilst also being able to attract new fans for the marquee matches, and hopefully being able to draw them in. Granted, you’re eventually going to run out of those, but there’s bound to be a plan B for whenever that day comes.
As a show, this was filled with good action, with the slight worry that pervaded most of the “supercard” indies from back in the day, that very little of it would lead to anything of importance. Is it worth buying? If you’re a fan of this stuff, then hell yes. Even if you’re not, it’s worth signing up to the Rev Pro subscription service for a month just to check it out. Ospreay vs. Bailey was the standout match from the card, and there was a lot of stuff right behind it