We’re back inside the Bowler’s Exhibition Centre as this year’s British J Cup wrapped up – with a little controversy on the way.
Again, there’s no editing as we’ve got the new Rev Pro intro music (it’s no “As I Lie”). Kevin Kelly and Andy Simmonz remain on commentary, and we’ve got a slightly better-lit hall for the finals! The format of the tournament sees our eight semi-finalists battling for a spot in a four-way elimination final, with the winner taking the trophy home. Hopefully not literally, if it’s an import – that thing’ll get damaged by the baggage handlers! For some reason Rev Pro’s patching in entrance videos into their main feed, kinda like how WCPW used to (and how the GWF do now).
Semi-Final: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. El Phantasmo
We start night two the same way we opened up the first – with the defending holder Jushin Thunder Liger!
ELP offers a handshake, but Liger’s again dubious of it, and we start with a tie-up as Liger takes the Canadian into the corner for a surprisingly-clean break. Liger quickly follows up with a seated surfboard as he rocked Phantasmo into a chinlock, before a Romero special kept Phantasmo on the defensive. Liger keeps up on Phantasmo, pulling him into an abdominal stretch as his game plan became clear – keep Phantasmo static and stretched. That quickly ends in the ropes through, and Phantasmo’s able to break Liger’s gameplan by hitting a quebrada for a near-fall.
A small package from ELP’s reversed as Liger snuck back in, following in with a tiltawhirl backbreaker and a cannonball off the apron, only for ELP to turn it back around… and miss a corkscrew moonsault back inside. Liger smells blood and quickly retaliates with a Shotei and a brainbuster, but ELP kicks out at two, and becomes like a human sandbag as Liger tried to finish him off with a Ligerbomb… only to surprise Liger with a small package for the win! A rather surprise finish, and an unpopular one in Manchester – but ELP makes it to the four-way main event. ***
Semi-Final: David Starr vs. KUSHIDA
Starr gets a promo before the match, reminding Manchester about the conspiracy against him, saying that he’s been “worn down against heavyweights” in recent weeks, having faced Colt Cabana and Juice Robinson in the prior days.
KUSHIDA fell for the opening handshake as Starr was using all the shortcuts early… but KUSHIDA’s able to take him outside for a pescado as the pair traded blows on the outside. Starr catches KUSHIDA with a Product Recall on the way back to the ring, picking up a solid two-count, as he looked to build up some momentum over the Timesplitter. The Pretty Pumped is next for a near-fall, before KUSHIDA put the brakes on as Starr looked to be going for the Blackheart Buster. A double clothesline’s next as the pair had the same idea, but that seemed to work as KUSHIDA edges ahead with a hiptoss and a cartwheel dropkick, before a snapping ‘rana off the top rope nearly got the win. Starr switched up his game plan from there, tripping KUSHIDA and taking him outside for a tope… but a crossbody back inside from Starr’s rolled through and turned into an attempted Hoverboard Lock.
Starr counters with a small package as they swap two-counts, before Starr cut off a dive by dumping KUSHIDA with a Cherry Mint DDT. The Han Stansen’s next for a near-fall, but Starr begins to run his mouth, which allowed KUSHIDA back into it as the pair exchanged forearms. KUSHIDA takes out the arm before Starr used Shay Purser as a human shield… the ref doesn’t see a low blow before the Blackheart Buster dumped KUSHIDA for a near-fall.
When Plan A didn’t work, Starr goes for his title belt as he looked for a deliberate DQ, but Shay Purser disarms him… allowing KUSHIDA to punch out Starr before finishing him off with Back to the Future for the win. Another solid outing, and it feels like this crowd’s a little hotter for this than on night one – perhaps because they sense that David Starr’s got a new contender to defend against? ***¼
CCK (Chris Brookes & Jonathan Gresham) & Chris Ridgeway vs. Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi & Dean Allmark
Some non-tournament action now, which is odd as I’d have expected all four semis to have been done first… anyway, Jonathan Gresham’s sort-of okay after rolling his ankle during last night’s main event.
Allmark and Gresham start us off, which is a dream match for some, and they start off as you’d expect, swapping holds as they looked for an edge. They only had a brief spell at the start, but it was long enough for me to want to see a full-on singles match between these two… someone, anyone… book it!
After reversing a hammerlock, Allmark sends Gresham into the corner… but Chris Brookes tags in and demands to face Tiger Mask. Oh God, that means Ridgeway’s going to be dealing with Taguchi’s rear… Brookes catches Tiger with a shoulder block, only for him to run into a Monkey flip as the veteran keeps up with a crossbody and a spinning back kick, taking Brookes to the outside, returning only to tag out as we get Ridgeway and Taguchi. Going straight in with a headlock, Ridgeway’s quickly met with hip attacks as Taguchi took all three opponents into the rope for arse strikes. One of those eventually gets turned into an atomic drop as Ridgeway dragged Taguchi to the mat, with Brookes coming in to stomp away on the downed Taguchi. Gresham comes in with another atomic drop for a near-fall, as Taguchi was left isolated in there.
Eventually Taguchi manages to use his rear to good effect as he takes down Ridgeway and brings in Tiger Mask, who flies in off the top for a near-fall. CCK hit the ring, but Tiger’s able to outlast them before dumping Ridgeway with a Tiger Driver for a near-fall – as the ring filled up to break the cover. Gresham’s ankle gives way as he ran into Tiger Mask – he ends up having to be lifted and used like a battering ram instead as CCK had to make the best of a bad situation. Tiger Mask recovers and hits a butterfly superplex to Ridgeway, before tagging out to Allmark, who clears the apron and then traps Ridgeway in the ropes for a flying stomp.
A springboard moonsault’s next for Allmark, getting a near-fall in the process, but he stutters a little on a springboard back cracker as Ridgeway went to the outside for an Orihara moonsault to all three opponents. Back inside, a legdrop from Allmark nearly gets the win, but Ridgeway kicks out and begins to unleash a series of kicks, before a Kirifuda clutch dragged Allmark to the mat for the submission. An impressive, New Japan-style trios match, with everyone getting a crack – but Ridgeway taking the fall tells you there’s plans for him down the road. ***¼
Semi-Final: YOH vs. Rich Swann
There’s a few boos for Swann’s entrance, and we start with both men playing to the crowd before we got going.
Swann does the old Ospreay repeat kip-ups out of an armbar as the pair squared off, returning as they swap hammerlocks, headlocks and the line, keeping it simple and grounded. Commentary brings up Swann’s brief retirement earlier in the year, which was just odd, as Swann ends up getting his knee chopped out from under him. YOH keeps up the pressure with an uppercut before scoring with a low dropkick to keep Swann on the mat, following up with a leg grapevine as the high flyer… didn’t. Elbow drops and knee drops keep Swann down as YOH collected a bunch of two-counts, then switched into a leg lock that forced Swann to reach for the rope.
Swann manages to mount a comeback, catching YOH with an elbow, then a boot before catching him up top with a leaping ‘rana that missed… but YOH went anyway. Oops. The tope con giro follows as YOH’s crashed into… which leads to a brief appearance from the World of Sport director as we get an utterly random crowd shot. Back in the ring, Swann follows up with a frog splash and gets a two-count from it, before YOH manages to surprise Swann with a neckbreaker.
YOH kips back up as he looked to finish off Swann with a Falcon arrow, but it’s only good for a near-fall. Swann flips out of a Dragon suplex, but his knee jams on the way down, giving YOH a chance to land a Dragon screw then a Figure Four leglock as Swann looked to be clinging onto the match. The hold’s reversed, but YOH quickly rolls back and into the ropes to force the break. From there, the pair trade shots, with a punch sending YOH to the outside, but he skins the cat… and eventually runs into the path of a cutter for a near-fall. Swann tries to finish him off off the top rope, landing a 450 splash for the win. A decent match, save for the ‘rana in the middle – with a largely appreciative crowd too, save for those two doing an impression of a cow. ***½
Semi-Final: SHO vs. Rocky Romero
It’s a first time meeting between these two, complicated by their professional relationship. They bump fists from the off, and then get to business…
We start with switching waistlocks, but it’s Rocky who goes for the first cover, before SHO started to build up some steam… only for his dropkick to miss as the pair began to get used to their misses. Rocky connects with a cheapshot as he poked SHO in the eye – and there’s no forgiveness just net as SHO responds with a kick to the back, before he began to choke his “director” in the corner.
Rocky responds with a chop, with SHO replying in kind, before a kick to the chest fells Romero. They remain even, with Rocky enjoying a spell on top as he trades elbows with his mentee, before we go back to those chops, Rocky to leap out of the corner… and land in a dropkick from SHO. From there, SHO charges into Rocky with an avalanche clothesline and a series of kicks, getting a near-fall out of it, then again with a wheelbarrow roll-up. SHO lifts Rocky onto the top rope and looks for a back superplex… but Romero fights free and lands a ‘rana instead, before some Sliced Bread catches SHO for another two-count. Forever clotheslines follow, but SHO cuts him off after two with a lariat of his own before the pair run into each other… a leaping knee stops Rocky, but he returns with one of his own, before another dual lariat put the pair down to the mat.
Back to their feet, we get Rocky and SHO furiously trading elbows, before a rewind kick looked to have Rocky ahead… but a German suplex from SHO turns it back around. Rocky escapes a powerbomb, then goes for more headscissors, only for SHO to dump him on his neck with the Project Ciampa. The Shock Arrow looked to be next, but Rocky slips out and jack-knifes his mentee for the win! Another solid match, with SHO bringing his A-game, but in the end it was something unexpected at the end that caught SHO off guard and cost him his place in the final. ***½
Flamita & Bandido vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
With Kyle Fletcher out of the British J Cup, we’ve got another dream match in the making here.
There’s handshakes all round before the bell, and we start with Bandido and Fletcher locking up. Bandido enjoyed the early advantage with a front facelock, but there’s a lot of hitting and missing as Fletcher eventually took him down with a low dropkick. A headstand from Bandido just confuses Kyle as the two eventually square off… and tag out. Of course, there’s a huge size difference between Davis and Flamita, but the plucky Mexican doesn’t let that stop him as he tries shoulder tackles… before finding out that a stomp to the foot was marginally more effective. Some flips worked in getting Flamita away from Dunkzilla, as a low dropkick takes the Aussie down… but the ring just fills up as an exchange of kicks got everyone confused, including Shay Purser, who tried to count the illegal man.
Bandido and Flamita manage to edge ahead with headscissors, before they just bounced off the Aussies with topes ahead of an assisted tope con giro from Flamita, and a corkscrew Orihara moonsault from Bandido to the outside. Back inside, Kyle’s isolated as a brief Muta lock and a low dropkick put him out of action for a while… but it wasn’t like Dunkzilla was incapable of fighting back on his own. Fletcher returns for a backbreaker, with Davis’ follow-up superkick getting a near-fall… before a slam and a simple back senton squishes Bandido for another two-count. Flamita’s kept on the apron for a while, but Bandido manages to score with a twisting moonsault on Fletcher for a near-fall – and then tag out despite Flamita being in the ring when the tag was made!
Not to worry, there’s some neat double-teaming with the Mexicans as a wheelbarrow into a moonsault nearly put Kyle away. A superkick from Fletcher sees Flamita land on the shoulders of Davis outside as a double-team Go to Sleep and an assisted cutter nearly ends things. Fletcher keeps up with a pair of assisted facebusters, but Bandido handstands out of his as the turnaround begins… and ends quickly when Davis reversed a suplex attempt. Davis goes after Flamita, but Bandido interrupts him as the ring remains full, with Junior Chris Roberts doing the square root of nothing to restore order.
Bandido press slams Flamita onto Davis, before Flamita headed up for a 450 splash onto Kyle for a near-fall as the Aussies looked to be in serious trouble. Of course, as I type that, the momentum swings right back around as Flamita handsprings into a Fidget Spinner… and that’s the win for the Aussies. Glorious stuff here, as Aussie Open pick up a big scalp to keep themselves up at the top of the tag team division. ****
RINGKAMPF (WALTER & Timothy Thatcher) vs. Latin American Exchange (Ortiz & Santana)
We’ve got the Defiant version of the RINGKAMPF theme, and the mis-spelled entrance caption from night one. Timothy Thatcher’s going to hunt you down…
This was LAX’s debut in Rev Pro, and it’s pretty jarring to see Ortiz without his big afro. Thatcher and Santana start us off, instantly going to ground as they looked to wrench each other’s legs off. Not satisfied, they move up to the arms from there, but Thatcher barely gets a cross armbreaker on before Santana got to the rope… then tagged in the shorter-haired Ortiz, whose very presence just bemuses Thatcher.
WALTER’s in and lands a shoulder tackle, but he misses an elbow drop as Ortiz just flopped onto him with a big splash. That disrespect annoyed WALTER, who just boots Ortiz in the head, before LAX swung things around as a powerbomb/neckbreaker dumped Thatcher for a near-fall. A rake of the eye keeps LAX ahead as Thatcher threatened to get back in it, but the Impact stars remain able to keep Thatcher at bay – and prevent WALTER from tagging in.
Santana’s snap suplex gets a two-count on Thatcher, before Ortiz returned with an STO… but Thatcher pops up with an enziguiri, and here comes trouble. Austrian trouble. A step-up senton into WALTER is caught as Ortiz is powerbombed into his partner, who’s left behind for a Boston crab… but fortunately for LAX, Santana gets to the ropes relatively quickly, only to get taken down quickly with a gunshot chop from WALTER. Ortiz tries to chop back past WALTER and Thatcher, and it works as he manages to get free for a tag as Santana came in and rocked Thatcher with a roll-up cutter.
WALTER tries to get involved from the outside, but a tope from Ortiz stops that as Santana and Thatcher tee off on each other with uppercuts and chops. Ortiz is back for an STO before providing assistance to Santana as Thatcher’s put down for a two-count… and thing swing around again with WALTER’s return as a powerbomb/uppercut combo puts Santana down for a two-count, thanks to Ortiz making a save. Duelling Gojira clutches are reversed for near-falls by LAX, before an errant lariat from WALTER drops Thatcher… and LAX are back in control. A flying lungblower from Santana and an Ortiz powerbomb puts Thatcher down, while WALTER takes a short DDT for good measure. Meanwhile, Thatcher has Ortiz down in a Fujiwara armbar… while Santana’s attempt to make a save ends with a Boston crab as LAX tap simultaneously to end the match. Another good tag team match – but since neither of these pairings are regulars in Rev Pro, it felt like little more than an exhibition. Prove me wrong, Andy! ****
British J Cup 2018 Final: Rocky Romero vs. El Phantasmo vs. KUSHIDA vs. Rich Swann
We’re under elimination rules here, and I’m starting to get twitches whenever I hear that Roppongi 3K theme…
Swann is hobbling out having had his legs worked over by YOH earlier in the night, although he found the energy to shuck and jive on the apron while that cow mooed in the crowd. We start with KUSHIDA and ELP trading blows in the ring, before the pair hit the ropes which led to Phantasmo eventually eating a low dropkick as the revolving door effect came into play nice and early.
Swann comes in to keep up on KUSHIDA, as did Romero, before Swann and Romero trade shots on the apron… and cartwheel kicked back to the floor. We return to KUSHIDA and ELP, with Phantasmo returning the favour with that dropkick, picking up a near-fall, before he went for a spot of rope walking, leaping over an attempted chop from Romero before he ducked down to avoid Swann as the Canadian finally took down KUSHIDA. NICE! Romero gets involved, baiting Phantasmo to the outside before he scored a dive… as did KUSHIDA… then ELP, with the latter coming via a top rope moonsault. Swann heads up too, as those boos get noticable, but he isn’t put off as a corkscrew senton wiped out the pile. Back inside, everyone eats Forever clotheslines, before they retaliated in unison with a trio of right hands. After nearly being rolled up by Phantasmo, KUSHIDA eats a superkick as Swann again goes for that ‘rana… sending Romero into a crossarmbreaker by KUSHIDA. Phantasmo breaks up the cover… despite this being an elimination match. Ah, that’s a pet hate right there!
Swann tries to steal the pin, but gets a two-count as the match continued, with Romero spiking ELP with a DDT… but he doesn’t go for a cover, instead opting to switch focus to KUSHIDA with a back suplex and a knee drop for a near-fall. KUSHIDA clings onto the rope to stop an Irish whip, before he’s able to kick away Romero and hit back with headscissors and another DDT. That rolls through as KUSHIDA looks for Back to the Future, but it’s ducked as Romero instead hits a rewind kick and an uppercut, before KUSHIDA shoved off Sliced Bread.
KUSHIDA instantly retaliates with a Hoverboard Lock, catching Romero out of the corner, before David Starr hit the ring and laid out KUSHIDA with the British Cruiserweight title belt. There’s no DQs, so Romero’s got the easiest of jobs to roll-up KUSHIDA for the win. Hope Kevin got his £100… With KUSHIDA barely out of the ring, Phantasmo superkicks Rocky and scores the pin as we’re down to our final two. Man, two quick eliminations, eh? Feels like a scramble!
We’re down to Rich Swann and El Phantasmo, which universally makes ELP the favourite, as the pair launched into back-and-forth chops, before Swann nailed a handspring cutter for a near-fall. Those moos return every time Swann looked close to getting the win. Phantasmo looked to catch Swann up top, but has to make do with an enziguiri-like kick before scoring with a ‘rana off the top… before connecting with a frog splash for a near-fall. Straight from the kick-out, Phantasmo grabs an ankle lock, but Swann rolls through and into a wheelbarrow for a near-fall. Phantasmo’s right back in it though, heading up top again for a senton bomb before a moonsault whiffs, with Swann rolling away. Swann looked to get the win with a Falcon arrow, then with a buzzsaw kick to the head… and those boos are starting to get distracting.
The middle rope 450 splash gets another near-fall, which prompted another fightback from Phantasmo, scoring with a superkick and another senton bomb… following up this time with the moonsault, as the combo of top rope splashes got the win! ELP wins the BJC… and just weeks after coming up short against David Starr, you’ve got to think that’ll put him right back in contention. ***½
As a match, this was fine for a main event. Sure, the crowd’s reactions were bordering on the distraction, but given the final four, it made sense for the “home” town guy to win the trophy this year… even if it does make for an easy angle for down the line, if David Starr is to obliterate that trophy.
The second annual British J Cup unfortunately didn’t eclipse the inaugural tournament, but the vast majority of that had to do with the location of the show. Sure, we had a trio of fantastic matches, albeit all tag matches, but in front of a convention crowd, the lack of regular Rev Pro fans meant that existing storylines didn’t always hit. As such there was a certain spark that was lacking throughout the tournament. This wasn’t a bad pair of shows, but had this been held in front of a “regular” Rev Pro crowd, or even a crowd that weren’t primarily there for a convention, this could have been so much more.
Still, the performances of El Phantasmo cannot be understated across these shows – and as he left Manchester with the trophy, it can be taken as a physical symbol of just how far he’s come in his time in the UK. He’s been overheard as saying that the time is running out on his visa… speaking selfishly, I can only hope that there’s a renewal in the very near future for the man affectionately known as ELP.