Rev Pro hit York Hall as the third annual British J Cup came to town – would El Phantasmo retain, or would we see a new holder by the end of the night?

After last year’s effort in Manchester, the British J Cup is back to being a single-night tournament, with four qualifiers and an elimination final. We’ve got a busy York Hall, which is impressive given this ran head-to-head with PROGRESS on the same afternoon, with both groups drawing similar crowds. Rev Pro’s skipped a few shows in terms of chronological order – hopefully those Sheffield shows and the November Cockpit cards don’t get too delayed. Commentary comes from Andy Quildan and Andy Boy Simmonz, as usual.

British J Cup 2019 First Round: El Phantasmo vs. Senza Volto
This was a rematch of sorts from September’s Cockpit show, where the 2018 British J Cup winner breezed past the Frenchman in a matter of moments. ELP tries to repeat that as he jumped Senza before the bell, taking him outside for some chops and a suplex on the ramp.

When we got going, Volto looked for early pins, as he tried to stop Phantasmo from running away… then flew in with a triangle moonsault when the Canadian got away. ELP begged for a time-out, but just ended up taking a springboard armdrag, then some spit as they upped the ante. Phantasmo tries to stop Senza by stomping on his hands and arm, before ELP went for a spot of rope walking on the way to a ‘rana. Volto rolls outside, and gets attacked by Hikuleo at ringside, before he got back inside and ended up caught in the Gas Pedal. Twice. Senza fought back with a handspring elbow, before springboarding in to try for a Code Red. Ont his show?!

A slingshot cutter doesn’t do the trick, as ELP superkicks back in, before another handspring slipped as Volto was caught in a whirlibird neckbreaker. From there, ELP sails across the ring for a big splash, but Volto kicks out, then back body dropped out of a CR2 as a 619 in the corner took ELP off the top rope… but the Canadian handstands out of a cutter, only to get spiked with a ‘rana for a near-fall. Another handspring from Senza led to a cutter, before a second cutter spikes Phantasmo again, but it’s not enough, so Volto heads up top, and eventually lands a Spanish Fly as the Red tributes continue… but Hikuleo pulls out the ref at the count of two. There’s no DQ, as the referee remonstrates with Hikuleo, missing a dick punch as ELP wins with a roll-up. Classic ELP, as he snuck into the final after Senza Volto pushed him hard – despite a few unfortunate slips on the way. ***

Post-match, Hikuleo and ELP continue to beat up Senza, only to be stopped by Shooter Umino’s music, as the travelling New Japan Young Lion eventually appeared to make the save. He’s instantly slammed by Hikuleo, as he came out too hot, but made a comeback with a Death Rider. Just like his adopted da’. Those two will face-off at December’s Uprising show at York Hall…

British J Cup 2019 First Round: Robbie Eagles vs. El Barbaro Cavernario
It’s a British debut for El Barbaro Cavernario, who’d made quite a name for himself with his Fantasticamania outings in New Japan.

They keep it grounded early on, with Eagles working over the legs as he looked for the Ron Miller Special, but Cavernario got to the ropes. Cavernario takes some more kicks, but he styles it out with a worm, before a battle of armdrags and dropkicks led to the obligatory stand-off.

Cavernario replies with a buckle bomb for a quick two-count, before he took Eagles into the corner. A running punt drops Eagles again, before Cavernario pulled Eagles into a Romero special, only for Eagles to slip free and counter with a seated surfboard right by the ropes. An ushigoroshi-like drop keeps Eagles down, before Cavernario missed a Vader bomb, allowing Eagles to hit back with a dropkick to the knee, taking the luchador outside for a tope con giro into the guard rails. Eagles misses a Bronco buster in the corner and quickly gets met with a back cracker for a near-fall, before a spit and a chop left the Aussie reeling. A springboard dropkick took Eagles outside, with Cavernario responding with a dive off the apron that broke the guard rails, eventually getting a near-fall for the caveman.

A second Vader bomb attempt is stopped, before Cavernario connected at the third attempt for a near-fall, as the match descended into back-and-forth strikes. Eagles snuck in with a Turbo Backpack for a near-fall, before a Ron Miller Special quickly ended in the ropes. Cavernario takes Eagles outside with a dropkick, then proceeded to do something completely bonkers.

A BIG SPLASH OFF THE TOP ROPE TO THE FLOOR. The smack of Cavernario landing on the floor was enough to make you retch…

Back inside, the Cavernaria is broken by the ropes as the caveman couldn’t get the submission, so he goes back for a bucklebomb, before Eagles ‘rana’d free into an awkward pinning attempt. A snap hammerlock suplex got Cavernario back in though, before he whiffed on a senton bomb, allowing Eagles back. Kicks take Cavernario into the corner for a running Meteora, before a 450 splash to the leg and a Ron Miller Special forced the stoppage. An unpopular loss, but Cavernario certainly left an impression, mostly over Robbie Eagles and the York Hall floor! ***¾

Rev Pro’s added a “coming soon” slide to their VOD. Now that’s progress… there’s still typos. Guildford.

British J Cup 2019 First Round: Michael Oku vs. Rocky Romero
Oku wrestled in the opener for PROGRESS hours earlier, then hot footed across London for this one.

Commentary made a point of saying that Oku hadn’t won a match at York Hall, going back to his debut on those ill-fated TV tapings… the pair keep it basic early, until Rocky used headscissors to escape Oku in the corner. Oku’s back with a ‘rana, but the pair end up outside as Rocky lawn-darts him into the ring post, as the veteran looked to win by fair means or foul. Back inside, Rocky drops a knee onto Oku’s arm, before an Octopus stretch trapped Oku in the middle of the ring. Oku staggers into the ropes, but he’s lifted across the turnbuckles and met with a running knee as Romero continued to wear him down. Rocky gets a little too arrogant, catching himself in the ropes as Oku proceeded to dropkick him to the floor.

More dropkicks awaited Rocky back inside, before a Fosbury flop was aborted, giving Rocky another shot… but a misdirection knee back in the ring kept Oku on top. Oku takes too long heading up top, and got caught by Rocky, with a butterfly superplex bringing him down for another two-count. From the kick-out, Rocky goes to the cross armbar, only for Oku to counter with a half crab, dragging Rocky into the middle of the ring as the hold’s eventually pushed away. Rocky’s straight back with a running Shiranui for a near-fall, following up with Forever lariats until Oku charged back with a dropkick in the corner… a springboard moonsault keeps Oku going, before he came in with a superkick, then countered out of another cross armbar with a roll-up to snatch the win. A solid outing, but one that the crowd seemed to not be fully on-board with – perhaps going a little too long in the end, as the crowd were waiting for the next match… ***

British J Cup 2019 First Round: PAC vs. Amazing Red
Red hadn’t been in the UK for four and a half years – last appearing here for Southside. He got a heroes welcome here, as talk of retirement had made him a hot commodity in 2019.

PAC frustrates in the early going as he teased flipping out of a wristlock, only to grab the ropes. When PAC did a flip, it was only to get into position for a dropkick as he eased into an advantage, sending Red into the ropes for a tiltawhirl backbreaker. Red fought back though, taking PAC outside for a pair of guard-rail breaking dives, before a cheapshot from PAC caught Red in the corner. PAC keeps up the momentum, hurling Red into the railings, but Red manages to reply with a snap ‘rana and a flip senton that saw Red come perilously close to wiping out the lighting rig! Back inside, a spinning heel kick traps PAC on the top rope ahead of a super ‘rana for a near-fall, but PAC begins to go airborne too, landing a Sasuke special and a 450 off the top rope… then a crunching sitout powerbomb for another near-fall.

Red rolls away to avoid a Black Arrow, so the pair return and trade kicks until a satellite DDT led to PAC arching nastily as he was spiked for yet another two-count. On the top rope, Red tried to avoid a superplex, and instead countered back with an avalanche Code Red… but Pac floats out and lands on his feet! Nevertheless, Red gets it anyway as he countered a counter to a powerbomb moments later, but PAC kicked out… and after he kicked away the rope to end a rope walk, it was only a matter of time as crushed Red with a Black Arrow to the back, before he rolled into a Brutaliser for the stoppage. Red brought his greatest hits, and while you sensed few truly believed he’d make the finals, this was a stormer of a match as PAC had to dig deep to get past the veteran. ****

After PAC had left, Red was given a standing ovation from the York Hall crowd, which left him sobbing in the ring.

Ren Narita vs. Brendan White
White won this spot by winning a contender’s four-way in Southampton.

The pair started with headlock takedowns and escapes, as we can hear a distracting voice in the background… Narita’s response was to lock up with White into the corner, before the pair traded shoulder tackles, with White edging ahead. A diving uppercut to the back gets a pinning attempt off, before the pair teed off on each other with chops. Forearms from White looked to build up steam, but Narita cuts him off with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, before a leg spreader looked to force a stoppage. Narita chains that into a deadlift suplex for a near-fall, before White used suplexes to get back in himself… following up with a backbreaker as the near-falls continued. Out of nowhere, Narita forced the stoppage with the Narita Special #3, as the leg lace made White tap out despite attempting to roll to the ropes. Technically this was fine, but bone dry as the usual problem of “York Hall crowds not knowing Cockpit guys” came to visit us again. **½

Kenneth Halfpenny just watched on, shaking his head as Brendan White was helped to the back. Expect that jealousy to simmer into the new year, as Ken’s been doing that with a LOT of contenders.

RevPro Undisputed British Tag Team Championship x Southside Tag Team Championship Unification Match: The Legion (Rampage Brown & The Great O-Kharn) (Rev Pro) vs. Moonlight Express (MAO & Mike Bailey) (Southside)
Moonlight Express won the Southside belts at the Cockpit show a few weeks earlier… which hadn’t made tape when this was happening. Nor had the Southampton show that the Legion had won their belts on. Whoops. (Both shows are now up on-demand, for what it’s worth!)

Sha was out in his gear, acting as one of the mouthpieces for the Legion, alongside Lord Gideon Grey. Who was wearing driving gloves so he could hold the mic. When we finally got going, it was MAO and O-Kharn as we may as well begin with the politically-interesting pairing. MAO looked to out-wrestle O-Kharn, forcing some early pinning attempts, before tags brought in Rampage and Bailey, with the latter getting bulldozed with shoulder tackles. Meanwhile, O-Kharn’s throwing MAO into the guard rails as the Legion had forged an advantage for themselves.

Sha Samuels got involved… but was caught and ejected, which didn’t exactly lead to a momentum swing as Bailey was quickly slammed by Rampage for a near-fall, as the Legion continued to push on. An abdominal stretch from O-Kharn to Bailey’s broken up by MAO, but Bailey took a bit of a beating – which kinda hurt the crowd for a while. O-Kharn went old school, raking Bailey’s eyes across the top rope, before Bailey finally found some form, landing a series of kicks on the Rev Pro champions… then made the tag out! MAO suckers in Rampage for a splash on his own man as the DDT star looked to build up… working towards a split-legged moonsault in the corner for a near-fall. An attempted slam on O-Kharn backfires, but MAO’s back as the pair trade chops, before O-Kharn’s cutter just earned him a straight right hand from MAO.

O-Kharn’s clothesline clears the decks, as the Legion built a new head of steam with a pair of slashes, only for a springboard corkscrew senton from MAO to break up the cover as referee Tom was doing a bang up job enforcing tags as ever. Duelling moonsaults from Bailey and MAO find their mark on the outside, but they tried to go off the top again and end up getting crotched with such a delay I had flashbacks to the Machine on Thunder. Rampage and O-Kharn go for a double-team stalling suplex… which O-Kharn left so he could knock MAO off the apron before nonchalantly returning to finish off. That’s cute. A dropkick from Rampage wrecks Bailey, but a snap ‘rana gets him back in as they swap near-falls, before Bailey’s kicks nearly got the win. Of course. O-Kharn breaks it up, before Moonlight Express hit an Ultima Weapon/moonsault combo for yet another two-count.

Moonlight Express try again, but they come up short as MAO ends up getting lariated to death by Rampage for another near-fall, before a modified 3D and a Rampage piledriver finally got the win. This got good late on, but again, with the VOD issues, to a lot of the crowd this was “just a match” with little investment in either side as champions. The Legion worked well together, as it’s clear Rampage is being used to give O-Kharn some fresh experience. ***¼

After the match, Gideon Grey bragged that nobody could take the titles from the Legion… cue some Prodigy, as the Kings of the North hit the ring. Luckily there were more than a few fans there who were into them, and we have a brief brawl between the two teams, with the Kings sending the Legion packing. They’ll meet for the titles at Uprising in December…

Before the semi-main, we had another interruption as Kurtis Chapman “hacked” into the show. He got such a reaction… and again when he challenged MINORU SUZUKI for Uprising. Sadly, that’s not the match, as Suzuki and Sabre are taking on EVIL & SANADA, but I’m sure Mad Kurt’s gonna be bad(ly) hurt if he tries that on.

Gisele Shaw vs. Tessa Blanchard
You could have said this match was given the so-called “death spot”, going on just before the British J Cup final… but you’d be so wrong by the end.

Originally this was meant to be Blanchard vs. Kanji, but an injury forced the change as the Impact star made her Rev Pro debut. The pair started off on the mat, with Blanchard working over Shaw’s arm and fingers, making Gisele flip off the crowd, before a wristlock forced Shaw to bridge backwards. Shaw uses headscissors to get herself free, as Blanchard powders outside. Back inside, more headscissors and a springboard ‘rana has Shaw ahead, before Blanchard boots away some rope-walking as the Canadian spilled to the outside. Blanchard joins Shaw outside for some brawling around ringside, complete with an Irish whip into a chair and a guard rail. Back inside, Blanchard throws Gisele into the ropes as she began to build momentum, but Shaw cuts her off with a spear. The pair proceed to tee off on each other with forearms, with Gisele baseball sliding through for a neck snap, before a ropewalk ‘rana and a head kick took the American down for a near-fall.

Shaw adds a nice springboard cutter to things for a near-fall, but Blanchard lands a superkick and a spin-out full nelson facebuster for a near-fall. Another superkick from Shaw takes Blanchard outside as Gisele adds to that with the Air Canada tornillo. Shaw follows up with another slingshot corkscrew splash, before a back elbow bloodied up Shaw ahead of a cutter as Blanchard cut off all that momentum. A Spanish Fly from Shaw swings it back around though, almost winning the match, before a knee strike, a DDT and a Fujiwara armbar saw Shaw lean back so far she almost popped out the arm… and that forces the submission. A brutal finish to a heck of a match – with Blanchard and Shaw bringing out the best in each other. ***¾

British J Cup 2019 Final: Michael Oku vs. Robbie Eagles vs. PAC vs. El Phantasmo
We’re working under elimination rules here… but please don’t count the number of broken-up pins, because that really riled me.

At the bell, PAC and Oku pair off, as did Eagles and ELP, playing off their history as we opened with brawling around ringside. ELP smashes a fan’s sign over his knee and flings it into the crowd to get them on his back, before PAC and Oku hit the ring, beginning the revolving door stuff in the four-way. ELP gets an early two-count from a springboard crossbody/Quebrada combo, before PAC replaced Oku as Eagles joined the fray for a quick turnaround that led to him hitting a low dropkick to the pair of them. PAC and Phantasmo have another face-off, but this time it’s Oku who breaks it up before he went for – and hit – the Fosbury Flop to the outside. Back inside, Oku stacked up ELP and Eagles for a pair of half crabs, but PAC kicks it apart. In an elimination match.

ELP stops PAC with some back rakes after the Geordie had looked to build momentum. Phantasmo shows off with his rope walking, evading Eagles skilfully before running into PAC… whom Phantasmo just picked up and hit an avalanche death valley driver for a near-fall. Because he’s a mad bastard for even thinking that. They tried to one-up that with a Tower of Doom, before we settled down to Oku superkicking PAC. Running dropkicks in the corner trap PAC, before a pair of tiltawhirl DDTs spiked PAC awkwardly. On the outside, PAC’s found a chair, which he runs into Oku, and there’s the obvious and cheap DQ. Yeah. PAC lays out Oku with more chair shots, while ELP cracked Robbie Eagles with a belt shot as all the officials were otherwise distracted… but it’s not enough to eliminate the Aussie. Eagles recovers with a cradle after countering the CR2, following up with a DDT out of the corner, but another ref distraction allowed Phantasmo to hit a dick punch and a roll-up to get the next elimination.

We’re down to ELP and Oku then, but Oku’s still down on the outside… so ELP looked to snatch a count-out. Oku beats it, but rolled into the path of a top rope splash as Phantasmo’s dreams of retaining the cup were on hold. ELP mouthes off, but gets caught in a half crab… albeit way too close to the ropes as Oku seemed spent. More dropkicks follow, along with the leaping knee and a reverse ‘rana as Oku found a second wind, only to whiff on a frog splash as Oku landed badly. Phantasmo tries to pick apart the pieces with a whirlibird neckbreaker… then tried again with one off the top rope, but Oku escapes and hits a top rope ‘rana instead. Oku rushes in with a frog splash too, but Phantasmo kicks out, only for Oku to go back to the half crab, dragging Phantasmo away from the ropes… which led to a ref bump as Oku was kicked away.

Phantasmo capitalises with a dick punch, but Oku kicks out, then countered out of CR2 with a small package. Oku teases a CR2 of his own, but Phantasmo rolled out and hit a Styles Clash… then went for a V-Trigger as the prelude to the One Winged Angel… but Oku kicks out at one! A Stunner from Oku gets him back in it, as did a pair of Destroyers, before Oku held onto the leg from the kick-out and rolled Phantasmo into a half crab for the eventual submission! Cue delirium as Michael Oku gets another one over Phantasmo – and left York Hall with the British J Cup after an epic four-way finale. ****

Post-match, Oku celebrated with his family at ringside… before the celebration with the trophy was cut short by PAC, who ran in with a chair from the crowd. PAC made things worse as he just dropped the trophy from the ring to the floor, smashing it to pieces. This is why we can’t have nice things… and Oku demanded to face PAC at Uprising later in December.

After a Summer Sizzler that was at best, divisive, the British J Cup show was a return to form for Rev Pro at York Hall. A first half of qualifying matches that hit the spot to varying degrees, and after a slight dip in the second half, the final two matches of the night really got things back on track. It’s just a shame that (for me, at least), the improved VOD tailed off towards the end, as the camera work combined with what seemed to be something in the encoding (a frame rate issue?) made the four-way finale headache inducing. Teething problems with the new gear I’m sure, but these are the sorts of things that need to be ironed out if returning fans aren’t to be run-off…