After five months off, Rev Pro were the latest promotion to return to action – with a show that was mired in controversy long before the opening bell.
It’s an understatement to say that the past few months have been anything but easy. With the global pandemic forcing pretty much everything to shut down, the escape of going to live shows was lost for a lot of people. For some people though, the innocence of that escape from the real world had been lost quite some time prior.
Earlier this summer, the Speaking Out movement shone a light on a darker side of the industry, as stories from fans and wrestlers revealed a huge catalogue of stories of abuses, some of which had been the subject of rumours for years, others not so. The initial courage of those who came forward led to fresh stories, ultimately reaching the point where promotions were left with no choice but to sever ties with performers while beginning to look inwards at how any of their actions played a role.
Now for the elephant in the room. Rev Pro’s handling of the Speaking Out situation hasn’t exactly been auspicious. While the promotion moved swiftly to strip titles from those who have been accused, the follow-up has been left wanting – with comments initially made on the promotion’s Patreon, then on a lengthy podcast interview. In that time, Rev Pro’s Andy Quildan did go on record and state that they would be publishing codes of conduct, safeguarding guidelines and other regulations… but before announcing that or any other moves that could be seen as a panacea, they announced Epic Encounters One.
At time of writing, those guidelines still haven’t been made public. Sure, simply having a code of conduct, harassment policies and what have you aren’t a silver bullet – they’re part of a wider change that still needs to happen. While part of the publicity for this show as how Rev Pro had brought in guidelines to defend against the coronavirus pandemic, those too haven’t been made public. I’m being flippant, but how do we know the policy isn’t just “wear masks and do the Boris Johnson-ism of “wash your hands while singing happy birthday twice”?
Another divisive move, apart from just running this show, was that tag match that took the “co-main event” status. While Michael Oku’s involvement in the Speaking Out movement was rather minor compared to others (although certainly enough for him to step down from his role in a new PROGRESS management team), the promotion’s handling (or lack thereof) of Will Ospreay caused consternation. Say what you will about Rev Pro opting to make a women’s title match the main event here, especially given the fact that this is the same promotion that ran shows for three months without a single women’s match on the cards, but you can see why some were cynical. A section of wrestling fans were crying out for change. Instead, what came forward was an empty arena show with little evidence being shown of work that had been done… and anyone who remembers doing their maths exams will know, just having the right answer isn’t enough, you need to show your working in order to get full credit.
Robbie X pinned Connor Mills in 12:20 (***¼)
Brendan White pinned Kenneth Halfpenny in 12:30 (***¼)
Dan Moloney pinned Callum Newman in 7:50 (***)
Aleah James pinned Bobbi Tyler in 9:00 (***)
Ricky Knight Jr. & Kyle Fletcher pinned Will Ospreay & Michael Oku in 15:30 (***¾)
Gisele Shaw submitted Jamie Hayter in 17:40 to retain the Rev Pro British Women’s Championship (****)
The show opens with a memoriam graphic for Elisar Cabrera, who passed away earlier this month. While not directly a part of Rev Pro, his influence in British Wrestling some twenty years ago laid the groundwork for the “modern” promotions that are around today.
We’re “live” on tape as Rev Pro holds their first show since March – and departures in the past few months has led to some changes. Gone is Andy Simmonz on commentary, in his place, we’ve got Rob Lias joining Andy on commentary. Speaking of Quildan and Lias, the open up in a nondescript, undisclosed location with a camera that didn’t handle low-light particularly well. They have a LONG opening segment as they run down the card, lasting as long as some matches in fact…
We’ve got pre-match interviews too… Connor Mills tells us he’s made amends with the OJMO, so whatever storyline they had planned has been thrown aside. Rev Pro’s also added a “roving reporter” at ringside, in the form of Digital Spy’s Stephanie Chase – a name you may have heard more of in podcasts in the past few months.
Connor Mills vs. Robbie X
Of course, with this being iPPV, we’re back to royalty free themes, as for some reason they replay the attacks from Connor Mills on Oku. Not sure why… We’ve also got seconds, with Mad Kurt accompanying Mills, while Ricky Knight Jr. was with Robbie X. Apparently each wrestler’s allowed up to three people to accompany them to ringside. Hopefully to make some noise.
We get going with a lock-up as we switch between one clear camera and a hazy camera as Rev Pro’s always going to Rev Pro. Mills throws Robbie down in a wristlock, as he proceeds to add some torque with an arm wringer, but Robbie gets free and snapmared Mills before a quick pin attempt got a two-count. Mills trips Robbie, then begins to work on the left leg with a toe hold, but Robbie rolls free and goes in with a side headlock before the pair swing and miss with kick attempts. Mills shoots in from a handshake attempt, but switching helps Mills into an uppercut to the back of the neck.
That has Robbie X on the back foot as he’s snapmared into a kick to the back for a near-fall, but Robbie fires back with chops before he began to build up pace, flipping past Mills ahead of a hiptoss and a low dropkick for a near-fall. Robbie takes it to the ground next as he traps him in a hammerlock armbar, wrenching back on the arm for good measure.
Robbie keeps going with a senton atomico for a near-fall, before Robbie aborted a standing moonsault… then got caught with a dropkick as he went for a handspring in the ropes. That took Robbie outside briefly, but it puts Mills back on top as he proceeds to whip Robbie chest-first into the corner. That gets Connor a near-fall, before he trapped Robbie in a grounded abdominal stretch/armbar combo, before Mills just got up and cracked Robbie with an uppercut.
A back elbow off the ropes follows for another two-count, as Robbie tried to slow the pace. He clings onto the ropes to avoid an Irish whip, then came back with a dropkick to Mills before a handspring knocked Mills to the outside for a PK. Back inside, a running shooting star press gets a two-count for Robbie, who then went for an X-Clamation… but it’s countered out of as Mills hits a roundhouse kick that almost wins it. Mills tries for a Millshot, but a small package counters it as Robbie X’s overhead kick just sends Mills back to the ropes for lariat… but it’s still not enough. The Millshot follows, but Connor doesn’t go for a cover, as he proceeds to head up top… and misses a 450 splash. Robbie’s back with a shotgun dropkick, before hitting the ropes for the X-Clamation that gets the win. A really solid outing to restart Rev Pro, but this felt like it was lacking something with no defined bad guy. ***¼
Andy Quildan does post-match interviews, as he quizzes Robbie about his future plans. Robbie puts over Mills, then suggested having another shot at Ricky Knight Jr’s Speed King title.
They air a promo from Keith Lee for the Rev Pro VOD service. I’m sure that’s a coincidence, since I think that’s the first time that promo’s seen the light of day.
A video package follows for the Contenders match. Kenneth Halfpenny’s still bitter about Gabriel Kidd moving on up, and took White’s loss to Ren Narita earlier in the year personally. They’ve had an issue for a while, so this one actually has some build.
Kenneth Halfpenny vs. Brendan White
There’s much bigger issues on this show, but I’m begging the graphics guy. Central alignment…
They start with a scramble as White takes Halfpenny into the ropes as a separation is called for. White’s back in on the wrist as he proceeds to stretch Halfpenny in a chinlock, before moving up into a cravat… but Halfpenny frees himself and wrestles White to the mat as he tried to get a pin from a knuckle lock.
A cross armbar from Halfpenny forces White to roll up his foe for a pinning attempt, before he shot Halfpenny into the ropes for a shoulder tackle. A Beele throw out of the corner follows, then a slam for a two-count, before a charge into the corner led to White getting lifted onto the apron. He’s knocked down, as we find some light on the outside with Halfpenny clubbering away on White’s back before the pair traded shots back in the ring.
Elbows and uppercuts from White look to get him ahead, but he’s tripped by Halfpenny ahead of a running Blockbuster. I’d make a YOSHI-HASHI joke, but that’s gone out of the playbook recently… a snapmare keeps White down as commentary jokes about the state of Halfpenny’s hair. They keep going back-and-forth, as a whip into the corner bounces White to the mat for a two-count, as Halfpenny keeps the pace low with a surfboard stretch. A neckbreaker’s next as White tried to fight out, but the fightback began with an elbow smash from White, knocking Halfpenny towards the ropes.
Halfpenny drags White into the ropes for a diving clothesline, before a side Russian legsweep and another sliding lariat gets a near-fall. Again, White tries to power up, but Halfpenny blocks an overhead suplex and traps White in a wacky hold that’s fought out of as we’re back to the back-and-forth strikes. A series of clotheslines has White head, before a spinning side suplex dumps Halfpenny to the mat…
Halfpenny tries to come back in, but his leap into the corner’s caught and turned into a powerbomb for a near-fall as White powers back in. A uranage backbreaker follows for a two-count for White, before the pair traded chops as Halfpenny rushes back in with a T-bone suplex. Heading up top is Halfpenny’s latest idea, which works well as he lands a Blockbuster for a two-count, but he goes for a Destroyer… and White back body drops free before he was forced to kick out of an inside cradle. It’s back to the cross armbar as Halfpenny looked for a submission, but White rolls him up again to free himself, before dumping him with a Black Hole Slam for the win. Pretty good stuff between the Contenders, who can always be relied on for a solid match. ***¼
The post-match promo from Brendan White was interrupted by Halfpenny kicking the ropes in disgust, before Brendan told him “the better man won.”
The video package for the next match sign-posts a new feud – Dan Moloney vs. Will Ospreay.
Dan Moloney vs. Callum Newman
They’ve thrown in UFC-like checks before the wrestlers get into the ring. Will Ospreay shadowed Newman to ringside, just to further that whole “protege” direction that has been added here.
Moloney attacks Newman before the bell, but his clothesline attempt is flipped out of, before he lifted Newman away. This is really pacey stuff, with Newman taking Moloney outside for a tope as Ospreay called the shots, including a Sasuke special as Moloney was caught on the hop. A standing shooting star press back inside gets a two-count as we finally get a breather. Newman tries to lift up Dan, but Moloney suckers him in as he rolls him down to the mat for a punt to the back. Moloney’s bullying Newman here, taking his shots as he kicked Newman around the ropes before Newman mounted a comeback with some elbows… only to get chopped down for a two-count.
Stalking Newman towards the corner, Moloney ends up taking more elbows before he caught Newman with a backbreaker, before he rolled Newman into a grounded chinlock as he looked to stretch him some more. A clubbing forearm keeps Newman down, before a second backbreaker’s countered into a satellite DDT before he began to fire up with chops… but Moloney barely registers them as a hook kick off the ropes caught Moloney.
A Ki Krusher’s next from Newman for a near-fall, as Callum burst ahead with a diving knee off the ropes for another two-count. Both men regroup as Newman spins up again, catching Moloney with a missile dropkick of the top for a near-fall as Dan wasn’t being given a chance to use his power. Newman heads up top for a shooting star press, but he lands on his feet… and into the path of two lariats from Moloney, before a single Drilla put Callum away. Brief, but more of a match to emphasise Moloney’s brutal finisher than anything else. Newman will get his chance, but here he was just a proxy for “olden times” Ospreay. ***
Post-match, Andy Q reiterates that Moloney is undefeated in Rev Pro. I mean, that’s a little revisionist. Moloney stared holes through Ospreay, as they build to an eventual title match (which they need since the original plan for the original Epic Encounters is in the bin).
Bobbi Tyler vs. Aleah James
Bobbi made her Rev Pro return at the end of last year – having been away for a while. They’re pushing Bobbi being a part of the Tokyo Cyber Squad in STARDOM, as she was out with Zoe Lucas here, while Gisele Shaw seconded James.
Opening with a lock-up, Tyler works the wrist of James… but Aleah rolls through and reverses it as they went back-and-forth. A cartwheel puts Aleah back on top, but Tyler throws her arm into the top turnbuckle as she began to pin-point that body part. An Irish whip takes James into the corner, but she rolls through and Matrix’s into some headscissors on Tyler… who’s quickly back to kick Aleah in the corner. A Dragon screw brings James out of the corner, before two more wrenched the knee some more. James tries her luck with a roll-up, but it gets a near-fall before a kick was countered into yet another Dragon screw. Tyler keeps working over the left knee, wrapping it around the ropes before James mounted a fightback with some forearms and a running Meteora that barely got a cover in.
James gets tripped as she charged at Tyler in the corner, who then ties her upside down in the buckles as Tyler prepared to, erm, swing for Aleah with a golf club? The referee disarms her, so a dropkick instead waited for Aleah in the corner as she was left hanging around. Tyler rolls Aleah back to the mat for a Stretch Muffler-like heel hook, but an elbow from James gets her free.
Back in the corner, James boots away Tyler, before she got lifted up top for a superplex… she shoves Tyler down and flies in with a Meteora for a near-fall… more running knees follow as Aleah seemingly was saying “to hell with it” with the injury, before hitting a crossbody off the top for a near-fall. A split-legged moonsault comes up short for James, who then eats a spin-out side slam, before a rear spin kick dumped James for yet another near-fall. Tyler reaches outside, looking for the golf club from Zoe… but James catches her with an O’Connor roll for the win. A decent outing with the still-raw Aleah James snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat as Rev Pro seemingly are putting something into their women’s division now. I’d already tagged Aleah as one for the future before everything went into lockdown – Rev Pro just need to be careful that they don’t rush the future to now. ***
Post-match, Andy Quildan teleports from commentary into the ring again. There’s no way this was live, for those who were still thinking there might have been a shot. Aleah’s asked about a potential title shot, but instead she’s chased to the back by Zoe Lucas.
Now the problematic match… Michael Oku commented beforehand that he’d have preferred to have been eased back into things slowly. Kyle Fletcher’s seemingly gunning for Ospreay’s title too, while Ricky Knight Jr’s taken this all seriously, wearing a three-piece suit for his promo that put pretty much everyone else’s attire to shame…
Kyle Fletcher & Ricky Knight Jr. vs. Michael Oku & Will Ospreay
Remember when Kyle was gradually building up into becoming a heavyweight? Well, that gradual change is history – he’s really bulked up during the break. Oku had Connor Mills and Mad Kurt as his seconds, while Ospreay had Callum Newman out with him.
Ospreay and Fletcher start by charging at each other at the bell, before lighting each other up with forearms. More forearms see them see-saw off the ropes before Fletcher bounced Ospreay down. An elbow in the corner stops Fletcher as Ospreay went for an OsCutter… while Fletcher tried to counter with a Grimstone before we reached a stand-off. Oku tags in, as does RKJ, who elbows Oku before he was caught with some tijeras. A dropkick keeps Knight down too, before some rope running led us into a dropkick from Knight, as Fletcher hit the ring to knock Ospreay off the apron. Knight chops Oku as Andy Q self-censors himself on commentary bizarrely, before Knight played pass-the-parcel with Oku on a suplex.
After handing Oku off to Fletcher, Knight tags back in to land the stuff suplex for a near-fall, as Oku was kept in the wrong corner to take a beating. Oku makes a comeback with some elbows, but a back elbow from Fletcher takes him down for a two-count as Kyle went for the cover. A snap slam dumps Oku for another two-count, as RKJ tagged in to continue to wear down Oku with a Fireman’s carry gutbuster.
Fletcher tags back in as he pelts Oku with forearms, stopping only to go over and taunt Ospreay. It backfires as Oku got himself free… only to leap into the arms of Fletcher as he had to roll through for a sunset flip. A leaping enziguiri looked to buy Oku time, but Fletcher knocks Ospreay off the apron before Kyle ate a satellite DDT… finally giving himself time to make the tag out.
Ospreay bursts out of the gates with forearms to knock down Fletcher, before a handspring enziguiri dealt with Knight as he tried to interfere. A springboard forearm takes Kyle down for a two-count, before Ospreay fended off Fletcher with some chops, only for Fletcher to respond with a Michinoku driver. Knight gets tagged in, as he flies in with an uppercut off the top for a two-count, before a thumb to the eye of Ospreay took him to the ropes for a chop. Ospreay rebounds with a step-up enziguiri after flipping off of Knight, before Oku tagged back in to try and on that. Shots take Knight into the corner, before Oku fell to his feet after a moonsault. He’s able to recover though, as a missile dropkick followed for a near-fall, before pushing away a top rope ‘rana attempt.
Instead, RKJ flies with a frog splash onto Oku’s knees, as Oku then tagged out… Ospreay’s in to dump Knight with a lifting reverse DDT for a near-fall. Oku returns to help double-team, as he was thrown into the corner before Ospreay’s superkick flipped Knight to the mat. Oku hits a frog splash for a near-fall, while Ospreay hits a slam as he went for a shooting star press.
Ospreay aborts it as Fletcher was waiting to hit a superkick, sparking a Parade of Moves, which led to Oku getting booted by RKJ. A hook kick from Ospreay stops Knight, who then was lifted up for a Storm Breaker… Fletcher makes the save before he dumped Ospreay with a lariat, as RKJ proceeded to hit the swinging sidewalk slam for a near-fall. Oku and Fletcher head outside as RKJ looked for a Fire Thunder driver… and he lands it for the upset win. Fletcher looked a little annoyed it wasn’t him who pinned Ospreay, but this was a pretty good tag match even if it lacked the obvious good/bad guy dynamic. ***¾
Ah nevermind, RKJ got a little full of himself because of that result, as Knight seemed to think that pin made him number one contender. Fletcher put him in his place, and I’d guess those two will be in a feud to see who gets that shot (presumably after Dan Moloney?)
RevPro Undisputed British Women’s Championship: Jamie Hayter vs. Gisele Shaw (c)
This was Hayter’s first match in Rev Pro in over a year – having relocated to Japan and becoming a regular with STARDOM (in between a couple of appearances for AEW).
We’ve an aggressive lock-up to get us going, as neither woman was able to get an initial advantage. They roll around the ropes before reaching a stand-off, before Hayter managed to land a waistlock takedown, grabbing a front facelock on the mat. Shaw escapes and tried for an armbar, settling for a side headlock as they looked for an advantage. Hayter keeps it on the deck with a front facelock as they remained at close quarters, as a forearm from Hayter ensure she was able to cling onto Shaw. Finally Shaw punches her way free and shoves Hayter away for a shoulder tackle. More of those follow, but Hayter edges ahead, knocking down the champion as she proceeded to whale away on Shaw with elbows.
Shaw manages to mount a comeback, hitting the ropes… but she slips as she went for a springboard armdrag. Instead, she kicks away at Hayter before a leg drop on the mat led to another armbar attempt. After Hayter got to the ropes, Shaw snapmared her back down for some more stomps, before they went to the corner, where the clubbering continued. A uranage from Hayter stops Shaw in her tracks, as the challenger again came back in with some stomps.
After being ordered away from hair-pulling, Hayter throws Shaw back into the corner, then raked her eyes across the top rope as Shaw was again left on the mat. Another side headlock on the mat wears down Shaw… who elbowed free, only to get caught with a forearm from Hayter who went back to the hold.
An attempted suplex was clubbed away by Hayter, who ends up eating a head kick… she’s back with a European uppercut, only for the pair to trade hook kicks and enziguiri as both women were left on the deck. Shaw gets back up first and catches Hayter with uppercuts, before she booted the challenger ino Soul Food, as a spinebuster followed for a two-count. Back-and-forth strikes follow in the ropes, but a discus lariat from Hayter drops Shaw again for a delayed two-count.
A modified crossface follows from Hayter, who switches positions into the mount as Shaw looked to be getting to the ropes, before she was picked up for a brainbuster. Hayter piles on the pressure with a lariat, but it’s still not enough, as Shaw ends up firing back with a spear that looked to turn the tide. She measures up Hayter for a running knee, then a short DDT, before the bridging armbar forced the flash submission. While this one won’t be to everyone’s taste, this was a real good, intense fight for the title – with Hayter trying to keep Shaw at close quarters to wear her down, but that change of game plan ended up being a detriment as she ended up losing suddenly to the armbar. ****
Afterwards, Andy Quildan gets the obligatory post-fight interview in. Gisele was looking for “any opponent”… in steps Bea Priestley, who had been shadowing Jamie Hayter. She called for a tag team match, and I guess the long game is Priestley/Shaw on a later show.
For a first show back, this was a sign of intent for Rev Pro – new graphics, new music, and seemingly a fresh impetus. The more-than-passing mentions of the Tokyo Cyber Squad and Oedo Tai tells me that in another timeline, Rev Pro and STARDOM may be working towards something of a working arrangement. Again, this isn’t the right time or place, given current world events…
This was as Rev Pro a show as you’ll get, with the limitations on hand. Some of the character changes were rather sudden and jolting – Ospreay aside, some character’s alignments just seemed to change on a sixpence, with little or no reasoning behind it. As for the production, it was what you’d expect, with some new bells and whistles, and the usual annoying darkness outside of the ring. The introduction of “pre-fight” video packages was a nice touch, but I can see it wearing down quickly especially when the stories behind matches boil down to “I want to get closer to a shot at that title.” Hopefully those negatives are fixed in future shows, but I suspect there’s a few of these iPPVs already in the can.
It’s sad that their handling of the overriding situations meant that the entire event was impossible to approach on its own, or in a bubble, if you will. Rev Pro has already announced a follow-up show for September 13 (surely the One in the show title was the giveaway), and while that show too will likely also generate backlash, it’s interesting to see just how many of these Rev Pro have taped. Announced for that one is the reunification match between Ricky Knight Jr. and Michael Oku, as the Rev Pro British Cruiserweight and Southside Speed King straps merge into one…
On paper, this was a good card for Rev Pro’s first show back in five months… but reactions surrounding the show, a lot of it caused by Rev Pro’s inaction, completely overshadowed it. Had they done what they said they would, and addressed the more pressing issues and sticking to their word, would this show have been received better, at least closer to how they usually are? Who knows. Can Rev Pro claw back some of the goodwill they’ve frittered away with what some perceive as stubbornness? Perhaps – but it’s equally as likely they continue to “just run shows” and let the pieces fall into place at their own pace. Will that approach do more harm than good? Only time will tell.