Rev Pro’s second annual Queen of the Ring tournament got underway as the promotion opened 2019 with a strong showing.

As ever, we’re live inside the Cockpit… as is Andy Quildan, who hot footed it from the Tokyo Dome on January 4 to make it here in time for the start of the show!

El Phantasmo vs. Sha Samuels
El Phantasmo’s 2018 ended in Rev Pro where he was screwed out of the Cruiserweight title thanks to an errant belt shot from Chris Roberts… and his 2019 started by him trying to speak and getting cut-off by Sha Samuels’ “wrong music”. Oops.

ELP leapt into Sha at the bell, booting him in the head before a suplex gets him a nice early near-fall. A slingshot senton’s next as Phantasmo took the match to the mat, tweaking on Sha’s fingers ahead of some rope walking and a quick ‘rana down for a near-fall. After putting the boots to Sha in the corner, Phantasmo gets stopped when Sha throws a scarf at him, allowing the former British heavyweight champion to get back into the game. On the outside, Sha sprays a mouthful of a fan’s beer at ELP, who snapped back at him and returned the favour, only to chop the ring post a la Trent Seven. We’re quickly back in the ring as ELP’s got to fight out of a chinlock, then kick out of a spinebuster before he could rebound with a springboard crossbody, then a Quebrada for a near-fall.

ELP tries for a whirlibird neckbreaker, but he can’t get Sha up as he instead runs into a Michinoku driver for a near-fall. Sha heads up top for a moonsault, but he crashed and burned while doing a flip, allowing ELP to kick back into it, following up with a senton and a triple jump moonsault for the win. This was a solid opener to the show, which managed to avoid the potential clash of styles nicely. I’m a little confused as to why Sha lost, but I guess they’re looking to complete the ELP story this year. ***

Post-match, ELP gets the mic and actually gets to speak. He rattles off the list of names he beat in 2018, but he couldn’t add David Starr to the list when it was for the big one. In 2019, he vows to change that – by any means necessary.

Lord Gideon Grey’s out next as he’s here to snatch the mic, then display his veiny forehead. Extra points for mouthing “I hate you” as he introduced the next match. Down with the one-falls!

Great O-Kharn vs. Chuck Mambo
Chuck Mambo’s got some different music here… I guess his Bad Burritos music isn’t copyright-friendly enough?

Mambo tries to offer some of his beads to O-Kharn, and of course they’re refused. Andy Simmonz on commentary seemed to indicate that Mambo’s team with Cassius is done, as O-Kharn works over Mambo on the mat, grounding him in the ropes with a hammerlock. Chuck tries to confuse O-Kharn with the “ringing wristlock”, but we don’t play it for comedy as he instead grabs the hold and smacks O-Kharn in the backside. A drop toe-hold’s next, but O-Kharn blocks it, only to get a wedgie from Mambo instead. O-Kharn hits back with clubbing forearms, before Mambo went up for a springboard armdrag, which only gets punched away. Another attempt to springboard ends up with Mambo getting knocked into the ropes, as O-Kharn began to settle into his usual playbook, chopping away at parts of Chuck’s body.

O-Kharn puts the boots to Mambo, then uses Chuck’s own headband to choke him with. That draws a rather irritating reaction from referee Joel Allen, who says that he “clearly can see that (he’s) cheating”, but doesn’t DQ him. Stupid. A roll-up from Mambo gets him a desperation near-fall, but O-Kharn’s back on him with Mongolian chops and a Snake Eyes in the ropes for a near-fall.

Mambo’s whipped back into the corner for some lariats as O-Kharn was beginning to play with his opponent, but he took too long as Mambo springs out of the corner with a Blockbuster for a near-fall. O-Kharn tries more Mongolian chops, but Mambo fires back with body blows and a Mongolian chop of his own, before a Reefbreaker (Meteora) took O-Kharn down. Another Reefbreaker’s blocked by the claw of O-Kharn, who then splats Mambo with the Iron Finger Slam for the win. A solid, competitive squash, but there’s still some doubts over what lies beneath the veneer of O-Kharn. **½

Queen of the Ring – Quarter-Final: Zan Phoenix vs. Debbie Keitel
Keitel was a late replacement for Kay Lee Ray, which commentary surmised was going to lead to problems as Zan had no time to prepare.

We open with a test of strength as Keitel instantly took Phoenix down to a knee, only for Zan to reverse things and drive her foot into the chin of Keitel early on. After getting up, a leapfrog takes Keitel into a neckbreaker, as Zan’s taken into the corner for a running knee before Keitel measured up for some Shattered Dreams… but the referee stops her. Phoenix takes advantage of that by kicking Keitel, then whipping her into the corner as a sidewalk slam drew a near-fall. The crowd don’t really take to Phoenix, who lands a springboard dropkick in the corner, then a diving clothesline through the ropes, only to miss a Drive By dropkick. Zan does manage to avoid a low dropkick on the apron though, then hit that Drive By before she backflipped into the ring to kick Debbie in the head for a two-count.

Keitel turns it around as she rolled Phoenix into a pin, but a jawbreaker gets Zan back on top, as does a snap suplex, before a bridging armbar stretch had the Irishwoman in trouble… at least until she rolled back and nearly pinned Zan. Some wild kicks put Phoenix back ahead as she hits a flip stunner and a handstand splash for a near-fall, before Keitel hit back with a hard forearm. There’s another hard hit second later, with a headbutt taking Zan down, as does a dropkick, before they began to go tit for tat, with Keitel catching Phoenix with a snap German suplex. Phoenix hits back with a firemans’ carry neckbreaker for a near-fall, before she ran through Keitel with a knee to the head for another two-count.

Keitel counters a Rainmaker with a forearm, then lifted Phoenix onto the apron before a bulldog through the ropes went awry. Instead, Keitel lands an X-Factor through the ropes for a near-fall, before a Skull Crushing Finale gets the win. A solid debut for Keitel in a match that perhaps didn’t quite flow as well as it could have done, while Zan Phoenix exits the tournament at the first round for the second year in a row. **

Queen of the Ring – Quarter-Final: Sammii Jayne vs. Kellyanne
It’s a return to Rev Pro for Sammii Jayne, who exited last year’s tournament in the first round – and is looking to put an injury-ravaged year behind her.

After Sammii threw a fit at a fan taking a photo, we start with a long tie-up sequence that gave way to headlock takedowns, before Kellyanne offered a handshake… and was denied. Jayne trips Kellyanne and works a leg lock, only for the Australian to flip free as they worked into a test of strength. Sammii fips back instantly to reverse the knuckle lock, before Kellyanne finally got her handshake! A springboard armdrag’s next out of Kellyanne, who catches Jayne in the corner with a knee… but not a cannonball as Andy Simmonz made a noise that freaks us all out. Sammii takes control with an armbar, then lands a dropkick for a near-fall. Pulling up Kellyanne from the ropes puts Jayne on the defensive as she takes a diving knee, then a cannonball into the corner for a near-fall, before a discus lariat’s caught and turned into a German suplex.

It becomes very much tit-for-tat here as a forearm has Jayne doubled-over on herself for a two-count. The Kellyanne offence quickly ends when a springboard’s stopped as she’s met with the Shadowfax baseball slide German suplex for a near-fall. A sunset flip gets Kellyanne a near-fall, before a death valley driver draws more two-counts, until Kellyanne lands a high Dragon suplex… only for Sammii to land a backfist and another diving knee for the win. This was a really enjoyable match, with Kellyanne putting on her best showing out of the three I’ve seen live (wXw Hamburg and EVE in December were the other two for those wondering), and hopefully this won’t be her only outing in Rev Pro. **¾

MK McKinnan vs. Chris Ridgeway
I think we can safely stop calling this the MK comeback tour, as he’s firmly established as a regular in Rev Pro – and up against a fellow lover of the kicks, this could be quite a banger.

Of course, we start with kicks, as the opening sequences felt a bit like a WWE game here someone was hammering away on the kick button while accidentally finding their way into tie-ups. One of those incidents was a Dragon screw from Ridgeway following a caught kick, before we’re back to the ropes for… yup, more kicks! They head outside, where MK’s placed into the front row for some kicks to the chest (thankfully next to the standby medics, just in case!), before MK fired back with some right hands and… then runs off the apron into a pump kick from Ridgeway on the floor. Yup, never switch up your game plan!

Back in the ring there’s a snap suplex for a near-fall, before an attempted fight back from MK ends up with his legs getting kicked out from under him. Ridgeway switches it up with a STF by the ropes, trapping MK’s spare leg too, but there’s a rope break eventually… then a strike battle as MK eventually tripped up Ridgeway en route to a rear spin kick to the head. McKinnan keeps up with a few more head kicks and a discus forearm for a near-fall. There’s another as Ridgeway’s sent into the ropes, then a sit-out powerbomb before Ridgeway found his way back in with a Fujiwara armbar, some more kicks and a bridging German suplex for a near-fall. An axe kick’s next for Riddy, almost winning him the match, before a Rings of Saturn ended with MK barely getting a foot to the ropes.

We’re back to the kicks as Ridgeway and MK were trying to prove who’d be the alpha, but Ridgeway was blocking most of them until he’s met with a knee. The pair exchange big boots, then stereo head kicks as they both crash to the mat. MK gets up and tries to sneak in an enziguiri, but it’s caught and turned into an ankle lock, then a trapped-leg German suplex, only for MK to sneak in a brainbuster out of nowhere. MK nearly nicks it with a pump handle spin-out slam, before Lord Gideon Grey appeared at ringside to distract MK… and it works as Ridgeway tripped him and trapped hm into a rear naked choke for the quick submission. A bit of an iffy finish, until you consider that they’re doing O-Kharn vs. MK this week in Guildford, but this was a hell of a contest between two guys who are very closely-matched. ***¾

Post-match Gideon’s chased away by Ridgeway before Great O-Kharn came out and tries for an Iron Finger Slam… but MK gets out and clotheslined O-Kharn to the outside.

James Castle vs. Kurtis Chapman
The second half started with a rather sparse crowd, with James Castle in a rare singles match in Rev Pro – his first since April 2017, in fact.

There’s a distinct lack of reaction towards Chapman here, with Castle starting out dropkicking Kurtis into the corner as the crowd continued to file in. Chapman finds a way back in with some running uppercuts into the corner and some more boots ahead of a suplex, and an accidental usage of referee Joel Allen for a powerbomb onto Castle.

Castle hits back with a suplex into the turnbuckles as he throws some punches down on Chapman. Another suplex gets a near-fall, as does a brainbuster, before Chapman defiantly spat at Castle and began fighting back. He’s quickly outdone with forearms, so he slaps back and heads up top for a cannonball senton, then a Code Red for a near-fall. A leaping double stomp wears Castle down a little more, before Chapman puts on an armbar… there’s a bicycle knee from Castle and a Michinoku driver for a near-fall, then a curb stomp as Castle began to rough Chapman up again, only to get caught in a wheelbarrow roll-up, then a Chapman Clutch for the win. This was fine, but it felt like they were wrestling without taking notice of the crowd – like the match was in a vacuum away from everything else. Okay wrestling, but it just seemed to be there to kill time. **½

Post-match, Chapman gets the mic and says that his 2018 began to derail after he lost to Chris Ridgeway… so he’s calling him out for tomorrow’s show so he can right that wrong. Uh-oh. I don’t think laughter was the expected response…

Queen of the Ring – Quarter-Final: Laura Di Matteo vs. Chardonnay
This was Laura’s first match in a little under a month, having picked up a head injury working for the Head Drop show…

We start with Chardonnay pushing away di Matteo, who responded by grabbing a leg and tripping her to the mat. A waistlock tries to repeat the trick, but Laura drops down and rolls free as the measured opening continued, with a reversed knuckle lock, then a wristlock keeping Chardonnay briefly ahead.

Laura escapes and moved into a front facelock as we’re sticking firmly to the mat. Another headlock from Laura’s shoved off, but she’s able to come back with armdrags, then a leg-scissor roll-up for a near-fall, only for a follow-up dropkick to mis. A second dropkick hits though, with Chardonnay heading to the outside, where she forearms away a dive attempt, before she followed in with a clothesline back in the ring. Another roll-up from Laura, then a crossbody off the top gets a near-fall before Chardonnay hit a wheelbarrow facebuster to turn the tide. Laura tries to get to her feet, but a sliding clothesline by the bottom rope catches her for a near-fall, so Chardonnay keeps up the pressure with a neck crank.

Di Matteo escaped and headed up top for a Blockbuster, which gets her a near-fall, before the pair went back to exchanging forearms. Laura escapes and chains together some clotheslines and an enziguiri, before some headscissors take Chardonnay into the corner for an eventual gamengiri from the apron and a missile dropkick from di Matteo. That gets her a near-fall, along with a short-DDT as the match became precariously balanced. Laura’s able to land a tornado DDT, but Chardonnay rakes the eyes before chaining together a GTR, then a tree slam for the win out of nowhere. That was quite decent, although you could tell both women were dealing with nagging injuries – as evident by Chardonnay grabbing her ankle at the finish. I’d like to see a rematch with both nearer 100%, but this was fine. **¾

Queen of the Ring – Quarter-Final: Yuu vs. Zoe Lucas
Our final quarter-final featured the newly-crowned Rev Pro Women’s champion, who got a fairly uncertain reaction. Blitzkrieg Pop doesn’t seem to fit Zoe as a theme in this character, but there’s time for tweaks…

Yuu begins by taking down Zoe with a waistlock as commentary tried to avoid the obvious puns. There’s an easy shoulder tackle from Yuu, who then took Lucas into the ropes for a chop and a spinning sidewalk slam, before a back senton gets a near-fall. Lucas responds by taking Yuu into the corner for a leg lariat and a dropkick for a two-count, before Zoe stretched away on Yuu’s arm in the ropes.

A wishbone leg spreader’s next, as Lucas pulls Yuu forwards to stretch her own, but Yuu fought free, only to get taken to the corner as Zoe lands the slingshot splits legdrop that they’re trying to call the SIM Card. Zoe uses strikes to fight back, then a high boot choke in the corner as she had Yuu trapped, only for her to catch Lucas with almost a running uranage after a leg lariat’s caught. Yuu takes Lucas into the opposite corner with a shotgun dropkick, as we’re back to the strikes. A chop takes Zoe down for a near-fall, but she wriggles out of a deadlift… only to get caught with a slam into the corner. Lucas catches Yuu with a Scorpion kick and a leg lariat, before an attempt to lift her up went south… so Yuu catches a kick and looked for a powerbomb. That’s escaped as Lucas gets another headkick, before a swift Judo throw shocked Lucas!

From there, Yuu lifts up Lucas for a Last Ride powerbomb – eventually getting it – and that’s enough for the upset! Yuu wins on her Rev Pro debut, pinning the women’s champion in the process after a solid match that got better once the bad puns stopped. ***

After the match, Zoe throws a temper tantrum, calming down somewhat when she remembered she hadn’t lost her title.

Josh Bodom vs. Shigehiro Irie
Our main event pitted Josh Bodom – last seen on a collision course for New Japan’s Satoshi Kojima – against former DDT star Shigehiro Irie.

Bodom looked to be the early aggressor, taking Irie down as the feeling out process saw both men getting holds and countering. Irie looked pissed when Bodom slapped the back of his head, before retaliating with a wild back elbow… then a second as a bulldog out of the corner leaves Bodom in place for a see-saw splash that referee Joel Allen refused to count the pin on, as his legs were under the ropes.

Bodom hits back with a running clothesline, then a kick to the back as he tried to rough up Irie some more. A suplex is next as Bodom floated over for a two-count, with Bodom going in even harder with kicks to the back of an Irie who struggled to get back into gear, especially with Bodom trapping him in a grounded cobra clutch. Irie got free though, and after Bodom tried to grab his hair, the pair hit the ropes and… POUNCE! The crowd tell Bodom “you deserve it” as he tried to pick himself back up, before the pair just unleashed into each other with forearms… until Irie hit a scoop slam, then an Earthquake sit-out splash for a two-count.

A charge at Bodom sees Irie go outside, where he’s met with repeated topes from Bodom, who then went up for an Orihara moonsault to make sure Irie left his feet. Back inside, Bodom gets a two-count, then heads up top… countering Irie’s counter into a Bodom Breaker for another near-fall! Irie responds with a Saito suplex, before he shrugged off a German suplex and ran through Bodom with a Beast Bomber! Bodom just about avoids a cannonball in the corner and picks up Irie’s injured ankle, twisting it in an ankle lock. Irie rolls free, but just earns himself a Destroyer as Bodom came off the ropes, picking up another near-fall in the process, before Bodom went into the ropes again, this time running into a death valley driver.

From there, Irie has him cornered for a pair of cannonballs that almost won him the match, before another Beast Bomber waffled Bodom as Irie marked his Rev Pro debut with a win. Not quite a sprint, but this was a hell of a war – with lots of heavy hitting as Josh Bodom found out that being a heavyweight wasn’t quite the walk in the park he expected it to be. ****

After the match, Irie offered a handshake but Bodom just spat at him as the bad blood intensified.

Rev Pro’s first Cockpit show of the year was a solid, end-to-end card, but the Queen of the Ring tournament perhaps highlighted how running a pair of shows with more focus on women’s wrestling doesn’t undo months of what some feel are “token matches”, especially when your “home” talent barely had 13 matches on tape between them. Still, there’s no overnight fix for that, and time will tell if this is a one-weekend deal that’ll take us back to the “one match a show” booking or not. Outside of the tournament, the card was largely fine, with Ridgeay/McKinnan and Bodom/Irie stealing the show – and you can take some solace in the fact that a large part of Rev Pro’s “Cockpit roster” were in Japan for Fight Club Pro if you had any worries about the depth on show here.