The first round of World Cup qualifiers saw eight Englishmen battle to gain one of two spots in this summer’s finals, on a show which also featured action from the Bullet Club, Ricochet, Drew Galloway and many more.

In a nice touch, the show opened with an “in loving memory of Jan Ross”, following the tragic passing of JR’s wife earlier this week.

From there, it’s the unusual touch of the English national anthem, and then it’s across to ringside for Matt Striker and Dave Bradshaw on commentary. Dave nearly calls this show Loaded as he segues to a video package for our opening match. Unfortunately, there were several flubs like that which were left in… including one on a video package later in the show. Eh, with three shows in a week to turnaround, it’s sort-of expected – especially when the as-live stuff usually features this stuff anyway.

Pro Wrestling World Cup – English Qualifier – First Round: Will Ospreay vs. Martin Kirby
After an initial flurry, Ospreay started off by grounding Kirby, under the guise of this being a tournament match. Yep, that makes sense, since the winner’ll be wrestling again later on tonight… although for some reason Matt Striker thinks that any one of six other men will face them later tonight. Not quite. A comeback from Kirby sees him drop Ospreay with a flapjack, as he goes into some forearms and the “Puppy power” shoulder charge in the corner. Ospreay comes back with a neckbreaker against the top rope, before falling to an enziguiri. A big boot and a German suplex follows as this ramps up, with Will taking a lariat that flips him inside out.

Kirby sends Ospreay to the unlit outside, as he follows up with a tope before a Falcon arrow gets the former GM a near-fall. The Zoidberg Elbow follows, but of course it’s not hit, as Ospreay lifts him into the ropes for a superkick, then a roll-up for a two-count. Another flurry follows, before Will snatches the win with an OsCutter. Decent for an opener, but as with all one-night tournaments (or at least, those with multiple matches per night), it felt like something had to be held back here. ***

We’ve another video package, or as Matt Striker called it, a Tale of the Tape, for our next match, with the winner taking on Ospreay.

Pro Wrestling World Cup – English Qualifier – First Round: Nick Aldis vs. Rampage
The technical issues form the Monday night show seemed to return here as the entrance screen broke, and we’re back to a largely-dark arena for a while. The former Magnus gets a polite response, and we start with some ground-based offence.

After a clean break, Aldis grounds Rampage with a hammerlock, but the tactics quickly switch as Aldis moves to some clotheslines, before an exchange of strikes led to a Michinoku driver for a near-fall. Rampage fights back and tries for a piledriver, but instead has to settle for a Samoan drop. Some mounted punches in the corner get countered into a piledriver by Aldis, who then grapevines the leg as Rampage is forced to grab the ropes. From there, Rampage recovered to try for a superplex, but he’s shoved down and takes an elbow drop as the former Magnus nearly took the win.

A clothesline from Rampage sends both men over the top to the outside… that looked a little wonky, as did a small package from Aldis, which gets reversed for the win. It may have been the micing, but this crowd seemed bored as hell here… **¼

After a plug for the Mexico qualifiers, we get James R. Kennedy out to be a guest commentator for the next match, as he’s trying to scout Liam Slater. Uh-huh… Kennedy replaces Dave Bradshaw on commentary, which is more of an “uh-oh” moment.

Matt Riddle & Liam Slater vs. Prospect (Lucas Archer & Alex Gracie)
I thought Prospect were dead? So why are they using this name still? James R. Kennedy isn’t a reliable hitman if whatever he kills survives…

It’s Slater and Archer who start, and after some back-and-forth in the early moments, Slater lands a ripcord back body drop. Archer replies with a standard one, before Slater tagged in Matt Riddle – much to the joy of the man who was supposedly out there scouting Slater! Alex Gracie tags in, and he’s suddenly got this martial arts background (well, it’s acknowledged for the first time here). Gracie heads under the ring and pulls out a bag with two sticks in… yep, we’ve got ourselves a stick duel! Riddle’s easily fending off Gracie with one hand, so the local-ish lad grabs the other stick, only to take a Pele kick from Riddle.

Slater gets tagged in as Gracie gets battered with a series of double-teams, ending with a back senton from Riddle for a near-fall. A fisherman’s buster follows from Riddle, who brings Slater back in… for an arm wringer and another tag, so we can chain together a gutbuster and a gutwrench. Gracie fails with a tag to Archer, and just gets dragged further away for a kneedrop from Slater, but eventually Gracie manages to catch a break, lifting the knees up to block another senton from Riddle. An enziguiri takes Matt down, and now finally Lucas Archer gets the tag in, clearing house on Riddle and Slater, hitting a leaping neckbreaker on Slater.

The Eat Defeat/Russian legsweep combo gets Prospect a near-fall, and as Slater’s left laying, Archer decides to try for the Worm. It fails as Slater rolls to the floor, allowing Riddle to come in as things go a little wonky. We’re back to Gracie and Riddle exchanging forearms and chops, until a DDT just sees Riddle pop back up!

Riddle flips out of a German suplex, then rushes back in with a knee strike, only to get caught in a belly-to-back piledriver. What the hell?! Liam Slater outfoxes Prospect when he’s brought in, before falling to an axe kick, only for Riddle to boot Archer to the mat. A tombstone slam leaves Archer down for a swandive headbutt, and that’s another L for Prospect after a perfectly fine tag match. It’s unusual to see a company fly in such a big name as Riddle and have him firmly in the midcard in an almost-nothing tag team, but it is what it is, I guess. ***

Another video package follows, and we’re back to the qualifiers!

Pro Wrestling World Cup – English Qualifier – First Round: Marty Scurll vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Apparently Zack’s finisher is the Sabre driver. You sure? Scurll didn’t have his ROH TV title with him, whereas Sabre has all three of his…

They start with some basics, with Scurll holding a double armbar after trying for some roll-ups. Scurll then flops backwards after something, seemingly a roll-through attempt, as he stops wrestling to try a front roll again. Sabre takes over with a heel hook, before working Scurll down into a bow-and-arrow lock and then a bunch of pinning attempts for near-falls.

They work some more near-falls after bridging back and forth from knuckle locks, but we end up with Scurll shadowing Sabre as they end up upside down for some handshakes. As you do. So far this is feeling distinctly first gear, perhaps second, as Scurll lands a Dragon screw and tries to head for a surfboard stretch!

Zack gets rolled around in that surfboard, then dragged back into a Dragon sleeper, but Sabre works free and turns things around as he gets a Japanese stranglehold on Scurll. They reverse back and forth before Sabre finally throws his way free, then goes for a sunset flip that Marty blocks and retaliates with a finger snap. A chicken wing follows, but out of nowhere Sabre rolls back and bridges himself to score the win. Technically fine, with some good selling – particularly afterwards as Zack kept feeling his fingers – but this felt distinctly slow-paced and a lot like the much-maligned opening to their match for Rev Pro in January. Never got past second gear, really… ***½

Pro Wrestling World Cup – English Qualifier – First Round: Zack Gibson vs. Jimmy Havoc
Gibson got his NGW theme, which makes sense – reuse, people! Zack managed to keep his usual pre-match speech, but the bad crowd micing made it sound like they had only one fan booing.

Gibson takes the early control with some basic holds as he took down Havoc into a bow-and-arrow hold, before swivelling down for a near-fall. Jimmy comes back with a punch, but gets tripped with a Divorce Court from Gibson, then rolled to the floor among the inert crowd. The crowd came alive when Havoc chopped Gibson in the crowd barriers, before hitting a Yakuza kick as Zack sat by the corner of the barricades. They head towards the stage, where Gibson slams Havoc, then threw him into the crowd just as that one fan could shout “boo” again.

Havoc rolls Gibson ono three seats in the front row, and leaps off the apron, over the barrier, into a double stomp. We see some callbacks to a match Havoc had in Manchester a few days earlier, as he tried to kick Gibson’s face into the bottom rope, before the Scouser crotched him there instead – a spot that’s just as bad without the barbed wire! A Ticket to Ride out of the corner gets Gibson a near-fall, before Havoc slips out of a suplex and tries a Rainmaker.

Gibson slaps free, but ends up taking a snapmare and a tornado DDT as Havoc finally stomps Zack’s mouth into that bottom rope, then lands a Rainmaker to score the win. A decent match, a bit of everything, but this crowd visibly weren’t that interested. ***¼

WCPW’s GM Adam Blampied comes out next, as they play “this isn’t on my format”. A shtick that was inane in WCW seventeen years ago, and is still dull today. Blampied tells us there’s two matches left, but he wants to talk about Nottingham’s own Gabriel Kidd – he of a 20-odd losses.

Adam tells us he’s seen the footage, but he’s not changing Cody Rhodes vs. Joe Hendry – despite being the GM. So because he lost via cheating, Gabriel Kidd’s being added to the three-way at WCPW’s No Regrets iPPV on April 29. Kidd’s been added to the main event, alongside Bullet Club vs. Prestige, and we also have a ROH title match added as a surprise… El Ligero taking on Christopher Daniels!

ROH World Championship: El Ligero vs. Christopher Daniels (c)
Dualling chants at the start here, along with some exchanging of armdrags as we go for a double kip-up spot… but Daniels comically can’t do it.

Headlocks, then shoulder tackles are used, before Ligero’s tripped by Daniels off the ropes. He recovers by grabbing Daniels’ arm, but a slam leaves Daniels holding off as he retains sportsmanship… but this time Ligero kicks away the hand, and ends a series by hiptossing Daniels to the outside! A tope con hilo from Ligero follows, as he brings Daniels back into the ring for a rear chinlock, but Daniels fights free and comes in with some clotheslines, then an STO. The Blue Thunder Bomb gets Daniels a near-fall after he’d tried for a uranage, before Ligero counters the Angels Wings with a ‘rana.

Ligero shocks Daniels with a Code Red for a near-fall, but he’s forced to roll away from a C4 DDT attempt as both men are left laying. They exchange forearms, then headbutts, before Ligero scrambles to the ropes to block another uranage, which leads to a ref bump. At the third go, a uranage succeeds, but Ligero gets his feet up for the Best Moonsault Ever.

Ligero slingshots into a cutter for a visual pin, but the referee’s still down! Ligero heads out and grabs the ROH title with the referee still down… he teases a belt shot, but he changes his mind, then gets schoolboyed for a near-fall. Daniels catches Ligero on the top rope before getting shoved down as Ligero tries – and misses – a Mexican Wave… another uranage gives way to the Best Moonsault Ever, and Daniels retains. Another fine match, but the whole “another promotion’s title on this show” virtually always telegraphs a title retention. ***¼

Ricochet vs. Drew Galloway
This is a non-title affair, which starts with Galloway nonchalantly throwing Ricochet away from a waistlock. Eventually Ricochet is able to use his speed to try and outsmart Galloway… who just chops him hard to the mat.

It’s a little David vs. Goliath here as Galloway goes a series of Garvin stomps to Ricochet, before a suplex took the flier down for a near-fall. Another chop sends Ricochet down for a near-fall, but he’s able to make a comeback, dropkicking Drew into the turnbuckles, before hitting a springboard uppercut to send Galloway onto the apron. A moonsault to the floor follows, as Matt Striker uses Drew’s old name… and it’s Galloway who takes over with a reverse fly swatter after he’d blocked a reverse ‘rana. Ricochet blocks a Futureshock DDT, then tries for a backslide… but that’s not a good idea, so he goes back to uppercuts, then takes a big boot.

The back and forth continues with a standing shooting star press as Ricochet tries to sneak back in, so he follows up with some kicks to a grounded Galloway, before going for the Benadryller. Galloway blocks it though, which somehow sends Ricochet flying, but he comes back with the rolling Northern Lights… only to see Drew throw him off again.

A Pele kick rocks Galloway on the top rope, but he tries for a top rope ‘rana, only to get blocked. Galloway eases him into the other corner for some more chops, then a top rope Air Raid Crash for a near-fall. Galloway slowly picks up Ricochet for a DDT, but he gets cut off with a roundhouse kick, before a handspring off the ropes is caught and turned into a Giant swing from a front headlock.

Somehow, Ricochet countered that into a suplex for a two-count, before he sets up Drew for something off the top rope… but the Phoenix Splash misses and Drew quickly kills him with a big boot, before a piledriver gets another near-fall. From there, Galloway rolls together a trio of Futureshock DDTs, and that’s enough for the win. Pretty good, but this crowd simply did not care until the final stretch. It’s easy to nitpick, but an unannounced babyface vs. babyface match can be hard to draw much of a response. Especially if you’ve not got a microphone pointed at the crowd! ****

Backstage now with Adam Blampied… he runs into Joe Hendry who’s mad at having Gabriel Kidd added to his Internet title match next month. Hendry teases beating up Blampied, but instead he lets him be, as he’s already beaten up someone. Adam goes through the doors, and we see Prince Ameen laying in a pile of rubbish, and a lot of bleeping. Hey, are they killing the crowd sound because they don’t want any swears?

Pro Wrestling World Cup – English Qualifier – Second Round: Will Ospreay vs. Rampage
The winner of this goes into the finals in August, and both men came out sore – Ospreay holding his back, Rampage his shoulder, and again, Will starts with a shotgun dropkick, then gets booted by Rampage, who quickly uses his size difference to throw Ospreay around like he was nothing.

Rampage slings Ospreay to the outside, then trips him on the apron as Will almost landed on his head from a leg sweep, before he’s swung like a cricket bat into the guard railings three times. Rampage is almost killing Will here, and it’s Ospreay who’s forced to run… but he plays possum into a chair as he sidesteps a Yakuza kick, leaving Rampage on the guardrails before dropkicking him into the crowd.

Will goes flying again, this time with a High Fly Flow into the crowd onto Rampage, then runs into the run to try and take a count-out win. Rampage beats the count, but takes another corner dropkick before being surprised with a German suplex. More kicks from Ospreay just earn him a big clothesline. Bea Priestley heads out after a ref bump, but that just distracts Rampage enough for Will to use his tag title belt on Rampage, then land an OsCutter to book his place in the final. Perfectly fine graps – with a finish they kinda needed to do is Ospreay was going to make the finals ahead of the current number one contender. ***½

Pro Wrestling World Cup – English Qualifier – Second Round: Jimmy Havoc vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
This has a lot of potential to be a great match, especially as both men are products of the same Hammerlock training academy. Let’s see if this delivers… A small package from Sabre almost ended it in seconds, as did a tope from Havoc, who looked to rush Zack early on, hitting a Go To Sleep and a forearm to the back, then a rolling forearm to score a near-fall in a near-silent arena.

Sabre comes back by wearing away on Havoc’s heel, before kicking away Jimmy’s knee to keep his foe on the mat. A modified Dragon sleeper follows, but Havoc escapes and ends up on the floor, only to be brought straight back in for an armbar, which he nearly turns into a pin… Sabre escapes and ties him up even more, with a unique combination of a leglock and armbars to force the submission. Pretty short, but really good as Zack effectively bulled his way into the finals. ***½

Prestige (Joe Hendry, Joe Coffey, BT Gunn & Travis Banks) vs. Bullet Club (Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) & Adam Cole) & Gabriel Kidd
Yeah, Gabriel Kidd came out in a Bullet Club t-shirt and was introduced as part of the ‘Club. It was for the cheap hometown pop, which he was going to get anyway… but he’ll still be a far better member than the Boner.

Nick Jackson and Travis Banks start us off with a trip-up, only for Banks to get reviled at a crotch chop. Their series finishes with double dropkicks, before we move to BT Gunn and the bandage’d up Adam Cole… who quickly gets jumped as the ring floods when he tried for his “Adam Cole Bay Bay” taunt. The Prestige then force a quartet of Travelodge cards into the Bullet Club’s mouths, calling back to that part of their big promo, only to get the cards superkicked down their throats.

Kidd tries to Too Sweet everyone, then gets jumped as the Bullet Club superkick their way back into things, before the Try Hard hit a short tope after interrupting the Terminator dive. Banks takes a powerbomb onto the apron from Kidd, almost clipping the bottom rope as Kidd kept trying for that pose. We return to the ring as Cole does the camel clutch to Gunn before the Young Bucks run… and give him a peck on the cheek. Prestige take over, having had enough of that stuff, and isolate Kidd with Hendry landing a suplex for just a two-count as every one of the Prestige has their crack.

Kidd eats a superkick, before sending Banks flying with a clothesline, and that’s where the Club come back, with Cole landing some more superkicks to Hendry. Coffey gets dumped on the middle turnbuckle for a back cracker, as the Bucks go to town with more superkicks. Coffey throws a superkick from Nick to Matt, then gives a pair of Giant Swings to the bucks, before his double jump crossbody is met with a superkick.

More superkicks, because why not? Hell, even Gabriel Kidd throws one in too as Gunn takes a superkick party, and now Kidd gets his Too Sweet. He replies to that with a moonsault to a trio on the outside, and this is getting too quick and spotty to call. It’s all stuff that impresses but leaves no impression.

Coffey avoids a Meltzer Driver, before Gunn takes some superkicks and boots and we’re back to the spots, before Hendry catches Nick with a Freak of Nature fallaway slam. Then gets superkicked. Even Matt Striker sounds bored with the superkicks by now.

Matt Jackson reluctantly tags in Gabriel Kidd, who accidentally superkicked the referee, and that leaves Prestige free to kill him with superkicks of their own, before a Black Coffey is enough to get the win after the referee was stirred in time. Yeah, this was your standard Bullet Club shenanigans match, with Gabriel Kidd being the designated sacrificial lamb. Pretty much what you’d expect – with a big “your milage may vary” asterisk next to my “enjoyment snowflakes”. **½

The Bucks come in with some chairs to shoo away the Prestige afterwards, and we go off the air with a disappointed Bullet Club in the ring.

Well, it was a good show, all told. Nothing really stood out on tape, nor was anything unspeakably bad. That being said, the crowd mic’ing really made this show feel lacklustre, and truth be told, this was a show that probably would have been better live

I don’t know how you’d have gotten around it without merging qualifiers together, but it felt to me like the English qualifying matches were left overshadowed by the Bullet Club’s presence, but there was some good wrestling on here… and quite a bit of filler too, it has to be said. This was the second of three shows in a week, and I fear the Scottish qualifiers (that will air on Friday 31st) will be similar – a lacklustre (or at least, a lacklustre-on-microphone) crowd, reacting to stuff that’s been thrown out there to fill time rather than tell any storylines.