The contenders for the WrestleGate Heavyweight Championship were decided in a one-night round robin tournament back in January, featuring some stars from All Japan.
It’s back to the Rushcliffe Arena and those NGW-esque graphics, with commentary coming from Dave Bradshaw and El Toupee.
Emerald Grand Prix Black A: Rampage Brown vs. Joe Doering
All Grand Prix matches have a 30-minute time limit according to Jaida, which could have us in for a LONG night. We’re under G1-ish rules too, with two points for a win, one for a draw, and nothing for losing – but there’s no tie-breakers here, so there’s the possibility of a multi-man final, which’ll be at WrestleGate’s October show.
From the opening lock-up, Doering and Rampage grab a headlock, before we go into shoulder tackles, but it’s a dropkick from Rampage that takes Doering outside as the pair trade chops around ringside, before the former All Japan Triple Crown champion took Rampage into the post, then back inside for a Boston crab.
That hold ends in the ropes though, before Doering moved to an abdominal stretch… they’re back outside, as Rampage sidesteps a charge with Doering hitting the ring post, which opened the door as Rampage comes back with a shoulder charge off the middle rope for a near-fall. A big spinebuster from Doering kills all that momentum though, only for his brainbuster to get countered with a suplex as Rampage fired back… quickly dropping Doering with a piledriver in the corner for the win. A nice little sprint to get the show going, and Rampage puts himself in pole position early on in his block. ***¼
Sean Kustom vs. Scotty Davis vs. Martin Kirby
Some non-tournament action here, and we start with a three-way tie-up as Kirby has both his arms worked over ahead of a double-pin attempt.
Davis gets sent outside as Kirby and Kustom went at it, but the pace stays high as Davis returned to hit some Gator rolls that commentary confuses for his finish. D’oh! A switcheroo gives us Kustom dropkicking Davis, before the Aussie lured in Kirby for an enziguiri and a neckbreaker for a near-fall. Davis is back in as Kirby “breaks up” a sunset flip by rocking Davis and Kirby back and forth, before he properly broke up the pin… then slammed the pair of them for a Zoidberg elbow. Yeah, he whiffs. He has better luck with a double crucifix for a pair of two-counts, before Kirby gets double-teamed with chops.
Kustom and Davis argue over who’d superplex Kirby, and they end up turning their sights on each other as Kirby slingshots in for a sunset flip that triggered a suplex. An Angle slam from Davis sends Kirby flying, following him outside with a Sasuke special as I get irrationally triggered by commentary calling him “Davies”. Kustom flies too, then dumps Scotty with a uranage on the apron… a frog splash hits Kirby back inside for a delayed two-count as Davis German suplexes that pin away.
Kirby’s back with a roll-through neckbreaker and a Famouser to Davis for a near-fall, only for Kustom to hit a lifting reverse DDT over the knee to Kirby, who somehow replied quickly with a Falcon arrow for a near-fall. A Parade of Strikes breaks out, before a Bloody Sunday DDT from Kustom on Kirby ends it. This felt very much like popcorn wrestling – a lot of action, but I don’t think this was the best way to use all three of these guys on this show. **¾
Emerald Grand Prix Block B: Gabriel Kidd vs. Jody Fleisch
Well, here’s a clash of styles – a Young Bull vs. a Veteran Flier. Jody Fleisch has been wrestling that Kidd’s been ALIVE, according to the pre-match graphics. CHRIST.
Those same graphics have Kidd and Fleisch at the same weight… which is weird as commentary talks about a size advantage being at play. Fleisch starts by rolling Kidd down to the mat, before another lock-up ended with a wheelbarrow roll-up from Fleisch, forcing Kidd to regroup on the outside. Back inside, Fleisch outsmarts Kidd by cartwheeling past him, then by landing some armdrags, before an enziguiri had Gabe back on the outside… courtesy of a dropkick to the knee. Jody flies again, but he gets caught in the ropes as Kidd tried to catch him in the apron, which led to some Finlay-ish beating on the outside. Kidd keeps up back in the ring, as he wore down Fleisch on the mat, choking him in the corner until the referee forced a break.
Kidd throws a clothesline after he’d tied up Fleisch in the ropes, before Fleisch low bridged him to the outside… and met him with a GLORIOUS Asai moonsault. The count-out starts, but luckily it’s a 20-count in WrestleGate as Kidd rushed back in, and kept Fleisch on the outside… the count continued despite Kidd’s booting, but Jody beats the count, only to roll back into some more stomps. Kidd tries to take Jody up for a superplex, but Fleisch fought free and went for a shooting star press… he has to abort it as Kidd rolled away, before returning with a standing Spanish Fly that flattened Kidd for a near-fall. A powerbomb from Kidd nearly turns it back around, but an enziguiri from Fleisch has Gabe back down as a shooting star press connects for the win. This wasn’t as clunky as you’d expect given the styles clash, but this was perhaps a little too much of a sprint given some exchanges. ***
Post-match, Fleisch took the mic and tried to talk Kidd out of his errant ways… telling him that under his exterior, there’s a warrior. Fleisch shakes his hand… and that’s the cue for Lucas Steel’s music, and he took offence to Kidd’s show of respect. Christ, Lucas Steel sounds a LOT like Nathan Cruz… it must be the Hull-ish accent.
Steel wanted to face the “has-been” Fleisch, but Kidd stood up for Jody and took the proverbial bullet as Gabe is doing instant double-duty!
Emerald Grand Prix Block B: Gabriel Kidd vs. Lucas Steel
Kidd swings for Steel at the bell, and had luck with some right hands as he pounded Steel into the corner…
…but the fresher Lucas responded with some clubbing shots of his own before a sidewalk slam dropped Kidd for a two-count. Some back and forth has Kidd on the back foot, before Gabe fought back with a dropkick that sent Steel into the ropes. A slam’s attempted, but blocked, before Kidd tried again… and eventually dumped Steel to the mat.
A headbutt from Kidd has Steel back in the corner, before chops from Kidd ended up with him running into Snake Eyes. Kidd ducks a clothesline and hits one of his own, then another, before a third finally took the big man down! For a one count! A fourth clothesline gets a two-count, but Kidd ends up getting pancaked and powerbombed as Steel secured the pretty swift win to eliminate Kidd from the tournament. A lovely sprint of a match, between two prospects who I’m sure will be stars in years to come. ***¼
Writer’s Note: at time of writing, Lucas Steel had just debuted for All Japan Pro Wrestling – with Gabriel Kidd training in New Japan’s LA Dojo. The signs have been there from day one for both these guys…
After the match, Kidd said farewell to the Nottingham crowd ahead of his trip to the LA Dojo – saying he’ll be back in two years to be the King of Nottingham.
Emerald Grand Prix Block A: Joe Doering vs. Shuji Ishikawa
All Japan referee Yuki Lee was introduced for the next match, which was just the fourth time these Doering and Ishikawa had met. Doering’s only won once in the past, and he needs a win here to have a chance.
A win for Doering means that he’s got a shot of making October’s final – whereas a loss means we’ll have a winner-take-all main event for the block with Rampage and Ishikawa later. Ishikawa went for Doering’s neck early on, grabbing a headlock as he looked to work over the neck that took a Rampage piledriver earlier on. He takes Doering onto the apron, throwing some elbows, before Doering began to fight back… but with Ishikawa being the fresher man, things were predictably one-sided.
Doering manages to mount a comeback, charging into Ishikawa in the corner before a short clothesline drew a two-count. A dropkick stops Ishikawa from making a quick response, before the pair went for a stereo crossbody crashing into each other in mid-air. Doering’s back up for a German suplex, but Ishikawa’s instantly back for a clothesline that nearly wins the match. A series of running knees from Ishikawa keeps the pressure building, before a Fire Thunder Driver put Doering away. That’s Doering out of the tournament, and it’d be fair to say that the one-night format didn’t exactly play to his (kayfabe) strengths as he just took too much damage early on. ***
Nathan Cruz vs. Bobby Gunns
It’s a debut here for Bobby Gunns, whose general presentation just feels… off? They kept a version of his “rauchen ist tödlich” intro, but it got translated a little too far, before they found a non-union version of Robot Rock. Still, at least the crowd were able to keep the “Gunns, Bobby Gunns” chant going despite the music not fitting…
There’s a rather testy handshake before the bell, before an opening exchange ended in stalemate. Cruz finds a way to take Gunns down, working over the arm before Gunns got free and used a leg trip before he tried to work the arm also. Instead, the (then) wXw champion stomped on Cruz’s ankle, before a defiant Cruz flicked the V’s… and had his hand stomped on for good measure.
Gunns keeps up the pressure with an Octopus stretch, but Cruz walks into the ropes for a break, only for Gunns to use a knee lift to break the break as the match kept its aggression. A back elbow from Gunns has Cruz in the corner, with a suplex following for a two-count, only for Cruz to use the referee as a human shield… which distracted Gunns, who walked into a hotshot and a neckbreaker as Cruz turned it back around. Cruz throws a suplex for a near-fall as the match spills outside, where Gunns began to throw some uppercuts, only to get caught with a high knee back in the ring. A sleeperhold from Gunns ends in the ropes, which he again breaks up using a knee lift as Cruz was left a sitting duck ahead of a PK.
A German suplex keeps Gunns ahead, as did a diving uppercut of the top, while a bridging German suplex gets a near-fall. Gunns works over Cruz’s fingers, but couldn’t quite get the Swish armbar in as Cruz got free… only to run into a clothesline. Some back-and-forth strikes led to Cruz hitting the Thanks, Tully back suplex for a near-fall, before the search for a crossface quickly ended in the ropes.
More uppercuts from Gunns led him in for another German suplex, then a boot to the face until an enziguiri from Cruz out of nowhere looked to lead to the Show Stolen. Gunns counters that into a Swish armbar though, only for Cruz to roll through and hit a side Russian legsweep, before forcing a quick tap-out to a crossface. This was a decent outing, although it is weird for Cruz to be beating a champion (in another territory) with “not my finisher”, if you go by those graphics… ***¼
Emerald Grand Prix Block B: Lucas Steel vs. Jody Fleisch
It’s winner take all… unless there’s a draw, in which case both men go through to October’s final.
Steel tries to jump Fleisch at the bell, but it backfires as the Phoenix went in for pinning attempts, only to get caught with a fallaway slam. A splash and a tiltawhirl slam drops Jody for a two-count, as Steel continued to put the boots to Fleisch before he whipped the veteran hard into the corner. Fleisch caught Steel with headscissors, taking him outside for a pescado, before throwing Steel back in… only to have to avoid some rapid-fire boxing and return with another ‘rana.
Steel sidesteps a springboard dropkick, but couldn’t avoid a ‘rana off the top rope as Fleisch was relying on his speed to stay in it. Problem was, Steel’s power was eclipsing that, and when he landed a powerbomb, then a sit-out chokeslam, it was too much as Fleisch was put away. This was… fine, given the experience levels here. Sure, there were some clunky moments, but they managed to ride them out. Out of the three in the block, Steel perhaps was the least experienced, but making it through to the tournament final will be a feather in his cap, whether he wins the title or not. **¾
Addicted 2 Adrenaline (Harrison Bourne & Joe Lando) vs. The Frontline (Callum Newman & The OJMO)
We’re under lucha rules again, and this is almost nailed on to be a breathless, flippy-do match.
Commentary’s playing up how the Frontline duo may not be united, as the OJMO was taking centre stage. We get going with Newman and Bourne trading arm wringers before they flipped around each other on the way to the dual dropkick stand-off. Tags bring in the OJMO and Lando, with the latter landing some headscissors before an enziguiri took OJMO into the corner.
A shotgun dropkick from Lando keeps OJMO in the corner, before a standing moonsault led to a quick two-count before some double-team PKs sandwiched OJMO. Newman tries for a save, but he’s tripped onto his own man, then sandwiched with an elevated back senton before Bourne’s corkscrew senton landed for a near-fall. Newman’s isolated as Bourne’s stomp assists Lando’s reverse DDT for a near-fall, before OJMO pulls Lando out of the ring – and held him there for a tope from Newman. OJMO’s noticeably picking his spots, returning Lando to the ring as Newman took a swing with a kick to the back, before a diving lariat almost got the win.
OJMO tags in as Lando took a tiltawhirl backbreaker from Newman ahead of a guillotine knee drop from OJMO for a near-fall. Lando fights back with a dropkick/back senton combo to the Frontline duo, before Bourne tagged back in and looked to clear house, flipping Newman into OJMO with an accidental Pele. A springboard cutter from Bourne has Newman on the outside, while Lando joins them with a moonsault off the middle turnbuckle… before he proceeded to hold the Frontline pair for a step-up corkscrew senton from Bourne.
All four men fought back to their feet, and started a Parade of Kicks until the OJMO hit a misdirection knee to Bourne. Newman’s running shooting star press is good for a near-fall on Bourne, who countered by ‘rana’ing Newman into OJMO before he ran in with a Destroyer on the OJMO to boot. Newman’s back with an attempted deadlift German suplex from the apron, before Bourne switched it into a Spanish fly of the top rope!
Bourne keeps going with a reverse ‘rana on the apron to the OJMO, before a shooting star elbow from Lando looked to get the win… except apparently the OJMO was legal, and capitalised with a roll-up on Bourne for the opportunistic pin! This was a whole lot of fun, even if the general lack of experience made this very scrappy at times. We already know how good OJMO is – give the other three time to polish their work, and we’ve got some grand high fliers here. **¾
Emerald Grand Prix Block A: Rampage Brown vs. Shuji Ishikawa
Like the block B match earlier, this is winner take all – although both men could advance to face Lucas Steel in the October final if this ends in a draw.
This one starts off with a lot of clubbering, as the pair charge into each other with shoulder tackles, but it’s Rampage who drew the proverbial first blood, taking Ishikawa into the corner before he unloaded with a barrage of chops. Rampage heads outside, but gets caught with a dropkick through the ropes, before Ishikawa followed up with a front suplex from the floor to the apron.
A stomp off the apron catches Rampage on the floor, but it’s not long before they’re back in the ring with chops, but it’s Ishikawa who stays on top of Rampage, leaving him in a heap in the corner. Another stomp follows off the middle rope, but Rampage kicks out at two, and eventually returned fire with a dropkick.
Lariats from Rampage trap Ishikawa in the corner ahead of a shoulder block, and Rampage is back in the ropes moments later… but he’s caught up top as Ishikawa brought him down with an almighty superplex. Rampage is right back up, and takes a Saito suplex, only to respond with a quick lariat as the crowd came alive!
Both men move onto the apron, trading strikes as Ishikawa teases a Fire Thunder Driver… and lands it on the edge of the ring! Rampage doesn’t start stirring until the count hits 16, and that count’s awfully generous as he gets in on 19. Ishikawa pounces right away with a Dragon suplex and a running knee for a two-count, before another Fire Thunder Driver gets a near-fall on Rampage.
A Samoan drop from Rampage cuts off Ishikawa, as it’s back to the back-and-forth strikes that ends with a back suplex from Rampage. Lariats follow as Rampage tries to chop down Ishikawa, eventually succeeding for a near-fall, before he finished off Ishikawa with a piledriver for the win. A little too sudden a finish, but Rampage outlasted two of All Japan’s monsters to make it to the tournament final in a bit of an understated cracker. ***½
After the match, Lucas Steele comes out as we had a brief staredown between him and Rampage to build to October’s title match… and that’s it for the show!
They told some good stories across the two blocks: Ishikawa as the invading monster who dominated in both his matches, but ultimately fell short as Rampage became an unlikely underdog. Over in block B, Lucas Steel ran his mouth and managed to get past a veteran and another upstart – but given the names in the tournament, this felt like perhaps the “safest” final available. There was little chance that either Ishikawa or Doering were going to be coming back for another show, so both of them being in the same block telegraphed Rampage’s win… while block B was slightly more open without the benefit of hindsight.
Much like we said in our review of May’s show, I’m still confused with what the target audience is here. It’s be easy to assume that they’re becoming a more “internet-friendly” version of NGW, especially when you look at their roster (and the tie-ins they’d made with NGW to host afternoon shows in the same venue), but for now Wrestle Gate is very much a promotion that’s finding their feet – but very much seems to have a base to build off, whether that’s staying in Nottingham, or partnering up with the NGWs and Frontlines of the Britwres scene.