Nottingham got a little taste of early-day AEW as we go back to WrestleGate’s show from May 2019.
We’re back at the Rushcliffe Arena for what was WrestleGate’s third show – and one that had a surprising main event. We’re watching this on wXw NOW, so there’ll be some dubbing of themes once we get past what I think is the third set of opening graphics in as many shows. Commentary comes from Dave Bradshaw and Kosta K, and man, there’s a LOT of NGW-ish sound effects at play here… I almost feel like I’m watching an old episode of NGW’s YouTube show.
Team WhiteWolf (A-Kid & Carlos Romo) vs. Team Rising Sun (Akira & Nick Lenders) vs. M&M (Connor Mills & Maverick Mayhew
We’re under lucha rules here, and there’s a cheeky smile from Carlos Romo when Jaida rolls the R. There’s some nice graphics before everyone’s entrances, showing names, weights, finishers, etc… but they’re very “blink and you’ll miss em”.
Speaking of “blink and you’ll miss it”, a barrage of missile dropkicks take us to A-Kid and Connor Mills’ early exchanges, as the lucha rules made things increasingly tricky to keep track of. A Quebrada from Mills nearly put A-Kid away, before Carlos Romo took over with a Code Red that needed Nick Lenders to break up the pin on… and they still keep going! Akira goes for a springboard reverse ‘rana that just about comes off, while the Italians continue with dives to the outside. Connor gets inspired as he boots A-Kid off the apron, only for the Spaniard to counter Mills’ tope into a Spanish fly off the apron. He sure loves that Spanish Fly, eh?
Back inside, the Rising Sun pair of Akira and Lenders pushed on, only to get caught with an assisted satellite DDT as M&M pushed for a near-fall. Another Spanish Fly from A-Kid sparks a huge Parade of Movez, ending with a Ricola Bomb into a Millshot that almost got M&M the win…
But in the end, Romo’s double Blockbuster gets rid of M&M as A-Kid’s missile dropkick puts away Mayhew. This literally was “fireworks wrestling”, and it’ll be the kind that you’ll either love or hate. Not to sound all Jim Cornette, I wish they’d slowed it down a bit, as I sensed that a lot of the crowd quit reacting because it all bled into one big spot. ***
NIWA vs. Gabriel Kidd
Kidd’s the early aggressor, grabbing a headlock before he and NIWA went move-for-move.
A knee to the gut and a low dropkick from NIWA has him ahead, sending Kidd outside for a faked-out dive before the Kiwi hit a tiltawhirl backbreaker. Kidd’s back with a big clothesline, then a slam as the future New Japan Young Lion would go on to lay in with uppercuts and chops.
Superkicks from NIWA get him a glimmer of hope, but a sitout powerbomb from Kidd swings it back around, as Kidd keeps throwing those lariats, before he ran into an inverted powerslam. NIWA adds a Quebrada for a near-fall, but Kidd cuts him off again with a lariat before a spinning tombstone got the win. At less than ten minutes, this didn’t outstay its welcome – and with Kidd taking most of the match, you could tell WrestleGate had big things in mind for him. ***¼
Gisele Shaw vs. Katy Lees vs. Lizzy Styles
So this was meant to have been a three-way match, but Sadie Gibbs dropped out… and was replaced by Lizzy Styles (now Lizzy Evo) just after the bell, who added herself to the match to save WrestleGate from being accused of false advertising. Fun fact: at time of writing, this was Lees’ final match, at least if Cagematch is accurate…
Some double-teaming from Styles and Lees gave Shaw something to absorb… and fight back from as a springboard armdrag took both women down. A Final Cut on Styles gets Shaw a near-fall, but the double-teaming resumes as a stalling suplex led to a breakdown as Styles and Lees fought over who should take the pin. That opened the door for Shaw, who came back in with kicks to take down Styles for a near-fall, but Lees’ leaping knee resets things as a Parade of Suplexes left all three women down. Shaw’s back up first to grab a two-count on Styles, who gets back and hits a DDT on Lees as she took a long way around to get a pin… and is made to pay because she lost sight of Gisele Shaw, who hit the Air Canada off the top to break the pin and steal it. This was by the numbers – and wonky finish aside (in terms of the set up) – perfectly fine. **½
After the match, Styles offered to shake Gisele’s hand, but of course it was a ruse as she sucker punched Gisele, then pulled out some makeup wipes and used them on Shaw.
Danny Duggan vs. Dean Allmark
In Wrestle Gate, the storyline with Duggan is that he’s getting a little too full of himself – having beaten James Mason on the debut show.
Duggan refuses a handshake at the bell, and starts by taking Allmark into the corner, only for some chain wrestling from Allmark to end with Danny on the deck… and in the ropes as he forced a break from a side headlock. Some knuckle locks from Duggan led to a neck bridge from Allmark… which is quickly swept away before a second attempt was turned into a nice monkey flip from the veteran.
Duggan rolls outside for a breather, and returns to catch Allmark with a leapfrog/dropkick, then kept the pressure up with a slingshot senton for a near-fall as Duggan was beginning to dictate the pace. A cartwheel from Duggan just takes him into a superkick from Allmark, who followed that up with a springboard moonsault out of the corner before some back-and-forth pins trolled the ref. The pair go for crossbodies at the same time, and crash into each other, but they pick up where they left off, going back for pins, ending with Duggan scoring with a roll-up and a big handful of tights for the three-count. This was perfectly fine – Duggan showing cunning to sneak past a veteran. ***
Robbie X vs. Chris Ridgeway
Commentary was painting this as Robbie X doing double duty – he had been set to wrestle Jody Fleisch and PAC in the main event, but there’s no explanation as to why he’s also got this second match…
The pair lock up into the ropes, before Ridgeway looked to push ahead, going for Robbie’s legs, but he couldn’t get a hold before Robbie got the ropes. An armdrag and a dropkick gets Robbie back in it, before he stomped on Ridgeway’s fingers as he began to change tactics. Strikes had Ridgeway on the hop, as did a hiptoss/low dropkick combo, but Ridgeway catches a handspring kick in the ropes and turned it into an ankle lock as the match quickly spilled outside.
Ridgeway takes over with some measured kicks, which led to him stretching Robbie with a STF and some armbars, which left Robbie the worse for wear. Just as I type that, Robbie’s back with a spinning heel kick, then with a double-springboard dropkick that almost ended things. An overhead kick and a snap death valley driver keeps Robbie ahead, with a standing shooting star press only getting a two-count, as Ridgeway found a second wind… only to get shoved outside as he went for an ankle lock. Robbie X doesn’t get back up quickly though, but eventually hits the handspring kick before a pescado clipped Ridgeway on the outside. Back inside, Robbie X misses a moonsault, jarring his knee in the process, and Ridgeway quickly pounces with a German suplex and a PK for a near-fall.
Ridgeway uses slaps to wear down Robbie, but forearms instantly come back in response as a roundhouse enziguiri took down Ridgeway… who then countered an X-Clamation into a rear naked choke, and that’s the stoppage. You’d think a flyer vs. striker could have been clunky, but Robbie X toned the flying down a little, and almost snuck out the win, only to get caught as Ridgeway seemingly had his finish scouted. ***¼
In the replays, commentary made a point of saying that Robbie X had hurt his arm as well as his foot… which put the other part of his double duty in doubt.
John Klinger vs. Cara Noir
Klinger’s back after a storyline suspension following an assault on the first show. So this was the first match back for the Bremen native… and no, I don’t think you call someone from Bremen a Breman.
On paper, this was an interesting clash between a man who’s modelling himself on Macho Man Randy Savage, and one of the better characters in Britwres today. We start with a spear before the bell as Bad Bones nearly won in short order… and followed that up with a low-pe before they returned to the ring for some chops. A back body drop keeps Cara down, as things were looking awfully one-sided while Bones just choked on Cara in the ropes.
An overhead suplex nearly took Cara Noir back outside, but he’s able to counter a slingshot spear from Bones with a knee strike… and all of a sudden the Black Swan was in with a chance. A chance that quickly went when he took a Falcon arrow on the edge of the ring, but Cara barely beats the 20-count… and got booted as Klinger kept pushing for the win. Somehow, Cara’s able to mount a comeback with a shotgun dropkick, but a thrust kick misses as Klinger ends up running into a rebound German suplex. A neckbreaker’s next for a two-count, before Klinger hit the Bonespear… then a bicycle kick, only for the Madame Guillotine (Blackheart Buster) from Cara to cut it all off for a near-fall. Cara keeps wrist control as he stomps on Klinger at short range, only to get caught with a Dragon suplex, then a Shadow Driver as Klinger completed the shockingly one-sided win. ***
Nathan Cruz & Lucas Steel vs. Kings Of The North (Bonesaw & Damien Corvin)
In May 2019, Nathan Cruz is still using the Showstealer music and moniker? Whatever happened to “The Professional”? Anyway, he’s teaming with Lucas Steel, who’s still bubbling away in the likes of NGW – sadly away from many promotions that seem to make regular tape.
Bonesaw and Cruz trade shoulder tackles early, but it’s the Kings who pushed ahead, taking Cruz outside while taking care of Lucas Steel with a clothesline that eventually took him outside. The Kings go flying next, with Bonesaw getting lifted to the floor… back inside, Cruz throws Bonesaw onto the apron, but Steel provides an assist, sweeping the leg as Bonesaw ends up on the floor ahead of a Snake Eyes on the apron.
Back inside, the Thanks, Tully rebound back suplex gets Cruz another pinning attempt off, as commentary fell silent. Cruz keeps the pressure up, but gets kicked away as Bonesaw made the tag out… only for the ref to have been distracted as Corvin was forced back outside. Moments later though, Corvin gets the hot tag in, clearing house on Steel and Cruz before landing a uranage/slingshot senton combo. Corvin follows that up with a tope that he saved himself on by rotating just enough, before a monstrous crossbody back inside almost got the win over Steel. Cruz is back and tries to win with a crossface, then with the Thanks, Tully, but in the end the Kings hit back, as Corvin’s Flatliner nearly got Bonesaw the win.
Cruz keeps up with a lungblower amid a Parade of Movez, which also featured a blind tag that the ref didn’t seem to acknowledge at first, which led to Steele coming in from behind to put away Corvin with a sit-out chokeslam. We said it when we first saw Steele and we’ll see it again – one day, Lucas is going to be a big star on this scene. Hopefully 2020 is the year where he breaks out beyond NGW and the smaller indies… ***
Rampage Brown vs. Shigehiro Irie
For me, this match could be a real sleeper. There’s some sign of the NGW bleed-through here as the graphics just call him Rampage…
These two don’t hold back at the bell, going straight in with shoulder tackles before Irie was caught with a pop-up slam. A forearm has Irie woozy, but he shrugs it off to bulldog Rampage, which sets up for the slingshot splash that had Rampage rolling to the outside. Irie follows him out, but they trade forearms as the 20-count almost went the distance before they returned to the ring.
A dropkick from Rampage surprises Irie, as did a legdrop on the edge of the ring as the Britwres veteran started to dominate. Rampage’s chop has Irie rolling on the mat, as did a spinebuster as the wXw Ambition winner was looking out of sorts… until he found it in him to counter a piledriver with a back body drop. Irie squishes Rampage with a sit-out splash off the ropes for a near-fall, then caught Rampage with a spear through the ropes as both men were giving it their all. Returning to the ring, a big splash off the top gets Irie another near-fall, before Rampage found a way back in. He goes for the piledriver again, and gets shoved away into the corner… so Rampage keeps them there and heads up for a superplex instead.
That superplex is countered with a headbutt, as Irie just stage dives onto a bent-over Rampage, taking him into the corner for a cannonball for a near-fall, before a Beast Bomber lariat got him a little closer. From the kick-out though, Rampage rolls up Irie, then hits a snap piledriver for the W. That was a heck of a scrap between two big lads – and it’s only made me miss Irie on these shores… ***½
We’re told just before the main event that Jody Fleisch hasn’t made it to the building. There’s still question marks over Robbie X too, but the Fleisch news gets some boos as Gary Ward appears at ringside to pass on a message as the locals got restless. Before it’s passed on though, PAC’s music plays, and he begins to crow over how he suddenly has no opposition.
PAC tells the crowd he’s undefeated in 2019, and that there’s nobody who’ll stand toe-to-toe with him. That’s the cue for… a horse? It’s an entrance video people didn’t know then: it’s the surprise appearance of Hangman Page. These two were due to face-off at AEW’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view later in the month, but reported “creative differences” ixnayed that…
Nottingham went wild for Page’s surprise appearance, and Kosta K gives away that this is the new main event as this created one of the few times the entire crowd seemed to be on their feet.
PAC vs. Hangman Page
Page throws the first shots as PAC tried to powder to the outside, but Page just throws him back inside.
PAC tries to hit back with a crossbody, but it’s turned into a fallaway slam as he got clotheslined to the outside. An Irish whip takes PAC into the railings, following up with a big boot as the match couldn’t decide where it wanted to be. Page’s tope wipes out PAC and the crowd barrier, before a trip to the top rope ended with PAC shoving Page to the floor via the apron.
PAC seems content to take the count-out, but instead he dives onto Page with a Sasuke special, before a 450 splash back inside led to a near-fall for the Geordie. Page tries to fire back with chops, but PAC snuffs him out with kicks and a hard whip into the corner, before a missile dropkick got another near-fall.
The pace has slowed a little as PAC measures up his shots, then grounded Page with a side headlock, but Page fights to his feet and began to trade right hands, ultimately catching PAC with a discus forearm before he got low bridged to the outside. We’re back there then, as PAC goes for a springboard moonsault to the floor, missing while Page lands his off the top, and once again we’re back in the ring. Page’s running dropkick and a running shooting star press nearly gets the win for him, before a Dead Eye was rolled out of by PAC. From the apron, PAC springboards in, but Page boots him away and falls on top for another two-count, before PAC rolled onto the apron to avoid a Buckshot lariat.
Page suplexes PAC in from the apron for a two-count, then rolled him into a Bolo lock, but PAC’s feet get to the ropes to break the modified crossface. Another Buckshot lariat’s attempted, but it’s met with a superkick… and a response in kind, before PAC’s snap German turned the tables again. A deadlift German keeps PAC ahead, as did a superplex that almost turned into an avalanche brainbuster… which gets PAC a delayed near-fall to boot.
From there, PAC drags Page into the corner, teasing a Black Arrow, but Page gets up… and ends up taking an enziguiri instead. PAC heads back up again, then misses a Black Arrow, allowing Page to hit a lariat… then a package tombstone for a near-fall! Page goes for another lariat, then sets up for the Buckshot again… but PAC just kicks the referee in the balls, and flips off Page. That’s a DQ, but Page hits the Buckshot for the visual pin as the DQ’s called for. Ah, well they weren’t going to completely blow off that match in another country as long as PAC and AEW were still on terms… and given that we’ve had that match three times since in AEW, that was the right call. A nice surprise for the WrestleGate crowd, but the fact the match happened here will be remembered more than the match itself. ***¼
Post-match, PAC attacks Page from behind with the chair… following through and wiping out the referee too! He proceeds to smash the chair on Page’s leg, going for the knee and ankle that’d cause problems before a good ol’ fashioned Pillmanising left Hangman Page in agony. PAC tells Page he only came “to maim” Page, then told him to pass a message onto “The Elite” – that he’s not coming to Double or Nothing… or to AEW at all.
Of course, time tells us that wasn’t the case.
Lion’s Spirit was a solid show for WrestleGate, with some decent action and a surprise in the main event that got them a LOT of attention. However, this show was one that perhaps showed the first signs of a product that’s getting confusing. When the promotion launched in January (almost a year ago, at time of posting), they had some interesting quirks to make the promotion stand out – they had their version of Young Lions, who acted as seconds for the wrestlers… those have since gone, reduced to just a random extra person in the ring during the introductions.
WrestleGate’s next two shows are all about their heavyweight championship, with July’s Emerald Grand Prix having been a round-robin tournament to decide the top contenders in a field that included Rampage Brown, Gabriel Kidd, Lucas Steel… and fly-ins like Shuji Ishikawa and Joe Doering. This isn’t a bad thing, but WrestleGate almost seems to be seguing into a souped-up version of NGW: a promotion that’s not quite aimed at the casual, foam-finger fans, but also seems to be sort-of going for hardcore, Internet fans. At least, judging from the names they’ve brought across so far…