With a varied card, Wrestle Gate Pro hit the scene this past January in Nottingham – we take a look at their debut outing.
Having tickets on sale for over half a dozen shows before you’d even run show one is certainly one way to rub up people the wrong way, especially in the fall-out from Lucha Forever, but I digress. Away from the raised eyebrows caused by ticket discounts and other murmurs, Wrestle Gate went ahead with their debut show this past January, at the Rushcliffe Arena in West Bridgford, near Nottingham. It’s a familiar venue to us, as it’s a building that Southside used to run… but since they hadn’t run in the leisure centre since August 2017, any claims of it being “their town” weren’t exactly valid.
From the look of it, the room’s been cut down greatly from when Southside used to run, but it makes for a more intimate atmosphere, rather than a cavernous sports hall with a ring in it. Commentary comes from Dave Bradshaw and El Toupee, who tells us we’ll be having Japanese-style 20-counts to go with the Japanese-style turnbuckle pads that look rather more like a throwback to the early days of the FWA than anything Japanese.
WAW Television Championship: El Phantasmo vs. Ricky Knight Jr. (c)
We’ve got overdubbed music due to international copyrights. Sadly, the dubbing has wiped away commentary during the entrances.
There’s something wacky about opening your promotion with a title match from another company, but it is what it is. As an opener, this started out hot, but not at too fast a clip as ELP had Knight on the back foot, almost taking an early with with a rope-walk ‘rana before he burst into his usual playbook, coming close with a springboard crossbody and Quebrada combo. Knight escapes a whirlibird neckbreaker, but can’t avoid it at the second attempt… a brief comeback from the champion ends when he missed a senton… but managed to avoid an ELP moonsault before an old school piledriver planted ELP for the win. That felt very “banana peel”-y, with Knight’s win hardly being convincing, but this was a solid opener. **¾
Shax vs. Martina
…featuring the ref doing a crotch chop as he was coerced into dancing. Or at least, I think that’s what it was, and not some kind of medical emergency! There’s no match though, as Martina grinds on Shax… only for the lights to go out as Rory Coyle appeared in the ring. She grinds away anyway, and gets beaten down.
I don’t think Nottingham knew who Coyle was…
Anyway, Terry Isit (named only on commentary) runs in to make the save. Apparently he was meant to have an open challenge, but he turned it into a tag team match (holla holla). Cue more overdubs as more people come out to join the open challenge. First Visage… then Scott Steiner?! Nah, it’s the Anti-Fun Police, made up of Chief Deputy Dunne and Cadet Joe Nelson, as we now have a four-way lucha rules tag match.
Jack Sexsmith & Visage vs. Martina & Terry Isit vs. Rory Coyle & Shax vs. Anti-Fun Police (Cadet Nelson & Chief Deputy Dunne)
Apparently all tags are going to be under lucha rules here.
Martina riffs on Nelson, trying to “ground him” before a dance-off is stopped by Dunne shoving her outside… and already the pace is high as Nelson’s thrown into Terry Isit with a back senton. Visage is in to throw the Anti-Fun Police into his nether regions, and a blink of an eye takes us to Rory Coyle biting Jack Sexsmith’s nose. A big Parade of Strikes breaks out as Isit’s sent outside by Shax as Dave Bradshaw corpses on commentary as El Toupee called Martina the “Womb Raider”. Things broke down again with everyone powdering outside, with Martina getting tired… only for a drink to revive her ahead of a tope. More dives take us to an “accidental” DDT from Visage on Sexsmith, sparking a Parade of Movez, featuring a spinning heel kick from Visage… only for him to get flattened by a Big Double Stompy Move by Sexsmith, who just stood over Shax as she got the pin.
A weird finish, but one that fit in more with Jack’s early 2019 character… and not the “undo” he’d be pushing in Defiant two months or so later. As a tag match, this was certainly action packed, but it was the Chinese food of wrestling – whatever the equivalent of a burp was, and it’d be forgotten. **¼
James Mason vs. Danny Duggan
This should be quite good – as a veteran of the game takes on someone who’s tried to reinvent himself after a spell at the New Japan LA Dojo.
Duggan doesn’t accept a handshake before the match, and he’s quickly schooled by Mason, who worked a mat-based style… and worked rings around Duggan in the opening exchanges. A Japanese strangle-hold mixed with a back stretch had Duggan in a compromising position, as did a grounded full belson, but Duggan got free… and quickly found himself pulled into a backslide. Ah well.
Mason keeps on being a step ahead of Duggan, despite Danny skinning the cat to avoid being sent outside… he enters an uppercut battle as Mason proceeded so slide underneath for a sunset flip, but Danny’s still able to kick out, before the finish came out of nowhere as he rolled up Mason in the corner and had his feet on the ropes for the win. That match felt horribly truncated, but was quite fun while it lasted. ***¼
After the match, Rob Maltman comes in to interview Duggan (I don’t get why we have Jaida – a ring announcer – and a separate interviewer). Danny can’t speak as a few booers in the crowd delay him, before he finally said that “in front of 300 people” James Mason showed he couldn’t last “27 seconds” against him. Good to see Danny has a grip on time! He claimed to be the “real British wrestling legend”, and I’m sure to somebody… he is.
They introduce Gisele Shaw – “the quintessential diva” – who’s sitting at Ringside as they’re hurriedly putting out chairs behind her. Not quite like Takeover, but it’d have been nice to have been told who Shaw was other than a tagline.
Yuu vs. Ayesha Raymond
Perhaps best known from her spell on WOS Wrestling, Raymond was out with her GWF Women’s title, as it seems that Wrestle Gate is leaning on other promotions’ titles… at least in the early days.
Yuu tries her luck in the early going with strikes, but they barely faze Raymond, who clocked her with a forearm before Yuu retaliated with a spinning sidewalk slam. A back senton gets her a near-fall, before she threw Raymond down into the corner for a diving elbow. More strikes from Raymond see her fight back, taking Yuu down for an Arabian clutch that forced the Japanese star to drag her way towards the ropes…
Only for Raymond to switch the hold into an armbar before the eventual break. Yuu strikes back with chops, but Raymond connects with an axe kick before a series of bodyslams rocked Yuu. A snap Judo throw surprises Raymond, as another battle of forearms and chops broke out, before some rolling suplexes from Raymond almost led to the win. A stalling suplex led to a nasty landing for Yuu – who barely got her shoulder up – before Raymond missed a top rope knee drop. Yuu’s right in with a shotgun dropkick before rolling Raymond to the mat in an armbar, before Ayesha powered out and dumped Yuu rather unceremoniously with a powerbomb for the win. This was a decent enough match, and a solid first step in whatever WrestleGate is doing with their women’s division… save for the fact that Yuu picked up a concussion here. **¾
Post-match, Raymond had a staredown with Gisele Shaw at ringside before she walked to the back. I guess that’s a feud for down the line.
Sean Kustom vs. NIWA
They manage to keep some of the commentary as the “dub” was more of a mix for this match. This was an outing between two guys who’ve emigrated here from Australia and New Zealand respectively, but haven’t made too much of a dent on the UK scene… at least at a higher level.
They start by working a lucha-inspired series with armdrags and leg sweeps keeping the match at a high-ish pace. A knee from NIWA gives him an edge, before Kustom hit a couple of leapfrogs to escape a wristlock ahead of simply dropkicking NIWA. Kustom’s neckbreaker sends NIWA outside, only for the Kiwi to sucker in Kustom with a shotgun dropkick on the outside that wrecked the crowd barriers.
Back inside, a Lion Tamer traps Kustom, but the Aussie’s able to get to the ropes as he fought back with a tornado DDT, before a frog splash drew a near-fall. The momentum continues to swing as NIWA goes for a powerbomb, eventually landing it for a near-fall… so he just hoiks up Kustom for a lumbar check for a near-fall as commentary was losing their mind. NIWA’s crotched on the top rope, then brought down with a Spanish Fly for a near-fall, before the Kustomiser – a pumphandle Blue Thunder Bomb – got the win… right as Dave Bradshaw blew out my ears with his shouting. A pretty good match, as these guys managed to bypass the “nobody knows them” issues and got the crowd biting by the end. ***¼
Kustom gets a promo with Rob Maltman after the match, but before he speaks the lights go out as we cut to a promo from Dragon Gate’s Eita, who’ll be coming on their next show on March 16.
Millie McKenzie vs. MK McKinnan
These two were looking to end the match pretty early, as Millie’s search for a German suplex was aborted, as she instead landed some headscissor takedowns and a dropkick for an early two-count.
A reverse hook kick and a forearm to the back of the head drops Millie for a near-fall, as MK was looking to use his strikes to create an advantage.Trapping Millie in the ropes for some kicks, then a senton bomb worked as MK gets a near-fall, but Millie’s able to respond with a diving uppercut and a satellite DDT… rolling it through into a Twist and Shout for a near-fall. MK tries to surprise Millie with a Kirifuda clutch, but they’re right by the ropes as MK had to come back with kicks and a German suplex… which seemed to wake up Millie, as she uncorked some Germans of her own for a near-fall, before she quickly forced a submission with a grounded Octopus stretch. This was good while it lasted, but like a lot of this card, time contraints were holding these guys back. Perhaps don’t have a nine match card eh? ***
Callum Newman vs. Joe Lando vs. Harrison Bourne vs. Maverick Mayhew
I’m only familiar with Mayhew, but from the look of this… this is a “Young Lions” like match which could well get extra flippy.
I was right.
Commentary tells us that these are Frontline’s Young Lions, picked by Will Ospreay and Bea Priestley, and we’re already dealing with the kids going for flash and flair. Bourne impresses with some lucha-style springboard armdrags and a springboard stunner before a Pele-style kick waffled Mayhew. Newman swings and misses with kicks before he slammed Bourne ahead of a running shooting star press for a near-fall. El Toupee loses his mind as a break dancing legdrop was called a “Starship Pain variation”… and the moves start to get too quick to call as Mayhew flew in with a ‘rana that almost went awry.
A tope from Mayhew wipes out Newman on the floor, and from there the dives continue before Lando spiked Mayhew with a brainbuster… before a shooting star elbow drop finds its mark for a near-fall. Not sure if improvised or intended, but either way it looked nice. Bourne comes in to catch Lando with a double-jump Spanish Fly as the Parade of Moves was back in full effect, finishing with Mayhew dropping Newman with an Awful Waffle for the win. This was fun to watch, and it had the crowd going… but man, this match was Rip Rogers’ worst nightmare as precious little was given time to register with the crowd. **¾
After the match, Lucas Steel came down to wipe out the four flippy boys with clotheslines and kicks. If you’ve not seen Steel in 3CW and NGW, he’s the antithesis of these kids – over six foot tall and built like a proverbial outhouse in comparison.
John Klinger vs. Mil Muertes
Bad Bones is bringing his Macho Man gear to Wrestle Gate… let’s see if it’s the full act!
Muertes pulls Klinger out of the corner as both men were playing to the crowd… and the German’s frustrated in the opening stages as he powders outside and chucks a chair into the ring.
Back in the ring, Klinger has more luck as he sends Muertes powdering with a back body drop, as the momentum continued to swing around. Some punches from Muertes sends Klinger down, only for the German to come back with an Exploder suplex before he gets caught with some camera-wrecking headscissors. A plancha from Muertes blows out my ears (cheers El), as the pair wander around ringside with chops before Muertes got thrown into the guard rails.
After pulling a funny face, Klinger elbowed out of a chokeslam before eating a short lariat instead. He’s back with three rolling German suplexes, before Klinger went outside with the Macho Man double sledge to the floor. His attempt to throw Muertes into the crowd ended with Klinger ending up there instead, curiously in front of another camera crew for a crowd brawl, as Klinger then began to bury Muertes under a stack of chairs. The referee, rather than start a count out, chose to stop Klinger as he went to swing a chair… but Klinger just shoves him away and swings at the pile of chairs anyway. For no DQ. So Klinger throws the ref back inside, and was eventually joined by Muertes, who landed a tiltawhirl backbreaker, only to get caught with a Blackheart Buster by Klinger as the pair kept on plugging away.
Sensing a victory, Klinger heads up top… but Muertes caught him and brought him down with a superplex. They continue to slug it out, with Muertes spiking Klinger with a short DDT, only for Klinger to come back with some hooking clotheslines… before a Self Justice was caught. A snap powerslam nearly does it for Muertes, but he’s caught out of nowhere with that Self Justice for a near-fall. They turn it up a little more as Muertes almost dumps Klinger on his head with a powerbomb, only for Klinger to rebound with a slingshot spear – the Bone Spear – for a near-fall. On the top rope, Klinger tries to rip Muertes’ mask, only to get shoved down for a Destroyer… but Klinger was able to get a hand to the rope to stop himself from getting pinned. For some reason, Muertes throws Klinger into the ref… then inadvertently spears the official before we get my favourite thing: the babyface hitting his finisher and going for a pin with no ref in the ring.
Once Muertes realised there was no ref, he stared at the entryway as Klinger returned with a big boot, a Self Justice and the Descent Into Badness elbow drop as a second ref turned up to make the pin. I’m not a fan of the finish, but this was quite a good match between two big lads… perhaps Klingers’ best of his recent vintage? ***
After the match, Klinger gets the crowd to cheer for Muertes, before he punted the Lucha Underground star low. In the aftermath of that, Klinger grabs a chair from outside and drives it into him as commentary bemoaned the use of the “steel chair”. I guess some of the rivets may be… Rob Maltman interviews Klinger in the aisle, but instead he’s donked on the head with the mic before Wrestle Gate Pro owner Gary Ward stepped in, as the guy who pays his fee proved to be where Klinger drew the line.
A promo followed for the arrival of Ilja Dragunov at the promotion’s March event. Polite applause for that perhaps tells you there’s not as much overlap between the crowd they got and the crowd they were aiming for.
Chris Ridgeway vs. Jake McCluskey
Originally meant to have been Ridgeway vs. Jordan Devlin, this was another change… and with all due respect to the former “Mister Moonsault”, I doubt many were as excited to see this line-up.
Ridgeway, who commentary described as a cross between Timothy Thatcher and Tommy End, took the match to the ground early… but McCluskey is able to put the brakes on as he tries to stretch out Ridgeway, only for Chris to get free and stomp his elbow. That would be the body part Ridgeway’d look for, as he worked a hammerlock while having McCluskey caught in some headscissors. A handstand kick from Ridgeway knocks McCluskey into the ropes, as more kicks proceeded to leather the former Rev Pro tag champion. A STF variant from Ridgeway forces a rope break as McCluskey seemed to offer little resistance… before he manages to cartwheel away and send Ridgeway outside with a dropkick to help turn the tide somewhat.
McCluskey’s offence continued as he kept Ridgeway on the mat – neutralising any kicks… but Ridgeway just absorbed Jake’s own strikes as the pair worked up into a forearm exchange. Both men were left laying, but it was McCluskey who got back into it first, taking Ridgeway into the ropes for a baseball slide German suplex, before a springboard moonsault/enziguiri combo caught Ridgeway for a near-fall.
A shotgun dropkick from McCluskey takes Ridgeway back into the corner as he looked for a Muscle Buster that turned into a suplex for a near-fall. Ridgeway responds with a Dragon screw before a series of kicks pinned McCluskey to the mat… as did a headlock suplex as Ridgeway worked his way into a Rings of Saturn crossed with an Octopus, tying up McCluskey in knots before he somehow flipped out into a near-fall.
Jake hangs Ridgeway across the top rope before another moonsault/enziguiri attempt was caught and turned into an ankle lock. Ridgeway holds on, twisting the ankle before he pulled McCluskey into a trapped-leg German, as a swift head kick then followed for a near-fall. McCluskey throws some thrust kicks of his own as the match descended into a quick strike-fest, with Jake teasing a knee trembler… only to get caught with a German suplex and an axe kick as Ridgeway eventually found a victory with the Bryan Danielson elbows. This was a good match that perhaps didn’t have the allure a main event should, but McCluskey hung in there and showed that perhaps he shouldn’t be as far away from the top tier promotions as he is. ***¼
So, coming in on the back of withdrawals (Jordan Devlin, Xia Brookside, Alpha Female), this was a show that perhaps wasn’t what was originally planned – but we did end up with a really solid first outing from WrestleGate. There’s some nice little details on show, including ringside attendants (as in boxing) and the presence of Young Lions to care for the wrestlers… are these enough to make the product stand out in a crowded marketplace? Hardly, but it helps.
The commentary for the debut show was fine – you know what you get with Dependable Dave Bradshaw, even if he does get a little too shouty at times, while El Toupee was perhaps veering a little too much into the trope of “everything is the best ever” that you tend to get on the indy level. Still, with it being a debut show, it’s understandable. At least on the basis of this show (and the tidbits I’ve read on show two), they aren’t rushing in to creating titles, but aside from one or two instances, we’re somewhat thin when it comes to storylines. Whether that changes two, three, four shows down the line remains to be seen…