Full thoughts from Sunday:
With allocated seating (something PROGRESS could learn from, to be honest), there was no need to rush for doors opening and I appreciated being able to casually stroll up from the Fake Wetherspoons to York Hall. Well, that was the theory. Instead, we joined a very large and very slow-moving queue around 30 minutes before the scheduled bell time. They certainly seemed to have done impressive business and put on something that had made people want to come out. At the time the show was supposed to start, there were still several hundred people outside, meaning the show actually ended up starting some 25 minutes late. I saw some reports listing the attendance as 1,100. Not sure if those reports are accurate (the old FWA shows here in 2002-3 were reported as drawing 1,000+, when in reality they were 700-900), but it certainly did look up there; packed and busy. To those who think you can draw just by runing a well-known venue in the centre of London, I remember the old RQW shows here that struggled to draw triple figures. They also did a FREE show at the Hall that only drew 200.
In what did come as a big improvement, the venue were actually letting you take drinks from the bar area into the main hall now. I’ve been coming to shows at York Hall for over a dozen years now and this was always one of the most frustrating things. Even worse, they put up a screen to intentionally block you from seeing the ring from the bar. It meant you either had to choose which matches you didn’t mind missing to go and stand in the bar and have a drink, or try to go and hot-shot drinks between matches, or just join the massive crush in the bar at the interval. I can somewhat understand the policy for the more rowdy, partisan crowds you would get at the regular local boxing shows (where, to be fair, punters will also often attend specifically to see a particular bout or certain boxer, rather than an entire show) but it seemed daft for the slap n’ tickle panto that is wrestling. When we asked about it, the barman told us they were “trialling it for the first time tonight” to see how it went. From what I could see, no-one seemed to misbehave, embarrass themselves or cause problems for the rest of the crowd, so it’d be great if that policy was adopted for all wrestling events here from now on. It’d be great, for instance, to be able to enjoy a Corona (“La Cerveza Mas Fina”) or a Sol during the Lucha Libre World shows coming up in July (for which, disappointingly given there were 1,000 wrestling fans in the building in which they are running, I didn’t see a single flyer around).
As for the show itself, it was very enjoyable indeed. The first half didn’t set the world alight, but was decent entertainment that warmed things up nicely. Then, after the interval, the 3 matches that comprised the second half were genuinely superb and were the difference between this being an ‘alright’ show and it being a ‘great’ show.
Things got underway with Colt Cabana
coming out to a decent reception. There was a bit of a backlash against him a year or so ago when he was the champion here and people had grown tired of him, but after a bit of an absence the public seemed happy to have him back. Cabana didn’t waste any time and asked the fans if they wanted to see him return to RevPro. This brought out Lord Gideon Grey
, who had beaten Colt in a ‘Loser Leaves RevPro’ bout 11 months ago, together with Rishi Ghosh
and a kid in glasses
. This was the first time I’d ever seen Grey, and everything about him makes for a great traditional pro wrestling heel character. Fans chant “Princess Unicorn” at him because, and this is a true story, a young kid randomly shouted it at him at a local show once and it stuck and caught on. I also hadn’t seen Rishi Ghosh in close to a decade, and had absolutely no idea he’s become so naturally entertaining. Grey was understandably none too happy at Cabana showing up, and it turned out the lad in specs was a lawyer from “Goldstein, Goldstein & Goldstein” (“NEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRDDDDDD!!!!”) who pointed out the contractually-binding nature of last year’s stipulation match and confirmed there was legally no way Colt was allowed to appear in RPW. A dejected-looking Cabana was escorted out of the ring by security. Of course, everyone knew this wouldn’t be the last we saw of Cabana tonight, but this was a nice little segment to set it up.
First match proper was Rocky Romero vs. Josh Bodom
. Bodom, a member of the ‘Revolutionists’ lead heel group, is billing himself as “The WWE Bound...” whereas Romero, on his own, is now “The Forever Hooligan”. I worked out that, despite all the years he’s been around at somewhat of a star level in wrestling, this was actually the first time I’d ever seen Rocky live. I mean, I’ve even seen his former partner Ricky fucking Reyes live multiple times, for christ’s sake. Romero looked good here, feeding well off the enthusiasm of the crowd. Josh is a good talent, far better suited to this arrogant heel role than the good guy act he used to do in FutureShock. They had a strong match, with good action and building well to the bigger moves such as Rocky’s flying armbars and Bodom’s hanging piledriver-like move. The end came when Rocky caught Josh in a spectacular flying armbar off the ropes for the tapout win. ***
Up next was Sha Samuels vs. Jake McClusky
. ‘East End Butcher’ Sha is the well-known Revolutionists member who was the long-reigning British Heavyweight Champion here. He also gets called “Fat Cantona” a lot now, thanks to PCW fans last year. He’s very good at this pro wrestling lark. Jake is not in fact “The Man They Call Jake” from south-east shows circa 2005, but is actually the former FWA:A guy nicknamed “Mr. Moonsault”, who has recently re-emerged on these shows after around a decade of Hayling Island obscurity. As you can imagine, he does do a few backflips. It’d be awesome if he took it even further, like the Young Bucks are known for doing all the superkicks, if “Mr. Moonsault” just started adding backflips to everything just for the hell of it. Moonsault dropkick. Moonsault headlock. Moonsault armbar. Money. At the moment, with the hair, gym body and tan it’s too easy to write him off as a ‘TOWIE’ or ‘Geordie Shore’ extra, and there was actually a notable portion of the audience here cheering for heel Sha over him. I suppose we were in East London, after all. So, they had a match, which ended when James Castle (or “Carr-sull”, as they say down south; he’s the Sami Callihan-looking guy that has started appearing on RPW show posters) ran in and hit Jake with a chair for the disqualification. Given this was Carr-sull’s first ‘big’ RevPro show, Sha took the time to introduce him as the Revolutionist’s young-boy afterwards. **
It was then time for Lord Gideon Grey’s open challenge
, answered by none other than Matt Classic
. Classic, of course, is Colt Cabana’s masked alter-ego as seen in Wrestling Society X and on occasion in Chikara and PWG. He’s supposed to be a 1950s wrestling throwback, who does lots of Hindu squats, big lifts and simple wrestling moves from time gone by. Gideon and his entourage were not impressed, leading to the following exchange over the microphone:
Grey: “I’m not falling for this. Everyone knows you’re Colt Cabana. Referee!”
Referee Chris Roberts: “Are you Colt Cabana?”
Matt Classic: “No.”
Brilliantly, that was good enough for Roberts, and the match was on. Plenty of daftness and shenanigans that went down really well, particularly since there was nothing even approaching light-heartedness anywhere else on the card. Coming close to stealing the whole thing was Rishi Ghosh’s animated antics at ringside. A very simple match, as you’d expect, but a very enjoyable one. After Iron Claw holds, liberal interference and more, Classic beat Grey with airplane spin followed by splash from first rope.
It was at this point that they did the customary big announcement video for the headline import for the next York Hall show. So, this time we get Tomohiro Ishii at the June show (‘Summer Sizzler’?). I could see that one coming at some point this year, and I can imagine he’s on a lot of people’s ‘to see’ lists. A good, timely booking, especially while he is still on his somewhat-unlikely career ‘hot streak’ at the moment. My first thought was a big, brawly, bruising match against Dave Mastiff, but thinking about it more a match against Zack Sabre Jr. in this setting could be incredible
. On a side note, I do really like the way they do these announcements on the big show (n. The Giant).
Last match of the first half was Irish siblings 2 Unlimited (Jay & Patrick Sammon) vs. The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian)
. I think the first time I ever saw Daniels live may have been in this same building back in 2003, having not been around for his 2001 and 2002 stuff. He was always polished in terms of his actual execution and such-like, but in terms of his overall presentation and character I don’t think he’s ever been better than he is now at, what, 40 something? His goofy tag act with Kazarian is so good. Frankie is looking ‘heavier’ these days, but still makes a good accomplice. They don’t ‘do’ as much as they did in years past, but they are probably better performers. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for 2 Unlimited. No, it’s not just for their amazing cheestastic early 90s dance theme, that they come out dancing, clapping and fist-pumping to in backwards baseball caps without so much of a hint of ironic comic intent. Their look, their gear, their style – it’s all like a throwback to early 00s indie wrestling. If they’d have been around in 2001 the original FWA would have pushed them to the moon in a 3-way feud with Hazardous Specialists and the New Breed. Then, when they’re in there doing all these ridiculous, crazy, over-the-top flip-flop-flying tag moves and sequences you always get the impression there is a more-than-likely chance they might actually die at any moment. It should
feel ridiculously dated and a bit crap. Somehow, though, all of this works in their favour and adds to their charm. Well, it does for me, at least. I love ‘em. After The Addiction controlled the match down the stretch, it wound up with the same wonderfully daft, out-of-control spot-spot-spot craziness you come to expect and want from a 2 Unlimited match. So, so much fun. When Jay & Patrick hit something resembling stereo 450 splashes and actually scored the win, there was a noticeable atmosphere of incredulous shock and disbelief that these guys had just been put over by one of the top tag acts in the world. Except from me – I leapt into the air in celebration. It was like RevPro was purposely trolling the internet wrestling community. Daniels put the Sammons over on the mic as being the better team on the night, then went off to sell some gimmicks, baby. **3/4
The interval was next. There has been a tendency on these RevPro York Hall shows for the break to drag on for 30+ minutes, but they were quite good with their timekeeping here and the second half started with a sizeable amount of people still queuing for the bar.
As I mentioned earlier, the 3 matches in the second half of the show were all excellent
First, The Hooligans (Roy & Zak Knight)
took on The Thrillers (Joel Redman & mystery partner Mark Haskins)
for the British Tag Team Titles. The ‘England Calling’ tag team of Redman and Martin Stone were the duo called out and attacked by the Hooligans on the last York Hall show, but with Stone seemingly back doing Florida indies, Redman brought out Haskins as his surprise partner here, reuniting one of the best teams in RevPro/IPW:UK history. This was a super-intense, super-exciting FIGHT from the beginning to the end and the action did not let up for a second. They were brawling in the crowd, brawling around the ring, brawling in the ring, and the punters were lapping it up. Roy hit the Zebra Crossing, but the Thrillers survived and picked up the win when Joel landed a ‘That’s Incredible’ spinning tombstone on Zak to win/retain/dunno the belts. Terrific. ***3/4
Following that was Ricochet vs. Marty Scurll
. Ricochet explained that this was his ‘apology’ match for having to pull out of the October weekend at short notice (due to Lucha Underground taping commitments). Devious Scurll initially came out with Revolutionist stablemates Samuels, Bodom and Castle, but the referee threw them out at the first hint of trouble, Ricochet adding the exclamation mark by diving onto all of them on the way out. From there, they put on an edge-of-your-seat one-on-one thriller that is well worth going out of your way to check out. There was a bit of a backlash against Marty a couple of years ago, but at the moment he’s looking like one of the best we have. Cracking singles matches with the likes of Mark Haskins (DG:UK), Martin Stone (RPW), Noam Dar (PROGRESS), Nathan Cruz (NGW) and Bubblegum (PCW) over the last 12 months prove that. Ricochet is genuinely world class. The finish came when Ricochet missed his 630 senton (fucking ouch) and Marty finally managed to lock in the chickenwing for the tapout win. ****
Main event was therefore current IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles
vs. current RPW British Cruiserweight Champion Will Ospreay
, with neither title at stake. This was even better than the bout it had to follow. An awesome match, and arguably the big star-making singles performance from Ospreay we knew was going to come soon. Will does such a great job of projecting what his character is supposedly thinking onto the audience, allowing them to buy into the match even more. His timing, facial expressions and presence are all top-level. What a superstar this lad’s going to be. AJ legitimately looked like one of the world’s best in-ring performers here, he really has developed from the very first time I saw him live, here in the very same building during his Euroboy phase some 12+ years ago. After a dramatic and gripping struggle, AJ landed a second-rope Styles Clash (hmmmm.) for the 1-2-3. An early contender for British match-of-the-year. ****1/4
And that was that. ‘High Stakes’ couldn’t touch it’s October 2013 and June 2014 Bethnal Green RevPro predecessors but was still a strong show in its own right, especially considering that brilliant second half, and ended up better than the October 2014 effort. I’m not going to start going to RPW’s other, ‘smaller’ shows (I do live at the other end of the country), but if they keep putting on shows like this in the centre of the capital 3-4 times a year, they can count on my ticket money.RevPro’s next event
is actually THIS SUNDAY (22 Feb), back in London for a smaller show at the intimate Cockpit Theatre near Marylebone station. Ospreay vs. Rocky Romero is the only thing announced for that one.
- ‘Contenders 10’ (Sat 4 April 2015) – Buckland Community Centre, Portsmouth (trainee show, also featuring Brian Kendrick)
- ‘At Our Best’ (Easter Sun 5 April 2015) – Broxbourne Civic Hall, Hoddesdon, Herts. (feat. Drew Galloway)
- MAYhem (Sun 24 May 2015) – Mountbatten Centre, Portsmouth (feat. Alberto El Patron)
- Summer Sizzler (Sun 14 June 2015) – York Hall, Bethnal Green, London (feat. Tomohiro Ishii)
Edited by Big Benny HG, 17 February 2015 - 19:03.