The following review will be my first review to go out onto Voices of Wrestling so hey, I’m Rob. One of the great strengths of this wonderful site, that is one of the things that set it apart from the multitude of similar sites, is the variety of the coverage of the wrestling world that we are all fans of. Not only do they probably have the most thorough WWE coverage, I mean, how many Superstars reviews do you see out there?! To the other large American companies in TNA and ROH, to the American indie scene, and even across the continent to some great puroresu coverage centered around NJPW and Dragon Gate — the site really has a lot of bases covered. One thing it does lack is any coverage on British wrestling.
That is, until now!
Revolution Pro Wrestling, or Rev:Pro if you’re one of the cool kids, is, in this manchild’s humble opinion, the very best professional wrestling promotion in the UK. They mix the greatest talent on the UK scene, with the elite from Japan and the American Indies. For me, they’re the PWG of the UK, running a fairly limited schedule but making every show a home run. For those not familiar with the company, which I expect will be the majority of you, I’ve recently written an introduction to RPW for the site, so I highly recommend you give it a look, it’ll hopefully hope you get up to speed on the British part of the roster, as well as a brief history of the company.
With me residing in the South East of England, I am in the fortunate enough position of being able to attend their London shows, and that’s exactly what I did on the 15th of June of this year to attend the 2014 edition of Summer Sizzler.
Summer Sizzler is RPW’s biggest show of the summer, and this year they really stacked the card sky high. Not only did it feature the final appearance in the promotion of RPW mainstay and worldwide superstar Prince Devitt, it also had the return of two former stars from NXT, two fly-ins from New Japan, the then current ROH champion Adam Cole, “Mr Wrestling” himself Kevin Steen and many more. This show had high expectations from everybody going in, but did it deliver?
Now as a precursor, let me just point out, this is a live review. Now in general, a great show live will be a great show on DVD, TV or PPV, whatever. But there are certain things that come across better live than on a screen, and vice-versa. Sometimes a good crowd can be mic’d up poorly, or sometimes you can find yourself in a quiet section of a loud crowd. Crowd brawling in general is a lot more exciting when it’s happening a few feet from you, but it can really suck when it’s occurring on the other side of the arena and you can’t see a thing. You can miss stuff live that they catch on camera, or you can see stuff live that doesn’t get caught on camera. So take that into account if I do manage to convince you to purchase this DVD, our mileages may vary, up to around ½* in my experiences.
So without further ado, here we go. York Hall was totally packed, with both the ground floor and the balcony level packed from what I could see, so probably somewhere between 1,000-1,200 attendance wise. Before the opener, the ring announcer informed the crowd that Paul Robinson, one half of the Swords of Essex, hasn’t been able to make it to the event, but they’d found a suitable replacement.
1. Undisputed British Tag Team Championships: The Kartel (Frazier & Samuels) (c) vs. England’s Calling (Redman & Stone): The Kartel is made up of Terry Frazier and the longest reigning heavyweight champion in RPW Sha Samuels, and together they’re the most hated tag team in the company, The Kartel, and the current tag team champions as a part of the companies dominant heel stable, The Revolutionaries. England’s Calling is made up of Joel Redman, aka Oliver Grey from NXT, and Martin Stone, aka Danny Burch from NXT, both of whom are making their return to RPW after their recent release from NXT.
This match was hard to really get a feel on. I wouldn’t really say it was a good match; it was a pretty basic tag match without any period of time where I was really amazed. However, as an opener, it did its job fine. It was a physical match with a lot of crowd brawling, I had Oliver Grey slam Frazier right through my own chair, and the crowd interaction from both the heels and the faces was good. So while nothing they did in the ring really stuck in my mind, I barely remember any of it, it got the crowd into the show, so it did its job. In a match that honestly was one that was the least anticipated match of the night for almost everybody, them not going all out may well have been a good thing. The finish of the match saw new champion’s crowned, with Joel pinning Terry if I remember correctly, giving the crowd a nice pop for the two returning stars. **1/2
2. Bad Luck Fale vs. Dave Mastiff: This match was originally going to be Dave Mastiff vs. Karl Anderson, but Anderson had to pull out a couple of weeks prior to the event, but brought in his fellow Bullet Club member, and at this point a handful of days from becoming IWGP Intercontinental champion, Bad Luck Fale as his replacement. I was looking forward to this one, as I always look forward to a good hoss fight and this one had all the makings of a great one, but I ended up pretty disappointed.
From my experience, Fale has his best matches against more agile opponents, and his power vs power match-ups are generally pretty disappointing. This did nothing to change my opinion on that, I’m sad to say. There were a couple of stiff strikes and avalanches in the corner from both men, but overall this match felt pretty empty. It finally looked like the match might be picking up, with Mastiff hitting a rolling senton and then his signature back senton, but then Fale abruptly picked up the win after Mastiff missed his Cannonball in the corner, and Fale hit him with a thumb thrust for the win. A disappointing finish to a disappointing match in my opinion; I understand him not being able to get Mastiff up for the Bad Luck Fall, but I’d have hoped for at least the grenade (chokeslam thumb thrust). **1/4
3. Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship: Marty Scurll (c) vs. Kevin Steen: Here’s where the show really kicked it up a notch. This marked Kevin’s last RPW match, with him finishing up with the indies as we speak, and I think it was also his last UK match before signing for developmental, but I could be wrong on that one. Meanwhile, this was Marty’s first match back in RPW after a month or two layoff with a separate shoulder. Being the last match before intermission, it really needed to deliver after a mediocre opener and disappointing previous match, and thankfully it really did.
If you watch PWG, this match had a very similar feel to the matches Kevin had there before joining Mount Rushmore but after losing the title. Steen played a comedic yet badass face as a foil to Marty’s dickish heel, and it was as much how they interacted verbally with each other and the crowd as to what they did in the ring that made this match.
The match started with Steen’s rope routine, which is always fun if a little played out at this point. If you haven’t seen it at this point, it involves Steen chain wrestling with his opponent, and then the second he loses the upper hand, grabs the ropes, and then starts a ropes chant. This happens repeatedly, and usually infuriates the heel, which is exactly what happened here. At one point Marty shouted at Steen “You’re supposed to be Mr Wrestling, why don’t you wrestle”, to which Steen replied with a shrug and “I never asked for that moniker”
After that though, and the now seeming obligatory extended Steen outside brawl segment, the match really picked up and showed why these two are both one of the most highly regarded talents in their respective country’s indy scene. After Steen’s shoulder went into the shoulder post after being overly aggressive on a shoulder tackle, it had the interesting dynamic of both men focusing on their opponent’s shoulder, which isn’t something you see a lot. This made for a very interesting matchup, with Steen’s power and size advantage being levelled out by Scurll’s underhanded tactics. In the end, Scurll retained his title when the ref had been knocked down by Scurll’s trailing leg while on the receiving end of an F-cinq, and then a Yano-esque kick between the legs followed by a roll-up lead to stealing the win. ***1/2
During intermission, it was announced that both Too Cool, Rikishi and, most importantly for me, the Rainmaker Kazuchika Okada would all be debuting for RPW on their next London show later in the year. Really looking forward to seeing how he’ll be in RPW, he’s the guy I’d probably go with as the best wrestler in the world right now.
4. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: This was my personal most anticipated match of the night. I’m a big Shinsuke mark, and Zack is my favourite wrestler on the British scene at the moment from an in ring perspective with Devitt now gone. Not only was this an international dream match, it was also an interpromotional match from the Japanese standpoint, with Zack wrestling regularly and being a multi-time former champion for NOAH, and Nakamura obviously being one of the poster boys of New Japan.
This match started off tentatively, with neither man wanting to make the first mistake against an opponent with such deadly strikes. Both these guys kick damn hard, and there were some very audible winces from the crowd during this match. Nakamura dominated the middle of this match, using his veteran guile to get the upper hand on his less experienced counterpart, avoiding Zack’s deadly kicks after the first exchange and using his multitude of knee attacks to wear Zack down. Zack fought back by targeting Nakamura’s left arm, locking on several variants on his signature armbars, but Nakamura managed to battle out of or just reach the ropes on all of them.
Just when Zack looked like he was closing in on the win, Nakamura countered a gamengiri from Zack while he was perched up on the top rope, and then followed up by hitting a flying Boma Ye knee from the second rope, and then finally finished the match with regular running version of his greatest weapon when a dazed Zack came up into a seated position.
This was a very good match, as you’d expect from two wrestlers of this calibre. They worked really well together, and showed good chemistry. I’d probably put this just a shade below Nakamura’s match against Steen from the NJPW/ROH shows, but they’re very close in quality for me. ***3/4
5. 2 Unlimited vs. Will Ospreay & Jake McCluskey: As I mentioned earlier, Paul Robinson (the kneeling one in the picture above) of the Swords of Essex had to pull out of this event on the day, and so was replaced here by Jake McCluskey, a local young guy who I’d never personally seen before making his debut in RPW. I’ll be honest, with the last minute alteration, my lack of familiarity with 2 Unlimited and its placement on the card between the two big money matches, I wasn’t expecting a huge amount from this match, and thought it may well be semi-filler. By God was I wrong.
This was quite simply one of the greatest high flying, nonstop, crazily paced and awe inspiring tag matches I’ve ever had the pleasure to see, and definitely the best one I’ve seen live. They really won over the crowd, as the feeling in the arena was very much the same as my initial feel, but by the end they had the entire crowd in the palm of their hand and them all standing, a “That was awesome” chant ringing through the arena.
After starting fairly slow, showing off each man’s technical soundness, it quickly sped up into a match that left you breathless with no time to catch it back before the eventual finish. Was it a spot fest? Sure, in some ways. It was definitely filled with high spots, but it wasn’t just move, kickout, move, kickout, move kickout. It was an intelligently put together match, with great counters, and no stupid kickouts. That’s one of my pet hates, kicking out of crazy moves just because movez, but that wasn’t what happened in this one. Last second pin break ups, grabbing of the ropes at the last second and adhering to the legal wrestlers allowed all these crazy moves to occur and yet the match still continue. They masterfully rotated who was in the ring, allowing the pace never to slow and yet all four men to still sell.
The spot of the match for me was McCluskey on the top rope with Ospreay standing on top of his shoulder, and from there hitting a 450 splash onto one of the Sammon brothers, although I could have chosen any of a handful. I went into this match a fan of Ospreay, and came out a huge fan of all four men. McCluskey especially, a relative unknown coming in, impressed everybody in the arena, including management apparently, as he’s been awarded a shot against Josh Bodom for the Cruiserweight belt on the next show. If you watch PWG and remember Fox & Del Sol vs. Inner City, the first and by far the best of the series of matches involving similar combatants in that company, then this was a similar match to that one, and I loved them both. Speaking of which, 2 Unlimited have been announced to be facing the Inner City Machine Guns on their next London show, and I can’t wait to go see that one. I went into this one thinking it may be filler and it stole the show and ended up my match of the night. I definitely won’t be making the same mistake come October. ****
6. Adam Cole vs. Prince Devitt: So after that absolute show stealer, it was time for this dream match main event. Then ROH World Champion and former PWG World Champion against the guy on the British scene from the last few years, recently removed NJPW megastar and now NXT wrestler. It was a big match, and being Devitt’s last in RPW, a very emotional one too.
Devitt has been coming out in comic inspired characters consistently for about the last year, and this was no different. After his Best Around theme played for its first riff, the tron cut to a seen from the Dark Knight Rises featuring Bane. Then out came two guys dressed as policemen onto the entrance ramp, who swiftly got destroyed by Devitt after he came out in full Bane garb. He then climbed into the ring, and before the ring announcer could even start the introduction he charged Cole with a dropkick in the corner, and then proceeded to throw Cole all around the arena, culminating in a big double stomp to Cole on the floor off of the stage. It was awesome to see live, with the crowd going crazy throughout. I’ll throw a video of it down at the bottom.
After the that, the match naturally cooled down a little. It was still a great match, but about the bottom of the range you’d expect from these two in a main event on a high profile show. Both men got all their signature schtick in, with Devitt having his legs worked over, and a highlight being Cole countering a top rope double stomp into a figure four by half rolling out the way and catching a leg. In the end, Devitt go the win by hitting his second Bloody Sunday of the match. So a great match, and maybe I’m being too critical because the crowd lapped it up, but for me a tad disappointing. ***3/4
After the match, and a standing ovation, Devitt got on the mic for his goodbye speech, but before he got a chance to really begin he was attacked by Marty Scrull, Sha Samuels, Josh Bodom and Terry Frazier. After a solid two minute beatdown and dissection of Devitt, Bad Luck Fale came out to make the save and cleared the ring of the Revolutionaries to help his former Bullet Club leader.
Devitt then got on the mic, and said that before he left RPW he wanted to do one more thing, and that was to bring the Bullet Club. This lead to an impromptu tag match.
7. Bullet Club (Devitt & Fale) vs. The Revolutionaries (Bodom & Samuels)
The match started with Devitt showing some face fire, before quickly being dominated by the two fresh and fresher heels, who isolated him in their corner. Devitt fought back numerous times to almost get the tag to Fale, but was stopped every time by interference from illegal Scurll while Frazier distracted the ref. Finally, Steen ran out, took out Frazier and then hit Scurll with his patented package piledriver. This allowed Devitt to make the tag, and Fale came in like a house of fire and cleared house with Bodom and Samuels, hitting Bodom with the Grenade (chokeslam thumb thrust) then tagged Devitt back in, who hit the top rope double stomp for the pin and the win. As a match this wasn’t much, but it was more an angle and a way to let RPW have a Bullet Club moment. It was really nice to see, and sent the crowd home really happy, so it did its job perfectly. **
The show then ended with Devitt, Steen and Fale posing in the ring, and then Devitt getting on the mic and getting to do his goodbye speech. It was a very emotional and great way to end the show. I wish both Devitt and Steen the best in WWE, and think they’ll both do fantastically. Both men really seem to have great brains for the business, and that’s something that is often not highlighted enough as to how important it is. They both really seem to almost instinctively know what works, and that’ll continue to serve them well on the big stage.
Overall this was a great show. The first two matches were just okay, but after that it really kicked up a gear and ended up being a fantastic show. No match overstayed its welcome, but the matches that mattered got enough time to really shine. I thoroughly recommend picking up the DVD of this show, and it’s available for pre-order at http://www.revolutionprowrestling.com/shop, for about $17. If you’re in the UK you really have no excuse, but even if you’re over in the US it’s still worth doing, us lot over in the UK had to do it for all the USA indy shows before VODs and iPPVs came to popularity.
Credit to @ThatDaveGuy for many of the pictures