Photos: (c) Martin Siggers

This past weekend, Revolution Pro Wrestling (RPW), hosted a pair of major shows in London featuring the some of the biggest talents from around the world, highlighted by two matches from the Rainmaker himself, Kazuchika Okada. I was able to attend the Sunday show, titled “Okada vs. Aries” and thus that’s the show I’m going to be reviewing for you here. But I’m sure you managed to figure that out from the title.

Originally, this show held the title of “Okada vs. Ricochet” and that’s what I bought my tickets to see. For me, that was an absolute dream match in every sense of the world, featuring my two favorites from Japan’s two biggest promotions (Dragon Gate and New Japan Pro Wrestling) For my money, as well as many others, Ricochet is the best highflyer going in the world today, while Okada just happens to be my personal favorite active wrestler.

So you can imagine how delighted I was when I heard this match was taking place only within two hours travel. You can also imagine I wasn’t too pleased when Lucha Underground pulled Ricochet from the show weeks prior (after being announced for nearly half the year). Basically, Lucha Underground, whom Ricochet is contracted to, moved the date of one of their shows forward a week, and all their talent were contractually obliged to pull out of the dates which they were announced to do for said weekend.  It sucked, but there is nothing either Ricochet or RPW could have done about it.

Worry not (too much), because RPW is awesome, and on short notice managed to bring in former TNA and multiple-time ROH World Champion Austin Aries. That was a tremendous replacement, and although for me it was definitely a step below Ricochet, I honestly don’t think RPW could have done a better job. Okada vs. Aries may not be a dream match but damn if it isn’t a brilliant match. It’s clichéd, but it’s a main event anywhere in the world. For a few seconds I felt a little bitter, and then I remembered that RPW was giving me the opportunity to see Okada live, and all was good in the world again. 

Revolution Pro Wrestling “Okada vs. Aries”
Sunday, October 19, 2014
The Clapham Grand
London, UK

The turnout for the show was fairly disappointing. I’m fairly bad at estimating crowd sizes but I’d guess there was about 30 people in the VIP booths, 80 people seated and somewhere between 100 and 200 standing. Giving us somewhere between 200 and 300 people in attendance in total. Considering this show had Okada, Aries, Ken Anderson, Shelton Benjamin, Rich Swann and Buff Bagwell, and that’s only the fly-ins! The York Hall shows usually draw about double that figure at a guess so, although the Grand was a smaller venue, I’d be surprised if we saw another double shot in the near future from RPW.

Undisputed British Cruiserweight Championship: Rich Swann vs. Will Ospreay vs. Josh Bodom (c): We opened the show up with a bit of Lionel Richie, as “All Night Long” Rich Swann made a great entrance that really fired up the crowd. He managed to milk it through ALL four and a half minutes of the of “All Night Long”. Next out was Will Ospreay, fresh off an apparently star making performance the previous night against Matt Sydal, receiving the loudest reaction outside of the main event. The match started out with some synchronised dancing from Ospreay and Swann, followed by the two of them trying and failing to make Bodom dance. We then moved into a fast paced spotfest, with all guys getting their chance to shine, highlighted by a beautiful space flying tiger drop from Ospreay. Ospreay went on to win the title with a beautiful 630 senton.

The match itself was a fun spotfest, but was really short. When you take out the dancing the match probably only went about five minutes, Swann’s entrance nearly lasted as long.  I’m all for having a bit of fun in matches, but not when it means cutting the second or third most appealing match on the show this short. As for Ospreay winning the title, it’s a great move, he’s probably the hottest British wrestler on the scene after Sabre Jr. at the moment, and at such as young age he’s only going to get better. **1/2 

Joel Redman vs. Sha Samuels: Next up was a clash between two halves of the two teams currently feuding over the tag straps, Joel Redman of England’s Calling against Sha Samuels of the Kartel. This one had a lot of fun crowd interactions, which really is Sha Samuels — he’s got great comedic timing. At one point, we even got the set up to an impromptu Master Lock Challenge, but Samuels just used it as a way for him to get the advantage by sneaking in an elbow. The match then progressed nicely, with Samuels working over Joel’s knee, which was coming off an injury which caused him to vacate the RPW Tag Team titles, in an attempt to neutralize Redman’s power advantage. The finish came when Terry Frazier, Samuel’s Kartel partner, hit Redman with his own knee brace which Samuels had stripped off earlier while the ref’s back was turned.

This match was fun for sure, and was going on very nicely until the screwy finish. Both guys are fine in the ring, but neither really has too much of a spark to drive a match, although with the right opponent can put on a very good match. But with neither guy really able to carry the other, it became a pretty ordinary match with some fun crowd interaction. **3/4

Martin Stone vs. Karl Anderson: The other half of the British Tag Team Champions Martin Stone took on Karl Anderson, himself half of the current IWGP Tag Team Champions. Both men traded power moves, although if I’m honest there’s not too much I really remember happening here. There was nothing wrong with it per se, but nothing really stood out. Martin Stone pulled off the upset by hitting a top rope-hung DDT to get the win over the machine gun. Stone is another guy whose fine in the ring, but again needs an opponent who provides a spark. Anderson could be that guy, but very much seemed to be phoning it in here. Disappointing. **1/2

Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship: Marty Scurll (c) vs. Shelton Benjamin: All of RPW’s big (London) shows seem to have at least one ex-WWE talent, I assume with the idea that they’ll draw a casual crowd. Benjamin came out to his WWE theme and was introduced as a former Intercontinental and World Tag Team Champion. This led to a prolonged Gold Standard chant, despite Shelton not having his gold hair here. Marty brought an umbrella to the ring, which was appropriate considering the rainmaker was in London.

At one point in the match the fans got a “He’s got shit hair…on his head” chant to the tune of “The Whole World”, which infuriated Scurll, who then made the point Shelton was bald. This lead to a “He’s got no hair…on his head”, followed by a “bald standard” chant. Sadly, that was kind of the highlight of the match.

They battled for each guys signature submission holds, with Shelton going after the ankle lock, and Marty going for the crossface chikenwing. The match ended when it looked like Marty was going to tap away his title, and Sha Samuels ran out and attacked Benjamin for the DQ. Benjamin then brawled with Samuels, and it ended with Shelton giving him a rubbish looking piledriver on the stage.

This was a 2014 Shelton Benjamin match with a flat finish, aka vanilla. Marty is a good in ring worker, and plays a very good heel, but I’ve never really felt he has what it takes to carry an opponent, and Shelton definitely needs carrying these days. There were a few nice moments, Shelton still has a nice superkick, but this was totally forgettable. **3/4 

After the match, Marty got on the mic and called out Rockstar Spud, who apparently he got into a confrontation with last night. Spud came out, said Marty needed to look in the mirror to confront his failures, as he’d had loads of opportunities and blown them, and they then proceeded to brawl. Spud got the upper hand, and Marty ran off. Spud then chose to strip down to just some bright pink boxers for some reason. I found it a bit awkward really, but the crowd seemed to love it in general. They will face off for the title at an upcoming smaller RPW show which won’t make DVD.

Hunter Brothers vs. 2 Unlimited: Next up we had my most anticipated undercard match of the night, featuring two very exciting young teams from the British Isles. 2 Unlimited burst onto the RPW scene in fantastic style at Summer Sizzler, having my personal match of the night ahead of Devitt vs. Cole. The Hunter Brothers are an exciting team who are currently in the process of breaking through as a big deal on the UK scene, and a good match up for the Irishmen.

The match started off with some fun technical wrestling, then broke down into very fun fast paced action, with dives all over the place. 2 Unlimited eventually got the win when Jay of them sat on the top rope and the other stood on his shoulders and hit a 450 splash, followed by his partner then hitting a moonsault for the three count. I don’t think Jay quite got the full rotation on the 450 though, and landed kind of knees first, and looked to have hurt Jim Hunter.

This was enjoyable tag match, although didn’t nearly live up to the tag match 2 Unlimited had against Ospreay and McCluskey. They lost control of the tag legalities, and it wasn’t quite as crisp. The crowd wasn’t too great for this one either. ***1/4 

Next up, we had the main attraction of the night. No, I’m not talking about Okada or Aries, don’t be silly. I’m talking about Andy Boy Simmons calling out Buff Bagwell. Yeah, a British wrestler who hasn’t been relevant for at least seven years, and even then barely, calling out a guy who hasn’t been relevant in over a decade in anything except being a gigolo. Positioned in the semi-main spot next to Okada vs. Aries…

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to this. Andy came down from one of the VIP boxes and cut a bad promo, then Buff came out, cut his own bad promo and they brawled with Bagwell getting the upper hand. It was a nostalgia thing of something I wasn’t a wrestling fan for, so this held no merit. Some people in the crowd seemed to enjoy it though. Buff has the stuff apparently. 

Austin Aries vs. Kazuchika Okada: Now that’s out the way, we’re onto the big one. Aries came out first to a good reaction, but Okada who followed definitely got the louder reaction, he was clearly who the crowd had come to see. I got the complete puro experience, not only did Okada come within my arm’s reach, but I also had an authentic Japanese fangirl stood next to me, with authentic “Okada!” screams.

This match was on another level to everything else on the show. It was so easy to see these two were easily in a different league to their compatriots. There were loud duelling chants all the way through this. The match told a story of the two elite guys trying to one up each other. They ran through some really nice chain wrestling to start with, with Okada getting the upperhand until Aries countered out of a headscissors into a dropkick. From there the match picked up a gear with some beautiful counters, with Aries mimicking Okada’s pose and Okada even doing Aries’ slingshot senton.

They all went through all their signature stuff, including a weird spot where Aries hit his corner dropkick then Okada no sold it with no emotion straight into the Heavy Rain. That may well have been a bit of no communication and/or misunderstanding. Later in the match, Okada hit his dropkick to Aries while he was on the top rope, and Aries managed to fall over the top rope but somehow back through the bottom and second rope into the ring. Despite managing to counter out of the Rainmaker earlier into a crucifix powerbomb, Aries eventually fell when he was caught going for his corner dropkick for the third time in the match and hit a tombstone. Okada then followed it up with his signature Rainmaker, which Aries wasn’t able to avoid this time, and that signalled the end for Aries.

This was a great match. Aries and Okada matched up very well, apart from that one minor spot which didn’t quite seem right which I mentioned. I’m not going to pretend it was a match of the year contender, or even a particularly special Okada match, he’s probably had at least ten better matches this year. In general it does feel like the New Japan guys hold back a bit for these shows, but you can’t blame them. They wrestle in Domes, you can’t expect them to go all out in front of a couple of hundred people. Still, Okada holding back slightly is still better than 99% of wrestlers and this lead to what was probably Aries’ best match so far this year, narrowly ahead of the Lashley match at Destination X. But it was very enjoyable, had some great counters and chain wrestling, flowed really well and never dragged. The crowd was really good for it too, way better than they had been for any other match that night. I feel I may be slightly overrating this, but it was hard to separate the experience of seeing Okada live from the actual match. Easily match of the night. Both men, but especially Okada, just exuded star power. **** 

After the match, Okada got on the mic and despite saying how embarrassed he was with his English, he actually cut a really nice promo, saying how much he’d enjoyed his stay in England, and in reply to a “Please come back” chant said “Of course I will, I’m already looking forward to it”, so I’ve got that to look forward to. He then got us all to sing “I’m a Japanese man in London” to the tune of “I’m an English man in New York” to close out the show.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, this was basically a one match show. Going in I knew that the main event was the reason I was going, but I was disappointed by the rest of the card. A disappointing crowd didn’t help. The tag match was fun, but nothing going out of your way to see. This just made the decision to cut the opener so short all the more mind boggling, as that really could have been a great match given time. Seeing Okada live really was special, and it really has confirmed he’s my favourite.

I went to this event to see Okada live in a big match, and that delivered. If you could somehow have read this before the event happened, then I’d wholeheartedly recommend you buying tickets if you’re a New Japan fan. But time machines don’t exist, so my recommendation depends on whether the main event was worth buying the DVD. Live it was, but on DVD it probably isn’t worth getting.

Bit of an off show overall, but it sounds as if the show the previous night delivered far more top to bottom, so I’ll pick up on DVD when that is released, and have a review up asap. AJ Styles was announced for the next major show, so I’m hoping to be able to get to them too. That’s in February though, so you may not get another RPW from me till then. Until next time.

Still can’t believe I got to be so close to Okada. #blessed