Coming off a solid but not blow away show in No Escape, Revolution Pro Wrestling held their second show of the month last Sunday, and I was fortunate enough to attend live. High Stakes was the first of RPW’s 2015 York Hall supercards, an arena that is run only three or four times a year and always draws a four figure crowd. The supercards are the biggest native shows in the UK, only being beaten when WWE and TNA cross the pond, and always deliver a high quality show. The card for this one promised to be no different, so I’ll stop wasting your time and get right to the meat of the review.
Revolution Pro Wrestling “High Stakes”
Sunday, February 15, 2015
This being a live review, I’ll have no opinion on commentary, camera angles or video quality. The show was a near sell out, with only a few balcony seats left. From what I can remember of conversations where capacities were discussed, that would put the crowd size somewhere around the 1,100-1,200 mark.
The show opened up with Colt Cabana coming to the ring to cut a promo about how he should be allowed to wrestle again in RPW. Colt had lost a match to Lord Gideon Grey where he put his RPW career on the line and he wanted to come back because “forever in wrestling is usually about a year tops.” This brought Lord Gideon out, along with his lawyer and unexplained Middle Eastern Sheikh associate. Gideon said that the contract was legally binding, and that if he did dare to wrestle in the company again then Gideon would seize everything Cabana owns, including his “paaaaaaaadcast,” and he would “tear his studio… apart.” He then announced he would be putting his 12-0 streak on the line again tonight in an open challenge against anybody not named Colt Cabana. While this segment wasn’t what I’d call hilarious, it was enjoyable enough and a good way to kick off the show.
Rocky Romero vs. Josh Bodom: Bodom earned this match on the last show by beating Noam Dar. This was your standard opener, with the import getting all his shtick in against the relatively inexperienced Bodom. Late in the match Bodom managed to hit a Bliss Driver (kind of like a Randy Orton rope hung DDT but with the opponents head between Bodom’s legs and him jumping into it), the same move that earned him a victory last year against Jay Lethal, but Rocky managed to get a hand on the bottom rope. Rocky then later managed to turn a superplex around by countering into bringing Bodom down off the top rope into the Diablo cross armbreaker. Bodom swiftly tapped to give Mr. Forever his first victory in the company heading into his challenge for Will Ospreay’s Cruiserweight championship later in the month at the London Cockpit.
This match was fine, but little more than that. It was really just a showcase of Romero and Bodom is a guy who’s fine in that role. He’s not yet developed enough to really get you into the match and make it actively good, but he’s certainly proficient enough be a good and professional body to throw in there. **3/4
Sha Samuels vs. Jake McCluskey: TJ Perkins often gets the title of “Youngest veteran in the business,” but McCluskey is certainly a guy who you could throw into that conversation having started wrestling at 13. Now at 23, he’s finally starting to break through into the upper tier of British wrestling.
This match was enjoyable for the most part. Sha is a really good guy to put in there with your plucky underdog high flyers, because he’s really good at working the crowd to keep them riled up during the heat segments, and he’s really good at catching guys in mid-air to cut of fast paced flurries. That was exactly the formula they followed here, with Mr. Moonsault himself showing off his varied arsenal of, you guessed it, moonsaults and other high flying antics, while Sha always found a way to cut him off before he could garner too much momentum. However, just when it looked like we were set for a hot finishing stretch “the Anarchist” James Castle hit the ring and blasted Jake with a chair causing the DQ. The match was fine, but not having a finishing stretch really hurt it as that style of match is all about building to said finishing stretch, so ending it before you get on leaves you feeling fairly unfulfilled. **3/4
After the match, Sha took the chair off of his Revolutionists stablemate and they continued to wail on Jake. It appears Terry Frazier has been dropped from the group completely without explanation and replaced with James Castle, a graduate of the Portsmouth School of Wrestling like Bodom. He’s got a really good look, but I’m yet to see anything from him that suggests he’s going to be anything more than another body in the group at this point.
Lord Gideon Grey vs. Matt Classic: So of course we got Matt Classic (Cabana’s masked persona) to come out and challenge Grey. Grey knows it’s Cabana, but the ref asks Matt and he says no in his regular Cabana voice. So we get a match, there’s antics as you’d expect, and Cabana/Classic ends the match with an airplane spin followed by a first rope splash. The real star of the match was the Sheikh character who really showed some great comedic timing with well-placed quips. My favourite of which was him patting Grey on the back after a “You can’t wrestle” chant and saying “Don’t worry, you can wrestle. I think you’re very good at it”. Reading that it doesn’t translate very well to print, but it was funny. If you enjoy Cabana comedy matches you’ll enjoy this one. I thought it was fine, but by this point in the show I really wanted a match that was more than fine. **
The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) vs. 2 Unlimited (Jay & Patrick Sammon): 2 Unlimited are fresh off a great match with the Wolves the week before, so here in front of a hotter crowd I was really ready for these guys to have a great match. Things didn’t quite play out that way though. The previous week the Wolves had leant a little heel in their match with the two Irish brothers, and the crowd bought in and got more behind the Sammons. The Addiction attempted to do the same thing here, but in front of a more “smart” (hate that term) crowd it didn’t really work and they just got cheered more. The action went back and forth, with the two veteran imports using all their tricks of the trade to try to maintain an advantage over their faster opponents. It wasn’t enough though, as both members of 2 Unlimited climbed the same turnbuckle and hit a double 450 onto Daniels to pick up the win. One of them didn’t quite get the rotation though, and the moved looked semi botched with him kind of landing knees first, appearing to really hurt Daniels. It may have not even been the planned finish, but that could just have been Daniels selling really well and me misreading the situation.
The action was good throughout, but it never really got to that top level that we’ve seen 2 Unlimited get to in their previous encounters in the company with the Wolves, ICMG and McCluskey & Ospreay. Couple that with the off finish, and this ended up being a little disappointing. It didn’t go over-the-top and kept track of who was legal though, which is always a plus in indy tag matches. Still a good match, but we’re used to a bit better from both these teams. ***1/4
That made intermission, and at this point the show wasn’t looking like anything special. Then the show kicked up a gear in the second half, and things got awesome. To start with they made vocally me lose my shit by announcing Tomohiro Ishii is set to be coming over for the next RPW York Hall show. Never in my life did I expect I’d get to see him live.
Undisputed British Tag Team Championships – UK Hooligans (Roy & Zak Knight) vs. The Thrillers (Joel Redman & Mark Haskins): Back at the last York Hall show the UK Hooligans, a team consisting of Roy and Zak Knight (Paige’s brothers), took possession of the British Tag Team Championships from London’s Calling (Redman & Stone). This show was supposed to feature the blow off for that feud, but Martin Stone is currently undergoing VISA issues (he’s British so I’m not entirely sure what’s going on), and this lead to London’s Calling was forced to vacate the tag straps.
As a result a few changes were made and this match became a decision match to declare the new British tag team champions, the physical holders of the belts in the UK Hooligans or one half of the former champions Joel Redman and a mystery partner of his choice. The mystery partner proved to be Mark Haskins, of brief TNA fame, and long-time British scene stalwart. The two of them were reuniting their team from the end of the last decade where they went collectively as the Thrillers.
This was a wild brawl. And by that I don’t mean they paired off and slowly walked around the arena exchanging soft punches, which so often gets described as a wild brawl. This was crazy, guys were flying everywhere, running dropkicks were hit off barricades, guys took powerbombs into stacks of chairs on the floor, Haskins went full force into several walls multiple times. That’s just the stuff I saw, and not having the best seat meant that I did miss a lot of it, and this is likely a match that will come off really well on VOD/DVD.
It wasn’t just an unstructured brawl though, there were some terrific sequences in the ring, the two teams gelled wonderfully, and all in all this was just a really well put together match to fire the second half of the show off with a bang. They even had a rare occurrence of a ref bump that actually added to a match, as it allowed them to hit an amazing superplex style DDT with both men standing on the top rope that looked absolutely brutal without it being the end of the match or having an over the top kickout. In the end the Thrillers won when Redman hit a spinning Tombstone Piledriver. This was just a great match that really fired the crowd up ready for the two co-mains. ***3/4
Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship – Ricochet vs. Marty Scurll (c): Scurll lead his Revolutionists out with him to defend his title, but they were taken out early by a dive and worked their way to the back, leaving these two to do their thing one on one. Marty showed off a very impressive technical base here, creatively doing everything within his power to ground Ricochet. But one does not simply completely cut off the future of flight from the airways. Marty is a guy who has always had his villain character down since his turn, but recently his heel ring work has really clicked too. He’s now regularly getting heel heat that’s adding to the quality of matches, rather than at the expense of it. That’s a real skill, that genuinely few wrestlers have. Being able to put on great matches that make the crowd hate you more isn’t something many people have mastered, but Marty has nailed it recently.
The story of the latter stages of this match revolved around Scurll’s signature submission, the crossface chickenwing. It seemed for every creative entry into the hold, Ricochet came back with another innovative escape. Thus Marty’s plan had to adapt to being wearing down Ricochet enough to allow him to fully lock it in without having the energy to employ one of these escapes, because the earlier armwork he put on Ricochet would surely mean having the move on full force would yield him the victory. And that’s exactly what happened, as at the end of this terrific back and forth contest, Marty was able to hit a series of moves punctuated by a tornado DDT floated over into his patented Crossface Chickenwing. After a fruitless struggle to get to the ropes, Ricochet finally succumbed and became the most recent big name added to an ever growing list of people the villainous champion has turned away in defence of his belt.
This was a great title bout, and really set the bar high for the match following. Things got fairly indyriffic towards the end, with a fair few inconsequential no-sells of various kicks to the head, but in general this was just a really great match that had the crowd in the palm of its hand. Ricochet’s flying was mixed into the match at just the right times, while the bulk of the match was built on showcasing just how good a non-flying wrestler Ricochet has become in recent years. Excellent stuff. ***3/4
Will Ospreay vs. AJ Styles: Will Ospreay is really a guy on a meteoric rise to the top of the scene at the moment. Six months ago he was doing fine for himself, featured regularly on big shows as part of the Swords of Essex, but since then he’s broke out on his own and pretty much become the biggest star on the scene, definitely top two with Scurll (not including Zack as he’s rarely around these days). He’s main evented the last two York Hall shows, as well as a recent Progress show, and has become the go to guy for international dream matches, facing Tozawa, Strong, Sabin, Sabre Jr., Swann (several times), Strickland, Sydal, the Addiction, Uhaa, Styles and soon Romero, all in the last six months. And this isn’t some artificial push, this is Will knocking it out of the damn park every single opportunity he gets. It’s a testament to how amazing he’s been that this crowd is at about a 50/50 split, when half the crowd seems to be wearing a Styles or a Bullet Club shirt. This match is his biggest yet, main eventing in front of a four figure crowd against the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
Did you see any nerves? Did you see him shrink into himself and let the veteran Styles totally lead the match? Nope, you just saw an absolute classic of a match. From the offset AJ was fast out of the blocks, zeroing in on Ospreay’s back, absolutely viciously destroying it. You even saw him hit a BRUTAL standing side slam onto the top of a TNA style barricade while it was up in its regular position, almost snapping poor Will’s body in half.
Will battled back though, weathering the early storm and finding openings to get his own offense in. Few people can look like amazing high flyers following Ricochet, but Ospreay did it in spades here.
Strangely enough, Ospreay earned his first real period of advantage in the match by tweaking his knee off landing on his feet off a shooting star press. AJ immediately went straight for it, flowing beautifully into a Calf Killer, but after Will managed to battle his way to a rope break AJ’s offense became unfocused, with him not sure whether to stick with his original gameplan of destroying Will’s back to stop Ospreay from being able to counter the Styles Clash, or to switch focus to the knee and pursue victory via the Calf Killer.
This indecision allowing Ospreay to scratch and claw his way back into the match, and it nearly lead him to victory via the Jump Tuck Pray Double Moonsault, but he played to the crowd just a second too long and Styles was able to recover and cut him off on the top turnbuckle before he could execute. The battling then continued a while longer, but this rookie mistake proved to cost the young prodigy, as Styles refocused on the back, and this lead to him being able to exploit that during the climax of the match while the two men were battling on the top rope. A second rope Styles Clash was a suitably special ending to a very special match.
The selling here by both guys was on point. The flow was sublime. The sequences were mind bogglingly good, yet things didn’t get over-the-top indyriffic. It was a match that told a really good and consistent story, and it really felt like every single move mattered.
The Aerial Assassin vs. The Phenomenal One was nothing short of incredible. From the moment it started to the moment the show ended I was utterly transfixed on everything that was going on. The crowd, who’d been good all night, was absolutely volcanic for this one, totally engrossed by the match. I’ll be amazed if we don’t start seeing Ospreay over in Japan and/or the US after that performance, because he looked every bit at home in the ring with the likes of an elite level talent the likes of which AJ Styles is. 100% must see, and my current Western Match of the Year ahead of the Rumble three way. ****1/4
After the match, AJ put over Ospreay huge on the mic, saying that he could well see Ospreay coming after and winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship one day if he continues on his current trajectory.
Overall this was a wonderful show, and easily the best I’ve ever gone to live. The main itself was also the best match I’ve ever seen live. The show started off fairly slow, but I wouldn’t consider anything bad, and the second half of the show was simply tremendous. It also felt to me like a show that would transfer really well from a live -> screen experience, as I honestly didn’t see a large chunk of some of the outside occurrences in all three of the final matches and I was still in love with them despite that.
This show gets a total thumbs up from me, and a complete recommendation without a second thought being required. The second half of this show was fantastic, and you owe it to yourself to go out of your way to see it. You’ll be able to do so at RPWondemand.com in the next few days, likely for the price of $12.99