Epic Encounter sees Revolution Pro Wrestling return to Reading, fresh off a debut in the city late last year with Global Wars UK. This time around, the Reading event is the main spectacular of the weekend seeing the best of professional wrestlers from the United States and United Kingdom all converge to a single building.
Revolution Pro Wrestling
April 16, 2016
Rivermead Leisure Complex
Michael Elgin def. Ricochet
This was originally scheduled to be Michael Elgin against Will Ospreay, in the match I was probably looking forward to most on the entire card, but Ospreay suffered some damage to his ligaments and consequently was told to take the weekend off by RPW to heal up due to this being such an important period of his career. As a replacement up stepped another of the world’s greatest high flyers: Ricochet. He was already scheduled for the main event tag match, so ended up working double duty on the night.
This felt like a great taste of what these two could do together without them going all out due to Ricochet having to work again later in the show; going through the motions would be an incredibly harsh way to describe the performance these two guys put in but there was a definite feel that they worked within themselves. Thankfully these two are talented enough workers that even at 80% they had a very good match together. They kept the formula simple, Elgin threw Ricochet around with Ricochet occasionally managing to land on his feet and from there he would have high flying spurts, and it worked resulting in an engaging and enjoyable opener. Elgin picked up the win with the Elgin Bomb. ***1/2
Josh Bodom def. Donovan Dijak
This was a rematch from a great sprint that occurred on a recent episode of RevProTV. This was an elongated version but just as good, with the two sacrificing a little of the high intensity from their first match for a greater sense of epicness. The two worked very well together and really managed to convey a sense of dislike between the two parties justifying the match’s billing as a ‘Grudge Match’, starting the match off with a rare engaging crowd brawl and building the match well from there. Dijak managed to work like a monster from underneath, which is no mean feat, and his offensive comebacks looked great, highlighted by a chokebreaker and a huge moonsault plancha. Bodom probably isn’t quite at the level where you want him to be in control of longer matches like this yet, but he did a solid job here and he’s consistently getting better. The Feast Your Eyes near-fall here was particularly well done too, and when Bodom picked up the win shortly after with the Bliss Buster I felt both guys looked stronger than they did coming in, and while Bodom won clean it left the perfect feeling on Dijak having been robbed without taking anything away from Bodom. Despite the series now being 2-0 in Bodom’s favour I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to seeing a third incarnation of this match at some point down the line. ***1/2
Undisputed British Tag Team Championship
Jonny Storm & Jody Fleisch def. The Revolutionists (Sha Samuels & James Castle)
This was your typical small crowd local indie match, with lots of crowd interaction and not a lot of actual engaging in-ring action. In a company that markets itself towards hardcore wrestling fans with a product focused heavily on in-ring action Samuels and Castle as the tag champions stick out like a sore thumb. They consistently have the worst match on every show, and are taking up two regular spots on the roster that could easily be filled by more talented underexposed British talent who would deliver in the spot. Castle is bad at the moment and hasn’t really been showing many signs of improvement, he may be worthy of a spot on the roster at some point but he certainly isn’t now. Samuels is solid enough in-ring, plus has a level of charisma and verbal acumen that mean he certainly has use, but he should be a utility player at best and isn’t close to being good enough to carry Castle. They’ve been put in high profile spots and have failed to deliver every single time, and their run has reduced the tag championships to having value less than zero; the sooner they lose the belts the better. The champions lost the match but retained the belts when Samuels was caught using one of the belts as a weapon. *3/4
Big Damo def. Roderick Strong
Damo has some big things in his future, with him set to start working internationally later this year as well as a British Heavyweight Championship shot coming up at the next RevProTV tapings against Zack Sabre Jr. I was hoping for a big performance as a springboard towards that here, and I have to confess I was left at least somewhat disappointed. The match just never seemed to really get going at a high level, and lacked the stiffness that you want to see in a match from these two. Strong was heavily focused on crowd interaction, and while that can be a positive when done well here it repeatedly broke up the flow of the match. That all said, this was far from a bad match, just disappointing. Damo won with the Ulster Plantation. ***
After the match Damo got on the mic to hype up his upcoming title match, and in the process called himself the ‘best big man in the world’ which brought out Big Mike Elgin who took exception to this statement. After a brief exchange of words, including Damo dropping the great line of “Hey Big Mike, I’m Bigger Damo”, a challenge for a match was put out and accepted for someplace down the line. I expect that match will occur at one of RPW’s two Summer York Hall shows.
Undisputed British Cruiserweight Championship
Pete Dunne def. ACH
Pete Dunne is a guy I was extremely happy to see RPW start using regularly as he’s got a tonne of potential and is already consistently good now. He also brings a power junior style to the roster that’s both different and exciting to see; he’s exactly the sort of guy RPW should be filling their domestic side of the roster with. Throughout the rest of the year I expect to see him get several high profile matches against international talents in RPW like this one, and I’m excited to see how it helps him improve.
This match was a good outing but it gave off the impression that neither guy was quite comfortable in leading the match, and as a result the match never really went anywhere in a storyline direction. There were some very enjoyable moves and sequences, and the crowd enjoyed it, but there was little to really sink your teeth into in terms of a progressing narrative for the match. Sometimes moves are just fun though right? Dunne picked up the win with a pumphandle flapjack following a low blow. ***1/4
Lord Gideon Grey def. Dalton Castle
Dalton Castle is incredibly underutilised. No matter what the make-up of a crowd is on the casual-to-hardcore scale he always receives fantastic reactions, and he can back things up in the ring too. I feel that bookers probably view him as an over midcarder who isn’t hurt by a loss, but I really feel he could be so much more. He turned out to be a near perfect opponent for Grey here, who is an inconsistent wrestler to put things generously, as he was able to not only contribute but to enhance the comedy in the early goings and then seamlessly transition into more focused wrestling. The problem this match had was that it went too long. I understand that Grey wants to wrestle and become more than just a guy viewed as a comedy wrestler, but he needs to take things more slowly. Going straight from being a comedy match guy to trying to wrestle a 16 minute match is quite the jump no matter how good your opponent is, and Grey unfortunately couldn’t quite hold up his end here. Grey picked up the win with a new submission hold which looked to be a variation on a seated abdominal stretch. **1/2
Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll & Zack Sabre Jr.) def. Matt Sydal & Ricochet
This match marked the first time the Leaders have teamed in RPW since 2012, with Marty choosing to not cash in his number one contender’s right while his best friend is champion and instead reforming their team and issuing an open challenge to any team in the world.
The match started off in the playful way many matches involving both Scurll and Sabre Jr. tend to, with the verbal communication developing and complementing the story that was being told through the grappling. They were conveying the idea of Zack liking Marty but not his methods in this one, with him disapproving of his partner’s villainous moments but enjoying the experience of teaming with him again. They really did a great job of weaving this chapter of what feels like will become a long-running story into the action of the match without disrupting it too much as a pure wrestling match.
While some may feel the earlier portions of this match were a little too pedestrian and never really built anywhere, the last six minutes or so are undoubtedly great. The action flows wonderfully between all four men, and when all’s said and done, perhaps slightly surprisingly, Matt Sydal is the man who comes off most impressive. He really impresses early on with the underutilised technical side of his game, and when things pick up everything he does is so crisp and wonderful. The highlight of the entire match is when he seamlessly reverses Zack’s running european uppercut into a backslide pin, which is really something that has to be seen to be appreciated how magnificent it is.
The finish does unfortunately feel quite abrupt though, as if the match could have easily gone another handful of minutes and really benefitted from it. It came when Sydal had his shooting star press countered into a cross-armbreaker and, with the ref’s attention on Sydal’s hand to check for the potential tap-out, Marty took out first Ricochet with a shot from his umbrella and then hit Sydal with it as it looked like he was going to get his foot on the ropes to force a break. This allowed Sabre to roll Sydal back into the middle of the ring, which quickly resulted in him achieving a submission victory for the Leaders. However, Sabre Jr. was not happy after the match when he put together what had occurred and left the ring quickly without Scurll. ***3/4
Final Thoughts: With RevPro moving into the streaming service world they really needed to evolve away from a company that only needed paying attention to three times a year at the York Hall shows if they wanted people to be consistently subscribed to them. They needed to start running big cards in months that didn’t host a York Hall show, and on paper that was exactly what the Epic Encounter was. The card for the show wouldn’t have been out-of-place as one of their premier London offerings, so having this show was a smart move for the promotion.
I’ll let you guys behind the curtain a bit – after being live at this show, I came away very disappointed for the large part due to an incredibly dead crowd. I had a full final thoughts section of the review typed out talking about how awful they were (and the venue for that matter) but then when it came out on VOD I went in to rewatch a few parts and found that the crowd actually sounded pretty good on the VOD. I ended up rewatching the entire show, and this ended up being the only ever wrestling show I’ve been to live that I significantly prefered on tape. Whoever was in charge of micing the crowd did a tremendous job, as the crowd went from being my biggest gripe for the show to a non-issue. However, for a card that was set up for hardcore fans this drew from a local base, partially because Reading isn’t the easiest to travel to from most places in the UK and partially because many travelling fans had experienced the venue problems at Global Wars UK and consequently decided the show wasn’t worth the effort of travelling to despite the phenomenal card. Consequently the show didn’t draw particularly well, being noticeably down from the company’s debut in the complex (I’d estimate a drop from around 850 to 550). In my pre-rewatch section of this review I hammered home the point that this wasn’t the right venue for RPW’s big non-London shows, but now I’m not so sure. It still has the problem of not being easy to travel to and that it isn’t a great live venue for wrestling, but it does come across well on tape so there’s at least an argument to be made.
The show on the whole was probably a shade disappointing compared to my expectations for the card going in. For the most part it was consistently good without there being anything to blow you away, and while the main event was very engaging, a good storypiece and well worth your time it wasn’t quite enough for me to say that this show is a must-watch. Ospreay was definitely missed, as while Elgin vs. Ricochet was good as a replacement you have to feel Ospreay would have had a better match considering he wouldn’t have had to work double duty.
There’s certainly worse ways to spend your time and money though, and with RPW now using a streaming service model you can couple this solid show with some of their tremendous backlog if you’re on the fence.