Back in the Spring the RPW twitter account (@RevProUK) posed the question to their followers as to whether they would be interested in a fourth York Hall show being added to the normally tri-annual schedule of their supershows if there was potential for a “once in a lifetime dream match” to be held. Shortly after receiving a positive response the show was added for mid-June. For the intermittent week speculation ran rampant as to what the match in question could possibly be, with names like Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, Kota Ibushi and even Hulk Hogan being thrown out, but when the announcement finally came the match was revealed as Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kurt Angle. On the strength of the match billed as “Best Technical Wrestler in the World vs. Olympic Gold Medalist”, without any of the undercard being announced, the show sold out the York Hall’s 1,200 seat capacity well over a month in advance.
Thankfully, RevPro proceeded to come through with a tremendous undercard befitting of the tradition that the company has built up with its York Hall shows, including Chris Hero’s debut and Will Ospreay’s return as a conquering hero following his Best of the Super Juniors victory.
Revolution Pro Wrestling
Angle vs. Sabre Jr.
June 12, 2016
I managed to snag a ticket to this show on the secondary market, so I can tell you that right from the get go you could tell that this crowd was something special even by York Hall’s high standards. There was a real buzz around the building, and watching the show back on tape I was really happy to see how well it translated in general; you’re never going to be able to get the full live experience through a streaming service but watching on RPWonDemand you can definitely get a taste for how special the building felt.
Marty Scurll def. Noam Dar
This match came about as a result of the events following Dar’s success in his Cruiserweight Classic qualifier. The highlight of this match really was Scurll’s resplendent entrance in his new white gear complete with matching white fur coat. It was quite the look, and just added to Scurll’s already attention grabbing entrance.
Unfortunately the match itself failed to grab me in the same way. The work was all crisp and both men got all their crowd pleasing spots in, but they never really did anything to make the match stand out or feel particularly memorable and there were probably one or two spots in there that were a little too cutesy too. There was a hint at Dar targeting the knee in a few different periods but it was never really sustained or built upon. Disappointing given the calibre of both participants, but still a good match that did a fine job opening the show. Scurll tapped Dar out with his Crossface Chickenwing submission. In many ways this felt like stalling for time before Scurll’s inevitable big clash with the British Champion: his partner Zack Sabre Jr. ***1/4
Pete Dunne def. Martin Stone
Former RPW mainstay and champion “The Guv’nor” Martin Stone has spent the majority of his last year working in Florida and the South of America, but made his return home here to face the RPW Cruiserweight Champion Pete Dunne in a non-title match. I was somewhat saddened, but not entirely shocked, to see that a significant portion of the crowd seemed either unfamiliar or lacked a connection with Stone. Stone’s prime on the British scene was from 2004-10 and, while he did make a post-NXT return in 2014 towards the beginning of the UK indie boom, he has been away for a long time.
The match itself was enjoyable but felt like it was missing something. They went for a slugfest feel, and at times it worked, but the lack of crowd reaction combined with the semi-stilted flow of the match prevented it from developing past a good but ultimately forgettable match. It should be noted that Dunne has managed to get himself over really well as a heel for the RevPro audience though, and while he’s yet to have a really breakout match for the company he’ll have a real opportunity to when he faces Ospreay at the Summer Sizzler. Dunne beat Stone with a Pumphandle Facebuster following a low-blow. ***1/4
Big Damo def. Big Daddy Walter
This should have been one hell of a hoss fight, but it suffered from the same problem a lot of Damo matches suffer from: he really doesn’t lay his strikes in enough for a man his size. Walter is the complete opposite, and as a result comes off as a complete monster but, while Damo is a very polished worker, the lack of ‘umph’ behind his strikes always brings down the intensity of his matches and stops them from reaching that top level.
Another thing that stood out to me, and this is going to sound hyper nit-picky, was that there was a huge amount of covers in this match and it did end up as a negative. The near constant covers after every single move hurt the match’s flow, preventing it from gaining any real momentum at times.
Walter is one of the best big men in the world, and as mentioned Damo’s matches are always well worked, so this was definitely a more than good match and a solid example of Europe’s burgeoning Big Lads Wrestling scene. However, after Damo submitted Walter with a scissored crossface I was left thinking about what could have been. ***1/4
Will Ospreay def. Mike Bailey
This was Ospreay’s big show return as the conquering hero after winning the Best of the Super Juniors over in Japan, and my goodness what a reaction he got. To say he was worshipped by the crowd wouldn’t be hyperbolic; for a good seven minutes the crowd was just going absolutely crazy for him. It comes across okay on the VOD but the below fan video from the balcony gives a better taste, although nothing can compare to what it was like being there on the floor for it.
The match itself was great. I know Ospreay is somewhat polarising but if you are one of the many who loves his work then this is a match that’s well worth searching out. Bailey was a great opponent for him, working really well controlling the earlier portions and cutting Ospreay off when he went for his big moves early allowing for the times later in the match when he did finally hit them to feel like big moments.
A frequent complaint about Ospreay’s matches that I’ve seen is his lack of striking ability, a complaint that I always view as way overblown, but in particular in this match I thought Ospreay’s strikes looked excellent. He didn’t look at all out of place trading with one of the best strikers on the independents in Bailey, although I did like that for the most part when it went to strikes Bailey was the one to come out on top because that was his area of expertise.
For those of you that were active on twitter during the Best of the Super Juniors there were even a couple of Vader related spots for you to enjoy/groan at. Ospreay made a big deal over hitting a Vader Bomb (which was kicked out of at one followed by a ‘Really?’ look from Bailey), and then not long after Bailey did a completely purposeless standing backflip and followed it up with the Vader hand sign.
The biggest negative of this match was that, as good as the action was, it was missing any real through-line. I loved every second of it, but the lack of a clear story does put a ceiling on the match’s quality. I think it’d be a disservice to call this match a spot-fest, but some of the spots that were included here were breathtaking. My personal highlight was a beautiful springboard Code Red (leg-trap sunset flip powerbomb).
I’ve seen Ospreay have better matches in the same building, but this is yet another match that’ll be added to Ospreay’s ever growing portfolio of greatness. While the match was great though, the crowd reaction before is what is going to make the occasion memorable. Ospreay won with the Springboard OsCutter (horrible name for the move for the record), to give him some momentum going into his title challenge next month. ****
After the match Ospreay got on the mic, thanked the crowd and then announced that in 2017 he would be considerably cutting back on his independent dates because he body couldn’t continue to take his current schedule. However, he then followed up by saying that as long as RPW are running shows he will continue to perform on them.
At his current rate he’s on course for around 140 matches this year, a simply untenable amount for any house-show-less schedule, so this announcement was somewhat inevitable. Him limiting himself to only the upper tier UK indies is for the best in the long run, and will make his appearances all the more special.
Josh Bodom def. Chris Hero
This was so close to be a career making match for Josh Bodom. So damn close.
Hero, and if you’ve been paying attention to him this last year then this will come as no suprise, was magnificent. All his strikes connected sublimely (well, apart from one where he shared a knowing look with the crowd after before repeating it with far better success), he led and paced the match brilliantly and in general just continued to be the best veteran indie wrestler that exists.
Bodom really upped his game in the striking department in this match, in particular with some tremendous roundhouse kicks to Hero’s left arm throughout the match. These kicks left Hero throwing strikes with just the one arm, and only then did it feel like the two men were equal. Every time Bodom got the upperhand it was because Hero took his eye off the ball slightly, or because Bodom went down a slightly underhanded path. I really enjoyed that Bodom was presented really strongly but still a shade below Hero’s level; he’s an up and comer and shouldn’t be presented as a world beater quite yet because there needs to be room left for growth. They tried to find the balance between the victory coming across as flukey and somewhat undeserving while still feeling very important and impressive that is so hard to get right when elevating a young heel, but they really managed to nail it throughout the course of the match.
Then the finish came. Hero was on his knees following a low blow, and Bodom ended the match by knocking him out with a rolling elbow and pinning him for a huge victory. Unfortunately the elbow just didn’t land particularly well. I realise that sounds hyper critical to focus in on one strike when he’d done so well for the entire match, but when the finish is an unimpressive elbow and there’s been at least fifteen better elbows thrown in the match it can’t help but bring it down. It was a real shame, because it was set up to be a really wonderful moment by the prior work and it ended up coming off kind of damp. Still a very good match, but had the finish been nailed then it would have put a wonderful bow on a story that I would have considered great. ***1/2
British Tag Team Championships
Joel Redman & Charlie Garrett def. The Revolutionists (Samuels & Castle)
The Revolutionists have been awful champions. During their 364 day run as champions they didn’t have a single match I’d consider even just good. Castle is simply not ready for the spot he’s been put in and Samuels has just been super disappointing. He’s a wrestler who is excellent at interacting with the crowd but during his run in this team that’s been all he’s done. He’s shown in other promotions that he can wrestle but over the last year in RevPro he’s almost exclusively relied on heel tropes and it wore very thin very quickly. They consistently had the worst match on every single show they were on.
This match may have actually been their best match as champions due to only featuring an abbreviated version of their usually long and boring heat segment. That’s saying more about their reign though, because this was nothing special, but at least it broke down early and was fairly interesting from that point onwards. Redman and Garrett haven’t yet shown themselves to be world-beaters, but their matches at least have had an energy to them that was severely lacking in almost all Revolutionists matches. Garrett is still fairly raw and generic, looking a lot like a miniature version of Redman but with some flips and twists thrown in to compensate, but he brings an effort level that seemingly blows away both former champions away. They won the belts with a tombstone piledriver followed by a corkscrew senton. **3/4
Kurt Angle def. Zack Sabre Jr.
Both these men got tremendous ovations during their entrances and introductions, and it resulted in the match really having a big feel even with Kurt in his current somewhat broken down state. When walking out Angle got a huge reaction that was immediately transitioned into “You Suck” chants to go with his old WWE ‘Medals’ theme that had him corpsing all the way down to the ring.
The match as a whole just felt really special. It’s an overused cliche, but the atmosphere really was the proverbial electric. Going in I wasn’t too sure what to expect and wasn’t overly hyped, but being there live I really got swept up in it all. It isn’t something that completely translates to tape unfortunately. The crowd reacted huge for every single one of Angle’s signature spots and exploded for every german suplex, Angle Slam and ankle lock.
The work itself was exactly what it should have been. Angle’s body is in no condition to be putting on epics anymore, and the match would have suffered had he tried. Instead this was a ‘greatest hits’ match that really just worked with the crowd it was in front of. The whole thing was a great spectacle and more than anything a whole lot of fun.
In the end Angle won by tapping Sabre out with the ankle lock. I would completely listen to an argument that having your champion submit to a broken down 47 year old who will likely never work for the company again in a non-title match is a terrible idea, especially when you are billing your champion as the “greatest wrestler in the world”. I would probably even agree in theory. But being there in the building I didn’t get the sense that Sabre was hurt at all here, and while I can’t see into the future I don’t think that during Zack’s next title defense people will be thinking back to this encounter and think less of him.
This wasn’t any sort of match of the year contender, it wasn’t even what I’d consider a great match. This match was a special match though, and a great conclusion to an incredibly satisfying show. ***1/2
This wasn’t the best bell-to-bell show you’ll see all year. Hell, there’s been better York Hall shows from this very company earlier this year. However, the entire event had a very special feel about it all. If you have any connection to BritWres and in particular Ospreay’s rise then this is must-watch material. Even if you don’t, the top three matches are more than worth checking out.