Revolution Pro Wrestling
High Stakes 2017
January 21, 2017
York Hall, Bethnal Green, England

Watch: RPWOnDemand

Interim British Cruiserweight Championship
Josh Bodom def. Ryan Smile

I’m a fan of RevPro’s choice to present their product in a sports-oriented way, and that was evident on this card, with every match being a straight one-on-one (or two-on-two for the tag) matchup with no gimmicks or stipulations attached to bog things down, just straight up wrestling. However, their choice to adopt a UFC-style interim championship while Ospreay pursues the Heavyweight title at New Beginning is an annoying one, as the UFC themselves have overused interim titles to turn some of their divisions into convoluted messes, and pro wrestling already has well-established #1 contender stipulations.

Despite that niggle, this was a great choice of match to start the show, with Bodom going all out to rile up the crowd and Smile’s daredevil style creating some crazy moments in a match that didn’t slow down for its entire length. This was Smile’s first singles match in York Hall, and really, just his first truly high profile singles match. Considering that, he definitely made his first impression count, showcasing his crisp fluidity of movement that is on the same level as an Ospreay or Ricochet. Smile has always moved well, but his ability to build a strong match has grown a lot over the past year or so, and this match definitely benefited from both men being able to up the intensity towards the end, with Smile’s sequence of superkicks nearly winning him the match, before Bodom hit a (not)Project Ciampa and the Blissbuster to put him away. Not the man I would have picked to win, as Bodom/Ospreay has been done several times before, while Smile/Ospreay would be a fresh matchup for RevPro and is a proven great combination. ***½

British Tag Team Championship
Joel Redman & Charlie Sterling (c) def. War Machine

War Machine went straight after Redman and Sterling (it was never really explained why Charlie Garrett is now Charlie Sterling) and forced the champions to scramble immediately. This was a great dynamic to start the match off hot and it pervaded just about every sequence of this match, with Redman and Sterling needing to prove that they could work as a team to beat the bigger and stronger men, an advantage that they usually have against other teams. There was a sense of desperation by both teams to keep a 2-on-1 advantage throughout, because both teams emphasised how dangerous they were with their tag team combination moves. Redman and Sterling absolutely looked like they belonged in the ring with War Machine and could go blow-for-blow with them, only they had to play things a little smarter than usual and focus on the isolation game. The crowd supported War Machine over the ‘pretty boy’ champions, which is a fair take on the match even if it’s not the one the teams were trying to get across. That may have hurt the match for some people, but I really didn’t mind it, because the action was exciting enough on its own, and the swings in momentum got very dramatic towards the end. In the end, Redman and Sterling won the isolation battle, stopping Hanson from delivering a dive and cutting off Rowe’s plans, giving him their spinning piledriver/spinning senton finisher combo to win their best match to date as a team. ****

Post-match, Chris Brookes and Travis Banks, yet another Brookes team branded ‘CCK’, attacked Redman and Sterling. It’s great to see Brookes in RevPro for the very first time, and Banks has secured a full-time role after his tremendous performance at the Cockpit show a few weeks ago. Neither man has a contract with any other company, so it’s clear to see that RevPro are targeting unsigned talents going forward.

YOSHI-HASHI def. Pete Dunne 

Just a week after his starring role in the WWE UK Championship tournament, Dunne entered the York Hall to a hero’s welcome, and in comparison, YOSHI-HASHI’s reception was fairly subdued. Dunne came across as a real piece of work at the start of the match, being deliberately lackadaisical while applying submission holds and sauntering around the ring like the world was at his feet and YOSHI was so far beneath him that he barely even acknowledged his existence. YOSHI brought the fight to Dunne, but was fighting from underneath and constantly on the losing end of their exchanges.

Dunne bullied YOSHI, and he’s one of the best in the world at that style of wrestling, but the crowd never really rallied behind YOSHI like an NJPW crowd would have, instead being split between the underdog and the home favourite. Dunne is a heel, but his WWE UK run and his outstanding character work won him support from the York Hall crowd, which may have actually dampened the atmosphere in comparison to YOSHI’s underdog wins in New Japan last summer. The final stretch was still really strong though, with YOSHI kicking out of a Drop Dead, and proving his heart and desire to win by coming back and hitting all his big moves to pick up the win. A New Japan guy kicking out of a WWE guy’s finisher and then beating him is a firm display of where RevPro’s allegiances lie. ***½

Zack Sabre Jr. def. Marty Scurll

Sabre and Scurll have been involved in a year-long storyline for RevPro, centred on their renewed but strained friendship, where both men exhibited heelish tendencies, before Scurll ended things on a sour note at Global Wars by low-blowing Sabre. Sabre returned the favour at the Cockpit, and now they look to prove that they are better than each other here. After their years and years as friends and foes, this match felt like a culmination of their relationship, and as such their every interaction here was laden with meaning. They didn’t start off with Frye/Takayama punches, but it wouldn’t have made sense for them to do so, since they were trying to one-up each other and prove that they were the better wrestler. At 40 minutes, the match probably didn’t need as long of an opening segment as it did, but ultimately it didn’t take anything away from the quality of the match either. After the 20 minute mark, the crowd sensed that any move could end the match from that point on, and so were hooked into everything Scurll and Sabre did.

Most of the second half of the match was worked around armbar submissions, with both men trying to lock one in on multiple occasions; Scurll trying to one-up Sabre with his own move, while working in some finger joint manipulation while he was at it. Scurll went for the fingers several times, and even pulled Sabre’s finger with a bungee cord on the ring, which he probably should have been disqualified for. At least cover that up with a ref bump or something. The image of that move though was incredible, and was followed up with Sabre rolling to the outside and finding some tape to wrap up his fingers as a very DIY solution to the injury, another impactful image that made the match feel dangerous, and also reminded me of the scene in Metal Gear Solid 3 where Snake fixes his own injuries after he’s pushed off a bridge.

Some of the reversals down the stretch were breathtaking, and worked around the Armbars and Chickenwings that make the LDRS tag team famous. Every time Sabre fell into a jumping Chickenwing, or Sabre wrapped himself around Scurll and into an armbar, the crowd went insane and anticipated the finish, and seemingly every time, their opponent found a way out. Scurll even pulled out his signature umbrella to fight off an armbar attempt, but that was the last ace up his sleeve, and Sabre’s next reversal of a Chickenwing saw him roll up Scurll, in the same manner that he rolled up Shibata to defeat him last summer, to win the match by the skin of his teeth. This was a match that incorporated everything that made the LDRS famous, both as a pairing and since they found their own distinctive personalities. It is a signature Sabre match and a signature Scurll match, and is a must-see for any BritWres fan who has any investment in these two men’s careers. ****½

Trevor Lee def. Trent Seven

A comedown match between the dramatic ZSJ/Scurll match and the main event was definitely necessary, and this match worked well in that role with two guys who could deliver a fun match to wake the crowd up again. Lee invited Seven to a dance-off, but then attacked him before Seven could complete his moustache twirling, establishing Lee as terribly dastardly. Seven got in all of his schtick; rubbing his crotch before delivering a cricket bowl chop, smashing his hand on the ring post as always, and even getting in a crotch chop in reference to his new boss. Meanwhile Lee was referencing the Hardy Boyz throughout. The emphasis was certainly on fun here and that was what this match needed to be, so even though this wasn’t great in a vacuum, in the context of the whole show it definitely contributed to making the experience better. All that said, the level of work here was really high and the final combination of moves made Seven look devastating, so RevPro may be looking to secure him for a few more shows before WWE try to lock him up for good. ***

Jay White def. Martin Stone

Whereas Seven/Lee worked really well as a buffer match, this match felt out of place this late in the show, and the crowd confirmed that by making very little noise for anything that went on here. If this had been the second or third match on the show, Stone and White probably wouldn’t have had to go out of their way so much to get a reaction, and could have purely focussed on making this the best match that they could. Instead, they were stamping their feet and clapping their hands in an effort to get the crowd onside, when really everyone was just thinking about the main event at this point.

White has completely transitioned out of his Young Lion days, and now has white boots, a rocker jacket, and a haircut that doesn’t quite know what style it wants to be. His look is different but his wrestling ability continues to be great, and him and Stone seemed to have pretty good chemistry here as they wrestled at a fast pace with few issues until the very end, when White’s execution of the Boston Crab was clumsy and Stone’s tapout was far too quick, considering he was in control for the majority of the match. It was a weird end to a weird match, one that should have been very well received but suffered due to its place on the card. A re-match may be necessary to unlock the full potential of this matchup. **½

British Heavyweight Championship
Katsuyori Shibata (c) def. Matt Riddle

Shibata and Riddle are the two best BritWres imports on the scene today, and both have completely owned their roles in the UK so far. Shibata has been an excellent Champion in RevPro and will defend the belt in February at New Japan’s New Beginning, a very exciting prospect. Riddle meanwhile has shown so much love for the British fans, going out of his way to hang out with them after shows and embed himself in the BritWres culture. Some fans may be annoyed that a British show is being main evented by two imports here, but both have become staples of the scene in the last few months and have more than earned their shot here.

These two are also stylistically perfect for each other, and this was mostly wrestled shoot style with strikes and mat wrestling being the order of the day. Emphasis was placed on the immediate danger both men posed; that either man could end the match with one knockout strike or well-timed submission move. After a couple of minutes of evenly matched matwork, Shibata withstood Riddle’s chops from every corner of the ring and looked like a total badass, whipping the crowd into a frenzy before smacking Riddle down with his strikes and dropkick combo. Riddle fought back and hit several big moves on Shibata, including Shibata’s own sleeper hold and PK combo, but could not keep Shibata down. After Shibata deflected a few more kicks, he absolutely destroyed Riddle with a slap, and wrapped him up into a sleeper. One PK later and Shibabta had Riddle down, but locked on a final sleeper hold anyway as he wanted the submission victory, to prove a point to the former UFC fighter, and perhaps earn a bit of MMA cred that he never really won in his short time in MMA. An interesting wrinkle indeed to reference Shibata’s past at the end of the match.

Riddle wanted a handshake from Shibata at the start of the match, but never got it. A relative rookie in the ring, Riddle had not earned Shibata’s respect. This match was about Riddle proving that he was on Shibata’s level, and though Shibata defeated him, Riddle earned the mark of his respect at the end, with the two honouring each other and thanking the crowd for their support. A wonderful moment to end a terrific match and a terrific show. ****½

Final Thoughts

Two fantastic and memorable matches in ZSJ/Scurll and Shibata/Riddle will ensure that RPW High Stakes 2017 will get a look for end of year awards. Beyond those two matches though, this was a great and very watchable show from start to finish, only really lagging prior to the main event when the crowd was worn out and waiting for Shibata and Riddle. If every York Hall show this year can be as good as this, RevPro will be on for a very strong 2017.