Coming off several strong shows to start the year, including one of the best shows of WrestleMania weekend, RevPro are probably the best European promotion of 2017 so far. Their native talent has been better featured this year than ever before, with both Zack Sabre Jr. as Heavyweight Champion and CCK as Tag Team Champions now very well established in their positions. Epic Encounter 2017 will also crown an Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion, with Interim Champion Josh Bodom finally getting his shot at Will Ospreay, making his first York Hall appearance of the year. The highly anticipated main event sees Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks take on featured tag team Ryan Smile and Shane Strickland, teaming with Lio Rush, who makes his RevPro debut here.
Revolution Pro Wrestling
Epic Encounter 2017
April 13, 2017
British Tag Team Championship
CCK def. Martin Stone & Sami Callihan
The CCK combination of Chris Brookes and Travis Banks won the Tag titles at the most recent Cockpit show and have been warmly received into the fold in RevPro. Despite being the heels, the York Hall was well behind CCK as well as getting fired up by Callihan and Stone, so these teams were well-suited to opening the show with a hot crowd. Callihan’s spots were very familiar so soon after his very busy WrestleMania weekend, but all the bicycle kicks and laps around the ring have grown on me and seeing Stone, Brookes and Banks join in with Sami’s madness was a lot of fun. This was a short sprint of a tag match but it worked to the benefit of all four men’s styles and helped create something a bit more exciting than a bog-standard opener.
CCK, whether the Banks or Lykos version, are becoming one of the best acts in Britain now with more exposure for their distinctive, nefarious nature, and matches like this will help them make a mark on a wider audience. It’s reat to see the ‘second wave’ of Midlands guys getting over, following in the footsteps of British Strong Style. ***1/2
Post-match, Stone cut his ‘happy to be here’ promo, which was initially well-received by Callihan. However, after going in for a hug, Callihan attacked Stone, piledriving him before running Stone down. Callihan/Stone looks on for a future Cockpit or York Hall show.
Jay White def. Angelico
White’s been racking up wins in RevPro, but hasn’t been receiving any sort of star-level reactions. It was especially jarring at the last York Hall show, when his match with Martin Stone went down like a lead balloon. Sadly, it was the same story here, as a perfectly good match with Angelico failed to get going due to lack of audience involvement. Is it a White problem? Is it a York Hall problem? Most likely it’s a mix of both, and White probably needs better booking too; a reason to be fighting, beyond having an exhibition match, could well give him something to sink his teeth into.
The match was a pure technical matchup and that might have been a problem too. There’s nothing wrong with Angelico proving that he is a good wrestler as well as a death-defying high-flyer, but ‘as-advertised’, that is what he is and what the crowd was expecting, so I think the heavy focus on grappling throughout did affect the crowd’s investment. Things heated up towards the end and ironically it was White who did the first and only dive of the match. The crowd responses were there for the final sequences. White won with his Liontamer, which is one of the best built moves in RevPro now. **
Hirooki Goto def. Zack Gibson
Both men got great reactions; Goto received a hero’s welcome for his first match in the UK and Gibson was met with his usual nuclear heat. Goto had no chance of understanding the Scouse accent, which made Gibson’s promo on him even funnier. These reactions gave the match some extra energy that the previous match was missing. It was clear both men were up for making a strong impression; for Gibson especially this was likely the biggest match of his life. He went for dives and other moves outside of his usual repertoire to ensure he made this match feel special, as well as really capitalising on his reactions by timing his cutoffs of Goto’s offence really well, building the heat of the match. Goto was by no means on auto-pilot here, with his offence looking as good as in any of his New Japan singles matches as he ran through Gibson on his comeback. It’s fair to say Scouse Style and Strong Style mixed very well.
Gibson pulling out the infamous car stereo and causing Will Ospreay to interfere didn’t hurt the match at all, as Goto dodged and landed an awesome-looking GTR to win. This wouldn’t be the last time Gibson and Ospreay interacted on this show as RevPro builds their Cockpit stories further. ***1/2
Hiromu Takahashi def. Marty Scurll
The best part of this match was the very beginning, as two charisma machines met each other for the first time. Takahashi licking Scurll’s umbrella before getting wacked in the face with it won’t be forgotten by anyone watching for a long while. The pair started the match with several exciting minutes, including a few manic dives and a few more teases of even crazier ones.
After the first few minutes the match was looking like something potentially special, but then the pair decided to go for a wander up the stage, crowd brawling for an achingly long time without a big move for a payoff. They traded some strikes, played to the crowd, then rolled back into the ring having cooled the match down significantly. Hiromu also kept throwing superkicks to a lesser reaction each time, while Marty was leaning heavily on his shtick, which was all good fun but not conducive to having a blow-away match. Both men’s charisma and facial expressions were enough to carry the match through to the end and there were plenty of fun moments, but nothing to lodge this match in my mind when I’m looking back at the end of the year. ***
British Cruiserweight Championship
Josh Bodom def. Will Ospreay
I was initially critical of RevPro’s introduction of an Interim Cruiserweight Championship when Ospreay was unavailable for January’s York Hall show, but the story of undeserving bastard Bodom running his mouth at every opportunity has actually played out really well, leading to this blowoff match to unify the titles.
The focus of the match was clear from the moment Ospreay took off his entrance jacket, revealing a big chunk of tape right in the middle of his back, acting as a target for Bodom’s attacks throughout. Bodom looked vicious going after the taped back straight away and there’s few wrestlers better at garnering sympathy through selling than Ospreay. It’s been a while since he’s been able to assume that sympathetic role due to his New Japan success making him rarely cast in the underdog role these days, but with Bodom doing so well as a heel, Ospreay naturally slid into the role he played so well in his incredible 2015 York Hall matches against Matt Sydal and AJ Styles. After he took a sick back bump onto the tope rope from the turnbuckle, Ospreay’s selling of the back really put this match over the top. He made the crowd notice the back with just about every move he made. I especially enjoyed him grasping at his back after he ran the ropes, an action often taken for granted in the middle of a sequence of moves, but highlighted really well here. Bodom was impressive too though, hitting the same crazy dive he hit against David Starr in Orlando along with displaying great animosity towards Ospreay.
After Bodom hit an awesome release German suplex, the match hit an extra gear and felt like it could end at any point from then on. Like Goto/Gibson, the match wasn’t devalued by interference, here from Zack Gibson, as it blended pretty well with the rest of the closing stretch. Bodom’s eventual win may have felt a little hollow as a result of the interference but the match did establish him as the legitimate champion and moves Ospreay onto a new feud straight away. ****
No DQ Match
James Castle def. Sha Samuels
Castle and Samuels had a diabolical Tag title run a couple of years ago and have now exploded, leading to this grudge match. This was the excuse to cheer Samuels the York Hall has been waiting for, as the crowd gave him one of the loudest reactions of the night after he casually threw out a moonsault to the outside. He’s done that at the Cockpit before, but in the big building it was something special. This one was short but had several memorable moments, such as Castle pulling out a handsaw and of course the aforementioned moonsault. It was enjoyable for what it was and gave Samuels a good York Hall showing after missing out on the last couple of shows. **1/2
British Heavyweight Championship
Zack Sabre Jr. def. KUSHIDA
At this stage of the show from a live perspective, a lot of people were worried about the show over-running after a late start, and as a result, were considering options for getting home and potentially missing the end of the show. What was needed was a balls-to-the-wall match to lift people’s spirits and bring the show to a crescendo of excitement. Instead, we got a near 30 minute technical contest that at several points felt like ZSJ and KUSHIDA were going through the motions and working holds for the sake of it.
It seemed that the story of the match never really developed beyond the pair trading holds. Sabre and KUSHIDA were experiencing the EVOLVE-version Timothy Thatcher problem of doing holds for the sake of it. Sabre never behaved particularly aggressive, as his character has developed into in RevPro and now New Japan, meaning there were no real character quirks on his behalf for the crowd to react to. All of the grappling was solid stuff and some of the counters near the end of the match looked great, but the lack of context to place it all into, combined with the crowd clock-watching and anticipating an Elite spotfest in the main event, stopped the match short of making any lasting impression.
I’ve really enjoyed Sabre this year and especially his work in RevPro, so this was a rare misfire on his behalf. He wasn’t helped by the circumstance of the match’s semi-main placement, but Zack also didn’t adapt the match to the time situation at all. This came across a bit better on VOD but the live experience was bad. BritWres needs to get its act together when it comes to starting shows on time and adapting when delays occur. **
The Elite def. Lio Rush, Ryan Smile & Shane Strickland
The crowd gave The Elite one of the loudest receptions I’ve ever heard in the York Hall. Maybe only Kurt Angle has ever received a bigger reaction. It was also good to see Omega in his black tights; he probably knows that we know his tye-dye tights are the sign that he isn’t taking the match seriously, so this was a conscious choice to show the fans he wasn’t going to half-arse his way through the match, even if this was to be a ‘less-than-serious’ affair. There was obviously going to be a lot of Elite schtick in this match and that wasn’t going to be suited to everyone in the hardcore demographic, but for the ‘semi-hardcore’ York Hall, this was exactly what was needed after the ultra-slow semi-main event. Rush, Strickland and Smile were playing foil to The Elite’s antics throughout, but Rush in particular stood out even despite this. This was the first time I had seen him live and his sheer quickness was really impressive and he already has somewhat of a star aura built as the crowd took to him straight away. In a few years, he could in the star role that Omega and the Bucks were in here.
The Elite’s signature spots were a pleasure to see live and the crowd ate them up. The Terminator dives and the ‘psyche up’ spot where they end up beating each other up were the highlights. There were plenty of very impressive sequences between all six guys, especially the lengthy final sequence of Meltzer Driver attempts which Rush, Smile and Strickland kept thwarting, which was a fun way of depriving the crowd of the finishing move for so long and came across as a funny self-aware nod to the crowd feeling the pressure of clock-watching to get the last train home.
This was about as close as many British fans will ever get to a PWG match and environment and despite the time crunch the live crowd was in, it was impossible not to enjoy the craziness on display here. A fun and memorable end to the show, though still not the best Elite 6-man match of the Easter weekend. ***1/2
A mixed bag of very strong, fun matches along with a few that missed the mark or didn’t live up to expectations. There was also no blow-away match like there have been for the past few major RevPro shows, meaning Epic Encounter 2017 was one of the weaker York Hall shows in recent memory. In addition to that, the show started 40 minutes late and seemingly had no time cut from any of the matches, which really hurt my enjoyment of the second half. Plenty of people had to leave before the end of the main event and I only barely made the last train home after I ran out of the door as soon as the Meltzer Driver landed. That just shouldn’t be happening, so RevPro will need to take a look at their door opening times to ensure everyone is in by the advertised start time.