The fourth of the eight Pro Wrestling World Cup qualifiers saw What Culture jump across the continents to host the Canadian leg in association with SMASH wrestling. Two from the quality list of Elgin, Bailey, O’Reilly, FTM, Smith, Banks, Dupree and Dux will fill slots #7 and #8 for the finals later in the Summer.

What Culture Pro Wrestling
Pro Wrestling World Cup
May 14, 2017
Phoenix Concert Theatre
Toronto, Canada

Watch: YouTube

Dave Bradshaw and Alex Shane are on commentary for this show. Alex Shane is one of the few commentators who is actively more annoying than Matt Striker.

Pro Wrestling World Cup First Round
Michael Elgin def. Rene Dupree

Modern day Rene Dupree has built a reputation of being the king of the two star special. I was all set to say this match overdelivered on that reputation. These two big guys were wrestling a hard hitting, snug affair with all their offense being real crisp and clean, while keeping up a good pace too; it was good stuff. Then out of nowhere about six minutes in Rene rolls out of the ring, picks up a chair and pushes the ref with it, getting DQed. Somebody didn’t want to job clean. Sigh. *3/4

Pro Wrestling World Cup First Round
Harry Smith def. Franky the Mobster

Franky’s name really doesn’t fit him anymore. He’s working a “Beast King” gimmick while still going under “the Mobster” moniker. Very strange.

This was a fun compact match though. Smith noticed that the local crowd was behind Franky early on, and started working heel to some great reactions, and dominated the early portions of the match. Franky then made a solid comeback, only to be cut off and fall to a piledriver to allow Harry to advance. They kept things very basic, especially structurally, but they got good crowd reactions and everything was well executed. Smith also came away looking really strong, which is a big plus going into his second round match later in the night against Elgin. ***

Pro Wrestling World Cup First Round
Mike Bailey def. Brent Banks

If you could go back and clean up this match it’d be great. As it is it’s still a very good match, but there’s too much sloppiness for me to go all in praise wise. There’s a couple of timing issues, a couple of strikes where the distancing makes things seem awkward and at one point Bailey  slips on a springboards and falls to the mat and Banks just stands there and waits for him to get back up. However, they did a lot right in this match, and the crowd loved it to bits for all its flaws. They started with a lot of mirroring, with neither man able to get the advantage, and slowly built the pace until it reached a frenetic level. There was for sure an element of move trading, but there was a constant feeling of purpose that some ‘move trade’ matches lack that put it ahead of them. Overall a thumbs up, and a match I’m sure many will enjoy more than me. Bailey advanced with his Shooting Star Knees. ***1/2

Pro Wrestling World Cup First Round
Kyle O’Reilly def. Tyson Dux

Tyson Dux is a wrestler who always gets rave reviews from his fellow wrestlers but consistently underwhelms in the ring. He regularly gets put in the ring with great wrestlers and has matches that are just about good with them. This was an example of just that. They work the match focused around dueling limb work, with Dux focusing on O’Reilly’s knee while having his own arm worked over by Kyle. However, whereas Kyle sold his ass off and was great at finding interesting ways to inflict damage, whenever Dux was on top thing were, simply put, boring. Dux just doesn’t bring any dynamism or any flair to the table; he never stands out or makes me want to see him again. He’s always fine, never good. O’Reilly thankfully came out on top of the limbwork battle, and submitted Dux with Arm-ageddon to progress to meet Bailey later in the night. ***1/4

Internet Championship
Gabriel Kidd def. Zack Sabre Jr.

Prior to winning the title Kidd had lost a hard-fought battle against Sabre, so this was his attempt to set that right. This was a really good match, perhaps Kidd’s best to date. He tried to go toe-to-toe with Sabre and managed to hang in there while never really managing to gain a prolonged advantage. There was an intensity to everything that is sometimes lacking from Sabre’s more technical battles, and Kidd once again did a great job in playing the plucky underdog. The match escalated wonderfully, with Kidd consistently displayed as being behind but Zack never quite able to put him away. Sabre eventually resorted to a barrage of PKs, but on the third Kidd managed to dodge and counter into a small package which picked him up the win. Pretty much the perfect first title defense for Kidd, telling a wonderful story that show Kidd’s progression without having him all of a sudden being presented as Sabre’s technical equal just because he’s won a championship. ***3/4

Pro Wrestling World Cup Second Round
Michael Elgin def. Harry Smith

What made this match work was its structure. It started as almost an exact mirror of Smith’s first round match with Frankie the Mobster, and so when they approached the finish of the prior match the crowd was 100% bought in. Smith, like in the first round, capitalised on a distracted ref with a low blow to cut off a comeback after dominating the early goings, then followed it up with the same piledriver that defeated FTM. As such, Elgin’s kickout got an amazing reaction, and the final few minutes that followed that, which saw Big Mike valiantly fighting back and eventually advancing with the Elgin Bomb, saw the live crowd be tremendously invested. Just intelligent stuff, and a great use of the tournament format. ***1/2

Pro Wrestling World Cup Second Round
Mike Bailey def. Kyle O’Reilly

This was excellent, the two guys meshed perfectly together. They wrestled a match that was rooted very strongly in MMA, with a very non-wrestling feel to their early sparring, clinches, takedown and groundwork. As things progressed they slowly went more and more ‘pro-wrestling’, but overall they managed to create a very different feel around this match to what you typically see and I loved it.

O’Reilly brought a leg injury into this one from the first round, and the entire match was structured around it beautifully. O’Reilly spent the entire match trying to protect  it, and at times they even told the brilliantly nuanced story of Bailey over-focusing on the injured body part to his overall detriment as it was taking him away from his standard game. In the end though the combination of the injury and Bailey proved too much for Kyle, with there being multiple times when it looked as if he would have been able to achieve the victory had he come into the match fully healthy.

There was one or two slightly sloppy sections, which is unfortunately almost a given with any Bailey match, but overall this was just sublime stuff. If you’re into wrestling that mixes in some MMA-inspired realism then this is must watch. Bailey advanced to the finals later in the Summer by hitting the Shooting Star Knees. ****

Joe Hendry def. El Ligero

Hendry has been the most just a guy generic heel champion since he turned, and this was no different. Ligero’s comebacks were well done and got me into the match, but every other part of the match bored me to tears. Generic heelish lazy rubbish with ref bumps, boring control periods, belt shots, visual pins etc. etc. Hendry just hasn’t been very good in his role. Thumbs down. **3/4

Final Thoughts:

This was comfortably the best of the four Pro Wrestling World Cup shows so far. There was a consistency to pretty much everything, and while the opener wasn’t good it was at least short. The show as a whole was a good main event away from being a great show, but alas, Hendry as champion continued to underwhelm here. Bailey vs. O’Reilly is well worth checking out, for my money it’s the second best match What Culture have hosted under their brand. It’s also worth noting that the crowd was tremendous throughout the night, a real addition to the show.