We clamber aboard the Floating Dream Factory once more for their third York Hall outing of 2017. Ahoy! July’s British J Cup set up Jushin Thunder Liger for a shot at Josh Bodom’s Cruiserweight Championship here, while Chris Brookes tapping out Zack Sabre Jr. at last month’s Cockpit makes him the next challenger to ZSJ’s British Heavyweight Championship, a title he’s now synonymous with. Brookes’ big singles match frees up his fellow Tag Team Champion, Travis Banks, for a big battle of the Kiwis against New Japan’s Jay White, who may or may not have a new fixation on switchblades and Jackie Collins novels.
Revolution Pro Wrestling
August 17, 2017
York Hall, Bethnal Green, London
Martin Stone def. Eddie Dennis
Stone’s opponent here was supposed to be Sami Callihan, but due to a Callihan injury, perpetual underdog Dennis steps in to make his York Hall debut. Eddie’s been a highlight of RevPro’s Cockpit shows for some months now with one of the best ‘losing streak’ stories I’ve ever seen, so it’s good to see him get a chance on the big stage.
The match was at its best when Dennis was selling. Stone’s offence is suitably rugged and his beating down the sympathetic Dennis worked well. Stone never really played the heel though so crowd reactions were fairly muted without a real reason to want to see Dennis get back at Stone. Some of Stone’s shtick is cringe-worthy and didn’t jell well with the visuals of Dennis struggling from behind, especially Stone’s dick-grabbing spot which actually led directly into the finish. Dennis never got a major hope spot and didn’t have to be destroyed to be beaten, instead he just had his balls squeezed and was hit with one finisher, a rather disappointing end to his first York Hall match. Still, there was good stuff here which acts as proof of Dennis’ improvement so far this year. **½
Sha Samuels vs Bully Ray happened in this slot but did not make the VOD, for “continuity” reasons as per RevPro’s Twitter Q&A, and “A small degree of respect goes a long way.” It seems Andy Quildan was not happy with how Bully worked with Sha.
Zack Gibson def. Dalton Castle
Gibson came out with an actual gang of men, hoods and all, wearing his parody Liverpool shirts, before cutting The Promo to an excellent round of boos. Gibson’s back in PROGRESS now and recently got a great reaction on their US shows, but he still feels more like a RevPro guy in 2017 and getting a big spotlight with this special entrance affirms that. Castle is a bit of an underwhelming import opponent for Gibson, especially since the Cockpit shows were building up a match against Will Ospreay that may never happen now. He’s a hell of a lot of fun though and matched up well against Gibson here.
There was a lot of ‘hot-dogging and grandstanding’ before any actual wrestling kicked in, but the live crowd ate up Castle’s ultra-charisma and Gibson got a great reaction when he broke up the fun, so I can’t complain about the relative lack of action early on. This evolved into a better version of the match Dennis and Stone were aiming for, with Gibson beating down Castle to great heat and Castle looking for any openings to hit his awesome-looking deadlift attacks. The really well-worked technical sequences, supported by each man’s strong characters, prove how far Gibson has come as an all-round performer and prove me wrong for poo-pooing Castle when he was announced for this show.
Again, I felt the ending to this match felt abrupt, with not a great amount of build to Gibson pulling Castle into the Shankly Gates for a quick tap out. This was very enjoyable though and got a sustained reaction from the York Hall crowd, assuaging any fears that this crowd may sit on their hands for the most part as they did at High Stakes. ***
The Briscoes def. Shane Strickland & Ryan Smile
It’s time for your problematic tag match! We all know about the Briscoes’ incorrectness in the past, but Ryan Smile’s use of Twitter recently has certainly made him unpalatable to many fans. He’s very good in the ring but has a reputation for being a bit of a nightmare outside of it, and that comes to the fore in the confines of Twitter.
Whatever you think of the Briscoes, they are a great tag team and have innate senses for what works in these kinds of matches. That showed through here, as they kept the action focussed and threw in plenty of interesting tag scenarios which changed up the pace of the match and kept the crowd on their toes. For instance, Smile whipping a Briscoe onto the side of the ring where his brother was stood led to a quickie tag and the Briscoes blindsiding Smile to take control of the match. I was worried this match may have ended up as a spotfest but small, smart moment like that made it all feel logical.
Strickland tagging in kicked the match into a faster pace, leading to some solid nearfalls with both teams hitting big sequences of moves on each other. A last millisecond pin breakup by the Briscoes got a great reaction and put the Briscoes back on top in the match, leading to them hitting an awesome Burning Hammer/Doomsday Device double move on Smile for the win. Smart tag work and some impressive double team move combos made this match the best on the show so far. ***½
Jay White def. Travis Banks
Andy Quildan on commentary referenced the fact that White is on a 6-match winning streak as this match was starting, which I really dig. The results of the match actually matter and are remembered, whether you’re British or an import. It makes this a match between a Tag Champion and a major singles name, so a win for either man means a great deal. Also important to note that White was looking bigger than ever before here, as he’s clearly bulking up for a return to New Japan as a heavyweight.
Straight away, this match felt much more physical than anything before it on this show. White and Banks traded plenty of hefty strikes early on, but their application of headlocks and the like also felt a little more intense than usual, as the two Kiwis looked to be in full effort mode for this one. White established physical dominance early but Banks’ intensity allowed him to actually control much of the match, as he fired off some big suicide dives and a coast-to-coast dropkick. White countered all his signature moves though, flattening his momentum, before turning Banks’ signature Enziguri into a facebuster that Banks took on his face, flat as a pancake for a brilliantly brutal bump. White scored the victory after locking in a Boston Crab that he knelt down on Liontamer-style for the painful submission.
This was easily White’s best match in RevPro yet with so much more to get excited about than his matches against Stone and Angelico. Banks brought a level of intensity he probably hasn’t reached since his Infinity win and then sold his arse off for White’s finishing offence. Great stuff. ****
British Cruiserweight Championship
Josh Bodom (c) def. Jushin Thunder Liger
Liger earned this title shot after his two minute upset over Bodom as part of his miracle run to win the British J Cup in July. Bodom’s well-established now as an irredeemable bastard and his charisma meshes very well with Liger’s, so the crowd was fired up for this one. They ran through the same opening two minutes as their previous match, leading to an awesome nearfall after Liger hit the Shotei/Liger Bomb/Brainbuster combo that earned him the win last time. Bodom snubbed out Liger’s momentum with several dives, but the match maintained its pace and Liger got plenty of offence in – no marathon sell-job here like at the BJ Cup final. This match aimed for a frantic Junior style and got good results in doing so.
The finish was a bit weird, with Bodom low-blowing Liger as he got back into the ring, then delivering a Bliss Buster, but the ultimate BritWres handwave of ‘Do you job Roberts!’ means such egregious rule-breaking can be overlooked. This was shorter than a lot of other matches on the card and needed more time to breathe, but it was great to see Liger in a big spot, the crowd were fully into the action and it’s a match that further cements Bodom’s place as a major feature on these York Hall cards. ***
British Heavyweight Championship
Zack Sabre Jr. (c) def. Chris Brookes
A Lanky Socialist Battle!
ZSJ is 1-for-2 on lengthy York Hall matches this year, with his 40-minute bout against Marty Scurll going over very well, while I found his match against KUSHIDA to be very tedious and misplaced on a card that was already badly overrunning. Brookes is a completely fresh opponent for him and in one of the biggest matches of his life. It’s certainly the biggest singles spot he’s ever been in. CCK were brought into RevPro as heels, but the crowd reactions have turned them face and Brookes was firmly the favourite here against ‘prick-mode’ Sabre.
ZSJ brought a great mix of violence and niftiness to the early exchanges and while Brookes’ offence didn’t pop off the screen to the same level as Sabre’s, he more than kept up with Sabre and the best early spots were ones where Brookes surprised Sabre with a unique counter and beat him at his own game. As expected, this match stayed grounded and I don’t think either man ever left the ring, except for when Brookes set up his springboard cutter.
It was an intricate match but with plenty of emotion worked in, as the pride of both men was on display in their strikes and submissions. Brookes was trying to tap out Sabre as he did at the Cockpit, trying to prove himself on the big stage. It almost came off for him, even locking in the same Octopus hold move that he beat Sabre with before, but ZSJ made the ropes this time. Brookes’ pride got the better of him, as he missed a ZSJ signature Penalty Kick and left himself open for full-on Sabre torment, as Zack locked in his own Octopus Stretch and slammed kicks into the back of Brookes’ head, knocking him out and following up with a series of vicious blows in a beautifully violent finish that looked like a proper MMA fight stoppage.
This was really high level stuff, which Brookes has been capable of for some years now but has finally unlocked a character and image to give him the opportunity to show off his skills in big time bouts like this. Sabre has built quite the run as British Heavyweight Champion, so while we don’t think about him a lot between shows and defences, when a York Hall show rolls around and he has an awesome match, it does feel like he’s in the midst of a title reign that will be well remembered in the future. ****
Marty Scurll def. Rey Mysterio
I wasn’t too enthused about this match, neither being a huge fan of Scurll or really wanting to see a broken down Mysterio, so this as the main event was one of the matches that caused me to stay home from this show. I say ‘broken down’, but Mysterio broke out some very nifty tricks here as he and Marty seemed to work very well together. Rey definitely outperformed my expectations here and brought a hell of a lot more than just his signature spots to the table. Scurll leant heavily into his already-tired Bullet Club shtick early on, but when he focused on running through sequences with Rey, thing gelled together nicely.
The best moments here were 619 teases, which Scurll weaselled out of several times, leading into inventive sequences and even a mask rip, which built tension into the match well. Mysterio finally landed a 619 but Scurll got a rope break off of it, while Mysterio’s second 619 splash was countered with Scurll’s knees up, which felt a little bit like the ending stretch of a Tanahashi match where the outcome of the match all hinges on the landing (or not) of a High Fly Flow. That’s a good feeling to be emulating. Here Scurll’s counter of Mysterio’s splash led directly into the ending, as Scurll hit another new finisher, the Bird of Prey, to win. A fun main event with a lot more energy than I ever expected, though I still would have preferred a different matchup on top. ***
I wasn’t too hyped about this show on paper, but in reality it came off really well and is one of the better BritWres shows of the year so far. I highly recommend ZSJ/Brookes and White/Banks, but in general, after a couple of tepid opening matches, this show got on a roll and the last 5 or so matches are all good fun. Andy Q also saved you from Samuels/Bully Ray, so there’s even less filler than there would otherwise be. Definitely give all the big matches a watch.