WCPW headed to Milton Keynes for the first of a three show stretch that would crown the inaugural winner of the Pro Wrestling World. Eight shows prior to this had narrowed the field down to 16 competitors, and tonight would see eight men advance to the quarter finals. Nine nations were represented, and the show was being headlined by the high flying dream match between Will Ospreay and Rey Mysterio

What Culture Pro Wrestling
Pro Wrestling World Cup Round of 16
August 23, 2017
Planet Ice
Milton Keynes, England

Watch: YouTube

James R. Kennedy and Dave Bradshaw are our commentary duo for tonight.

Pro Wrestling World Cup Third Round
Mike Bailey def. Travis Banks

I was all set to say this match disappointed a few minutes in. At first they didn’t seem to mesh too well together and there were a few moments where their timing felt off. Thankfully though, things really picked up after the shaky start and these two put on a really good hard hitting opener. I ended up being suprised by the result, which occurred when Bailey hit his shooting star knee drop, as I expected Banks to advance to set up an Ospreay vs. Prestige quarter final after Stacked kicked off that feud. I have zero problem with Bailey moving on though, as he’s been the MVP of the tournament so far and only added to his case with this match. ***3/4

Pro Wrestling World Cup Third Round
Penta El Zero M def. Bad Bones

This was a solid encounter between two big lads, but I never really felt it developed past both guys trading their signature offense. They got the crowd into it to a point, but without any real clear story there was somewhat of a limit to the investment. Throw in that the finish, Penta hitting the Fear Factor Package Piledriver, came after two Canadian Destroyers (one of my least favourite moves in wrestling mostly due to its overuse) and I’d have to say that this match ended up disappointing me a tad considering that these are two guys I generally enjoy a lot. ***1/4

Marty Scurll & War Machine def. The Prestige (Hendry, Gunn & Ligero)

While nobody looked bad at all in this match, War Machine were just a cut above. They just exuded star power, and somewhat overshadowed the feud they were trying to build (Scurll against Hendry) just by being so awesome. Over the past few years they’ve become the bar for heavyweight tag teams, with both of them being experts in how to utilise their size and power to the utmost in their matches.

Marty debuted a new finisher here: an Inverted Crucifix Driver. Oddly he decided to tease it multiple times throughout the match to little or no reaction due to it not having been established, but it looked good once he did hit it, although the crowd didn’t react too loudly until the pinfall had been counted as I don’t think they expected the move to mark the end of the match. Overall, a very good hectic six man, that would have probably benefitted from having a couple of minutes shaved off. ***1/2

After the match the Prestige went on to attack Scurll three on one (War Machine just seemed to disappear) to further build to the eventual Scurll-Hendry match.

Pro Wrestling World Cup Third Round
Hiromu Takahashi def. Lucky Kid

This match’s format could probably be best described as a ‘weird-off’. I’m sure most of you will be familiar with Takahashi’s weirdo gimmick, and Lucky Kid has a very similar gimmick over in Germany for GWF. After some standard opening stuff, Takahashi seemed to click that this mirrored gimmicks aspect existed, and from there we got a lot of antics including Lucky Kid interacting with Daryl the cat and the two men longingly staring into each-others’ eyes with no separation between their faces. Things picked back up though for the finishing stretch, with some exciting fast paced action that peaked with a fantastic looking release German suplex. Hiromu would be the one to advance with his Time Bomb finish. ***1/2

Pro Wrestling World Cup Third Round
Ricochet def. Angelico

After starting really strongly, this match suffered from some severe pacing issues. It clocked in around the twenty minute mark, but it felt like forty. The entire middle act of the match added almost nothing, with the only thing it ended up achieving was losing the crowd. Throw in some timing issues and general awkwardness, punctuated by Angelico having to wait for an age on the turnbuckle motionless waiting for Ricochet to rana him during the finishing stretch, and this ended up being our first bad match of the night. The finish would be a nice touch for Dragon Gate fans, with Ricochet picking up the win with Masato Yoshino’s Sol Naciente submission finisher, but this was in front of a What Culture fans. If more than one percent of the building recognised the tribute I’d be suprised, and as a result the finish got no reaction. I’ve never thought the move looked much good in the first place anyway. **1/2

Joe Coffey came out next. He was originally scheduled to be facing Michael Elgin in the third round, but Elgin had to pull out due to contractual reasons. He got on the mic, ran though a fairly generic heel promo and then demanded that his hand be raised by a ref to mark his progression to the quarter finals.

This never happened, as GM Adam Blampied came out to announce that there were no byes in the World Cup and that Coffey would be facing somebody who was making his return to WCPW: former champion Joseph Conners.

Pro Wrestling World Cup Third Round
Joseph Conners def. Joe Coffey

This was notable as this was the first time that a guy under a WWE:UK contract has been able to work WCPW. It’s probably far more of a sign of how little WWE values Conners than some sort of a positive releationship between the two companies though. While Conners got a huge reaction for the suprise factor, I less than enthused. Joseph Conners is not a good wrestler, and he proved it here with an utterly boring match with Coffey. He’s so bad at the little things. While he’s not a bad bumper, he never conveys any long term impact of moves. One moment in this match that really irked me was Conners just standing up straight after taking a top rope crossbody from Coffey, who by no means is a small man. This wasn’t a fighting spirit no-sell, this was just Conners being a bad wrestler and forgetting to sell.

You can imagine my disappointment and suprise then when Conners picked up the win here with the Don’t Look Down facebuster. In the preview I was predicting that Coffey would make the final, so seeing him go out this early suprised me and capped up a horrible night for the Prestige with them going 0-3. A strange way to book your top heel group, but perhaps they have some ten man tag set for them tomorrow that they’d want all five Prestige members available for. This was a consistently awkward match, and comfortably the worst match of the show, only made worse by meaning that we’re going to have to see more Conners due to him winning. **

Pro Wrestling World Cup Third Round
KUSHIDA def. Kenny Williams

It had completely avoided my attention that this match was a battle of the wrestling world’s two Back to the Future gimmicks. A lot of the earlier portions of this match were built around their shared passion; it was a little corny but the live crowd was into it and it didn’t last too long. The match developed really well though, building strongly with both guys working well together. Kenny is somebody who could really end up being a great wrestler, I just hope he spreads his wings a little more and gets more work outside of ICW so he can become better rounded. This was a nice taster of what he has potential to do. KUSHIDA was the one to advance though, picking up the win with his Back to the Future small package driver. ***1/2

Pro Wrestling World Cup Third Round
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Jay Lethal

I feel like I’m saying this for every other match, but this was another one that would have really benefited from clocking in around the fifteen minute mark as opposed to the twenty plus minutes it ended up going. It wasn’t nearly as egregious as the Ricochet-Angelico match, as overall they did a solid job of building through the entire match and peaking wonderfully towards the end, the only problem was it took a long time to build and lost the crowd somewhat midway through. This isn’t really an uncommon problem with Lethal matches: they take a logical route to get where they’re going and once they’re there it’s great, but they take a long damn time to get there.

The last five or so minutes here were superb though. One spot in particular that stood out was Lethal countering a sleeper hold where Sabre was on his back by popping him up into a cutter. It was a beautiful sight to behold, and since it came out of nowhere it got a huge reaction. After a hard fought battle, Sabre Jr. would be the one to progress to the quarter finals with a variation of the seated scissored armbar. ***3/4

Pro Wrestling World Cup Third Round
Will Ospreay def. Rey Mysterio

Going in I was somewhat skeptical of how well this match could deliver, especially in the main event spot. I expected it to be somewhat of a spectacle, but as with all Mysterio matches in 2017 to be somewhat limited.

I was wrong. This was head and shoulders above every other Rey Mysterio match of recent vintage, and the exact right choice for the main event spot; it was the best match on the show. I’m not going to say this looked like prime Mysterio, that would be senseless hyperbole, but at the same time it wasn’t a million miles away. This was easily the best I’ve seen Rey move around this year, a far cry from some of the less mobile and somewhat painful to watch performances that he’s turned out in recent times. He was seamlessly flowing through all his signature stuff when on other occasions going through the motions has come across laboured.

I think a lot of credit for this has to go to Ospreay too. I think a real underrated aspect of his game is just how great a base he is for other flyers; it’s something that is lost due to just how great a flyer he is himself. It’s no coincidence though that aerialist after aerialist has their best match with him. From Sydal, to Andrews, to Flash Morgan Webster and now this era of Rey Mysterio. While it may be an undervalued asset, it has lead to so many great matches now.

It’s not just good due to Mysterio surprising you with a return to grace, it’s also really smartly built. They build the whole match around the 619, with Mysterio getting progressively closer to hitting it each time he goes for it, which in turn lead to increasing reactions every time Ospreay found himself draped on the ropes. Given this though, they also did a great job of making the transitions to set up the 619 not look clunky as they can so often. Ospreay even found himself with an opportunity to go for the move himself at one point.

If it wasn’t for one or two small moments where Rey slipped slightly, I’d have been going ****+ on this. They weren’t major issues, but one or two small periods of awkwardness disrupted the flow of the match slightly and downgraded this one in my mind from a legitimately great match to a very very good match that’s a great spectacle to see the legend that is Rey Mysterio roll back the years. I highly reccomend you give this a watch if you have any nostalgia for Rey, which so many of us of course do. ***3/4

Final Thoughts:

Overall the Round of 16 in the Pro Wrestling World Cup was a strong show, that was one outstanding match away from being great. The standard across the board was pretty high, with a slight dip in the middle made up for by a strong start and finish. If you could go back and cut down the Lethal-Sabre match and the Angelico-Ricochet match you’d have an absolute belter on your hands capped off by the magnificent spectacle of Ospreay and Mysterio.