Revolution Pro Wrestling
British J Cup – Night 1
September 8, 2018
Manchester, England, UK
Bowlers Exhibition Centre
Watch: RPW On Demand
Rev Pro return to the north of England, where we still travel by canal and wear flat caps. Specifically, Salford, the greatest city in the world. It’s a corner of the country grasping tightly onto its industrial roots while looking to the future with cultural and artistic developments. I can’t think of a better host city for the 2018 British J Cup.
The tournament was part of Wrestle Media Con, a bizarre event that celebrated the world of wrestling media in all its forms. The fact that it was ten minutes from my house and I didn’t go speaks volumes about the wider event, but this card was unmissable.
Jushin Thunder Liger def Kyle Fletcher
I don’t know what Mr Liger thought of the industrial estate he found himself competing in, but seeing his glorious technicolour, cartoon-like motion will always make my heart beat a little bit faster. I love him, and Salford does too.
Kyle Fletcher has started to make some reconnaissance into singles competition. Rev Pro fans will remember his battle with Jay White in Altrincham earlier in the year, but if you’re a wrestler, a match against Liger must feel like the main event no matter where it is on the card.
After a boring handshake spot that, quite frankly, I’m sick to death of, Liger treats us to his greatest hits. Palm strikes, surfboards and Kevin Kelly even hints that we might see a Shooting Star Press.
The match goes moves into another gear with a lovely little detail; Liger lands awkwardly on his leg and Fletcher pounces. He knows that he can’t afford to be intimidated by the legend. He must be ruthless.
They go back and forth with palm strikes, dives and a lovely Aussie Arrow to an X Factor kickout that fooled the crowd.
Lance Storm, when asked how people who speak different languages put a match together, said “they just wrestle.” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in the closing stretch. Fletcher went to climb the ropes, but Liger grabbed his trunks and almost begged him not to. A look of confusion from Fletcher told the crowd that this was not what he expected. This miscommunication, and the ensuing confusion, led to the win for Liger. I have no idea what story they were trying to tell, because quite frankly they didn’t bother to tell it until the last two minutes. Maybe it was all supposed to be too much for the young Fletcher, getting lost in the moment and the grandeur of the battle, but we’ll never know. That’s a bit of shame really, because this should have been much better than it was. **3/4
El Phantasmo def El Bandido
The story of this match takes a few minutes to sink in. An ominous, confused feeling follows Bandido to the ring. The crowd are unsure how to react, so they rely on the very British safety net of polite applause. Once in the ring, both men try to grasp onto the slight thread of duelling chants but neither catch into anything significant. There’s a sense of desperation at the start; something feels off.
Then, we see the subtle yet incredibly clever tale the two intended to weave. El Phantasmo, a Canadian, is face to face with the very thing that has inspired his moves, his storytelling and even his name. A real-life luchador. Winning the match isn’t enough for ELP, he must prove that he isn’t a cheap imitation of something larger than him. They gradually work through a series of spots, increasing the technicality of the flips as they go. ELP not only keeps up but he gains the upper hand.
They tell this intriguing story throughout the entire match – each man lays out a challenge and the other tries to top it. Bandido hits a moonsault to the outside, but ELP hits an enziguri, moonsault and a splash in quick succession. ELP bombs Bandido’s head into the mat with a Canadian Destroyer, but Bandido flies around the other man’s shoulders, arms outstretched like a vulture circling prey, before dropping one of his own.
Both men collapse in a heap of mental and physical exhaustion and achieve the golden trophy they begged for at the start – the duelling chant.
A Swanton to a moonsault clinches this for ELP, but this was an excellent example of two wrestlers on the same page telling a wonderful story. ***3/4
Rocky Romero def Kip Sabian
Sabian was a late replacement for Kurtis Chapman, but the audience would never know. As far as he’s concerned, he’s the biggest star on the show. Sabian was born to be TV wrestler; he knows where all of the cameras are and he knows how to work them. A shrug here, a wave there. The bell rings, and things go downhill.
The recency effect says I should remember the brilliant, kinetic finish. A knee from Sabian diffuses seamlessly into a Tornado DDT. He attempts to secure his place in the next round with a Burning Hammer but the veteran is too smart and hits Sliced Bread to take the spot himself.
The memory of the finish is tainted by the flabbiness of the mid match. Rocky Romero spent a good five minutes simply showing us moves that is able to do. A Gory Special is all well and good, but the apathetic way he gifted Sabian a rope break had me reaching for my phone. Superbad takes some control back, but decides to wrestle like the bluest of blue eyed babyfaces, completely disregarding the wonderful character he built with his childish protestations at being outwrestled earlier in the match.
Great matches need more than a great finish. **3/4
SHO def Dean Allmark
Dean Allmark is a great wrestler to watch with people unfamiliar with his work. He looks like he would overquote you on a boiler repair on his way to the Hacienda, but he moves with a snap and a smoothness that many younger, more successful, wrestlers would kill for.
The crowd is responsive right from the start. We don’t get a contrived handshake sequence or desperate begging for chants. We get a fighting stance from each man, proving that this tournament is important to them. This isn’t just another booking for either man. Allmark could use the J Cup to kickstart a late career resurgence and the hungry young SHO needs something to prove that he has the potential everybody hopes.
Allmark starts by outwrestling SHO, but SHO soon finds the upper hand. Allmark is smooth and solid, but SHO has the contemporary, vicious edge. He ties the veteran’s hands in knots with an air of arrogance.
He soon learns, however, that you should never dismiss Deano. A huge dart through the middle rope gets him back in the match and he gives SHO a receipt for the brutality earlier in the match with a Styles Clash move into piledriver. It looked so dangerous, it made me wonder whether SHO has to buy his own travel insurance or if Kidani treats him.
SHO finishes an entertaining match with the Shock Arrow. ***1/2
Great-O-Kharn vs Mark Davis
The napkin faced Great-O-Kharn stumbles to the ring like a teenager drunk on cheap corner shop vodka. The question mark on his face must be a reference to the confusion he still feels after this gimmick was explained to him.
Davis has battle scars scratched across his chest, hinting at the challenge the rookie will have to overcome.
Huge chops are launched back and forth until Kharn reverts to the same formula he’s used far too often in recent times. He takes a powder, drops the opponent on a rope and lays in the boots. Everything he does is solid – his feet are always in the right place and he builds the match competently – but nothing he does is exciting past the first few views.
The early parts of this match didn’t feel a world away from the match with Kurtis Chapman in the Cockpit a week earlier, which is utterly ridiculous when you compare him to Mark Davis.
The offense Mark Davis does squeeze in drags some interest out of the crowd, but this match is over far too quickly.
Kharn is starting to feel like a one-hit wonder releasing a greatest hits record. He’s on a learning excursion and it’s time he learned to work to his opponent. **3/4
David Starr def Tiger Mask
The most unusual rivalry in wrestling continues. Starr knows that Tiger Mask winning his coveted Cruiserweight strap over the summer, even if it was for a cup of coffee, is a black mark. It’s a small piece of evidence that Starr isn’t quite as great as his t-shirts tell us. It drives him wild.
Starr tells wonderful stories, but you can’t have a wrestling match with yourself. Would Tiger Mask be prepared to write another chapter in Starr’s descent into paranoia and madness?
Well, at the start of this review, I wondered how Liger felt about wrestling in a warehouse in my beloved Salford. Well, Tiger Mask did not give a singular Eccles cake. It took him forever to take even a basic flat back bump and when he did it was pathetic.
The match revolved around mask ripping laziness and lukewarm strike exchanges. As soon as they build up some momentum, there was a ref bump and a low blow.
Tiger Mask got two visual pinfalls with a catatonic referee. Starr wins with more mask malarkey. Here’s hoping Starr gets a more interesting second round. *3/4
KUSHIDA def Chris Ridgeway
KUSHIDA is one of the greatest wrestlers to have every lived and is possibly the most likeable wrestler in the world. Ridgeway has murder written in his eyes and a chip on his shoulder.
A very real and aggressive technical battle ensues. Ridgeway has a wonderful way of making every move seem slightly tighter, slightly more painful, than many of his contemporaries. KUSHIDA struggles to find an opening, desperately scrambling for the ropes on more than one occasion.
KUSHIDA can’t beat Ridgeway on the mat so he picks up the pace and starts to make headway. A beautiful leaping face lock is reversed into a hoverboard lock that never quite gets a full execution. The match swings on a pendulum with Ridgeway testing his striking game against the former junior ace.
Ridgeway almost got it. He sent KUSHIDA scrambling for the ropes again and again in the late match. He was a second away from victory time after time. He pulled and yanked and choked his way through the match, but KUSHIDA had the experience and the resilience to take the victory. This match felt real, violent and vital to both men. Great. ****
YOH def Ryusuke Taguchi
The Funky Weapon twirls and twerks his way around the ring before giving us a Taguchi match. He runs the ropes for too long, throws a few hip attacks and keeps everyone entertained.
Taguchi hiding under the ring and pretending to get caught in the barricade isn’t for me, but I appreciate there are fans of his brand of silliness. If you like Taguchi, you’ll like this.
There’s some solid work late in the match, but the finish was incredibly poor. A duelling atomic drop contest raised a smirk or two but Taguchi failing to meet the count was bizarre. Yoh goes through. *
Rich Swann def Flamita
The charm offensive on the commentary was hardly subtle here. No matter where you stand on the booking of Swann, the announcers literally telling us about his volunteer work reeked of something I didn’t like and had the opposite of the intended effect for me.
I’m not ignoring the Rich Swann situation; I will give my thoughts in my review of night two. I was there live and there were some interesting booking decisions that will feed into it.
In the ring, both men are clean, fast and dynamic. They own the ring with their speed, and Swann eventually gets the upper hand with a stunning dive to the outside.
Until they stop.
A Flamita control period grinds this to a halt. Swann works as the underdog babyface throughout and coming back from a chin lock with a series of boring clotheslines does nothing to get the heart racing.
This felt like Flamita with training wheels on. The occasional flash of his lucha brilliance gave the impression he wasn’t quite wrestling the match he wanted to. They wanted Swann to play the atypical babyface but gave him nothing dastardly to battle with.
That being said, the closing stretch of this match was superb. A wonderful duelling flip into a double missed drop kick made a tired cliché feel fresh. A breath-taking block of a cutter by Flamita had me taking a sharp intake of breath before Swann finishes off with his signature 450.
I’m incredibly conflicted about this match. You could GIF the key spots and it would look great, but in practice it was feast or famine. ***1/2
Ring Kampf vs CCK
Timothy Thatcher is the most interesting member of Ring Kampf. His facial expressions distort wonderfully into a twisted, grotesque manifestation of a man who doesn’t quite understand what emotions he is feeling. He needs to belong to something. He needs to find a group who understand why he wrestles. He needs to find people who love the violence and intimacy of mat based combat like he does. Ring Kampf is perfect for him.
Brookes and Gresham are the kind of opponents Ring Kampf seek out. They are competent. Worthy, even.
Thatcher and Gresham start the match. Gresham understands how unstable Thatcher is. He knows he can’t win a battle of strength, so he aims to frustrate the bigger man. He leaps around the ring, grabbing ropes and taking powders every time Thatcher gets a hold on him. Thatcher respects the rules of the ring, but it’s just a matter of time before his misunderstood emotions get the better of him. Not yet, however. Walter takes a turn.
Neither team takes a lead, but eventually Walter lands a chop on Brookes. That distorted smirk I talked about earlier is etched on Thatcher’s face as the thunderous lightning strike echoes around the warehouse.
An insulting low blow serves to frustrate the Austrian monster, and he responds with a huge boot that sends Gresham into another realm.
Walter lets Thatcher take the lead wherever possible, constantly gaining control of Gresham and tagging out. Ring Kampf is a philosophy and it needs to be shared.
CCK mount a comeback, but ultimately their best chance comes from a rare mistake from Walter, who clotheslines his partner out of the match. Walter does not make excuses and he owns his mistakes. Fists clenched, feet firmly planted, he goes to work on the smaller Gresham.
CCK will not die. They fight back with double submission moves, aiming for an embarrassing loss for the mat specialists. Brookes chases the insult as he rips Thatchers arm out of his socket before Gresham is launched like a cannonball into the mass of limbs.
Gresham, yet again, kept CCK alive throughout this. Eventually, his body collapses. He’s given all he can to the mat and to the fans. He tags out to the largely redundant Brookes, who sneaks a victory with a school boy.
Brookes was not good here. He’s usually competent, a technically proficient workhorse that can dependably tell an interesting story. He barely broke a sweat in this match, and his victory felt cheap. The other three competitors deserved better. ****
An interesting slice of wrestling nestled amongst photo opportunities and bizarre talks in the convention. There are some good matches here, however. KUSHIDA vs Ridgeway was another excellent addition to the Liverpudlian’s resume and we certainly have some interesting matches to come on night two.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the crowd. There were certainly a hardcore group of Rev Pro faithful in the audience, but there were also many convention goers who were more interested in a So Cal Val signed picture. I completely understand that we all have different reasons to watch wrestling, but it did lead to a very strange atmosphere. There are lots of different bubbles in this odd fake sport and this felt, in parts, like Stewart Lee trying to do his comedy routine on a cruise ship. Not every wrestling show is going to suit every audience, and this was certainly evident here.