Epic Encounter 2019
May 10, 2019
Watch: RPW On Demand
I learned recently never to turn my back on this company. I used my first podcast appearance to ring the death knell of their 2019, but my words were diminished into frothy-mouthed nonsense with a very good WrestleMania show and a series of good showings at the Cockpit.
This visit to York Hall will set the tone for the second half of the year.
Gabriel Kidd def. Brendan White
Aesthetics are everything in professional wrestling and it’s equally interesting where those aesthetics come from. Having two (relatively) unknown wrestlers open a big show, stripping them of any cheap personality tricks with black trunks and tights, and having them wrestle with dropkicks, reversed headlocks and selling that would make Rip Rogers glad he took his vitamin pills, declares an obvious and exciting influence.
There were a few sloppy moments here, but this was presented as development for the Contenders Division and as an opportunity for the hardcore wrestling fan to mull over potential and future prospects.
Kidd was good, but White stood out. There’s something wonderful about a stocky power wrestler who can flash into a moonsault. His Boss Man influences are obvious but you don’t criticise a band because they’re aping the Rolling Stones. **¾
Chris Brookes def. Artemis Spencer
Watching a Chris Brookes match is like being in the car on the way to visit an in-law. You don’t do it because you want to, but to preserve a union. Brookes is a competent wrestler, who does much better when he can hide behind someone else’s talent.
Artemis Spencer is the kid who couldn’t stay in lessons due to inherent anger issues. There’s a sloppiness to his work that makes him appealing. Topes are much more interesting with a sprinkling of doubt that the perpetrator can jump far enough.
This match, like all Brookes matches, was very solid. Spencer was a scowling hurricanrana and an interesting antidote to Brookes and his ‘doing moves’ approach to wrestling. This, unfortunately, led to another problem that comes with Brookes: the incoherent story. There was a half-hearted powder and an attempt to slow down the pace, but nothing to indicate he was truly working heel until a sudden Kid Lykos attack. A certain portion of the crowd booed in enthusiasm but there’s something undermining about oxymoronic, good-natured jeering. Lykos continued to make his presence known, leafing through a worn copy of the cheater’s playbook, before Brookes puts Spencer away.
Spencer got an excellent reception in York Hall and I hope he’s coming back. ***¼
Sha Samuels and Josh Bodom def. Kurtis Chapman and Dan Magee
While Chapman and Magee don’t get my heart racing, it’s very refreshing to see Cockpit feuds finding their way into York Hall.
What does get me excited, however, is the sickening combination of Sha Samuels and Josh Bodom. Bodom, a well-documented arsehole, is able to borrow from the evil mind of Samuels. It’s a fascinating combination, as the two school bullies battered the nerds around York Hall. It started with a stunning dive from Bodom and the hatred spills over into the crown. Crowd-brawling can be frustrating for the VOD viewer, but there are enough flying limbs and selfies with fans to keep this interesting.
This drips with the anger that comes from a concentrated heel/blue eye battle, and punctuating it with huge moonsaults from the larger team compounded it further.
Magee was fantastic here, sucking all the speed and fire from the hot tag and serving me up a plate of my own critical words on him that I may have to eat if this continues. The normally bland Chapman played his role excellently, and his flailing like a man in lime for the Butcher’s Hook was excellent.
There was a slight lean towards cliche, perhaps a few too many destroyer style moves, but passion and solid storytelling can overcome such niggles.
Rev Pro seems to be making a statement that tag team wrestling will be a new priority for them in the second half of 2019 and this was a fantastic way to do it. ****
Matt Sydal def. A-Kid
2019 has been an excellent year for telling subtle, interesting stories in European wrestling and Team White Wolf have sharpened the quill for their own chapter. The common themes of jealousy and competition that’s eating the union of A-Kid and Carlos Romo is fascinating.
I’m not sure I enjoy Sydal’s home-breaking yoga teacher gimmick, but he brings the undeniable benefits of a solid, veteran hand. The opening is a thrilling mix of speed and grappling, with snap pins and deadly strikes. Each man fought with ferocity and desire, hinting at a deep respect for their opponent’s skill in spite of Sydal’s swaggering.
A-Kid is talented but sloppy, like he’s waiting for his brain to meet his body. Sydal was an excellent opponent for him. The closing stretch was a hurricane, consolidating the idea that this was genuine competition. It was a compelling dance of a student battling a master of his style. This was another excellent chapter in A-Kid’s story and is certainly worth a watch. ***½
Rob Lias def. Shigehiro Irie, Michael Oku, Carlos Romo and TK Cooper
TK Cooper was attacked at the bell by Rob Lias as the stench of a “pro wrestling story” wafted around York Hall like a fart after a Toby Carvery. It’s a great idea to link Cockpit stories with York Hall, but stories benefit from a solid root in reality. I’m not sure attacking people during entrances, delivering forgettable promos and awful catchphrases is a contemporary way to do this. This would be forgivable if his work was interesting, but his wrestling is the equivalent of a post-Newsnight tramadol.
The company is clearly getting behind Oku and he gets a rapturous reception here. I hope it makes up for the batterings he’s been receiving from the likes of Irie and Brian Cage. Every time his face lights up with enthusiasm, I find myself grinning from ear to ear. I want him to keep resisting the horrendous power moves he’s subjected too.
Some matches are very difficult to review without descending into a banal description of moves and this drifted towards that at times. Wrestlers went through their greatest hits while other wrestlers loitered outside. A few lovely spots, like Oku’s moonsault Tower of Doom and an amazing shove from Irie had the crowd bouncing and it was impossible not to jump on board as this match gradually accelerated into something very entertaining.
Cooper comes back into the fray with a burst of dynamism that, on paper, is fascinating but feels like a man turning up half-way through a ping-pong match with his paddle and expecting it to go into doubles.
Of course, Rob Lias pins Cooper by gripping the tights because that’s what heels do. ***½
Undisputed British Tag Team Championship
Aussie Open def. Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jr (c)
The tag team titles have long been a forgotten reserved sign in a corner of a busy restaurant, a neglected table errantly waiting while conversation and purpose bubbles around them. The potential of this match, however, has lingered around the company resulting in a thrilling atmosphere as it finally materializes.
The swagger of all four men permeates the entrances, making it clear that neither team has been troubled with thoughts of loss or defeat. It’s a compelling way to start any contest – the unexpected loss would mean more to each man than simple, fragile gold. It’s pride and the abstract concept of a decided future that is on the line.
The crowd screams for their favorites as the gladiators whisper unheard words of encouragement and tactics, and before we know it Suzuki is flying a knee into the gut of Kyle Fletcher.
Notions of nervousness are disregarded as Aussie Open take the upper hand with stunning sentons and kicks. But, like always, guile beats force and Suzuki-gun soon tie them into a safe, static knot. When Suzuki’s wolves get a sniff of blood, it’s very difficult to escape the hunt. Chairs fly and limbs are stretched to a cacophony of screams from the crowd, desperate to breathe the violence they paid to see.
The way Sabre and Suzuki torture Fletcher is the most horrendous art, dripping with vile viciousness. Davis plays his part wonderfully; feeling every blow inflicted on his brother. It’s an outstanding breath of life into the traditional tag team match structure.
The details that Davis and Suzuki brush into their exchange confirm that beauty is in the details. A smug grin before an attempted piledriver, a hand to check for blood and a collapse before a tag are the little, often overlooked moments that separate the good wrestlers from the great.
This match never stops. Its energy can be held in the palm of your hand. The announcement that twenty minutes have passed is a reminder that time is an abstract concept. It means nothing compared to the transcendence of wonderful professional wrestling.
A stunning pop up piledriver sends electricity through the crowd and a new era of Rev Pro begins. ****¾
Undisputed British Cruiserweight Champion
El Phantasmo def. David Starr ©
There’s such a thing as retroactive continuity and thank God. The promos that built this feud have taken all of the best cues from the current advancements in pro wrestling storytelling and it makes sense of all the convoluted twists and turns that have marred the series of matches that led us to this moment.
The starkest moments in life, for most of us, aren’t the moments in which we spend under lights. It’s the black and white realism that grounds us and reminds us that most of our lives are seasoned with desire, brutality and disappointment. Sometimes, all a match needs is a man threatening to break another man’s legs.
Unfortunately, aesthetics are one of the most vital aspects of storytelling. Having the two men face each other atop opposing miniature ladders had a sense of choreography that even Starr’s fantastic arrogance couldn’t overcome.
The opening slugs of the match were misguided like they’d started the match with the fatigue of a second act. It felt overplanned to the point of being stale and it desperately needed the blast of topes of moonsaults from ELP to overcome the opening stumble.
Shoves into barricades and body drops into chairs were simultaneously appropriate for the situation yet felt empty in the moment. The opening was a slog through a swamp that felt like an unnecessary prequel to the real excitement that was to come.
For every dance that ended in a body breaking a piece of furniture, there was a gimmick riddled trope, such as a slow climb of a ladder to give an opponent time. Technically, there was nothing wrong here but it felt like a match created in a bizarre computer simulation. It ticked all of the right boxes but somehow managed to be a missing a soul.
Deathmatches need a recklessness to feel brutal, but the most violent spots felt convoluted and plodding. It’s hard to criticize ELP jumping halfway across the ring to slam a ladder in Starr’s face, but even the glorious shot of Starr’s crimson mask couldn’t give it the emotion it needed.
Any hope of a turnaround for the finish was diminished by a Chris Roberts/Shay Purser battle. Stunted flailing between two referees may get some fans screaming greatness to their collection of Pop Vinyl figurines, but it was a slice of undermining silliness.
The pace and innovation does eventually arrive in the last few minutes, but it was a declaration of what might have been. ***½
The stunning semi-main was a must see match. Aussie Open have been promising greatness for a long time, and this finally feels like their arrival in the upper echelon of tag teams.
The show as a whole was a lovely mix of the Cockpit and York Hall shows and declares that Rev Pro might once again be a company to get excited about in the second half of the year.
The main event acted as a foil for the glorious semi-main. It’s fake, plastic stench highlighted just how wonderfully violent the semi was. Stop the stream before the end, rip of your shirt and bask in the the glory of excellent tag team wrestling.