Revolution Pro Wrestling
High Stakes 2020
February 14, 2020
York Hall, London
It seems redundant to talk about the state of BritWres at this point. Any meaningful discussion of the dire state of corporate servitude that has infected the scene has descended into a series of weary shrugs. Critics and fans don’t have the energy left to even laugh at the sanitized, pre-scripted movements and machinations of the wrestlers who embraced the comfortable silence of the NXT UK warehouse. The insincerity of the “BritWres is alive and well, lol” clarion call was so obvious it was redundant. I’m accepting of the fact that these wrestlers chose to cross the picket and punch the clock, but the consequences of their scabbery is laid out for us all to see.
I don’t know for certain what stage of grief I’m at, but my notes contain more matches from Japan than ever before so I’m guessing I’m at acceptance. I’ve had to deal with the fact that my home promotions don’t share the same passion for the craft of professional wrestling that our Japanese friends do. We didn’t send the WWE packing; we gave them the master bedroom.
But, maybe we’ve just entered the “dark night of the soul.” It’s what Blake Snyder calls the part of a story where all hope seems lost. The hero is so hopelessly destroyed that they see no possible way out of the dire situation they are in. It’s when the rain hits Deckard’s face as he dangles off the ledge of a building with Roy Batty towering over him. It’s Spartacus being forced to kill Antoninus, the man who opened his eyes to art, poetry and the world. It’s Kevin McAllister realizing that he needed his parents after all.
Of course, a morning follows every dark night. Deckard is saved by Roy, Spartacus gets his final wish to know his son and Kevin’s parents walk through the front door again.
We are waiting for our morning, and this card looks like it might be just that. It showcased two of the best wrestlers in the world – Ospreay and Sabre Jr – who, unlike many of their contemporaries, put the craft before all else. The sneering allure of WWE UK and the weak handshake of Triple H was irrelevant to them.
This show feels important. Did it deliver?
RevPro Undisputed British Women’s Championship
Gisele Shaw def. Zoe Lucas (c)
Gisele Shaw has been flying over to the UK for the last year or so, and RevPro has been wise to hook their claws into her. She received a thunderous reception at York Hall, and this has been well earned. She feels like a deserving, logical challenger and a booking success for Quildan.
Unfortunately, Shaw wrestles to the level of her opponent, and Lucas is diminutive. Her kicks are shameful taps that are mere whispers of violence. An unconvincing, plodding control sequence magnified the problem with the story. They wanted Shaw to wrestle as the underdog and overcome the dominant champ, but Lucas is less of a high obstacle and more of a speed bump. An awkward silence during Lucas’s entrance where the audience struggled to remember whether they should boo or cheer spoke volumes.
Shaw wins with the submission and, in a show defined by hope, we can dream that Lucas will go away and the women’s division can shine with its new champ. **3/4
Dan Maloney def. Jeff Cobb
Dan Maloney is another smart push for Quildan. Previously a British Strong Style protege and NXT UK superstar, he’s chosen freedom and independent wrestling. He looks great and he likes a scrap; there’s a lot of potential.
This was a match of two halves, and the first half wasn’t great. There were a couple of obligatory strength spots from Cobb – catching a cannonball was particularly impressive – but the pair spent too much time playing to the crowd to make this contest believable. Cobb always seems to treat the UK like a holiday and seemed less than serious here.
Luckily, there was a volta and change of pace. Maloney realized he had to play to the strength of Cobb and not to the crowd. The image of his arms outstretched in a middle-fingered crucifix while he no-sold some chops was real and very present.
Maloney still has a lot to learn, particularly if the no-sell is going to be part of his repertoire. He didn’t seem to realize that not selling a move doesn’t mean pretending it never happened. He is, however, 22, and a big win against an established star like Cobb should give his character some momentum. ***
SWE Speed King Title
Ricky Knight Jr (C) def Robbie X
There are two salient facts that must begin any discussion of Ricky Knight Jr: yes, he’s from that Knight family, and he’s nineteen years old. There’s a brilliant nuance to his work, however, that removes any memory of his age. He’s able to portray the blue-eyed high flier, but sprinkle in just enough careless violence to give his character a dangerous edge.
Robbie X is a favorite of mine, because he looks like he’s just left his job as a decorator, changed into pants that are far too small for him and come to York Hall to do some crazy flips. He’s incredibly likeable and has great chemistry with RKJ.
I was glad that this match was on the card, as it exposes it to a much larger audience, but this was not as good as their match from January at New Year’s Revolution. They managed to maintain their wonderful tactic of keeping each other on an elastic band with slow moments instantly shaken off with a burst of speed, but unfortunately, the moments didn’t connect as well as they did in the previous match. The flips to the outside are there, but a plodding back half and toned down strikes make this the weaker of the two.
This match is good, but skip it and watch the January 14 match instead. ***½
LA Park def. Eddie Kingston
At one point in this match, LA Park launched himself through the ropes with his gut hanging out. There’s beauty in imperfection, and it was certainly a beautiful moment.
The fans loved both of these men, and as silly as this match was it was almost certainly an upgrade from the originally scheduled Park vs Sha match.
Kingston bullying the referee into hitting LA Park, and the chairshot he received as his comeuppance led to an entertaining match that had York Hall giggling with glee whilst watching these two cult heroes.
Kurtis Chapman came out as his Mad Kurt character – a skinny dweeb who gets battered by the imports – and I’m reminded of how boring the character is. I’ve seen him perform the dab and the silly dances enough to be sick of it, but it shows no sign of going away.
The match itself was exactly what you would expect. ***
Mark Haskins def. Kyle Fletcher, Chris Brookes, Kurtis Chapman Hikuleo and Carlos Romo
This is a match between a bunch of lost toys. Fletcher and Romo are struggling to find a footing without a tag team partner. Brookes is killing time while waiting to go back to Japan. Hikuleo is doing as little as he did for NJPW. Chapman is desperately trying to drag everything into a Cheeseburger-but-even-worse comedy routine. Haskins is treading the same water he’s been wallowing in since 2017. This match should have been booked in Oz, in a ‘Missing Piece on a Pole’ match.
Mad Kurt gets the majority of the time and shows us why comedy wrestling rarely works. There are some good workers here, but because someone in sixth form told Chapman he was funny that work is sidelined so we can watch, yet again, weak Kurtis Chapman offense. The only laughable spot of this match was the digestive biscuit with a nice hair-cut, Chris Brookes, trying to play the threatening hardman.
Of course, Vicky Haskins stands on the apron and people are distracted. Gideon Grey interferes for what I assume are good reasons and Haskins gets the pin.
For a match that had two wrestlers as talented as Fletcher and Romo, there was very little wrestling. Skip. **
Rev Pro Undisputed Tag Team Titles
The Legion (Rampage Brown and The Great-O-Kharn) (c) def. Damian Dunne and David Starr
We need to talk about Oka.
Oka left Japan, moved to England and became the Great-O-Kharn. The excursion was designed to season, improve and generally prepare the rookie for life in NJPW.
O-Kharn seems to have achieved the impossible. He’s gotten worse.
Not every match he’s had has been bad, but the one thing that connects all of his recent work is that he doesn’t seem to know where to put his feet. Everything he does is clumsy, unsure and thoroughly unconvincing. The character work has been improved by dropping the napkin that used to adorn his face, and he’s learned to walk to the ring like he’s sober. I don’t think these are indicators of a successful excursion.
Much like the previous match, the wrestling was present but unremarkable. Damian Dunne was almost forgotten before he reinvented himself with the Anti-Fun Police, and while I understand that gimmick is limiting, dropping it just exposes his weaknesses once again. He’s incredibly small, and his work is by-the-numbers.
Starr managed to elicit some response from the crowd, but most of the noise seemed to come from goodwill rather than genuine engagement.
Haskins runs in to help the Legion take the fall. I know my Voices of Wrestling overlords will expect me to have an opinion on Haskins joining the Legion, but I simply cannot communicate my indifference adequately. **
RevPro Undisputed British Cruiserweight Title
Michael Oku def El Phantasmo (c)
Michael Oku is tiny, he’s a sloppy worker and his matches are all the same.
Michael Oku also made me jump out of my seat when he managed to beat El Phantasmo.
This match shouldn’t really have worked. It was a box of cliches, and the two competitors were determined to use every one of them. The heel used back rakes, the babyface got a visual pin that an incapacitated referee couldn’t count, and there was even a moment of contemplation about using the belt as a weapon. None of this mattered because Oku has managed to tap into the underdog spirit in a unique and captivating way.
Since Oku’s failed title shot in August, he has been on a winning streak. He won the Super J Cup and won every match he had after that. His streak culminated in the upset of the century – he beat PAC. Quildan, despite his often overwhelming urge to book everything into oblivion, built this match perfectly. Oku has walked a long road, and now it’s time for the final hurdle.
Oku’s greatness is completely intangible. It’s not found in the flips themselves, but the way his limbs fly around him like they aren’t attached. He makes me believe that he is ready to kill himself to win his matches, and it’s impossible not to get carried along with him.
He managed to structure this match to build to a lovely crescendo. He sold for ELP, before exploding into a crazy whirlwind of clumsy offense. Each explosion would result in a misstep, and then he would crumble. However, each explosion edged him closer and closer to victory, before finally he finally managed to wrench ELP’s knee out of its socket to finally vanquish his foe.
The problem of having the underdog finally win the belt is a problem for tomorrow. Today, we can feel the noise of the crowd as Oku grabs the half crab, and remember how they looked when Oku raised the title above his head.
If you’ve followed Oku’s story, this is an essential chapter. ****
RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Title
Will Ospreay def. Zack Sabre Jr (c)
One match won’t save British wrestling. The disease of WWE, and the values they have implanted in fans, critics and wrestlers all over the country, won’t be banished in half an hour. What it might do, however, is give us a bit of hope. It might remind us that there are wrestlers out there who, in addition to possessing amazing talent, have a desire to push the limits of what wrestling can be.
RevPro certainly used the perceived importance of this match to develop a compelling set-up. Ospreay was accompanied by the men who trained him, linking his past, present and potential future into one continuous image. He may have achieved greatness in New Japan, but RevPro made it feel like all roads were leading to this point.
This was exemplified by the list of achievements the ring announcer reeled off during Will’s introduction. The list was long and varied, but it was the missing pieces that were important. Despite being the best wrestler in the world, he’s never won the biggest belt in British wrestling. Five attempts. Five failures.
Will wrestled this match like each of those failures were at the forefront of his mind. There was a lovely, heartbreaking desperation to everything he did. Moves were quicker, reversals were sharper and ZSJ’s old tricks didn’t seem to work as well as they used to. Will’s brain had finally caught up with his body.
Of course, the walking sneer of Zack Sabre Jr cannot be dismissed. He was sublime, catching limbs out of midair and moving them in unnatural directions. Will may have been smarter than he used to be, but ZSJ is always the smartest man in the room.
Having a rematch so close to the original is a difficult proposition, but what defines this one in relation to the first is its pure desperation. Will lost the last match through ref stoppage – he was choked out by ZSJ. That simple fact permeated every aspect of this match. Will would not allow himself to be captured, desperately wriggling for the ropes in every submission. ZSJ punctuated triangle chokes with vicious elbow strikes, going back to the tactic that was successful at New Beginning.
The desperation led to speed, and the two men criss-crossed each other so often my eyes had to dart across the screen and back again. It wasn’t a match of power moves, but a match of reversals, feints and trickery. It felt like an intelligent match from two of the world’s best. A sleeper hold was countered by a flip onto the shoulders and into a Cheeky Nando’s Kick. It felt like all the familiar sequences were modulated and twisted into being both familiar and unrecognizable at the same time. It made every sequence unmissable.
The ending was sudden, but it worked. Ospreay powering out of the triangle by climbing the ropes was a declaration of his newfound power, with the Hidden Blade and Storm Breaker adding to the feeling of, ironically, new beginnings.
That’s the key story of this match, and in many ways it’s one that only Ospreay could have told. Ospreay got himself over with amazing work, so wins and losses didn’t matter to his character as much as it did for others. That meant that Ospreay had to go on a journey, to improve and work his way up from the bottom. His victory signifies that beliefs of hopelessness, no matter how inherent or ingrained, are not inevitable. ****1/2
I desperately hope there’s a link between the final match and BritWres in general. I desperately hope that this show signifies a change from hopelessness to positivity for British wrestling and I hope that RevPro can be at the forefront of it. RevPro is a company that is dear to me for lots of reasons, and there is no better company to lead the push for independence and, most importantly, some self-respect in British wrestling. This was a card that, while not everything worked, felt like it was facing the future, with three title changes and an attempt at making some new stars. I hope they use this as a big reset, to forget about the booking indiscretions of the past year. I hope they can carve out a focal destination for the traveling British wrestling fan. I hope this is our new beginning.