Revolution Pro Wrestling
High Stakes 2022
January 29, 2022
York Hall
London, UK

Watch: Rev Pro On Demand

RevPro are a funny old mistress.  As much as I try to diversify and write about other promotions, they’re the old lover that I can never quite leave.  With all of their faults, many of which I have lamented on this website, they are still the crown jewel in British wrestling.  They might swing and miss sometimes, but there’s always thought behind what they do.  I might not always love them, but they’re always worth thinking about.

I was sad, and a little defensive, when Twitter declared RevPro dead last year.  Judging a promotion by how much buzz they get on Twitter is silly, but it did seem like nobody was talking about them.  It was a shame because their 2021 was really good.  They built on the interesting stories starting in their lockdown Epic Encounters series, nabbed another Young Lion and let RKJ build his case as the best British wrestler working in the country.

The buzz around this show has been telling, and it feels like that solid year is going to pay off.  After a drought of conversation it feels like this show has put them back in the spotlight.  

The delays between the live show and the VOD can be frustrating, especially when live reports whisper about a match of the year candidate.  Did it deliver?  Let’s find out!

Alex Coughlin def. Lord Gideon Grey

Lord Gideon Grey makes his way to the ring and proves he is the greatest promo in all of wrestling.  He is criminally ignored by critics, unfairly maligned by the York Hall faithful and hand waved by the WON Awards voters.  Threatening to wrestle Andy Quildan, as he did here, was a glorious way to open a show.  It was proper, old school work.  He screamed that everyone was afraid of him, the lights went out and the freshly graduated Alex Coughlin strutted to the ring to toss him around.

The strength of Coughlin was breathtaking, tossing the aristocratic pot  like he was nothing.  Yes, the power came from Coughlin but the majestic selling came from Grey.  His eyeballs almost exited his head as he was choked out.

Coughlin was a star here.  He moved, wrestled and won like somebody we should all be keeping an eye on. **1/2

Shota Umino def. Yota Tsuji

This match is a perfect illustration of why RevPro is such a satisfying promotion to follow.  This feels like a match that could be part of a video package at the Tokyo Dome, a chapter the early annals of a very important story.

Tsuji’s character in RevPro is interesting, and is the antithesis of the Young Lions we’ve had recently.   He’s calm, stoic and annoyed by the situation he is in.  He is, unbelievably, caught in a faction against his will.  The Legion expects him to cheat and he doesn’t want to.  This is a tired story and I don’t think it adds much to anything.

Shota is the opposite.  Still representing the Death Riders, he’s a whirlwind of star power.  As he took a selfie with a fan, I found myself thinking of his recent chubby-gut-hampered work.  As he gave a t-shirt to a child, Tsuji’s dark frame standing guard in the ring, I begged for the unshitted bed that Umino can no longer guarantee.

The bed, dear reader, was unshitted.  Shota, while still feeling a little slower than he should be, was brilliantly animated.  He knew when to pause and when to strike, and paced his early DDTs and dives perfectly.  Tsuji was able to fight back with power, building a great array of dives and stomps.

There was a slight confusion in this match that shaved a star or too, and it speaks to a problem that RevPro often have.  Andy Quildan cannot control himself.  The two men in the ring were putting together a good match, but we had to have a moment where Lucian threw Tsuji a cane to use against his opponent.  Shockingly, Tsuji struck Lucian himself,  and we all gasped on the inside.  This is nowhere near Quildan’s biggest booking sin, but his strengths, as demonstrated by his work through lockdown, are in the real.  The best Quildan stories are the simple ones.  He built many of the trainees into perfect pictures of real people, with nuances that we could all chew on.  Ridiculousness needs the talent of Gideon Grey, and men like Tsuji are charismatic in different ways.  Square pegs do not need round holes.

The battle that came after the faux-story was excellent, which really proves the point.  The flying knees and feet of Yota Tsuji were amazing, and Umino was ready with that sky high drop kick in response.

These two men demonstrated that they understand pro wrestling.  It wasn’t the avalanche powerslam that was amazing, it was the insulting slap to the chest on the way up and the way Shota sold the two-count like his whole life had been ripped out from under him.

The Death Rider ended it, and Umino helped his friend to his feet before being pushed away in a story wrinkle that didn’t quite land and wasn’t  necessary.  Quildan needs to let them fight, and the smart crowd that RevPro attracts will love it even more.  ***½

Dan Maloney def. Callum Newman

I love Dan Maloney.  He’s a thug, a bruiser, a very angry young man.  There’s a legitimacy to him that is increasingly rare in British wrestling.  I’m an adult and I know it’s fake but he still scares me.

Callum Newman leapt his way around the ring without a thought for his own safety.  He was a moonsault on second and a tope the next.  Unfortunately, the two lacked chemistry and nothing seemed to land in the way they intended.  Maloney lost that legitimacy he usually has, and a lot of his offence felt soft.  A caught dive was an impressive strength spot, but it lacked the satisfaction of the slam afterwards.  For a match that never stopped moving, it felt plodding with little impact.

This was illustrated when Newman did a massive dive off the stage that we didn’t really see and was positioned so unnaturally it was as slow as a turning ship.

The horrendous production that RevPro insist on inflicting on us was at its worst here.  The camera often missed action that was within a metre of it, and seemed to chop off heads and limbs at random.  The sound, as always, was embarrassing and was often barely synced with the action.  A boot to the back might be impressive live, but when the sound comes a year after the strike, the VOD is left lacking.  When the crowd mic switches on and off, it’s left inadequate.

A late game strike fest, with Maloney brilliantly flexing during a series of chops, was great but it was a bit too late to elevate this beyond good.  It felt drawn out, illustrated by little reaction to late kickouts.  There was a lot I liked, and a match between these in a few years will undoubtedly be better.

Dan Maloney delivered a promo on his way out.  It was so embarrassing, I don’t really know what to say about it.  I hope that the promo was scripted and he had to learn it, fillers and all, so Maloney understands the tedium he inflicted on the audience. ***

Undisputed British Women’s Championship: Alex Windsor © def. Charli Evans

The great reset of the RevPro women’s division, where everyone with a push left for greener pastures, is long behind us and the women’s division has to be judged on its own merits.  If this match is the key evidence, it’s fine at best.

This was the epitome of a match that ticked all the right boxes in theory, but there were too many holes for this to be good.  A lot of strikes were soft, not because they were pulled but because they were missed. For every kick that hit home, there was one that left an ocean between foot and target.  Strike exchanges were ended by moments of confusion that undermined what came before it.  Big bomb suplexes and coast-to-coasts were followed by pin attempts being kicked out at a bizarre 2.25.

Key moments were soundtracked by ambient crowd noise, as too many people chatted away.  It’s almost impressive that RevPro’s abysmal sound picked this up.

The final move, a big driver from Alex Windsor was uncomfortably sloppy and it summarised this match perfectly.  Ambitious, but didn’t deliver. **¾

Ricky Knight Jr. def. Luke Jacobs

This could very well be the future of British wrestling.  RKJ is a dead cert.  He is a brilliant talent, excelling at nearly every aspect of professional wrestling. 

The jury is still out on Jacobs.  I’ve seen him wrestle many times in the sports halls of northern England, and he always impresses in small rooms.  He is often dwarfed by bigger stars in bigger venues though, and it remains to be seen how far he can raise his game.

The opening exchanges demonstrated how talented RKJ is.  He ducked and dived under clotheslines with millimetres to spare.  His control is unmatched, and simple exchanges become something special.  Like all the great wrestlers, he moves differently.

The match was RKJ’s from the start, with Jacobs building occasional comebacks.  It felt like Jacobs was being sent to school, with consequences from perceived slights.  Jacobs might wiggle his way out of a draping DDT, so RKJ lands one on the outside of the ring as punishment.

This match, like every RKJ match, was what the children call extra.  Boots were bigger, powerbombs were harder and beatdowns were brutal.  RKJ can give the impression he’s murdering someone, and Jacobs was prepared to take everything RKJ could give out.

While Jacob’s figure fours and powerbombs were a bit sloppy, he played his role perfectly.  He was there to try and try and not succeed.  A no sold clothesline was fantastic, where RKJ told us he’d won the war of attrition.  He told us that this match could have gone on for hours but Jacob could never have beaten him.  RKJ is a brilliant wrestler and you should start following him now. ***¾

Gabriel Kidd def. Francesco Akira

The bell went and they killed each other.  It was an amazing opening, with fists flying faster than the eye could see.  I was overwhelmed in the best possible way, high on the violence that they promised me.

As Akira screamed at Kidd, I was annoyed with myself.  Why did I assume that this would be an exhibition, with both men waving to the crowd after technical demonstrations?  It was exploders on the ramp and chops to the chest.  It was animalistic.  Kidd is developing a reputation as an absolute beast, unafraid of a proper scrap.  He danced around Akira and I found myself willing him to more and more depraved violence.

As if he heard me, Kidd spent the next five minutes chopping Akira’s chest again and again and again.  It became a dick measuring contest, with both men refusing to back down.  It was so satisfying to see Akira launch across the ring, fighting through the pain in his scarlet red chest.

I can nit pick, but any criticism  is blasted away, just like Akira’s block when Kidd smashed it with a murderous clothesline.   Top fighting. ****

Undisputed British Tag Team Championship: Sunshine Machine (Chuck Mambo & TK Cooper) (c) def. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis)

Aussie Open are a proper tag team, and their brutality has been welcome at many shows up and down the UK.  They are stars, and have that legitimacy we talked about earlier.

It was a shame, then, that this was missing from the early match.  The bizarre circus routine from Mambo and Cooper was barely improved by the strange, clumsy positioning of the Australian team.

When the bell rang, however, the match took off.  Mambo danced his way around the ring, playing Fletcher like a banjo.  It wasn’t long before Dunkzilla was cracking skulls though, and Mambo being launched across the ring was as satisfying as anything else so far on the show.

Quildan pointed out that Aussie Open found a rhythm in the early match, and that’s a great way to articulate how brilliant they are.  They are a well oiled machine, controlling the pace of the match with expertise.  They move forward constantly, sprinkling power moves everywhere to ensure nobody looks away.  

The match was structured really well, with a couple of false hot tags to whet our appetite.  I really enjoyed a storming babyface being battered by the monstrous Dunzilla or outsmarted by the Aussie Arrow.  

The match fell apart a little when the pace decreased, and some of Chuck Mambo control period laboured its point a little, but this a minor criticism forgotten when the speed increased in the third act.  A double dive from the Sunshine Machine was amazing, and it was just a foreshadowing of some stupendous high flying.  By the time all four men were lying on the floor, I felt almost exhausted as they did.

Unfortunately, like a lot of matches on this show, it was a bit too long in the tooth.  The quagmire plodded a bit too much, and I switched off when a belt was thrown in the ring.  The war of attrition had already been seen in the RKJ/Jacobs match, and it was tiring to see it twice. Dunzilla removing the ref from the ring brought heat for all the wrong reasons, because it was time to end the match.  

The talent of Aussie Open is breathtaking, but it can’t always overcome overbooking and a botched finish. ***¾

Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay (c) def. Michael Oku

Oku has made a career of being an underdog.  Not many wrestlers can play the role as well as him.  He’s scrawny and small, but he has turned this into an incredible strength.  He has a reputation for killing himself to win, and his charisma is palpable.

Then, there’s the ridiculousness of Ospreay to contend with.  He is one of the greatest wrestlers of the 21st century, whose passion for wrestling is evident.  This is a man who main evented the Tokyo Dome, got on a plane back to England and took bookings like he was still on the indies.

Ospreay is also a massive prick.  He isn’t a chicken shit heel: he doesn’t dodge challenges or cheat.  He wrestles at the highest possible level in gaudy outfits and acts like a wanker.  He’s the perfect heel – an incredible wrestler who wants to rub our noses in it.

The “fuck you Ospreay” chants started early and they were fuel to him, making him wrench in headlocks tighter and drop shoulder blocks with a little more power than necessary.  It was all perfectly positioned, though, and every action had a reaction.  Oku may have outsmarted him in the early game, but Ospreay upped the power and battered him.

The underdog Oku was perfect on his comebacks, dancing around the ring with incredible moonsaults.  It was the moments between that sold it, however, with a wide eyed Oku daring us to believe that he might just beat the global superstar.  Likewise, Ospreay was perfect in his dominance.  He would chop, but it was the lazy smirk afterwards that made it.  He was murderously playful, with speedy enziguris and massive backbreakers.

Oku was a little sloppy at times.  Frankensteiners didn’t have the snap they needed to and there were a couple of slips on the ropes.  What was brilliantly sloppy though, was the horrendous bump he took to the corner of the lighting rig.  Sometimes tables burst, but the way this one stayed horribly solid was brilliant.  Kawada kicks to his bloody dome were superb, and it was a smooth volta into the final stages of the match.

The Cheeky Nandos kicks were stunning.  Kick after kick landed square in Oku’s face, and the pace slowed into a violent plod. 

Ospreay dragging Amira Blair was an interesting spot that I didn’t necessarily enjoy watching, but the fire that it brought from Oku was undeniable.  Like the table spot earlier, he proved he was willing to risk it all with a majestic frog splash to the outside of the ring.

By the time both men were bleeding, it felt like every exchange built to a violent end.  An Oscutter on the apron, a top rope thump to Ospreay’s leg and  a wrenching single leg crab were all beautiful  moments of violence.

Oku was able to bounce back perfectly, taking us to the point of hopelessness and then storming back with those wide eyes and clenched fists powering him through one more dance.  A kick out from the Hidden Blade was heartstopping and I, like the York Hall faithful, willed him on.  Whether it was the way he fell into a Styles Clash, or the determination on his face when he wrenched in the half crab, Oku allowed me to suspend disbelief.  He made me believe that he might just win.

Of course, that was beaten out of me like Ospreay beat Oku’s skull with repeated Hidden Blades.  The way he stared at his family between each, lifting Oku’s shoulders off the mat, was brilliantly evil.  Blair threw in the towel, so Will threw it back in her face.  

Will was the perfect prick, and Oku’s literal and figurative babyface was the perfect canvas for him.  Great. ****¾

Closing Thoughts

This was a tiring show in a lot of ways.  Many of the matches were a little too long in the tooth and four hours was a little excessive.

That being said, many are seeing the timestamp of the main and dismissing it.  They are missing out on some of the greatest heel work of the year, and an incredible  babyface performance from Oku.  Matches like that, especially the closing ten minutes, are professional wrestling on a level not often seen.  It’s the craft considered and almost perfected.  Every moment felt important with consequences laced into every action.  It’s hard to pinpoint what makes a great match sometimes, but making 40 minutes feel like 4 is a fine indication of greatness.

I feel like I declare that RevPro is back at least twice a year but, baby… RevPro is back.