Revolution Pro Wrestling
Live In London 82
February 4, 2024
The 229, London, England

Watch: RevPro On Demand

Will Ospreay and Michael Oku Prepare Their Opus

I don’t believe for a second that Will Ospreay is retiring from indie wrestling. I believe that HE believes he is. A big bag of swag from Tony Khan can change a mind, but I’m not sure it can change a soul.

I remember seeing Will Ospreay wrestle in a tag match for What Culture Pro Wrestling just before he flew off to Japan for his first NJPW tour. The match started with molasses; a slow, sugary wade through appreciative applause for a young star that had outgrown the scene and was off to do us all proud. Ospreay, mindful of his upcoming responsibilities, clearly protected himself for the first third of the match. It plodded, the crowd clapped and the other three wrestlers whose names are lost to me, carried an armbar-to-headlock type of affair.

While the details of the match may be lost, I will never forget the moment Will Ospreay said “fuck this.”  The other workers went one armbar too far, and before we knew it, Will was bounding around with moonsaults, topes and more flips than my eyes could cope with. Ospreay could not stand to be part of an average match.

Will Ospreay couldn’t change the wrestler he was on the eve of his New Japan debut, and I don’t believe he’ll change now he has the AEW bag. The moment he doesn’t feel creatively satisfied, he’ll be begging Tony to let him do our Andy a favor.

Ospreay is the greatest wrestler in the world today, and it’s because the craft always comes first. He could have taken the WWE bag many years ago, and I’m sure he’d be even richer than he is now. But, as I said earlier, you can’t change a man’s soul. There’s always the feeling that Ospreay has maintained a part of the kid bouncing around on a trampoline, replicating his heroes and pushing himself to be better.

Maybe one day I’ll look like an idiot, and Ospreay will have a podcast that slags young workers off and cares about wrestling that makes money and money alone. But for now, it feels like we’re watching a true auteur practise his craft at an incredible level.

However, as we always say, kayfabe is a two way street and I’m going to believe the upcoming match against Oku is his last. He will face the current champion at High Stakes, hoping to take the belt in his final match for RevPro. I went back and forth on the booking here. Would it be more appropriate to put a young star over? Maybe, if I put my snooty armchair booking hat on, I would have done a little program with JJ Gale or something. But, that’s why I’m not a booker. Good bookers, like Andy Quildan, understand that sometimes you have to give the fans what they want. Quildan spoke about how it fills him with pride that he’s putting on a match between two of the best to have ever wrestled in the United Kingdom, and I felt ashamed that I would have done anything else. I second guess, I sneer and I think I know better. A good booker, and Quildan is a great booker, knows what I want before I do.

Of course, I want two of the best wrestlers in the world to tell an amazing story. What a way to end Ospreay’s stunning 2023 and move on to his American era.

The promo was framed perfectly. Far too often, British wrestling obsesses over the silly. The cheap laugh is easy, but it is quickly forgotten. RevPro have told stories that live with me because it speaks a language I understand. I don’t understand what being head of a table means, and I don’t know how to finish my story. I do know lingering feelings of failure and inadequacy. I know questioning my own confidence.  The promo between Ospreay and Oku was dripping in reality, and I saw myself and the people I know.

Both men were wearing suits, staring at each other to measure mutual respect and fear. It qualified for the oft-misused phrase “big fight feel,” and quite frankly, that would have been enough. Luckily for us, great storytellers like Ospreay and Oku push for more.

So often in stories, the smallest ripples make the most devastating waves. Ospreay pointed out that people who are buying tickets to see the match aren’t interested in it being a rematch of a five star classic. They’re buying tickets to say goodbye to Ospreay. All the best insults have a little bit of truth to them.

Oku’s motivation? He led the independent scene, and he knows he’ll always be seen as second best to Ospreay. Deckard wanted to retire, Rocky wanted to see if he was good enough, Oku wants to prove he’s better than Ospreay. No amount of pomp and circumstance can hit harder than a simple, aching need. To Oku, this is redemption. To Ospreay, this is a pageant. An opportunity to revel in his stardom and move on to bigger things.

The truth in the promo was astounding. Balancing kayfabe with reality is a fine art, and one that so many in the wrestling business have utterly fumbled. Simple mentions of prestigious companies and guaranteed money grounded us perfectly, and allowed us to breathe the story.

Amira was brilliant here, heightening the stakes with an emotional breakdown of what the last match did to Oku. In short, it broke him, and we’re going to do it all again.

I understand that promos are supposed to make me want to watch a match, and this certainly did that. However, RevPro can give me a story to chew on, something to think about on long drives and quiet moments. 

How many companies can say they do that?

What Do We Do With Luke Jacobs?

Luke Jacobs has consistently defied expectations. I remember watching the Young Guns in various gyms and community centers around Manchester, knowing there was something there, but the heights Jacobs has reached are unprecedented. He has a stellar 2023, defined by the 36th best match of the year against Tomohiro Ishii at the Copper Box, which was possibly the best match I’ve ever seen live.

Jacobs has met every challenge in his way. He became a great singles wrestler, he managed to get over the “four star hump” that so many workers struggle with and he has refined his charisma perfectly. I believe Luke Jacobs is a real person, and it’s so refreshing. He’s not fitting a predefined mould of a technical wrestler, or playing a silly gimmick. He’s a rough lad from Manchester who probably got in trouble a lot in school. I can engage with a character that I recognize.

The problem with Luke Jacobs now is in opportunity. What he needs is a place to shine. He’s been booked by PROGRESS for their WrestleMania show, and while I have no doubt that show will be diarrhoea, it gives the other promotions there a chance to book him. It’s just a shame that the peak of the weekend is some Joey Janela multi man snoozefest. If he isn’t booked for Bloodsport, it will be borderline dereliction of duty. Imagine what a Luke Jacobs could have done in a pre-pandemic WrestleMania weekend, or a thriving PWG.

All of Jacobs’ strengths were on display here against Nico Inverardi. The stoic, waiting violence is tangible in his entrance, and he speaks the same language we do. It’s grappling arm bars with extra wrenching, headlocks with rubbing forearms and a far-away look before slapping his opponent. He’s smart enough not to play heel or to go full blue-eye. He’s consistently Luke Jacobs and he’s one of the best wrestlers in Europe. The often amateur camera work was great here, especially when it captured the slight hint of enjoyment in the corner of Jacobs’ mouth as he chopped his opponent senseless. His selling was as stellar as ever, balancing fighting spirit with fatigued muscles to create a believe battle with his own body that heightens every single moment. This was by  no means a great match, hovering around ***½, but we’re marching towards the big show.

He’s facing JJ Gale at Crystal Palace in a match that might not be getting much buzz, but could steal the show. Jacobs has incredible momentum, basking in a stellar run of matches and JJ Gale is young, hungry and ready to step up the card. This is when wrestling is it’s most exciting, and I can’t wait for that match.




Connor Mills Redefines Violence

It might be the haircut, it might be the bulk or it might be the fact that he doesn’t seem to be afraid to let his body die, but Connor Mills is my leader for most improved wrestler. His magnum opus with Oku had some excellent high points, but bordered on the melodramatic too often to be considered great. It is the 2023 into 24 Mills that is shining brighter than ever.

For all the questions about friendship and love he raised with Oku, his current story is much more visceral. He made me think about what violence is in a wrestling ring. I’ve never been a huge fan of deathmatch style wrestling, being somewhat desensitised after seeing my four hundredth light tube break. I want to feel the violence in my wrestling somewhere deep in my gut, and Mills and Trent Seven Battering each other did just that.

This match was auditory violence – constant thuds of bone on bone. A double footstomp to the chairs outside was stupidity in the best way, and the repeated staccato “MILLS” from his theme tune playing as he panted with bruises on his face affected me more than any table spot.

Mills marches to Crystal Palace to face ZSJ, winning with a very Sabre-like manoeuvre here.

This was easily Trent Seven’s best match in a long time, if not ever, and well worth your time. Easy ****½.

Elsewhere

Robbie X beat Mirko Mori in a perfectly functional opener (***¼) that was technically innovative, if a little uninspired. I understand using Robbie X as your opening crowd pleaser, but it feels like we need a bit more from him now. He’s found his charisma, but there’s some booking care missing at the moment.

Ricky Knight Jr beat Elijah (***½): RKJ is spinning his wheels a bit. After a great build to a title run that was ultimately curtailed by injury, RKJ feels like he’s in a tired marriage with RevPro. They just don’t know how to get the magic back. Of course, RKJ is a brilliant worker, and I’ll never get bored of him showing his amazing strength spots. The problem is, he’s a very derivative worker. His finisher is the Rikishi Driver or Muscle Buster and he does suplexes with lots of hang time to bring the momentum to a grinding halt. The audience count to forty, clap politely, then spend the next five minutes trying to get back into the match. I understood what this match was going for, there were lots of kick outs and big power moves, but it lacked the intangible that takes matches to the next level. The Ogogo feud is dull and it feels like it’s killing time. There’s an AEW connection there with the Knights in America, so time may be numbered anyway.

I very much enjoyed the tag match, which saw Safire Reed and Alexxis Falcon beat Kanji and Dani Luna (***1/4), seemingly more than Quildan and Grey on commentary who were talking about the hit TV show Traitors. Three of the wrestlers were fantastic, but Falcon stands out for being a bit Progress. There’s a solid base for a good story in the women’s division, but I’ve been saying that about RevPro for years and I don’t have much faith in them making the most of the energy on display from the wrestlers here.

Young Blood, the debuting Young Lions Oscar Leube and Yuto Nakashima, defeated Lacey and Trew in a quick debut (***¼) which showed a lot of promise. Lacey and Trew were a bit of an underground wrestling secret in 2023, and pairing them with the team on excursion is perfect.

Minoru Suzuki obviously beat Leyton Buzzard (***½) in a Suzuki match. It’s incredibly satisfying to see even a formulaic Suzuki match, because he’s one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Buzzard really embraced the opportunity, and showed potential previously wasted in ICW. Buzzard is a perfect meeting of look, skill and expression and definitely lost up here. Buzzard is a star ready to be crowned when Andy needs it most.

Final Thoughts

If you’re planning on watching Ospreay’s final indie match, you should at least watch the promo. No indie tells nuanced stories like RevPro, and this could be one of their best. Elsewhere, you’ll find a lot of good matches, one great match and a promotion that feels ready for a massive 2024.