January 16 2016
We’re in London, England, at York Hall. The famous boxing venue has hosted some major events for Rev Pro including a full blown New Japan tour card late last year. This show is based around a few major contests. Firstly the British Heavyweight Championship match featuring AJ Styles defending against Zack Sabre Jr. AJ is off to WWE so this will be his final appearance in the promotion. He’s expected to drop the title but who knows what will happen with professional wrestling. The other big match sees Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay clash. The duo have both come up short against Styles in challenging for the belt but their rivalry is one of the leading rivalries in British Wrestling and there’s a feeling something is about to give. Largely with Ospreay rumoured to be competing with TNA in the near future. His cause has not been harmed by coming in third during the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s “best flying wrestler” award for 2015. Ahead of such stars as Neville, Matt Sydal and Flamita. There are big things in his immediate future. Hosts are Oliver Bennett and Andy Quildan.
British Cruiserweight Championship
Pete Dunne (c) vs. Flash Morgan Webster
This belt has been jumping around recently. Josh Bodom won it but lost to Andrew Everett. The American junior then injured his knee and “Bruiserweight” Dunne won the vacant strap, beating El Ligero and Webster in a short tournament final. Webster is a decent flier but he has a weird Mod gimmick that I don’t like. He recently did a Luke Skywalker gimmick on an Indie show and I’d much prefer that. Dunne hasn’t really made a name for himself as yet so the crowd are a bit quiet. His Scurll-lite haircut allows the crowd to chant “topknot wanker” at him. Dunne has improved his physique and his timing, especially on taking Webster’s lucha moves, is really strong. Webster is building a reputation as a flier and he tries hard here but they don’t quite get on the same page, especially when Dunne is on top. The transitions don’t work for me with a momentum changer, like Dunne’s forearm to a flying Webster, leading to a Webster counter spot. It just doesn’t make sense. Webster does a decent job of selling his ribs until he doesn’t bother anymore. Webster keeps missing off the top and Dunne finishes him off to retain. This was ok but both men need someone better to play off. Dunne has the most potential so I can understand him holding the strap. Needs challengers though.
Final Rating: **1/4
Big Damo vs. “Speedball” Mike Bailey
Big size contrast with small Canadian junior Bailey facing off against hoss Big Damo. The Irishman is a hairy, hairy bastard. Unfortunately Andy Boy Simmonz joins commentary at this point. His ignorance is astounding and it shows why he never amounted to anything as a wrestler. His lack of research is appalling. Speedball wailing on Damo with kicks is brilliant. As is Damo’s violent response. They blow a spot on the floor, which is unfortunate but recover quickly. Bailey looks slightly better conditioned than during BOLA, which was one of my few complaints about his performance there. They tell a nice story of underdog versus big bully with Speedball using a tidy mix of flying and striking. Damo’s structuring is really good, allowing Bailey to shine without it being ludicrous. What I like about Damo is everything he does looks devastating whether it’s a clothesline or a dropkick. He uses that size effectively. Nice to see Damo has switched to that EVIL reverse brainbuster as a finish too, after he nearly crippled Shinsuke Nakamura with it. Solid match with good effort from both men. Damo behaves like a face post match by offering a handshake and respect for Speedball. An interesting development.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Doug Williams vs. Colt Cabana
On the preview episode of the Brit Wres Roundtable I mentioned how these two were both talented technicians but that the quality of the match would depend on the mixture of grappling and comedy. Colt tends to have better matches when he limits the comedy but he drops into the comedy with such ease. They have fun with Doug torturing Colt only for Cabana to get reversals and Doug countering out, thus avoiding the pain. They don’t have to work hard as everything makes sense and it’s fun to watch. It’s also a good switch of pace as you can’t have everyone trying to out-do each other with the crazy matches up and down the card. That can get exhausting. The only place it really works is PWG. The match deteriorates as it gets serious as the pacing becomes methodical. When they were doing comedy the pacing didn’t matter. Colt ends up slipping out of Chaos Theory and doing the over the top sliding pin to take it. Cabana’s post match speech is full of history and mirth as he throws his hat in the ring to go after the heavyweight title only to get jumped by “Matt Classic”. It’s actually Lord Gideon Grey, continuing the Colt-Gideon feud. Bit of a backwards step for Cabana after such a big win.
Final Rating: ***
#1 Contender’s Match
Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay
Nice to see Scurll hasn’t changed his music in Rev Pro. It’s a party atmosphere when it kicks in. WOOP, WOOP! Whoever wins this match gets another honour: their own action figure. These two have worked each other quite a lot recently, including two TV matches for Rev Pro, so they’ve got slick counters lined up. I’ve seen them all before but it doesn’t make it any less impressive. They make it feel like a big match too, especially with the Indie stand offs. Those used to be seriously overdone but it works here. Scurll brings the cheating and short-cuts while Ospreay flies around using the ropes. It’s a really good match. Ospreay does all the tough spots but Marty still has to be in position for them and he is. Especially around ringside where Scurll does a mocking lap of honour celebrating one spot only for Ospreay to sneak through the crowd and hit him with a tope off the ramp. Ospreay takes some crazy bumps in this one, where he looks like a CGI character for taking them. Scurll dismantles Ospreay one body part at a time, on the arm and then the legs and back. It’s systematic and an attempt to ground Will. It doesn’t work as Ospreay is more into selling fatigue than body parts but the thought was there. Also selling would take a lot of Will’s arsenal away and make the match less fun. The way Ospreay learns to counter certain spots, like the arm-ringer, into something insane is wonderful to watch. The near falls and submission counters get unbearable down the stretch. I love how the guy who throws the most histrionics get countered. The slapfest! Brilliant. The headbutts! The ridiculous counters! The move theft! The final sequences! The finish is brilliant too with Scurll finally trapping Ospreay with a series of brutal elbows before hooking the Chickenwing and getting the win. It reminds me of Bryan Danielson at his peak in ROH. Amazing match. An early MOTYC.
Final Rating: ****3/4
ROH World Heavyweight Championship
Jay Lethal (C) vs. Mark Haskins
Making this an ROH title match might pop the crowd but it rather telegraphs the outcome as there’s no way ROH would put their belt on Haskins, when he’s never worked there. The match also has a massive uphill struggle to live up to the previous match in terms of quality. At least Jay didn’t bring Truth Martini with him. He’s far better by himself and he doesn’t work heel here. The ROH belt being defended in Rev Pro is an interesting development as Rev Pro have been working with New Japan, ROH with NJPW themselves and this completes the trifecta of promotions. What’s next; CMLL? Why not? Simmonz finally comes up with something worthwhile on commentary during this, pointing out the ROH title became a world title when Samoa Joe defended it in York Hall. Of course he only knows this because he was booked on that card. It didn’t involve effort or research to know that. He just happened to be there. Joe’s title defence at the Frontiers of Honor show (May 17 2003) was against Zebra Kid. Simmonz was in the corner of Raj Ghosh and Ross Jordan, facing off against Burchill. This match takes a while to get going before a ridiculous strike duel with sensational counters finally gets the crowd going. Haskins manages some great technical switches, which put Lethal’s effort levels to shame. It’s not that Lethal isn’t trying but Haskins just has better ideas. Especially regarding submissions and how to get into them. Lethal is so outclassed with the mat skill that he kicks Haskins low and hits the Lethal Injection to retain.
Final Rating: ***1/4
The Revolutionists (Sha Samuels, James Castle & Josh Bodom) vs. The Lost Souls (Jimmy Havoc, Tyson T-Bone & X)
This feud has been rumbling on for a while with Jimmy Havoc having issues with Josh Bodom but getting along with the rest of the Revolutionists until Bodom forced them to choose. Havoc’s mystery third man is Bram. TNA star and former son-in-law of Ric Flair no less. The spousal abuse charges against him may have been dropped but Bram still has a dirty mark on him. The no DQ rule means they just brawl around all over the place. It’s a change of pace but it’s a real mess. It has an ECW vibe about it and Havoc basically uses it to get free beers off the fans. The timing isn’t great on most of it with the odd exception. Havoc murders Bodom with the Acid Rainmaker to get a measure of revenge for their storyline. It’s the only part of the match worth seeing.
Final Rating: *
British Heavyweight Championship
AJ Styles (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Simmonz idiocy continues here as he says that technical wrestling will always triumph over everything else before picking Styles to retain. He literally contradicted himself during the same sentence. This match is technically strong as Sabre is always incredible at the countering style and AJ can keep up with him. The countering is phenomenal. It’s such excellent wrestling. Sabre is so good that he’s able to make AJ look foolish, which is a rarity in of itself. Styles is the Wrestling Observer Wrestler of the Year although Sabre, for a second year running, won best technician in 2015. Styles eventually gives up on trying to match Sabre on the mat and just goes after the leg with more aggression to set up the Calf Killer. Sabre’s response is to work the arm, looking for a submission of his own. The trading of strikes is interesting as they’ve both worked extensively in Japan over the past few years. Clearly they’ve learned a thing or two. The scouting is terrific too as both men recognise their opponents moves. It might even be lost on a few of the audience members because they keep it subtle. The best spot of the match is a recycling of the Nakamura-AJ armbar counter into a half Styles Clash. Seeing as AJ is leaving he’s able to give up these seemingly indestructible holds so Sabre kicks out of that and barely sells for the Bloody Sunday at all. The finish is amazing with Sabre managing to tie up both of AJ’s arms and getting a leglock at the same time. AJ has nowhere to go and verbally submits. Terrific match but the potential was here for a series and I’m a bit sad it won’t happen.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Post Match: The crowd chant “thank you, Styles”. They know he’s going. Everyone knew he was going weeks before this. AJ’s post match promo is wonderful. The way he puts over Zack especially. “That thing you just got me with…you just make that up?” AJ claims he doesn’t know what the future holds and the crowd chant “Royal Rumble”. If only. Sabre ends the show. “From now on this is my building”.
Summary: Two huge matches to kick off the year of British wrestling. AJ-Sabre and Scurll-Ospreay were both terrific matches. A few of the other undercard bouts didn’t exactly deliver but this show had a little something for everyone. Big names, wild brawls, submission style, epics, junior action, comedy. It’s the one ring circus. Top work from Rev Pro and I look forward to their 2016 output. It’s started out well.