LIVE! Revolution Pro-Wrestling: Summer Sizzler (London, 14/06/2015)

It felt weird to be driving to Bethnal Green for a wrestling show and it not being Lucha Britannia, but sometimes a change does a man good, and the Sunday traffic was a lot better than the Friday rush hour you usually battle on the way to the Resistance Gallery.

Still, good habits die hard, and there was still parking space outside the ResGal even if there weren’t any nightmare clowns, dead rockstars, or venomous frogs to be seen. The destination today was Revolution Pro-Wrestling, over the road from home away from home, at the York Hall, and their Summer Sizzler show.

Now I’m not sure when naming every single show came about, and I was as guilty as anybody back in the day at BRAWL and the FWA, but it doesn’t always work. And Summer Sizzler is one of those that doesn’t work. It’s more in keeping with a BBQ or a beach-themed Ann Summers party than a wrestling show, but it’s a minor thing worth noting.

What did work was just about everything else, which built from a solid start to a crowd-lifting crescendo, with plenty of highlights on the way. But that’s getting ahead of things…

The York Hall is a classic old building, built in 1929 and still keeping many of the features that stood out even then. It’s a famous boxing venue, and has latterly become the venue of choice for some of the bigger wrestling shows in London – its 1200 capacity unusual within the inner zones. The FWA ran some big shows there in the mid-2000s (including one I was at but have little memory of, probably because I was fond of a pre-show ale or two back then), and Lucha Libre World are presenting The Greatest Spectacle of Lucha Libre there next month. Mostly, though, it’s where Revolution Pro-Wrestling hold their big shows.

The last time they ran the York Hall, High Stakes in February, the newly-crowned IWGP champion AJ Styles went toe-to-toe with Will Ospreay, and Styles returned for the Sizzler, too. Also back from that show was Colt Cabana, playing out his months-long angle with Lord Gideon Grey, and Lucha Underground champion Prince Puma – or, more accurately, his everyday incarnation Ricochet – was also due to return.

The latter, however, withdrew late in the day, citing passport problems that also prevented him from making it to a show in Germany the night before, but the promotion promised a decent replacement.

The biggest attraction for many of the fans in attendance – including this writer – was the appearance of Shinsuke Nakamura and Tomohiro Ishii from New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and RevPro have forged something of a partnership with the Japanese promotion, definitely to the benefit of their fans if not their fly-in budget.

The show started a little late, which annoys but isn’t a huge thing on a Sunday afternoon, with a pre-Summer Sizzler match, taped for RevPro’s YouTube TV show. Awesome Dutchman Tommy End took on Josh Bodom, with Bodom scoring an upset win. It was a little long and the result wasn’t warmly-received, but it kicked things off.

The show proper started with the Revolution Pro-Wrestling Undisputed British Tag-Team titles being defended, although one half of the champions – Mark Haskins – was unable to make the show due to a family emergency. Instead, Joel Redman picked “Mr Moonsault” Jake McCluskey as his replacement, and the pair took on Sha Samuels & James Castle of the Revolutionists. Samuels & Castle got the win after shenanigans to become the new champions, with Redman & McCluskey having slight issues after the bell. Samuels, as always, was a treat, and the others worked hard.

From my seat on the balcony, which I’d recommend to anyone, sat next to a genuine BBC local radio personality, I got a great view of one of the reasons I’d come, the one that had really sold it to me, Tomohiro Ishii. For years a journeyman in New Japan, he’s undergone a renaissance in recent years with a new appreciation for his grunting efforts growing in the west, much to his bemusement by all accounts.

Ishii is not a big man, and was made to look even smaller by his opponent, the huge Ulsterman Big Damo. And it may have been because it was his first time in a new country, working with a guy he didn’t know, but it looked like he worked light, to the disappointment of some fans and Damo. Still, the two put together an engaging contest, with a ton of believable very nearfalls, with Damo getting the win after a Van Damo-nator and a senton. Much like the opener, the crowd were a little shocked by the result, but popped for it because Big Damo is just one of those guys you have to love, even if he is a dirty heel.

After the match, a video played on the big screen, revealing the first match for October’s Uprising show, also at the York Hall. That match was… Kazuchika Okada & Gedo versus Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jushin Liger. Yes, NJPW was returning to RevPro. And with Gedo. Sold.

There was a girl in the ringside seats dressed as Shinsuke Nakamura and I don’t think she expected him to come out so early in the card because, when he did for the next match, she wasn’t in her seat (and discretion prevents me from suggesting where she possibly was instead). But she made it back to her seat in time to see him climb into the ring, and she wasn’t the only one electrified by his presence.

Nakamura was due to face Ricochet but those passport issues instead brought out Roderick Strong, who’d been a stand-out across London for PROGRESS three weeks earlier. Strong, the Pro-Wrestling Guerilla champion, wears low-top wrestling boots (given I did the same when I was working, I approve), and the fans love to chant “Shitty Little Boots” at him. He turned this into a masterclass of humorous stalling, refusing to enter the ring until they stopped. They didn’t. At one point, he even began removing his boots, only for the crowd to chant “Shitty Little Socks”. Gold.

Eventually he relented, and the two had a great match. I’ve never been high on Strong but he was awesome here, and Nakamura – who could have lazily popped the crowd by only hinting at his usual spots – worked hard, and those usual spots were gratefully and uproariously received by the fans.

Nakamura got the win with the Bom A Ye, and afterwards Big Damo came down to the ring and challenged him to a match at Uprising. Nakamura accepted with a “yeaoh” and Uprising just got twice as good from an already amazing start.

During the interval, which was next and ran far too long for my liking, I took a walk around the merchandise stands and saw Joel from SPLX, who used to be Joel the referee from FCW. He also used to be a skinny little thing and now he’s all hench. So, yeah, go to SPLX if you want to be hench, I guess.

The New Japan stand was selling t-shirts which had been pre-worn by Tomohiro Ishii. They were £10 more than the unworn ones and I think that’s the most Japan thing I saw that day.

Back to the show, and a two-out-of-three-falls match between RPW Undisputed British Cruiserweight champion Will Ospreay and the former Evan Bourne, Matt Sydal. These two tore the house down at the May TV tapings at the compact & bijou Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone, and they had another classic here.

If I’m honest, the first time I saw Ospreay – last October, in Bedford, for Mark Sloan’s WrestlingStore promotion – he didn’t impress me, although plenty did on that night. Since then he’s become one of my favourites, if not the top British guy I’ve seen. He’s such a natural blue-eye, and everything he does is crisp and with meaning. Some of his offense would be spotty from other guys but Ospreay’s intensity makes even the silliest standing moonsault look like it means something.

I never saw Sydal when he worked in WWE, and don’t remember much of his stuff on the indies before that, but he, too, is a pleasure to watch. And these two together? Pure joy. Sydal took the first fall with a Shooting Star Press, before Ospreay evened things up with a roll-up. Finally, Ospreay got the win – and kept his title – with a corkscrew Shooting Star Press, and the two got a much-deserved standing ovation.

Following a match like that is tough. And a canny promoter will usually throw out something people don’t care too much for, to give the fans time to catch their breaths and so as not to lessen the impact of something valuable. And many people must have thought that a comedy tag-team match between Colt Cabana & Matt Classic and Lord Gideon Grey & Rishi Ghosh would have fitted that bill perfectly.

BUT! – and not taking anything away from Ospreay versus Sydal – these four absolutely stole the show. The set-up for the match was that Colt Cabana and Matt Classic are one and the same. Grey had gotten Cabana banned from RevPro, but fell to Classic – who he resolutely believed to be Cabana – at High Stakes. Therefore, he challenged Cabana and Classic to a tag-team match, to prove that the two couldn’t be in the same place at the same time.

Grey & Ghosh came out, and were soon joined by Cabana. When Matt Classic’s music played, however, no-one came out. Cabana returned to the back to fetch him and many expected him to come back out with the Matt Classic mask on, but instead he came out with Matt Classic. And anyone who says that Matt Classic bore more than a passing resemblance to Grado is a liar.

Yes, he may have been wearing Grado’s trademark bumbag and, yes, he may have had identical tattoos, one even saying Grado, but referee Chris Roberts was satisfied that he wasn’t Grado and that was good enough for everyone else, including Ghosh, who apologised to Cabana, much to Grey’s anger.

They had a great comedy match, built around Classic’s old school offense and squats, and some Grado spots worked behind the referee’s back, and Cabana & Classic got the win to earn Cabana his spot back on the RevPro roster. Top work from all concerned.

So, the main event. Marty Scurll versus AJ Styles for the RPW Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship, and ring announcer (and promoter) Andy Quildan declared, “there must be a winner!” This kinda gave away the ending, given New Japan don’t let Styles, as their champion, do jobs, but the two still built a compelling contest.

I don’t like Styles. I never have. I never liked him at all when he was a young flyer (when, ironically for such a massive homophobe, he looked like a gay pornstar), and even though I can appreciate he’s gotten better in the intervening years, he still leaves me cold, with nothing he does making any emotional connection with me. Having said that, and maybe as a mark of just how good Marty Scurll can be when he’s on, I was engaged in this, and can’t say it wasn’t an enjoyable main event. Just not as enjoyable as it would have been without Styles.

And Styles got the win, with the horrid Styles Clash, to take the title, which Scurll did not take well. Before the match started, the referee had ordered Scurll’s Revolutionist henchmen – Josh Bodom, Sha Samuels, and James Castle – to the back, and they returned to lay a beating on Styles. Who should make the save but Will Ospreay! He ran off The Revolutionists and this set up a triple threat main event at Uprising for Styles’s Undisputed title.

I sloped back to my car, tired and wired but enthused and reflective. If RevPro suffers from anything it’s that they don’t have a USP. They’re not PROGRESS or Insane Championship Wrestling (or even Lucha Britannia or Attack Pro-Wrestling), where the show sells the tickets, and they’re not Southside or Preston City Wrestling, who rely on former-WWE & TNA stars (and do very well out of that, too). The vast majority of RevPro’s roster works elsewhere in the UK, and the imports they do use tend also to work for other promotions, mostly because Quildan is a sensible businessman and shares flight costs with other promoters.

Summer Sizzler may be a terrible name for a show but it was a great show. RevPro have a few more shows this summer before kicking off the autumn with Uprising, in London and Hampshire, and you could do worse than get along to one of them. If you can’t, well there’s the RevPro TV show, every Monday on their YouTube channel, and all the shows are available from their OnDemand service. Check out revolutionprowrestling.com for details.

So what is RevPro? The real answer is that it doesn’t matter, because whatever they are, however you might think there’s no trademark flavour to their shows, it’s working. Ishii & Nakamura sold the show to me, and Gedo & Okada have sold Uprising, but the rest of the card gave me value-for-money, even at a slightly-high ticket price. When it comes to a USP, VFM is a good place to start.

 

 

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