by Richard Hart
This is a story about wrestling, first and foremost. It’s also a story about the up and coming British wrestling scene, from a small local promotion rather than one of its more famous peers. It’s a story that involves wrestlers that you may have heard of but many that you won’t, with the likes of Joel Redman and Bram being familiar to some whilst the likes of Dan Splash, Richard Parliament and the Bristol Boys are probably new to most.
It’s also a story of my best friend’s birthday and how he started a series of road trips on Saturday nights and how much fun it is to see wrestling in person. It’s a story of car journeys, sat-navs, local chavs and rapping to the Beastie Boys.
So let’s start at the beginning: I love wrestling. Whilst I’m a “smart mark”, I don’t wear it as a point of pride, I’m not the type of fan to chant “you fucked up” or to troll major stars. I don’t hate John Cena, though sometimes I find his booking hard to understand. I’ve got a lot of respect for hard working indie feds like ROH, Chikara and PWG but mostly I watch WWE on the Network. That’s mainly cos it’s the easiest way to see wrestling. NXT is a Godsend!
For my best friend’s birthday we decided that we’d go and see four of Pro-Evolution Wrestling’s local shows. We’re based in Cheltenham (home of the Gold Cup) and these shows were in Gloucester, Worcester and Bristol, not one of them more than an hour from where we live. We’d only heard of Bram (who would appear at the Worcester show) so it was a new experience for us.
So the first night we packed up and shipped out, joined by Neil and George for one night only. George is the newest wrestling fan in our group and probably the least smarky of the four of us. We took our seats and the first test of our “friendship” happened: Tony (my best friend) had won a prize of reserved front row seats! But that’d mean we’d have to sit away from our friends. So what did we do? It’s bros before ringside seats… we took the next row back!
The strains of Ant & Dec’s legendary hip hop classic “Ready to Rumble” came blaring out and two referees and a smartly garbed announcer came out. As would be a regular feature he hyped the nights matches and then gave away free backstage passes to the fans who could make the most noise, seemingly small children each time.
The opening contest saw “Japanese” star Pyro work a fast paced, surprisingly slick match with a literally silver haired youngster called Dan Splash. In many cases I didn’t have a match card to work with and had never heard of people which did lead to a few moments where it was more of a case of “this guy” vs “that guy”. In this match the two young babyface workers wrestled a fast paced match with lots of ROH/NXT style spots and Pyro went over with a gorgeous corkscrew moonsault. My fears that our whole night would be fat men splatting each other in corners were allayed and I settled in ready to enjoy the night.
The second match saw “The Winner” PJ Jones, a charismatic comedy heel who loudly cries out “Winner” every time he hits a move and his pale, skinny heel partner Dave Eaton take on the likeable babyface tag team of the Bristol Boys. These two came out to the Beastie Boys “Fight for Your Right”, one of my least favourite Beasties tunes, but they got a good response. The match was classic tag team fare, one of the Bristol Boys (the smaller one) got cut off and double teamed before a hot tag saw his taller tag team partner hit a hot tag and clean house of the heels. The Bristol Boys went over and then, post match, PJ Jones took to the mic to make sure that we knew that as he didn’t get pinned, he was still a winner.
Next up was “Dirty” Dick Riley, another charismatic heel who was in the best shape of any in ring worker we’d seen so far. He faced Justin “The Hammer” Sysum who was from just up the road in Gloucester. As Justin has a passing resemblance to Chris Hemsworth, he’s packaged with a Thor gimmick complete with a foam hammer and a cape.
This was a strong match with good back and forth, some nice work between the two and Justin, despite being a bit of a mini-tank, was a fast moving worker too, going over with a lovely 450 moonsault. Riley was good too, working his heel stuff a bit more seriously than PJ Jones.
The tag team champions The System came out next. Big guy Tower was joined by little, greasy haired indie worker Logan Blackmore. The two got good heel heat in this non title match. They worked against the Welsh tag team of the Yolo Squad, who I wanted to lose for their name. The two skinny little white kids worked a fast pace but never seemed credible and lost clean after a massive choke-slam from Tower.
In the main event T-Bone came out with a slow deliberate walk to the ring, trying to get across how he was a serious heel character unlike the previous ones that we had seen. T-Bone was an impressive looking guy, tightly muscled and covered in tattoos. His opponent was a likeable Welsh babyface called Dylan Roberts, which provoked a conversation between me and my friends as to whether Dylan Moran or Dylan Thomas would have been as good…
There was, unfortunately, a long period of stalling before this match began. It felt like either someone was carrying an injury or that someone said to them that “psychology just means stalling”. Whatever happened, it went on for far too long. Dylan was an energetic worker but he was very reliant on well known moves like the RKO and Sweet Chin Music and he felt less like a serious wrestler and more like a tribute act. T-Bone went over with a dragon suplex after a scary looking second rope DDT.
We drove home buzzing about how good a night we’d had and how much fun it had been. We debated who we thought had been the best worker we’d seen, with Justin Sysum, Dick Riley and PJ Jones coming out on top and we had fun discussing what our own entrance music would be if we were wrestlers. If you’ve ever seen us, you’d know that of us only George could ever really be a wrestler. And he would be the worst wrestler of all time.
Join Richard for part 2 on Tuesday! You can find details of Pro-Evolution Wrestling’s upcoming shows at their website.