As well as having one of the longest names in wrestling today, Los Ingobernables de Japon are, in my mind, a singular thing for another reason. Their formation as a stable makes absolute sense. They’re more than just a collection of individuals. They have real history and a connection forged from Naito’s time training with his teammates either at Animal Hamaguchi’s gym or at the New Japan Dojo in Tokyo that binds them together as more than just partners. They’re friends, even if they are pretty ‘Tranquilo’ about the whole thing.
So what a masterstroke from Rev Pro to get all five active members of LIJ (still no word on Takahashi’s return date from injury) together for a PPV card that is LIT from top to bottom. Their appearance as a unit has, of course, happened before when Bullet Club took on LIJ in a 10 man tag team match at York Hall (things did not end well for Takahashi’s stuffed toy mascot Daryl).
While that was a lot of fun, this time it’s all business as Bushi and Evil fight for the Rev Pro tag titles and the spotlight falls firmly on rising star SANADA as he makes a play for Zack Sabre Junior’s Undisputed British Heavyweight Title.
White/Fredericks/Connors Vs Kenneth Halfpenny/Shaun Jackson/Kidd
The special guest slot at Ungovernable was reserved for legitimate tough man Katsuyori Shibata (more on this later). Shibata is a former Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion and New Japan alumni so his presence here is truly venerated. He is now the head coach at the New Japan Dojo in LA and this match is a showcase for up-and-coming talent from the NJPW LA Dojo and Rev Pro’s own Contenders programme.
Clark Connors and Karl Fredericks are the LA Dojo contingent and, not having really seen any of these wrestlers in the ring before, it was hard to know what to expect. Connors and Fredericks looked great in the ring and, with a limited move set which is often a tricky proposition, all six men managed to slowly win over the crowd as the match graduated from hold-for-hold wrestling to an all-out brawl. Despite the LA Young Lions dominance at times, the Rev Pro contenders team scored the win via Boston crab submission hold thanks to Gabriel Kidd.
At the end of the match, Kidd paid tribute to Rev Pro as a promotion and called out Katsuyori Shibata, head trainer at the NJPW LA Dojo. Shibata received a massive reception and told Kidd that he would help him achieve his goal of being a better wrestler by taking him to train in LA – an offer Kidd could not refuse.
— Gabriel Kidd (@WrestlingGabe) June 29, 2019
Hikuleo Vs Dan Magee
Hikuleo is an absolute monster. The big little brother of NJPW multiple time tag champs Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, his mere presence at somewhere around six feet eight inches tall would strike fear into the hearts of most people. However, Dan Magee has been steadily establishing himself in Rev Pro after graduating as a Contender as a wrestler with a lot of heart and a tonne of ability. Hikuleo is only recently back from injury, having been sidelined for around a year but he isn’t missing a (giant-footed) step.
Hikuleo dominated in this match with Magee launching a comeback including an incredible somersault senton to the outside. However, Magee ultimately stole the win with a victory roll which Hikuleo was less than impressed with. Hikuleo eventually found a chair under the ring to use on Magee but Kurtis Chapman tried to make the save. However, he suffered a powerbomb on top of a prone Magee for his trouble. It seems like this isn’t over and sets up a possible feud between Magee/Chapman and Hikuleo but we’ll see how this one develops.
Gisele Shaw Vs Seleziya Sparx
Rev Pro has been building its Women’s Division from scratch over the last couple of years and, with the likes of Jinny as a former champion and Zoe Lucas as the current title holder, they have attracted some great names. Gisele Shaw is another prolific wrestler. Trained by Lance Storm in Canada, she has wrestled for just about every UK promotion at some stage or another so it’s great to see her in a Rev Pro ring. Playing off against Gisele Shaw’s high-risk style is fellow Canadian-trained powerhouse Seleziya Sparx.
Shaw’s early aerial offence was mitigated by Sparx’s raw power. After an arm wringer and then attempting to walk the ropes Shaw was brought crashing back down to the mat and then worked over by Sparx. Sparx’s DGAF attitude (she refused to fist bump some guy in the crowd on her way to the ring – boo!) carried through the whole match. She dominated Shaw until she could fire back with a pair of top rope hurricanranas but it wasn’t enough as Sparx dumped her on her head to pick up the win via pinfall.
Shingo Takagi Vs Michael Oku
It’s been a slow build for former DragonGate legend Shingo over the last year but after a great run with Bushi as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions and in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament leading to an incredible match in the final against Will Ospreay, his stock is certainly rising.
He’s even entering the G1 this year, cementing his openweight status. Thinking back to Shingo’s time partnering with Bushi, Takagi had the ability to get the best out of his previously overlooked partner. Plus, there was always something heartwarming in a slightly terrifying kind of way about Shingo standing at ringside shouting encouragement at Bushi (Shingo is built like a brick wall).
Who, then, could challenge Shingo? Surely, there is a British wrestler out there staking his own claim as an openweight, making a name for himself in the wrestling world? Yes, there is and it is Michael Oku, also known as The O.J.M.O.
Fresh off a hard-fought battle for the Frontline European Openweight title (worth a watch, by all accounts), the young star has been making waves in Rev Pro. He debuted, I believe, in their television show for the Freesports channel here in the UK and was subsequently made a full-time member of the Rev Pro roster by Rev Pro bossman Andy Quildan. He also challenged The Bastard PAC himself. Trained by Brit Wrestling legend Darrell Allen, Oku has a solid wrestling background coming into this match which could play off well against Shingo’s raw power.
This was one of the best matches of the night and it’s one to just go and watch. After the first few minutes, Oku awakened the Dragon. After taking a pummeling and then fighting to the outside Oku was almost powerbombed on the entrance ramp by an enraged Shingo. However, Oku’s reversal seemed to prove pivotal for a moment until Shingo’s Death Vally Driver into the crowd looked like it would end the match before it had even got going. After landing on the fans sat next to the elevated entrance ramp, Oku had to clamber over the crowd to narrowly avoid being counted out by referee Chris Roberts.
While Shingo dominated, every time he had the upper hand Michael Oku would either find a counter for Shingo or dig deep and kick out of the pinfall attempt. Oku had Shingo well scouted, using a variety of strikes and kicks to avoid being decapitated by the Pumping Bomber.
After fighting to the outside again, Oku managed an Olympic high jump-esque shooting star press over the top rope to the outside. Something that has to be seen to be believed. His attempts at his half crab finisher betrayed Oku’s lack of experience, though, as Shingo was always too close to the ropes before Oku could apply it fully. Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, Shingo landed the Pumping Bomber and the Last of the Dragon to score the pin over Oku.
However, in a show of respect, Shingo spoke to Oku after the match and it was obvious that he was impressed with the heart shown by his young opponent. Shingo cemented his arrival in Rev Pro with the win but Oku showed that even in defeat he has so much to offer, not just to Rev Pro but to the British wrestling scene, as he is able to hang with the one of the best Japan has to offer.
Tetsuya Naito Vs MK McKinnan
If it wasn’t for Tetsuya Naito’s rule-breaking behaviour – spitting at his opponents, beating up commentators and general bad attitude, this whole event wouldn’t be taking place, at least, not as we know it. But I’m sure Naito doesn’t even care. He is, after all, Tranquilo. That’s probably also why he doesn’t care about his IWGP Intercontinental Championship, something he’s had a dichotomous love-hate relationship with during his tenure as the champ. I’m also slightly surprised he didn’t leave it on the baggage carousel at Manchester airport.
It was always going to be an uphill struggle for MK McKinnan but if there’s someone who can take Naito’s wily ways in his stride and focus on the job in hand, it’s McKinnan. Having taken some time away from wrestling a couple of years ago, he’s been on good form since he returned. His straight-shooting style seems to really fit with Rev Pro’s ethos and played off against Naito quite well.
Considering the event was called Ungovernable, it’s no surprise that this match started with the boss of LIJ up to his usual tricks. After taking about five minutes to take off his IWGP Intercontinental Championship belt, his cape and his suit, he returned the ref’s pre-match pat down with one of his own for the referee, who looked pretty shocked. Naito then started the match with his usual ‘fake out’ lock up, advising MK McKinnan in the ways of ‘Tranquilo’ before getting the jump on him.
This was a competitive match but Naito, unsurprisingly, had the edge throughout. MK’s mat work and high flying just wasn’t enough, although an impressive dropkick from the top rope was enough to put Naito down for a two count before kicking out. Ultimately, McKinnan had no answer for Gloria and then Destino so Naito was able to pick up the win.
Post-match, Naito’s rogue antics continued. In a seemingly uncharacteristic display of sportsmanship, Naito extended his hand to McKinnan who looked wary. After taking Naito’s hand he was rewarded with a swift beatdown. The ref then tried to interject and, after having his eyes raked, probably wished he’d left well enough alone. Naito ran off the ropes, seemingly going to attack the referee further but stopping at the last minute to demonstrate true Tranquilo-style.
Aussie Open (Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher) Vs Evil / Bushi Vs Josh Bodom / Sha Samuels Vs White Wolf (A-Kid and Carlos Romos)
Everything is evil in Manchester including, it turns out, Mark Davis’ hand slaps with the crowd as he walks to the ring with Aussie Open partner Kyle Fletcher to defend their British Tag Team Titles. Full disclosure here – Davis’ high-fives are so savage that, after he did it to me at Rev Pro’s first TV taping for Freesports, my hand went numb for about 20 minutes… and the footage didn’t even make the final cut of the show! Not that I’m bitter.
Speaking of bitter, Sha Samuels and Josh Bodom have been carving a swathe of destruction through their opponents with their rage focusing mainly on Rev Pro golden boy Dan Magee in recent months. With the addition of seasoned tag team wrestlers and former tag champs in their respective weight classes in NJPW, Evil and Bushi (although they don’t team together very much because of their different weight classes in NJPW) and the always astounding Team White Wolf, this match is a powder keg waiting to go off.
Tensions were high at the start of this one, with Samuels and Bodom getting in Aussie Open’s faces before the bell rang. It didn’t take too long for this to descend into carnage. Team White Wolf’s aerial attacks weren’t enough to put down Aussie Open or Samuels and Bodom. With Bushi and Evil keeping a relatively low profile (there’s that LIJ Tranquilo spirit again), it was left to the other three teams to kick lumps out of each other until the LIJ contingent would set foot in the ring to pick up the pieces.
After some chaotic action featuring Evil’s use of a chair on Carlos Romos outside of the ring, Bushi seized his opportunity to spray the black mist into A-Kid’s face. Samuels and Bodom were quick to take advantage of this, pinning A-Kid for the win. This was a controversial end to the match as Aussie Open lost the titles without being defeated directly, hopefully setting up a rematch in the future.
My whole face is still green, they are not gonna let me go back to Spain like this.
— A-Kid "El Niño Anónimo" (@AKidWrestler) June 29, 2019
Zack Sabre Jr. Vs SANADA
The main event has roots in last year’s two big tournaments for NJPW – the New Japan Cup and the G1. As an affiliated promotion, it’s great to see this long term rivalry between two great wrestlers spill over into Rev Pro. Currently 1-1, this match will put one man in front. SANADA’s new(ish) hairstyle deserves a big shout out at this point. It’s as impressive as his Keiji Mutoh-inspired moonsault and almost as impressive as ZSJ’s reign as Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion. Zack Sabre Junior’s pure wrestling ability singles him out from the rest and, even if his heel antics seem unpalatable, you have to respect his ring work.
This was the one that the crowd were especially looking forward to, given the previous encounters between SANADA and ZSJ. As we’ve seen before, it’s all too easy for Sabre Jr.’s opponents to be drawn into his game but SANADA was ready for him. Trading hold for hold, these two are so well matched this was a true pleasure to watch. They traded full nelsons, octopus stretches and a variety of other holds. They went strike for strike with each other and, despite his slight build I still maintain that ZSJ’s European uppercut is as lethal as any knife-edge chop or forearm strike that SANADA had to offer.
Zack resorted to playing for time on the outside but referee Chris Roberts refused the ten-count initially, eventually forcing the champ to get back in the ring. Sabre Jr.’s reticence was unfounded as SANADA’s attempts at his Skull End submission were neutralised by ZSJ each time, much to his chagrin. SANADA’s moonsault was also well scouted with Zack able to get his knees up to block. After SANADA traded pinning combination attempts with Zack, he eventually succumbed to ZSJ’s European clutch.
A crestfallen SANADA exited the ring and ZSJ addressed the crowd. After alluding to liking Manchester but only because of Joy Division, the Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion then pledged to win the G1 Climax ahead of Will Ospreay (derisively referred to as ‘Billy’ by Sabre) and take his title shot at Royal Quest in the Copper Box. He then promised that Royal Quest would be ‘the last event named after the Royal family’ and to fix the country in the wake of Brexit before closing out the show.
To sum up, it was a good show but there was a bit of a strange atmosphere at times with wrestlers like Oku, Magee and McKinnan finding it uncharacteristically difficult to win over the Manchester crowd. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, as Manchester is a new prospect for Rev Pro. Had this been York Hall in London, the crowd reaction may well have been more balanced.
The Rev Pro faithful will enjoy this event and, while bringing in LIJ was a big draw for the fans, it’s uncertain whether Rev Pro managed to break through to the Manchester crowd in quite the way they wanted to, but this was definitely a good start.
Ungovernable match results
- White/Fredericks/Connors Vs Halfpenny/Jackson/Kidd – Kidd wins via submission
- Hikuleo Vs Dan Magee – Magee wins via pinfall
- Gisele Shaw Vs Seleziya Sparx – Sparx wins via pinfall
- Shingo Takagi Vs Michael Oku – Takagi wins via pinfall
- Tetsuya Naito Vs MK McKinnan – Naito wins via pinfall
- Aussie Open (Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher) Vs Evil / Bushi Vs Josh Bodom / Sha Samuels Vs White Wolf (A-Kid and Carlos Romo) – Samuels and Bodom win via pinfall (new champions)
- Zack Sabre Jr. Vs SANADA – Sabre Jr. wins via pinfall
All Images courtesy by Robyn Goding, Rev Pro and Beyond Gorilla