In what has been a difficult year for many BritWres promotions, seeing various closures and inter-promotional mergers, it’s great to see south London’s Pro Wrestling SOUL end its first year on a strong footing in front of a sold-out crowd at their Wimbledon home, the distinctive library-come-events venue, Merton Arts Space. SOUL 8: Take A Look At Me Now was extra special as it would see the first defence of the SOUL Women’s Championship and the crowning of the inaugural Men’s Champion.

SOUL Women’s Championship match: Dani Luna (c) defeated Toni Storm

SOUL 6: Living Forever, the company’s first all-women show which SteelChair reviewed here, saw a single-elimination tournament to set up a match to crown the first SOUL Women’s Champion. However, Kanji is currently out injured, leading to Dani Luna being crowned the Women’s Champion by default.

Luna would need the right opponent to build her legitimacy as champion. Enter Mae Young Classic winner and former NXT UK Women’s Champion Toni Storm. Rapturous applause welcomed the challenger. Dani Luna came out to a chorus of boos as was expected.

After taking an early advantage, Storm was gradually worn down throughout the match. A series of suicide dives between the ropes and a push or two into the ring post ensured that Toni Storm was knocked silly by the champ.

Storm had Luna set up for a top rope piledriver but Luna scouted the move and reversed it into a powerbomb. A frog splash followed by the 3-count ensured that the champ was worthy of the title, lending credibility to Dani Luna’s reign in what some might have called an upset.

However, Dani Luna plays the dastardly heel to perfection and I look forward to the build towards her eventual showdown against Kanji which must surely be on the cards.

After the match, ring announcer and company owner Slick Lombardo informed the crowd that Dani Luna’s next defence at SOUL’s one-year anniversary show, SOUL 8, in February will be against NXT UK’s Nina Samuels. It’s sure to be another banger.

The OJMO defeated Nico Angelo

2019 has been a banner year for the OJMO. In another promotion, he’s been the star they didn’t expect but anyone who has been paying attention from the beginning can see he’s got a certain X-factor about him and has the makings of a main eventer.

After a confrontation between Nico Angelo and the OJMO at SOUL 7, the stage was set for this match. It was a brilliant showcase for both wrestlers with lots of fast-paced counters. The action inevitably spilled outside and, after several half crab attempts from OJMO were too close to the ropes, he was eventually able to put Angelo away with the submission.

This was another top-quality match. 2020 will be OJMO’s breakout year but Nico Angelo is also someone to watch.

Drilla x Butcher (Dan Moloney & Sha Samuels) defeated the NIC (Charlie Carter & Oisín Delaney)

Things I did not think I’d see in 2019 – a no disqualification tag team tornado match in a library. The NIC have long been a thorn in the side of SOUL owner Slick Lombardo when it comes to tag team matches, having run through their competition and then some. However, the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’ certainly came into play as the NIC called for some serious competition and they got it in the form of Dan Moloney and Sha Samuels. Lombardo announced that if the NIC lost, they would not be able to compete in next year’s Tag Team Championship tournament.

The action soon spilled to the outside. The NIC took control of the match but not before some great spots. These included Samuels and Moloney setting up Delaney and Carter on chairs outside the ring and hitting them with some running chops to the chest, putting a trash can over Charlie Carter’s head and hitting him with a crutch and a chain hidden inside a hollowed-out book by the NIC (a brilliant idea in a library).

However, after a bump through a table on the outside, Moloney was able to hit his Drilla piledriver variation to secure the win and ensure that the NIC would lose their spot in the Tag Titles Championship tournament.

This was edge-of-your-seat stuff from the veteran Samuels and 3 up-and-comers in the form of Drilla, Carter and Delaney.

The interval – Kafka Kreations

Slick Lombardo took to the ring after the interval to announce the winners of the raffle (all proceeds to homeless charity Shelter) with the prize being tickets to SOUL 8: In The Air Tonight. However, the Soul Man was soon interrupted by Josef Kafka and Aleah James (Kafka Kreations). After handing out ‘presents’ to the crowd which, it would emerge, were bags of coal because according to Kafka they didn’t deserve anything better, Kafka was able to demand a number one contender’s match for Aleah James at SOUL 8 and also get the final of the Kafka Kip booked for the same event by a beleaguered Lombardo. This was a great segment – no SOUL show would be complete without Kafka and James now and their heel patter with the audience is second to none.

Chris Ridgeway defeated Fabio Romano

As the second half got underway, the scheduled match of Chris Ridgeway against Ashmore, which had already been cancelled twice, had been cancelled again as Ashmore was unwell. However, this paved the way for Ridgeway, fresh off of time in Japan with NOAH, to issue an open challenge to anyone in the back.

Enter Fabio Romano whose entrance took longer than his match with ‘Smashmouth’ Chris Ridgeway. This was a brilliant segment, given Romano’s general arrogance and swagger – he really did think himself a ‘playa’ complete with aviator sunglasses, gold cap and flashing light-up trainers. However, after a few stiff hits and a Ridgeway’s devastating penalty kick, this was over in less than a minute. Ridgeway’s PK was so debilitating it caused the lights in one of Romano’s trainers to stop working. Ouch.

The fact that the crowd expected some kind of serious competition really heightened the comedy. Confidently, Ridgeway’s hand was raised in victory, someone else’s entrance music hit…

Chris Ridgeway defeated Kurtis Chapman

Cue Mad Kurt’s entrance music. Complete with silver cape, computer keyboard (from his old keyboard warrior gimmick) and a deranged grin on his face, Kurtis Chapman made his way to the ring. Less than a couple of weeks after challenging Minoru Suzuki at Rev Pro’s Uprising pay per view, Mad Kurt was keen to round off the year by taking on yet another hard ass in the form of Chris Ridgeway.

The crowd were well into this match and it was great. Chapman’s wiry physique and overconfidence make for a perfect gimmick for the Rev Pro Super Contender and he may well have found his niche with the Mad Kurt persona. After a series of pathetic strikes which bounced off of Ridgeway’s chest, Chapman was in serious trouble. Despite being stretched like a rubber band and suffering strikes to kingdom come, Chapman was able to hang in there, eventually firing back.

However, it was not to be Chapman’s night as he reached for his trusty computer keyboard to deliver him from the punishment of Smashmouth and ended up getting himself disqualified after he smashed Ridgeway around the head with it. In Mad Kurt’s mind, though, this was all fair game, and after the match, he offered Ridgeway a handshake which was met with a savage penalty kick. Chapman’s obliviously clownish persona gave Ridgeway the opportunity to play comedy straight man.

Jordan Breaks defeated Johnny Kidd

At their first show, SOUL paid tribute to classic British wrestling by booking World of Sport legend Johnny Kidd against the head coach of south London wrestling school Knucklelocks in Darrell Allen. Now, twelve months later, came the turn of Jordan Breaks whose style is reminiscent of the likes of Kidd and, latterly, Zack Sabre Jr.

This was a British Rounds match, meaning 6 rounds of 5 minutes each with 2 falls to a finish – an interesting departure from the no DQ tag match and other singles matches seen earlier in the afternoon.

The wily veteran Kidd and the athletic youngster Breaks spent the first round feeling each other out and matching each other hold for hold. This round ended with Breaks manoeuvring Kidd into a pin but, unfortunately, the clock ran down and the round ended before a three count could be made by referee James Greenwood. This set the tone perfectly for round two where Johnny Kidd’s experience led to his gaining the first pinfall via a European clutch. Breaks spent round three battling back and by round four was increasingly in charge, eventually equalising at 1-1.

In round five, Kidd began upping the ante. A series of powerslams and using the momentum of the ropes to his advantage did not do Kidd any favours as Breaks had counter after counter at his disposal, picking up the win via roll-up.

This was a technical masterclass and probably one of the last of Johnny Kidd’s illustrious career. What a way to go out by passing the torch to the next generation.

SOUL Men’s Championship tournament final: Connor Mills defeated Scotty Davis

It was time to get down to brass tacks and crown the inaugural Pro Wrestling SOUL Men’s Champion. It’s been quite a year for Scotty Davis, having won the PROGRESS Natural Progression Series and the PROGRESS tag titles. Connor Mills has also been making waves by wrestling up and down the country in Battle Pro, PROGRESS and Fight Club: PRO to name a few. Whatever the outcome, SOUL’s first Men’s Champion would be a glimpse into the future of British wrestling.

Davis and Mills tore into each other. Davis proved that his moniker of the Supreme Suplex Machine was more than just a nifty bit of alliteration as he used an array of suplex variations to throw Mills around the ring. The action sprawled to the outside with multiple dives by Davis onto a stunned Mills, who sold Davis’s attacks like he was being hit by a train.

Mills powered back up and mounted his own attacks on Davis. Shout outs to Nigel McGuiness with a Tower of London cutter out of the corner amidst 450 splash attempts put Mills back in the frame. Following two massive Death Valley Driver variants, Mills picked up a well-fought victory and become the first Pro Wrestling SOUL Men’s Champion in an emotional moment for the youngster from Lewisham.

This was an electrifying end to an impressive first year for the south London promotion. Now, with Men’s and Women’s Champions in place, both divisions should look forward to a competitive 2020. Kanji’s imminent return may well prove problematic for Dani Luna and it will be interesting to see who becomes number one contender for the Men’s title to challenge Connor Mills. This is without even mentioning the impending Tag Team Title competition. In short, it’s great to have another source of great wrestling in London. Here’s to a great 2020 for this company as they go from strength to strength.

Images courtesy of Alex Haskett (@alexhaskett) and Pro Wrestling SOUL