Arnold Furious: January 21, 2017. We’re in historic York Hall, Bethnal Green for the first major Rev Pro show of the year. I’m starting to sound like a broken record but I was at this show too. Hosts are Andy Quildan and Andy Boy Simmonz. Andy Q is rocking a new waistcoat and RPW look to have a crisper VOD for some reason. Also the music is completely new, with all the wrestlers getting their own music. Plus they’ve changed the logo to make it look more like the awful RAW logo. It’s a certified attempt to make RPW seem like a big deal. Not everyone was on board with the changes and I heard criticism of the logo and the music. I can honestly say it didn’t bother me that much and the music I totally understand as it’ll cost them less.
Interim British Cruiserweight Championship
Josh Bodom vs. Ryan Smile
Andy Q is getting booking tips from Dana White here by having a non-existent title on the line here due to Ospreay being too busy to defend the actual belt. These two are both incredibly good for their age. It’s easy to forget how young and inexperienced they are (Bodom is a 5 year pro, while Smile started working 9 years ago but stepped up his game around the time Bodom debuted) but Rev Pro believe in them both, as well they should. Ryan does some top flipping on the floor, a trademark of his work. The crowd amuse themselves by chanting “you threw up” at Bodom, reminding him of his accident after battling Tomoaki Honma. The crowd are weird throughout this show and here they boo Ryan, the babyface, for dabbing. What the actual f*ck is wrong with you people? Bodom shows a degree of fearlessness here that’s new, refreshing and, frankly terrifying. He’s a big muscular lad and his topes scare me. It’s certainly an aim to expand upon his existing talents and make him a contender for more important matches. So far he’s gotten by on being a solid heel, added in strikes and now the flying too. Smile, traditionally a flier, has been adding in strikes to up his game. It’s interesting to see these two guys at this respective point in their careers. That said, I’d prefer if both of them were working more established wrestlers to aid in their development. The work is largely strong in this one though and I’m especially impressed with Bodom’s subtle improvements. His timing, especially. Bodom takes it with the Blissbuster and becomes “Interim” cruiser champ. Seeing how much muscle he’s piled on recently, I can’t help think he’ll be too heavy for the division soon.
Final Rating: ***1/2
British Tag Team Championship
Joel Redman & Charlie Sterling (c) vs. War Machine
There’s a slight issue here with having no storyline development in the tag division. Redman & Sterling saved the division, from an in-ring perspective, but now find themselves fending off great challengers and it’s turned them heel. Even though they’ve done nothing to deserve that. Charlie leans slyly heel here, wearing a beret to the ring. War Machine are the aggressors but they’re also a great tag team that people don’t want to boo. Giving the match a muddy heel/face alignment is asking for the crowd to turn on the least talented of the two, which is totally unfair on the champs, who’ve done a cracking job. The never-ending clotheslines into the corner get Hanson over with ease but then the crowd just go to sleep. When Charlie asks for applause they boo him. What did he do to get heat? He’s right to look confused. The lack of heat kills the enthusiasm of the lads, apart from Charlie Sterling in his attempts to shut the crowd up with some outstanding aerial work. The crowd proceed to boo him some more. Rev Pro have delightful cards but they attract some terrible people to their shows. In spite of the crowd the match is actually quite good. Sterling in particular is superb in his fiery comebacks. The champs pull off the Tombstone, Twisting Senton finish. Decent match that would have benefitted from some heel/face alignment or a crowd that weren’t such pricks.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post-match: Chris Brookes and Travis Banks run in to attack the champs and they get cheered too. Hey, I love Brookes but he’s the heeliest heel in the history of heeldom. He doesn’t need your applause. He looks borderline confused by it. What is this peculiar non-booing noise?
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Pete Dunne
Pete Dunne walks out to rapturous applause and I can’t argue with that. He was outstanding in WWE and deserves the praise. Of course you could look at as bullshit because he was a heel there, he was a heel in Rev Pro for his entire run and two nights into his WWE career he’s suddenly a massive babyface? I don’t know about you but WWE are the heels in the Great Promotion War because they’re the biggest company. Everyone loves an underdog. Or they should. It gets worse though. The balcony lads, in perhaps their most ill-conceived chant of the evening, suggest that Pete “sold out”, which is basically the Progress storyline overlapping and Dunne crotch chops them to loud cheers. HE’S THE HEEL. F*ck it, I give up. YOSHI-HASHI has no chance. Either people don’t watch New Japan, which would be bizarre, or they only watch the big matches and don’t care about Tacos. As the match settles down Dunne actually works heel and the crowd still cheer for him. Maybe this is Rev Pro missing a trick because Dunne is integral to their heel picture and gets loudly cheered. Perhaps switching his alignment on this show and booking him against a heel? Or perhaps the crowd should boo heels. When the match is two guys trading it’s actually really good because they’re both legitimately excellent top-tier wrestlers. Dunne is hugely impressive here. His timing is magnificent and his execution is majestic. He’s gone to another level, revelling in praise from the top WWE brass. The finish is weird with Pete outsmarting YOSHI-HASHI with his lack of knee pads before hitting the Bitter End. Logically that’s it right? Nope. Kick-out at two. The Loose Explosion doesn’t get it done for Tacos either but the Karma does. The winner is a shock to me, considering Dunne’s popularity, but the match came off better on tape than it did in person, where I was just obsessing over the crowd. Post match Pete Dunne, who was a dick all match deserving the boos that never came, shakes hands. What’s happening lads?
Final Rating: ***1/2
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Marty Scurll
Everyone is fired up for this because Rev Pro spent an entire year building up to it and the crowd immediately f*ck it up by cheering for Scurll, who’s the heel. Rev Pro tried to switch gears on this, perhaps realising that Sabre should have been the one to turn on his mate, by having Zack banter the boys into submission at the Cockpit. This is a really long match and it starts really slowly. Considering the match was billed as “Good Friends, Bitter Enemies” that’s perhaps not ideal. Although they do try to outwrestle each other, which is a nice touch. It comes off as a game of chess with both men aware of the dangers the others possess. Sabre looking for armbars, Scurll looking to cheat. It’s easy to forget that Zack is a fantastic exponent of banter so when Marty attempts to goof around he gets bantered into submission holds. It’s tough to decide who’s the bigger prick in the match, due to Zack stepping on Marty’s head. Although Scurll is more conventionally heel with eye pokes and such. The match manages to reflect the crowd being so split by having both guys walk that line as a pair of tweeners. So everyone just yells for their favourite. It helps that both guys do excellent work. They know each other so well and are both technically strong. I prefer Sabre’s work, which is so technically pure, but Scurll knows what he’s doing out there too. Sabre’s rana into an armbar, countered out into a surfboard, countered out into a suplex is great stuff. Plus the crowd elevates it by being loud, mainly because the balcony lads won’t stop cheering Sabre to counter the tide of Scurll support. My favourite spot is Marty spending forever setting up the Chickenwing and Zack just slapping him in the face.
Scurll plays his part too, the counter into the Chickenwing is a delight and it helps immensely that these guys know each other so well. Is the match perhaps a touch overindulgent? It’s hard to say. I know some people were turned off by the sheer length of it but that’s not so much my criticism. It’s the length combined with some of the content. I have no problem with move theft or connecting trademark spots to specific body part work. That stuff is great. It’s more the deliberate DQ that’s not called. How is wrapping a bungee cord around someone’s finger not a disqualification? Even by Chris Roberts standards, that’s bullshit. I do love Sabre taping his fingers up though and working holds that don’t require his one hand. Sabre takes a horrific bump off the Tombstone but it’s weird that particular spot leads to another finger snap. It should be the neck that becomes the focus as Scurll promptly hits a pair of extra-vicious piledrivers. That probably should be the finish, lads. The match goes weird after that too, switching pace and going to ref bumps and umbrella spots. The match was going perfectly to that point. Sabre ends up fluking a pin by escaping a potential Chickenwing. I was in love with this one until the shenanigans right at the end. If it ended up on the triple piledriver I could have gone higher on the rating. Even the DQ finish would have at least made sense, although it would have been equally as unsatisfying.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Trevor Lee vs. Trent Seven
As Trevor Lee came out to the ring I turned to the gentleman next to me, who happened to hail from the Carolina’s, and stated “he has no shame”. He danced out to Taylor Swift, which I have no issue with, but he has no rhythm, or moves. He wants a dance off. Trent destroys him with one move so Lee jumps him from behind. Trevor, who I love in the Southern Indies, decides to get heat by imitating Broken Matt Hardy and claiming to be a TNA Superstar. The match has a worrying degree of goofiness to it, which is a real pity because when they hit hard it’s great. That’s too small a section of the match. Although I appreciate having to explain to the Carolinian lad the cricket bowling pose Trent does. If you don’t watch cricket that whole spot is weird. The match never takes off the way I’d like and ends abruptly when Trent ends Lee with the lariat and piledriver combo. Trent does wondrous selling post match by going to shake the ref’s hand and selling it after his ring post chop. Seven has a peculiar ‘waving goodbye’ celebration that seems a little odd. Does he know something we don’t?
Final Rating: **3/4
Martin Stone vs. Jay White
Jay coming out to “Rock The Night” by Europe makes him my immediate favourite. This going on second from the end is perhaps the only major error in booking from Big Andy Q all night because everyone is ready for the main event. Especially after the lengthy first half. This just screams ‘filler’ at this point. It comes off as flat because the crowd are disinterested, burned out and all ready for Shibs-Riddle. There’s nothing technically bad about it but it would be better off positioned somewhere else. Jay isn’t experienced enough to know what to do and Martin, in his “homecoming”, isn’t a big star in the eyes of the modern BritWres fan who missed him when he used to be a top line talent here and missed his development over in the USA too. Stone rather mocks the quiet crowd but unlike Sterling they reciprocate. It’s a pity the match sits in a dead spot because the work is fine. Stone showcases his newly found mobility, since the massive weight loss, and Jay is capable. Jay takes it with his version of the Liontamer. It looks great but you can’t actually see it on the VOD.
Final Rating: **1/2
Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship
Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Matt Riddle
Matthew Riddle continues to be incredibly popular in the UK. His habit of joining the fans for drinks after shows has turned him into a cultural icon of sorts. Nobody would bat an eyelid if Rev Pro put the belt on him here. It’s nice to see the Spandau Ballet chanting has followed him over from Progress too (along with the crowd). For the entrances the crowd come completely to life in a way they’d not for the rest of the evening and it’s because Rev Pro have been able to put on this modern day dream match when no one else can. Shibata refuses to show any respect before the bell, mainly because Riddle has never worked in Japan so why should Shibata care about him? The chain wrestling in this is at another level. Especially for Riddle who’s only been wrestling for two years. He’s on Shibata’s level and looks totally unphased by this. Due to their collective MMA backgrounds they base the match around submission attempts and it’s a joy to behold. The mat work is the best part of the match, reminding me that Shibata is an excellent and underrated technician and Riddle is ready to fight the world on the deck. Riddle kicks it up a notch by launching into series of strikes, which he’s exceptional at and Shibata does great work in selling for that. It’s when Riddle tries to settle into chops that Shibata decides he’s not selling any more. Shibata’s dismissive stance is amazing. He just walks it off and asks for more. The no selling isn’t limited to strikes with both guys refusing to stay down off suplexes and getting fired up. Them going head to head and knowing when to strike and when to posture shows how they’re both on the same page. Riddle stealing the sleeper and PK combo is an interesting move. Shibata doesn’t take that lying down and hits his own PK before tapping Riddle out with the sleeper, as a lesson for stealing his moves and stepping up to his plate.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Post-match: A key different in attitude from pre-match is Shibata shaking hands with Riddle. Matt earned his respect. After that’s gone down Zack Sabre Jr. shows up to remind Shibs that they’re 1-1. They need the decider!
Summary: The first half of this show was excellent, highlighted by the outstanding Sabre-Scurll marathon. The second half was less thrilling thanks to Seven-Lee and White-Stone both being somewhat underwhelming, before a fantastic main event capped off a good evening of wrestling. It’s tough to argue with a show that delivers two matches over ****, although 2017 has set its bar really, really high. For consistency this did deliver, and nothing was bad. When the show bottoms out at **1/2 because of a flat atmosphere then it’s a good show. I had Shibata-Riddle slightly higher after the live viewing because these two guys have such incredible live presence. It’s still a blinding match but it didn’t thrill me quite so much at second viewing (unlike Scurll-Ospreay from last year’s High Stakes, which blew me away on multiple viewings).