PROGRESS Chapter 41 – Unboxing Live

Arnold Furious: December 30, 2016. We’re in Camden at the Electric Ballroom. I was at this show and it was one of the rowdiest, drunken shows I’ve ever attended in my entire life. The lads, of which I’m included, got tipsy in the Ice Wharf before the show and had been drinking for three hours by the time Jim Smallman stepped into the ring to address the crowd. We all piled into the same area of the Ballroom and I couldn’t see as well as I usually can. This meant I was very close to the bar…and this was very dangerous as I continued to drink for the entire show. To the point where the bar staff, all of them, knew what I was drinking. I get the feeling I wasn’t alone in my lack of sobriety. You can tell as the crowd agree to recreate the Lion King and fail horribly at singing in unison. Commentary comes from RJ Singh and Glen Joseph. The latter looks like Buddy Holly.

 

South Pacific Power Trip vs. FSU & Nixon Newell
Crowd react huge for everyone. That’s always a good sign and Party Hard is such a brilliant song to kick a show off. The faces are all Welsh, which gets a brief “Wales” chant before the crowd turn on the idea. It’s testament to Nixon and Travis that they wrestle an entirely convincing sequence to open the match. Nothing is made of the gender. The concept behind this match is to get the crowd going with a fiery hot opener. It works. They have a kiss-off spot that is amazing. Eddie threatens to kiss Dahlia so TK threatens to kiss Nixon and Andrews and Travis find themselves facing off. That’s a bit weird. They have an awkward stand off afterwards before a handshake while the crowd chant “we don’t judge”. Only in this company could you get the awkward kissing spot and pay it off like that. The Power Trip do oblige with awkward sex positions selling. Travis, mate, your mouth is getting everywhere on this show. When the match is more serious it still takes place at a blinding pace and in front of appreciative audience. Dahlia’s series of crotch kicks is great, because it leads to Nixon doing a series of headbutts, including one straight to TK’s fist. Shiniest Wizard pins Dahlia. I make no apologies for adoring this match.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Post Match: the Welsh trio dance to B*Witched. It’s every bit as great as that sounds. Love the graps. Smallman’s “Weekend At Bernie’s” reference is equally brilliant. One match in and this is a late candidate for ‘most fun show of 2016’.

 

Toni Storm vs. Kay Lee Ray
This is a match I’ve been screaming out for so kudos to Progress for actually putting it on. They’re probably the two best women talents available to UK promotions. KLR takes a few shortcuts despite being cheered. She’s only wrestled once for Progress and she was a heel then. Toni, when quizzed about topics for discussion on commentary offered: “well, I use my arse a lot”. Aussies. They do some mat grappling and, shock of shocks, it’s really good. I think I’d prefer a straight up match but KLR deliberately leans heel to give it a specific structure. They have some nifty ideas including suplexes and strikes. Toni uses her posterior throughout. Sometimes it’s goofy and ineffective but when she gets up a head of steam it’s brutal. KLR tries a few different tactics; Gorybomb, senton and a front choke. Toni finds a way out of all of it and finishes with a piledriver. These two are as close to the finished article in women’s BritWres so this was always going to be good. I’m looking forward to seeing how good Toni will be in a few years time. She’s oozing with potential.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Wasteman Challenge
Bodyguy has a new Twitter handle (@RoyJohnsonYeah). Get on it. He’s a good follow. Roy calls himself the “one and only Bodyguy” because his old Twitter handle got snapped up by Ellis. This provokes a chant of “fuck you Daniel”…who’s in the building. Awkward. The surprise opponent for the Wasteman Challenge is Mad Man Manson! He’s retired and hasn’t wrestled for two years. His last Progress date was in 2014 against Michael Gilbert (better known as Mikey Whiplash). Manson greets Johnson with “thank you black man”. “This is a race war”. “I’m like a really shit version of Grado”. “Everyone else has been signed so they had to get me”. He’s been retired for two years learning to rap. Crowd chant “drop some bars”. “I have none on me”. “Is there a hard cam in here?” “This is why William Regal wouldn’t sign me. He signed every other fucker”. Roy spends the promo chuckling uncontrollably. “I was not in prison, that’s fucking bullshit”. Johnson’s rhymes include mentioning Manson’s reversal issues (press R2) and singing “My Heart Will Go On”. Like, actually, for real. “Let me lip sync the song of my people”. Yes, Manson lip syncs to Wham instead of actually responding via the medium of rap. My favourite in-ring segment of 2016.

 

Progress Tag Team Championship
British Strong Style (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs. The London Riots vs. The Leaders of the New School
LDRS are a big surprise third team with Marty coming out first before unveiling Sabre from a box. The belts are vacant after Pete Dunne tried to give his title to Tyler. Scurll, usually a bad guy, is instantly turned face by teaming with Sabre and he’s more playful than usual. There’s something about the LDRS being paired up that makes both men more entertaining and they’re already two of the best in the world! Marty taking so long to the run the ropes that Davis escapes a Sabre hold into the ropes is peak silly Scurll. The match gets really good when they hit the faked dives spot leading to James Davis doing an insane tope that wipes out three other guys. Davis also stars in a submission chain. He yells “I don’t know any submissions” before applying a headlock. Trent chops the whole thing apart after being unable to figure out how to add his own submission. Trent is too funny to be a heel. He walks a fine line on all of these Progress shows. It’s one that Peter kept him firmly on the heel side of. Once we get super serious the match becomes a spree of near falls and teams being unable to get one man isolated for the pin. Scurll is so over in this match that the build to him declaring a “Chickenwing” is deafening. Moustache Mountain manage to pick off Sabre for successive piledrivers and Tyler gets the pin to claim his tag shield.
Final Rating: ****

 

Post Match: Trent and Tyler pantomime signing WWE contracts on the tag shields and in a stupendously dickish move Seven gets Bate to give him a Too Sweet sign afterwards. After that Jim Smallman gives a shout out to Sophie Owen (@legallyblonde22) for attending fifty Indie shows this year. Well played.

 

Progress World Championship
Pete Dunne (c) vs. Fabian Aichner
Pete promises in 2017 he’s “leaving for good” and taking the belt with him. Peter draws a lot of heat and Aichner doesn’t have to work hard to get love from the audience. What he does do is budget Cesaro antics. He’s very good at it. Dunne’s response is largely vicious. Going after the nose, or biting the fingers. It’s a level of savagery that sets him apart. Aichner, content to operate within the rules, is at a disadvantage. He tries to compensate by delivering a huge array of stuff from his incredible leaping springboard to the floor to his stern lariat. He has an impressive range of skills. Until Pete forearms him out of the air. I love that spot. It reminds me of Samoa Joe stepping out of the way of fliers big spots. Only there’s no disdain here, only aggression. Aichner misses his double springboard and Drop Dead finishes. This was a rock solid title defence.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Post Match: Pete nails his heel persona by saying he’ll “see you on the Network” before basking in the heat from the one standing section. What a fucking year this man had.

 

Sebastian & William Eaver vs. Sex on the Beach (Jack Sexsmith & Chuck Mambo)
I headed to the bar as soon as Seb came out here and I was not alone. I vaguely remember apologising to Jack in the World’s End (unless I dreamt that). These are all the lads from the Progress training school and while Seb’s mate, Tom Irvin, isn’t around anymore Eaver and Mambo are pals. So they don’t want to fight. At least among other inexperienced wrestlers Seb doesn’t look out of his depth but the other three are here to entertain. Seb is just the heel. His presence is important for the dynamic of the match but his work doesn’t do anything for me. It kills the momentum. He does take better bumps here than in bigger matches but his selling is all over the place. Some people just aren’t cut out for wrestling. The gimmick of the match is that Sexsmith gives Seb a stinkface and he ends up with poop on his nose, so he vomits on the floor and then slips on it. You’ve taken this too far lads. Seb forces Eaver to lariat Mambo, which is mean. They lost me at the nose business.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

Jimmy Havoc vs. Will Ospreay
This angle has come back full circle. Jimmy is now the beloved babyface and Ospreay is the heel (although he enters as a face). Although Havoc has done little to be a face, other than returning from injury at Brixton. Will is fully aware that Havoc has never apologised for all the dick things he’s done. Ospreay’s attitude is in evidence immediately as he volleys one streamer out of the ring and catches another without looking. Will brings incredible aggression, spearing Havoc into the fourth row. Havoc’s response is to start flipping around like a maniac. Jimmy does a great job of selling his knee, which is what he was out injured with for so long and Ospreay goes after the knee like a son of a bitch. The great thing about Ospreay is we know what a phenomenal flippity dude he is but we’ve barely scraped the surface of his personality. He is a cocky little shit. There’s an awesome spot in this where Havoc no sells the Canadian Destroyer, by grabbing his neck and cracking it back into place, before flooring Ospreay with the Rainmaker. Will doing the Cheeky Nando’s kick to the knee is just perfect. What a prick. His speed allows him to do incredible things. Everything seems so purposeful and direct. Even a toned down Ospreay is remarkable. Perhaps even more remarkable because he does basics incredibly well. The match is all about Ospreay but Havoc comes firing back with an array of Japanese favourites including the GTS and the Burning Hammer. The selling goes completely out the window down the stretch, which hurts the match a touch. Jimmy pulls out the win with an Acid Rainmaker, although if Ospreay had not fired up in between the two big Japanese spots this would have worked better. Still an outstanding performance from Ospreay. World beating stuff throughout. Excellent execution.
Final Rating: ****1/4

 

Post Match: Jimmy Havoc points out he deserves a broken rib for “trying to murder you and shit”. “Me and you, we built this company”. Jimmy asks for Will’s help in fighting British Strong Style. He even apologises. Will shakes hands and then kicks Havoc in the nuts just as he’s mouthing “thank you”. What a prick. As he’s continuing the assault out comes Paul Robinson with a barbwire baseball bat and he gives it to Ospreay! They were a tag team before Robbo was in Regression, listening to Havoc’s anti-Progress rhetoric. I love Will symbolically putting on black gloves to beat Jimmy down.

 

Summary: A hugely enjoyable show. I regret getting a bit too tipsy during the second half and blame…people who bought me drinks? Nah, I blame myself. Importantly I had a good time though and was able to watch the main event back at my leisure thanks to Demand Progress. Excellent show and a strong way to finish a great year in BritWres.
Verdict: 93

RevPro Live At The Cockpit 13

Arnold Furious: February 5, 2017. We’re in London at the Cockpit. Rev Pro have a new ring announcer and a new commentary team. The lack of Quildan is weird. After five minutes of it I miss both Quildan and even Simmonz. Hosts are Luke Bond and Danny Darnell. Both sound bored. The latter is an absolute grind and some of his analysis was akin to listening to paint dry. Sorry lads.

 

Dan Magee vs. Zack Gibson
Rather predictably Zack gets heavily booed for doing his “Liverpool’s number one” promo. It’s not as heated as it is in Progress, sadly. Rev Pro fans hate loud noises. I love that Magee is being given the chance to work his way up the card. He’s looked solid in the ‘Contenders’ matches. This match is rock solid although it has a weird spot where Rob Lias puts Magee’s foot on the ropes after the Ticket to Ride lands. Clearly they’re working a slow burning feud with Magee and Lias, similar to the Sabre-Scurll one. Gibson takes advantage of this to roll Magee up into the Shankly Gates. Obviously this was very storyline heavy. Magee and Lias actually having a story is encouraging though.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

Post-match: Magee tells Lias he doesn’t need him so Rob bashes him in the jaw. That ungrateful swine Magee deserved it.

 

Lord Gideon Grey vs. Timothy Thatcher
Thatcher comes out wearing his Ringkampf gear. I like how wXw’s angles are bleeding into BritWres. Thatcher is widely disliked for his deliberate wrestling style. I’m fine with it but I can understand why people don’t care for it. Gideon actually decides to go one on one with the technical grappling. It’s quite fun. Thatcher runs through an assortment of torturous holds and Gideon responds with a healthy mixture of cheating and technical prowess. I’m shocked at how much I enjoy the match. Has Gideon turned into a technician? Thatcher blocks a low blow and goes right into the Fujiwara armbar for the submission. This was one of the best singles matches I’ve ever seen from Gideon. Has he switches gears somewhat? The new look and especially his new gear would suggest a change of tack.
Final Rating: ***

 

The London Riots vs. Josh Wall & Kurtis Chapman
This is a big challenge for the young lads from the Contender’s division. They’re both heavily out of their depth, in terms of experience and size. Chapman tries but the Riots just murder this poor kid. It’s a torturous outing for the Contender’s. Recently WALTER destroyed Travis Banks & TK Cooper at a Progress show. This is a bit like that, only more pronounced. Kurtis takes a thrashing here. The match is exceptionally lopsided with Davis pulling Kurtis up from a pin at one point. They finish when it suits them and the Riots get the easy win. The Contender’s took a shellacking. It was enjoyable. Total squash though.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Post-match: James Castle, upset that the Contender’s pinned him last time, runs in to beat them down and get his heat back.

 

Marty Scurll vs. Luke Phoenix
I honestly thought Phoenix retired. I last saw him a decade ago in 1PW. He’s announced as making his return after eight years away from the ring. That’s how you know a scene is buzzing, you get long-retired guys reappearing. RJ Singh had this spot recently, against Sabre. Now it’s Phoenix returning. Phoenix looks in reasonable condition, especially on the mat, and he’s not as rusty as expected. Rev Pro are clearly happy to have him back as they’ve put him in this marquee match up. Considering he’s been gone for a decade, it’s quite the surprise to see him look this effective. Unfortunately he’s not familiar with his surroundings and takes a back bump on the steps. It takes a while for the crowd to buy into Phoenix but when he gets all fired up the match is pretty good. Phoenix doesn’t operate on Marty’s level but then Scurll is a world-beater at the moment. Phoenix looks off Marty’s pace and can’t nail enough effective moves to convince me he can compete. It leaves Scurll looking dumb at times for lying in position for something before it happens. There’s the ring rust. I don’t know if it’s intentional but Phoenix does throw in the same hold that Axel Dieter Jr. used to beat Scurll in wXw. If that was intentional that’s solid psychology. Marty ends up killing Phoenix with piledrivers to soften up the neck and the Chickenwing finishes. This got really good as it progressed. Phoenix has a degree of rust but they put together a good story of Marty getting frustrated and having to pull out all the stops to beat a guy he thought he could steamroller.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Travis Banks vs. Ryan Smile
The crowd is irritatingly quiet for what should be a banger of a contest. Travis is extremely underrated when it comes to selling and comedy. His comedy selling in this match is grand. For the most part Travis dictates the pace, being the heel, and he puts a prolonged beating on Smile. Ryan, naturally, responds with a wacky dive. Travis kicks him in the face repeatedly in response. It’s a really solid match with snug work and Ryan hitting a few big spots down the stretch, including lifting the Oscutter. Frog Splash finishes and Smile picks up the big win. Before he has time to celebrate in comes Chris Brookes. The beatdown is really entertaining. I want to see CCK vs. Uptown Funkers at some point. Make it happen Rev Pro.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Dave Mastiff vs. Eddie Dennis
This is a healthy slice of Big Lads wrestling. Eddie gives as good as he gets and lots of heavy lumber is brought to the party. Big Dave throwing his weight around is pretty terrifying. Especially his double stomp. Dave wrestling as a generic heel around the UK is odd to me, considering how over he’s gotten as a face in Progress with the banter. There’s no banter here, just lumber. I had the chance to listen to Eddie do a few podcasts recently and his personality is excellent. He has that larger than life vibe. I wish there was a way for both men to get their personalities across more here. Instead the match is more of a grind. Eddie does impress every time he lifts Big Dave off the mat. The silent crowd is perhaps a telling measure as to how well the match works. It has peaks where something crazy happens but it’s not a consistently good contest. Dave hooks the “Bostin” crab and gets the submission. This was sporadically impressive but hurt by a quiet crowd. An issue for the majority of the night. Ed, who was in attendance, blames “Rumble flu” for it.
Final Rating: ***

 

RPW Interim Cruiserweight Championship
Josh Bodom (c) vs. Oliver Carter
Carter is an Alex Wright trainee from Austria. He made his Rev Pro debut toward the end of last year defeating James Castle in Portsmouth. At least that means he’s unbeaten in RPW and therefore a reasonable challenger for this Interim title. Bodom is starting to gain support from the crowd and perhaps it’s his more exciting move set that has encouraged that. He hits another flip off the apron here, landing squarely on Carter’s head and jamming his neck up. Carter doesn’t help himself by hitting some reckless dives. You cannot beat a crazy outta control dive. At least one of his dives results in a horrible sounding thud noise. Carter wins me over effortlessly and Bodom steps up to his level. It’s another excellent showing from him in a streak of them. I’m not sure his heel persona is quite right for the style he’s wrestling but he’s proving himself worthy of the push he’s getting from Andy Q. The timing on the strikes is excellent and it’s technically solid too. I’m totally sold on Carter. Bodom shows moments of experience here that impress me. His ring positioning to get his foot on the rope after the springboard cutter is perfect. Bodom takes it, although Carter survives the Blissbuster first to add to his CV. Carter needs to be used everywhere immediately.
Final Rating: ****

 

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Mike Bailey
This is a game of chess. Well, it’s not, it’s a wrestling match but it’s a wrestling match that’s heavily reliant on tactics and in that respect it’s a bit like a game of chess. They feel each other out with Sabre looking for openings and Bailey looking to land a kick. This being Sabre it’s a technically sound match with a lot of very good mat work. You’d expect nothing less from Zack. Bailey’s response is the Karate Kid crane kick after his leg has been worked over. That’s just a desperation move in the midst of a sea of limb abuse though. In the sea there’s a shark and that shark is Zack Sabre Jr. He chomps away on that leg, switching holds and varying his attacks. Normally limb work can be a chore to sit through but Sabre has such a massive arsenal that he can keep things interesting. Bailey puts in an excellent turn wrestling defensively too. Mainly through kicks but also with grappling. There’s a slight issue where Bailey starts using his bad leg like nothing happened but it’s quickly forgotten because they start beating the shit out of each other. It is a bit weird to have so much leg focus throughout the match only to completely abandon it at the end but this is modern wrestling. Bailey’s offence, when he can’t be fucked to sell his leg, is mightily impressive. Sabre ties Bailey in knots and invents a new submission finisher to put him away. He does that a lot. This would have been far superior if they’d done the incredible stuff in the first half and then Sabre wore him down with leg holds to get the submission in the second half. That said both halves of the match were excellent but they didn’t click together.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Post-match: Sabre puts Ospreay or Shibata on notice and suggests he’ll go to Japan to get his belt back if he has to.

 

Summary: Rev Pro has started the year strongly but despite this show looking good on paper there were a lot of disappointing elements to it. Firstly the decision to switch commentary and ring announcer. None of the new guys did anything for me. I really missed the dulcet tones of Andy Quildan and the announce team sounded bored. This show also had a streak of matches where one guy was far superior to the other in one respect or another. Whether it be Scurll wrestling inactive Phoenix or the Riots squashing the Contender’s. The theme was present throughout the show. The only match that took a 50-50 approach was Smile vs. Banks and Ryan was strangely subdued in that contest. That said the standard of wrestling was high and the show was mostly enjoyable. Special praise for Bodom and Carter, putting on an excellent semi-main event. Probably the best singles match I’ve seen from Bodom and a great introduction to Eurograps star Carter for me. Another thumbs up show from Rev Pro but the concern lingers that the presentation was weaker here than on recent shows.
Verdict: 81

RevPro Live At The Cockpit 16

Arnold Furious: May 7, 2017. We’re in the Cockpit Theatre for another thrilling instalment of RPW’s run of Cockpit shows. 2017 has seen a definitive uptick in quality on these shows, here’s hoping it continues here. It should. The main event is Marty Scurll vs. Kyle O’Reilly. Also we have another Bodom vs. Dijak match and CCK vs. London Riots. Host in the ring is Steve Lynskey, which is still weird to me. On commentary are Andy Quildan and Alex Cupid.

 

Malik, Ash Draven & Cara Noir vs. Josh Wall, Ashley Dunn & Kurtis Chapman
Cara Noir used to be Tom Dawkins and now he’s Dalton Castle minus the Boys. The entrance is so flamboyant that the crowd get into him. Be different. Try weird shit. It’ll probably get you over. Speaking of getting over; Kurtis Chapman, tiny skinny fella that he is, has developed a tidy ability to throw stiff kicks. He’s also great at sympathy selling because he’s so small and all the other guys hit him so hard. Cara Noir’s weirdness is interesting to watch. He’s working on a gimmick and I’m intrigued as to where its going. Too many wrestlers are currently working the exact same style. While I like the style it can get samey. Dawkins is at least standing out. All these lads try hard to impress and the effort level is high. Aside from wacky Dawkins nobody stands out but that’s a good thing because no one is bad either. Ashley Dunn picks up the win with a Pedigree Destroyer. That’s a move for British Strong Style to start spamming when they get bored of the Pedigree! This was a hot opener with good performances all round. I’m not sure it qualifies as “awesome”, which the crowd tried to get going with but it was certainly solid. I’m sold on the Contenders in general. It’s a strong division filled with potential.
Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Zack Gibson vs. Ryan Smile
Gibson gets the standard treatment from the crowd, although it’s not as deafening as usual. He calls Smile a “skinny, flippy boy” and the crowd “braindead punters”. Well, shit, he fucking nailed it there. Ryan Smile has struggled a little recently. Especially when facing far superior opponents. While his Midlands brethren have stepped up their game, he’s not on a par with the better fliers in the business. He’s still perfectly fine but Gibson looks a class apart. He dismantles Ryan and does sensible things throughout. Ryan is at his best when he’s running his mouth and he’s at his most entertaining before the match starts. Gibson’s pre-match attitude is reflected in his treatment of flippy Smile, as he gives him a verbal and physical thrashing. Ryan’s respond is a nutty dive, as you’d expect. It’s as if he ignored the pre-match abuse and tried to write it off as Gibson being a character. If Smile was wanting to show up Zack, he’d have tried to outwrestle him. To make matters worse Ryan’s timing is off in his comeback and Gibson’s tactic of yelling about Will Ospreay is far more entertaining than Smile’s work. It’s very strange. Hopefully it’s building to Gibson vs. Ospreay because that would be great. Ryan gets trapped in the Shankly Gates for the submission and Zack moves on to bigger and better things.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

Jinny vs. Alex Windsor
Jinny’s ability to own a room just by walking into it is matched by her tremendous mannerisms. Like laughing at fans dress sense, wiping down the microphone after it’s passed to her or bashing a child in the audience for starting a chant. “He’ll probably grow up to be nothing, just like his parents”. Rev Pro are having a crack at babyface Alex Windsor. Not convinced. Rev Pro’s problem stems from having a thin division where Jinny is the dominant heel. She’s the boss of this match, and every match, and while Alex is fairly cocky she’s not on Jinny’s level. Jinny’s bitchiness is sensational. She threatens to punch one fans face in before grabbing some lipstick to give Alex a “makeover”. Windsor is showing steady improvement. It’s easy to forget she came from the Saraya Knight school of training and started when she was a literal child. They have a few issues with Jinny’s strikes not connecting, with visible air showing, but I’d rather they did strikes safely than dish out concussions with knees into jaws. The finish is a strike too with Jinny kicking Alex in the head, after raking the eyes and referee shenanigans. Sensational character work although the wrestling was a bit patchy.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Josh Bodom vs. Donovan Dijak
Big Donny is too big to be a cruiserweight so this is non-title. Bodom is coming off the best match of his career versus Will Ospreay. Now he has a mini-feud blow-off against Dijak. They wrestled twice in early 2016 with Bodom winning both times. Dijak manages to bust himself open in the first ten seconds of the match attempting a wacky dive.

Dijak’s freaky power is a major highlight here as he jacks Bodom up into spots and throws him out like a sack of spuds. I’m also permanently impressed by Dijak’s intensity. That combination of strength and passion puts Dijak in the elite level that the likes of Goldberg occupy. Only Dijak has that athletic ability too. He’s a complete package. Given the sheer number of signings WWE have snatched up from the Indies I’m pretty shocked Dijak hasn’t gone to Florida. Bodom steals Dijak’s finisher and then hits his own and that’s still not the finish because Dijak doesn’t want to get swept 3-0 in their series. Blissbuster be damned! Ashley Dunn appears to save Dijak from a belt shot and Donny scores the win with his big knee strike. This was tremendous but the interference is setting up something else and that detracts from Dijak finally getting a win over Bodom.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Rev Pro Tag Team Championship
#CCK (c) vs. The London Riots
The Riots have been great this year but they’ve lost consistently in pretty much every promotion. Meanwhile #CCK, in both incarnations, have become flavour of the month in the UK Indies. They’re suddenly everywhere and winning everything.

Travis Banks hasn’t had a long time to wait for this break but Brookes feels like he’s been around forever waiting to get picked up in big companies. Building that underground river of support until it burst its banks. The crowd chant “CCK pit” and the champs look confused until someone yells “not Cockpit, CCK Pit” and both of them visibly break. Adjusting to CCK being babyfaces as a team is tough but they are both capable comedians and are likeable. It’s just the CCK brand is a heel one and it’s tricky to change that mentality.

They keep me amused by being protective of their dicks, and the punching thereof. The comedy is good but the wrestling is even better as everyone is great. Travis is able to take a few bits and bobs from their recent Riots vs. SPPT match in Progress but they step it up above that too with Banks throwing himself into everything. He’s so good at what he does and he dictates the pace here, allowing everyone around him to look good. Holding it together like some kind of Kiwi wrestling glue. It’s a fun, fun match. My only beef is that I can’t tell if CCK are supposed to be heels or faces that enjoy cheating (like Los Guerreros). The crowd happily cheer them on so I’ll go with faces that cheat. It’s not like Brookes can not cheat and retain his character. CCK retain with double teams, and perhaps a bit of cricket bat. Post match the Riots turn heel by refusing Brookes’ cheeky offer of a handshake and there is a promise of a rematch.
Final Rating: ****

 

Lord Gideon Grey vs. Eddie Dennis
The crowd amuse me by chanting “broken Princess” at the former Princess Unicorn. Poor Gideon has gone off his character rails. Eddie decides to have a bit of a laugh because, let’s face it, Gideon is a goof. I love that he’s trying something different with his character but I’m not sure where it’s going. He strolls to the ring looking vacant and unresponsive and then after a while he just behaves like a heel. As if it comes spilling out uncontrollably. And when he slides back into the coma Eddie comes across as a bastard for beating him up. I’m really not sure what to make of it all. The crowd are equally confused, although they start chanting all manner of weird shit like “we want tables” and “where is Rishi”. Nothing seems to catch on and it appears that the crowd is at odds with itself. As if there are pockets of people with the same opinion and everyone else hates them. Gideon pulls a win out with the Fifty Shades of Grey, a side slam variant, and that’s probably fair. He’s trying something new. Eddie is loss-proof. Apparently he’s on a losing streak.
Final Rating: **

 

Sha Samuels & Rob Lias vs. RJ Singh & Dan Magee
Sha & Rob come out the Revolutionists music. Is the stable being rebuilt? I’m surprised James Castle isn’t opposing Sha here. For some reason people are actually cheering for Sha, who Rob appears to hate. It doesn’t help that Sha calls him “Ricky”. Lias is wearing colourful gear, perhaps suggesting he’s graduated from the Contenders division. Which must upset Magee, who’s still sporting black trunks. Lias and Magee make a point of working hard, as they’re the kids, while Singh and Sha can coast by on personality. Singhton Bomb puts Sha down for three after Rob Lias miscues on his new mate. For fuck’s sake, Ricky, you had one job. Post match this short lived team falls apart with Rob giving his senior partner a dressing down and eating a spinebuster for it.
Final Rating: **

 

Marty Scurll vs. Kyle O’Reilly
Scurll is the local favourite, growing the fan support in RPW for years. Kyle has a few Rev Pro matches under his belt. I saw him at Uprising 2015 against KUSHIDA in a belter. Kyle is an exceptional pro wrestler but like Roderick Strong I’ve always felt there was something missing from his game. Strong has found that in NXT; allowing cameras into his home and exposing the wrestling machine as a real person with a rough past. He’s certainly trying a few things here. He banters a bit, he tries to get a headlock over and he dances a bit. You need that extra dimension because brilliant pure wrestlers are everywhere. Scurll understands this and that’s why he’s developed The Villain. The match occasionally has weird stuff going on, beyond Kyle’s experiments, and at one point he back bumps to avoid a wind up punch. Why? There’s no logical reason for doing it. The match is at its best when it plays off Marty’s tropes (superkick, just kidding, chickenwing etc) and when Kyle abandons any pretence of sportz entertainment and straight up attacks Scurll with strikes. They step it up down the stretch with strike duels, lovely counters and Scurll’s finger snap preventing Kyle from submitting him. A blinded Scurll accidentally finger snapping Chris Roberts is great and it leads directly into Kyle getting a visual victory before Marty rolls through and gets the Chickenwing for the win. Once they moved on from the earlier experiments and went at it this match really delivered.
Final Rating: ****

 

Summary: Rev Pro has an interesting mixture of talent at the moment, ranging from rookies to guys who’ve been there for years to national newcomers and top tier imports. As a result they’re creating interesting shows, especially at the Cockpit. It’s a pity the atmosphere wasn’t as good here as it has been. The crowd was certainly treated to some good matches, especially the tag titles and Kyle O’Reilly vs. Marty Scurll. It’s pleasing to notice where the success is coming from. Either home grown UK talent or more specifically home grown Rev Pro talent like Josh Bodom or the Contenders.
Verdict: 76

RevPro Live at the Cockpit 17

 

Arnold Furious: June 4, 2017. We’re in the Cockpit Theatre, swiftly becoming a hot venue for Rev Pro to run. The shows that emanate from there tend to be consistently good. This was the day after the London terror attack and Andy Q thanks everyone for coming out and supporting professional wrestling. Hosts on commentary are Andy Quildan and Andy Boy Simmonz.

 

El Phantasmo vs. David Starr
This is El Phantasmo’s UK debut. He’s a Canadian grappler. Considering his outlandish name he looks remarkably normal. He does have a cool entrance though, coming out in the dark wearing neon gear. His entrance music has the lyrics “I’m a f*ck*ng headbanger” and Andy Q is beside himself. “I didn’t realise there would be quite so much swearing in that song”. Andy Q is so pure. El Phantasmo was recommended by Kyle O’Reilly apparently. Phantasmo is heavy on the mockery so Starr loses his patience. It’s interesting to see Starr get rattled and the chops he delivers are tremendous. Phantasmo gets over on personality before popping off spots, which is a decent approach for a newcomer. Commentary discuss Phantasmo and how he’s decided to come to the UK for a year to see how he fares. He certainly impresses with a few moves off the top rope. Especially when Starr rolls across the ring to avoid one and still gets caught with a ridiculous missile dropkick. Phantasmo comes unstuck ‘going to the well’ of high flying and Starr beats him with the JML Driver. This was a really solid opening match. Phantasmo got his character across and I’m sure has secured himself a future booking.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

The London Riots vs. Josh Wall & Kurtis Chapman
Josh Wall is also known as Kelly Six. Wall is his trimmed down, no gimmick approach. Just black trunks and all business, as is the Contenders way. The Riots try for the Authors of Pain Super Collider spot but it’s horribly and obviously botched. The crowd, already quiet, completely no sell it. You could hear a pin drop. The lads get the crowd back by doing basics; brawling and dives. Commentary decide to razz on the youngsters; calling Chapman skinny and Wall chubby within moments of each other. Not that Wall is fat or anything, he just needs to tone up that belly. Or wrestle in a t-shirt like the Riots. The match is littered with untidy moments and hurried recovery spots. Both youngsters have wobbles but recover from them admirably. The match is at its best when the Riots bowl the kids over with power. There are not enough moments like that, as the match is structured to make the Contenders look good. Chris Brookes shows up and steals JD’s cricket bat allowing Travis Banks to blindside Davis and Kurtis gets the pin! If this match hadn’t suffered from so many unfortunate miscommunications it would have been really good.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

RPW Undisputed British Cruiserweight Championship
Josh Bodom (c) vs. Ashley Dunn
No offence to Ashley Dunn but this screams ‘routine defence’. Dunn has only been in the business for 18 months and everything about him reflects that. From his movement to his crowd interaction to his appearance. He’s a work in progress. Bodom on the other hand has had a breakout year. His title victory over Will Ospreay is hands-down the best match I’ve ever seen him have. Here Bodom bullies the smaller Dunn, rightly so. It’s an uphill struggle to convince the fans that Dunn is a genuine contender. Ashley gets murdered with the Blissbuster very early but kicks out. I’m not sure I agree with that line of thinking. “You’re the third best Dunn in Britain” says Bodom. He’s not lying! I don’t think that’s even an insult. Ashley botches a crescent kick so they repeat the spot. Josh looks slightly annoyed at this turn of events. Generally the match isn’t going as he’d hoped and he finds himself waiting for Dunn more often than is ideal. Bodom tries to compensate by hitting bigger spots but the longer the match continues the less likely it is that Dunn isn’t beaten. Bodom’s stuff is so much crisper and the delivery is so superior that my initial feeling, that this is a mismatch, continues to be proven. Dunn takes some serious abuse, including the finish, which is a dropkick to the back of the head that looks like death. Bodom should have won much quicker than he did and Dunn took his abuse like a man but he didn’t belong in this match. Perhaps a better choice of offence from Dunn would have helped matters. He needed to be quick, sneaky and try roll ups and dives. As soon as that Blissbuster hit, the match should have been over.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

Eddie Dennis vs. Donovan Dijak
Dijak had a great run of matches against Josh Bodom for Rev Pro. Dennis is a lot closer in terms of size but maybe not in intensity. Andy Q brings the factoids; Eddie Dennis has never won a match in Rev Pro. That feels like a long-term booking concept. The match is two big lads bouncing off each other. “Come on Donovan Dijak, if that is your real name” makes Dijak break. Eddie Dennis is a funny f*ck*r. Dijak has done his homework and recognises Eddie’s “Next Stop Driver”, busting out a counter. Commentary is fairly critical of Eddie Dennis “pandering” to the crowd. The match dies on its arse as the pace slows and the intensity fades. I have a hard time with Eddie Dennis. I love him and his character but his matches don’t do a lot for me. He’s far better off in tags. Dijak makes amends by throwing Dennis around but it doesn’t bring the crowd back. They get into some beefy big spots down the stretch to get them back with Eddie surviving a string of big spots. Eddie is a guy who can kick out of big spots because he’s got that size to make it realistic. It feels like the finish but they go on to brawl some more before more big spots and dives. Dijak is getting good at match structure. Making me feel like the match is finished but then realistically carrying on is good for business. A common theme is that Dijak is much stronger than Dennis and frequently Eddie struggles to carry Dijak’s massive frame. I really like how the match becomes a struggle at the finish. Both guys looking tired and struggling to get their opponent up into moves. Eventually Dijak has too much for Eddie and downs him with the Feast Your Eyes knee strike. I didn’t enjoy the first half of this but it kept getting better and better. Dijak is on his way to superstardom.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Promo Time: Rob Lias
He’s out here to chat with Andy Q. The fans are still calling him Ricky. Rob, trying to escape the Contender’s division, bitches about his music and his “stupid black trunks”. Have you looked in the mirror mate? It looks like you murdered the cast of the Muppets and made a patchwork jacket of their pelts.

 

Zack Gibson vs. Angelico
Gibson doing his promo gets a load of heat, as per usual, and talks smack about Will Ospreay. Andy Simmonz has no idea who Angelico is and struggles with his birthplace. South…..Engl…Africa. Gibson hating the flippy wrestlers is a good storyline. Gibson technically grounding fliers and then selling for their wacky offence is a solid contest every time. Andy Q shoots from the hip in this one calling World of Sport “pish”. Angelico looks a little uncomfortable and moves glacially slowly when running the ropes. It’s the second time this year that Gibson has turned up ready for a midcard masterpiece and has been met with a poor performance from his opponent; after Hirooki Goto. Maybe Angelico is just worried about hurting someone he’s not worked with before but all his strikes look soft. The actual structure of the match is fine, as they tell a basic heel vs. face routine with Gibson targeting the arm to set up the Shankly Gates. It’s all a bit lifeless and Angelico doesn’t bring much in the way of fire. As the match progresses and they become more familiar with each other it improves. Especially Gibson coming off the top and getting caught with a flying knee. Like with Dennis-Dijak it improves as the match progresses and the finish is neat. Gibson blocks the Bucklebomb and hits Helter Skelter to set up the Shankly Gates. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to put the belt on Gibson because he gets lots of heat and he’s not had a big main event run outside of Futureshock. There are unique main events to be had.
Final Rating: ***

 

Jinny vs. Nina Samuels
Nina is La Diablesa Rosa in Lucha Britannia. This is her Rev Pro debut. They set out to showcase some technical stuff by doing the Guerrero-Malenko near falls. It’s on the bigger spots where the wheels come off. Jinny bumping a couple of times off minimal contact where she was expecting to get her clock cleaned. Nina’s gear puts me off slightly too. It looks like beach attire from the 1970s. The match is far better with Jinny on offence as Nina seems happy selling and Jinny has gotten confident enough to work snug and make her spots look realistic. After Nina has taken a kicking she gets her shit together. They put together a streak of moves that look good, including a backbreaker that leaving Jinny holding her spine for the rest of the match. Makeover, which Nina somehow manages to flip bump on, finishes. I liked this but it was too sloppy to begin with. Jinny continues to improve in leaps and bounds.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Zack Sabre Jr & Davey Boy Smith Jr vs. #CCK (Chris Brookes & Travis Banks)
The two juniors are not merely thrown together as a team. They both represent Suzuki-gun, even though Davey Jr hasn’t been over to New Japan recently. #CCK are not defending the belts here. Presumably because the Juniors have no history as a team. Davey has not been part of the UK Revival and has spent most of his career overseas. He’s ok as a talent but I feel like his development was arrested during his WWE stint and although he’s only 30 years old it feels like he’s run out of things to do with his career. Sabre vs. Banks is great, as per usual, but whenever Davey is in there the match is less interesting. He does a decent number on Brookes’ leg to try and chop the tallest man in the match down to size. It’s very strange to see Brookes work babyface in Rev Pro (and Progress). He made a name for himself being a dick heel across the country and now he’s made it to the big leagues he’s switched face. The most intriguing section of the match is Brookes, babyface, defending himself against the assaults of Zack Sabre Jr, heel. Rev Pro have capitalised on this largely undone match by booking it for York Hall and Summer Sizzler. Andy Q starts screaming about CCK retaining the tag titles in a match that he himself billed as non-title. Sabre bullying Brookes with slaps and such is beautiful. Dick heel Sabre is my favourite Sabre. When he’s cocky and horrible he’s at his best. Brookes manages to get Zack to submit, otherwise Rev Pro would have no justification for booking Sabre vs. Brookes. This mostly worked although Davey seemed a bit distant and him and Travis brawling to the back didn’t make a lot of sense. Nice to see Brookes getting a big win though. It sets him up big time for York Hall.
Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Summary: This was a solid show from Rev Pro, although the lack of atmosphere didn’t help and there was nothing great. Most Cockpit shows have been overdelivering this year so it had to happen sooner or later that one of them would just be ok. The match-making disappointed, although Andy Q is deliberately trying to put on matches that haven’t been done to death elsewhere. The downside to this is workers unfamiliar with each other taking half the match to get adjusted to their opponent and getting the timing right. This was evident throughout this card. Every match suffered from timing issues of some sort. Best match was probably Starr-Phantasmo and they deliberately started slow to get used to each other before building to a crescendo. The Cockpit shows exist to help Rev Pro build to bigger shows (like Summer Sizzler) so it’s hard to complain about match quality on them but the bar had been set a bit higher than this. Rev Pro victims of their own drive and success.
Verdict: 69

PROGRESS Chapter 42 – Life, The Universe & Wrestling

Arnold Furious: January 15, 2017. We’re in Birmingham for Progress’ first show in the Midlands. I managed to score tickets to this one and was there live. On paper the card was a little underwhelming but Progress have a delightful habit of turning underwhelming cards into amazing shows. Jim Smallman introduces us to the show and the crowd are rowdy, which makes him happy. He also chats about being on the WWE Network in a suit and how many tweets he got about wearing a suit. He further addresses the issues caused by WWE running in the UK by pointing out they’ve got loads of mates in WWE. Cue Finn Balor music.

 

Promo Time: Finn Balor
This was basically a trade-off with WWE for them using all of Progress’ top tier (Midlands) guys in Blackpool the same weekend. A make-good to ensure the first Birmingham Progress event wasn’t a calamity. The crowd chant “you’re just a shit Jordan Devlin” at him for chuckles, following Devlin getting stick in Blackpool the night before. Finn is here to compete…in a game of musical chairs against four fans. The music played is Shawn Michaels entrance music “Sexy Boy”, which is in no way weird. Finn almost loses in the first round with Paul Lee (@Paul_dtp_666) getting eliminated and this draws a bullshit chant. Wrestling! Martin Bentley (@themib) goes out second and we’re left with Balor and two others. Finn gets caught doing the HBK strut and pose and gets eliminated next. Some lad named Tom wins. To be fair he looked like the most athletic individual.

 

The London Riots vs. Ringkampf
Walter has always been a babyface in Progress so it’s a little jarring to see him switched heel with Axel and the crowd are into Ringkampf and their jaunty classical music. The alignment is probably due to the crossover work Progress are doing with wXw in Germany where Walter is one of the companies leading heels. Hosts on commentary tonight are Callum Leslie and Matt Richards. Dieter is the smallest man in the match but he’s so technically able that it’s not an issue. The rest of the match is big burly lads bashing each other about and hitting silly dives. It’s great fun. Walter is especially energised with his heavy hits. His shotgun dropkick is badass and a lariat he hits on Big Rob is the most violent thing on the show. Walter absolutely destroys Rob with takedowns before submitting him with a sleeper. Shame the ring positioning didn’t allow the Bully Choke to work the first time but a great performance from all these guys.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Sebastian vs. Jack Sexsmith
Sebastian is still the ‘go to the bar’ champion. He’s usually in a buffer zone between something good and the main event but here it’s a good switch of pace after a strongstyle opener. Jack is an undercard hero and comes out here wearing Ugg boots. He introduces Seb to one during the ring announcements, a throwback to Brixton when Pastor William Eaver knocked Seb out cold as soon as the match started. Eaver is in Sebastian’s corner, which is the main storyline. It’s about Sexsmith having to overcome the odds and Eaver having to deal with his internal conflict. Seb is his usual self, although he shows slight signs of improvement like the dropkick through the ropes, which is harsh as fuck, and the extra twist version of the Killswitch. Sexsmith overcomes the odds and hauls Seb into the Crossface, complete with condom in the mouth, in a truly disgusting yet innovative spot. Nice revenge match for Sexsmith and now the story is back to Seb-Eaver.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

Jimmy Havoc vs. Tommy End
Tommy, on loan from WWE ahead of his match in Blackpool later, is the second surprise of the evening. Due to Tommy wrestling later in the evening this is very brisk. They get in some tidy hard-hitting action during this sprint, which End is great at, but even by sprint standards it’s on the short side. Havoc finishes with the Acid Rainmaker and we hit the intermission.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Natural Progression Series IV
Alex Windsor vs. Livvi Grace
I’m all for women’s wrestling. I generally love the switch of gears and the way it makes the show feel more inclusive and important. However if someone isn’t good enough to be on this level of show then they just shouldn’t be on here. I said that about Kyle Ashmore when Progress used him too early and the same is true of Livvi Grace (who I’ve seen work several times as Tennessee Honey). She’s attempting moves that are beyond her and someone is going to get hurt. When they stick to basics the match is completely fine. However when they attempt anything more complex the whole thing just unravels. It starts with ring post spots on the floor, which are ill-advised and poorly executed. It progresses with strikes in the ring that are badly timed and awkward. Not all of the match is bad, I hasten to add, but the bad stands out. The one spot, with Livvi on Alex’s shoulders, before falling off into what’s supposed to be an armdrag is Botchamania material. Every now and again I’m reminded of why both of them are here and it’s generally when they work the mat. However when they transition into bigger moves it doesn’t flow at all. The crowd are polite, as they usually are at Progress, but another major botch draws minor abuse. I’m not even sure what the move was so I can’t explain it. When you make a mistake it generally triggers more issues and that’s the case for other problems that arise here. Most importantly Alex falling over during the final submission finish just before Livvi dramatically taps out. So yeah, this was bad. I’m sure both women will come back and have better matches. I’ve seen enough from them to know that’s true but they need to know their boundaries and work within them. There’s nothing wrong with reaching for the stars but you have to be realistic.
Final Rating: ½*

 

South Pacific Power Trip vs. The Origin Banter Edition
The normally heel Origin lads are over because of the banter and come out here slapping hands and raising thumbs. Dave kicks off by saying he went a bit far in calling Dahlia Black names, due to her alleged sexual promiscuity. Dave kicks off his in-ring by putting on a mask and doing lucha and he’s shockingly great at it. Joel Allen decides to slam Dahlia because he’s a big beefcake who can do that. The match is pure comedy, which Travis is hugely underrated at. He may be the best comedy heel in the business. It’s not entirely goofy because they do still hit spots but they don’t bother with tags and just run through one daft thing after another. The bit where Ligero kicks TK in the balls with Dahlia’s leg is classic banter. It ends surprisingly quickly with SPPT overcoming the banter and double teaming, triple teaming if you include Dahlia, for the win.
Final Rating: ***

 

Paul Robinson vs. Rockstar Spud
I knew I wouldn’t like this match and it’s nothing to do with Robinson, who is a credible heel and a great character. However Spud doesn’t do anything for me and never has. That said he knows his way around entrance music and comes out to “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. That’s a banger. He’s also gone and got Progress specific gear, which would be a nice touch if I didn’t think he was sucking up to the fans like Cody Rhodes. This is his first match for Progress and it helps that he’s in his home town. The structure of the match is to try and generate as much heat as possible by having Robbo dominate. It’s a very one sided competition. Which worked when Robbo was putting a thrashing on Chuckles Mambo. It doesn’t work here though. Spud just takes a shoeing and it’s dull. Or occasionally disgusting. The finish is incredibly flat after Spud mounts a brief comeback and Spud wins on DQ after a low blow. Spud celebrates like he’s achieved something other than getting beaten up for ten minutes. I really wasn’t into this at all.
Final Rating: *1/2

 

Progress Atlas Championship
Rampage Brown (c) vs. Matt Riddle
Rampage’s Open Challenge antics come back to bite him because Matt Riddle is out to add a strap to his resume. Rampage has held this title since Brixton and has successfully defended against Mikey Whiplash, Bad Bones and Dave Mastiff. Riddle has only won one singles title before, the Monster Factory belt, but this is generally due to him only starting to wrestle in 2015. In a night of brisk contests this match is another for the catalogue. Riddle’s offence tends to be explosive and so is Rampage’s so it suits them to hammer out a sprint. Rampage has a size advantage, which shows when Riddle actually hurts his foot kicking Brown in the chest. He has plenty of other weapons though, aside from strikes, and part of Riddle’s appeal is how quickly he’s developed as a worker and added to his repertoire without losing the appeal that his MMA work brought in the first place. His strike rush is terrific but there’s more depth to his game. Rampage brings a lot of power in response but Riddle isn’t overwhelmed by it unlike other challengers. Matt goes to the ground and pound and Rampage stays down without being hit by a big move, more a succession of strikes, in an innovative finish.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Summary: All hail Matt Riddle. He’s stepped into the void left by the departure of Chris Hero to the WWE, as Hero did himself when AJ Styles left the Indies. Obviously he’s not on Hero, or AJ’s, level just yet but he has only been wrestling for two years. Give him another two and he’ll be a world beater. He can walk into Titan Towers any time he wants and sign a lucrative WWE deal but he wants to fine-tune himself first. He’s making massive steps every time he wrestles, learning to work different opponents and control different situations. The undercard was as patchy as you’d expect from the announced card but the surprises elevated the live experience from Finn’s appearance at the top to End to Riddle in the main event. The other match worth checking out is the opener with Walter re-establishing himself in Progress with a dominant display. Glad to see him back.
Verdict: 58

PROGRESS Super Strong Style 16 2017 – Day 3

Arnold Furious: May 29, 2017. Video Control kicks us off with clips from the second round of Super Strong Style 16 matches. Jim Smallman re-enacting the Lion King did not make tape. However the lad whose girlfriend is having a heart transplant did. So many emotions in the Ballroom.

 

Wasteman Challenge
A host of tournament competitors who didn’t make it this deep show up to challenge. Although the crowd would prefer Jeremy Corbyn “mans a bit busy at the moment”. When the crowd suggest Theresa May, there’s a response for that too; “that skets got no bars”. Wasteman Challengers this evening; David Starr, William Eaver, FLAMITA, Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews. Starr sings the Fresh Prince of Bell-Air theme song, albeit botching it the first time out. “I have to do Will Smith right”. Roy gets all emotional after Flash tells him he’s not coming on the podcast but then Mark destroys him. Flamita caps it off by doing the Macarena. Jimmy Havoc is supposed to be involved but considers it beneath him. “I’m better than this. I’m better than all of you” is the exact quote. Jack Sexsmith runs down and it turns into an actual match.

 

Flamita vs. David Starr vs. Jack Sexsmith vs. Mark Andrews vs. Flash Morgan Webster vs. Roy Johnson vs. Pastor William Eaver
Sexsmith rapidly opts to jog up to commentary as his arm is still knackered. Flamita, having adjusted to his surroundings over two days, suddenly hits another gear and starts popping off incredibly quick spots. The highlights here include Eaver using his Jesus Magic to overpower people and Flamita hitting a tornillo to the floor. Also David Starr hitting everyone in the face with his cock and Sexsmith running into the ring to demand he take one too. Starr and Eaver are both on inspired form, bringing the big laughs and the smart wrestling. Flamita catches Starr with the Flam Fly for the flash win. This was a fun ten minutes, although the finish comes over 40 minutes into the show. I heard it called “filler” but it was Progress gently easing everyone into the final night of wrestling of the weekend.
Final Rating: ***

 

Super Strong Style 16 Semi Final
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Travis Banks
Now we’re into the serious business and it starts in intense fashion. There’s nothing better in wrestling then two guys beating the utter shit out of each other. Travis has ridiculous intensity but Sabre is keen to show he’s equal to that. It’s not a fresh match-up (they’ve had several matches in Fight Club Pro) but the standard has always been very good. Both guys are not only intense but technically proficient. The combination of skill and attitude is a delight and this might be their most intense match to date. The kicks and slaps are badass. Both guys manage to stomp on the others head during the match. God, it’s heated. Sabre counters one Slice of Heaven into an armbar but Travis stamps on his head to break it and another Slice of Heaven gets it done. This was perhaps a little brisk, with a big match to follow, but a killer match anyway.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Super Strong Style 16 Semi Final
Matt Riddle vs. Tyler Bate
Ah the irony of Tyler Bate coming out to “Young and Bitter”, music written for Pete Dunne, right after losing the UK title to Pete. It’s not lost on the crowd who ragged Tyler all weekend long about losing the strap. Tyler, risking the belittling of his tiny feet, removes his boots to fight Riddle on an even keel, provoking a “shoes off if you love Riddle” chant and half the Ballroom crowd taking their footwear off. The smell was unbearable. It’s day three lads.

This weekend was yet another opportunity for Tyler Bate to demonstrate how far he’s progressed. Even last month he looked out of his league against Riddle and here he’s up to speed, able to compete with Riddle on the mat and with stand up. Riddle remains more intimidating but Tyler’s rate of improvement this year has been staggering. Riddle looks like one of the original Olympians, as if he hails from Sparta or somewhere equally tough. He makes his control period look sensational with an array of awesome power moves. Tyler’s offensive periods are also very strong as he’s added little bits and pieces and widened his range of attacks. It’s two wrestlers who are really, really great and yet are also very inexperienced. Imagine how good this match will be in a year!

One of my favourite chants all weekend is in this match; “tiny feet, shit tattoo”. Tyler takes all this in his stride and stands up to Riddle, refusing to be intimidated. He’s a man now, even when Riddle dishes out a vicious strike like his overhand chop or the big kick to the chest. I enjoyed this live but it’s even better on tape, able to see the nuances of both men’s expressions that adds depth. There is the odd moment that doesn’t work, like Tyler wanting to do his fancy Matt Cross-style bounce off the ropes and not having the momentum to do so, but overall the match hits epic tier with Tyler kicking out of Riddle’s running knee (which finished Trent Seven in six seconds). Bate hits the Tyler Driver ’97 twice to get the win and some fans were freaked out by that. Sensational performance from Tyler. Almost on a par with the Pete Dunne match at Takeover.
Final Rating: ****1/4

 

Number One Contendership Match
Kay Lee Ray vs. Katey Harvey
This is a number one contender’s match for the women’s title. Which is a bit strange because Harvey has had one match in PROGRESS and she lost. If we’re taking this seriously as a pseudo-sport that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Toni Storm joins commentary to check out her prospective opponent. Katey cut a slick promo saying the PROGRESS fans focusing on her sleeve wasn’t progress. She turns up sleeveless here and promptly gets bantered for losing her sleeve. If you complain about people taking the piss out of you, they’re probably going to take the piss out of you more. It doesn’t help that she shows up doing Xena Warrior Princess cosplay. It kinda feels like she’s just here to job to KLR. It’s also very strange placement, after that cracking Riddle-Bate match. The pre-intermission match is usually a banger. It’s ok but they don’t click too well, with some timing issues. Kay Lee looks to overcome that by just stiffing the shit out of Katey, which resulted in Harvey being injured. Although it seems her shoulder problem was actually an existing condition discovered thanks to her beating here. KLR gets the job done with the Gorybomb and sets up what should be another great Toni Storm-KLR match. Post match Toni comes down to the ring to wave her belt in front of Kay Lee’s face, so KLR slaps her for it. That’s happening next show.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

Submission Match
Mark Haskins vs. Trent Seven
This was the result of a smutty-mouthed Haskins challenging Seven to a match the previous night. The promo was “a bit sweary” but Jim thought it was funny so they aired it anyway. Resulting in slightly misogynistic “pussy bitch” chant, done in the same intonation that Haskins delivered his promo in. Trent’s own promo contains my favourite line from the entire weekend; “these are the dulcet tones of the West Midlands. I’m also suffering from borderline depression from the results of day one…now f*ck off”. Trent isn’t known for his submissions, nor his capacity to last beyond six seconds in singles bouts. He very nearly submits in a matter of moments. He looks even more depressed after chopping the ring post but amuses himself with a running chinlock. Trent hits another outstanding moment with the locals by muttering “I don’t know any moves” as he struggles to the stage. This is where the storyline kicks in with Trent Seven nailing Jimmy Havoc with a chair. Havoc tries to get revenge but accidentally nails Haskins and Trent gets the win because Mark is out. Great storyline work but not much to the match. Which is fine. I love the storyline and all these guys.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Progress World Championship
Pete Dunne (c) vs. Jeff Cobb
I like that Pete has taken to smacking people’s hands when they stick the middle finger up at him. The placement of this match also confuses me as everyone was ready for the main event at this point. If I was putting the card together I would have put this on as the first half main event. Putting it right before the main event almost suggests we shouldn’t expect much from it.

Dunne is aware that Cobb is strong challenger and kicks him in the nuts before the bell and then goes to every short cut imaginable. Plus he targets the limbs and grinds Cobb down. Dunne is quite small, by wrestling standards, but has no problem being believable in beating up a larger opponent. Cobb brings his usual astonishing array of power moves, combined with the odd ridiculous flip. They cock up once, with Cobb landing in a completely different place to where Dunne was expecting, thus resulting in a dodgy transition. They try for a Strong Style sequence, which is appropriate, and it also shows there’s not a big size difference here despite Cobb’s impressive strength. Dunne’s ring awareness is quite remarkable and he saves his title by grabbing the ropes at one point; it all looks perfectly natural. Pete retains with the Bitter End in a perfectly adequate match. It escalated nicely and both guys looked great. Was the result ever in doubt? Not really. Was it the best place to put it on the card? That’s open for debate. It was good though, as Dunne vs. Cobb was always going to be.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Super Strong Style Final
Travis Banks vs. Tyler Bate
These two have terrific chemistry and have worked against each other in Fight Club Pro and ATTACK! quite a bit. Travis has been building an incredible catalog of matches in FCP and now he’s adding some PROGRESS singles matches to that haul. Although for a while I was pleased he was teaming with TK Cooper as those SPPT matches were superb, I’m very glad to see him having a chance to break out on a bigger stage.

The crowd are electric here, geared up before the two men have done a thing. The best thing about the setup here is not that it’s heel vs. face but that both men got here on merit. So although everyone hates Tyler and he’s the resident big bad guy for Travis to overcome, they’re very close in terms of skill. It makes for a great match, built steadily over a number of months. Credit to PROGRESS for seeing two young talents and sculpting them into a position where they’re this over and ready to become the two biggest stars in the promotion. Tyler, quite deliberately, looks tough as nails. He counters a lot of Travis’ offence and no sells some of the strikes, while Travis sells everything. Tyler looks incredible at times. His airplane spin is incredible. It might be even quicker than the one against Pete Dunne at Takeover. The Matt Cross rebound lariat is starting to look really good. Tyler Bate in 2017 is on another level and he was already good.

There are shenanigans, which is to be expected. There are ref bumps and inevitably the other British Strong Style lads get involved. But that’s not the finish of the match. They get that out of the way, complete with Travis getting visual pins and #CCK making a dramatic Ballroom debut to make the save. It’s a sensational save too with phenomenal double dives.

That’s not the end though as Travis and Tyler go right back into the action with a tremendous near falls sequence before Tyler hits his ridiculous dive to the floor and Travis wipes him out with the low tope. It’s a demonstration of two of the most perfect dives in wrestling, back to back. It doesn’t stop there either with a host of cool spots. Travis includes the Van Terminator in his moveset, although it’s perhaps less impressive in PROGRESS’ smaller ring. Then they start wailing on each other. It’s an epic match, loaded with effort and this is after they’ve already both wrestled once. Travis eventually gets the submission with his Lion Clutch crossface after avoiding a top rope Tyler Driver.

I enjoyed this more on tape than in person. Probably because I wasn’t leaning on the bar on this viewing, due to horrifically damaged toes. The action was great, the storytelling was great and even though the winner was entirely predictable sometimes that’s what wrestling needs to be. Something the Vince Russo’s of the world will never understand. And this wasn’t even the best match of the tournament! What a weekend!
Final Rating: ****3/4

 

Summary: I loved all three nights of Super Strong Style 16 for different reasons but this was the night I wanted to watch again and review for Voices of Wrestling. I felt it had something special about it and I couldn’t process that live. If I’d been in better health and more alive I would have adored this show as it happened. Luckily through the magic of VOD I can watch it back and enjoy it properly in the comfort of my own living room. Will I go next year? Try and stop me.
Verdict: 100

RevPro High Stakes 2017

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).
Verdict: 93

ICW Fear and Loathing IX

Arnold Furious: November 20, 2016. This is a massive show for ICW. They’ve been building towards it for a literal year. They announced it right after last year’s Fear & Loathing that they’d be running the Hydro, an enormous venue that recently hosted WWE’s flagship programming. To make the whole thing profitable ICW needed to sell a lot of tickets and they’ve done that. Over 6000. Hosts are Billy Kirkwood and William Grange.

 

Promo Time: Finn Balor
I actually missed this completely as the stream died and the following two matches were aired on Facebook by the promotion. Having massive streaming problems isn’t good news but thankfully once the feed settled down it was perfect.

 

Joe Hendry vs. Davey Blaze
Hendry is out of ICW for a year if he loses but he gets to rough up the Wee Man if he wins. Blaze is perhaps not the best of wrestlers to kick the show off but Hendry feels like a star and his entrance, a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, feels like a big deal. Blaze controls much of the contest, which allows Hendry to get all fired up. Hendry picks up the win and this was certainly a match, although it didn’t feel like a big deal at all. The crowd were into it at least. I can’t help thinking something else should have kicked off the biggest show of the year for ICW (and everyone else for that matter). Hendry is over but there wasn’t a lot going on here. It might even have made more sense for Joe to lose and build something up. No, that’s a stupid idea.
Final Rating: *3/4

 

ICW Women’s Championship
Carmel Jacob (c) vs. Viper vs. Kay Lee Ray
KLR is great but I hate her music. It’s such a non-event. The women’s division really kicked off last year at Fear & Loathing when they crowned a women’s champion. Carmel quickly won the belt off Viper although the star of the women’s division is Kay Lee Ray and it’s perverse that she’s still on the Indies when Nikki Storm/Glencross is on NXT. Viper is a lot bigger so the two smaller girls naturally aim to eliminate the big lass. It doesn’t work because they target the knee and Viper has no idea how to sell. Kay Lee Ray, rather typically, steals the show. Her timing is better, her spots are more exciting and the things she does make sense. Carmel also gets her knee worked over but she actually sells it. KLR is so far above the other two. Whether it’s on offence, taking spots or timing, it’s not even close. KLR is potentially world class. Viper and Carmel are ok. KLR takes out both opponents and beats Jacob with three Gorybombs. Definitely the right result. If Kay Lee Ray is hanging around in Brit Wres she’s the only possible champion. Carmel spends a few minutes putting over KLR after the match, which is unfortunate because of the next match.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Casket Match
Stevie Boy vs. BT Gunn
BT steals Trent Seven’s not chopping the ring post spot, which is harsh seeing as Trent is in the title match. Quibbles aside they do some decent strong style stuff before we degenerate into silly casket spots. Like BT being knocked out and getting thrown into the casket but his leg is hanging out. Only it falls inside and the ‘unconscious’ BT has to put it back into position. Then they both end up inside the casket and we get the ‘getting dragged back in’ visual. “Shaggin” chant the crowd, showing how utterly ludicrous casket matches are when the Undertaker isn’t in them. It’s a pity this is a casket match because the actual work outside of the stupid coffin spots is pretty good. Especially BT hitting a spiffy vertical drop brainbuster. If this was a straight up match it’d probably be ***1/2 or more. Instead it’s just dumb. Kay Lee Ray comes out here, after her life-affirming title win just moments ago, to help the heel. I don’t get ICW. That’s just completely counter-productive. BT gets powerbombed on the lid and stuffed into the coffin for the loss. Like I said throughout; the work was fine but casket matches are just interminably stupid.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

ICW Tag Team Championship
Polo Promotions (Mark Coffey & Jackie Polo) (c) vs. Team 3D
Crowd are really into the Dudleyz because this is the kind of promotion that’s loaded with ECW/Attitude Era fans. Bubba asks for a no DQ fight, perhaps forgetting you can’t get disqualified in ICW. Much like you couldn’t get disqualified in ECW. D-Von turns heel, for me anyway, by wasting a beer over Coffey’s head. Meanwhile Kirkwood rants about imports and how they’ve got to work hard here, which is fair. There are 6000 fans in here. If that doesn’t get you fired up, nothing will. This is a fairly typical Dudley Boyz match only with a hotter crowd. That is until Polo blows his interference in the 3D and a random chair shot finishes. That massive botch, in the middle of the 3D, leads right into Polo hitting a scoop slam on a chair for the disastrously sloppy finish that everyone hates.
Final Rating: *

 

Post Match: The Wee Man and Davey Blaze interrupt to call the Dudleyz a “blight on the carpentry business”. Davey then lies around ‘selling’ until he’s put through a table. D-Von will, in all probability, retire soon and it’s overdue. However you can’t blame him for the botched finish here.

 

Video Control takes us backstage where Lionheart, and his crap name, rant about his multiple opponents in the Zero G title match. Elsewhere Trent Seven cuts a great promo about how important this date is to various people but he’ll remember it as the day he came and took home the ICW title. Bring it back to the Midlands, Trent! Wolfgang cuts one in response and we get a load of other pre-taped stuff to fill the intermission. So wait, that Dudleyz match was supposed to be the hot match before the intermission? Oh.

 

Stairway to Heaven Ladder Match
Zero G Championship
Lionheart (c) vs. Zack Gibson vs. Aaron Echo vs. Liam Thompson vs. Andy Wild vs. Iestyn Rees vs. Kenny Williams
This is slightly complicated as this isn’t a ladder match until four guys have been eliminated. I’ve never seen Echo before. Andy Wild is a lot fatter than the last time I saw him. Everyone else works fairly frequently across the UK scene. Mick Foley interjects from the USA to sing Led Zeppelin and add in a seventh man; “The Bollocks” Kenny Williams. With seven men involved this is absolute chaos. Gibson is the first man out, to my unqualified shock, courtesy of a Jacob’s Backcracker from Liam Thompson. Wild Night Out immediately dumps Liam moments later. Rees dumps Echo. Williams puts Rees out with a flying DDT. Lionheart puts Wild out with a Rock Bottom. So the final two are Williams and Lionheart in a ladder match. The quick-fire eliminations render the point of having seven men out here in the first place pointless. Now at least we’re done with the bullshit and into the actual match.

They bring out a ladder and break it with the first spot, a Rock Bottom on it from Lionheart. They head up a second ladder and poor Kenny gets murdered with another Rock Bottom, this one off the ladder from quite the height. Unfortunately this is running low on time so they skip the selling. Kenny gets back on level terms with a springboard Diamond Cutter off the ladder and he plucks the title down to win the title despite not being in the match beforehand. The match was upsettingly rushed but capped with two huge spots.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

Lewis Girvan vs. Ricochet
Girvan is a top prospect. One of the better young wrestlers in the UK. He doesn’t look like a wrestler but he’s talented. Ricochet immediately flips onto him repeatedly and from various angles. Including one into the front row. Ricochet makes Girvan look terrific too by hurling himself into bumps. Girvan works hard but he barely has to. Such is the entertainment value of Ricochet. Girvan does his bit on the trading and can just about keep up with Ricochet’s insanity. After a few early jitters Girvan looks especially good. It’s as if the wrestling lets him relax, which is a good sign. Girvan does a fine job of blocking the Benadryller. It shows he’s done his home work, although Kirkwood hasn’t, assuming Ricochet is going for GTS. The ICW crowd is very insular isn’t it? Girvan’s multiple counters into the Celtic Crush, his crossface submission, are good although it feels a bit forced that Girvan gets the win after everything Ricochet hurls at him. It’s a really professional job by Ricochet. He made Girvan look further along than he is and took the clean loss in the process. Match of the night.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Steel Cage Match
ICW World Heavyweight Championship
Wolfgang (c) vs. Trent Seven
I’m disappointed Trent doesn’t have time to shake hands with every one of the 6000 fans in attendance. Shame ICW can’t afford the music rights to get Seven Nation Army playing. Wolfgang rides down here on a motorcycle continuing the trend of shitty wrestlers riding to the ring on a motorcycle. Seven has had an amazing 2016 but carrying Wolfgang to a good cage match may be beyond him. Wolfgang botches his first offensive move when we get underway, failing to grasp the mechanics of a German suplex. Wolfgang has to step up his game and does so, throwing himself into a few big spots. The story surrounds brass knuckles, which Wolfgang brings in but Trent uses. Then we get the screwy storytelling with Trent climbing out of the cage. Why would anyone climb out of a cage when you can have the door opened? Naturally Wolfgang cuts him off and suplexes off the top of the cage…for one! That doesn’t get the ridiculous reaction it deserved. They both head up top and Trent punches Wolfgang so hard he falls off through a table. Well, that’s certainly underwhelming. This explains why the title match is buried third from top despite being in a cage. I was very disheartened by this booking. Maybe it’s the outsider in me, looking in.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Disclaimer: the following match is blatantly not designed for me, whatsoever.

 

Winner Gets 100% Control of ICW
The Black Label (Drew Galloway, Jack Jester, Bram & Kid Fite) vs. (Grado, Chris Renfrew, Sha Samuels & DCT)
Black Label are Red Lightning’s boys. They’re the heels. The other side are the babyfaces, or rather ICW wrestlers brought together by a common enemy, and are all wearing yellow in support of Mark Dallas. Sha gets puts out very quickly. Kid Fite follows quickly. This is one of the most WWE Attitude Era matches you’ll see in modern wrestling. It’s all dated styles and awful looking punches. Grado looks absolutely dreadful in this match. Remember a year ago where it was all about Grado? That match with Drew was tremendous but it’s evident here that Grado doesn’t have that same atmosphere about him 12 months later. Bram puts DCT out. Grado gets rid of Bram, who stinks up every match he’s involved in. Grado gets dumped and Renfrew is left as the sole hope of Team ICW. Wee Boot helps Renfrew deck Jester with the Stunner. That leaves it as Renfrew vs. Galloway and whoever wins gets control of the company. Red Lightning drags the referee out so Mark Dallas can jump in there for a catfight. Galloway boots him in the face, in an attempt to save the match by himself. Renfrew lets his hand drop three times and the match should be over but it’s another f*ck up. So Dallas has to get in there and Finn Balor runs down. Jester then turns face and Renfrew takes advantage of Balor hitting Drew and the Stunner finishes. What a load of convoluted bullshit. The booking here reeks of mimicking ECW. The attempt at layered stuff is actually quite nice but the execution is so clumsy and nobody hit their marks in this. It just felt awkward and fell flat. However the fans in the arena exploded for all the big stuff, especially at the finish. Maybe I’m just a bit too jaded for this sort of thing but it did nothing for me. Galloway was great, everything else was bad.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Post Match: Mark Dallas fires Red Lightning. It’s the end of a very long storyline. It’s emotionally satisfying for that reason, and the crowd are totally into it, but the match was really bad.

 

Kurt Angle vs. Joe Coffey
This has to deliver after a lacklustre card. If they want Kurt to wrestle a long match they’re in trouble. Although a glance at the clock reveals we only have 20 minutes until the curfew. Angle would have been a terrific draw for ICW…if Kurt hadn’t been booked in the UK for Rev Pro and WCPW already this year. Plus he goes on after a disappointing card and immediately gets covered in Joe’s blue body paint. The match doesn’t work like Angle’s other UK dates as it’s slow and methodical. Kurt brings the same bad punches that littered the last match. Joe knows he needs to stand out here and look better than the average wrestler on this card. So he’s flying off the top and running up the ropes. However he struggles again when it comes to a power spot and can’t hold a bridge on a German suplex. Angle runs through all his usual stuff and Coffey can hang with him on most of it. Angle then taps out to a Boston crab in one of the most bizarre occurrences you’ll see all year.
Final Rating: ***

 

Summary: The biggest UK show in 30 years. A crowd of over 6000 fans. You’d think these things alone would guarantee something memorable. What ICW delivered was a mediocre show with sub par wrestling and the focus firmly on three former WWE wrestlers and the worst Scotland has to offer. The good will of one year ago, where Galloway vs. Grado lit up Glasgow and made ICW the envy of Brit Wres, is all but gone. This is not a show that other UK promoters will be pleased with the existence of. ICW cater to a certain type of fan and if that kind of fan is in the majority then that’s bad news for British wrestling. All the great British promotions run better shows than this on their bad days. It boggles the mind to think this is a WrestleMania-esque showing from Britain’s biggest promotion. It’s not so much the storylines that bothered me but the simple failures up and down the card to make things relevant (KLR getting put over huge as the companies best women’s wrestler, then she runs in as a heel in the next match etc) and the poor standard of in-ring.
Verdict: 45

ICW Fear and Loathing VIII

Arnold Furious: 15th November 2015. ICW is the UK’s most successful promotion. You may not even have heard of it but they have the loyalist following and draw the largest, most energetic crowds in the UK. Considering it’s an exciting regional promotion that draws buzz from elsewhere and successfully tours the UK, it’s sort of comparable to ECW. It’s the little company that grew into something bigger. They don’t take themselves very seriously and name shows after Wayne’s World, Simpsons episodes and an assortment of other pop culture stuff. Here’s a few show names for your amusement: Smells Like Teen Spirit, What’s Your Boggle?, Up and Atom, The Goggles They Do Nothing, Dazed and Confused, Hadouken!, Tramspotting, Get To Da Choppa and Stop! He’s Already Dead!

Fear and Loathing, appealing to all the Hunter S. Thompson/wrestling fans out there (of which I am one), their 2006 debut show was the first Fear and Loathing. The attendance? 73. That’s not a typo. 73. It was headlined by Drew Galloway winning the ICW Championship. This was a fresh faced Drew Galloway, prior to his WWE run. Another Fear and Loathing show didn’t come around until 2009. The line-up on that card shows where the promotion went and it was populated almost entirely of local Scottish talent like Darkside (James Scott), Chris Renfrew, Kid Fite, William Grange and Liam Thomson.

By 2010 ICW was running more regularly and including the odd UK Indie talent like Noam Dar. The attendance on these shows was still in the early 100’s and the 2011 version of Fear and Loathing drew a crowd of 250. As the promotion ran more frequently they attracted more attention and were able to improve their ongoing storylines. Fear and Loathing 5, in 2012, took place in The Classic Grand. A slightly bigger venue than Apollo 23, which hosted F&L4.

It was during 2013 that the group started to attract some real attention for what they were doing and Fear and Loathing VI “Welcome to Bat Country” featured the Sumerian Death Squad and also Jack Jester winning the ICW title from Mikey Whiplash. It showed how well they’d built up the local talent that Rhino, former ECW champion, found himself in a midcard triple threat match with Jimmy Havoc and James Scott. He didn’t even win. Fear and Loathing VII, just over a year before this show saw ICW sell 1,600 tickets to see Drew Galloway reclaim his ICW title by defeating incumbent champion Jack Jester. The promotion’s home grown, local talent included Grado, Joe Coffey, Jackie Polo, BT Gunn and Kenny Williams. Kay Lee Ray, who was on that card, has since made her NXT debut. This is a promotion that’s still expanding and finding an audience. They’ve been grinding away for nine years at Glasgow but they’ve now got a product that a huge amount of Scottish wrestling fans want to see.

Just how big are ICW now? Well, before this show they ran a tour of the UK, like a Japanese promotion tours, taking in Dundee, Newcastle, Southampton, London, Liverpool, Norwich, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham. That’s a bigger tour than the WWE do.

We’re in Glasgow, Scotland at the SECC. Attendance for this is around 4,000. That’s four thousand people for a UK Indie show sold on two Scotsmen wrestling each other in the main event. It’s frankly astonishing but this is how you build a wrestling business. You work hard, you start small and build up to this. Let’s see how they do. As a venue comparison the twice-the-size Hydro, across the road, hosted 50 Cent recently and drew 4,500. ICW is in a pretty big ball park. Another comparison is TNA, usually seen as a global number two (or three, after New Japan), who drew 1,500 their last time out in Glasgow. That’s not even a bad crowd, it’s just another number to reinforce how strong this ICW one is. Hosts are Billy “F*ck*ng” Kirkwood and William “Friggin” Grange. Nice to see young William can smarten himself up a bit. Good lad.

The venue is packed and it’s a sea of Scots. It’s amazing. To kick the show off out comes Mark Dallas, ICW owner and “Kingpin”. It’s fair to say he’s a babyface messiah, not unlike Paul Heyman in front of his ECW throng. “We’ve even got a Titantron. We call it the Big Telly”. Dallas has a big reveal for Fear and Loathing IX in 2016: it’ll be at the Hydro! That’s a building that holds some 11,000 people. GM Red Lightning comes out to protest his suspension (which he’s under for abuse of power, namely siding with Black Label buddy and champion Drew Galloway), which in turn brings out temporary ICW Commissioner, and greatest WWE Commissioner of all time, Mick Foley. He’s been appointed figurehead due to Red’s suspension. How did ICW get Mick Foley involved? It’s due to Billy Kirkwood, who’s Mick’s opening act on the UK tours and show runner for his stand-up gigs. Red runs off to leave Foley to talk. “What the f*ck is going on out here?” says Mick. That’s just about perfect. He does a great job of putting over how insane the attendance is and how it sold out a month beforehand.

 

ICW Zero-G Championship
Stevie Boy (c) vs. Davey Boy
These chaps used to be tag partners and indeed tag champs until Stevie Boy turned heel to go after solo gold. Davey’s sidekick/cousin the Wee Man introduces Davey as Mr SECC because, wait for it, he’s a “sexually enormous conquering cunt”. The crowd is electric. There’s always a worry when you start to expand that you lose the atmosphere a wee bit. That’s just not the case here. It helps that both guys go hell for leather from the opening moments and manage to break the guardrail off the ramp. My first thoughts on the commentary are that it’s fun, different and Billy Kirkwood absolutely nails his role. William Grange brings the former wrestler analysis. It’s a solid pairing. The match is more about the storyline than anything with Davey out for revenge and both guys knowing what the other will do before they do it. The work is a bit loose but they cover for it ok by working hard. You’d think two guys this familiar with each other would have a great match worked out but often tag partners colliding doesn’t work out like that. They have ridiculous near falls with Davey kicking out of the Canadian Destroyer, named the Devil’s Halo by the champ. I’ve said this before, but that’s a finish. You can’t go around kicking out of that unless you’ve got something far more insane as the finish. As it turns out Davey wins with the Canadian Destroyer. This was rough around the edges, carried by storyline and atmosphere. There was a nasty spot in the match, excommunicated from the On Demand stream, where Stevie took a nasty bump and hurled. That might explain some of the roughness around the edges during this one.
Final Rating: **

 

Joe Hendry, Kenny Williams & Noam Dar vs. Doug Williams, Liam Thomson & Lionheart
Kenny Williams’ Back to the Future entrance is wonderful and he comes out dressed like Marty McFly in Back to the Future III. “You know how hard it is to get a train up to 88 miles per hour?” quizzes Grange, suggesting Williams just came back home from 1885. Hendry, local hero, makes his entrance in a “Hendry Ball”. Combined with his ridiculous entrance music, personalised for the evening, it makes two killer back-to-back entrances. Doug and company play heels to the flamboyance across the ring. They’re the no-nonsense grapplers. The faces have fun and do dives and complicated submissions to keep themselves amused. Like most multi-man matches it breaks down and they get a bunch of spots in there. With everyone wiped out Jimmy Havoc turns up, reveals an ICW shirt and clears out the heels. It’s some odd booking as the faces weren’t in any real trouble when Havoc ‘saved’ them. Kenny pins Lionheart in the midst of all this craziness and that’s the match. This was fun but it was a mess. The heels try to take over the ring but Liam Thomson’s former fiancé Carmel Jacob takes him out with a chair shot. The Scot Squad, a British version of Reno 911, drag Lionheart out of here to good measure. Top sportz entertainment. Carmel challenges Thomson to a singles match. “You would have made a shyte husband anyway”.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

ICW Women’s Championship
Nikki Storm vs. Kay Lee Ray vs. Viper
This is a brand new belt so the championship is vacant. Grange has become more comfortable by this point and his personality comes across in spades. First proclaiming that Nikki Storm’s music makes him want to dance before pointing out Storm’s second Sammi Jayne handed in her dissertation in “Nikkinomics”. This was originally booked as Storm vs. Ray but Mick Foley turns up to turn it into a three-way. The reasoning being that Kay Lee Ray’s win over her was unfair. Boo hoo. Viper is a bit like Vader if Leon White was a girl. Despite the presence of Foley and a surprise third entrant the crowd is actually very quiet for the first time tonight. Given how the bar has been raised by the ladies over in NXT, of which Kay Lee Ray is one now, it’s not easy to live up to women’s wrestling hype. They opt to stick with some tried and tested three-way spots, utilising Viper’s power. Of the three, Ray stands out as the better worker. Her stuff is smoother and her timing is superior. Storm isn’t far behind. I’m not sure I agree with Foley’s insertion of Viper in the match as Ray vs. Storm feels better as a singles match. Most of Viper’s best spots involve Kay Lee Ray sacrificing herself. She controls the flow of the match and Viper picks up the win courtesy of Ray virtually throwing herself off the top rope. Good performances from Ray and Storm. Decent enough from Viper, although she tried too hard and didn’t stick to her strengths. The rumour has it that Nikki Storm is heading to NXT, as she’s already had a try-out, and Kay Lee Ray might be going full time so ICW had to put the belt on someone who’s definitely staying put. Makes sense. Shame though. Storm vs. Ray could have torn the house (or is it hoose?) down.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

Rhino vs. Joe Coffey
Joe Coffey is a Conscience trainee, who started out in SWA. He still wrestles for both but works more for ICW nowadays. The fans love him too, getting into his Iron Man gimmick. Rhino is here to play spoiler and act like a veteran dick, like Doug Williams and company in the earlier six-man tag. This is Rhino’s fourth ICW match and he’s been used as enhancement, to get over the locals, every time. That’s part of the beauty of ICW though. They get their own guys over and give them an opportunity to shine. There’s nothing worse than watching four Indie promotions who all book the same guys. So you get Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, Jimmy Havoc etc, on every show you watch. I know the British talent pool is quite shallow but ICW are brave and different. The match sees a lot of clubbering and again the crowd goes a little quiet after the entrances. It’s almost like an Attitude crowd at times. They do get into the action when it starts to hot up. The sight of Joe Coffey throwing an effortless German suplex get the juices flowing. Feeding off the ECW vibe the match, and indeed show, has had to this point they pull out a table and Rhino hits a GORE! through it. Rhino’s mouth agape reaction to Coffey kicking out is sensational. He does a solid job of putting over Coffey’s power and resilience. Coffey finishes with a pair of discus lariats. This was a solid old slobberknocker. The crowd singing along to Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” creates a great atmosphere.
Final Rating: ***

 

ICW Tag Team Championship
Polo Promotions (Jackie Polo & Mark Coffey) (c) vs. The 55 (Kid Fite & Sha Samuels)
The challengers are part of a larger stable, managed by James R. Kennedy. They also have Timm Wylie out here for numbers but the champions are no dummies and bring DCT and Coach Trip with them only for them to be ejected almost immediately for interfering. Mark is Joe’s brother, in case you were wondering about the name similarities. Polo is an interesting study for his name alone. He looks a bit like Scott Levy, the man best known as Raven, so it could be a tribute to his Johnny Polo gimmick. But the name is also far too similar to Jackie Pallo to be a coincidence. Pallo being one of the more famous British grapplers in the history of the business. As far as tag matches go, this one is strictly by the numbers. The crowd catch on to just about everything though from Polo’s “Scoop Slam City” obsession with scoop slams to Sha’s resemblance to a rotund Eric Cantona. The challengers threaten some shenanigans and try a few tricky cheating bits but fall to the assisted German suplex. This was more about the characters than the action but Mark Coffey looked good.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

Six Man Steel Cage Match
Legion (Michael Dante, Tommy End & Mikey Whiplash) vs. The New Age Kliq (Wolfgang, Chris Renfrew & BT Gunn)
This feud has been going on for a year going back to NAK vs. Sumerian Death Squad and Whiplash from last year’s Fear and Loathing. You can only win via escape and if you do escape, you can’t come back in. Every man from one team has to escape to get the duke. Legion manage an entrance almost as creepy as the Undertaker does, flanked by masked men. The smartest thing they do here is abandoning any pretence of a tag team match and tagging, which makes no sense in cage matches. Instead they focus on brawling and double team spots. It reminds me of WCW’s War Games matches. They clearly aim to steal the show with insane high spots, like Wolfgang (the big man on his team) attempting a senton off the top of the cage. This leads to the Legion throwing him out of the door. Wolfgang has ‘escaped’ and is out of the match. What that does is leave NAK at a man disadvantage. Wolfgang drags Dante out to level it up as a regular tag team match. When Tommy End escapes it leaves Wolfgang battling the Sumerian Death Squad on the floor to give his ‘brothers’ the chance to compete in the ring. The New Age Kliq should win as Whiplash is left incapacitated and they both climb out but BT Gunn mysteriously climbs back in. Renfrew escapes so it’s Gunn vs. Whiplash. The end of the match sees the action slow up as they prepare for an enormous final spot, with SDS stacking tables for a spot off the top of the cage. Billy Kirkwood abandoning the announce spot is almost on a par with Jim Ross’ “he’s busted in half” call. “Get the f*ck back!” They spend a while teasing before they simultaneously fall through a nest of tables. Whiplash lands cleanly but BT Gunn takes a horrible bump. The no finish is underwhelming so Whiplash orders BT Gunn to come back to the ring to finish it properly. “Kill me!” yells Whiplash and BT elbows Chris Renfrew out of his way.

It’s on, again! Sudden death pinfall rules apply. Gunn lays Whiplash out with the Bloodline superkick and gets the pin. That’s the definitive conclusion. The New Age Kliq get the win and end the madness. The big spots paid off well and the brawling worked. Not sure the planning of the big spots was correct, with the tables being set up really late with both guys already on top of the cage, but in terms of guts it was suitably manly.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Big Damo vs. Jack Jester
The whole build for Fear and Loathing VIII has seen a lot of feuds heading towards conclusion on this show. Which is right but it does create one intense match after another and it’s hard to get invested when the last match was an angry blood feud and then this is another angry blood feud, only with slightly less anger attached. Jester is representing the Black Label, who’ve been messing with Damo for months and prevented him capturing the ICW title. Jester, facing off against an angry Irish beast, has to take a few shortcuts and starts by hurling a chair at Damo. Jester soon discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew and whatever violent ideas are formulating in his Scottish noggin are soon crushed by Damo’s size and power advantage. The one thing that does pay off is Jester hitting an impression Tombstone when Damo heads up top trying for the coast to coast. He also takes to using a chair instead of his hands as Damo completely no sells any strikes. Jester gets to show a bit of fight before being crushed by the Emerald Isle Skateboard (Damo’s standing on opponent senton, normally called the Belfast Bomb/Drop, only with an added chair). This was solid enough action and I liked Jester’s assorted attempts to overcome Damo. It showed he came in with a few tactics only for Damo to overcome everything and turn the chair gimmick against Jack.
Final Rating: ***

 

Video Control heads backstage for Chris Renfrew to rant about how the New Age Kliq built this house. He’s another potential contender, along with Damo, for whoever wins the main event tonight. From there we get a video hyping Grado and the atmosphere is electric. “I might be chubby, I might be slow as f*ck but I’ve got heart”.

 

ICW Championship
Drew Galloway (c) vs. Grado
Some wonderful storytelling coming into this. You’ve got Galloway as the ultimate champion. The former WWE superstar and unbeatable monster wrestler. Not only that but he was the first ICW champion, going back nine years. Grado is the ultimate babyface. One of the fans own. The boy who done good in spite of his natural disadvantages. He said himself, he’s all heart. It’s a pity Madonna won’t give him a chance to use “Like a Prayer” as his entrance music, which he does anyway but it’s muted On Demand, as it sets the mood so perfectly for a Grado match. In order to properly watch this I had “Like a Prayer” playing but you lose the chanting and excitement of the live audience. Galloway gets his own entrance music sung live, which is pretty cool. In a supremely nice touch Galloway is wearing his old gear, from 2006, the same gear he had when he won the ICW title the first time. Billy Kirkwood has been winning me over all night but when the senior referee is introduced and Kirkwood yells “wanker” that’s the point where Billy is heading in to my year end awards as best announcer. Grado weighs in at “who gives a f*ck?” This is extremely endearing.

I love that Galloway dominates the early going, as he’s a far superior physical specimen. It intensifies Grado’s comebacks and the challenger brings his A Game with flying rana’s and dives off the apron. For a chubby comedy guy he’s bringing everything. R-GRA-DO! “Out of nowhere” chants the crowd. I knew the crowd would be good and I knew the atmosphere would work but I didn’t expect the sheer levels of effort from Grado and Galloway. They know they’re the main event and they have to deliver to the biggest UK crowd since the 80s. Grado is prepared to give everything, taking a massive shellacking from the monstrous Galloway. You can see Galloway’s power slowly eroding Grado’s ambition. To the point where Grado’s moves come out of desperation and self-preservation. Galloway shows tremendous timing throughout. Eager to give Grado enough so the crowd stay in it and yet remain a dominant force. He’s grown as a worker since 2006 and indeed since his WWE run. Grado meanwhile channels Tomoaki Honma and almost all his spots are timed like Honma’s. You could claim they have a lot in common. Spiritual brothers.

Galloway ends up becoming frustrated and hitting all manner of spots in an attempt to finish Grado off. When nothing works he knocks out the ref, Red Lightning tries to interfere and Mick Foley runs down to earn his pay. Mr Socko for Jack Jester! Mick looks increasingly like Santa, seeing as his beard has started to turn grey. Drew tries to finish it with a chair shot but Grado gives him the Wee Boot and Mark Dallas runs in to count the pin, reminiscent of Paul Heyman counting John Cena down at the ECW show One Night Only WWE ran in 2005. The end sees Grado celebrating while Madonna blasts out across the SECC. Sadly the audio is missing from On Demand but luckily a friend of mine recorded the sound that goes with it and it gives me chills. Losing the audio hurts the reaction but it is a stunning ending to a solid wrestling show.
Final Rating: ****1/4

 

Summary: The main event brought so much atmosphere and emotion, it was worth checking this out alone. The celebration was a magnificent piece of work. The undercard was ok, I could possibly have used a strong match somewhere on the undercard to the levels of the main but I appreciate what ICW have done with their promotion. There’s so much home grown talent that it genuinely feels like a different show to anything else in the UK, or the world for that matter. The commentary, the ring announcing, the way the promotion is run and the talent they use. Everything is special and unique. You can largely ignore the star ratings for the undercard because even when the wrestling wasn’t that great, the entertainment value was there. ICW is certainly a promotion worth seeing.
Verdict: 70

Attack Pro Wresting Press Start 5

Arnold Furious: June 6, 2017. The theme of this show is that Attack had glitched. So everything is a little bit out of whack here. The Club One Hundred banner is upside down. Jim Lee is in drag. And here’s Bowl-a-rama…

 

Bowl-a-rama (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos) vs. #CCK (Lloyd Katt & Splits McPins)
Brookes doing Lloyd Katt’s smile is bizarre. Because everything is broken Shay is babyface. He’s also announced as “Chris Roberts”. The crowd chant “this is normal”. Imagine being at this show? We’re not even five minutes in and we’ve got Lykos shouting “shut up Lykos” at Splits. Brookes does all of Katt’s spots ridiculously slowly, including stepping over Katt and walking around instead of doing a duck under on a leapfrog. Katt doing the Brookes senton is genuinely freaky. Especially as it leads to “Chris Brookes” admonishing “Chris Roberts” for his counts. The whole thing is tremendous and the attention to detail in the move and mannerisms theft is incredible. Plus it’s a well constructed match, with only the occasional issue stemming from dudes doing moves they’re not familiar with. It almost feels like they’ve done this match before. Lykos, I mean Splits, hits the Brainbuster for the win. He called his shot. This was odd but in a good way.
Final Rating: ***

 

SabDrew vs. SandDrew vs. The Drew Meanie vs. WCW Drew
SandDrew vapes on his way to the ring. This is what happens when someone’s ECW obsession gets entirely out of hand. There are more ECW gimmicks than you can shake a stick it. Drew Parker himself is dressed as Sting. Drew’s Sting impression is pretty good, although he gets gassed quicker than Sting usually does. It’s probably just another glitch. Sabu is a calamity though. He can do the poses and that’s about it. Not that Sandman is much cop either. He hits moves clean for starters. Unlike in the first match there are too many guys out of their element. Drew Parker is fairly adept at switching from one character to another but the others all struggle. It’s good for a laugh but the work is wildly inconsistent. Drew gets the Scorpion Deathlock on everyone for the win, after falling over in the middle of trying to apply it. As far as wrestling matches go this was a catastrophe. They get points for being funny but not many.
Final Rating: *

 

Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate
The Bruiserweight Tyler Bate has Pete’s mannerisms down perfectly. He must have been paying attention. Pete has a fake moustache. Either that or he grew it really quickly between shows. It’s very impressive. He does the waving and handshaking gimmick. Tyler, sorry Pete, even has the cat tattoo drawn on. It’s tremendous attention to detail. Pete isn’t quite as athletic as Tyler so he slightly struggles to do some of his counters but it’s a great match regardless. It’s not until you see Pete Dunne stripped off his gimmick that you realise how much he does to layer a gimmick on there. And Tyler uses all of it. It’s not Pete’s fault that Tyler doesn’t do as much gimmick wise but Tyler absolutely kills it as the Bruiserweight. After a while I almost forget they’re f*ck*ng about because the moves are so smooth and slick and they’re so convincing in their new personalities. Tyler even nails that Pete Dunne assassination forearm shot. They kick out of each other’s finishes but Shay Pursor (Chris Roberts) gets stuck causing a delay. This brings out the Anti-Fun Police and it’s actually Damien Dunne because this whole show is too much fun but he’s got some new members… The reaction of Los Federales Santos Jr here is priceless. You can’t buy reactions that good. Unfortunately that’s the end of what was shaping up to be a great match. You can’t have it all, I guess. I laughed several times during this, genuinely laughing out loud and confusing my wife.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Mike Boar & Wild Bird vs. Eddie Dennis (Ryan Smile) & Nixon Newell
Boar and Bird have swapped with each other. Bird’s Wild Boar is spot on. Nixon looks…different. The fans are totally into this and you can tell because a couple of them help catch ‘Nixon’ on a dive. Also they chant stuff out of order. Mike “Wild Boar” Bird takes a horrible spill through a box at ringside but luckily Boar has an extra life. Smile cracks me up by attempting the double fallaway slam spot that Eddie does but he isn’t strong enough and everyone falls on him. I’m not sure if I like ‘Nixon’ having a high pitched faux voice but the match is genuinely funny. Eddie takes a piledriver through a box/table and that finishes as they didn’t bring an extra life.
Final Rating: ***

 

Love Making Demon vs. Elijah
These two have switched gimmicks and the sight of a happy and stoned Elijah is just bizarre. Heel Love Making Demon is equally weird although he’s more about banter than pure evil. At this point Shay just completely loses his shit and starts laughing at Elijah grinding on Love Making Demon. Everyone has a breaking point. The work is occasionally twitchy but suitably daft to compensate. I’m particularly enamoured with them rolling around and getting Shay caught up in compromising positions. “He’s only a child”. “It’s Chris. It’s ok”. “Elijah” gets the win courtesy of an Implant DDT. This was fun, to see Elijah behaving like a sex maniac babyface, but it lacked the depth of the other parodies. Maybe that’s because I’m not as familiar with LMD and Elijah as characters as I have been everyone else.
Final Rating: **1/2

 

The Anti-Fun Police (Mark Andrews, Eddie Dennis & Flash Morgan Webster) vs. The Brothers of Construction & Mark Andrews
It’s great to see all the traditional babyfaces yucking it up as heels. I don’t think I’ve seen any of those new coppers heel it up before. The crowd chant “Tipton’s real” to greet the Construction Brothers destroying the Tipton isn’t real meme. The babyface Mark Andrews doesn’t quite look right.. “What is up, fellow kids?” He has most of Andrews act down but he fails to sing along to his own theme music, which is a pity. He nails down the banter though. “I’m from Wales” he mentions casually as he passes the crowd. Mark Andrews kills me with his response though; “go back to TNA”. Imagine bantering yourself out of the ring? I’m not sure who mocks Mark Andrews better; Travis or Andrews himself. The match mostly works, although the Hunters and Eddie develop communication issues a couple of times. Santos runs in to eat a 3D and that’s botched too. The match also stops as the Construction Brothers attempt to repair the broken Game Cube that controls this version of the Attack Universe, only doing so will send everything back to how it was. So they’d be heels again. “Ethical dilemma” chant the crowd. “We fix things, that’s what we do” say the Construction Brothers so they fix it and the entire show unglitches.

With the world returned to normal the babyfaces make their entrance again to “Party Hard” and G-Man, who’s clearly had too much coffee, throws in a dozen jump cuts. Average Shot Length: 0.25 seconds. This leads to Shay being heel again and refusing to count pinfalls so Chris Roberts gives him a Stunner. Roberts is the babyface? There’s a first for everything. SSP finishes for the faces, the ones who turned face during the match that is. This was fun and very weird.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Summary: This was one of the most innovative and wildly entertaining pro wrestling shows of 2017. Nobody is doing wrestling like Attack are. So many other promotions are falling over each other to do the most ‘strong style’ matches and Attack don’t give a f*ck about any of it. Daft shit is their bread and butter and they’re phenomenal at it. There are two matches here that repeatedly popped me and were also very good wrestling matches. Those are well worth seeing. Your mileage on this show as a whole will depend on how familiar you are with the characters who are being subverted and made fun of. If you’ve never seen an Attack show this would be a tough place to start. If you want to get into Attack by watching a few other shows so this makes sense, that would be preferable. If you like comedy wrestling you’ll not regret giving Attack a chance to showcase their unique brand.
Verdict: 67