This weekend’s Revolution Pro Live at the Cockpit 39 show was an interesting milestone for me.
It was was the 50th show that I’ve attended that was promoted by Andy Quildan.
My initial experiences with live wrestling, back in 2007, were firmly focussed on imports. My first live wrestling shows in the UK were events like Ring of Honor’s Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool show, NOAH’s European Navigation and the ill fated Indypendence Day weekend show. While those shows highlighted a lot of UK talent, these were shows built around the imports.
My first proper foray into BritWres itself came in the middle of Indypendence Day weekend back in September 2008. IPW:UK held a show before the second of the main shows, a 5 match show headlined by Iestyn Rees vs Al Snow of all things. This was the first Quildan event that I attended, although my memories of it were overshadowed by the events of the Eve of Indypendence show the night before. Instead, the show that kindled the flames of my passion for BritWres was the IPW:UK Sittingbourne Spectacular in 2009. Drawn by the promise of Bryan Danielson vs Paul London (which became Danielson vs PAC), I came for the imports and I returned for the Brits. Eventually Quildan left IPW:UK to form Revolution Pro and I moved on with him.
Quildan’s Rev Pro is currently receiving a lot of criticism, mostly due to the booking of PAC vs Zack Sabre Jr. and the events of High Stakes. Honestly, much of this criticism is justified. 2018 felt like a weaker year for the promotion and there are still significant things that need to be addressed. Issues like booking restrictions due to politics, an over reliance on New Japan talent which is producing diminishing returns at the box office, a lack of guys (especially British guys) who can step up into the main event spots and the inability to transfer Cockpit story-lines and build to the York Hall audience.
The thing is, 50 shows feels like a milestone to celebrate. So I wanted to talk about the good times that I’ve had thanks to Quildan. Specifically, I wanted to talk about 10 of my favourite or most memorable matches from over the years. They may not be the best, and you may notice some wrestlers popping up again and again but they all mean something to me as a fan.
3rd May 2009 IPW:UK The Sittingbourne Spectacular (Sittingbourne) – The Thrillers (Mark Haskins & Joel Redman) vs The Leaders of the New School (Zack Sabre Jr & Marty Scurll)
I attended this show for Bryan Danielson vs PAC, a very good match that was the first half main event. This habit of putting big matches on as the first half main event is a staple of Quildan shows, while wrestlers doing double duty was a recurring feature of those Sittingbourne events. This was Mark Haskins & Joel Redman’s second match of the night and it was originally meant to be Zack Sabre Jr & Marty Scurll vs El Ligero & Bubblegum, who had transport issues and couldn’t make it. While I’d seen Sabre, Haskins & Redman before, this match blew me away. It was a fast paced, high energy tag team match where I saw so much promise and potential. I wanted to see these guys wrestle again, I wanted to see them grow. This match was the true start of my love for British Wrestling.
4th April 2010 IPW:UK The Sittingbourne Spectacular 2010 (Sittingbourne) – Dave Mastiff vs Takeshi Morishima
Before Rev Pro’s New Japan links, Quildan used to use talent from Pro Wrestling: NOAH. One of the high points of that relationship was this match, pitting Dave Mastiff against former RoH and GHC Heavyweight Champion Takeshi Morishima. Morishima was no stranger to UK audiences after a series of matches in the UK in 2006. At this point Mastiff was beginning a strong run as the IPW:UK World Champion. You can joke about this match being a 26 ½ minute long 30 minute draw with a ridiculously unheralded finish but I remember this being one of my favourite IPW:UK “Heavyweight” World title matches. Morishima was an intimidating mountain of a man and Mastiff was a big, hungry and ridiculously agile force of nature. After re-watching it the match was slow at times with multiple rest holds at times but the last 10 minutes were every bit as good as I remember, with Mastiff even pulling out a springboard Arabian Moonsault. Yes, you read that correctly. I was tempted to pick Mastiff’s 2010 match against Go Shiozaki, which is a lot tighter and may be a better match but it didn’t reach the highs of the Morishima match.
1st August 2010 IPW:UK The Six Year Anniversary Show (Sittingbourne) – PAC & Mark Haskins vs The Leaders (Zack Sabre Jr & Marty Scurll)
After establishing themselves in 2009 against the Thrillers, the Leaders became the core of the IPW:UK tag team division and a highlight of those shows. They had great match after great match, against imports as well as British opponents like The All-Stars (Mikey Whiplash & Robbie Dynamite). This could easily have been The Leaders vs The Danger Bees (El Generico & Paul London) from Brawl at the Hall 2010. Instead we have the Leaders vs PAC & Haskins. PAC was becoming a Dragon Gate regular and this match showed how much all four were growing at the time. This was a really fun, action packed match with some really innovative offence. Watching it back, this still felt like a great match and I’d love to see a modern day rematch. You can also see how much all four have changed their styles in the last 9 years, as they were very different here compared to their current day iterations.
15th June 2014 Revolution Pro The Summer Sizzler 2014 (York Hall, London) – Shinsuke Nakamura vs Zack Sabre Jr
This was the first, and easily the best, match that Shinsuke Nakamura had in Revolution Pro. It was a dream match for British wrestling fans, the first on the list of matches that they wanted between Rev Pro regulars and New Japan talent. Sometimes New Japan talent can be seen to be phoning it in when they come to Rev Pro. Here Nakamura brought his working boots. These two are a natural fit in terms of their style and this had everything that you’d want from these two: powerful leg based strikes, smart mat wrestling and great counters. While the match was only around 15 minutes it was a fantastic encounter with some great counters and a strong finish, with Sabre Jr looking really strong.
16th January 2016 Revolution Pro High Stakes 2016 (York Hall) – AJ Styles vs Zack Sabre Jr
AJ Styles came into this match as the Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion. This was also his last match before debuting for WWE at the Royal Rumble. This felt like a huge match, with Sabre stepping up to finally become the British Heavyweight Champion. Both men meshed incredibly well together, with Styles technical and mat skills making this seem like an even contest even in Sabre’s field of expertise. The way that they worked submissions and kept trying to apply or counter them was great, building a lot of drama. This was a great mix of styles (pun unintended) with Sabre having to repeatedly counter or withstand Styles’ power moves. There were some incredible dramatic highs followed by a dramatic finish with touches of desperation and inevitability. It felt like a watershed moment for Sabre, when he finally became recognised as the top guy in Rev Pro.
14th November 2016 Revolution Pro Global Wars 2016 Night 1 (York Hall) – Chris Hero vs Tomohiro Ishii
This is one of many matches where Rev Pro were booking New Japan guys against big US Indy names. I’ve been a big Tomohiro Ishii fan since his 2013 G1 Climax run. Part of Ishii’s charm is his incredible underdog work, but in recent years he hasn’t had many matches where he was the underdog. Chris Hero towers over Ishii here, adding a David vs Goliath feel to this match. This was one of the most ridiculously hard hitting match in a Rev Pro ring. Both men are known for their powerful strikes and they just laid them in here. This was the story of Hero trying to knock Ishii out, and Ishii just getting back up again and again and again. To some people it might get OTT at times but Ishii always looks like he’s feeling the punishment. This was during a period of time where Hero was possibly the best US import in the UK and this is maybe my favourite live Hero match. A cracking match with incredible striking and a great underdog story.
9th November 2017 Revolution Pro Global Wars 2017 Night 1 (York Hall, London) – Tomohiro Ishii vs Keith Lee
A year after the Hero match, Ishii was slowly becoming a York Hall regular. Against Keith Lee, Ishii was facing a man who was bigger, stronger and more agile. This was an incredible heavyweight match, a match that just kept building. Lee didn’t show off any of his flashier offence until he needed to gain control and it just kept going from there. Lee showed off his power and agility, Ishii showed his power and resilience. This match just kept building and was one of the best paced live matches that I can remember. The big moves felt incredible, with each big spot being built to or perfectly timed. This was my favourite Keith Lee match and arguably my favourite live match from 2017.
10th November 2017 Revolution Pro Global Wars 2017 Night 2 (Walthamstow) – Zack Sabre Jr vs Will Ospreay
One thing that I noticed from this list is that most of the matches are UK vs import matches. Part of that is the fact that there were so few established top level British guys in Rev Pro towards the end that they were rarely put in matches against each other. The story leading up to this match was that Sabre has Will Ospreay’s number, as he’s always able to out think Ospreay. This match worked so well because it played off that story and really showed how much Ospreay had grown as a performer over the years. This match was a great blend of both guys styles, a frantic match full of counters, quick thinking and familiarity with your opponent. Some of the counters or reactions here are sublime, the frustration builds between both wrestlers and the finish perfectly fit the story of the match: Ospreay had really grown and was much smarter, but was he smart enough?
26th June 2018 Revolution Pro Epic Encounter 2018 (York Hall) – Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) vs Chosen Bros (Jeff Cobb & Matt Riddle)
I felt that Rev Pro had a weak 2018 compared to 2016 & 2017. One of the main highlights on York Hall shows in 2018 were Aussie Open. They had some great tag team matches throughout the year. This match vs Cobb & Riddle was my favourite, with both teams being beloved by the fans and the crowd was red hot. The match was full of action with all four men looking great. On top of the crazy action and the athleticism, you had some clever bits of storytelling such as judging when to tag out or failing to keep track of the legal man. A great show needs more than one great match and tag team matches like this are essential for building great cards. Aussie Open could easily become a key part of Rev Pro in 2019, as long as they learn the lessons from High Stakes.
3rd March 2019 Revolution Pro Live at the Cockpit 39 (Marylebone) – Zack Sabre Jr vs A-Kid
I’m probably over-hyping this match a little but I wanted to add this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the Cockpit is a great regular venue for Rev Pro with no bad sight-lines and it’s seen a lot of really good and even great matches. Secondly, Rev Pro’s last couple of years have been plagued by the unavailability of a lot of UK talent due to WWE UK contracts. The promotion has had to rebuild the under-card by using new talent, including regular non British wrestlers such as David Starr, El Phantasmo and Team WhiteWolf. Those guys need to be given opportunities at the bigger shows and this match showed that A-Kid is definitely someone who is capable of eventually making the most of those opportunities.
The sheer prevalence of Sabre in this article rather obviously shows that he’s one of my favourite wrestlers. I’ve always been a fan of the more technical side, and he often keeps his matches fresh these days by using emotions in his matches. This was a perfect example of why I love his matches. In this match A-Kid reminded me a lot of a younger Sabre. The match was mostly a mixture of great mat wrestling, ridiculously stiff strikes and decisions based on emotions. The story was A-Kid being such a good mat wrestler that Sabre wasn’t able to dominate, leading to Sabre lashing out in frustration. This then led to both guys both trying to out think and out strike each other. The chain wrestling was great here, as was the way that the anger simmered and built between these two before a finish which was a perfect end to the story. The crowd was quiet in the way that they seemed to be sucked into the action. That no one left despite the show overrunning due to a broken ring is a testament to this match. If this isn’t in my top 10 live matches this year then it will have been a very good year.
Those were ten matches that I wanted to talk about from my time going to these shows. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on what IPW:UK or Rev Pro matches really stood out for you. I can be found on Twitter as @Monkey_Buckles
Thank you for taking the time to read one persons thought on nearly 11 years of following one wrestling promoter.