Photo credit: Mr Josey Photography @mrjoseyphoto
The first few months of 2017 have already seen some big things happen for Revolution Pro. Their heavyweight title has been defended on two major NJPW shows, they had their fastest ever sell out for York Hall, and they are set to make their debut across the pond in America as part of the Wrestlemania weekend festivities. While these are all exciting developments for one of my favourite promotions, the things that really excite me are some of the more holistic changes they’ve made.
Last year the promotion made the switch to a monthly subscription service from pay-per-show VODs. Initially they continued presenting their Rev Pro TV show using matches from the Cockpit tapings, but after a few sporadic episodes they switched to just uploading the Cockpit shows in full. However the non York Hall events weren’t always uploaded prior to the next live event taking place and so it was difficult to follow the promotion from show to show. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would subscribe for a month when one of the major shows dropped, then go back and cherry-pick the matches that took my interest from the shows that had been uploaded in the intervening time.
That is no longer the case, as this year all five shows to date have been made available within a few days, and in the case of the most recent Cockpit show, the RevPro Twitter account even tweeted out a picture of the show being edited while it was still in progress! This impressive turnaround time is especially important now that the promotion is seemingly placing more emphasis on storytelling than ever.
I’ve found the storylines in RevPro have often seemed secondary to presenting stand-alone dream matches, bringing in some of the best independent talent from around the world, where the match quality and unique match-ups were the things that got you hyped and invested. That’s not to say that there were no storylines of note; the reformation and slow burn dissolution of the LDRS tag team, as well as the escalating hatred and violence of the Jimmy Havoc vs Josh Bodom feud were both exemplary, and I was invested in every match along the way. More often than not though, you could probably parachute into a show and get the same out of it as you would if you’d seen the previous ones.
This year there are already multiple storylines going on that have my interest, many stemming from the roster refresh that Revolution Pro has undergone. With many of their core stars under contracts to various promotions around the world, a new crop of British wrestlers have either made their debuts or been featured more prominently. Dave Mastiff and Zack Gibson are both undefeated in the Revolution Pro ring so far this year. Eddie Dennis has yet to pick up a win, but has fought tooth and nail in every match. The London Riots have made a splash in the tag scene, immediately establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Promotional stalwarts The Revolutionists have imploded as James Castle finally snapped after being constantly berated as the weak link by Sha Samuels. Josh Bodom won the Interim Cruiserweight title but is proclaiming himself the true champion while Will Ospreay “hides” in Japan. Dan Magee and Rob Lias look to take divergent paths as they make their way out of the Contenders division. And that’s to say nothing of Zack Sabre Jr selling his soul to Suzuki Gun in Japan in order to regain his British Heavyweight title.
But my absolute favourite story of the year so far is one that may have taken an unexpected turn; the explosive debut of Travis Banks and Chris Brookes. Banks appeared at the first Cockpit show of the year as part of the incredible 6 man tag main event, and then showed up unannounced at York Hall along with his partner in crime, attacking the tag champs after their successful title defence. Since I started following RevPro in 2015, I’ve always found the tag title scene to be the least interesting of the three main divisions. I wasn’t a fan of some of the cheap wins that accompanied The Revolutionists’ reign, and while Sterling and Redman are very impressive athletically their matches often left me cold as I found no real way to connect to them as characters. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way, as a good portion of the audience seemed to embrace Banks and Brookes during their title match, despite the fact that their initial appearances involved sneak attacks and beat downs, and chose to support them over the clean cut champs who were ostensibly the good guys. The pair have been rightly touted as two of the next wave of wrestlers on the British scene ready to break out on the world stage and, matched up against the hulking champions, it was easy to see them as the scrappy underdogs. Their title win was one of my all time favourite experiences at a wrestling show, and the post match celebration will stand out in my memory for a long time.
This is all I want from my wrestling: storylines that I can get invested in that enhance the matches. These stories, which have mostly been built on the promotion’s smaller shows have got me looking forward to the major York Hall shows more than ever. Sabre is set to face KUSHIDA at Epic Encounter, and the match now has a different dynamic than when it was announced. Will he use Suzuki Gun inspired tactics as he continues to develop a meaner edge, or will it be a straight up battle of technicians? At that same show Zack Gibson faces Hirooki Goto. In previous RevPro vs NJPW matches I haven’t necessarily been concerned over who won, as long as it delivered in the ring, but the result of this match feels important to how Gibson’s character develops in the promotion. How will the former tag champions react to a portion of the crowd turning on them and embracing the more nefarious team of CCK? Charlie Sterling in particular seemed to enjoy riling up the crowd and playing up to their taunts, and I hope we see more of that side of him.
Outside of the ring another small but significant detail is that the promotion has announced return dates in advance for foreign wrestlers who are challenging for titles. Knowing that it’s not just a one-off appearance makes these matches seem more than just perfunctory title defences and I’m surprised more promotions don’t do the same. David Starr will challenge Josh Bodom for his interim Cruiserweight title in Orlando and is confirmed to appear on a further five shows this year, so he feels like an actual roster member rather than an occasionally featured performer.
Despite all this, you probably can still just pay attention to the handful of big shows in the year and come away impressed by the quality of the matches, but the promotion as a whole absolutely deserves your attention. I’ve attended three of their shows this year; the January and March Cockpit shows, and High Stakes at York Hall. Of the three, I was by far the most excited for the March Cockpit show, where I was looking forward to every single match and it completely delivered. I tend to average one live wrestling show a month and by the end of this year I can see myself having attended more Cockpit shows than York Halls. This would have seemed crazy to me a few months ago, as prior to this year I had been to York Hall five times and the Cockpit only once, but the combination of atmosphere, storytelling and action has me seeing them as the more appealing option for my trips to London. As for their On Demand service, I won’t be subscribing every month; there’s just too much content out there demanding a share of my wrestling bucks, and I tend to cycle through different streaming services throughout the year, but when I do check in I’ll no longer be cherry-picking matches here and there. The first few months of this year have been promising, and I can’t wait to see where theygo from here.
Any feedback, hit me up on twitter @BennyOwens