Rev-Pro ‘High Stakes’ (15/2/19) LIVE Review

Added by Matt Dagnall

High Stakes was the first York Hall show for Rev-Pro of 2019, and it had sold out extremely quickly due to the announcement of PAC vs Will Ospreay. However aside from this dream match, the card was maybe a bit weak, with notable absences from David Starr and any NJPW talent.

Josh Bodom defeated Angelico (8:16)

Often, a fast faced Bodom match can be great to get York Hall hyped up; see Bodom Vs Magee at Summer Sizzler and vs Ridgeway at Uprising. However this did seem a bit more pedestrian for its 8 minute length. Bodom was mouthy as ever, shouting at Angelico and the crowd, and they started at eachother. Bodom came at Angelico with strikes and power moves, while Angelico seemed to be rather limited to kicks. His forearms in response to Bodom’s certainly seemed rather weak. Angelico got some dives in, before Sha Samuels came down and distracted the referee for Bodom to hit the bliss buster to win fairly easily. This was the definition of average.

Team White Wolf defeated The Besties in the World (14:50)

Both teams got a fair reaction, with Besties standing on the ropes and singing ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ as the crowd joined in. They started at a fast pace, running the ropes before Besties got control of A-Kid with their superior size, and they isolated him. Finaly, he made the tag to Romo who ran wild on the Besties, hitting them with fierce kicks and chops till they were forced to the outside. Both A-Kid and Romo hit a series of suicide dives onto them before A-Kid got them with a huge asai moonsault. When order was restored, Romo and Vega traded strikes, before Fitchett was tagged in for an even better hot tag – the highlight of the match. A lot of the crowd was clearly unfamiliar with his offense to responded very well to the innovations. It’s impossible to describe, just go and watch the match. They then traded a series of convincing near-falls, with both teams very feasibly getting a big win here, until White Wolf suddenly won with a top rope drop kick and jackknife cover combination. This was a huge win for White Wolf after a really really great match that the crowd loved. However Bodom and Samuels came down to ruin the moment and beat them up viciously with Sha’s straps. They got on the mic and said everything was about to change in RevPro.

Zoe Lucas defeated Bea Priestley to retain the Undisputed British Women’s Championship (8:07)

Obviously this match had little build, as Priestley was replacing the injured Sammii Jayne who had earned her spot by winning the 2010 Queen of the Ring tournament. Zoe had a notable confidence to her as she walked into York Hall for the first time as a wrestler, rather than someone selling merch on the table. She stared down the ring announcer and posed in the ring with the belt as ‘her York Hall moment’. She has been treating the title like her precious recently and I feel like it is starting to work. The two were having a fairly good match that was shaping up nicely – they matched up well. There were some really good sequences and they were getting the crowd into it, despite it being just after the previous thriller with the Besties and White Wolf. However it ended rather abruptly when referee Chris Roberts incorrectly counted a pin in the ropes.

CCK defeated Aussie Open (28:40)

Having had the best York Hall match of 2018 together at Summer Sizzler, this rematch had the crowd excited. The shenanigans started immediately, with Brookes and Gresham messing about for near five minutes as to who would start the match. Then when it finally started, the ‘comedy’ continued with Gresham overpowering Davis – its funny because he’s small… I think? Brookes then took some chops and left the ring and went backstage. Gresham went to find him and Brookes came back another way so now Gresham was lost. When they finally got back in the ring, it was Fletcher facing Gresham, and for a minute they went to hit eachother in the corner and every time the other guy ducked. Eventually it spilled outside and Dunkzilla was laid out at the back of the hall while Fletcher took staples to the head from Gresham’s staple gun. Why this match didn’t end in disqualification here I’ll never know. They got into the ring for real with about eight minutes to go. In all fairness to them, they had a great little eight minute match here, with everyone hitting their signature offence: Gresham even kicked out of a fidget spinner. With the ref distracted, Gresham had Fletcher pinned with a roll-up as the crowd counted as far as six. Then Roberts came in to count, and Fletcher was pinned. So Fletcher was essentially pinned for nine seconds by a roll-up after an eight minute match. The number one contenders to Suzuki and Zack were made to look pretty stupid here. The number one contendership wasn’t even on the line in a show called ‘High Stakes’ and so this does raise a question as to the future of Zack and Suzuki’s reign. With they have a match against Aussie Open, CCK, or even Evil and Sanada as teased on NJPW. Given that everyone was expecting a great match, this was a pure car crash.

El Phantasmo defeated Maxwell Jacob Friedman (15:57)

MJF came out first and trashed the crowd, saying they couldn’t please their wives whilst bigging himself up, saying he was rich and the hottest AEW signing. The crowd hated him and he was booed severely, a welcome return of the heavy boo’s to York Hall since Zack Gibson left. El Phantasmo called him a Tory wanker and told him to shut up. These guys actually had a really similar build and style meaning this made for a really equal match. They matched eachother with dropkicks and kip-ups at the start, and so MJF changed his tactics to get the upper hand. He used submissions to wear down Phantasmo, while using the ropes for leverage. When Roberts saw this, he kicked MJF’s hand off the rope to even it back up. Phantasmo then came alive with his usual high flying antics, walking the ropes and moonsaulting off the top rope to MJF behind the barricade. This became a great indy match, as MJF hit a canadian destroyer before ELP matched it with a springboard one. MJF was in position for ELP’s finisher but he moved too far from the ropes so ELP just hit a splash across the whole ring for the win. A definately think a lot of people assumed MJF was just all character (and his character is incredible and got the crowd very involved), but he was amazing in ring here. Phantasmo gets more popular each York Hall show, with the crowd really getting behind him and the celebration for his win being massive. He’s now beaten top AEW stars and NJPW stars at York Hall and indicated to the camera that he was going to have a ladder match with David Starr for the cruiserweight title – something Starr has teased on the Cockpit shows. This was excellent.

MK McKinnan defeated Kip Sabian (13:39)

Unfortunately for MK, this was never going to be a success through no fault of his own. He was originally meant to have a match against the Great-O-Kharn but that couldn’t happen as O-Kharn is in Japan. It was then meant to be a mouth watering contest against Chris Ridgeway but he had travel issues getting to the show, and so with an hour before show time, Kip Sabian stepped in. This obviously had zero build to it and was after the incredible MJF Vs ELP match and before the main event, and so it stood no chance whatsoever. The crowd were just talking among themselves and the in-ring action received little reaction. Both guys worked really hard to get the crowd into it, and after some very stiff kicks and some big moves which included an awesome DDT from Sabian and a cool dive from MK, Sabian was submitted pretty easily with a choke. Nothing really to this.

Will Ospreay vs PAC ended in a time limit draw (30:00)

The place game unglued for both entrances, and the men arrived with their respective titles – there was an eruption of applause before they even locked up and I haven’t seen York Hall that excited in ages. Duelling chants rang out through the iconic venue; Ospreay was cheered loudly, but Pac received a mixed, but loud reaction. They started with Ospreay flipping out of PAC’s attacks, leading to faceoff after faceoff. Despite Pac getting the advantage from his strength, it would not pin Ospreay down as his athleticism allowed him to constantly escape disaster. The pace quickened with both men running the ropes, and hitting eachother with really really stiff kicks, punches, lariats and much more. PAC got fed up and threw Ospreay to the outside and threw him around the barricades and even gave him a brainbuster on the ramp. At some point in this, Ospreay cut his face open and was visibly bleeding, only adding to the drama of the match. But Ospreay fought back and reversed the irish whip into the baricade by jumping over it, and hitting a springboard forearm off the barricade to PAC. PAC equalled Ospreay’s high flying ability, hitting a huge moonsault to the outside, while Ospreay hit a Sasuke Special in response. There was plently of inovation also, with a top rope tombstone from PAC being reversed into a DDT by Ospreay at the last minute, and PAC catching Ospreay into a really devastating DDT of his own. This match, the spotfest that it was, was not void of storyline however. Ospreay hit moves from all his famous York Hall opponents: Scurll’s finger break, Sydal’s shooting star press, Ricochet’s benadryller, and a Style’s clash too which the crowd went nuts for. Then with about five minutes left, CCK came down (ref was down at this point) and attacked Ospreay with PAC’s belt, and so PAC joined Ospreay in beating them down. Aussie Open came down to clear them out as well. This was so so so unnecessary and added nothing. With about four minutes remaining of the time limit, there were loads of near falls, with an OsCutter, spanish fly and deadlift german suplex not being enough for either man. With one minute to go, PAC gave Ospreay a low blow, but wasn’t disqualified. He jumped to the top rope to hit the black arrow but chose not to and let the clock run down, meaning it was a draw. The crowd reaction was split, with some people giving it a standing ovation, and others booing heavily. Ospreay and the crowd requested five more minutes but the show just ended.

Final thoughts

This was a weird show. It definately had it’s great moments (White Wolf tag match, ELP vs MFJ and PAC vs Ospreay) but this was outweighed by several underlying issues.

The first issue was the lack of star power. For whatever reason there was no New Japan talent on the card, and so the card was definately weaker. Whilst we are definately spoilt for having people like Suzuki and Ishii regularly at York Hall, they are really needed as people like Angelico, Kip Sabian and Bea Priestley aren’t York Hall level stars for the minute. The lack of big stars just means less reaction to entrances, matches and an all round Cockpit show feel. Add to that that Ishii, Suzuki and Starr always go all out in their matches.

Secondly was the lack of champions. RevPro to a large extent is built around Starr and Sabre as dominant champions over their divisons but neither man was there. The show just didn’t feel York Hall or Rev-Pro without either of them as what was everyone fighting for? Fair enough if as hinted on Twitter, Sabre had personal reasons for not attending, but Starr was booked at wXw. It was definately an oversight for Rev-Pro to not get there first. His absence especially was felt here. It’s borderline impossible to have a show with only one champion present.

This links in well to what is in my opinion the main issue with the show. It is called High Stakes yet only one match had any stakes at all, and they weren’t high. The Women’s title match had zero build and Andy even admitted on his recent podcast that is was the lowest in the pecking order in terms of RevPro titles. It just made no sense that there was nothing on the line at all. Aussie Open could have defended their number one contenderpship against CCK and Ospreay vs PAC could have had a stipulation to face Zack at Epic Encounter, but it wasn’t. The whole concept of the show was just incorrect.

Given the lack of champions, stakes and big stars, it was obvious to me that RevPro should have gone back to their roots as a workrate promotion – wowing the crowd with incredible matches. If everyone had just gone for it and given 100% to make it an incredible show then the other issues would be disguised, however this did not happen. Lucas vs Bea got 8 minutes, as did Bodom vs Angelico – barely enough time to have a cracking match at all. Recent criticisms have labelled Rev-Pro as moving away from workrate, unlike PROGRESS and OTT who still put on insane matches. This was a chance to change that but the undercard failed to be an ‘indy’ undercard and was rather dull. The main culprits of this being CCK and Aussie Open who pissed about for 22 minutes being lazy and doing awful comedy spots that no one enjoyed, rather than re-kindling the magic of the best RevPro match of 2018 that everyone wanted and needed them to do.

The issue of PAC vs Ospreay ending in a no-contest was hardly a shock, after PAC vs ZSJ ended in DQ back in January and everyone was not happy at all. Given both men are champions, it is likely that they cannot lose when outside the company, especially to a champion of a rival company (Dragon Gate and New Japan). When you add Pac signing with AEW to the equation, it gets even more complex, with Tony Khan actually being at the show and even grabbing a photo with JP from The Indy Corner Spotlight Podcast. They had been setting it up also, as in 2019 every match has had time limit calls every five minutes, setting this up. The crowd were fully aware of this also, with heavy boos for every time call in any match on the card. Had it been a draw like Omega Vs Okada it would have been fine, but this was a draw that everyone saw coming and hoped would be a clean finish. Even worse was the teasing of five more minutes, and Rev-Pro tweeting that this isn’t over. That implies that there will be a rematch with a clean finish, and in which case why on earth wasn’t the clean finish done here? Many people will rightfully feel cheated by the result here, but it shouldn’t fully tarnish what was certainly for me the best Rev-Pro match since 2017.