On a day where many were spending the evening with their loved ones, those with a shared interest, single or even going against the mainstream; a potentially sold out (it was close but unconfirmed) crowd descended upon York Hall for ‘High Stakes’ which marked Rev-pro’s first return to York Hall of the decade. With Storm Dennis closing in it was Rev-Pro trying to make more waves with a statement on intent – the announced card had fans watering at the mouth.
That statement of intent was personified by Giselle Shaw in the opening bout who almost defeated Undisputed British Womens Championship Zoe Lucas moments after the bell but a botch from the top rope derailed the intensity that took a while to get back on track. Zoe did her best at winding the fans up who got the pay-off they wanted when Gizelle (whom was bleeding from the mouth after the earlier botch) finally got the pin fall to mark the first title change of the night. Whilst the match was solid it certainly would have been a hot start to have Gizelle win moments after the opening-bell.
Next up was Dan… Dan… Dan Moloney taking on the latest AEW signing Jeff Cobb in what was certainly a hoss fight. ‘Drilla’ certainly had the majority of the crowd behind him with the two testing strength early on to determine some dominance. The two proceeded to war with one another over the next ten minutes with the crowd lapping it up with Dan getting a huge win over the newest member of the Inner Circle. After some reluctance Cobb showed respect to ‘Drilla’ by shaking his hand and showing some Valentines spirit embracing after the match.
The Southside Speed King Championship was up next as Ricky Knight Jr defended against Robbie X. This was my first time seeing RKJ and he certainly looks like a star despite his very young age. Both men have benefited from Rev-Pro’s acquisition of Southside by giving them a bigger stage – I first saw Robbie wrestle in a college in Leicester. As expected there was a fair share of high flying but also some stiff looking shots – a brutal series of chops and kicks to Robbie X whilst in the corner springs to mind. RKJ eventually retained the belt with the hot crowd were appreciative of both men’s efforts. Whilst the match was good it could have benefited from the belts early life ruling of a sub 10 minute match.
The last match of the first half was Eddie Kingston (replacing Sha Samuels) facing WCW alumni La Park(a) in a No DQ match. There was a brawl through the crowd, a number of chairs and a few entertaining spots with the referee – one embracing the kinkier element of Valentines with a belt spanking. In the end it was a table that had been set-up in the corner that brought an end with a surprising assist – Mad Kurt made his way to the ring (with Dan Magee in toe) and low-blowed Kingston allowing La Park to spear him through the table. Mad Kurt and La Park celebrated after the match until La Park drilled Magee with a chair to take us into the break.
In the biggest surprise of the evening the 10 minute interval was actually 10 minutes. We returned to action with a 6-man scramble match between Hikuleo, Carlos Romo, Kyle Fletcher, Mad Kurt, Mark Haskins and Chris Brookes in what would be his last appearance (for the mean time) for Rev Pro before leaving for DDT. Scramble matches are always a fun sprint with plenty of action, the highlight being Mad Kurt giving rounds of slaps to the chest to all the other competitors until they had all had enough of his antics. Kurt was later chased out of the arena by Eddie Kingston looking for revenge after the previous match and the end coming when Gideon Grey appeared and helped Mark (and Vicky) Haskins with the win.
Grey then got on the microphone saying that he was tired of of waiting for the tag team match hence bring the scramble match to an early conclusion and the brought out the tag team champions The Legion (Great O’Kharn & Rampage Brown). Admittedly I didn’t catch much of this match as I got stuck at the notorious York Hall bar, but I gathered David Starr and Damian Dunne (if anyone can fill me in on why these two are a team again it would be much appreciated!) got the better of the champions for the bulk of the match but after interference from Sha and then Mark Haskins, the Legion retained belts and Haskins joined the stable.
The co-main event was up next and the reason I purchased my ticket – British J Cup winner Michael Oku getting his shot at Undisputed British Cruiserweight Champion El Phantasmo. The match started with ELP taking out the OJMO with the belt during the introductions and continued to punish the challenger for the opening parts of the match. The Bullet Club member continued to throw everything he had at Oku – including a Style Clash from the top rope, but the home-town lad ate any punishment that came his way and eventually came out on-top in a repeat of how he won the British J Cup – by taping out ELP with a half crab to the delight of the York Hall crowd.
The main-event had a big match feel as arguably two of the best Brits in the business faced off for the Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship as Will Ospreay once again challenged Zack Sabre Jr just a couple of weeks after coming up short at New Japan’s New Beginnings. Ospreay came out with Greg Burridge and Gary Vanderhorne as his coaches to try and get him over the line whilst ZSJ had the confidence of a man whom had already won this bout recently. The action was on-par with what was seen in NJPW with the crowd aware they were watching something special. Zack as always was full of reversals and holds whilst Ospreay brought the high impact that has become a staple of his matches. The end came about as Ospreay hit a Hidden Blade and Storm Breaker to finally become the Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion with a huge pop from the crowd.
To close the show Ospreay took to the microphone and called down fellow new champions Giselle and Michael Oku, stating that British Wrestling is far from dead and that the New Revolution has begun.
It is fitting that Rev-Pro wrote a love letter to British Wrestling on Valentines Day, highlighting what the scene has to offer with what many in attendance described as the best the company have put on. Whilst the company still has certain problems outside of these big “supershow” style events, especially in building domestic names who can compete on the bigger stages, Rev Pro certainly deliver the big events with clever long style story telling as I imagine down the line we will get a title unification match between Ospreay and Southside Champion David Starr in a rematch from Summer Sizzler 19. If this event is anything to go by – the York Hall events are certainly becoming a must watch.