This was the much anticipated debut show for new promotion ‘Wrestle Gate Pro’, founded by new promoter Gary Ward, previously in the wrestling business but behind the camera rather than the curtain. As in rather obvious from the name, Gary has said many times that his wrestling preference is heavily influenced by Japanese wrestling, Dragon Gate especially, with elements of MMA also. However his promotion had taken some criticism online due to promoting multiple shows across 2019 before his debut show even took place, and further Jordan Devlin and Xia Brookside being pulled from the show by WWE. However to his credit, Gary has been very open in interviews and on Twitter about this show and it was certainly well promoted in terms of the attention it got, which is no surprise given his background in marketing.
The show, at Nottingham’s Rushcliffe Arena was not the most accessible by public transport, but manageable. I was attending with a friend fairly new to wrestling, and this was his live show. As we entered the sports hall, it looked professional for a debut show, with a lighting rig, barricade, largish ramp that might not all be expected for a debut show. There was certainly at atmosphere of excitement in the building as Gary Ward hit the ring to introduce the short documentary about the running of the show.
Ricky Knight Jr defeated El Phantamso to retain the WAW Television Championship
This was the perfect opener to the show. The two shook hands and engaged in a hotly contested back and forth match for Knight’s title. It started off very technical, with both guys locking up and reversing around eachother to enjoyment of the crowd, before Knight drew in ELP with a handshake and got the better of him for the next portion of the match. Phantasmo then came back into it with a flurry of offence from the ropes, before missing a dive and allowing Knight to hit a brutal piledriver to retain his gold. The ending was a genuinely quite emotional moment as the two guys had left it all out there in the first match for Wrestle Gate and they embraced, with Phantamso looking convincingly hurt.
Shax & Rory Coyle defeated The Anti-Fun Police, Session Moth Martina & Terry Isit and Jack Sexsmith & Visage
This was very odd and chaotic but pretty cool too. This was actually scheduled to be a one on one match with Shax vs Martina, and Martina came out and as per, was grinding on everyone. On a separate note, someone like Martina is critical to Wrestle Gate. She’s very well known internationally and brings a needed charisma to the promotion; for her to be a regular is a must. Anyway, Rory Coyle snuck up behind her and she kept grinding not realising he was there, and Rory and Shax beat her down, before Terry Isit made the save. Then Sexsmith and Visage came out, saying they wanted to have some fun, and naturally the Anti-Fun police came out to put a stop to it. Santos wasn’t cleared to wrestle so Dunne was instead joined by Cadet Joe Nelson. This became a four corners tag match and was pure chaos from the start. Some memorable spots were Martina’s suicide dive when she got tired out but had a beer and completed it, and Isit followed suit, as well as Dunne complaining that Nelson was having too much fun with his dives. Eventually, Sexsmith turned on Visage to allow Shax to get the pin. It was unsure if he was siding with Shax and Rory, but I’m sure watching with commentary would clear it up. This was good fun.
Danny Duggan defeated James Mason
This had a great ‘old veteran’ vs ‘new up-and-comer’ dynamic that really got the crowd into the match. It was a very technical match with lots of mat-based action with counters and the like. It definitely felt like Mason was new to a lot of the people in the arena, and they loved his charisma and unique spots. Eventually after a hard fought match in which both guys were clearly very tired, Duggan got the pin with his feet on the ropes and the official didn’t see it. The crowd were pretty outraged at this but no decision was reversed. Duggan then cut a promo and was booed out of the building. He said he was the future of British technical wrestling and that Mason was old news. This was one of my favourite matches on the show and the crowd was into it.
Ayesha Raymond defeated Yuu
This match was really hard hitting at the start, with Raymond especially seeming very stiff in her strikes and attacks. Yuu got some offence in that wowed the crown but Raymond took the majority of the match and eventually won. It wasn’t the best thing on the show by a long way, but this could be explained by Gary Ward announcing later that Yuu had got a concussion during the match. After, Raymond confronted Gisele Shaw who was ringside. She’ll be making her debut at the next show.
Sean Kustom defeated NIWA
This genuinely had big fight feel from the start, as the first half main event. Both guys were very evenly matched in height and size, and this was a pure wrestling match that was very enjoyable. It built slowly to start with, with both guys taking it in turns to get in some offence before reaching a very effective climax at the end with no obvious winner for the match. Kustom was high flying and clean cut, while NIWA was more power based, with athletic elements to his game. Eventually Kustom picked up the win with the Kustomizer, and I definitely think he should become the face of Wrestle Gate Pro, similar to Devlin in OTT or Sabre Jr in RevPro. He’s really improving in the ring, and is an easy figure to get behind. Also he should refer to his opponents as his next Kustomers. After the match, a video package of Eita came on the screens, and Kustom said he’d fight him at the next show.
Millie McKenzie defeated MK McKinnan
I had pretty high expectations for this, given what I’ve seen from both of them before, and of course them having a similar ‘unrelenting’ style. Millie was the real hero here, receiving massive fan support throughout the match while MK was the sly villain. They had a very close match with some quality chain wrestling. Millie didn’t stop suplexing MK, and MK returned each throw with a brutal kick – he really wasn’t holding back one bit. Eventually Millie submitted him with a crucifix. This was a good match but both of them definitely had much more in their locker.
Maverick Mayhew defeated Harrison Bourne, Callum Newman and Joe Lando
This was an incredible showcase match with guys from the Frontline Wrestling Lion system. These four lads ranged from 16-19, and put on one of the most exhilarating and fast paced matched I’ve ever seen. Given that I hadn’t heard of three of them, I had low expectations for this – how wrong I was. In a wrestling landscape where it’s pretty hard to do stuff that is new to people, these guys someone delivered the originality in spades. It was essentially a ‘flippy match’, but definitely in a good way. The crowd were so into this sprint of insane moves, and so when Maverick Mayhew picked up the win, everyone got a standing ovation which was interrupted by the huge Lucas Steele who beat everyone up to obvious boos.
Bad Bones defeated Mil Muertes
There were dueling chants for both guys from the start, and it was clear early on that this was a ‘dads fighting in the car park match’. They traded power moves and shoulder tackles in the ring, before spilling over the barricade and fighting with chairs and turning it into a brawl. Eventually they got back in the ring and there were lots of convincing near-falls. Muertes knocked the ref down accidentally and got a pin on Bad Bones but no one was there to count it. Bad Bones then hit an elbow drop and a ref came down to count it. It was a pretty long match, maybe a little too long for my liking, but good nonetheless and a classic example of the variety on this card. After the match, Bad Bones gave Muertes a low blow and started attacking the staff. He’s since received a three month ban.
Chris Ridgeway defeated Jake McCluskey
It goes without saying that it’s a great shame that WWE pulled Devlin from this main event, but McCluskey was a good replacement. Ridgeway obviously went for submissions, and McCluskey, more of an all rounder attempted to match him to little avail. But when they weren’t on the mat, things became a really stiff affair. Ridgeway hit many a brutal kick, while everything McCluskey did seem to really hurt. Eventually Ridgeway won with a submission that looked like a variation of the rings of Saturn. This was a solid main event, but nothing blow-away. This could have been because Ridgeway has since said on twitter than he aggravated an injury two minutes in, or because it was following the half hour slog between Bones and Muertes. Further, as a nine match card and a fairly long show, the crowd were a bit worn out and maybe were mentally ready for a 20 minute submission match. Regardless, by no means was this bad, just the victim of awkward circumstances.
Overall, this was a excellent first show for Wrestle Gate Pro, and I’m sure everything Gary Ward could have hoped for. As previously mentioned, the card had so much variety in the style of matches which kept it fresh. Further, Gary seems extremely genuine and for me, I thought it was great to just have walking around the arena watching the show. We are all aware of how Jim Smallman at PROGRESS tries to create an image that he’s everyone’s friend, and a man of the people, but it felt to me like Gary created this mantra organically and accidentally. He was on hand to fix the barricade when it broke, and you could see him enjoying the matches just as much as the crowd. It’s impossible not to feel extremely pleased for him.
Further, I definitely thought that because they are a new promotion, no fans had lofty expectations so were able to enjoy the show more without expecting a 5* match, something that can hamper the success of a RevPro or Progress show. For now, people are glad to go to Wrestle Gate Pro and watch quality wrestling and enjoy themselves which is awesome.
There are few criticisms but it is only fair they are stated. It would help to have a card reader at the bar on one hand, and the venue isn’t the most accessible as I said before. As for the actual show, I think it would benefit from being an eight match card at maximum, and probably being less than three hours. For a UK indy, I think three hours is a long time for a crowd to stay hot, other than maybe a York Hall supercard. It was also odd to see a new promotion start, and no titles be introduced. Maybe they just hadn’t arrived in the post?
That aside, it was a very strong start for Wrestle Gate Pro, and we can only hope that they continue to do well and that Ilja Dragunov isn’t pulled from their next show (March 16th)