The second of three shows in a six week block for me, High Stakes had the potential to be a show of the year candidate. This was my second experience of Revolution Pro at York Hall, having attended Uprising back in October. Although I wasn’t as hyped for this show as I was for Uprising, the prestige of tonight was pretty big, with two title matches and a lot of international challenges.
The night kicked off in fine fashion with Josh Bodom taking on Jay Lethal. We were treated to a bit of Black Machismo before the match got going, while during the action Lethal switch his mannerisms between those of Randy Savage and Ric Flair. The Flair struts were a constant throughout the night, most likely a dig at the Nature Boy for not honouring his booking for tonight’s show. Lethal hit a wonderful springboard dropkick, which turned out to be the most performed move of the night (I think only the main event didn’t have one performed). Bodom held himself very well during the match, not intimidated by the stature of his opponent, and for good reason. His offence was crisp and heelish persona stood out well under the bright lights of York Hall. Lethal came back with a backflip springboard elbow, Lethal Combination and the top rope flying elbow, but couldn’t score the three count. In a mix up with referee Chris Roberts (who was on top form, as ever), Bodom mule-kicked Lethal low and scored with a superkick taking Lethal to the ring apron. From there, Bodom positioned Lethal between his legs, jumped up and PILEDRIVES HIM THROUGH THE ROPES! I had forgotten this move from Bodom’s arsenal and was not surprised to see it score the impressive win. Great stuff from both and sets up what should be a good run in RPW for the former “Fake Ligero”.
Next up was a grudge match featuring two Brits – a novelty tonight, as every other match were between Brits and imports. Sha Samuels had previously been beaten by Mark Andrews in an upset, so this was the rematch for Sha to get his win back. It didn’t start off too well as Andrews attacked straight away, catching Samuels with a plancha to the outside before he even got in the ring. Eventually things settled down to where Samuels could ground his faster opponent, with Andrews taking one hell of a beating but never staying down. Andrews’ high flying was often countered by his stronger enemy, as Samuels caught Andrews on a crossbody attempt and later avoided a top rope move and hit a great powerslam. Andrews came back with some dazzling manoeuvres, but got caught again, this time on a hurricarana attempt and got powerbombed. Getting frustrated, Samuels grabbed a chair. He missed a swing and got the chair kicked back into his face. No DQ there, but as my friend pointed out, Andrews wasn’t holding the chair, just kicking it. After knocking Sha out to the floor, Andrews went for a suicide dive – and got CRACKED FULL IN THE FACE with a chair shot! Good lord, it was a horrible sounding shot. Samuels was disqualified but didn’t care. He kept up the assault in the ring with the chair, until someone ran in from the back. I later discovered it was Terry Frazier, former tag partner of Sha’s in The Kartel. After staring each other down and Samuels talking to him, Frazier grabbed the chair and hit Andrews! The assault continued for a good while until finally the pair left and Andrews was helped to the back. A good match which told a good story. The development at the end certainly keeps storylines going for future shows, but sadly wasn’t helped for me by the fact that I had no idea who it was that ran in. On first sight, I thought it was Progress management’s Glen Joseph running in! Had I been more familiar with him and his history with Samuels, I may have understood the turn more, but I know I wasn’t alone as practically no one reacted to the run-in. I just felt so sorry for Andrews – the last two shows that I’ve been attendance for where he’s been on the card, he’s been smashed with chairs and beaten to within an inch of his life.
The British Tag Team Titles were on the line as The Swords of Essex defended against The Inner City Machine Guns. Rich Swann and Ricochet came out with titles of their own, respectively the FIP Tag Title and the Dragon Gate Japan Open the Dream Gate Title, which looked amazing in person and kind of put the titles that were on the line to shame. The Guns came out to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and York Hall suddenly turned into Reseda, California as the crowd were lead along in a PWG-style sing-along.
This match was, put simply, superb. Very early Match of the Year candidate. The match started with some fun and friendly shenanigans, with Swann very comically complaining of Ospreay pulling hair and tights. A minute later, Robinson called for a DQ after Ricochet threw a cap at him. Then things got a bit more serious. Stereo dives from the Swords saw them isolate Swann for a time, before Swann hit a double backflip into a double Ace Crusher! Ricochet got the hot tag and soon after, the Guns isolated Robinson. Repeating the formula, Ospreay got a hot tag, hitting the Guns with a double backflip kick. I would go through the moves seen from here on in, but there was just too much to remember! Swann hit a great frog splash – 2 count. Ospreay’s amazing Shooting Star Press – 2 count. Robinson does his crazy multiple rotation spin kick to the back of Ricochet, before a bunch of superkicks takes everyone down and the crowd gives the match a standing ovation before it’s even finished! Robinson whips Swann to the buckles, Swann leaps over Robinson, backwards rolls and Ricochet comes out of nowhere to dropkick Robinson! Eventually Ricochet hits Robinson with a GTS with a roundhouse kick and gets the win! New champions!
My description of the match doesn’t do it justice. Much like Uprising against Devitt, Ricochet has come to RPW and stolen the show. The match went over 30 minutes and they didn’t let up at all. Just two incredibly evenly matched teams going at it as if their lives depended on it. Very surprised at the title change, as I thought the Swords were still quite early into their reign, but cannot complain about the match. Quite frankly, you need to see this match.
After the interval, Project Ego came out for the other dream tag match of the evening against The Young Bucks. This was the first match announced for the card, so it certainly was one of the more anticipated on the card – arguably the best team in the UK vs arguably the best team in the world. The fact that the Bucks currently hold the tag belts of PWG, Ring of Honor and New Japan’s junior division, it’s hard to disagree. Sadly having to follow the previous tag match, it was always going to suffer slightly in comparison. Not to say it was a bad match, because it certainly wasn’t. Matt Jackson came into this match still suffering from a broken hand, injured some weeks back in Japan. Making light of the situation, he started a knuckle lock with Kris Travis, only to slowly raise the casted hand and realising that probably wasn’t going to happen, getting a good chuckle from me. After some even steven exchanges, Travis smacked Matt in the face, leading him to react by going to punch Travis with his cast. Ref Chris Roberts stops Matt from doing so, holding Matt’s arm, and Travis took advantage by kicking the bad arm, giving Ego the advantage. After some isolation, the hot tag was made to Nick, who hit the springboard X Factor move, then took out Martin Kirby with a DDT from the ring apron. This was just the start of a great back and forth exchange that lasted a good long while between the tandems. The Bucks missed the buckle-bomb/kick combo, allowing Travis to hook Nick in a double underhook, while Kirby sprung up to the top rope over them and suplexed Matt, followed a Travis Tiger Driver. A great plancha dive from Travis to the Bucks on the outside. Ego went for the T-Gimmick finisher, but Matt saved his brother, The Bucks then hit the buckle-bomb/kick combo, before having their traditional superkick party (I counted five, altogether, though I’m probably wrong). Eventually Travis got taken to the outside, Kirby was hit with a double superkick and then with the springboard spike Tombstone for the win. Not a good night for the British tag teams tonight, results-wise. But another great match showing that tag team wrestling is far from dead in the water. The Bucks get “please come back” chants.
5th match saw El Ligero vs Sonjay Dutt. The feel out process was interrupted early on by a single solitary and loud call for “Lionel Richie”. Sonjay played up to it and got the crowd singing “All Night Long” again and did some dancing to it. Ligero made out like he wanted no part of this, but Dutt encouraged him to try it himself. Ligero’s a great wrestler, but maybe not so much a dancer. However the contest wasn’t over, as both wrestlers made referee Chris Roberts pull some shapes too. I’m no dance critic (I’m barely a wrestling critic!) but Roberts dancing made me feel better about my own abilities. However his hand was raised in victory by both combatants, so who I am to judge? Back to the action, it was as crisp and solid as you would expect from these two. They got a nice response from the crowd, but I think everyone was exhausted from the previous tag matches and this was the buffer before the main event. Unfortunately someone had to be in this position, but they did well as expected. About 15 minutes of action ends with the C4L from Ligero giving him the 3 count.
Before the main event of the evening, out comes our special guest Sting. The Icon was a replacement for Ric Flair and got a standing ovation from a very respectful crowd. Unfortunately if you’d come along just to see Sting, I hope you didn’t blink! He got into the ring, said we were a lucky crowd to see these pay-per-view quality matches (no argument there) and that British wrestling is a great standard (unusual for him to say that considering reports of the previous night’s Q&A where he stated he didn’t follow wrestling other than Raw). But anyway, he said “It’s show time”, gave a big WHOO and left. Three minutes total appearance. I don’t want to know how much he was paid for that. I wasn’t expecting a lot from him, but at least when Bret Hart was the special guest at Uprising, he at least watched the main event at ringside.
So the main event was Colt Cabana defending the British Heavyweight Championship against ‘Party’ Marty Scurll. It was Iron Fist rules, meaning the most falls in 30 minutes gets the win, but if a wrestler knocks the other out, then the match is over whatever the scoreline might be. Grand entrances for the big match, as Scurll dressed as The Emperor from Star Wars (he says on Twitter he was Vader, but come on Marty, you had no mask!) and was accompanied by four Storm Troopers. A Big Daddy video played before Colt came out dressed in glittery coat and hat with two kids, in an homage to the British legend.
The match started off strong, as Colt wound up for the big elbow and Marty countered by spitting into Colt’s face. After a number of occasions both men going outside the ring, Scurll got hold of some Gaffa tape and wrapped Colt’s wrist around the guardrail, getting the first fall by countout after eight minutes. After getting free, Cabana tried bringing various parts of the guardrail into the ring. Both men brawled on the outside for a time. Marty hit some weak chops to the chest before Colt showed him how it’s done. A really good slice of action broke out as Colt hit a HUGE superplex. Scurll hit his swinging DDT and tried the Crossface Chicken Wing but Cabana countered. Scurll attempted a moonsault but missed, allowing Colt to hit one himself (one of the most well executed I’ve ever seen). Scurll got his knees up on a splash attempt and then got cocky, giving the signal for the GTS. The attempt was blocked and turned into the reverse Boston Crab, known as the Billy Goat’s Curse, which forced Scurll to tap at 21 minutes. The action didn’t let up, as after repeated pinfall attempts, Scurll got a chain out from a corner of the ring and nailed Colt with it for pin at 24 minutes. Clearly hoping for a KO, Scurll couldn’t believe the match was to continue. It has to be said at this point that Scurll is a superb heel. Throughout the match, he played up his cocky persona well and, whenever his plans didn’t go quite as well as he’d hoped, he changed his expressions with such subtlety and great timing he made it look effortless. After realising he had a few minutes left and having the score advantage, Scurll Gaffa taped his own wrist to the top rope. Great psychology, being that he can’t be pinned or submitted from that position. Of course what he forgot, and the audience reminded Colt, was that he could still be knocked out. Colt hit some devastating forearms, but couldn’t quite get the KO. Marty was helpless as Colt had a lightbulb moment and went to the medics table, bringing back a pair of scissors. After cutting Scurll free from the rope, he then made a motion as if he was threatening to stab Scurll! Before any reminiscence of the Sid/Arn Anderson incident took place, Colt chucked the scissors aside, hit a GTS and tied the score with a minute to go. A last ditch attempt to win came right as time ran out. Colt got on the mic after the crowd chanted for five more minutes. Colt said he could just go and retain the title on a draw, but asked if we wanted to see a real winner. Acquiescing to the crowd’s wishes, the match continued. After a ref bump, Samuels and Frazier attacked Colt, hitting a double team move, which only got two for Scurll. Colt fought off the Kartel but left himself open for the spinning DDT into the Crossface Chicken Wing for a tap out. Apparently it was a sudden death fall, as the match ended there and Scurll became the NEW British Heavyweight Champion. Really excellent main event. Despite my feelings about Scurll generally, I’ll never take away his ability in the ring and certainly not as a heel, where I really feel he shines. Colt wrestled really well, which was a relief for me after the disappointment of his tag match at Uprising.
As far as wrestling goes, the night couldn’t be faulted. Not a bad match to be seen and everything here is worth a watch.
However I must take time to address a few negative things that occurred during the night. First of all, poor old Andy Quildan. As the promoter of the show, he has an unenviable task of putting together a show like this and keep everyone happy, and he does a good job of that. But he’s not a good ring announcer. I quite liked him at Uprising, but tonight he struggled throughout with his voice breaking constantly and sounding like he had a bad case of laryngitis. I thought the PA was just quiet, but when Sting spoke, you could tell it was just because he hasn’t got very good microphone technique, as Sting’s voice bellowed through the hall.
The main negative though was the seat allocation. When I went to Uprising last October, I got a ticket 3 nights before the show, arrived at the venue to get my ticket, found my seat with my name printed on it, and was very happy with the process. For this show, my friends got tickets a few months ago. We had tickets stating we were in Block K, seats 88 – 90. After 10 minutes of looking through the relevant blocks, we found the block which was in front of the placard in front of the bar. The seat numbers did not go up to 88 – 90. After finding no joy from security with any help, we eventually had to sit in some unmarked seats. This was annoying enough, but I have since heard tale of some people who were double booked for second row seats, told to move as their names were not on the seats, got upgraded to the balcony, and found themselves sitting at an angle where the placards on the lighting rig was obscuring their view of the ring.
Some suggestions to RPW management.
1 – Make the seating layout easier to see. Put the block numbers on the wall besides the relevant area. Then you won’t have people storming up and down the aisles constantly trying to find their seats.
2 – When someone books a seat, make sure that seat actually exists!
3 – Don’t double book people! Especially when they have bought the more expensive range of tickets.
4 – Either downsize or get rid of the banners on the lighting rig. The balcony seats are quite pricey, especially for views which might be obscured by inanimate objects.
So that’s two out of three done. RPW was definitely a more enjoyable experience than All Star. Progress, the ball is in your court.
Any comments, hit me up on twitter @dagreeno