Rev Pro/New Japan Double Shot Weekend.
Oct 2 & 3. London/Reading, UK.
On Friday October 2nd, the York Hall in Bethnal Green, London was once again sold out, with 1,200 fans packing the historic combat sports venue to see the biggest stars from New Japan Pro Wrestling join forces with one of the two hottest independents in the UK, Revolution Pro Wrestling, for “Uprising 2015.” If you wanted to argue that the show was the biggest the UK scene had witnessed since the World of Sport era, I would have a hard time disagreeing with you. This felt like a special show and without a doubt it was the greatest card I have ever seen live. There have been better stand-out matches on other shows I’ve been to, but from top to bottom “Uprising” was an incredible night of wrestling that will live long in the memory of anyone who was there to experience it.
Unfortunately York Hall was unavailable for back-to-back nights, so the “War of the Worlds UK” show on October 3rd took place at the Rivermead Leisure Complex in Reading, about 40 miles west of London. Overall, the show couldn’t match the quality of the night before and the venue certainly didn’t have the same electric atmosphere that 1,200 fans created in the compact York Hall. The set up was basically a gymnasium with pull-out bleachers and a lot of open space between the different sections of the floor seats, which made for poor acoustics compared to the famous old Hall. I’d estimate maybe 700-800 people, which is a great crowd for any UK independent, but without the intimate setting the show was already missing something that was present the night before.
There was a meet-and-greet prior to each show which initially my girlfriend Bev and I were not going to go to, as we didn’t purchase a ticket for either day since we didn’t want something to go wrong with our travel plans and end up missing the event. We probably could have made it to the York Hall meet and greet, but I figured that we had probably already missed the 150 people cut off limit and decided to go to Subway instead. On the way back we did spot AJ Styles on his way to York Hall, so we were satisfied with that. On Saturday we were out of the hotel by 11am, on the train at 1pm and in Reading at 1:45pm, which gave us a good three hours to kill before the doors opened. We decided to go see if we could make it into the meet-and-greet even though we didn’t have a ticket. I assumed we’d get in with no problem, as what kind of wrestling promoter would turn away people willing to pay money up front? Sure enough, promoter Andy Quildan was on the door and he let us right in for £15 each; the entrance fee also gave you a free signed 8×10 and a picture with the wrestler of your choice. Bev chose Nakamura and I went for Tanahashi.
So inside this gymnasium in Reading, England, were all the stars of New Japan Pro Wrestling sat or stood behind their gimmick tables chatting and posing with fans; it was quite a surreal experience at first. The gimmick tables were set up in a circle around the gym and as you walked in through the door there was, in an anticlockwise order, Tanahashi & Nakamura, Tenzan & Kojima, Okada & Gedo, Liger & Kushida, Naito then finally Anderson & Gallows. Whilst waiting in the line to meet Tanahashi, I looked around and saw that all the wrestlers were busy with fans, apart from the guys sat at the very next table to us, Tenzan & Kojima, who were sat down chatting to Tiger Hattori. I don’t for one minute believe that these two legends were sat there all day and nobody came up to them, but at that moment it just seemed wrong to me that there wasn’t a huge crowd gathered around their table. Jushin Liger, whom could be heard from any part of the gym laughing and just generally being a great man, went over to Tenzan & Kojima’s table, still with nobody around it, and yelled with as much irony as he could muster, “T-Shirt, £300, SOLD OUT!” After getting a look at Tanahashi’s Tokyo Dome contract, holding the briefcase, and having Nakamura put the IC title belt over my shoulder, I walked over to the TenCozy table and enquired about getting a picture. All I wanted initially was a picture with both of them together, however this became quite the confusing deal due to the wacky way paying for pictures and 8x10s worked. The gimmick was you could pay £10 for just a picture and for an extra £5 you got a signed 8×10. So when I asked for a “picture,” Tenzan signed and 8×10 and handed it to me. Well, I couldn’t just say “no thank you Mr Tenzan”, now could I? In the end I came away with a picture with both Tenzan & Kojima separately, plus the signed 8×10. Both guys were really friendly, especially Kojima, who pulled me in for the photo in such an enthusiastic manner you would have thought we had just won the All Asia Tag Team championships. He also took a liking to Bev and insisted he shake her hand before we moved along to Gedo & Okada. There was yet more Jushin Liger greatness though, as while the confusion over the Tenzan & Kojima picture was going on, he ran over to us, put his hand on my shoulder and robustly encouraged me to, “BUY T-SHIRT, £300!” I laughed and held out my wallet and said, “Ok, take, take.” Tenzan & Kojima chuckled, but Liger was so impressed with my generosity that he let out a vigorous, “OHH!” then patted me on the back and said, “Very good.” Up next was Okada & Gedo’s table and Bev had her picture taken with both of them, while I only went for Okada, since I needed to make sure I had enough money for a picture with the greatest man alive. When I approached his table with Kushida, Liger offered me one of his T-Shirts, again for “THREE HUNDRED POUND!” I said, “Just picture, please” and he replied, “Ok, T-Shirt SOLD-OUT!” Apparently, this must have been Liger’s way of entertaining himself all day, because he had a sign ready to go which read, “T-Shirt, ¥500, SOLD-OUT!” He gleefully held it up during our photo and gave me another pat on the back as I walked away without any doubt in my mind that I had just met the greatest man in the history of the planet. So wrapped up in Liger’s antics was I, that I barely even noticed poor Kushida who was sitting right to him, or even Naito at the next table. Liger was that guy who just made everybody in the room pay attention to him no matter what, and that was quite an achievement considering who else was there. The wackiness didn’t end there though, as before we left Bev decided she wanted a picture with Tanahashi, so I got ready to take the photo and who is causing a commotion on the opposite side of the room? You got it, Jushin Liger, who had pressed himself up against the full length window of the gym like a giant starfish and was waving his arms up and down like he was trying to make a snow angel. On top of that, he was facing out into the parking lot and as people walked by, some of whom were not even there to see the wrestlers, he banged on the glass and continued with his starfish game. Imagine you have just gone down to the local leisure centre for a swim or whatever and when you get there, a strange Japanese man in a weird mask is there to greet you by banging on the window which he has pressed his entire body up against.
Revolution Pro Wrestling “Uprising” – October 2nd 2015
York Hall: Bethnal Green, London.
Show opened with the British Tag Team Champions, The Revolutionists of Sha Samuels & James Castle, interrupting the proceedings and challenging any team to an open challenge. Samuels, like the fine heel that he is, made sure to tell ring announcer and promoter, Andy Quildan, to declare that it would be a non-title match. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan made somewhat of a surprise appearance, as they were only advertised for the following night in Reading, and the legendary, five-time IWGP Tag Team Champions accepted the challenge.
Non-Title: The Revolutionists (Sha Samuels & James Castle) (British Tag Team Champions) vs. TenCozy (Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan). – Revolutionists over in 8:30. Like most TenCozy matches these days, it wasn’t anything special. Kojima can still go when required, but Tenzan is severely limited. Nevertheless, the crowd were into the legends big time and it was fun to see them hit all their spots. Fans hissed along for Tenzan’s Mongolian chops and a few even joined in with Kojima’s “Icchauzo Bakayaro” elbow drop. Kojima sold for the heat and Tenzan made the comeback. Finish saw Kojima nail Tenzan with a lariat by mistake then Samuels nailed Kojima with a low-blow and Castle hit him with his Tag Team title belt behind the refs back. (** ¼ )
ACH vs. Martin Kirby. – Kirby over in 11:48. Solid stuff here. Kirby was subbing for his former Project Ego tag partner, Kris Travis, who sadly had to retire earlier this month due to ill-health. ACH, who’s charisma doesn’t really come across on TV because the guy oozes the stuff in person, was making his RevPro debut and did some comedy stuff early. Kirby looked good and was in place to take all of ACH’s wacky moves. For the finish, Kirby avoided a 450 and got the pin with the FameAsser. On commentary the announcers put over that Kirby dedicated the match to Kris Travis, so him going over was the right move and a nice story.
Non-Title: Big Damo vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (IWGP Intercontinental Champion). – Nakamura over in 15:12. They set this match up in June when Damo beat Tomohiro Ishii and Nakamura came out for a face-off, kind of like they do in Japan, and it ended up being one hell of a match. Like Ishii before him, Nakamura worked a match to make the much bigger Damo look like a monster and did a fantastic job. Damo overpowered Nakamura and hit a bunch of big moves, including a One Winged Angel and his coast-to-coast Van Terminator. Nakamura would get bursts of offense in, but Damo constantly shut him down. It built to a double-down after Nakamura landed a jumping knee strike off the second rope and Damo came back with a Samoan Drop and a senton splash. Then things got insane. Damo delivered an inverted lifting DDT, like the reverse Bloody Sunday, and everyone inside the building thought Nakamura had broken his neck. Watching live it literally looked like he was spiked right on top of his head, but upon watching the VOD it wasn’t as horrific as it first appeared. Still, it was a scary spot. The finish was equally as crazy, as Nakamura unloaded a flurry of strikes and hit the Boma Ye and Damo kicked out at one! The place went nuts and Damo slapped himself in the face to fire up. Nakamura then went for his Reverse Powerslam but Damo didn’t rotate enough and he took a gross looking bump right on the back of his head and neck. Nakamura finished him off with another Boma Ye. (**** ½ )
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jushin “Thunder” Liger vs. Kazuchika Okada (IWGP Heavyweight Champion) & Gedo. – Tanahashi & Liger over in 17:12. In comparison to the previous match, this was like a house show match you’d get on a NJPWWorld, but still, seeing these four wrestle in person was an amazing experience. Tiger Hattori was the referee and he got a great reception from the UK fans. Gedo & Okada played subtle heels and got the heat on Liger. Tanahashi ran wild off the hot tag and we had a longer than expected exchange between Tanahashi & Okada. Just watching these two work in a unspectacular tag match felt special and was a timely reminder of why their feud has been the backbone of New Japan for over three years. Everyone hit their signature stuff, the dropkick, slingblade, shotei, the Gedo-clutch. Finish saw Tanahashi pin Gedo with the High Fly Flow. (*** ¼)
Best of the Super Juniors Final Rematch: Kushida vs. Kyle O’Reilly (IWGP Jr Tag Team Champion). – O’Reilly over in 17:23. Excellent match; it was the first match back after intermission so it took the crowd a while to get going, but the place was rocking by the end and both men received a standing ovation for their efforts. There were a couple of really great little subtleties here, like O’Reilly grabbing his own tights to block the Hoverboard Lock and Kushida doing the old Ricky Morton babyface in peril deal of making eye contact and reaching out to the fans at ringside. They did a ton of reversals early and both men worked on the other’s arm to soften it up for their respective submission holds. Things really picked up when Kushida landed his awesome straight right hand, which received a “Holy Sh*t” chant due to how great it looked. They had a fabulous strike battle which resulted in a double-down. Kushida went for a springboard and O’Reilly caught him in the cross armbreaker. They did a bunch of great near-falls and the finish came when O’Reilly hooked Kushida in a triangle. Kushida never tapped, but he “passed out” in the hold and the ref called for the bell. It felt like they peaked earlier in the match and the finish didn’t quite reach the crescendo that this performance deserved. Regardless, it was still an incredible match. (****)
Tetsuya Naito vs. Mark Haskins. – Naito over in 13:02. Good match, but it couldn’t follow the previous encounter. Naito came out in his full body costume and mask. If you only know Mark Haskins from his brief stint in TNA’s X Division then you might not recognise the great all-rounder he’s become over the last couple of years. Haskins got a lot of offense in before Naito cut him off for the heat and didn’t look out of his league at all in there with the multi-talented Naito. Finish saw Naito win with his new Destino move. (***)
No DQ Match for the British Cruiserweight Championship: Josh Bodom (C) vs. Jimmy Havoc. – Bodom retained in 16:11. This was a fun, wild brawl that was a totally different to everything else on the card. They brawled through the crowd, into the bar and took out about 4 rows of ringside seats where I was sitting. Havoc stole the announcers TV monitor, but he ended up being sent head first into it by Bodom. Bodom used a staple gun that Havoc brought into play and used it on several parts of Havoc’s body, including his gentiles. Havoc threw a chair at Bodom’s head, but thankfully he got his hands up, then Jimmy got some thumbtacks but Bodom bailed before he could use them. Bodom’s fellow Revolutionists, Sha Samuels & James Castle came out and put a beating on Havoc and Samuels gave Havoc a spinebuster onto the tacks to help Bodom get the win. (*** ¼)
Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship: AJ Styles (C) vs. Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay. – Styles retained in 18:24. After seeing legends like Kojima & Tenzan, Nakamura & Big Damo tear the house down, the spectacle of Tanahashi & Liger vs. Okada & Gedo, the Kushida & O’Reilly clinic and a crazy brawl that the fans went crazy for, these three guys had a hell of a job on their hands to put on a worthy main event. Thankfully, all three men were on top form and had a tremendous match. It was all action and not one of those three-ways where the guys take turns at rolling out to the floor and keeping it one-on-one for long periods of time. Scurll & Ospreay are two of the best on the UK scene and were right at home working with one of the best on the planet, AJ Styles. There were countless awesome three-way spots. Some of the highlights included a great sequence of all three men nailing each other with superkicks and Peles, AJ performing his phenomenal inverted DDT on both men and Ospreay going for a springboard and getting caught by Scurll in the dreaded Chicken Wing. There was an extraordinary near-fall when in one fluid motion, Ospreay hit a huge corkscrew plancha over the ring post on to AJ, landed on his feet, and ran around to the opposite corner where he performed the Generico tope DDT through the ropes on Scurll. Ospreay rolled him in the ring and hit the British Airways but AJ broke up the pin at 2.9999. Finish was also pretty spectacular, as AJ planted Ospreay with a Ganso Bomb and Scurll slapped the Chicken Wing on Styles. AJ fought to his feet and Ospreay preformed a springboard Ace Crusher on Scurll then AJ immediately caught Ospreay in the Styles Clash and got the win. (**** ¼)
Revolution Pro Wrestling “War of the Worlds UK” – October 3rd 2015
Rivermead Leisure Complex: Reading, Berkshire.
Testuya Naito vs. Kushida vs. Martin Kirby. – Naito over in 12:18. Decent opener, however unlike the three-way main event of Uprising there was a lot more one guy out, one guy in. Naito heeled it up and didn’t get involved for about 5 minutes, before finally he tripped up Kushida from the floor. It was cool seeing Naito and Kushida work together, as I can only recall them facing off in a few tag matches since their singles match back in September of 2011. Naito ended up pinning Kushida with the Destino. (***)
Lord Gideon Gey w/Rishi Ghosh vs. Gedo. – Gideon over in 8:38. If you’ve never seen Gideon, he’s kind of like a throwback, over the top, comedy heel from the World of Sports era and he plays the gimmick really quite well. Although, I did see him arriving at the building before the show in his regular street clothes, carrying his own bags, and I couldn’t help think to myself that it would have been awesome if he made Rishi Ghosh carry his bags into the building. Match was pretty basic. Fans were into Gedo and Ghosh interfered a bunch of times. Finish saw Ghosh hit his finish on Gedo behind the ref’s back and Gideon won with his House of Lords submission. (** ¼)
The Thrillers (Mark Haskins & Joel Redman) vs. TenCozy (Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan). – TenCozy over in 12:05. Believe it or not, watching live, I enjoyed this match just about as much as anything else on the show. The story they told was great and Kojima & Tenzan were both outrageously good in the roles. The Brits got the best of the legends early on and you could see Kojima getting more and more frustrated. Finally, he offered Redman a handshake then jumped him from behind, thus beginning a tremendous heel beat-down with Tenzan pounding Haskins on the floor and Kojima pummelling Redman in the ring. I was just expecting a nice little babyface vs. legends match, so the heel turn mid-match caught me completely off guard; it was awesome. For the finish, the Thrillers hit a double-team foot stomp but Tenzan pulled the ref out to stop the count; TenCozy hit Redman with the TenKoji cutter and Kojima finished him off with his strong arm lariat. Newsflash: Kojima & Tenzan are awesome! They get a lot of flak these days, mostly Tenzan, but watching them live and flip the switch from face to heel so seamlessly, it was abundantly obvious that you were watching two absolute masters at work. (*** ¼)
Non-Title Match: Marty Scurll vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (IWGP Intercontinental Champion). – Nakamura over in 17:21. These two had a perfectly good, solid match, but they were unable to create the magic from their respective matches the night before and it never really felt like they got out of third gear. Nakamura did all his signature spots: the vibration boot, running knee in the corner, jumping hiza off the ropes. Scrull got a lot of offense and worked over Nakamura’s arm for the heat and to soften it up for his Chicken Wing, which he eventually locked in but Nakamura got to the ropes. They did a similar finish to the Big Damo match, however it didn’t get over nearly as big as in York Hall: Scurll kicked out of the Boma Ye at one then Nakamura hit his Reverse Powerslam and Scurll got right back up to land a European uppercut. Nakamura came back with a jumping hiza off the second rope and finished Scurll off with one more knee strike to get the pin. (*** ½)
Champions vs. Champions: The Revolutionists (Sha Samuels & James Castle) (British Tag Team Champions) vs. Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (IWGP Tag Team Champions). – Bullet Club over via DQ at 7:08. This was probably the weakest match of the entire weekend and the finish was your typical politically correct deal between champions of two different companies. Bullet Club were over big, so naturally the Revolutionists jumped them at the bell to start things off with a brawl. Anderson sold for the heat and Gallows made the comeback; finish saw Gallows & Gun go for the Magic Killer on Samuels, but Castle came in with one of the tag belts and nailed both guys with it for the DQ. (**)
Non-Title Match: Will Ospreay vs. Kazuchika Okada (IWGP Heavyweight Champion) w/Gedo. – Okada over in 16:32. This was match of the night by a wide margin and Ospreay proved again why he might be the best guy on the UK scene by hanging step-for-step with one of the best in the world. It was back-and-forth early then Okada took over and played the subtle, arrogant, heel role that he does so well and put Ospreay in a wacky submission while he rested his head on his hand. Ospreay came back and landed a handspring gamengiri and the Sasuke Special! Ospreay went for an imploding 450 splash off the top but Okada got his knees up. They did some really great near-falls, with Okada using his Reverse Neckbreaker Drop and Ospreay hitting a springboard Ace Crusher. For the finish, Ospreay countered the Rainmaker and Okada reversed another Ace Crusher into the Tombstone then landed the Rainmaker to end it. – This kind of had that old-school feel of the World Champion coming to town to wrestle the top babyface in the territory, and if Rev Pro had an actual TV deal they could build this thing up like a huge deal for weeks with promos and such. I suppose they could do it on their YouTube show, but I imagine that is unlikely. (**** ¼)
Big Damo vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi. – Tanahashi over in 15:05. In four months, Big Damo has had amazing matches with Tomohiro Ishii, Shinsuke Nakamra, and now, Hiroshi Tanahashi. This wasn’t as spectacular as the Ishii/Nakamura bouts and was more of a “Tanahashi” match, without the stiff strikes or high impact moves, but it was still a very good effort all-round. Tanahashi played babyface in peril and sold for the huge Damo, while coming back briefly with a few hope spots here and there. Damo use the One Winged Angel and his nasty high angle inverted DDT for a couple of near-falls. Tanahashi landed an impressive Superplex and they engaged in some nice back-and-forth exchanges. Finish saw Tanahashi avoid the coast-to-coast Van Termination, hit the Slingblade and get the pin with the High Fly Flow. (*** ¾)
Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship: AJ Styles (C) vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger. – Styles retained in 15:05. This is probably the best Liger singles match I’ve seen in a long time, or at least since he faced Adam Cole in ROH last year. Liger shone early and did all of his submissions; AJ dove off the apron and Liger sent him into one of the posts that held up the lighting rig then he slammed AJ on the floor. Liger worked over the back with some more holds but was cut off when Styles reversed a baseball slide into a Uranage Backbreaker on the floor. AJ kept looking for the Calf Killer and finally got it, however Liger got to the ropes after a long struggle. Liger pulled out a top rope Frankensteiner then got a near-fall with the shotei and a Ligerbomb. There was a tremendous sequence that saw Liger throw a bunch of shotei strikes; AJ came back with an enzuigiri, landed Bloody Sunday and went for the Styles Clash, Liger countered but AJ hit the Pele and Liger fired back with his rolling koppu kick for a double-down. Finish saw Liger go for another Frankensteiner but AJ countered and after a battle for position he hit the Styles Clash to retain the belt. (*** ¾)