Rev Pro Road Report: Global Wars 2016 – November 10th & 11th 2016.
I’m probably never going to share in the whole WrestleMania weekend live experience. A chronic fear of flying and crippling anxiety caused by even thinking about stepping on to a plane means that traveling over the Atlantic in a flying tin can is quite simply out of the question. Regrettably, the same goes for the fabled puroresu tours of Japan which sound like an absolute dream come true. This is not in any way an attempt to garner sympathy. I’m fully aware that it is always possible to conquer one’s phobias, no matter how severe, through therapy or counseling. Hell, there’s always the option of scoring some prescribed sedatives from the Doctor or the time-honoured tradition of getting rat-arsed drunk before getting on a plane. Regardless, the point is that for someone like myself who is unable/unwilling to travel across great oceans to attend the annual festival of pro wrestling during the springtime, the joint Rev Pro/New Japan double shot weekends over the last two years have become the equivalent of a Mania weekend or a Japanese puro tour.
There might not be as much going on in terms of show quantity compared to a WrestleMania weekend or a puro tour, but two nights of dream matches between the top British workers and the New Japan talent, plus a meet and greet on both days, more than makes up for that. It also helps that Rev Pro have found a groove of putting on really enjoyable big events with great wrestling and an all-round entertaining product. In fact, in terms of top-notch wrestling and entertainment value, both nights of the Global Wars 2016 weekend were simply in another league to this year’s lackluster WrestleMania show. Keep your million dollar production budget and 80,000 seat stadiums; give me York Hall with 1,200 people on a wet November night any time.
After making plenty of trips from Leeds down to London over the past three years or so, we are getting pretty good at traveling to and from the capital for the big Rev Pro shows. Two and a half hours on the train? No problem. Catching a couple of subway tubes from King’s Cross to Bethnal Green? Easy. Checking in at the same Travelodge hotel on time? Down to the precise minute. We even know the exact time we need to be out of York Hall after the shows to make it to Pizza Hut before it closes at 11pm. By the way, a huge franchise like Pizza Hut closing at 11pm in London of all places is absolutely ludicrous. But that’s a story for another day. Should we live closer to London, or if the cost of travel/accommodation wasn’t so pricey, I have no doubt we would be full-timers at almost every Rev Pro and Progress event. Still, managing to hit three or four of the marquee shows a year is not too bad at all.
The first night of the double-shot weekend – I keep saying “weekend,” however the shows actually took place on a Thursday and Friday – was from the now world-renowned York Hall in Bethnal Green and once again the 87 year-old building was packed out with a rabidly hot crowd. It wasn’t quite a sellout, as there were a few general admission tickets still on sale the day of the show, although there was a strong walk-up on the night. Regardless of a handful of empty seats up in the balcony and slightly less congested standing-room areas than normal, drawing upwards of 1,000 people on a Thursday night is still a great achievement.
Night Two took place at the Walthamstow Assembly Hall, a short train journey away from Bethnal Green. The Assembly Hall was located inside the grounds of the Walthamstow Town Hall, which was surprisingly easy to find for those who had never been there before due to the building’s white concrete structure and inviting fountain outside the venue. A quick scientific assessment of the line outside the hall led me to believe that the crowd was down slightly from the night before, however once inside only a handful of empty seats remained up in the balcony. 700–800 people would be a conservative estimate.
Those of you who have read my previous Rev Pro road reports may recall tales such as receiving a light, safe worker, handshake from Tomohiro Ishii and Hiroyoshi Tenzan doing the old “no speak English” gimmick while at his merch table. The best story though still has to be Jushin Liger running around with a sign trying to encourage fans to buy a Tenzan t-shirt for “£300” then proclaiming that he had “SOLD-OUT!” of his own shirts to tease poor Tenzan. The wackiness didn’t end there however, as Liger ended up pressing himself up against a full-length window like a masked starfish and he proceeded to make snow-angel motions while baffled, non-wrestling fan, members of the public walked by. Sadly, our experience at the meet and greet this time around didn’t produce anything nearly as epic as Starfish Liger, although the great man did manage to provide us with some more t-shirt based comedy.
We got to the meet and greet on Night Two relatively late and were even told by promoter Andy Quildan on the door that we had to be quick in getting our pictures and autographs. Since I had already met most of the New Japan crew over the last couple of years there was only one man that I was determined to get a picture with; Yuji Nagata. At first Nagata was nowhere to be found, however we noticed that while most of the wrestlers were sat in pairs at their gimmick tables, Katsuyori Shibata was all alone at the other end of the hall with an empty chair next to him. That must have been Nagata’s chair, we deduced and headed in that direction. Luckily, we were not left awkwardly standing in front of Shibata for too long, as Will Ospreay showed up and jokingly tried to steal the Rev Pro British championship belt while Shibata was not looking. In a fine display of intercontinental banter, the two had a good laugh then exchanged a few words and a handshake. Nagata appeared while this was going on and we had our pictures taken, plus forked-out an extra £5 for the obligatory signed 8×10.
Since my girlfriend Bev didn’t get a picture with Liger last year, we stopped at his gimmick table for her to correct that wrong. Sitting right next to Liger was Chris Hero, so I took the opportunity to meet legitimately one of my favourite in-ring performers of the last decade. He commented on my Bruiser Brody t-shirt then I noticed he had on an Abdullah the Butcher shirt and I remarked that we were made for each other. Hero agreed and after posing for the picture I complimented him on his awesome match with Ishii the night before. He thanked me and said it was a pleasure as he was just doing what he loved to do.
Before we left I decided to meet Tomoaki Honma and I approached his table to ask for a picture. “No t-shirt?” Honma asked in his demonic growl and I politely declined his offer. There were two stacks of Honmamania t-shirts each about five-high, however one pile appeared to have one less shirt than the other. For all I know Honma could have had sold 50 shirts before we got there, but from the evidence in front of me it certainly appeared like he had sold only one t-shirt. After we had our picture with Honma, Bev pointed out that there was a sign in front of the stack of shirts that read, “Buy t-shirt. Free handshake!” O