There’s a GOOD THING about running shows on Sunday when you run shows in London and that’s that you can pretty much guarantee to find a parking space within walking distance of the show. And that means that you don’t have to pay a King’s ransom to get the train.
The BAD THING is that, unlike the train, you never really know how long your journey will take, because traffic and getting lost and people with squishy bodies walking out in front of your hard, heavy car. All this is a way of saying that I arrived for Sunday’s Revolution Pro-Wrestling TV taping INSANELY EARLY.
That was okay, right? Because a pal did a gig at the venue once and there’s a great pub over the road, and where better to kill time than in a pub on a Sunday afternoon? Only “once” can be a long time ago – long enough, it seems, for the pub to transform into a halal restaurant, although the upper floors of the establishment still tantalisingly retained their previous branding.
So I went for a walk around the block. I’d never really of Marylebone as being a place where people actually lived. Well, other than Sherlock Holmes and other 19th century rich people. But it’s a pulsing community, even on a breezy Sunday afternoon, and there were cafes, and shisha bars, and even a soul food kitchen.
Still no pub, though, and so I wandered back to the venue to find out when the doors were opening. No-one knew but there were sofas in the foyer and so I sat down and read a book and time flew.
Revolution Pro-Wrestling ran their first show in 2012. In that time, they’ve built a reputation for solid entertainment, featuring some of the best southern-based British talent and the odd international star. Unlike some promotions, who’ve chosen to pop their ticket sales by bringing in former-WWE stars long past their best, Rev-Pro tend to book workers who are still in their prime, and it’s a distinction that was very important in persuading me to part with my ticket money.
This show, at the tiny Cockpit Theatre, which is more used to fringe theatre performances than sweaty, grunting men, was their second TV taping. I say “TV” – the shows are actually “broadcast” on YouTube, for free, and mark Rev-Pro out as one of the few British promotions to take this proven path.
It’s still early days, with just eight shows uploaded so far, but it’s certainly been a success from a critical standpoint, with the quality of the in-ring action certainly matched by the production values.
Rev-Pro owner Andy Quildan doubles as the promotion’s ring announcer, and was also working the door. It’s a good way to get to know your customers, and builds a relationship which pays off because if you treat your customers like friends they’ll be as loyal as friends. That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep some distance, and I like to think I helped out with that by annoying him because I hadn’t printed off my e-ticket. Anything to help!
The Cockpit Theatre is small. Although the seating is benched, and you could squeeze in a few more, the capacity is around 180, seated in the round. It’s difficult to imagine how traditional theatre could actually work in such an environment, which may be why it’s a fringe kind of venue. With the ring placed in the centre of the room, no-one is more than twenty feet away, and the up-close views are simply incredible.
It brought to mind the old TV studios that the classic US territories filmed their weekly TV in, where matches were built for the following week’s circuit, and which garnered HUGE ratings in places like St Louis, Memphis, and Calgary. Whether Rev-Pro’s experiment will be so successful is doubtful, but they should be commended for finding a venue like this and making it work.
So, the show, then. Well, it was great. It was an odd experience at first, because the recent shows I’ve been to – save for Lucha Britannia, which exists in its own little world – have been stacked with talent. Not to disparage the Rev-Pro roster, but the likes of ICW & PROGRESS filled the shows I’ve been to with the best of the British scene. Revolution Pro-Wrestling is its own entity in an entirely traditional way. It has its stars, the odd outsider brought in to pop sales, and those lower-card rookies and journeymen you don’t tend to find on the bigger shows.
Once I’d dismissed that schism, and got into the right frame of mind, I enjoyed the show immensely. Jonny Storm and Marty Scurll kicked things off with a fast and furious, back and forth match, which ended when Scurll used his umbrella behind the referee’s back to grab the win. Scurll, the Undisputed British Champion here, is almost too good at what he does to truly hate like a real villain.
Having just seen Jonny Storm, another veteran of the FWA time was out next, Andy Simmonz, who doubles here as the colour commentator. Simmonz was one of the first graduates of Mark Sloan’s FWA Academy, and now runs a wrestling school of his own, which provides much of the lower-card talent for Rev-Pro. Simmonz’s opponent, Jake McCluskey, has all the hallmarks of that Sloan-style, and the two had a good match that betrayed their familiarity to the keen eye. McCluskey got the win, but Simmonz brought out Psycho Phillips afterwards to destroy “Mr Moonsault” to the jeers of the crowd.
The family atmosphere of Rev-Pro shows was under threat next as Jimmy Havoc took on Josh Bodom, in what was billed as “grudge match”. Back in the days of the Comic Code Authority, British artist Kevin O’Neill was once banned by the authority not for any specific reason but because they felt his actual style was offensive. I feel the same way about Jimmy Havoc. I’m not sure what it is about him but he just exudes hate. He’s a living embodiment of NSFW. And that’s a GOOD THING.
He and Bodom just had a fight. It was thrown out by referee Chris Roberts after both men had repeatedly attacked him, ending with a Havoc kick in the balls that left him doubled over outside the ring. The crowd, enjoying the carnage, did not like that, and playfully booed the poor referee while he lay on the floor, counting his testicles.
Quildan announced the next match as featuring “Ireland’s number one tag-team”, 2 Unlimited, and I joked to my pal that if we were to form a tag-team and move to Ireland we’d probably stand a good shot of being number two. After their match with the Sumerian Death Squad, my pal joked that – on that showing – we could be number one.
It wasn’t that 2 Unlimited were bad, it was just that they didn’t mesh at all well with SDS, and the match got lost amid a confusing series of heat sections, with Tommy End – a huge, destructive man – playing Ricky Morton at times, which should never happen. It had a weird ending, too, when Michael Dante broke up End’s pin on Patrick Sammon because it clearly wasn’t the finish they’d planned. Hmm.
That said, SDS were an awesome spectacle, and I did enjoy the parts of the match that were them just BEATING THE SHIT out of 2 Unlimited. Small victories.
After a break, rookie Ronnie Evans made his debut, another one right off the Portsmouth production line. He was due to face Lord Gideon Grey, who is Rev-Pro’s resident comedy heel. Grey didn’t disappoint with his talky work, giving as good as he got from the crowd (who gave him plenty). He hyped his match at next month’s Summer Sizzler and then said he wasn’t fighting Evans. Instead, he’d arranged for Psycho Phillips to take his place.
Phillips, who’d earlier destroyed Jake McCluskey, came out to do the same to Evans. Except he made hard work of it. I can see what they’re trying to do with Phillips, who could be a BEAST of a heel with some work, but this needed to be a quick squash. Still, it was decent action, and Evans looks good. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? Phillips won but I’m still to be convinced of his beastliness.
Doug Williams has been The Anarchist for as long as I’ve known him. Well over fifteen years, if not more. Rev-Pro’s James Castle calls himself The Anarchist, and so with Williams coming into Rev-Pro it was inevitable these two would collide. And they did here, with Williams picking up the win after a hard-fought bout. Williams might have slowed a little, but Castle held his own, and I’d like to see these two go at it again down the line.
Then it was time for the main event, with Undisputed British Cruiserweight champion Will Ospreay taking on Matt Sydal. Sydal is new to me. When he was busy being Evan Bourne in WWE I wasn’t watching wrestling. My cover story is that I was marooned on a tropical island, where I became the world’s greatest archer, but all you really need to know is that whatever happened in WWE between 2006 and 2014 is lost to me.
Ospreay, on the other hand, I know. I wasn’t impressed the first time I saw him, against Scurll in Bedford, but he’s changed that since. He’s been great at PROGRESS and at Lucha Britannia, and he was great here. Sydal was awesome, too, and when they show this match on Rev-Pro TV next week I suggest you watch it. Ospreay picked up the win, which levelled a series that began at last year’s Uprising show in Bethnal Green. After the match, Sydal got on the mic’ and proposed a decider, next month at Summer Sizzler, best of three falls. Yes!
The crowd scurried out of the theatre and into daylight, which is always a weird thing. I watched the people as they left, excitedly talking about what they’d seen, and about next month’s show. That features IWGP champion AJ Styles, Lucha Underground champion King “Prince Puma” Ricochet, and Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii from New Japan, as well as the regular Rev-Pro crew. I’m so there.
I walked back to my car, dodging the local children who were out playing the street knowing that the Bank Holiday had saved them from the usual Sunday night doom of school the next day, and reflected on the show and the product and the state of British wrestling. It wasn’t a long walk but it didn’t need to be because there was very little I could think of that was wrong with any of those things.
Ten, fifteen years ago, when I was involved actively in the British wrestling scene, I’d have killed for what they have now. But, for whatever reason, it didn’t happen for us, and I’m super happy it’s happening for them now, and that they’re making such a success of things. Rev-Pro may not be the darling of the scene, or do anything particularly unique, but it’s a solid outfit, putting on good shows, for a loyal and regular crowd. It’s Professional Wrestling 101, done well and done with passion. Good work, fellas.