by Richard Hart
In the first part of this review, Richard saw Pro-Evo in Gloucester. You can read that here. Now on with the story…
So a week later and it’s just Tony and I, on our way to Gloucester to see our second Pro-Evolution show. The marquee says “American Style Wrestling” and Tony and I debated why American style was on there. We guessed it was to differentiate itself from the horror show of the old British wrestling of the 80’s world of sports.
Amusingly at the same venue – a local pool hall – there was some sort of kids pirate show and a lot of well dressed mums were arriving along with children, all of them looking very confused by the largely male, fairly young pro-wrestling crowd. Pro-Evolution seems to attract a young audience which did make the two of us, both in our 30’s, feel a bit like maybe this was the world telling us that our hobby was a bit immature. But we shrugged that off, who wants to be immature when you can hurl abuse at oily men?
The venue was tightly packed, largely due to being “at home” and also due to it being a very small venue. There was a bar right next to the ring and a crowd of teenagers there to support their friends who would appear on the crowd later. Tony and I took up our seats and my expectation levels were way up on the previous time, I was expecting great stuff this night.
“Ready to Rumble” came on and out came the announcer and just one referee this time. They did their normal schtick, hype the matches and give away back-stage passes. Then things got underway. Number one contender T-Bone came wondering slowly to the ring. He did his normal serious heel bit which just comes across as a bit boring. As his opponent was announced, no one came out. It seemed like Charlie Garrett had missed his cue. But the handsome youngster came out to a huge pop from the crowd. His upbeat babyface routine saw him calling out to the crowd, probably a bit too much.
As a brief aside; I really hate the panto side of wrestling. Whilst wrestling is an audience participation “sport”, it’s not one where the workers should constantly ask the audience what to do, that’s going too far. It was a clear difference between the experienced pros who had worked at a higher level and the enthusiastic young guns.
Garrett did a lot of calling to the crowd and even “should I shake his hand?” spots which just made me die but the audience seemed to take to it. There was an early blown spot and right away you could tell that neither worker had enough experience to call the match right. T-Bone went over in a weak match after a roll-up.
Charlie Garrett was charismatic and got the crowd into him but he oversold too many moves which, instead of making his opponent seem like a killer, made him seem a bit cartoonish. But then wrestling IS cartoonish…
Second match saw “Dirty” Dick Riley and “Filthy” Chris Walker come out. This heel duo had great heel comedy schtick, even if the gay stuff makes me a bit uncomfortable. Gay heel heat is not a good kind of heat.
They took on the slick young Bristol Boys who were gearing up for a title shot against the System at the next show in Bristol. Tony and I predicted that the Bristol Boys would go over for the titles there.
The match was classic tag team stuff, with the Bristol Boys smaller member getting cut off and worked over as the heels got their heat. Early on “Filthy” Chris took a really awkward back bump which looked really painful.
The Bristol Boys kept up their winning ways, going over in a heated match. The taller of the two Bristol Boys continued to get the rub, being the one to get the pin both nights and being the one with the hot tag each time.
During this match a group of “smarky” fans made some loud chants about the script and wrestling being fake. This is really sad stuff and doesn’t put you over or make you seem cool. No one would go to a panto and shout “this is all written down somewhere” but due to the audience participation of wrestling, often the crowd try to put themselves over at the expense of the wrestling.
Third match of the night was “The Winner” PJ Jones against Dan Splash. Again The Winner did his highly amusing heel schtick, telling people he was a winner. Dan Splash worked hard to get over but lacked the charisma of the likes of Charlie Garrett. PJ Jones shocked me a bit by pulling off a vertebreaker, a move that is generally outlawed due to the very high chance of a neck injury. Amazingly Dan Splash kicked out but then PJ Jones won with a roll up. This was a tight, well constructed match and both PJ Jones and Dan Splash had already shown that they were steady hands but living lower on the pecking order.
The fourth match saw a big, bearded Welsh worker called Big Grizzly come out. Looking like a Welsh One-Man-Gang, he glowered and looked tough as nails, though the bad-ass heel schtick didn’t quite look like the real him. He often seemed to want approval a bit too much for a heel. His opponent, his fellow Welsh-man Robbie Caine, came rushing out and was another enthusiastic babyface, clapping for the crowd.
Robbie Kane is a big guy and he looks like a wrestler but his punches were lame and looked dreadful. I was shocked that Grizzly sold them, even I might not have. The heat spots went on for too long as Grizzly moved at a slow, deliberate pace and Kane tried to fight back. Grizzly scored a Kevin Owens inspired Pop Up Powerbomb to go over in a so-so match.
After the match, JD Knight, looking a bit like Billy Kidman, ran in and beat down Robbie Kane. Pro-Evolution champion Joel Redman, who once worked in NXT as Oliver Grey, ran in to break this up setting up the pre-booked main event. Redman was unconvincing and stiff on the mic.
During the half time break a little kid in a badly fitting suit jacket gave a long strange speech which made him seem like a heel but then a heel tag team came out and smashed him. Team Stunt Stable UK, wearing peach, were VERY young babyfaces and the massive crowd of teenagers all seemed to be friends of theirs. Against them were the grey tee-shirt wearing heels of the Heritage City Hitmen, Dave Eaton and Richard Diamond.
This was a long, surprisingly heated match which saw, damn it D-Lo, the babyface tag team getting cut off and worked over until the hot tag. Team Stunt Team went over in a heated, popular win and then ran over to celebrate with their fellow sixth-formers..
Main event time saw skinny heel JD Knight come out first. His opponent and the champion Joel Redman looked impressive, a big, well muscled guy who didn’t have the charisma of some but at least he looked like a pro.
The match was a bit of a disappointment and far more competitive than you might have thought. JD Knight botched a few sequences and often looked unsure moving between spots. A veteran like Joel Redman might have been expected to call the match in ring and Tony and I speculated after on the drive home that perhaps Redman had expected more out of JD Knight than he could deliver. There was a mistimed run in by Robbie Caine which nearly saw JD Knight go over but Redman took the clean win to close the card down.
Whilst this was not as good as the first card, this had still been an awful lot of fun. An enthusiastic crowd and hard working, earnest young workers made for a nice atmosphere. The ticket price of £10 wasn’t that bad for a nights entertainment. A member of the ring crew repeatedly hassled us, at every show, to buy raffle tickets and at every show but the last one we brushed him off until I finally bought a ticket….and won nothing of course!
Join Richard for part 3 on Thursday! You can find details of Pro-Evolution Wrestling’s upcoming shows at their website.