DAVID STARR PROMO - Good. He's unhappy because he had earned a British Cruiserweight Title match at this show but instead of a one-on-one match, he now has to be in a five-way because "Flash" Morgan Webster wanted to be a "fighting champion" and let three other "unworthy" challengers into this match. And I can't really disagree with him that this isn't particularly fair to him. Smile deserves the usual rematch after having lost the belt to Webster on Sunday, but neither of the other two have really done anything to earn this title shot. The announcers said that El Phantasmo earned this shot by having a good year and Chapman earned it by beating El Phantasmo on Sunday, but Phantasmo really doesn't feel like he's done enough to earn a title shot, and thus Chapman beating him doesn't feel like it should earn him a title shot, either.
FIVE-WAY SCRAMBLE FOR THE RPW BRITISH CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
"Flash" Morgan Webster(c) vs. David Starr vs. El Phantasmo vs. Kurtis Chapman vs. Ryan Smile - 8/10
This was an awesome match that a great job between transitioning between an exciting fast-paced, spot-heavy style and then slowing down to tell the story of David Starr being an irritable jackass party-pooper who wanted to ruin things for everyone else (including the fans)- and particularly for Kurtis Chapman. Eventually it came down to Starr and Chapman and Starr withstood Chapman's flurry, hoisted him up for a brainbuster... and Chapman reversed it into a small package to become the new RPW British Cruiserweight Champion. This finish got a massive pop from the crowd, and feels like a real moment of graduation for Chapman. And if I may wax poetic for a moment, although it isn't the practical meaning of the word, establishing a young wrestler as having finally risen up to that next level is an excellent way to start off a show called "Uprising."
The only think about the big post-match celebration Chapman got that I didn't like was how happy the other babyfaces were. They just lost a title match; and in Webster's case, a title. They shouldn't be so darn happy. Hopefully the idea that Webster lost the belt without getting pinned in a match that would have been a singles match if he hadn't insisted on defending the belt against everyone at the same time will play into something later rather than just being something the announcers said to tease a heel turn just so the big happy handshake here could be more of a surprise.
JINNY MAKES AN OPEN CHALLENGE - She talks about how great she is and all of the first she has accomplished in RevPro and she's not wrong about anything she's saying. Her open challenge is answered by "Session Moth" Martina. I have no idea what a "Session Moth" is, but this Martina character appears to be a cross between ODB and Special K. And somehow she's a babyface. Jinny is incredulous that Martina has a snowball's chance of beating her. She tried to walk out but Martina spun her around and gave her a Stunner, did some middle fingers (so she's a Steve Austin rip-off, too) and went for a pin because apparently this match has started even though I never head the bell or saw the ref call for it.
JINNY vs. MARTINA - DUD!
Thankfully, Jinny kicked out. The idea of her winning streak being snapped by some goofball rip-off act would infuriate me. Martina then tried to run the ropes to set up a dive but got blown up so the referee had to revive her by giving her some beer from her beer can. Why is the referee helping one of the competitors during a match?
Anyway, Martina drinks her beer and spits it out (apparently she doesn't even have to swallow it to power up), then hits the ropes for a dive... and Jinny tripped her up. This was the only thing in this sequence that was supposed to make me boo rather than making me laugh or cheer, and yet it was the only thing that actually succeeded in making me laugh. Not good.
Jinny beat Martina up for a bit. She tried to hit her with the beer can and the ref did nothing to stop it. Martina blocked this and drank some more beer before spitting it out to start her comeback. She went for a dive but Jinny cut her off by hitting her with the beer can behind the ref's back. Then Martina hit Jinny with a DDT onto the apron but Jinny went too soon so it looked really bad.
Some more stuff happened, leading to Jinny going for a dive which she overshot and landed on her back on the hard floor but she seems fine. Martina sold it as if Jinny had nailed her anyway. Jinny rolled her back into the ring and hit a Rainmaker... which Martina kicked out of because, hey, it's good for a pop.
Jinny went for another but Martina reversed it into a Rainmaker variation on a Rock Bottom. Jinny kicked out. Martina went to the top but Jinny cut her off. Jinny went for what appeared to be MsChif's Obliterator but something was wrong so they weren't even touching when they landed and Martina landed on her head. She kicked out. Then Jinny went for something else but Martina hit a Codebreaker, then an F-5, then went for a pin but Jinny kicked out. Then Jinny locked in a seated rocking-horse-type submission move that works on the back and shoulders despite everything else she's done tonight targeted the head and neck... and that got the win.
I think I'll let my inner Rip Rogers summarize this match:
Kick out of a WWE finisher. Comedy, comedy, comedy, comedy where the ref doesn't care that one wrestler is trying to use a weapon. Then the heel hit the babyface with the weapon behind the referee's back because apparently it's not legal this time. Apron bump (and a sloppy one at that). Dive (that was overshot). Kick out of an ultra-protected Japanese finisher. Kick out of a WWE finisher. Kick out of a top-rope Tombstone Piledriver famous indy finisher. Kick out after two WWE finishers. Basic submission on a body part you haven't worked over at all so far for the victory.
RPW BRITISH TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)(c) vs. Josh Bodom & Zack Gibson - 6.25/10
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Cody Rhodes(c) vs. Jay Lethal - 8.75/10
They do a bit of basic stuff for five or six minutes and then... yup! You guessed it: Cody goes to the outside and starts to stall. We went a good two minutes of just Cody walking around on the outside, and once throwing a chair into the ring.
Once we got past that bit, we actually had a rather awesome match, with Lethal carrying Cody to his best match on the indies. I say that Lethal carried Cody for two reasons. The first is a lot of the drama came from Lethal's selling of his knee, and the second is that this match borrows heavily from the match that Lethal had with Adam Cole for this very title, in this very building, just over a year ago (ROH Reach for the Sky Tour: London). Like in this match, that match was also built around the heel Bullet Club member ROH World Champion working over Lethal's knee, the heel pushing the referee to see what he could get away with because the referee didn't want to let the heel escape by intentionally getting counted out or disqualified (though Cole and Lethal got a lot more out of it than Lethal and Cody did here), and some recurring theme in the respective feuds (in the case of the Cole match it was Lethal making a mistake because Cole provoked him to anger, and in this match it was the low blow).
The other source of drama in this match was the interference of Marty Scurll. While he is a member of Bullet Club, Scurll is also Lethal's scheduled opponent at ROH's Final Battle show next Friday, and it had been announced that if Lethal won the title tonight, that match would be combined with the scheduled Cody Rhodes vs. Dalton Castle ROH World Title match to make one big four-way for the belt... which would mean that if Lethal won tonight, Marty would all of a sudden find himself getting a shot at the ROH World Title that he wouldn't have otherwise had. And to this end, when Marty came out to interfere on Cody's behalf after a ref bump, he briefly stopped lining Jay Lethal up for a shot with his trademark umbrella and instead contemplated hitting Cody... and only seemed to decide to go after Lethal when Cody started to stir.
What happened next was that Cody grabbed Lethal and held him up for an umbrella shot, but Lethal got out of the way and Scurll hit Cody by accident. Or maybe it wasn't an accident.
If they had left it at that, had Lethal then dispose of Marty and had Cody use that distraction to take over, hit the Cross Rhodes and get the pin, I would have really liked this, as it would put Marty's loyalty to Bullet Club in question, which is a story that could be taken in a few different directions; mainly either turning Marty babyface, or a more long-term plan where Marty's loyalty would be put to the test and Bullet Club would accept him back, but the questioning of his loyalty could serve a greater purpose in the story of the eventually Omega/Cody split (either used to make us think the issue might diffuse itself, or with Cody questioning Marty's loyalty but Omega sticking up for him being used to bring on the split, and to place Marty firmly in The Elite's camp when the split comes).
Unfortunately, what happened was that when Lethal tried for one last Lethal Injection, Marty hit him in the back with the umbrella, allowing Cody to hit the Cross Rhodes and get the win, meaning that Marty's interference won't lead to any sort of bigger purpose other than just being used as a bit more fuel for the Marty Scurll vs. Jay Lethal match at Final Battle.
PETE DUNNE vs. EDDIE DENNIS - 4.75/10
The story of Eddie Dennis so far in RevPro has been that he has always fought hard and taken incredible punishment, but just hasn't been able to get that big first win, which made Pete Dunne an excellent choice of opponent for him on several levels. First, and most obviously, the "Bruiserweight" is a guy who can dish out the hard punishment that Dennis excels at fighting back from, and is a guy who can take Dennis' receipts well, both in terms of shrugging them off to look like an insurmountable force and in terms of really selling them when it's time for the big comeback. Second, his name value means that even getting pinned by Dunne will make it feel Dennis has really accomplished something so long as he just puts up a good hard fight. Third, the impression that I've gotten is that the current WWE UK Champion is on his way to a more full-time deal with the WWE, so him returning to RevPro for the first time in nine months and being put into a match with an up-and-comer looking for a big win creates the feeling that this might well be RevPro bringing him in to put someone over on his way out (with WWE's permission), for which Dennis is the perfect choice. All in all, this was felt like it was shaking up to be something big.
They played out the exact story you would expect with Dunne pounding on Dennis with his hard strikes and Dennis never giving up and always fighting back... and then things totally fell apart, all because they were unable to resist the urge to do something cool just for the sake of doing something cool.
First they brawled their way down the aisle and onto the stage. While this was happening, the referee made no effort to count them out. Then Dunne went for a Tombstone Piledriver on the stage, but Dennis reversed it and hit Dunne with one of this own. Only now- when it was time for that to be the focus of the drama- did the referee start to do his job and count them out. In other words, the rules only applied when it is more dramatic for them to do so, which makes the whole thing feel... well... worked.
The idea here was supposed to be that Dennis could have taken the count-out win but instead dragged Dunne back to the ring with him, but I think that is greatly hurt by the fact that 1) they both should have been counted out well before they got back to the ring, and 2) the first thing that happened when they got back to the ring was that Dennis tried to hit his move on Dunne but Dunne not only had the wherewithal to counter it, but to then immediately go for his own move as well.
This whole thing also hurt the original story of Dennis being the one who was getting pounded on and had to make the big babyface comeback because now it is Dunne who has taken a far sicker move than anything Dennis took all match and then fought back from it. That story was further damaged by the finish, which was Dunne winning via small package. If Dunne had won with his finisher at least they could push the idea that Dennis had taken so much pain and punishment that he was beaten to the point where he finally couldn't kick out, but a roll-up means that all that happened was that Dunne just plain outwrestled Eddie Dennis. Dennis proved nothing here. He didn't take any steps forward like a loss to Dunne after absorbing extreme amounts of punishment would have (this should have been the Brock vs. AJ to Eddie Kingston vs. Tim Donst's Brock vs. Cena). He just lost in a completely routine manner.
DAVE MASTIFF vs. MARTIN STONE - 6/10
They had a very good hard-hitting match (although I could have done without the fighting spirit spot), with Stone working the head and getting the submission victory via crossface. They actually made the massive size difference not matter aside from one or two spots, but they did so in a way that felt like ignoring the size difference was part of the story. They were telling us that it's not about how big you are; it's about how hard you can hit.
RPW BRITISH HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Zack Sabre Jr.(c) vs. Matt Riddle - 8/10
They told the usual story you'd expect with guys like these, which is work on the arm combined with strikes to the head. In addition to that they showed Riddle to be in control for most of the match but Zack managed to "snatch victory from the jaws of defeat" with a roll-up. They had an awesome match that did a good job of giving Zack a clean win while leaving you with the feeling that Riddle would probably win a rematch.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Zack cut a promo saying that he's beaten everyone there is to beat and thus the belt should be retired and they should erect a statue of him. He then tossed the belt down and started to leave but Trent Seven came (from out of the crowd for some reason) and went to pick the belt up but Zack stopped him. Zack cut a promo saying that Trent didn't even deserve to be in the same ring as him. Trent responded to this and a slew of other insults with a crotch chop, to which Zack said "someone's not going to like that," then explained "I'm not talking about his boss, I'm talking about my boss" and used that as a brilliant transition to tell everyone that Suzuki will be back next month on January 20th, and if Trent wants a shot at the British Heavyweight Title, he'll have to put the tag titles on the line in a match against Suzuki-Gun! Zack disrespected Trent some more so Trent kicked him in the stomach and hit him with a Piledriver before posing with the RPW British Heavyweight Title. The announcers left it open-ended as to whether or not the British Heavyweight Title would be on the line in that match as well as the tag titles, but because the show is named "High Stakes," it wouldn't shock me if both belts were on the line. Or even both belts plus Suzuki putting up the NEVER Openweight Title (assuming Suzuki retains it at the Tokyo Dome).
BULLET CLUB (The Young Bucks & Marty Scurll) vs. FLIP GORDON & CCK (Chris Brookes & Travis Banks) - 1/10
One of the Bucks is running around the ring holding a microphone and the referee is making no effort to get it away from him. He could be saying the same things without the microphone and it wouldn't make the "comedy" any less funny (to those who somehow find this sh*t funny) and it wouldn't make it look like the referee doesn't give a sh*t about the rules, but we're going to use the microphone because we don't give a sh*t.
We started out with ten minutes of comedy and flips, making everyone look like goofballs, and doing spots that seemed to drop all pretense that this isn't totally choreographed. Bullet Club's "commentary" with the mic was basically these guys MST3King their own match, while it happened.
And now they want me to take it seriously when they start to work over Chris Brookes' arm? Hell no.
Wait. Hold on. I think that whole thing with Brookes' arm was some sort of mistake- like they all thought they were in a different match or something. The moment he made his tag he stopped selling his arm and we were back to just doing things that get pops until the match finally ended (with Bullet Club pinning all three guys at once, because why make one guy take the fall when you can show that three different guys were beaten enough to be pinned, even though doing so helps no one and hurts the other two for no reason?
This wasn't a wrestling match so much as it was just a twenty-minute string of spots stuck together not to tell a story, but to guarantee some manner of positive reaction- be it a cheer or a laugh- for whoever is doing the spot, be they babyface or heel. It wasn't about wrestlers trying to make the fans care who won or lost and how they did so; it was about wrestlers trying to make the fans cheer for them and laugh at their jokes. It was about getting themselves positive feedback, plain and simple.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Dull. They bring out Cody so that Marty can apologize to him. The fans want them to hug it out, but Marty declares that he's not going to hug Cody... and then he grabs him and kisses him on the lips instead, because apparently we needed one last swerve and one last bit of comedy. Then Bullet Club spent the remaining five minutes of the broadcast verbally masturbating.
This show really felt like a microcosm of independent wresting in 2017. You had some awesome matches from a lot of different styles (the opener was a spotfest multi-man "X-Division" style, the tag match was your standard tag team fare, Cody vs. Lethal was a more traditional American-style "Professional Wrestling" match, Riddle vs. Zack was more EVOLVE-ish, while Stone vs. Mastiff had a kind of New Japan feel to it) and then you had a bunch of other matches were good workers (and also the Session Moth and Flip Gordon) went out there and had matches that fell apart because the desire to just do things to get a pop caused them to lose focus on- or perhaps even ignore from the beginning- the fact that pro wrestling is supposed to tell us a story. And there are a lot of people who will read that last sentence and vehemently disagree with it. And I think that 2017 is the year that that became the case. Look for something about all of this in my upcoming 2017 Year in Review. Until then, watch this show. Or at least the stuff that appeals to you on it.