KARL FREDERICKS, CLARK CONNORS, & BRENDAN WHITE vs. SHAUN JACKSON, GABRIEL KIDD, & KENNETH HALFPENNY - 6.75/10
A very good showing from the Young Lions and Contenders. After the match, Katsuyori Shibata came out and invited Gabriel Kidd to come train at the NJPW LA Dojo.
DAN MAGEE vs. HIKULEO - 5.5/10
They threw a bunch of hard strikes int the ring. Then they went out of the ring and did the exact same thing while the referee followed them around for what felt like several minutes repeatedly ordering them to get back into the ring and being ignored every time. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This referee is clearly not mentally fit to officiate this or any other match.
Refereeing aside, this was a very good match for the time it got. They hit each other very hard, including some sick knees as cut-off spots. Magee got the roll-up win after Hikuleo took too long arguing with the referee. I usually hate this finish and was shocked that they did it in Hikuleo’s first match, but Magee did need to win or else risk coming off like the guy who never moves up the card even when he wins a feud, and after the post-match segment (Hikuleo attacked Magee, Magee’s tag team partner Kurtis Chapman came out to make the save and succeeded for a while before eventually getting overwhelmed by Hikuleo’s power), I was actually feeling pretty good about this. Hikuleo still got to look dangerous, and there is still some heat between him and Team White Wolf after his assault on them at the previous show, so I don’t think he was hurt too much by the loss.
GISELE SHAW vs. SELEZYIA SPARX - 6.75/10
I laughed when the referee was about to call for the bell and then stopped because he realized that he forgot to check the wrestlers for weapons. Well… better late than never, I guess. The story of the match was Selezyia using her power to work over Gisele’s back and midsection while Gisele was an excellent “never say die” babyface. I normally wouldn’t be happy with someone who just pinned the champion in a non-title match losing cleanly, but I think RevPro needs something of an emergency rebuild in this division, and this gives us two viable contenders instead of one. Aside from looking a little soft on their strikes at times, this was a great match.
SHINGO TAKAGI vs. MICHAEL OKU - 8.75/10
They start off in the ring and then wind up fighting on the stage while the referee doesn’t count them out so that they can do their big spots. Then Shingo gets back into the ring and all of a sudden the referee remembers that count-outs are a thing so that we can have the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys(TM).
After that point, this got awesome. If you don’t know Michael Oku yet, this match is a wonderful introduction to what he is all about. He is an undersized babyface who never gives up and just keeps fighting no matter what. This reminded me a lot like Tim Donst vs. Eddie Kingston from CHIKARA Showdown in Crisisland but without the maliciousness.
One thing that I hope the RevPro office takes away from this match, though, was the way the crowd reacted. Shingo is awesome and all and I understand that this was his first match in England in six years, but we live in a world of streaming services now so it’s not like English fans never get to see the guy. Oku is the home-promotion guy with the lovable underdog gimmick who is still looking for his first win but you know it’s coming soon. Oku is the guy the crowd should be behind to at least at 70-30 split, if not more, but instead it was 90-10 for Shingo. And the reason for that is simple. RevPro has spent the past two and a half years telling their fans that New Japan is better and more important than RevPro. And that needs to stop.
FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR THE RPW UNDISPUTED BRITISH TAG TEAM TITLES:
Aussie Open(c) vs. Josh Bodom & Sha Samuels vs. Team White Wolf (Carlos Romo & A-Kid) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & BUSHI) - 7.75/10
The announcers explain to us that LIJ are such rebels and hate following rules so much that they choose to stand on the floor rather than on the apron during tag matches. I really hope that’s not the reason they do that, because if it is, that’s incredibly stupid. You don’t like rules? Fine. But if you’re so obsessed with disobeying rules that you’re willing to put your team at a disadvantage, then you’re an idiot.
After going to two DQs at recent shows, the announcers keep trying to convince me that “for the good of this match” Bodom & Samuels and Aussie Open need to be “kept apart from each other.” Why? Don’t we want them to settle their differences in the ring? And we’ve already seen EVIL hit Carlos Romo with a chair and not get punished so it’s not like they can get the match thrown out if they get too wild. Actually, now I’m wondering why this isn’t a singles match. Sure, Team White Wolf have won their last two matches, but those were against undercard teams, and they’ve lost to both Aussie Open and Bodom & Samuels recently both in RevPro and in other promotions as well, and EVIL & BUSHI haven’t done sh*t to earn a shot, either. I guess being in New Japan automatically qualifies you for a title shot or something.
Bodom & Samuels and Aussie Open did eventually get in the ring together and the action did pick up from there, but there was definitely a feeling in the building that the fans just wanted to see the NJPW guys more. They even popped for BUSHI misting A-Kid, and it’s not like BUSHI is either a world-class worker like Shingo or someone who hasn’t wrestled in the UK in a particularly long time (two years isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, especially when the guy is in a promotion that co-promotes with your promotion and several of other mutual partners). Bodom tagged himself in and stole BUSHI’s pin on A-Kid, which I guess we were supposed to find more heelish than LIJ’s actual cheating because… um…
Also working against this was one of the commentators pointing out that the last time BUSHI and Bodom were in a ring together, BUSHI’s mist prevented Bodom from winning the RPW Undisputed British Cruiserweight Title, which makes Bodom taking advantage of BUSHI’s mist here to win a title feel perfectly justified.
So yeah. The extra guys were in there as nothing more than an excuse to change the titles without having Bodom & Samuels actually beat Aussie Open, and nothing more. If you were hoping for some sort of advancement in the Bodom & Samuels are trying to convince Carlos Romo to dump A-Kid and join their group storyline, you didn’t get sh*t, even though both teams were in a big match on a big show.
POST-MATCH STUFF -Good. On the bright side, Bodom’s quick little completely unnecessary kick to Davis before scampering out of the ring was sufficiently heelish to get me annoyed at him, and they spent an appropriate amount of time focusing on Aussie Open’s being outright despondent after losing the titles they worked so hard for so long to win.
TETSUYA NAITO vs. MK MCKINNAN - 6.75/10
McKinnan had a decent showing, but not enough to elevate him.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - F*cking terrible. Naito offered McKinnan a handshake, but when McKinnan accepted it, Naito kicked in the nuts and beat him up for absolutely no reason. Naito then demanded that the referee raise his hand. The referee did so… and Naito raked his eyes. Again… FOR NO REASON. And the crowd responded to all of this by cheering raucously, because the message you get from watching RevPro is that New Japan guys are awesome and cool, and RevPro sucks and is lame. Which moron booked this?
RPW UNDISPUTED BRITISH HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Zack Sabre Jr.(c) vs. Sanada - 8/10
They had an awesome match telling the story of each man having numerous reversals to the other’s signature holds. Zack won with his special roll-up. In hindsight, I wish they hadn’t done the spot where Sanada caught Zack in his fancy roll-up in this match because using that as the finish of their G1 match creates a natural progression that builds up to a third match instead of the finish to the second match feeling like a step backwards from the first.
ZACK SABRE JR. PROMO - Meh. He declared himself to be a British legend, buried YOSHI-HASHI, hyped up the G1, and made some political comments.
In the ring this was a great show from RevPro, but the storylines continue to feel like they’re not really going anywhere interesting very fast, and the complete and total subservience of both the championship and the roster to New Japan continues to be a source of frustration.