GABRIEL KIDD vs. SHAUN JACKSON - 4/10
Kidd won, and did not show Jackson respect after the match.
ROB LIAS vs. T.K.COOPER - 5.25/10
Lias cut this big promo on T.K. before the match saying lots of mean things, to the point where I just couldn’t buy that T.K. didn’t charge right down the ramp and try to kill him. Cooper did eventually charge down to ringside, but only when it was time for his official introduction. They had a pretty intense brawl that was very good for the time it got. The fans were disappointed in the count-out finish and I was, too, but I do think this sort of thing is a model for how to do a count-out without it feeling cheap. Cooper had Lias lined up for a big move on the outside, missed, and wound up getting his head on a chair, and Lias was just barely able to make it back into the ring in time. This was a kayfabe cheap win for the heel, but in the non-kayfabe sense, it wasn’t cheap at all. We knew that the babyface had the heel beat and that surely the next time they wrestle the babyface will get his revenge, and it happened in a completely natural manner. This was the heel getting a cheap win via count-out, rather than the booker using a cheap count-out to screw us out of a finish.
Hikuleo vs. “Speedball” Mike Bailey vs. Rocky Romero vs. Robbie Eagles vs. Sanada vs. Senza Volto - 7/10
ROAD TO ROYAL QUEST TAG TEAM TOURNAMENT FINALS:
Sha Samuels & Josh Bodom vs. Aussie Open - 4.25/10
They brawled on the outside forever without getting counted out, eventually it was heat time, which included a lot of Sha Samuels doing boring things and cutting a boring promo so that he could give the babyface time to recover and get cut off due to his own arrogance rather than the babyface actually out-toughing the heel. We got a few good minutes after the hot tag, culminating in the babyfaces winning the tournament due to the referee blowing a call (it sure looked like Bodom got his shoulder up to me, and the angle was definitely that it was at least close.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT #1 - Very bad (possibly on multiple levels). Angered by the blown call, Sha Samuels assaulted the referee while our babyfaces just stood around and celebrated. Only when he cut a promo on them calling their win illegitimate and claiming that the company has been trying to ensure that they win the tournament did our babyfaces go after Samuels. Apparently, by the way, the referee screwed up and called for the bell when he wasn’t supposed to, and Samuels’ attack on him was a shoot. While Fletcher’s immediate reaction makes me inclined to believe the first part, the idea the guy who always attacks bystanders after he loses giving a referee a “shoot” body slam seems suspicious, as does the fact that he wrestled for RevPro two nights later, and you’d think shoot attacking another employee in the ring would be the kind of thing that would be handled immediately (at least with a temporary suspension while you figure things out, which would actually made perfect kayfabe sense in this situation since he attacked a referee). Bodom then, according to commentary, beat the referee up, and the camera started to pan over to it but didn’t. Samuels’ claim that there was a conspiracy at work against them is another factor pushing towards this being a work, as it plays in rather well with David Starr’s character for the past year, and look who might wind up in kayfabe control of the company after tonight.
Regardless of whether this was a work or a shoot (and if it was, in fact, a shoot, Bodom and Samuels need to be fired), the fact of the matter remains that the visual we are left with was a terrible one for Aussie Open, as they won in what appeared to be BS fashion, and then let a referee get assaulted. Those things are kayfabe facts now. Whatever was intended to happen is irrelevant, and this is the reality that RevPro now has to live in.
POST-MATCH SEMGNET #2 - Also bad, but for completely different reasons. Aussie Open cut the big heartfelt babyface promo and the crowd cheers. The problem with this is that we got this exact same segment three months ago when they won the RPW Undisputed British Tag Team Titles from Suzuki-Gun a mere three and a half months ago, after which they proceeded to lose them in just their third defense, with the results of their first two defenses being loss by DQ and a double-DQ. This sort of repetition hurts storylines by making them seem more forced, and is something RevPro has had a bit of a problem with lately (Michael Oku is very much El Phantasmo to El Phantasmo’s David Starr, and the show where Aussie Open won the tag titles was the same one where El Phantasmo got his big babyface title win). It’s also problematic because these guys are reacting the same way to merely getting a shot at New Japan’s tag titles as they did to actually winning RevPro’s tag titles.
So it really shouldn’t surprise you when the Guerrillas of Destiny came out and got a megastar reaction for merely showing up, while Aussie Open got a big reaction, but had to first win a tournament and cut a promo. And it’s not like the Guerrillas of Destiny are Okada and Tanahashi. Yes, they had some AWESOME matches with the Briscoes this summer, but there are the guys that everyone used to groan about when a promotion would announce “we’re bringing in stars from New Japan” and then they’d announce it was the Guerrillas of Destiny.
They had a stare-down. The crowd reacted fantastically, but I just can’t get into this because New Japan’s utter domination of RevPro is one of the reasons the promotion is on the chopping block from my standard wrestling viewing, and I have zero faith that Aussie Open will win tomorrow night, meaning that RevPro will have booked a tournament featuring their entire tag team division other than the team made up of NJPW regulars (Zack & Suzuki) and the winner of that tournament- the kayfabe best team in RevPro will then job to the guys who New Japan has left with the titles they care least about and have not shown any intention of caring about in a long time.
RevPro UNDISPUTED BRITISH CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
El Phantasmo(c) vs. Michael Oku - 8/10
El Pantasmo was the bully heel who didn’t take Oku seriously at first, but he still managed to pull out the clean win. As much as I hate to say it, I think this was the best finish, as the NJPW-necessitated El Phantasmo heel turn coming right after his big babyface win means that at this point he is the David Starr to Oku’s El Phantasmo, so a win here for Oku here would be a repeat of what we just saw and the ensuing title reign would like resemble the reign of Kurtis Chapman right before Starr’s (an undersized and very young babyface champion). Similarly, to have El Phantasmo cheat to win would make him even more like Starr, who we just got done seeing cheat to retain his title for a year, so a clean win for El Phantasmo and Oku being built back up for another shot down the line was definitely the way to go. The crowd was very behind Oku, and I think he has a bright future ahead of him as a “never say die” undercard babyface.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI & KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.) - 7.5/10
Everything here was good, aside from Suzuki-Gun once again running roughshod on the referees. Zack used his roll-up to pin Tanahashi even though Tananashi is challenging Zack for the title tomorrow. I find it a struggle to get into these “preview” matches (and doubly so when NJPW is involved) because I know that nothing that happens will matter. Zack cut a meh promo after the match and Suzuki beat up a referee and said he would beat Okada.
IF DAVID STARR WINS, HE GAINS CONTROL OF REVPRO; IF HE LOSES, HE MUST LEAVE REVPRO:
David Starr vs. Will Ospreay - 8.25/10
First things first, the referee was WAY too lenient on count-outs, and Ospreay should have been DQed for kicking the barricade into Starr. And this is more than just the usual “BRM wants the rules enforced strictly,” too. This is a match where a heel is putting his RevPro career on the line in an effort to gain control of the company because he believes (or is cynically trying to make us think he believes) that there is a conspiracy against him. If a character like that loses, what’s to stop him from doing what he has with so many other losses and pulling out his evidence that he thinks proves he really should have won the match and got screwed. The fact that he put his career on the line? Do you really see a heel like that not coming back and causing a fuss if he loses in a way he can easily interpret as unfair?
That bit aside, this started out very well. It felt like the HUGE match it was billed as and they made every move count and they told a great story with Starr working over Ospreay’s back and avoiding all of his signature moves, but they completely lost that story when they started doing the ref bumps. I’m sorry, but Shane Purser didn’t need to be involved in this match. As Kevin Kelly pointed out, it’s ridiculous that this clearly biased referee is still allowed to be an official RevPro referee. Also as Kevin Kelly pointed out, Purser is a moron for not just fast-counting Ospreay. He cheated for Starr in every other way, so why not fast-count? I understand the desire to have Quildan involved and him saving Ospreay the belt shot and stopping Starr from stomping on the belt was a great way to do it, but all you need for that is one the one ref bump, not the four or five we got here, all so Shane Purser could be involved. Purser was blown off perfectly well in the ladder match with El Phantasmo. His presence- and the booking philosophy that insisted that he get involved- hurt this match a lot.
Despite some excellent in-ring action, this was a disappointing show from RevPro. The booking once again fell flat for me, both in terms of treating New Japan wrestlers like the real stars and RevPro’s like geeks by comparison, by an inability to understand how to not overbook and when a story (or certain elements thereof) need to end, and in terms of giving me anything to hold my interest as a viewer after this show. I care about the Rob Lias vs. T.K. Cooper feud and I care about the (notably absent from this show) A-Kid vs. Carlos Romo feud and I like the new Moloney & McKinnan tag team (they wrestled Brookes & Gresham in a match that got cut from the show because it was stopped for what appeared at the time to be a serious injury but thankfully wasn’t). This was supposed to be a huge show for RevPro, and on a weekend where they are running two shows sandwiched around an NJPW show… and it’s NJPW that gets not only the IWGP Heavyweight Title match, but the RPW Undisputed British Heavyweight Title match as well, while the bigger of the two RevPro shows is left with the “Road to…” show match in the semi-main event, higher on the card than everything other than a Career vs. Control of the Company match that they’ve been building to for a year and a half. And having already seen both tomorrow night’s RPW Undisputed British Heavyweight Title match as well as the rematch in New Japan from September while waiting for this show to come out on VOD… I think I’m done with RevPro.