Welcome to a new series of articles about Irish pro-wrestling sensation, Over The Top Wrestling. As well as reviewing their shows as they happen, I’ll be looking at some of the biggest storylines and angles as they unfold and putting the spotlight on some of their amazing talent that deserve to be seen by a wider audience.
The post match plaudits that rained down on Jordan Devlin after his technical masterpiece with Tyler Bate at “A Matter of Pride” marked a turning point in his OTT career. It had become a familiar scene; Devlin working a stand out mid-card match, receiving the adulation of the OTT faithful, but never rising beyond the spot of “useful hand” on the lower mid-card. Often defeated by nefarious means, he continued to maintain a happy go lucky demeanour, seemingly content to milk the adulation of the fans and happy to accept his place in the pecking order. Then came the turn, the point where Devlin crossed to the dark side, his inner competitor no longer happy to settle for a status that deep down he felt was beneath him. Having wrestled a gentlemanly bout with Bate, reminiscent of the gentile days of World of Sport in years gone by, Devlin attacked his opponent and proceeded to deliver a scintillating promo, in which he declared that he was no longer prepared to settle for being an afterthought.
For many outside Ireland, Devlin’s may be an unfamiliar name, despite him being highly respected within the country as a well travelled veteran of the wrestling scene. Still in his prime, he can call upon over ten years’ experience in the wrestling ring. As well as wrestling extensively all over Ireland he has also wrestled in Britain and Germany and has toured Japan on more than one occasion with Pro Wrestling Zero-1 , (sharing the ring with the likes of Steve Corino and Daichi Hashimoto), winning championship gold with fellow Irishman Sean Guinness and appearing in the hallowed surrounds of Korakuen Hall. His pedigree is undoubted, having been trained by NXT’s Fergal Devitt and Irish wrestling legend Paul Tracey.
After a solitary appearance in OTT’s debut year in 2014, Devlin became a regular on their cards around 12 months ago. Having toned down some of the high flying offence utilised in his early career, he quickly established himself as a mat technician par excellence. His opening bouts became a staple of the OTT formula, as he regularly produced solid to good bouts against a variety of opponents from Dunkan Disorderly to Charlie Garrett to Flash Morgan Webster. While popular with the OTT faithful, it seemed as if this was to be the upper ceiling in terms of his booking with OTT, until his turn at their last Tivoli show.
The show in question is as good a top-to-bottom show as OTT have ever put on, with imports such as El Ligero, Pete Dunne, Colt Cabana and Big Damo meshing with the regular roster to put on a series of highly entertaining bouts. In spite of this, however, the name on everyone’s lips afterwards was Jordan Devlin. Joey Cabray is fast developing a reputation as a masterful booker, who tells logical, well planned out stories and most importantly understands the old Paul Heyman trick of booking everyone at his disposal to their strengths, while simultaneously skilfully masking their deficiencies. The Devlin turn, however may have been his finest moment yet. While Jordan was having good matches and was a popular act with the OTT regulars, it always felt like he was missing something in terms of character depth. In 2016, the smiling babyface who can wrestle a good match has a limited shelf life and compared with the character evolution arc we have seen from the likes of the Gymnasties, he was in danger of becoming stale rather quickly.
In hindsight it is quite possible that this turn may have been the plan for Jordan from his very first day in the company. While many are drawn to OTT for their larger than life characters, or the overseas stars they regularly fly in; perhaps the most impressive thing they do is rewarding their long term viewers with call backs to previous shows, or little hints they drop along the way that foreshadow events to come. Looking back at Devlin’s appearances over the last year there is a definite sense of his growing frustration with the company. There are times where his barely-controlled anger at losing to an opponent who cheats is obvious. In a company that does well to present all its talent in a strong fashion, and in which most of the roster could (and indeed have) credibly main event a show, his absence from the big matches and angles was conspicuous and a little difficult to understand. His matches, while technically superb, would often be exhibition type affairs, with little heat between the protagonists, or storyline reason for them to be at loggerheads. Indeed, time and time again he was legitimately pushed down the card at the expense of flown in talent like Ryan Smile, Pete Dunne, Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay, wrestlers that Devlin has every right to see as his equal in terms of talent. Even his entrance theme and video looked a little bush league compared with the efforts regularly taken to make the likes of the Kings of the North or the Wards seem like a big deal. Without us even knowing it at the time, a year-long grudge was building, and a beautifully planned angle was slowly unfolding before our very eyes.
However, a good storyline is nothing if it not accompanied by good execution. In this sense, at “A Matter of Pride,” Jordan really stepped up to the plate. His attack on Tyler Bate was as perfectly timed as it was unexpected. In an instant, his entire demeanour became more menacing, and with it more interesting. As the audience voiced their discontent he seemed to feed off their hatred. The promo he then proceeded to cut was superb, a skill he hitherto had little chance to demonstrate. Like any great promo, it really felt like he was airing a genuine grievance and immediately his character had a motivation for his actions and something in which the audience could become invested. In a promotion that has always had a really well defined face – heel divide, this was a huge step forward for Devlin. Unlike companies where they happen on a seemingly weekly basis and have lost all their effectiveness, Face/heel turns are a booking trope to which the company rarelky resosrts; so when it does happen it feels like a noteworthy and special event.
His story took on further layers when Paul Tracey, the most hated man in OTT, interrupted what until then had been a superb, hard hitting main event between Luther Ward and Big Damo. Tracey had been absent from OTT since Scrappermania a number of months previously, when his manager had been banished from the company for ever. This brought Devlin to the ring to confront him. Where at first it appeared that Devlin would win back the affections of the OTT crowd by attacking Tracey, he instead joined him in an assault on Ward and Big Damo, (including badly splitting the latter open with a chair shot). Afterwards, another superb promo from Tracey revealed him and Jordan to now be associates, with them being the first members of a new super heel faction known as “The Social Elite.”
Again the booking here was superb. It is one thing to turn heel, motivated by the desire to climb the pecking order. However to do so while joining forces with the most despised heel in the promotion takes things to another level. Immediately, it elevates Jordan by being associated with someone who has always hovered around the NLW Title scene. Secondly it is seen by OTT regulars as the ultimate betrayal, especially when top babyface Luther Ward is the first man they target. The possibility of the “Social Elite” recruiting further members from the OTT roster opens up the possibility of a long running feud with the Wards, with all kinds of combinations of match ups between the factions possible. Jordan himself, in the space of one show, has gone from being a talented but bland mid carder, to a credible main eventer who could easily be the man to relieve Ward of his title. Even beyond that, his anger at the fact that he has been booked at the expense of flown-in talent opens up the possibility of all kinds of entertaining feuds and match–ups with the likes of Pete Dunne and Ryan Smile. His alignment with the man who trained him in the first place makes perfect sense and is a satisfying piece of symmetry that is sure to please the more well-informed observer.
Finally, Jordan Devlin has the character depth to match his undoubted talent, and in this new faction has a platform to show he is every bit as good as anyone wrestling on the European scene. Expect big things from him in the remainder of 2016 and beyond and he must now be a credible candidate to be the one to topple Luther Ward from his throne as NLW champion. Do not be surprised to see his name pop up in the conversation for such prestigious tournament as the Progress SSS16, WxW’s 16 Carat Gold or even further afield in the U.S. in 2017. This was one of the best booked and executed storylines that OTT has pulled off in their relatively short history and anyone who likes logically booked, entertaining wrestling should go out of their way to see it.
Their shows are available on vimeo at a great value price: they are a young but rapidly growing company that really deserve your support: https://vimeo.com/overthetopwrestling
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