It’s great to be able to fire up the latest edition of one of the best promotions in Europe, Revolution Pro. The last big show I saw from them, Uprising, was right up there in my show of the year for 2015 ranks and was highlighted by a KUSHIDA/O’Reilly rematch for the ages and an insane 3 way main event of RevPro champ AJ Styles retaining against Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay. High Stakes is truly appropriately named; with the noise surrounding Styles’ impending departure to what most likely seems to be WWE, Zack Sabre Jr. needs to dethrone Styles or else the title would most likely be vacated or taken to god knows where. Can ZSJ take the title back home? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Webster came up short against the champion Dunne a few weeks ago, so these two know each other and already have some familiarity in-ring. Dunne has a really throwback Taz-like look, a shorter but real stocky guy who can really throw his opponent around at will and it meshed quite well with Webster’s, well, flashy high flying offense. Webster bumped around pretty well, but one spot really bugged me here, where he springboarded off the ropes only to get bashed by a forearm from Dunne which was an amazing spot, but they followed it seconds later by Webster hitting a DDT. Completely cheapened that awesome spot for me. Enjoyed the rest though as Dunne was good at scouting Webster’s top rope 450 splash, and when Webster did hit one on Dunne’s back, it hurt Webster’s ribs so he couldn’t get the three count. Finally, on a missed 630 from Webster, Dunne grabbed a hold of him in a pumphandle and hit a Flatliner out of it, WOW! One of the more unique finishes I’ve seen out there and I definitely come away from this wanting to see more of Dunne while Webster is a more than capable flying babyface.
Booking matches like this is why I love the boys at Rev Pro. This on paper is perfect design. Damo is a damn monster and Bailey plays a perfect underdog babyface in these situations. You have to believe with Speedball’s karate background and Damo’s ability to smack around people, these two are going to strike the hell out of each other. Damo looking so befuddled at Bailey approaching him in karate stance was hilarious. I did like the match, but it didn’t quite live up to lofty expectations I had for it. They hit each other very hard, Bailey sold well for Damo’s big man offense. Watching Bailey escape and squirm away from Damo with his agility was fun and he avoided the Ulster Plantation finisher from Damo multiple times. Crowd really started buying into Bailey’s stuff and admired his resiliency, kicking out of many of Damo’s big moves including an Ulster Plantation that finally hit after Damo set him up with a Finn Balor-like dropkick to the corner. Yes, Big Damo actually does stuff like that and it still blows my mind. Damo finally put Bailey away with a spike reverse DDT in a good, not great match. There was a lot of feeling out between the two and I think it led to this not being as good as it should/could have been. At least the Rev Pro audience has become familiar with Bailey, and a real cool show of sportsmanship from Damo towards Bailey at the end probably helped his cause with the fans as well.
This is one interesting match to happen in 2016. Doug’s a legend, especially in British wrestling and it’s always good to see him still doing stuff these days. I’m curious to see how much of comedy Colt we get in comparison to serious Colt. Of course it was mostly comedy Colt. It pops the RPW folks though, just doesn’t pop me as I’ve seen it way too many times. Doug tried his hardest to make this at least somewhat decent, and it was kind of. He’s still amazing at his age and probably will be for several more years. Colt tried mat wrestling with him and Doug slowed the pace down and controlled with his expertise. Colt made his goofy comeback of course, and even teased doing a GTS at one point because it’s not like he’s told us all enough at this point he’s CM Punk’s friend but Doug countered it. Doug attempted Chaos Theory a couple of times but just could not hit it, and was felled by Colt using his legs to hook Williams to the mat for 3 in a relatively dull but harmless match mired with Cabana antics.
Post match, as Cabana was throwing himself into the heavyweight title discussions after “finally returning to RevPro” but out came out his alter ego Matt Classic, who ended up being Trask Bryant’s favorite wrestler Lord Gideon Grey, to attack him because Cabana had previously embarrassed him. Thanks for doing the LORD’S work, Gideon.
The stakes are indeed high for this one between two heavyweight title contenders who recently faced off in that 3 way against RPW champ AJ Styles. Not only could this springboard a man into title contention, but whoever wins this will have the first ever RPW action figure made immortalizing them! Very neat and is also an indicator that RPW clearly knows who their two most recognizable stars are. I wish I had some expansive review of this match that could tell you every single intricacy that made this one of the most amazing wrestling matches I’ve ever seen, but I was just so sucked in and captivated that I don’t think that’s possible. Both men are gunning to be that top guy in Rev Pro and you could just sense it throughout this whole back and forth war. They just continually tried topping each other, whether it’s Scurll with his amazing counters and traditional wrestling or Ospreay with his mind blowing and business changing acrobatics. Scurll is the type of villain that can really bring that deep nastiness out of a normally calm Ospreay, and it saw Ospreay get real mean with hard slaps and headbutts to give it right back to Scurll. These two seemingly just knew what the other was doing every step of the way, leading to brilliant counter sequences that would chain together into absolute wrestling art. These two even started doing each other’s moves because nothing would keep the other guy down, Scurll doing the top rope tuck superkick and flipping DDT normally found in Ospreay’s arsenal, and Ospreay doing Scurll”s famed Tornado DDT into the chickenwing submission. Ospreay struggling through Scurll’s chickenwing submissions was so thrilling and had me on the edge of my seat as Ospreay just downright refused to quit. Scurll finally was able to do him in with one final chickenwing, but not before he had to go through every end possible to disable Ospreay, elbowing Ospreay on his knee so many times I thought the match may had to be stopped right then and there. This match truly defines what I love about professional wrestling, when two guys want the top spot so badly that they push each other to new heights in order to grab it. That’s what Ospreay and Scurll did. While Scurll may have gotten the contendership and the action figure, Ospreay came off looking like a star and has an even brighter future to look ahead to.
One of the rising Euro stars out there, Haskins gets a crack at one of the major champions in the world, Jay Lethal. I think making this a title match did no one any favors, as no one watching could believe for a second Lethal was losing his title to Haskins. Plus with the crowd coming down from the previous insane match, the atmosphere just felt quite deflated from the normally raucous York Hall faithful. The beginning was some good back and forth technical work from both men until Lethal started gaining the most control. The crowd was near silent during this period and I was fearful they weren’t going to be able to get them back. They did though, even if in a minor way, in large part due to Haskins and his crafty skills. Haskins was able to unload on Lethal when he caught Lethal’s arm in the middle of a Lethal Injection and put him in a crossface which was a creative spot for sure. Haskins hit many high power moves including Made In Japan (word to Shingo Takagi) and had Lethal absolutely reeling and maybe putting a little faith back in the audience he could possibly pull this off. It was for naught though, when Lethal pulled the ref in the way of a Haskins attack, low blowed Haskins and hit the Lethal Injection in a sudden finish that was bit flat. This ended up being pretty enjoyable though, once again a lot of that due to Haskins who is gaining quite a bit of traction now.
This tag is largely centered around the long term issue between Jimmy Havoc and Josh Bodom of the Revolutionists. Havoc and Bodom absolutely destroyed each other in a no holds barred match on the Uprising show, but Bodom only won due to all the Revolutionists interference. Tag champs Sha Samuels and James Castle will be legally involved this time alongside of Bodom against Havoc, Tyson T-Bone and one mystery man. That mystery man is…BRAM!? Yes THAT Bram. He sure does thrive in these brawl like scenarios, so this should be interesting and somewhat entertaining at least. Unfortunately, these guys brawled everywhere throughout York Hall and it was so hard to keep track of the action. You really have a double edged sword when booking multi-man tornado tags like this that encourage weapon use and arena brawling. This just didn’t really click with me and I didn’t feel that type of emotional investment and tension as there was in the Bodom/Havoc singles match and I would have much preferred they went that route. There was almost too much weapon stuff happening in this for my taste and I quickly stopped caring about the final result and it didn’t even really feel satisfying when Havoc pinned Bodom with the Rainmaker. This wasn’t terrible or anything but it’s not something I’m going to really go back and remember later on this year in a feud that most certainly has been memorable.
Can ZSJ bring the title back home? Or is Styles going to New York with the pride of never losing the British Heavyweight title? Two of the best out there going head to head. Both are incredibly world traveled and are at the top of their game right now, Sabre coming off winning the Battle of Los Angeles for PWG as well. This should mean one heck of a main event folks. I’ll leave the description of the start of this match to a gem of a tweet from GolazoDan:
Zack put AJ's limbs in holds one by one until AJ was like I've had enough of this mate, you're bang out of order.
— Dan (@GolazoDan) January 16, 2016
Ah, the wrestling Twitter sure can be grand sometimes, eh? But in actuality, this was really what happened as AJ began to take control after the initial burst of mat work from Sabre and began work on the leg of ZSJ starting with a Calf Killer. Even when Zack got back into the holds on AJ, he sold his knee when having to use it for pressure. This turned quickly into a much more back and forth affair, both men appearing as equals to each other as both had great counters and transitions to each other’s submission holds. Zack had many neat counters and rollouts of the Calf Killer that saved him some costly pain to his leg. ZSJ smartly worked the arm of AJ to set him up for an armbar, but Styles pulled what he did against Nakamura and turned the armbar into a Styles Clash, which Sabre kicked out of at the last minute. Love that counter. AJ hit Bloody Sunday and went for the Clash once again, but Sabre was way too smart and hooked that arm of Styles, and locked in an absolutely bonkers double armbar WHILE grabbing a hold of Styles’ leg. AJ was getting stretched into a damn pretzel and there was nothing he could do but tap out and relinquish the title to Sabre. This match felt relatively short compared to what I thought it would be, but it was a darn fine match nonetheless. Great to see another huge Sabre moment happen, back in his homeland nonetheless. AJ did a good job elevating Sabre in the process as well, especially with Sabre kicking out of a Styles Clash. A good indie sendoff for AJ Styles.
AJ put over Sabre huge after the match telling him he earned the title. Styles said he wasn’t sure what the future holds for him (Yeah, sure). The fans chanted Royal Rumble very loudly, and he exclaimed that he would certainly take a slot in the Rumble if there was one and he’d kick ass for all those fans who have been great to him in the UK every time he’s come there. Sabre said he can’t wait to defend the belt in the future or something of that sort to end the show.
This may not have been Uprising level good, but High Stakes was a damn fine show nonetheless. My match of the year so far, Ospreay/Scurll is on this show and is a battle for the ages and a must see. Sabre finally getting his moment in Rev Pro while Styles did the favor in a good indie farewell effort was also good stuff. Then the undercard rarely disappointed with all solid matches from Dunne/Webster, Damo/Bailey and Haskins/Lethal. The only two things I really wasn’t feeling on this show were the Cabana/Doug Williams and Revolutionists/Lost Souls matches and I kind of expected that anyway. This is another must buy show from Revolution Pro though; these guys never fail to deliver multiple great matches on a show and it’s really no different here. Thanks for reading and can’t wait for the next RevPro outing.