1) AJ Styles said goodbye but had the show stolen from under him.
Making good use of his freelance status, AJ Styles has been a frequent visitor to the UK in recent times, and was enough of a (big show) regular for Revolution Pro-Wrestling that it didn’t seem weird when he won their Undisputed British Heavyweight championship last summer. With his impending signing for WWE, this weekend’s High Stakes had something of an air of a farewell, and what better way to do it than pass the torch to Zack Sabre Jr, who became the new champion in a great main event.
While many of the tickets were sold on that main event, the show was stolen, however, by Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll, who closed the first half of the show with an almost thirty-minute classic, underlining their growing statuses and continuing the theme of 2015 – that British wrestlers are outshining the imports. Mike “Speedball” Bailey made his UK debut on the show, going down to Big Damo after dominating much of the match, and Pete Dunne retained the Undisputed British Cruiserweight title he won two weeks ago, again against “Flash” Morgan Webster. RevPro announced a return to York Hall in the summer, and another shot in Reading in April. The year is only two weeks old and RevPro have already set the standard!
2) It Was Acceptable In The 80s.
ATTACK! Pro-Wrestling had a pretty good 2015, which included teaming with Chikara-Pro on the latter’s UK tour, and sending a team over to the King of Trios tournament as well as promoting a series of super-fun, sold-out shows. They started 2016 in the same fashion with It Was Acceptable In The 80s at the Catheys Centre in Cardiff where the gimmick of furthering their storylines and dressing up for the night’s theme continued. Not everyone dressed up, although noted killjoys the Anti-Fun Police did team with a homemade RoboCop, but Mark Andrews (Marty McFly), Martin Kirby (Skeletor), Eddie Dennis (Terminator), Robbie X (a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) and others all made the effort.
The main event saw Dennis successfully defend his ATTACK! 24/7 title against Wild Boar before Pete Dunne took advantage of the title’s constant availability by challenging and beating Dennis afterwards. The undercard featured Andrews downing Travis Banks, Mike Bird winning a four-way over Kirby, X, and “Flash” Morgan” Webster, and appearances from Nixon Newell, Chris Brookes, Sebastian Radclaw, and Love Making Demon. ATTACK! is not for everyone – as one fella in the crowd loudly made known – but it is the most fun you can have on a Sunday night in Wales, a fact probably enshrined in law.
3) Grado proved he’s more than a comedy turn (again).
On a recent TNA PPV, Grado was challenged by The Pope to prove he’s more than just a comedy wrestler, and did so by engaging Abyss in a Monster’s Ball match, whatever one of those is. For those of us on these shores, however, he has NOTHING to prove. That was evident again this week when he responded to a promo cut by Chris Renshaw at Insane Championship Wrestling’s Friday Night Fight Club tapings last week with a stunning direct-to-camera promo of his own.
Renshaw, quoting the cover of Fighting Spirit Monthly (which listed Grado as a “TNA star” and claimed he “led ICW to record breaking heights”), claimed ICW wasn’t about one man, it was about everyone there, and that they deserved the plaudits coming Grado’s way. Grado, although he could have rightly pointed out that he did have a huge part in selling out the SECC for Fear & Loathing, went on the attack, pointing out that, yes, he did work around the world and not just in ICW, but he did that for ICW. Renshaw laid the foundations but Grado knocked it out of the park. The exchange can be seen on ICW’s YouTube page.
4) Promoting wrestling shows isn’t easy.
With British wrestling very much entering a boom period, there are going to be those who seek to take advantage of that for their own ends. As an independent games developer, the people behind 5* Wrestling decided to promote a three-date tour to publicise their upcoming game, and secured the rights of Rey Mysterio Jr to not only be in the game (their previous games featured thinly-veiled parody characters) but also to lead the tour. They also booked AJ Styles, ROH champion Jay Lethal, former WWE stars John Morrison and Carlito, and a host of the top British stars.
Unfortunately, they either overestimated the drawing power of such an ensemble or underpromoted the shows, and were rewarded with sub-1000 crowds in halls set up for four times that. While that would be a very good turnout for most British promotions, they can only have lost a ton of money which you’d hope they’ll at least make back on the game when it is released. The shows themselves ran late and were strangely booked, but at least showcased some of our top guys to audiences who may have been unfamiliar with them.
5) There were some pretty fun shows.
IPW:UK and WrestleForce teamed up to stage Harlow Invasion in, erm, Harlow, headlined by a TLC match between IPW tag team champions DnD and the London Riots which turned into a wild brawl, including an imploding ladder, an unbreakable table, and Riot Rob Lynch smacking a drink out of the hand of an unruly punter. The rest of the show included an All-England title defense from Sammy Smooth (beating an understandably masked Exodus), a Women’s championship match (of sorts) between champion Tennessee Honey and challenger Nightshade, the Swords of Essex, and the UK debut of Donovan Dijak, who beat Big Damo. Launching a new era for Shropshire wrestling, VII-Pro presented the first of the Underground shows in Shrewsbury on Friday, headlined by “Flash” Morgan Webster versus Nixon Newell (who wrestles men more than she does women, and rightly so), which turned into a tag match when Webster challenged her to find a partner because he’d brought Australian doughnut-lover (not a euphemism!) Toni Storm with him. Newell was joined by Mark Andrews, and it was ON. Also on the show were the Dunne brothers, Tyler Bate, Wild Boar, and Mike Bird, and they return in February with Chuck Taylor.
Down in London, in the very weird world of the RetroFutureVerse, Freddie Mercurio became a two-time Lucha Britannia champion, downing Cassius in the main event of a show which also featured Marduk Malik continuing his unbeaten streak against Pure Britannico, Diablesa Rosa turning away the challenge of Zombie Janey, and unfrozen Viking Nordico Fuego becoming King Of Lucha Chaos. They’re back on January 29th at the Resistance Gallery once more. Finally for a weekend short on quantity (if not quality), Futureshock opened their doors for the first time in 2016 for Uproar 86, a stacked show which saw The Models reunite to take down The Fallen. Joey Hayes & Danny Hope haven’t teamed for some time so the fans in attendance were quite surprised. Another surprise was the return of Cyanide, who stormed the ring to help Damon Leigh beat down Sonar Dursen after the latter had won their match. Also on the card were Zack Gibson, T-Bone, Mikey Whiplash, Ashton Smith, and Xander Cooper, and 2016 looks like being another solid year for Futureshock.
(Thanks to Garry Vanderhorne for his help with this week’s column).