Sunday, 19 October 2014

RPW Uprising 2014 review

In October 2013 Revolution Pro Wrestling revived the Uprising name previously associated with the FWA for what was billed as their biggest show ever. In addition to using some of the best British wrestlers available they brought in foreign stars Michael Elgin, Prince Devitt, Ricochet, Davey Richards and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Colt Cabana was also there. It was an approach designed to do two things: demonstrate that the promotion was a big deal and attract fresh eyes. It certainly achieved the latter. Whether it achieved the former depends on your perspective, but I think they did a solid job and put on an excellent show.

This year RPW returned to York Hall for their second Uprising card, once again bringing in foreign stars. This time they took the form of Matt Sydal, Austin Aries, Karl Anderson, the triumvirate that is Too Cool, and Kazuchika Okada. There were actually a greater number of imports on this card than there had been the previous year, but somehow the event didn’t seem as significant leading into it.

Part of the problem here was that RPW had booked a second show the night after (it was originally titled Okada vs Ricochet although I suspect it will end up changed to Okada vs Aries). It’s possible that the company stretched itself a little thin by splitting some of the fly-ins over two cards. Concentrating everyone on this show would have added one or two matches and made better use of the time the show got.

The line-up for Uprising 2013 was incredibly strong. There was almost no way it could be topped. It was Tanahashi, the man who had carried New Japan through a rough patch and come out the other side as their unquestioned top star, wrestling in front of a thousand people in East London. That was very obviously a big deal. Using Nakamura and Okada since has almost made it an expected thing that New Japan talent will appear on the larger RPW cards. Tanahashi benefited from being the first (Liger had appeared a few months before him, at York Hall, but the show did not receive anywhere near the hype Tana’s did), and from being presented as the star attraction.

It also seemed hard to get into the rest of the import line-up to the same degree this year. Elgin and Richards were bona fide ROH main eventers (and personally I was delighted at the opportunity to heckle Richards). Devitt was a New Japan upper mid-carder who everyone was beginning to expect would move to WWE (which he did) or move up to New Japan main events. Ricochet could accurately be described as one of the most exciting wrestlers in the world (and it’s worth noting he went on to become the first non-Japanese grappler to win the Open the Dream Gate championship in March of this year).

By contrast Sydal was benched by WWE for years, Aries is booked pretty poorly by a flailing TNA, Anderson is a tag guy in New Japan, and Too Cool are Too Cool (but not too cool). Only Okada had flawless, unbridled star power. And none of the matches looked as though they’d be able to hold a candle to the 2013 match of the night Ricochet v Prince Devitt.

I know how unfair these complaints sound but it’s what was going through my mind going into the show, even though everyone had something to offer. For all of the poor booking they’ve been subjected to Aries and Sydal are very talented wrestlers. And ‘A Double’ wasn’t initially booked for the show, he was a last minute replacement for Ricochet following a scheduling conflict with Lucha Underground. Anderson is enjoyable enough if taken on his own terms. Okada is world class. Even Too Cool can be enjoyed as a nostalgia act. There was the British roster too, of course. But still there was a nagging sense that Uprising ’14 was not going to live up to its 2013 counterpart.

Sadly, these fears were merited. Uprising 2014 had some significant flaws.

One of the biggest problems was something that occurred before the first match started. It was Rich Swann’s entrance. He danced his way out to Lionel Richie’s All Night Long, a long-time staple of his act. It was very entertaining and the crowd got into it. But it went on. And on. And then it went on some more. It lasted so long, in fact, that the audience was burnt out from it. By the time match two rolled around reactions had died down considerably.

The second problem was the evening’s running order. This biggest misstep in that regard was Okada going on before the intermission. The audience clearly didn’t expect to see him that early in the night. He got a good response, but it was nowhere near what I’d expected. This wasn’t a result of the audience not knowing who he was: Tanahashi and Nakamura had got much louder responses in the same building for their RPW work. Everyone knew who he was, cared about him, and wanted to see him perform. They’d just expected him later.

The second half kicking off with Too Cool wasn’t the worst decision in and of itself, but their shtick would have been a better fit for the slot Okada was placed in, dancing people into intermission. And the final two matches should have been swapped around. The fifth match saw Martin Stone unsuccessfully challenge Marty Scurll for the British heavyweight championship. The sixth saw Matt Sydal defeat Will Ospreay. Each was followed by its own angle. They could have been combined and used to close the show, which would have trimmed the running time. Which was the other major problem the card had: it was far too long. Entrances were lengthy, there was a lot of stalling from pretty much everyone, the post-Stone-Scurll match angle featured a promo that was far too long, and matches were given too much time. Things could have been tightened up considerably without losing anything of value.

This man has a lot to answer for.
There were good points, and before I get to them I’ll run through the card itself. The opener saw Rich Swann and Austin Aries defeat 2 Unlimited in an exciting tussle. Swann, as already noted, milked the crowd, but he was able to do so because he was so over. I’ve knocked him for his lack of psychology in the past (and his willingness to eat up heat when he’s on first proves my point nicely, I think) but he’s fun to watch. Aries was, obviously, very popular too. Which meant the Irish lads were left to play heel, which they did a cracking job with.

The match featured flying spots, dancing, and some solid double team work from the brothers. Swann was worked over for a while before tagging out to ‘The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived’, who came steaming in to clean house. The faces picked up their win after Swann wiped out one of 2 Unlimited (I apologise for still being unable to tell them apart) with a dive to the floor and Aries dropped the other with a brainbuster. All four shook after the match and Aries cut a promo thanking the fans and telling them to keep the energy up (which I now suspect meant he knew Swann’s grandstanding would have a negative effect long term).

Match two pitted IWGP heavyweight tag team champion Karl Anderson against ‘Big Bad’ Dave Mastiff. I adore Mastiff for his Henry VIII look and kids’ TV facial expressions. The crowd favoured him too, although there were still a lot of people inexplicably into Anderson. Their timing was a little off throughout the match but they still pulled off some good power spots, including a ‘Double A’ spinebuster from Anderson, a deadlift German suplex from Mastiff, a German suplex into the turnbuckle on Anderson, the Swivel Gun Stun, and a cannonball reversed into a traditional Gun Stun. The last earned Anderson the win.

After the announcement that AJ Styles had been booked for the February 15 return date (which ring announcer and promoter Andy Quildan plugged incessantly, one of the many timing cuts that could have been made) it was time for the Okada match. As already noted the crowd were not expecting to see him that early on, which meant he received a slightly subdued response and no streamer treatment. The bout also suffered because Okada’s opponent, former NXT Superstar™ Joel Redman, didn’t seem to want to play heel. His build and the fact that he was facing a man who nobody in the building was going to boo meant that he should have switched to the antagonist role for the match.

Okada? He doesn't deserve to go on after an intermission?
The crowd didn’t get into the action until its second half. I suspect this was a combination of the surprise at seeing Okada so early, Swann burning people out, and nobody believing any of the early pin attempts. Things did eventually warm up when Okada went for a Tombstone piledriver and Redman reversed it, resulting in the best false finish of the night. From there we got a suplex from the apron into the ring, a lovely Okada drop kick, and, after a failed attempt earlier the night, a match-winning Rainmaker.

The intermission was another contributing factor to the unnecessarily long running time. It was closer to half an hour than the usual ten or fifteen minutes. The explanation for this was that Austin Aries and Rosita were at the merch stands signing pictures. Because there was money to be made from these pictures the break was extended to fit in as many signings as possible, a classic Quildan move.

The second half kicked off with the Revolutionists striding to the ring. They did their usual crowd-bullying stuff, Terry Frazier wading into the audience to shout at a particularly boisterous group of lads that I assume are regulars at RPW shows. To be fair the trio had a serious amount of heat on them. Too Cool also spent a long time milking their entrance, although as a nostalgia act that seemed to make more sense.

The match was not good but avoided being actively bad. Rikishi struggled to climb on to the ring apron so actual wrestling was obviously going to be tough for him. Meanwhile all Brian Christopher contributed was bad dancing and looking astonishingly like his dad. It was left to Scotty to do the bulk of the work for his team. He got worked over to set up a hot tag to Rikishi, who came in, pulled his trunks down, and gave Sha Samuels a bare Stinkface in the corner. It was not pleasant to watch. I can only imagine what it was like to take. The move got a loud reaction but I think Terry Frazier would have been the right man to take the “move”. He’s by far the most irritating member of the group.

Surprisingly it was Too Cool that won. As the promotion’s top heel stable I’d expected The Revolutionists to win after cheating and then get chased off by the faces. But no, they went down clean to the guys who have wrestled on TV. After the match Brian Christopher told us Rikishi had pulled his calf muscle (perhaps he has a doctorate nobody knows about) and said that celebratory dance may not happen. Rikishi took the mic and said it would happen… and then it did. There’s very little to say about it. An underrated wrestler, Jerry Lawler’s overly tanned 42-year-old son, and the out of shape father of the Usos boogied to WWE music they didn’t have a license to play. That’s it. Everyone else seemed to love it though, so clearly I was missing something.

The British heavyweight title match was preceded by promos played on the video screen. Marty’s was hard to make out but it seemed to be about Martin Stone moving to America and having to come back after he was released by WWE. Stone’s promo was about not getting the opportunities he felt he deserved and the demoralising atmosphere in which he worked while with WWE. He dropped some F-bombs that were bleeped out, but he managed to slip in a C-bomb that went unedited. Good work by Quildan there.

The crowd had heated up by this point and were evenly split between champion and challenger. Before the match Stone spoke to Norwich-based wrestler (and father of WWE’s Paige) Ricky Knight, who had been sat in the front row all evening. Scurll entered carrying an umbrella. This went unexplained. It was probably linked to the new character traits he was exhibiting: he had mostly dropped his bantering with the audience in favour of pulling peculiar facial expressions and generally trying to make out that he was unhinged (which basically meant he’d occasionally tilt his head to a funny angle). I always enjoyed Scurll’s Butlins circuit comedy but this was a welcome change of pace from him. He was also back to being introduced as the star of ITV’s Take Me Out and TNA’s British Boot Camp. The more time passes since his sole appearance on Take Me Out the funnier the gimmick gets.

Marty 'Penguin' Scurll there.
The match was styled on WWE main events. There was a lengthy brawl around the building, including a fireman’s carry on the entrance ramp by Scurll and a variety of guardrail bumps. Back in the ring Stone acted more and more like a Steve Austin knock-off, prompting me to ask Michael (yeah, Michael was with me) if he thought Stone was deliberately trying to evoke ‘The Rattlesnake’. He said “A little bit.” Then Stone did a Thesz Press.

Stone gave Scurll a running RKO, prompting cries of “Out of nowhere!”, taking chant of the night honours. Scurll skinned the cat but got caught with a concrete slam before he could right himself. Stone followed up with a power bomb and then went to the top rope for a superplex. ‘Party’ Marty ended up countering that and muscled Stone up for a crucifix bomb. It was a bit wobbly but he managed the move well enough.

Scurll hauled Stone back to his feet and set up for a Pedigree, screaming “You’re fired!” in a Vince McMahon voice before hitting it. Stone kicked out of that at one (probably designed as a metaphorical middle finger to WWE in general) and smashed the champ with a wild lariat and a top rope draping DDT. He locked in a Crippler crossface (it’s been seven years, jog on with your complaints) and Scurll tapped. The referee didn’t see it as Terry Frazier and Sha Samuels had rocked up at ringside to provide a distraction.

Moments later there was a contrived ref bump. Samuels got into the ring to crack Stone over the head with a steel chair. Scurll made the cover, the ref came to enough to make a slow count, and Stone just got his shoulder up before three, getting a great reaction. Stone tried to fight back but Scurll applied the crossface chickenwing, trapping ‘The Guvnor’ in the centre of the ring. There was no tap out. Instead the referee ruled the match in Scurll’s favour when he realised Stone could take no more.

It was a good finishing sequence. Stone looked strong in defeat and Scurll’s submission finisher got over as a powerful match-ender. I was initially against the use of the chair but because it was only used once it ended up being an effective addition to the match. Considering the finish, the heat, the storyline (which we’ll get to momentarily) and the fact that it was for the promotion’s top title Scurll versus Stone should have gone on last.

After the match Stone took a microphone to cut a textbook babyface promo. He said he’d tried his best and then moved on to the topic of his sojourn to NXT. Apparently he was told he was awful every day, although I find it hard to believe all WWE trainers would be that blunt. He put over Andy Quildan, saying the RPW boss picked up his phone the day Stone was released and offered him his old spot in RPW on the roster.

Then the angle went down. Ricky Knight left his seat and got into the ring. He called Stone a failure and said his boys Roy and Zak would have succeeded in NXT. He also referred to Joel Redman as Noel Edmonds, claimed Quildan wouldn’t pick up the phone for the Knight family, and announced that he’d never heard of Kazuchika Okada (which could very well be true). The holding down of the Knight family that he mentioned has been an aspect of his character for at least twelve years. I remember him calling into the Talksport radio show to claim that host and wrestling promoter Alex Shane was holding down The Zebra Kid (Roy) by not booking him. He’s nothing if not consistent.

Stop holding these lads down, Quildan.
Stone eventually had enough of this and grabbed hold of Ricky. Zak and Zebra left their seats and barged passed security, getting into the ring to attack Stone. Redman came out for the save but he was taken out too. There was an extended beatdown of Stone and Redman, who are the tag champions, and then Zebra and Zak took a turn on the microphone. Zebra responded to a “Who are ya?” chant with the classic playground heel response of “Ask your mum” while Zak said the Knights weren’t worried about bad write-ups from internet fans (they won’t be getting one here).

The Knights then walked out of the building’s (referred to as an arena during Knight’s promo) front door with the tag belts. Amusingly Zak went to walk backstage before remembering he was part of a worked shoot invasion angle. Redman and Stone recovered and gave chase, amusingly asking fans which way the heels went.

I liked the angle a lot. All the wrestlers played their parts well and it was about as believable as it was going to get. The only let-down was Quildan, who should have seemed more flustered as the promoter. He simply said he wouldn’t dignify the invasion with a response and went into announcing the main event like an idiot. That aside it was a sensible, interesting way to introduce a tag team and get a new feud underway. Presumably the angle will carry over to Okada vs Aries and we’ll get a match at the February 15 York Hall show.

Sydal vs Ospreay.
The main event couldn’t compete with the angle or the previous match in my mind. It was a babyface versus babyface cruiserweight encounter, ideal opening match material and out of place headlining a card that had featured a main event style match and Kazuchika Okada. It was a good match, it was just in the wrong spot.

Sydal won with the Shooting Star Press. After the match The Revolutionists returned to attack the faces. Scurll ended up alone in the ring and was confronted by his old British Boot Camp rival Rockstar Spud (hence the reference to that show during Scurll’s intro). Marty was sent packing and another fresh feud was established. Spud said a few words to send everyone home happy.

The planning for the future exhibited with Spud’s return and the introduction of the Knight lads was nice to see. It was one of the show’s greatest strengths, providing plenty of reason to give RPW’s next major show a try. And taken at face value all the matches delivered exactly what was expected. Even the Too Cool match avoided being actively bad. I imagine it would make a solid DVD.

But those positives were outweighed by the mistakes that were made. I can’t understand why Okada, easily the biggest draw on the card, went on third. Having him in the semi-main event spot would have made more sense, allowing the Brits-only title match to go on last. That could have been followed by the angle with the Knights and then a Revolutionists beatdown of Stone and Redman with Spud making the save. It felt as though there was no faith in Okada’s rep with British fans and that everything was built too heavily around the angles. And, for the record, only the match that didn’t involve a foreign talent featured a Brit winning. I’m all for fly-ins getting wins, but for them all to go over on what is apparently RPW’s biggest show of the year doesn’t seem quite right.

But hey, at least Terry Frazier didn’t spit at anyone. That’s something, right?

Results summary:
Austin Aries and Rich Swann defeated 2 Unlimited
Karl Anderson defeated Dave Mastiff
Kazuchika Okada defeated Joel Redman
Too Cool defeated Sha Samuels, Terry Frazier and Josh Bodom
Marty Scurll defeated Martin Stone to retain the British heavyweight championship
Matt Sydal defeated Will Ospreay


  1. Yeah, agree with a lot of this, particularly all the fly-ins winning.

    Uprising 2013 was my first live wrestling and, as you say, the Devitt/Ricochet match was amazing, even from the cheap seats at the back.

    I was rather assuming Redman/Stone would be chasing the Knight lads back to a WAW show before the RPW feb show? Would be nice if there was a more unified belt scene in the UK, in my opinion.

    1. Devitt-Ricochet was a cracker. They had nothing to top it this year.

      Doing something on a WAW show does make far more sense than waiting until February to do a follow up. Maybe the Knights will officially win the belts there.