Lionel Richie’s All Night Long runs four minutes 19 seconds. Rich Swann’s entrance, based around the song, felt significantly longer. By the end of the match the crowd had cheered itself out, much to the detriment of what followed. It’s a shame this didn’t go on after the interval.
The match was good. Think a PPV/Network Special opener, or post Cena-promo Uso tag match on RAW. Lots of reversals, combos and dives to the outside, all pulled off with exceptional timing and little to no regard for psychology. Aries is as crisp in person as he is on TV. 2 Unlimited bad-guyed it up despite their adorable denim waist coats and propensity to move their mouths as if to taunt the crowd, but not actually say anything. Maybe they have very silly voices (They’re Irish so they probably do). Aries took the mic after the match to tell the crowd to keep the energy up. He obviously knew what was happening before we did.
|Britain's premiere hoss. That'd be a good moniker for him, actually.|
The next match featured Dave Mastiff against Karl Anderson. You’d think Anderson, being used to wrestling to the sound of a dripping tap in the Tokyo Dome men’s room (and only getting a pop for re-entering the ring) would have adapted better to the lack of atmosphere, but it seemed to put him off. Mastiff lives his gimmick and generally held up his end of the match. On reflection this match was pretty decent. A good ol’ meat bash (Oh!) with some big spots and a decent finishing sequence, but it felt a little flat whilst it was going on. We have Swann and Richie to thank for that.
To take us into the break we saw the best wrestler in the world face Adrian Neville’s old tag partner. To be fair Joel Redman is a much better singles wrestler than viewers of NXT would believe, but he was the wrong opponent, in the wrong slot. A big part of these RPW shows is being part of the reaction these big ticket foreign stars receive. Seeing Hiroshi Tanahashi burst through the curtain twelve months ago (in the main event) was surreal, and the reaction appropriately massive. Okada got some weak chants and a single streamer. The crowd wasn’t ready for him.
The match itself was decent, despite a complete lack of chemistry between the two men. Redman seemed a little unsure of his role and Okada’s deadpan arrogance didn’t work with the smaller crowd in the same way as Tanahashi’s stiff arm air-guitar or Nakamura’s nuanced epileptic routine. I can’t stress enough how insane it was that this went on pre-interval. Okada, at 26 years old, is the biggest star in the world’s number two promotion, and will most likely be on top for at least another decade. Anyway, enough of that. Okada won.
The show resumed with the Revolutionists facing Too Cool. I should preface this by saying that I spent a long time where my only access to WWE was VHS tapes and Sunday Night Heat, which at the time seemed to consist of lovingly framed shots of Trish Stratus; Mick Foley going to theme parks; and Too Cool main events. This probably goes some way in explaining why I enjoyed this so much (Amazingly other people enjoyed their tedious routine too. I think I was the only one who didn’t see the appeal in a former light heavyweight champ, a grossly overweight Samoan, and Jerry Lawler’s estranged son). I wanted to be angry for Okada, but seeing these three men go through their old routine moved me in a way I wasn’t prepared for. This was so, so, so stupid and I loved it.
That said, Sha Samuels is great and deserves better than this. (I couldn’t agree with this more)
The championship match was set up with a video package. I didn’t hear a word but most of it still came across. Stone was angry because he is less well thought of than Mojo Rawley. Scurll is crazy now because he has a beard and an umbrella and that’s why he is the best Martin. These two had by far the best match of the evening, with plenty of outside brawling, near falls, heelish shenanigans and Scurll’s Vince McMahon impersonation. Scurll seems a little restless with his gimmick and it’s easy to see why. He is so far ahead of those round him in terms of presentation, pacing, crowd interaction and work rate that he probably changes things up so frequently to keep himself entertained. I can’t get into Stone. As a wrestler he’s fine, but his ring gear, promo delivery and lack of personality give him the feel of a fill-in main eventer.
|Michael isn't one for national pride.|
The post-match angle involving the (wonderfully panto) Knight family was a fun bit of wrestling nonsense. It went on far too long, but so did everything on the show. Dave has said all that needs to be said about the pacing, so instead I’ll complain about the constant references to the UK made on the show. This was the first RPW offering in a while to not feature anyone in Union Jack trunks (the UK wrestler equivalent of black wrestlers wearing animal print), but we still had it incorporated into the set (see right for one of Michael’s least favourite aspects of the show), and the Knight family patriarch (who based on the relative appearances of his sons and daughter (Paige), is a dismal producer of XX chromosomes) referring to the invaders as The UK Hooligans.
No-one in the building was confused about where we were, neither will anyone be when watching a DVD. The ostensible main event featured a man called Martin fighting another man called Martin. Wrestlers used scarfs and umbrellas as foreign objects. Not one reference was made to college football. All the UK references make the production look as indy as anything.
Ospreay vs Sydal went on last. There were flips. I question the decision to put an amiable face v face crusierweight match on after a number a genuine star attractions and a hard fought, angle heavy, championship match. But hey I also like my brief intervals to last less than 40 minutes (He wasn’t interested in a picture with Austin Aries and former TNA megastar Rosita).
A strange show, bafflingly less than the sum of its parts. Too Cool were oddly perfect, but with so many indy free agents now snapped up by NXT and the NJPW roster tapped, I wonder whether RPW can channel some of it’s momentum into building the size and profile of its home grown roster. Scurll versus Gangrel at Summer Sizzler?