Saturday 8 March 2014

DG USA REVOLT! 2014 review

One night after ROH celebrated their twelfth anniversary and one night before WWE presented Elimination Chamber Dragon Gate USA hit the airwaves with REVOLT! 2014. Unlike the other two companies there were significant problems with the announced line-up for Dragon Gate’s show, and the one it would present the night after. CIMA and Ryo Saito had previously been announced for matches on both events but were pulled from the weekend because of injuries. Dragon Gate Japan (rightfully, I think) decided that enduring long plane flights before wrestling in lengthy matches was not the best thing for either man’s health.

As right as the decision was it left booker Gabe Sapolsky in the awkward situation of promoting Dragon Gate USA shows with no actual Dragon Gate talent on them. His response was to make some tweaks to the announced cards, the most significant of which saw CIMA replaced by Trent Barreta in the REVOLT! headline bout. Having to present DG USA shows with no Japanese talent was avoided by Dragon Gate flying over Yosuke Sante Maria. No, he’s not the biggest name they’ve got but he is and authentic Dragon Gate roster member. At short notice I think it was a suitable move.

The venue chosen to host REVOLT! was the Elk’s Lodge. It’s not the ideal venue for a televised wrestling show because it’s difficult to disguise how small time it looks. And because white walls and strong lighting that can’t be dimmed do wrestling no favours. The picture quality was above average though.

Tim Donst v Chris Dickinson faced off in the opener. It was part of the New Talent Initiative, something we’d hear about several times across the weekend. The idea behind it was to introduce some fresh faces to the DG USA roster in a way that didn’t seem incongruous.

At just over fifteen minutes they were out there for too long. The match was good but as neither were regulars and aren't big name outsiders they should have had a shorter match. Less is more and all that. There just wasn’t enough for the audience to react to. Hat the two did was proficient but nothing more. Donst won with a neck breaker.

Manager extraordinaire Larry Dallas hit the ring after that. He told them they were better than opening matches and that if they joined him he'd take them to main events as The New Scene. Donst and Dickinson said no, then left. In kayfabe terms I thought that was a poor business decision by the two of them. They don't even have contracts, so Dallas’s offer was a pretty good one. Lazza looked dejected as he meandered backstage.

Su Yung was accompanied by Mr A and Anthony Nese when she came out for her non-title match with Ivelisse. You may remember her from her impressive performance on TNA’s Gut Check a year or so ago. Instead of signing her they went with Lei’D Tapa. She was good but she wasn’t a patch on Ivelisse. It’s all worked out well for Ivelisse: she’s now the Shine champion… and doing a gangster gimmick.

As showcases go, it was good. They wrestled well and there was an impressive spot which saw Yung cannonball off the apron onto Ivalisse propped up on a chair. It gave a good taste of what Shine is like to watch. Hopefully it will have encouraged some people to buy a Shine show. That was part of the point of promoting it on a more prominent card, and it's a company that deserves to be watched more (I say that having never written about it).

The finish saw Ivelisse survive a(n Orton style) rope hung DDT and then roll up Yung as she charged her in the corner. Nese and Mr A shouted at the referee after the finish. Then Nese gave Yung a mouthful too.

Match three saw Caleb Konley (who has some of the weirdest hair in wrestling) take on Dragon Gate Japan's Yosuke Sante Maria. If you're unfamiliar with YSM his gimmick is basically a cross between a Adrian Street, a transvestite, and Hard Gay Razor Ramon. He's a low card comedy wrestler in Japan and was used as such here. The match was basically an excuse for Yosuke to place himself in various questionable positions. He ended up submitting to a Konley hold. The predictable gags about submissive positions were present and correct.

After that Chuck Taylor and Orange Cassidy of The Gentlemen's Club challenged the Bravado brothers for the Open the United Gate championship. Before the match Harlem reminded everyone that his grandmother had had The Young Bucks suspended and announced that the tag titles would no longer be defended under Dragon Gate rules. People now have to hold the tag rope and there is no longer any leeway for fighting outside the ring.

The match gave us more comedy for the first several minutes but took on a serious tone after Harlem demanded Orange Cassidy take the match seriously. Not only that but the pace picked up. The end of the match was sudden. Moose ran in and speared Taylor then gave Cassidy a GTS. The challengers won by disqualification but the champions kept the belts. Lancelot said that Grandma Bravado had hired Moose as a bodyguard for the Bravados before the heel unit mugged and posed their way backstage. Meanwhile Drew Gulak turned up to help Cassidy backstage.

The first half ended with Rich Swann taking on 'Premier Athlete' Anthony Nese. They played up Nese's power against Swann's speed, throwing in some singing too. That came from both Swann (to Su Yung) and the crowd (All Night Long by Lionel Richie). Easily the most impressive, though unintentionally so, moment was Swann getting back body dropped onto the ring apron and landing directly on his head. Amazingly he was okay. Nese was reckless there.

They also threw in a dragon camel clutch from Swann (which looks like it'll become a regular thing), a tombstone from Nese, and a one arm buckle bomb and a dead lift German suplex to Swann. They ended with Nese getting hurricanranaed from the top rope and Swann pinning him with a moonsault into a 450 splash. The finish was pretty sudden. In hindsight the moves that led up to it seemed designed to ratchet up the tension and draw the crowd in but it didn’t work. This is something I’ve noticed in Swann matches before. He’s very good at performing the mvoes but, like many men who work his style, is less skilled at making it clear his match is reaching its conclusion.

On the subject of Swann seeing him face someone who has the physique of Nese really illustrated how thin he is. I appreciate that he's all about being fast and using flying moves but he could still do everything he's known for with ten pounds more muscle on his arms and shoulders. It would help him to look more like a wrestler and less like a stunt performer. This is a problem with guys like Fire Ant too, but it’s less obvious with them as they have the masks to help disguise their flaws.

After the match Nese announced he was going to put Mr A on a special training programme to become a killer in the ring. He threw in some cheap heat comments about the crowd being overweight too. It was standard heel stuff.

The first match after intermission was supposed to see Fire Ant take on Shane Strickland. The schedule was changed when Nese and Mr A returned to ringside. 'The Premier Athlete' said that A’s training would begin with entering the match and eliminating both Ant and Strickland.

The original opponents worked as a team to take the big man out of proceedings (so he could save his energy) then wrestled one another. Surprisingly Fire Ant was the first man eliminated from the match, falling to a roll up from Strickland. Mr A then pounced 'The King of Swerve' and gave him a crisp spinebuster. Had he won then and there I think the fans would have accepted it and he'd have been on his way to being a dangerous monster. They instead went on to have a competitive exchange which saw Mr A selling far too much. He absorbed a leaping DDT, a sunset flip bomb, and a top role double stomp to the face. Having him take so much from a smaller man didn't do much for him: he should be able to take this sort of punishment from a man smaller than him. That he only managed to hit his match-winning top rope splash after a distraction by Nese didn’t help either.

I like the idea of Mr A being used as a regular wrestler: he's a lot larger than the majority of the roster and that, along with the fact that he wrestles in a shirt and tie, helps to set him apart from everyone else. I also thought he wrestled well. I hadn’t expected him to. I still would have liked to see the original singles match. From the brief exchanges we got they would have had the best match of the evening until that point without Mr A's involvement.

The Style Battle winners match between AR Fox and Drew Gulak (originally set to include Ryo Saito) saw the show finally hit its stride. The only bad thing was that 'The Whole Foxin' Show's' "impromptu" decision to make it a title match gave the result away: there was no way Fox versus Hero the next evening wasn’t going to happen for the title. The spot of the match saw Gulak block a Lo Mein Pain and hit the champion with a Death Valley Driver onto the apron. Unsurprisingly Fox kicked out. He's very much of the RVD school of wrestling psychology: the bigger the dive he takes the more impressive it is when he kicks out. Eventually he did connect with Lo Mein Pain. It got him the victory.

Johnny Gargano and Trent Barreta both being heels could have made their Open the Freedom Gate championship match awkward. Barreta playing the good guy for the evening meant that didn't happen. That change was established when he started the match with a dive onto the cowardly Gargano, before Gargano had even gotten into the ring. In fact it was arguably established even earlier when Barreta was kept apart from his Premier Athlete Brand teammates.

The two fought around ringside for several minutes before Gargano rolled Barreta into the ring and scored with his leaping DDT, officially starting the match with a pinfall that got two. Gargano was on offence for the next several minutes. He used an exploder belly to back suplex and a finger-breaking attempt to wear the challenger down. Barreta eventually levelled the playing field with a double stomp from the corner, an enziguri and a clothesline. A tornado DDT and a top rope double stomp got him a two count.

Gargano blocked a concrete slam with a move that was part hurricanrana, part Canadian Destroyer, and followed up with a lawn dart for another two count. 'Trentylocks' pulled Gargano off the top rope with a run-up belly-to-belly suplex and followed up with a running knee. Gargano came back with a Hurts Donut and the Gargano Escape, but neither brought him the victory he wanted.

Barreta hit a Dudebuster from the top rope and earned himself a three count, but Gargano's foot was on the ropes so the match continued. As Barreta wandered around looking miffed 'The Whole Shebang' made a quick recovery and pulled him down into a Regal Stretch for a successful defence via submission.

The match was the best of the night but would have benefited from another five minutes or so. That’s something that could have been given to them easily considering the surplus time in other matches lower down the card. That was in many ways the story of the show: poor time management. Long matches aren't always good. Good matches aren't always long. The first two bouts on the bill were the most obvious offenders. They both could have had their times halved without losing anything. The show would have started off with a brisker pace which would have helped keep the crowd interested, and there would have been time left free for the main event to go longer. The show as a whole could have been fifteen minutes shorter without being any worse for wear too. It lagged at points.

All that said I think the Dragon Gate USA crew put on as good a show as possible. I think a commendable job was done making up for the lack of CIMA and Saito. Yosuke Santa Maria was a decent last minute replacement who turned out to be very over. Barreta challenging for the Freedom Gate championship was not as big a deal as CIMA doing so but it was making the best of a bad situation. And they turned out a very good match. Most importantly REVOLT! was always intended to be a setup event for the more important Way of the Ronin the following evening. There were no all-time classics, but there was more than enough good for a show of its type.

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