REVIEW: WOS Wrestling – York Hall, London (03/02/19)

Like many in attendance for the final show of the WOS UK Tour, this was going to be my first live experience of WOS Wrestling and while most of my questions were about how the show would translate from it’s distinctive television format, I was also just as exited to see the connection between the audience and the product.

SoCal Val Instagram Story WOS InterviewWe had been working the event before the doors opened conducting interviews with the likes of SoCal Val, Justin Sysum, Sha Samuels and Joe Hendry as well as filming an episode of the Queue & A with fans attending the meet and greet (videos coming soon to One of the biggest things that we got from the experience was how proud of the brand the talent were and that they felt WOS Wrestling had to be seen live to really get what they were all about. Was this just a bunch of hype for the show and attempts to boost live attendance for the next tour or was this a true sentiment?

We met a wide range of fans at this show and saw the vast appeal that WOS Wrestling has, from the die-hard indy wrestling fan to the father with a slight affinity for Professional Wrestling stemmed from his childhood but not holding out for much other than watching his son enjoy himself.

What came was a night where those fathers got unexpectedly lost in the moment, their son’s dreams came true and my personal favourite reaction that came from the seats in front of me as a guy with a thick European accent exclaimed “I’m a f**king wrestling fan from now, this is your doing” to his girlfriend as he waved his foam hand around trying to decide whether or not he wanted the heel or the babyface to pick up the win. If this isn’t a thriving example of British Wrestling then I don’t know what is.

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The presentation of the show had all the grandeur that the television broadcast offered, big budget production, promotional videos on screen and a larger than life experience crammed into a typically ‘indy’ venue. York Hall is one of the best venues for Professional Wrestling in the country with a history of fantastic shows from companies from all around the globe such as the recent Honor Re-United show from ROH to the legendary British Uprising events put on by the FWA in the early 2000’s. The historic venue feels like a great stepping stone for WOS Wrestling who I feel with a few tweaks would not look out of place in Wembley Arena if they could build a strong enough fanbase. You might think I’m being too optimistic considering the cancelled shows, some complaints over it’s edited presentation on TV and lack of a publicly announced plan for a Second Series but trust me – seeing WOS Wrestling live really is where it’s at for the promotion and it shows off the potential it has to move on to bigger and better things.
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As the show began you could tell that the production was a cut above the rest at this level as the promotional videos mentioned earlier really helped get those in attendance familiar with the storylines and the significance of each match. TV had certainly paid off as well as the crowd knew exactly who to boo and who to cheer for as soon as Alpha Bad appeared to face off against Joe Hendry and BT Gunn.

This first match set the tone for the night as it would display high intensity from all four competitors starting out with hard hitting enziguri’s and Kip Sabian being driven into the side of the ring apron showing us that there was some serious wrestling action on offer at what some would wrongly assume to be a dumbed down wrestling experience for kids. We also saw a clever spot where Sabian was resisting a sunset flip by remaining on his feet after the roll through which lead to him eventually falling into the pin but making a tag to Iestyn Rees who would then be able to break up the pin legally to then turn the attack round quickly in favour of his team to the surprise of the babyface team. The hard hitting action would round up as Hednry would catch a diving Rees leading to a kick and fallaway slam combination with BT Gunn.

The duo would celebrate their fourth Tag Team win of the tour but not for long as some seeds were about to be laid for a storyline that would continue throughout the night when RampageSha Samuels and CJ Banks came out and so did the camera phones. The dodgy trio would flatten Hendry and Gunn and the East End Butcher would take to the mic with a swaggered rant that could have been straight out of a hooligan movie. WOS Champion Justin Sysum would come to the rescue though taking out Samuels and Banks with a double clothesline and setting his eyes upon the former Champion Rampage before referees would separate the two rivals. The screens would then come in handy to display WOS Executive Stu Bennett whose omission from the tour had created a worry that the former WWE Superstar may not be with the company anymore so a video of Stu being involved in the tour’s storylines was a welcomed reassurance. Bennett would announce that he knew something like this may go down so he was going to be putting SoCal Val in charge in his absence. Val would then make her entrance and announce that we would be seeing a rematch from the Series Finale with Rampage facing off against Justin Sysum once again and added that Samuels and Banks would be banned from ringside which earned some cheers.

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SoCal Val was not done with the announcements though as she would then make a match there and then for Sha Samuels, going on to say “Are you ready to get wild tonight? Are you ready for a party?” as fans cheered along before she exclaimed “You can’t have a party without this guy…” as Grado’s music hit and the crowd exploded. The Scottish superstar waltzed around the ring to adulation and the match began continuing that high energy that had been set by the opener and the shenanigans previous.

Sha would attempt to German Suplex Grado to a roar of laughs as the former WOS Champion looked unimpressed that Samuels could not lift him further despite three attempts and then shouted “Come on, I’ve lost weight!“. Grado would soon take control and channelled his World of Sport predecessors by leading the fans into an “Easy, Easy, Easy” chant. Action would soon hit the ringside area as Grado encouraged a fan to take a swing at Samuels, who after the connection managed to take control again and berate the fan responsible and in true cockney fashion calling them a mug. Samuels would soon lose his brief advantage though as Grado ducked a chop and the East End boy’s hand met the ringpost.

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As the action spilled back into the ring we would see Grado continue to counter Samuels‘ efforts as a dive from the top rope was perfectly met with a Grado Cutter but the Scotsman could not capitalise and both men were down until a count of seven. The two men would get to their feet for Grado to then channel the energy of another Wrestling legend, this time from across the pond as he hit Sha with a series of punches ala the great Dusty Rhodes. The back and forth would continue and the end came as Sha Samuels countered another Grado Cutter by pushing his opponent into the referee with Grado stopping dead in his tracks trying not to hurt the innocent bystander, this lead to enough time for the local boy to hit his finisher on the distracted wrestler and pick up the three count. A fantastic match that did exactly what it needed to as Grado came off as the star that he is, one that is bridging the gap between the two World of Sport Wrestling incarnations and Sha continued to look like the villain that he is. Our interview earlier in the day with Sha Samuels revealed that he was excited to have his children in attendance that night and we would see Sha embrace them over the guardrail for a nice little moment after the match.
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Next up we saw another video package to enhance the match we were about to witness and that was Nathan Cruz vs Adam Maxted in a Ladder match. The match started out with a heavy punching duel before Maxted would be the first to attempt to get the ladder. We saw more evidence of the great exposure TV had given WOS and the fantastic use of pre-match promo packages when children screamed at the top of their lungs as the villainous Nathan Cruz chased down the unsuspecting Adam Maxted. It would be Maxted who ended up getting the upper hand on the ramp though as he blocked two suplex attempts and instead hit one of his own onto the unforgiving ramp. Maxted would then attempt to carry out his original goal as he walked the ladder back to the ring only to be once again surrounded by the deafening sound of concerned fans as Cruz made another rush to stop his former partner. The loud screams of concerned children might fool you into thinking this was somehow a childish pantomime type match but it was noting of the sort as the two battled in the most gruelling and arguably best match of the night with hard hitting action that really picked up when Cruz viciously threw Maxted into a ladder that had been set up against the turnbuckle. It was Cruz who would be the first to attempt to climb the ladder and retrieve the clipboard but he was soon pushed off of by a recovered Maxted.

Not long after it was Adam Maxted doing the climbing and would again become victim to a vicious attack as Nathan Cruz threw another ladder through the air to knock his opponent off of the one he had been climbing. After some more back and forth we ended up seeing Maxted take control once again but pander to the crowd about climbing the ladder for too long and pay the price by being pulled out of the ring just before he went for it. I realise that the entire purpose of this spot was to show that Maxted was too focused on the audience by going on for too long but it really, really went on for too long and was to an unrealistic length which sadly took me out of the moment. The unrealistic delay was the only minor downer on the match however and that’s a testament to how great these two worked together to pull off a fantastic match. The hard hitting action continued as Maxted would hit Cruz hard on the apron, only to dive back into the ring straight into a ladder being thrown with force into his face – a truly shocking moment that felt more like ECW than the WOS we’d seen on ITV (You need to see WOS Live) and it was at this point that the aforementioned non-wrestling fan to wrestling fan conversation seemed to take place in front of me with the line “I’m a f**king wrestling fan from now, this is your doing“, foam hand and everything. The tension would continue to rise in the building until the final moment when Cruz was caught mid climb by a fantastic leaping dropkick from the top rope by Maxted who knocked his opponent off of the ladder and would eventually climb it to pick up the win for himself as the crowd erupted.

We were set for a Triple Threat that almost became a one on one singles match until SoCal Val declined the sickie that Martin Kirby was trying to pull. Kirby complained of the sniffles and would set the tone as the cowardly heel and comedic fodder for the match as he begrudgingly stayed in the bout due to Val’s threats of a firing if he pulled out. His opponents would be the high flying Robbie X and one of the biggest names that WOS have acquired in Will Ospreay. I had never seen Ospreay live and he was the performer that I was most looking forward to seeing as it’s been a special couple of years for the Essex boy who has recently reached a new high with an incredible match at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 with Kota Ibushi in which he impressed us on the Talk and Beans Podcast by picking up the IWGP NEVER Openweight Championship.

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There’s been a lot of talk over the years about Ospreay’s style possibly becoming his downfall as well as the reason behind his rise but I feel that matches like this one are what will help the star remain at the top of his game for years to come. The match did contain what you would expect from the high flyers but as I mentioned before, this match had a huge comedic appeal as well which started off with a spot that would be used three times in various ways and was something that I have never seen in my life. Somehow a resistant band showed up and Ospreay decided to have some fun with it by getting Robbie X to hold Kirby over the ropes with his face hanging out of the ring as the Ospreay would walk further and further away stretching out the resistant band whilst Robbie held the other end over Kirby’s face. The anticipation was immense as Ospreay went further and further into the crowd climbing over chairs and would finally let go of the stretched out band which flew at speed towards the already “sniffly” face of Martin Kirby as the crowd roared in laughter.  The fun wasn’t over though as once clearly wasn’t enough when Robbie X and Will Ospreay decided to this time have it fly back and sting the butt of Martin Kirby, the Aerial Assassin taking on a whole new meaning. Three is the magic number though and this spot would enter it’s final act as Ospreay and Robbie started to pull the resistant band to opposite sides of the ring arguing over who would let it go until they pulled it all the way out of the ring on both sides and an unsuspecting Kirby walked right into the centre of the ring falling over the stretched out band. The crowd continued their laughter and the wrestlers continued the stretch until they let it go on the referee who was trying to stop the madness.

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From here on out the comedic routine was over and for those who were worried they weren’t going to witness what Ospreay was known for had their minds put at ease as the star would hit a variety of exciting attacks including a springboard double Pele-kick and some insane aerial attacks to the outside of the ring. The confident Ospreay would follow this flurry of attacks up by enjoying a Flair-strut to a chorus of woo’s. Osrpeay would stay in control hitting a flying forearm to Robbie X back into the ring. Robbie would soon get his share of the momentum though until a springboard was met with a hard hitting clothesline from Kirby followed by a sit-out Powerbomb. We would see momentum switch places a few more times until Will Ospreay finished things off with a devastating Storm breaker. A match of two halves and one that I thoroughly enjoyed with a comedic yet innovative start and a second half that had all the things you would expect from these three performers.

The interval came next and once again WOS played promotional videos in the background which was a really great addition to prevent an awkward dip in the noise at York Hall and also give those who didn’t need a drink or toilet break some extra background entertainment.

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The match assigned to get the butts back in seats and eyes back on the ring was a Singles match between Gabriel Kidd and Crater. It was a simple and short match that did what it had to do by getting straight to the point. Crater has been the ‘big bad mysterious villain’ on TV and clearly the pushing of such an angle had paid off considering just the appearance of his name on the screens caused an eruption of boo’s which was a good start to the proceedings. One odd thing with Crater’s entrance though is his music that loops far too quickly and just feels like an uncomfortable restart, I think he needs a more awe inspiring entrance that involves something different wether it be eerie effects or some sort of clear entrance routine to go along with a better music choice. In some ways I think the Crater character does exactly what it needs to do and that’s be a big mysterious villain for the kids but personally I would like to see more from the character as it seems a bit too basic for my liking with his entrance and ring gear being stand outs for ways I feel Crater could benefit from improving, which would bring distinction when it comes to the typical ‘big scary masked‘ guy vibe that I feel could be holding back the character’s full potential. Like I said though, the performance was a good one and helped bring attention back to the action and there were even a small group of older kids cheering Crater on which surprised me. Gabriel Kidd played his role well in this match also and finished it off by expressing shock as he stumbled into the big man’s Chokeslam and eventual three count.

A recap of the recent happenings in the Women’s division was played to get fans up to speed with what had recently been going on including the strange ‘hot potato-ing‘ of the WOS Women’s Championship on the tour which has caused most reporters to speculate who will still be a part of WOS going forward, with each title change convincing people they’re in the know. SoCal Val hit the ring to announce the newest member of the WOS Women’s Roster Katy Lees aka Chardonnay. The newly signed wrestler began to express her excitement on the microphone until Viper’s music hit and she made her way to the ring but her confrontation ended up being her downfall as she’s put into the match to now put her title on the line in a Triple Threat. Bea Priestley tries to get into the match after Viper attacks Lees with the contract and clipboard but Viper also manages to get control of the former Champion. Not long after that the two challengers do manage to take control by double teaming on the Champion but Viper comes back at them strong with a double crossbody to take both competitors out again.

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Although this match wasn’t the one directly after the intermission it still had a similar job due to the fact that the previous match was so short and there were still quite a few distracted fans to win back over. The three of them did well to do so and the match ended after Viper managed to hit Priestley with a Splash but failed to do so on the newcomer who then took advantage of a rattled Champion and managed to take her prized possession from her because of it. It was yet another title change on the WOS UK Tour and already felt like a devaluation of the title for me. I am all for the shocking debutant title victory but I can’t help but feel like it would have meant more if the Championship hadn’t now changed hands four times in just six shows. I do understand that the title wins would have given a great boost of excitement and feeling of relevance to each crowd on the tour, it also threw off a lot of reporters which I think is great but I hope that this isn’t something that will continue for the Championship going forward and that we can instead see a strong and meaningful title run for Katy Lees now. One other good thing is that at least the Championship has a nice bulked out history of former reigns in the record books. It’s going to be an interesting and exciting time as we wait to see what Katy Lees will bring to the division and what will happen with Viper and Bea Priestley because you can definitely see why the rumours are flying about them being in such high demand these days.

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It was now time for the Main Event and we were given another great promo package to wet our appetites. The crowd hadn’t been as loud during this second half of the show so I was hoping that once the payoff for the introductory storyline was hit that it would remind fans of what they had been waiting to see all night. Thankfully a fast paced start to the match got the excitement level rising as a back and forth between the two saw Justin Sysum take early control of Rampage with a sharp dropkick. Justin’s persona is one that has been used to win over the kids and be that hero they can look up to and we saw the genuine result of that through this match when kids were coming up to the barrier to be near their Champion and Justin would interact with them.

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The Superhuman would live up to his name when Rampage took too long on the top rope and was met by Sysum’s burst of incredible athletic ability as he leapt to the top and hit an explosive Superplex to the sound of cheers. Justin looked like he was going to hit a finish early on until Rampage reversed the effort only to then himself lose control due to a Sysum reversal also. The equal showing from the two helped establish the journey Sysum would have to go on to retain his title just like the portrayal of the mountain he had to climb in the finale of Series 1. Rampage would use more of his dirty tricks by pushing the referee into the Champion and then parading the Championship around to an orchestra of boo’s. The heel’s attempts would come back to bite him though as he went for a swing with the Championship but Sysum ducked it and hit his challenger with a discuss lariat. The Champion then followed this up with a pin attempt with the crowd counting away in unison beyond the three count but the referee was not able to join them. The downed official also gave room for an interference from CJ Banks but Justin was able to defend himself until Sha Samuels also hit the ring and took the Champion out and then propped him up with the help of his partner Banks to set up an attack from Rampage. Justin was already busted open above the eye and seemingly awaiting a Championship to the face at the hands of his rival but he ducked the attack and it was the East End Butcher taking the hit instead. Sysum rolled up the challenger but the referee still hadn’t recovered and it was another missed opportunity.

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Once the referee finally came to and was about to punish Banks he was struck by the wrestler and knocked out once again. This was too much for Grado who then ran to the ring to help the struggling Champion which was a moment that received one of the loudest cheers of the night but saw Rampage continue his dominance by taking out the loveable Scotsman. Justin was starting to come round though and flew out of the ring into the heels but their fellow bad guys in the shape of Alpha Bad were not far behind to once again add to the stack against the Wrestling Pride of the West Country. Thankfully for the Champion, Alpha Bad have enemies of their own and the winners of the opening match weren’t missing out an opportunity to repay the favour from earlier in the night to help even the odds once again. This would all lead to a mass brawl on the outside of the ring that abruptly came to an end when Justin Sysum leaped into everyone from the top turnbuckle to the outside. As the crowd caught their breath the brawl continued to the back and it was down to the two legal men once again. Rampage tried to get hold of the Championship once more but the referee was now able to stop him which lead to Justin Sysum running down the huge and elevated WOS entrance ramp and diving through the ropes to hit a fantastic looking spear followed by a signature 450 Splash for the win.
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The perfect ending to a fantastic evening of Wresting. I was really impressed with what the live WOS Wrestling experience turned out to be. The production and editing of the Television show can be hit and miss with a huge front foot in the game yet plenty of room to grow but their live show is second to none at this level and I can’t wait to see what’s next for the promotion. If WOS can capture what their live experience is like and put that on TV like they have done with their Tour recap videos then they would be on to something special.

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