Every so often in my career I’ve been fortunate to commentate through a match where, in the midst of it all unfolding, I realise that I’m watching lightning being captured in a bottle; a moment where the talent in the ring is creating a spectacle so compelling that everyone in attendance is completely absorbed by the drama unfolding in front of them, and everything outside of that room is temporarily irrelevant. It’s the kind of night - and I’ve been blessed to witness more than my share of them - where you come back through the curtain and think “yeah, that was pretty special.”
I had one of those moments last Friday.
It was the main event of Frontline Wrestling’s first anniversary show in East London, and the culmination of a feud that had been building for months between likable European Openweight champion Rob Sharpe and his cocky young challenger The O.J.M.O. The fans were baying for the latter’s blood and the match started amidst an electric atmosphere, helped by the Lion’s Den-type layout of Stratford Circus. Then, a few minutes into the bout, something unexpected happened: the O.J.M.O. badly injured his wrist landing from a frog splash. Officials (including Frontline founder Will Ospreay) were on the brink of calling it off but the challenger aggressively insisted on continuing, and when the action restarted we were all treated to a superhuman effort that included him powerbombing the champion from the apron to the floor and almost forcing a submission with his trademark half-crab, a move he performed one-armed by biting his own hand for better grip. By the time Sharpe recovered to hit two Ducky Drivers and retain the title, it was abundantly clear that magic had been made.
Sharpe was superb and looked entirely comfortable being pushed into a main event spot - I understand he’s going to spend some time at Oriental Wrestling Entertainment (OWE) in China shortly and I fully expect he’ll be a resounding success there. As for The O.J.M.O, I would strongly advise everyone to believe the hype. This young man has only been wrestling for a couple of years but I’ve rarely met someone who so obviously “gets it” and has such natural star presence - he is already one of the best talkers on the UK scene and is now showing he has the in-ring work to match. Others have clearly realised the same: in recent weeks he’s debuted in New Generation Wrestling and will shortly do the same at Wrestle Gate Pro, he’s had a very well-received match with PAC over in Rev Pro (who have also now booked him to face Shingo at the end of the month), and Progress have added him to their next Natural Progression tournament. Ospreay told him after Friday’s match to go and make the UK scene his. He just might.
It had already been a memorable night for several other reasons: in particular, it was cool to see victories for two guys who have been on the scene for years and often don’t seem to get the credit that their talents deserve. Sha Samuels, whose “Mug of the Week” video rants on social media have showcased his larger-than-life personality to a whole new audience in recent weeks, took home the Frontline Heavyweight Championship after arriving unannounced and complaining his way into the scheduled title match between Mark Haskins and David Starr. Meanwhile Paul Robinson outlasted five opponents to win the inaugural J-1 League - he might be a total reprobate who lacks even the most basic sense of decorum, but he’s also undoubtedly one of the best junior heavyweights in the world and more than merited this success. Elsewhere on the card, Miyu Yamashita had an excellent match with Gisele Shaw which showed precisely why both women have such impressive and growing reputations worldwide, and we said goodbye to Will Ospreay before he moved to Japan three days later. Will’s vision for Frontline has been clear from the beginning and the sheer number of wrestlers who have thanked him this week for his role in their careers speaks volumes about the kind of person he is. I wish him luck with the next chapter of his career as he strives to be the best wrestler in the world - a milestone that many fans say he has already reached after his recent victory (again) in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament.
With Friday now in the rear-view mirror I’m turning my attention to Defiant Wrestling’s biggest show of the year, Built To Destroy, on Saturday 29th June (get tickets here). The card for this one is shaping up nicely, and I am particularly hyped for the main event between Rampage and David Starr after watching this exceptional promotional video. I challenge anyone to find a wrestler in 2019 who has been more intelligent and captivating than Starr, who draws people in with his journey for every promotion that features him. In Defiant’s case, my broadcast colleague James R. Kennedy has accurately (if cruelly) labelled him the “nearly-man” because of his string of so-near-yet-so-far moments in previous quests for championship gold. His February showdown with Rampage was awesome despite the champion being concussed early in the match, so I can barely imagine how good this rematch might be. The other title matches look great too: a clash between bitter long-term rivals Martin Kirby and Joe Hendry for the internet title, a Last Woman Standing match for the women’s title between Lizzy Styles and Lana Austin, a No Fun title match between No Fun Dunne and HT Drake, and a tag title ladder match pitting the SCC against Benji and Visage. Any one of these matches could steal the show - make sure you join us on demand or in person to find out which one does.
I start July by commentating two other big shows: Wrestle Gate Pro’s Emerald Grand Prix in Nottingham on 6th July will be another big moment for a promotion that has already been creating a global buzz, and GWF’s Summer Smash 4 in Berlin on the same day now has an epic main event, with hometown boy Lucky Kid primed to challenge John Klinger for the world title. 2019 just keeps on getting better, and we’re not even halfway through yet...