“Something might change with regard to the main event. Don’t worry, you’ll know what it is when it happens…”
When a promoter says something this mysterious to me it normally means something fairly innocuous: an unannounced stipulation is being added to the match, or an extra competitor is making a singles match into a three-way. It makes sense for them to keep it from me unless there’s a reason I need to know in advance so that my reaction on commentary will be authentic when the surprise happens.
But that wasn’t the reason this time. No-one was being told anything because Wrestle Gate Pro were keeping a secret that would, in a matter of hours, be the talk of the wrestling world. Hangman Page, expected by many to be the first ever world champion in All Elite Wrestling, had secretly flown to the UK and was coming to Nottingham to challenge PAC a full week before their scheduled marquee match at AEW’s Double Or Nothing.
The instant when Page stepped out through the curtain that night, still just 11 days ago as I write this, is a moment in time that I’ll never forget – genuinely one of the loudest roars I’ve ever heard from a crowd at an independent wrestling show. Of course, PAC and Page went on to tear the house down and by the time I left the venue an hour later the internet was already abuzz with what had just happened. It genuinely felt like the beginning of a new era in professional wrestling had arrived a week earlier than scheduled, and I was beyond honoured to have played a tiny part in that moment from behind the commentary desk. The match went up on AEW’s YouTube channel three days later and has already amassed well over half a million views, which blows my mind. Thank you to everyone who has had kind things to say about the commentary – it has really meant a lot to me.
Meanwhile, a week later I was driving back down the M6 motorway from Defiant’s No Regrets PPV (more on that in a moment) while Double Or Nothing was emanating from Las Vegas, so I had to rely on some impromptu commentary from A-Kid and Carlos Romo who were watching in the back seat with one of their phones but despite their highly questionable play-by-play skills, it still felt like a huge moment. In particular, I was incredibly happy to hear things like “Jimmy Havoc has eliminated Tommy Dreamer!” and “Kip Sabian just won AEW’s first ever singles match!”. Jimmy and Kip are both incredible people and extremely talented, so it was awesome to see (or at least hear) them get their chance to shine. The following day I watched the event properly and got to really appreciate it: a “home run” debut show for sure, and Cody vs Dustin legitimately made me burst into tears at the end! I worked with Cody several times in WCPW and he was always an absolute gentleman, so I’m really pleased for him too – AEW really does have a chance to change the wrestling landscape, and it’s going to be incredibly exciting to see what happens next.
By the way, don’t let the huge main event twist completely overshadow the rest of the Wrestle Gate Pro show. People sometimes forget this is a company that was still only on its third ever event, but Lions Spirit really delivered: for the second time this year I got to call Rampage Brown and Shigehiro Irie battering each other (the first was at Frontline in January), Chris Ridgeway beat Robbie X in a cracking bout between the men who had won the promotion’s first two main events, and the enigmatic Cara Noir made his debut – I’ve never seen anyone quite as uniquely unsettling as him, which I think I mean as a compliment. There was also a very entertaining NGW Proving Ground show in the afternoon, which was an awesome start to a memorable day. The whole Wrestle Gate show will be up very soon on the promotion’s on demand service, so be sure to check it out.
More recently, the aforementioned No Regrets PPV for Defiant was great fun this past weekend – I love the unpredictability of a rumble, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. Particular credit must go to Gabriel Kidd, who put in a 75-minute shift in the main event after also wrestling on the card’s opening match. The man is an absolute beast, as much as it might pain me to admit it. The undercard here was eventful too, including three championship matches that all ended controversially. I felt particularly sorry for Lana Austin, whose quest for the Defiant women’s title looked like it had finally been completed against the intensely obnoxious Lizzy Styles until the referee clarified that he had called a disqualification rather than a submission. Hopefully the smile will be wiped off Styles’ face when we’re in Newcastle this Saturday – either by her losing the title during our Loaded tapings, or by my Tottenham boys giving Styles’ Liverpool a proper hiding in the Champions League final afterwards!
Speaking of unpredictable shows, GWF’s annual Mystery Mayhem lived up to its reputation in that regard at the start of the month – interesting to see John “Bad Bones” Klinger defeat Tarkan Aslan to claim yet another major championship in European wrestling, and he didn’t do it alone. Klinger’s new “Blutsbruder” faction with Erkan Sulcani and Orlando Silver looks set to dominate the Berlin scene for the foreseeable future, although I’m sure Aslan will have something to say about that. Meanwhile, across the border in Hungary, HCW’s Day of Glory event on 18th May was a big success – I’ve said this before but central Europe is something of an untapped resource when it comes to other promotions searching for upcoming talent. The latest HCW guys to impress me are Peter Tihanyi and Boldo Brown, whose bloody grudge match at Day of Glory was brilliant physical storytelling, especially for two guys who are both still just 19 years old. Seriously, go and check it out.
Before I finish this post I just want to briefly mention the tragic death of lucha libre legend Silver King during a show at Camden’s Roundhouse on 11th May. I had the pleasure of commentating on a few of his matches in AAA a couple of years ago, but his work there is really just the tip of the iceberg for a career that spanned over three decades and wowed crowds worldwide. I know several people who were involved in organising and/or appearing on that show in Camden, all of whom have of course been affected by what happened. I wish all the best not only to them, but also to Silver King’s family and friends who must be going through a tremendously difficult time.
Thanks for reading, more posts on the way soon!