Pro Wrestling SOUL Part Deux – Electric Boogaloo
Pro Wrestling SOUL first appeared on my radar when I saw a Youtube link of the Ashmore vs The OJMO match from their first show pop up on Twitter. I gave it a watch as I’d been keen to see more of OJMO, as thus far I’d only seen him in Rev Pro working in their Contenders division. I liked what I saw so jumped on their Twitter to find out what they had coming up, and saw that they’d booked Scotty Davis for their second show. That was enough to pique my interest, as I’ve been a fan of his for a while, so I tentatively circled the date on my calender. My only concern was that 16 Carat weekend might completely burn me out on live wrestling, but it actually had quite the opposite effect, so I plonked down my 10 quid (absolute bargain!) and bought a ticket. I was looking forward to seeing Scotty vs Jordon Breaks, as well as checking out a bunch of unfamiliar names for the first time.
After a pretty horrific start to my day, involving losing a filling from a tooth and a subsequent emergency trip to the dentist, I headed over to Wimbledon a couple of hours before show time, to scope out the venue and have a mooch around. If you’ve seen anything from SOUL on Twitter you’ll know that they run their shows in the Merton Arts Space, which is in the back room of Wimbledon library. As I had some time to kill I sat and had a read (Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicy Shamed – not bad going off the first couple of chapters). I heard the security guard asking another member of staff if ‘the WWF wrestling’ had started setting up yet, and resisted the temptation to shout “Um actually it’s WWE, you bloody casual!”. I was in a library after all.
Doors were late opening (Britwres gonna Britwres), and word spread around the queue that Chris Ridgeway hadn’t made it to the show. I heard more than one person suggest to a queueing Harry Sefton that he should have brought his gear so he could step in.
Once inside I was immediately struck by the effort the small company had gone to in regards to presentation. There was the event logo graphic projected onto the back wall, and it didn’t look like it had been knocked up in 5 minutes on Photoshop. A couple of banners either side of the stage displayed the mantra ‘Wrestle with Pride – Wrestle with Heart – Wrestle with SOUL’. The ring announcer (and I believe owner) came out to Soul Man. All little touches that added up to a professional presentation, and far exceed a lot of similar sized shows I’ve been to. Most importantly they had chosen a venue that was both unique (again, an actual library!) and had a quality sound and lighting system.
I’d peg the crowd at around the 100 mark, and I’d guess you could maybe squeeze in another 20 – 30 people. With the way the chairs were set up though the venue felt full and the crowd was loud from the outset and remained so throughout the show.
I won’t go through the card match by match, but instead want to highlight the 3 matches that stood out the most.
The match I’d come to see, Davis vs Breaks, ended up in the semi-main slot, and was everything I hoped it would be. They wrestled a back and forth technical contest, punctuated by high impact suplexes and Scotty’s vicious Gator Rolls. I was especially impressed by Scotty’s strength and body control, demonstrated by his deadlift suplexes and unique way of entering the ring. Breaks on the other hand works more of a throwback style and wouldn’t feel out of place on an old World of Sport show, mutton chops and all. The crowd was split pretty much 50/50, with both men receiving chants throughout. It felt like the beginning of what could be a recurring series between the two and I’d love to see how they match up down the line as they progress in their burgeoning careers.
The show kicked off with an excellent match between The OJMO and Ender Kara. They wrestled a super snug style which worked well in the close up setting, and OJMO’s strikes in particular landed with a solid thud that belied his stature. The two had real chemistry and there were a couple of standout sequences, notably some amazing timing on a handspring kick by Kara as OJMO came off the adjacent ropes, and a great finish as OJMO caught a second handspring kick and rolled it through into his signature half crab. I came away impressed with Kara, I believe he’s based in Wolverhampton so hopefully he shows up at Fight Club Pro in the near future. It was also a treat getting to see OJMO display his full charisma, as he works a slightly more subdued style in Rev Pro as befits his status in the Contenders division and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand through most of this match.
The other standout match was a cracking main event between The NIC and the team of Conor Mills and Danny Duggan. This was my first time seeing The NIC, and I loved their mix of old school heel tactics and modern indie style. They were great at cutting off the ring and resorting to cheap tactics when needed, and they had some vicious offense. Mills eventually got to hit some of his spectacular flying moves, including a crazy springboard corkscrew moonsault to the outside where he slightly overshot and hit the floor with a sickening thud. One thing I realised at this point was that as best I could recall none of the other matches had any dives, so they seemed more impactful when they happened in the main event. Also along those lines, I watched 6 matches at this show and didn’t see a single Canadian Destroyer. Isn’t that against the rules? Back to the match, the four men put together a fitting main event to the show, and also set up a match for the next one, with Pretty Deadly making the save during a post match beatdown by The NIC. Thumbs up all round.
As for the rest of the card, Chris Ridgeway’s replacement ended up being Sam Stoker of Pretty Deadly, and he had a fun match with Ashmore, including some Orange Cassidy-esque hands-in-pockets antics. It was a good short notice replacement, and it got anyone in the crowd who didn’t know Pretty Deadly (such as myself!) familiar with them ready for their run in at the end of the show. Talia Martins and Mercedez Blaze had a good match that felt like it could have used a few minutes longer to really hit its stride. Still, I was impressed with both wrestlers, especially some of the nifty grappling employed by Blaze.
And then there was the Wasteman Challenge/Kafka Kup match. It’s a full day later and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this! David Francisco answered Roy Johnson’s Wasteman Challenge and had a funny line about asking an Irishman in the back for advice, referring back to Jordan Devlin’s savaging of Johnson at SSS16 last year. The resulting match was interrupted by Josef Kafka, who proclaimed it as a match in the Kafka Kup and that it would be fought under stipulation roulette rules. This involved him changing the stipulation whenever it looked like Roy was going to win, including a ladder match (no ladders to be found, the fans suggested “Use the books!”, to which Kafka deadpanned “Don’t use the books, we want to come back here”), a best of one fall and a two man rumble. Post match Kafka got put through his bespoke commentary table at ringside to a huge pop. They threw a lot of stuff at the wall in this match, and while not all of it landed, the parts that did were enjoyable enough, and it’s good to see wrestlers trying something a bit different.
Overall I came out of this event feeling hugely positive. I’d seen a consistent show with some really good matches, and it was a breeze to watch, clocking in at a little over 2 hours. I’d have maybe preferred the Kafka Kup match to be a little shorter, giving more time to Blaze/Martins, but other than that nothing outstayed its welcome or felt short changed. I always like seeing wrestling in unusual venues, and this definitely fit that bill, the only downsides being the single shared toilet, and the lack of bar if you’re the type of fan that likes an alcoholic beverage with your graps.
I came away with a handful of new wrestlers that I’m looking forward to seeing more of, as well as an exciting new promotion to follow. Not bad for a tenner!
Ben Owens can be followed on Twitter @bennyowens
Pro Wrestling SOUL can be found @ProWresSoul