NEW YORK — Never before in history has it been better to be a fan of professional wrestling.
It was a thought I had prior, but after these last two days in the Big Apple, I’ve become 100% convinced it is the case.
Whether it’s an increase in talent levels, more worldwide exposure, or a combination of both, the wrestling world has never been bigger, nor has it ever been smaller at the same time.
Even 20 years ago, you’d have to be part of the tape trading community to see competitors who wrestled in Europe or Japan. Now, everything is literally at our fingertips and extravaganza weekends such as this one bring the entire community together.
What I experienced Friday, seeing Revolution Pro Wrestling and WWE NXT live back-to-back, will go down as one of the single greatest days of my wrestling fandom.
Revolution Pro was England’s top promotion represented this weekend in New York, and given their relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling, they were able to put together a card that featured the best of both worlds at the New York Hilton Midtown as part of WrestleCon.
The featured bout of the afternoon, which went on right before intermission, saw the Undisputed British Tag Team Champions Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki and British Heavyweight Champion Zack Sabre Jr.) face the dream team of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Will Ospreay.
If you are the type that is into star ratings, this was easily 4.5 stars, possibly more. What was wild about this match was that you had quite possibly the most babyface team you could imagine on one side in Tanahashi and Ospreay, yet Sabre and Suzuki were cheered equally as much, if not more.
All four men were beloved, and Tanahashi especially got an absurdly loud ovation when he made his way to the ring.
One thing I respect about a lot of professional wrestlers is they will go almost out of their way, to their detriment, to make sure the paying crowd gets their money’s worth.
With three of these competitors having big matches Saturday at Madison Square Garden as part of the G-1 Supercard, it would certainly be forgivable if they mailed it in here.
It could not have been any further from the case.
All four men gave their full effort and the end result was a match that won’t son be forgotten by those who saw it.
Suzuki was in rare form in this match, as his trademark scowl and facial expressions were out of this world, not to mention he beat the tar out of Ospreay and Tanahashi, which brought him much joy.
Being the champions, Sabre and Suzuki picked up the win when Sabre pinned Ospreay — setting the stage for the Garden and Sabre’s defense of the British Heavyweight Championship against Tanahashi.
In the main event, Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis) beat the IWGP Junior Tag Team Champions Roppongi 3K (Sho and Yoh), setting up their title shot against Suzuki Gun soon.
From there, it was a quick and packed subway ride down to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for NXT Takeover: New York.
To say expectations for this were high would be an understatement, but not unfounded. Takeover’s have developed the reputation over the course of five years now of always delivering. Combine that with this match card and you have the recipe for something special.
This show delivered on all levels from top to bottom. But there should be a special place in wrestling parlance for the main event, which saw Johnny Gargano finally climb to the top of the mountain when he overcame all odds to beat Adam Cole in a best 2-of-3 falls match.
What was incredible about this epic encounter is how they managed to get the crowd, which was probably 70-30 in favor of Cole at the start and throughout the match, onto Gargano’s side, to the point where the reaction to some of the near falls were nuclear inside the building.
The place went banana (™ Pat Patterson) when Cole tapped out to end the contest, and Gargano’s post-match celebration with his wife Candice LaRae, the fans, his family, and lastly friend and rival Tommaso Ciampa, was a special moment in NXT history.
All five matches on the main show were incredible, if not a bit harrowing at times as the competitors raised the bar on some high-risk maneuvers.
Friday was amazing. Can Saturday top it? I sure hope so.
- Thursday’s report: WrestleCon Supershow full of whooos and wows