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U.K.-based RevPro is coming back to the U.S.
The British are coming.
Pro wrestling in the United States has enjoyed a British invasion over the past five years. WWE is at the forefront of the movement, partnering with United Kingdom promotion PROGRESS and launching its own NXT UK brand on the WWE Network in October.
But WWE and PROGRESS are not the only super heavyweights teaming together. Revolution Pro Wrestling, better known as RevPro, is another wrestling powerhouse to come out of the United Kingdom, and its partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling has helped the promotion stand out as one of the best in the world.
RevPro is returning to America for a show during WrestleMania weekend on Friday, April 5 at 3 p.m. in the Hilton New York Midtown Ballroom. The card will see the American return of former WWE star Neville (now known as PAC) in a tag team match with breakout star Will Ospreay against the team of Jonathan Gresham and Chris Brookes, as well as feature British Heavyweight Champion Zack Sabre Jr. and Minoru Suzuki.
RevPro founder Andy Quildan created the promotion in 2012, infusing a combination of mesmerizing in-ring action with its distinctly high-end production value.
“I’m very proud of what we’re building at RevPro,” said Quildan. “It shows what hard work and dedication can do. One of the issues with British wrestling has been this ‘That will do’ attitude, and that dates back years and years. My philosophy is to constantly learn, never be ignorant, and catch trends before they explode. Our relationship with New Japan started six years ago, and people here didn’t know who Hiroshi Tanahasi was in the U.K. That quickly changed.”
The 32-year-old Quildan grew up as a fan, enamored with the storytelling, psychology, and sensory images of pro wrestling, then got his start—and foundation—in the business as a referee at the age of 15.
“I was refereeing for FWA, and they were original pioneers of British wrestling,” said Quildan, who likened FWA to the British version of ECW. “They were the first to start using advanced production, which made an impact on me. I didn’t drive at the time, but I worked everywhere. I used to get trains all the time to get to shows and end up stranded overnight, but that gave me contacts.”
Quildan listened and learned from every crowd he worked. While the role of the referee often seems insignificant, he used that position to listen to the way crowds responded to matches.
“Wrestling is an international language that anyone can understand,” said Quildan. “That’s the most beautiful thing about wrestling. I learned how to read a crowd, call a match, and book a match, because you first need to know the crowd.”
By the age of 18, Quildan was already a booker of the IPW-UK promotion, and he then transitioned into creating his own brand in RevPro in 2012 at age 25.
“I was spending someone else’s money as a booker, but I wanted to put my money where my mouth was,” said Quildan, whose best quality may be his creative sense in how to build a card, with a seemingly innate ability to know what will and will not generate a response.
“With the rise of British wrestling, some of the new promotions came in with a bang but only lasted a few shows, but I know our product speaks for itself,” said Quildan. “That’s my greatest strength—I have no ego about this. If we have a bad show, I’ll know we had a bad show. And when we’re good, I know that, too.”
RevPro’s show last April during WrestleMania weekend in New Orleans was extremely compelling, and finished with Tomohiro Ishii overcoming Zack Sabre Jr. to win the British Heavyweight championship. RevPro has its own storylines, with some even connecting to New Japan.
“By 2016, Zack Sabre Jr. had been the most dominant champion in Revolution Pro Wrestling history,” said Quildan, explaining the storyline of his British Heavyweight Champion. “That all started in a match with Jeff Cobb, and he developed this killer instinct to retain his title. When Sabre lost his title to Katsuyori Shibata, he went to Japan. Minoru Suzuki saw that Sabre was vulnerable, so he got in his ear and forced him to join Suzuki-gun. Then Suzuki helped Sabre beat Shibata for the British Heavyweight Championship, and he joined Suzuki-gun. Now, like everyone else in Suzuki-gun, Sabre is sadistic.”
Sabre won the British Heavyweight Championship back from Ishii on a grand stage at Wrestle Kingdom 13 in January at the Tokyo Dome, and Sports Illustrated has learned that Sabre and Suzuki will be defending their Undisputed British tag team titles at the upcoming show in New York City.
“For us, this show means absolutely everything,” said Quildan. “Being warmly welcomed by the U.S. fans is overwhelming, and it means a lot to see how well-regarded Revolution Pro Wrestling is in America. To be in the heart of New York, that’s a real big thing for us. We run the famed combat sports venue York Hall in London, and we have an expression that goes, ‘Everything is bigger in London.’ Well, everything is even bigger in New York.
“There are a lot of shows planned by a lot of different promotions, but we plan to make this show a highlight of everyone’s WrestleMania weekend.”
RevPro, headquartered out of Portsmouth, England, has its own training school and its own on-demand service. But it is not alone in its dream to become the U.K.’s top promotion. The partnership with WWE provides PROGRESS with a worldwide spotlight for its brand, not to mention WWE’s ambitions for its own NXT UK brand.
“This is a constantly evolving landscape where everyone is uncertain about what WWE’s next move is going to be,” said Quildan. “It’s concerning a little bit when the biggest promotion in the world is backing another promotion in the U.K. But I don’t look at PROGRESS as competition. We provide a very different product than the WWE, and we should only compare ourselves to what we did yesterday.”
A number of WWE stars have spent time with RevPro, including AJ Styles, who is a former British Heavyweight Champion, as well as Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, and Tommaso Ciampa.
“Even if WWE took all our talent, we’d just build new guys,” said Quildan. “We’re here for the long-term.”
Strong shows and smart booking have allowed RevPro to emerge as one of the most popular promotions in the world, and that will be on full display during WrestleMania weekend. Quildan is thrilled for the opportunity to return to the United States.
“If you invest your time in us, we’ll invest our time in you,” said Quildan. “We’re continuing to grow and continuing to move forward. We will always invest back in this promotion, and you’re going to see matches you cannot see anywhere else in the world. Give us a try, the product speaks for itself.”
Roman Reigns returns after four-month absence
Roman Reigns returned to Raw this past Monday, announcing his leukemia is in remission.
The 33-year-old Joe Anoa’i appeared on Raw for the first time since October, returning to his Roman Reigns character in the most heartwarming segment of the year thus far. The crowd exploded when he made his announcement, and the moment ended on a perfect note as Reigns was embraced by Seth Rollins.
Reigns’ return to the active roster will be a huge boost for WWE, both on television and on tour, and that was highlighted by his brief cameo inside the ring on Raw. Along with Seth Rollins, Reigns came to the rescue of Dean Ambrose, serving as a feel-good moment on the show and hinting at another potential Shield reunion.
But this goes far deeper than wrestling.
The possibility also exists for Reigns to be a major spokesperson for those who are battling leukemia, giving hope to people suffering from the horrible disease.
Raw is often criticized, but Monday’s segment with Reigns went exactly the way it should have.
Batista makes surprise return to WWE
Reigns wasn’t the only person to return on Raw this week. Batista crashed Ric Flair’s 70th birthday celebration to close out Raw, ending the show with a level of suspense that is rarely accomplished.
A match between Batista and Triple H will certainly enhance WrestleMania 35, and it will be especially interesting to watch who plays the babyface and who plays the heel.
Following his acting work in Guardians of the Galaxy, Batista is extremely popular. Although he was the one to attack the 70-year-old Flair, it is good to be bad in pro wrestling, and he is destined to receive cheers every time he acts like a villain.
Triple H playing the role of the babyface will also add another element to the match. “The Game” has been a heel in his past five ’Mania matches, but his continued presence (and role as the face of NXT) have made him more endearing to the WWE fanbase.
Watching how this feud plays out will be very interesting. Despite positive reactions for the return of Batista, I still believe that Triple H will play the role of the good guy at WrestleMania.
Kofi even more of a babyface after Kevin Owens switch
Tuesday’s SmackDown Live delivered the latest contract signing in the WWE, which is a practice that has a long and distinguished history of including a brawl breaking out.
WWE champion Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston signed the contract for their title match at March’s Fastlane pay per view, and while there was no brawl, the segment was some of the best content SmackDown has produced in 2019.
From Bryan sitting stoically while Kingston’s accolades were praised by Stephanie and Shane McMahon, to Vince McMahon’s arrival and subsequent replacement of Kingston with the returning Kevin Owens, to the crowd fully supporting Kingston in his quest of the WWE title, the WWE did a tremendous job of making Kingston an even more beloved babyface.
That is the hardest role to capture in the villain-loving era of 2019, but the segment was put together and executed extremely well. Replacing Kingston, especially with another heel, builds more sympathy for Kingston as he pursues his first-ever run with the WWE title.
It appears that WWE has been struck with the epiphany that Kingston should not win the title at Fastlane, and that is because he should win the title at WrestleMania.
Jack Swagger set for another MMA fight
Former WWE heavyweight champion Jack Swagger dominated J.W. Kiser in his mixed martial arts debut in January, and his next fight is officially scheduled for Bellator MMA on May 11 against TJ Jones.
Swagger, who fought under his real name of Jake Hager, extended gratitude for all of the support from the pro wrestling community.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect such an outpouring of support from the wrestling world for my fight,” said Hager. “Not only was it cool to be a part of it, but to be at the center of it was so humbling, and made everything that week so special. It makes me want to tear up, and I’d like to send all the wrestling fans and the wrestlers a big thank you.”
R-Truth performed Hager’s entrance music before his Bellator fight, fulfilling an idea that originated while in the locker room at a WWE show.
“All those backstage talks between Truth and me finally came to fruition,” said Hager. “I still can’t believe Truth was there and a part of it.”
Hager is not overly experienced in the Octagon with one professional fight on his resume, but Jones (1–1) only has had two. Jones’ last fight, a victory, took place in October.
Come fight night, there will be an eight-year age gap between the fighters, as Jones will be 29 and Hager will be 37. Hager is also expected to weigh as much as 20 pounds less than Jones, but even with more than two months to go until the fight, Swagger is already thinking about victory.
“Once you get your hand raised, it’s like an addictive chemical,” said Hager. “I just want to get back in there. I had a group meeting with the team on Tuesday, and next week we’re only 11 weeks out, so it’s time to buckle down and do it all over again.”
AEW adds another marquee match
The card for All Elite Wrestling’s “Double or Nothing” show this May in Las Vegas continues to come together.
The Young Bucks appeared this past Saturday at AAW’s “Art of War” show in Chicago, costing Pentagon and Fenix their AAW tag team titles and setting up a showdown in Vegas this May between the Bucks and the Lucha Bros.
The match started as a triple threat between the Lucha Bros., LAX, and the team of AR Fox and Myron Reed. Fox and Reed were the first team eliminated, and the match appeared to be nearing its conclusion before the Bucks arrived and cost the Lucha Bros. their titles.
AEW continues to gain steam without running a card or announcing its television home, and it is doing so through gripping surprise appearances that build buzz in-person and on the internet.
As of now, the card for “Double of Nothing” includes Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho, PAC vs. Hangman Page, a women’s triple threat between Dr. Britt Baker, Nyla Rose, and Kylie Rae, as well as the Young Bucks vs. the Lucha Bros.
“Somthing to Wrestle” update
Conrad Thompson returns this Friday to “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” for a live show at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut—but Thompson is keeping quiet about the future of the podcast.
Prichard has returned to the WWE creative team to work directly for Vince McMahon, PWInsider’s Mike Johnson reported over the weekend
Naturally, the question on every “Something to Wrestle” fan’s mind is how this will affect the show.
“There will be a show this Friday at Mohegan Sun, and there will be a show the next weekend in Indiana and one in Cleveland,” said Thompson. “Friday’s show is going to be a very important show for the future of ‘Something to Wrestle.’ If you’re on the fence and want to see ‘Something to Wrestle’ live, then it’s time to get off the fence and go to BrucePrichard.com and pick up tickets.”
Thompson stated all of the dates of the live shows will be honored, beginning this Friday at Mohegan Sun.
“I expect this to be one of the most important shows that Bruce and I have ever participated in,” said Thompson. “Eric Bischoff will also be there, we’ll be in Connecticut, and if you believe the rumor and innuendo, you never know who’s going to show up.”
Tweet of the Week
Another highlight of SmackDown Live was the return of the Hardys, and it will be interesting to see if Matt and Jeff Hardy can reclaim the tag titles at WrestleMania 35.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.