With three years of experience under their belts, Kamikaze Pro returned to Meadway Sports and Social for the first time since March to celebrate that very achievement. With a strong crowd on hand, could the West Midland promotions create the party atmosphere that the achievement deserved? Let's take a look.
As usual, we start off by talking about the main event, which saw Clint Margera do what the likes of Kay Lee Ray, Andrew Everett and Angelico and many others had been unable to do and remove Robbie X from the top of Kamikaze Pro's mountain in his fifteenth defense of the belt. I think that the length of the title run and just how all-encompassing Robbie's faction, The Bigger Picture have been in Kamikaze Pro over the last year or so, gave the match a real sense of momentum changing, managing to rouse a tired crowd and create a brilliant atmosphere inside Meadway Sports and Social. The moment when Margera pulled the gold belt down from the ceiling had most of the building on it's feet, which was a credit to the work that was put in over the last 18 months or so.
A big part of the match was The Bigger Picture being banned from ringside, of course, being the dastardly bastards that they are Marshall X and Damian Dunne came out to cause problems anyway (I can only imagine that Ryan Smile was too good of a guy to come out and disobey the ban) because their were no disqualifications so what was anyone going to do about it. Of course, it makes Kamikaze Pro's chief (and ring announcer) Lawrie Neal look a bit dim, but it got a bucket load of heat for the Bigger Picture and an even bigger reaction when The Hunter Brothers came back out to even the score and added to that sense of momentum that I spoke about earlier on.
As one would expect, this was a fun-filled, high spot-laden encounter, that made full use of the TLC gimmick and then some. Margera's known for his death match exploits and that was used well here with a series of unique moments that got brilliant reactions from the crowd. A russian leg sweep on the merch table, a big back body drop onto a ladder in the corner, a bump onto a conveniently placed ladder bridge and the cream of the crop, Robbie X holding onto the ceiling as Margera grabbed his leg and sent him swinging and then crashing through a table below. A couple of big chair shots and some brawling thrown into the mix and what we had was a very enjoyable main event.
A good show-case for the Relentless Division here, as Tyler Bate won his first singles championship in Kamikaze Pro, by outlasting champion Ryan Smile, Chris Brookes and Omari in a Four Way Dance. The action was kept pacy throughout, with lots of dives and the obligatory multi-man Russian leg sweep thrown in for good measure throughout. The set-up of the match with Smile as the lone villain, lead to things feeling a little bit off-kilter throughout the earlier portion of the match, with Brookes even having to side with Smile at a point in the bout, which seemed to lead to a little confusion in the crowd. It did lead to a nice tower of doom type spot though, so swings and roundabouts.
The order of elimination, however, was spot on for me, as Brookes would be the first to head to the back, after a kick to the nads from Smile. Omari managing to get to the final three raises his profile in the promotion, and spending as much time as possible in the ring with the likes of Smile, Bate and Brookes will only help him as he continues to develop. He'd eventually succumb to a springboard cutter from Smile. This brought us to the last two, with the stage set rather nicely. You had Bate as the last remaining hero, looking to vanquish the despicable Smile, who had shown he would do anything to win. Of course, with the match balanced the way it was, Bate was always going to win here, but the pair ended the bout with a flurry of crisp and frantic action, with "Text Book" earning a brilliant near fall off a stalling brainbuster, before eventually winning the belt with a lariat that turned Smile inside out. A future match between Bate and Smile could steal whatever show it's placed on.
The other title on the line at the 3rd Anniversary Show saw The Hunter Brothers and The Bigger Picture's Damian Dunne and Marshall X end their ladder match in a draw, with each team pulling down a title belt each. Man, I hated this finish. It's been done a few times in various ways and every time it makes me groan just a little bit louder. The worst thing about this for me, is that I could see it coming. As the match drew on, as Marshall X and Hunter #1 battled upon the ladder throwing strikes back and forth, and then suddenly both grabbed for a title above them, it was almost always clear exactly where the match was heading. In my opinion, results like this only stand to diminish the ladder match as a concept, just as every time there's a screwy finish in a cage match damages the appeal of that match-type. The company now has to craft something a bit more satisfying in an upcoming rematch in Coventry.
Despite the finish, the rest of the match had it's moments. Damian Dunne was the matches MVP for me, being involved in pretty much every major spot in the bout, taking a backbody drop onto a ladder, as well as delivering a backstabber onto a Hunter holding a ladder, before flipping the move to hit a lung blower to pull another Hunter who was a few rungs up. Despite a couple of stand out moments, I felt this one never really looked to be taking things to next level, perhaps this was down to Dunne and Marshall X being an unfamiliar tandem (despite their Bigger Picture affiliation) or maybe because there was a need to hold back a little bit of creativity to allow the main event to stand out more.
There was another four way bout on the show, as Elliott Jordan continued to gather momentum, in a comedy-based match which would also involve Sid Scala, Liam Doyle and a debuting Lewis Howley. If you're a fan of funky gimmicks then you'd have been in your element here. Scala rocked up a yellow scooter, playing homage to everyone's favourite Trotters with a wheeler dealer/hat wearer gimmick. Doyle rocks a "King of the Gypsies" gimmick, which basically boils down to him being a drunk Irishman. Howley hails from The Playboy Mansion and doesn't like his face being touched. It's perhaps ironic that the least defined gimmick here is that of the victor, as I'm yet to work out who "The Wolf of Broad Street" actually is...other than the fact that he's got an "upside down face", which is more the crowd's creativity than his own.
The bout stuck to showcasing the interactions between the four characters, as Scala and Doyle formed a bond over their hats, whilst Howley desperately tried to keep his face from being hit. It didn't reinvent the wheel and certainly wasn't a exciting as the other four way on the show, but it wasn't supposed to do that. As comic relief it worked well enough, with a few chuckle worthy moments, whilst the completely random obsession with hats had the crowd losing their sweet little minds. These are four competitors who are still growing and developing their personas in the business and at times that showed here, with perhaps the full potential of the storytelling never quite reached a peak, especially with the time the match was afforded.
El Ligero has been undefeated in singles competition since May 2015 and he'd continue his Kamikaze Pro streak with a victory over Jody Fleisch in a high-speed outing here. If you had been new to either guy, the pair set out their stall as early as possible here, with a smashing opening, exchanging holds with ease and getting the crowd nicely warmed up for the second half. The rest of the match was performed with just as much ease from both men, as they put on a clinical junior heavyweight style match without seemingly breaking a sweat. The only moment of the bout that saw either put a foot wrong was Fleish cracking the back of his head on a wooden chair after hitting a lovely asai moonsault, which seemed like a bit of back luck rather than a legitimate mistake.
There was nice narrative added in the later exchanges, with Ligero looking to hit his Frog Splash on a number of occasions, either to be cut off by Fliesch or to end up getting his opponents knees driven into his gut. This built nicely towards the finish, with Ligero having to go all out in an attempt to keep "The Phoenix" on the mat, hitting a timely superkick, following it up with a belly-to-back piledriver before ascending to the top rope to finally hit a Frog Splash to gain his fifth win in a row in Kamikaze Pro. Whilst most of the action here was of a high quality, Fleish's tweener character seemed to hold the match back at times and I feel that had we seen him shift to either side of the fence then it would've benefitted the bout in terms of crowd reaction and perhaps even have allowed the in-ring action to be pushed to the next level.
Lana Austin would have a technically sound, if not uninspiring, match with Alex Windsor, with the debutant eventually tapping to a modified sharpshooter. For some reason, I struggled to engage with this one, maybe it was because it never seemed to find a storytelling groove or that Windsor came across as a bit of a babyface by default because of Austin's over-the-top spoiled child gimmick, or perhaps it's because that whilst nothing stood out as particularly bad in the match, nothing actually really stood out that much at all. Probably not helped by being the seventh match of eight on the show either.
The opening match of the show saw current Money in the Bank briefcase holder Dan Maloney pick up a flash victory over Jonny Storm, in an energetic opener. There were a lot of ideas in this one, with the main piece of storytelling involved Storm's obsession with Maloney's MITB briefcase. For me, I think this was over-played for what it was and became a frustrating distraction from the stellar in-ring action that the pair were putting on and made Storm look a bit of an idiot for constantly going after the case when he was in clear control of the match. It seemed like the crowd grew tired of the idea fairly quickly as well. I was much more interested in Maloney's work on Storm's arm, which after being initially sold well by Storm ended up being dropped quickly.
In what was arguably the biggest match of his career to date, Kamikaze Pro Live! Champion Mika would fall short in a straight-forward encounter with the much more polished Pete Dunne. Mika seems to be learning fast inside the ring and will certainly have learnt from being in the ring with Dunne. My mine gripe with this match was Mika's pre-match promo, as "The Polish Punisher" used the EU Referendum result as fuel, describing how Polish people would still come over to "steal jobs". Politics and wrestling have been uneasy bedfellows numerous times throughout the years, but I was just glad the crowd descend into a series of xenophobic chants as after seeing the UKIP "Vote Leave" flags that decorated the buildings exterior.
Right at the top of the show, The Bigger Picture were out in force, interrupting Lawrie Neal's introduction of the first match. The group got some big heat from the crowd as Ryan Smile cut a promo about the group's dominance and all their multiple championship reigns within the promotion. Not a whole lot happened here, it was the group coming out, saying "We're Awesome" and then leaving, but it did set-up the story for any newbies in the audience, which is always a good thing. Thinking back on this segment, I can't help but wish that it had been book-ended at the end of the show by the group being left without a single title around their waist.
ATPW Scale Rating - 5.25/10
I think the 5.25 rating really sums up what this show was for me, just above average. The main event TLC and the Four Way Dance were both good matches, that offered something different in their slots within the second half. The ladder match had it's moments, but was unspectacular and featured a groan-worthy finish. With the exception of El Ligero vs. Jody Fleish, anything below that level on the card was just kinda okay. Nothing to get excited about, but nothing all that bad either. Technically sound, but with a lack of creativity, perhaps?
This being said, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Kamikaze Pro, because it was wrestling. Above average wrestling. Will I remember much of what happened on the show? Probably not. Especially from the undercard. Did I have a good time? Yeah, fo' sho'. And that's the most important thing, people.