On 16th February 2018, 5 Star Wrestling came to us live from the Fly DSA Arena in Sheffield, England. Our main event for the evening saw a Teddy Long Special occur as the previously announced match of Rampage Brown against Rey Mysterio became a tag match with the additions of Zach Gibson & Rob Van Dam respectively. With action also featuring 5Star Tag Champions Max Money taking on the UK Hooligans, 5Star Champion Jake Hager taking on Ryan Hunter as well as Colt Cabana, Flash Morgan Webster and many more. It' not exactly controversial to state that 5Star have picked up a bit of reputation in the BritWres community, not necessarily a good one, but could they counter that and put on a show good enough to silence the doubters?
'Tango' Timm Wylie def. Ricky Knight Jr. // Pinfall
This was a reasonably standard face v heel, junior v heavyweight encounter but with some nice touches with Wylie using the tech fuck-ups that plagued the show right from the start to generate some heel heat, in fact considering the crowd was half not in the room and the other half were reasonably unresponsive, it must be said Wylie and Knight Jr. did a good job of actually getting people into the match. Extra points for Wyle using the Brian Danielson 'I have till five' shouts. Wylie would eventually get a pin with a Twisting Suplex Slam.
Matty Mayhem def. HT Drake and Anthony Young // Pinfall
Not much to comment on here really as this was 9 minutes of crowd-popping spot work, though I must commend them for actually never breaking down into the rotating singles match structure and keeping all three men in the ring practically for the entire match duration. Drake played the bigger lad in this throwing suplexes like no one's business, Young pulled off the night's second Danielson tribute by hitting Yes Kicks on both men, Mayhem hit a GTS, indie-galore. The finish came when Mayhem got a surprise reversal into a Paul Smackage on Drake. Nice stuff, did the job, got the crowd's energy up a bit.
So we opened on a shite promo from Jake Hager which left the crowd going '...k' only for it to be interrupted by a very good promo from Zach Gibson who railed on Hager for being dull and said he's the reason people are switching over to Takeshi's Castle. It was at this point the crowd started to wonder, 'do we like Gibson now? He's right and Hager's the bad guy. But Gibson's also the bad guy...what?' After Gibson left, Hager said he would defend his title, not against Gibson but against one of the UK's best talents. What do you bet this sets up the 'Hager beats up a jobber' story?
Joey Axl def. El Ligero // Submission
We come to part three of the evening's Danielson tribute as Ligero and Axl reinterpreted the classic 'you can't pin a ball' spot from when Daniel Bryan fought Tyson Kidd on Saturday Morning Slam. Beyond that glorious moment, this was a solid match with Ligero giving Axl his best match so far of the 5Star tour. The problem this match had was that it had to follow a laboured Hager promo (more on that later) and an ad-break so any excitement the crowd might have had from the dark matches had been lost by this point so it had to build it back up again. The finish came as Axl tapped out Ligero with the Ayers Rock Lock stretch muffler. Decent enough stuff.
Gibson would pop up again, attacking Rey Mysterio before his match with Rampage Brown, opening the door for Rob Van Dam to make the save, setting for our main event: Gibson & Brown vs Mysterio & Van Dam.
Eddie Ryan def. 'The Wrestling Vegan' Marcus Burke // Pinfall
First off, Burke walking around the crowd shouting 'I am a vegan! Nooo meat!' was perfect character work, I got where he was coming from and Marcus, if you're ever back in Sheffield, hit me up, we can get some Avocado Wings from Make No Bones. The match itself was a little light on action as there seemed to be a lack of connection between both men thought Ryan, positioned as the top UK babyface of the roster was beloved of the younger fans in the audience. Worth mentioning: this match broke the Danielson tributes with instead Ryan entering with his lion mask and cape combo and Burke hitting a Tiger Driver for a good near fall suggesting a move to Tiger Mask tributes. Ryan eventually won with the Sitout Side Slam for the pin. During the match, Bram was at ringside in a baseball cap and what looked like one of those ponchos they give you at Splash Canyon at Drayton Manor.
Colt Cabana & Grado def. Carlito & Chris Masters // Pinfall
There was another edition of Morgan Webster's Modcast but before it could begin properly, the Masters of Cool interrupted, complaining that they wanted to make it an episode of Carlito's Cabana. Talking of cabanas, actual guest Colt Cabana turned up and was attacked by the Masters but Grado made the save. It wasn't entirely clear to the audience that this was a heel turn as the announcer came out during the ad-break to make sure we knew to boo Masters and Carlito and cheer Cabana and Grado. Luckily once the match began, the team known to many as Irn Jew made sure there was no doubt who to cheer for as they delivered an incredibly fun match, putting on not just the best match of the night but probably my favourite pure piece of entertainment from this entire tour thus far. They worked a simple tag structure but they peppered it with a lot of fun details and most importantly didn't outwear their welcome. It's harder to describe comedy focussed matches than pure wrestling as it's akin to explaining the joke but suffice to say, you won't see a more joyous moment this week than Grado trying to put the Master Lock on Chris Masters. The finish came as Carlito when to spit apple at Grado but he dodged, the apple hit Masters, Cabana pulled Carlito out of the ring opening up Masters for an R-Grado out of naewaer for the pin. Not exactly complicated but just good, clean fun plus Colt and Grado turning up were a genuine surprise and an extremely pleasant one at that.
5 Star Championship // Jake Hager (c) def. Ryan Hunter // Submission
Hager came out first to introduce his opponent, AOW regular Ryan Hunter. This was the standard 'heel champion beats up a jobber but occasionally the jobber does something close to a move which pisses off the champion so he drags out the match to beat the piss out of his opponent' match with Hunter being massively over in a way that you almost felt they could have put the title on him that night and the crowd might not have complained. It went on far too long, all things considered as the crowd weren't into it at all. Hager hit the Ankle Lock for an easy tapout.
Joe Hendry def. Big Grizzly // Pinfall
This match happened because Dave Mastiff and Big Grizzly called out Joe Hendry for hiding behind the commentary desk, so, of course, Mastiff took over on commentary because nothing says 'I'm calling you out' like then not wrestling and instead taking his job. A quick match with Grizzly playing the big man heel and Hendry working underneath till he got a good comeback and shocked the crowd by getting a pin off a Fallaway Slam. Hendry, Grizzly and Mastiff have enough charisma to make this work but this didn't really feel like it achieved much, especially if Hendry is going to stay behind the commentary desk for the foreseeable future.
PJ Black def. Flash Morgan Webster // Pinfall
This was probably the evening's best singles action as the former 3-time WWE Tag Team Champion took on the current ATTACK! Champion is a fast paced bout full of the signature high-flying action that both men are known for. The main things that hurt this match were a lack of time but also that the short snippets of commentary they played in the arena suggested that this was meant to be building the story of plucky underdog Webster seeking his first win in 5 Star yet they put him against Black who was just as over, especially amongst one very vocal group of children. It's not that Webster wasn't able to build sympathy nor Black incapable of working a good subtle heelish performance, more that especially in the arena, a lack of crowd support for the chosen hero hurts the storytelling. Perhaps they could have come out before all the matches and told us who to cheer for, it would have made things easier. Black got the pinfall victory off a Lionsault.
5 Star Tag Team Championship // Charlie Sterling & Adam Maxted (C) def. Roy Knight & Zak Knight // Pinfall
If there's one thing that I hope comes from this 5Star tour, it's more bookings for Charlie Sterling and Adam Maxted as they work well together, really showing a lot of tag team fundamentals and heel characteristics that a lot of people forget. It probably helps that the Hooligans were probably the most over thing on this entire show, well, if judging by the row or two behind me who all were constantly doing the 'hoo-hoo-hooligans' chant and as that was directly in my ear, I can't tell about anything else. They worked a good, solid tag match, making the crowd believe that there was a chance that Norwich's finest might take home the belts and making them all the more upset that they lost their chance due to a surprise roll-up. I did feel oddly sorry for Maxted early on as the Knights seemed to be throwing some particularly stiff-looking shots his way but I guess that is their style. Not much to add but still impressive that this far into the show they were still getting responses as fatigue had set in for this writer somewhere around Jake Hager's title match. Before the match, Pure Dead Brilliant (Kid Fite, Lou King Sharp & Krieger) would invade the ring and talk about once again being deprived of a match and issued a challenge for a tag match before the Hooligans scared them off. The lack of booking for these lads is a really bizarre storyline as they were some of the talents brought to the Press Conference announcing the roster, quite similar to their limiting of Jack Jester to pre-show or not at all this week. In kayfabe, why do it?
Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam vs. Zack Gibson & Rampage Brown // No Contest
By this point, it became quite difficult to actually see what was going on from floor level as a hoard of replica mask-wearing children had surrounded the ring, leaning over the barricade to see two true legends of the sport. They also seemed interested in their opponents, some pair of former WWF guys I think. The match worked an odd structure as they seemed to let Rey Mysterio and Rob Van Dam make their opponents look like fools for the longest time before they were able to cut off the faces, twice, because both men wanted to have their hot tag sequence. What worked very well about this match was the psychology behind the heels approach as they could see the crowd were waiting for Rey and RVD to hit their finishers so they knew to wait for them to try and use that to cut them off, making the crowd wait and hate them more each time they delayed their gratification. The faces did work hard to make their opponents look good, Rey, even if he's not quite as quick as he used to be, still is a damn sight better than most and it was a treat to get to see him. Rampage is a sure hand and a great, vicious performer though it really can't be said enough, Gibson is the best thing about 5Star, with every little action he does being used to push forward his agenda, especially with little details like pointing out to the referee about his opponent's breaking rules before using it as a distraction to break some of his own. The finish was a fascinating clusterfuck as after Rampage had taken a 619 and a Five Star Frog Splash, Gibson would pull the ref out of the ring and knock him out before Max Money came in to beat down Rey and RVD but Irn Jew would come in to even the odds, this would lead to a No Contest in theory but it wasn't entirely clear as after they'd sent the heels packing, the faces just raised each others hands and left, no actual bell, no referee response, just a 'let's hear it for Rey and RVD, ok bye everyone'. This did however feature the best moment of the show as after clearing out the heels, RVD seemingly got a bit confused and superkicked Grado out of the ring before trying to go for him while Cabana did the 'Chris Pratt calms the velociraptors' pose. Hilarious stuff. This wasn't necessarily a bad finish to a match but certainly, not exactly the most exciting high-point upon which to end an episode. But if it leads to Cabana and Grado challenging for the tag titles, I'm all-in.
Also this Week
There were some on-screen promos from Hager where Ryan turned up and challenged him for the title in Plymouth next week, that mysterious masked man who screamed about wrestling next week, Nathan Cruz spoke about how he wasn't wrestling but was there anyway to pick up a cheque because he bought an expensive watch with his cheque from last week and something from RVD, Rey and Irn Jew where the sound cut out so who knows what was said? Something about Twixes, probably.
As a product, 5Star still has a long way to go with a lot of the book representing the same errors that overly sacrificial WWE booking has suffered from. As an arena spectacle, it is plagued with technical issues and feels empty in the arena spaces as you can hear the sound travel to the back of the room and get lost there. As a spectacle of wrestling, it has enough talent in its roster to put on a good show with obvious standouts like Gibson, Ligero & Webster really showing their talents in a larger arena setting and even certain talents like Carlito and Chris Masters surprisingly really showing up this week. As a wrestling show clearly for a family audience, it's harder to say it's a complete failure. It doesn't quite translate to the television perhaps as well as might be hoped but there was a sense of palpable excitement amongst the kids who crowded around the barrier to watch their favourites like Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam and interestingly enough, Eddie Ryan. Perhaps this really isn't designed to be a product for us, the overly informed snarkastic fans of the internet, maybe it's purely for the kids who either don't know or are willing to overlook the lack of reality. I don't know, it's hard to hate something that's so clearly trying to push beyond what it's capable of in the present yet at the same time, there's a certain air of content 'that'll do' to the overall presentation that equally it's very difficult to love. Also, where was Haskins?
Written By Jozef Raczka // @NotJoeRaczka