On the weekend of 28-29 April, 2007 at the Liverpool Olympia in England, sixteen independent wrestling promotions joined together for an incredible display of camaraderie and cooperation to create a one-of-a-kind professional wrestling event: the King of Europe Cup tournament. Federations from America, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany sent representatives to comprise a field of very well known and respected indy performers who made history together as they competed for the honor of being crowned the first King of Europe.
TODAY’S ISSUE: The 2007 King of Europe Cup tournament.
Ring of Honor, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, CHIKARA, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, Combat Zone Wrestling, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Dragon Gate, Real Quality Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Unplugged, westside Xtreme wrestling, 1 Pro Wrestling, Independent Wrestling Association: Mid-South, International Pro Wrestling: United Kingdom, World Association of Wrestling, International Wrestling Syndicate, and Premier Promotions all worked together for this two-night, four-round tournament featuring some of the best wrestlers in the world today. Nigel McGuinness, Go Shiozaki, Davey Richards, Claudio Castagnoli, Chris Hero, Matt Sydal, El Generico, PAC, Ryo Saito, Doug Williams and six other international wrestlers sought the King of Europe Cup in this inaugural event, which is sadly the only installment of the event thus far. A follow-up was scheduled in 2008 and then pushed back, which in all likelihood means it will never happen again and that the 2007 tournament was destined to be a one-of-a-kind spectacular.
Filling out the field were Trent Acid, the Zebra Kid, Martin Stone, Are$, Jody Fleisch and Rhino, each of whom brought something different to the affair, whether it was Rhino’s brute strength and experience, Acid’s underhanded tactics, the Zebra Kid’s tenacity, or Fleisch’s undying heart, which was evident when he continued to battle against Ryo Saito even after the Saito broke Fleisch’s jaw early in their opening round match. It was the vast array of different types of wrestlers and different styles on display throughout the tournament which allowed the King of Europe Cup to present a mix of technical grappling, high-flying aerial attacks, stiff striking, and wild brawling, ensuring there was something for every wrestling fan to enjoy. Each performer worked hard and put on a good show for the appreciative crowd, which chanted several classics throughout the elimination gauntlet, such as “this is awesome”, “holy shit”, and “thank you (insert wrestler’s name)”.
Dann Read and “the twisted genius” Dean Ayass ably handled the commentary, as both showed exceptional knowledge of the industry and the 16 men involved in this event and also brought some pleasant humor and interesting discussion to the table. They never dominated the in-ring action as some announcers do, but added seasoning to the tasty buffet of wrestling served up in Liverpool both nights. These two gentlemen were very respectful of the sacrifices wrestlers make and the risks they face in the name of entertaining the fans, which showed through in their commentary.
The well-informed announce duo even knew the specifics of how each man earned the right to represent their home promotion at the tourney, and the details were so specific (they knew what sort of match or tournament each man won, when, and against whom) that it was clear these were no phantom cards held in Rio de Janeiro but actual events promoted around the world for the right to compete in this uncommon competition. The way the individual companies selected their representatives showed how important the King of Europe Cup is, and the single-elimination format made each match critically important. That fact was apparent throughout the opening round on night one, when wrestlers took chance after chance in high-risk, all or nothing attacks and threw caution to the wind in their quest to reach night two.
The atmosphere was one of excitement and anticipation when the tournament got underway with a bang, as the former Kings of Wrestling, Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero, exploded in the very first match months before they ever faced each other in Ring of Honor. The opening round featured two other unique match-ups, as Nigel McGuinness squared off against TNA’s Rhino six month before Nigel would win the ROH World Championship in a match unlikely to ever be seen on U.S. soil, and current ROH Tag Team Champion El Generico battled WWE’s Matt “Evan Bourne” Sydal (who represented IWS and IWA:MS, respectively). After eight solid, hard-hitting, entertaining matches in the opening round, the survivors returned on night two with the knowledge that to secure the King of Europe Cup, they’d have to win three matches in the same evening against some of the best indy talent on the planet.
In the quarterfinals, the eight remaining wrestlers really cranked up the intensity, and their do-or-die dilemma forced them to take more risks and absorb more punishment as they battled on toward their goal. This made for four exciting matches to open night two as the winners from the previous day struggled to remain alive in the tournament, and the intensity bled over into the semifinals as well. When the field was limited to four men they left it all in the ring, scratching with everything they had in order to advance to the final match, and delivering two very exciting contests along the way. While night one set the stage and started the ball rolling, night two built upon all that momentum and delivered match after match of excellent in-ring action, drama, and suspense. The final match lived up to expectations and built on the previous matches to put an exclamation point on this fantastic two-night event. The quarters, semis and final match alone make the entire DVD worth the selling price, and demonstrate the very best way to book entertaining professional wrestling – place something important on the line and let two talented performers go after it. My hat is off to Alex Shane and Doug Williams for conceiving the concept, and to all the promoters, wrestlers, and crew who made the King of Europe Cup tournament a reality.
When you take into account the fact that two wrestling promotions working together is something of a rarity, the idea of 16 of them cooperating without the host company (RQW) dominating the tournament and shoving their own representative into the winner’s circle is simply amazing. I won’t spoil any match results; suffice it to say these men were professionals all the way, putting each other over in clean loses and “doing business” the way it was meant to be done. Watching the sportsmanship and spirit of competition shown by these gladiators will make you proud to be a wrestling fan. Well, most of them showed sportsmanship, anyway. There’s always got to be a true heel or two in the mix.
The two-disc set also includes some bonus action, including Martin Stone, El Generico and Atsushi Aoki vs. the team of “Swiss Money Holding” (Claudio Castagnoli and Are$) and Trent Acid in a six-man elimination match, El Generico vs. PAC from the tourney pre-show, Davey Richards and Atsushi Aoki vs. Doug Williams and Go Shiozaki from an RQW television taping, and the finals of the RQW British Title tournament between PAC and Martin Stone from the Not Just For Christmas event, recorded the previous December. You can purchase the DVD here for 14 pounds, which translates to about $20 U.S., plus shipping. For the amount and quality of wrestling included, 20 bucks is a steal.
Sometimes jumping into indy wrestling is difficult because when you buy a DVD you find yourself in the middle of an ongoing storyline arc without must knowledge of the history of the feud or the characters involved. But the King of Europe Cup tournament is a self-contained story, with beginning, middle and end, and all the bumps and bruises in between, included in one handy set. It’s easily digestible in one or two sittings, with plenty of great pro wrestling action to please most fans. If you recognize any of the names above and like their work, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t know these guys and appreciate great wrestling, you should give them a chance to entertain you. Long live the King of Europe!
Vin Sanity is not categorized as a psychological disorder… yet.
p.s. – “Royalty consists not in vain pomp, but in great virtues.” – The Spartan King Agesilaus
The original version of this syndicated column, titled Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic, appears each Monday morning on Pulse Wrestling.
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Looking for something else? Wrestling fans will love PWMania.com, RingsideScoops.com, and the red-hot DivaShots.com.