We Went to Fight Club Pro and You Should Too
It’s been a wild time for the British wrestling scene these past 6 months. From WWE and TNA (is that technically incorrect now?) sizing up this fair isle for their own purposes, to the explosion of high end, world class Independent promotions, if you’re hankering to watch some live wrestling and you live anywhere but Lincolnshire (seriously) then there’s a show for you. A particular example of the eyes on the British scene right now was the frankly fantastic WWE UK Championship tournament, which undoubtedly peeled back the thick rubbery skin of the rice pudding that is British wrestling for all of the world to feast upon. I have often joked with my podcast/life partner Jo that her interest in wrestling has caused this, and that the entire wrestling industry is trying very hard to impress her. Well, following on from a year of attending some fun shows, and some less than fun, we may have hit a new high note. Fight Club Pro you see, is fucking brilliant.
We picked up tickets before any matches were announced, but the promise of lovely wrestling boys in the form of Tyler Bate and Trent Seven was all we needed to convince us to attend a show. It was one of those ticket purchases akin to pickling walnuts - a long wait, you’ll probably forget about it between now and then, but it’ll just serve to make the experience all the better.
Since moving to Manchester, I have tried repeatedly to get tickets for PROGRESS shows, which despite them being in all capital letters and sending out polite reminder emails like I would to my Dad so he could buy me Brian Wilson tickets, I continually failed to obtain. On the last occasion, I went to the site at the exact time specified, and only standing tickets were available. As I began to think “Hmm do we reeeeally want to stand up the whole time” they were gone. Such is the popularity of seeing the likes of Pete Dunne in his natural, full Peaky Blinders form.
And that is much of the appeal of the likes of PROGRESS and Fight Club Pro. Getting a chance to see these awesome names in their home turf, doing their thing before they go on to bigger and hopefully better things. As the day of the event approached, I casually said to Jo, “Y’know this’ll probably be the best live wrestling we ever see”. And hoo boy, I was not wrong. My overall take-home from this was how lovely the crowd and the wrestlers of Fight Club Pro are. I have stood in many queues and heard many not-so-nice things in my time as a fan. I have been at shows that began rowdy and veered close to chaos (not the good Warhammer kind either). And I’ve been to far too many shows where the fans have been dickish and disrespectful to the performers in the ring. Shows have been ruined by fans leering at female talent or groups of large red men shouting at children for having the temerity to cheer the good guy. Call me cynical but there was a part of me that worried, in the crammed Student’s Union bar with reasonably priced and reasonably carbonated beer flowing like wine, that I would be spending the night in various states of mild discomfort. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong, and how wrong I was. A truly lovely crowd was on hand for the show in Manchester, rowdy but good spirited. There is an energy in small, passionate crowds that cannot be emulated by a stadium or attempted stadium crowd.
The night did not begin auspiciously, as a planned match between two of Fight Club Pro’s trainees, Drew Parkers and Killian Jacobs ended after an scary, unplanned spill to the outside resulted in injury and an early call for the bell. By most accounts this could derail most shows, however it was handled admirably and even gave us an unscheduled spot of stand-up from Trent Seven who recounted us with tales of Axxess and having to follow Sting and Kevin Nash for signings on day one and two respectively. The night kicked off officially in good stead with an appearance from The Hunter Brothers, hailing from the town of Tippton, which had to be pointed out to me was a fictional place. As a fake English town names enthusiast myself (Chalkshire, just sayin’), these gentlemen entertained me greatly, especially when their impromptu hardcore brawl with Jimmy “Jimmy, Jimmy Fucking” Havoc and Clint Margera descended into a cross between a particularly odd scene from the League of Gentlemen and an advert for beer at the cinema. The image of two midlanders saying “ ‘Old ‘im dooon, get the Stella Artois” will not soon leave my nightmares. I popped big for Clint Margera, mainly for his use of the Via La Bam theme. I was hoping at the end of his match the announcer would go “CLINT MARGERA WHAT WILL HE DO NEXT” and then Clint would go “whatever the fuck I want” and walk off the side of a CGI building, but there’s always next time, eh?
Zach Sabre Jr, who Jo reckons would be dead interesting to talk to at a party, had an impressive encounter with fellow SUPLX apparel sponsored wrestler Angelico. This is the third time I’ve seen ZSJ and each time I’ve seen him, I’ve been sat ever so slightly closer to the ring, which makes me completely bamboozled by his ability to do the things he does with a greater magnitude each time I watch him wrestle. Next time I see him wrestle, I’ll have to sit quietly in the corner near the turnbuckle and hope he doesn’t notice me. As a recent fan of the WOS style, I appreciate seeing ZSJ and his many belts keep this tradition alive. I also respect his one man mission to tell the entire wrestling world to calm down, one slightly too audible fan at a time.
In the night's most forgettable affair, Dan Moloney and his many zips took on Mark Andrew’s and his many flips. Seriously, I know Dan has ‘seen things’ but I’ve seen literally hundreds of pairs of trousers in my time and these take the zip cake. The cold ass and slippy concrete floor of the Student’s Union didn’t put any high flyer off their dives and Mandrews was no exception. We witnessed our first of many chair casualties in this match, a tone set for the rest of the evening. Our first half main event saw the very intense Mark Haskins challenge the equally intense Kiwi buzzsaw Travis Banks for the FCP championship. I have seen both perform before but this was easily their best outing I’ve witnessed, with Banks' kicks in particular standing out. On a night that saw much in the way of flips and goofs (both of which are essential in a wrestle show), this was very much the meat and two veg encounter with both men putting on an exhausting, physical match. ZSJ appeared after to stare at the one belt in the building he didn’t own and did a face. Mate, you’ve already got 3 and your pants are already held up perfectly. Give Dan Moloney a shot instead, bloke’s so hard up for a belt he’s started turning his trousers into a vast mesh of zips.
I should point out that at the interval, before and after the show Jo and I had to pleasure of speaking to a whole bunch of fans and you all were tremendously cool and amazing to chat to. I’m not sure I say it enough, and I suspect I don’t, but the How2 fanbase (How2niverse/How2Universe) are the most lovely people in wrestling. It always brightens my day and warms my heart to chat to you guys and it was great to shake hands and take horrible selfies with the lot of you! Our pal Hiren warned us ahead of the #CCK/Moustache Mountain encounter that #CCK (aka the two horrible boys, wolf boy and tall boy) have a tendency to spit and be generally nasty bastards. Ho ho ho, I chuckled, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been a wrestling fan for 20 years, no chance I’ll be worked, brother! And then #CCK came out and doused our row with a 2L bottle of Volvic. And before you go “oh Kefin, volcanicity though" the fucking heels replaced it with tap (shut up I CAN TELL). So yeah, #CCK had me calling for their blood. What I got instead was the most entertaining live match I’ve seen in forever and a day. It was the type of match that had me thinking and smiling about spots in the hours and days afterwards. It was the type of match that when I saw Adam (one of the ones from the Attitude Era Podcast) the next day, I hastily had to grab action figures to describe one such spot (Tyler made #CCK German suplex themselves).
I love Tyler Bate and Trent Seven (if that’s not obvious already) and my wrestling fandom is better for them being known to me. They were names I knew, but had never seen. When we went to a WCPW show, our pal Ash pointed them out as they were about to wrestle. “One of them is 19, these guys are unbelievable”. As he was saying this about a pair of nice boys who had cool facial hair AND towels, I was on board as they’d already ticked two of my requisites for amazing wrestlers who I love. These two are a joy to see wrestle, and while I left the UK Championship finals in awe of Tyler Bate's incredible abilities, I definitely left this FCP show with a newfound love of Trent Seven. Comedy and wrestling are often clumsily married together, but Trent weaves in so many little touches, he makes watching him live a genuinely brilliant experience. It may have been the jumping spinning piledriver, or the constant quips of “HAVE ONE OF THESE!” but Trent really reminds me of Street Fighter 2, and in a positive way, not a “my brother hit me because he couldn’t handle my hardcore Blanka strat” way.
Way back in the olden days of wrestling fandom, which involved watching the original Botchamania on Ebaums World and playing heavy doses of increasingly shite Smackdown games, I came across Jack Evans. My mate Paddy liked showing me clips of men in baggy pants doing very scary and very impressive flips in relatively low resolution. Fast forward to 2017, I finally get to see Jack Evans live and he is as flippy as I remember seeing him on Window’s Media Player all those years ago. What I didn’t expect was for him to go full on heel and put on a hat and cheer for a footie team that WASN’T EVEN FROM MANCHESTER. YOU FUCKIN WOT MATE. As a non-soccerman, I am often left a bit awkward when I see a scene close to Heatwave 98 break out every time an American wrestler dares besmirch the beautiful game. What I like most is seeing the various pockets of men who start a footie chant in response to these insults, which almost never manages to unite into one coherent song. I felt bad for the insanely talented and suave Shane Strickland who had to be all Graham Chapman and play the straight man in a sea of madness, but this match had so many flipz it made me peckish for chocolate covered pretzels. Much more so than usual, because these two started things off with what we all really came to see. No not hardcore nudity, dancing! Jack Evans' attempt to keep a cigarette in his mouth the whole time was admirable, as was his commitment to being a "PROPER LIVERPOOL SCOUSE 4 LIFE” in the match itself, even taking chops from the crowd.
Our main event saw the ultra talented combo of Penta El Zero M & Rey Fenix take on Pete Dunne and Sami Callihan. I was interested to see if Sami Callihan, the former Solomon Crowe in NXT could impress Jo, despite having the least impressive and completely underwhelming run in NXT history, and he certainly did. Pete and Sami were dressed as cats, and as a former cat researcher, I give them 5 out of 5 cats for their face paint and frequent purring. My chant of “Peter, give us a meow, Peter, Peter give us a meow” didn’t catch on but the memories will last a lifetime. Having very limited knowledge of AAA and Lucha Underground, my experience of Penta was mainly “he is a very big, important deal” and he lived up to that vague accolade. Crowd brawling resulted in many broken chairs, a kicked face to an inexplicably ok fan and a general sense of “don’t sit too comfortably, Pete Dunne may come down on your lap” made this a tense and exciting brawl. The Lucha Brothers were so over it was ridiculous, and everyone seemed to put a little bit extra into the match. I always appreciate wrestlers going the extra mile while crowd brawling, but Sami Callihan won my heart by viciously chopping the steel ring post so hard in front of us that we legitimately thought he’d broken his hand.
Since starting this podcast, we've have had some bleak experiences at live shows and some good ones. While each show always has something special, many fade into obscurity over time, but I’ve a feeling Fight Club Pro will be at the front of my mind for a long time to come. A brilliant night of wrestling, if I do manage to ever get tickets to a PROGRESS show, they’ve a high standard to beat!