April 14th at the Diamond Banqueting Suite, Wolverhampton
The Elite (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks) vs. British Strong Style (Tyler Bate, Pete Dunne & Trent Seven) headlined Fight Club: PRO’s biggest ever show last night and I was lucky enough to be there in person. Read on for thoughts from my tired and hungover self!
I went to the show with my friends Josh and Jo, with Josh driving us from Cardiff to attend. After getting some food and a pint in a nearby pub, we started queuing outside the venue at 6pm. It took an hour of waiting in the drizzling rain before we were inside, but that was quickly forgotten once we’d sat in our amazing seats. Here was my view:
Bate, Dunne, Penta El 0M, Rey Fenix, Zack Sabre Jr. and Marty Scurll were at the merch tables and after several trips I finally decided to buy a SPLX t-shirt and got to have a chat with ZSJ, who is a class act.
I’m the one in the NJPW tee, believe it or not.
There was no Omega or Bucks merchandise on display, which I can only assume was because they’d sold out after their appearances in Edinburgh and London. A shame, but I’m sure everyone else appreciated the chance to get their share of the cash.
This being a British indie show, there were duelling chants and songs throughout, although “This is Awesome!” was reserved for the main event, despite there being several matches worthy of the chant.
Trent Seven, FCP’s co-owner, came out to welcome us, and it was clear that this meant a huge amount to him. He solved some seating issues in good humour (tickets were assigned only to rows, so it was reliant upon the honesty of fans to sit in the right place) and the show began at 8pm.
After the opener’s first four competitors had been introduced, we got a surprise addition: Jimmy Havoc! Then another surprise addition: Nixon Newell!
Chris Brookes vs. Dan Moloney vs. Omari vs. Mark Haskins vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. Nixon Newell
Rumour has it Nixon Newell is headed to NXT and it’s obvious why. She’s already wrestled internationally for Shimmer and Stardom and was the star performer here. This was carnage, an unashamedly crazy spotfest. My favourite moment came as an intricate five-person submission structure was dismantled by Chris Brookes delivering wet willies to each one of his opponents, which received “You Sick Fuck!” chants. The announcer’s warning that the front row should brace themselves to move in the event of flying wrestlers was soon heeded and the all six participants made sure this would be a tough act to follow. In the end, Haskins won with the Sharpshooter – it’s great to see him back in the ring. Could’ve done with an intermission after this, to be honest.
Dream Tag Team Invitational: Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis vs. Angelico & Jack Evans
All-action and thoroughly entertaining, if a bit sloppy at times. Evans slipped twice on springboard attempts, but this was entirely due to the ropes being loose – something that needed to be remedied between most matches after this. They brawled into the crowd, and Angelico and Andrews made use of the venue by each hitting dives from the balconies/lighting alcoves at either side of the hall! Andrews picked up the win with the Shooting Star Press. This was as “indie” as indie gets and none the worse for it.
Sami Callihan vs. Shane Strickland vs. Lio Rush
Rush was a late unadvertised addition, having replaced Ricochet in some other UK shows this weekend, and I’m pleased I can say I’ve seen him live. The guy is amazingly crisp in his work and floats around the ring with the greatest of ease. Same goes for Strickland, whose kicks are as a good as I’ve seen. Haven’t seen much of Callihan since he left NXT, but he kept things rolling here and was the base for a lot of Strickland and Rush’s high flying. He also powerbombed Rush into the chairs on the front row, which seemed crazy to me, because I can assure you those chairs had no give. Anyway, he hit the Cradle Killer to Rush for the win. Really good match.
Travis Banks vs. Will Ospreay
This was for the FCP Championship, held by Banks. They wisely started slow, with Ospreay (wearing CHAOS gear) dominating the entire time and drawing mostly boos, in part because of his use of signature Shinsuke Nakamura spots. Banks, whose nickname is The Kiwi Buzzsaw, put me in mind of Bobby Fish with his strike-heavy style, and made the most of his limited comebacks with some impressive displays of strength. The steady build was peppered with spectacular moments from Ospreay – the man executes a Sasuke Special perfectly every time – but Banks survived the punishment and earned the tap-out win with a modified crossface. Different from the matches the preceded it, but they made the right call with the structure and it paid off.
Dream Tag Team Invitational: Zack Sabre Jr. & Marty Scurll vs. The Hunter Brothers
Marty berated the crowd before the match and said how much he hated the “TEN!” chants (in general; there hadn’t been any before this), then ZSJ said they had hundreds more titles to win so they’d beat the Hunter Brothers in under ten seconds. This didn’t happen, of course, and they were soon receiving mounted “TEN!” punches in the corner. The majority of the match was played for laughs, which was a refreshing change at this point, and both Scurll and ZSJ excel at classic British comedy spots. Scurll did the finger break thing to an unfortunate Hunter Brother – makes wince every time – and ZSJ stretched his opponents to breaking point. Unfortunately for Zack he got a bit too cocky, and found himself rolled-up for the three-count, putting the Hunter Brothers through in a surprise result.
Finally it was intermission time. Different guys were manning the merch tables now, with Andrews, Dennis, Angelico, Evans, Haskins and Lio Rush among them. My friends were outside for a cigarette and said they saw Shane Strickland leave with the venue with two women, which is no less than his performance deserved. The intermission lasted the best part of an hour, which the ring announcer apologised for when he returned, citing technical issues, but I didn’t hear anyone complain.
Penta El 0M vs. Rey Fenix
It was immediately obvious that these guys are total pros, knew exactly how to get the desired response and had faced off countless times. In between playing to the crowd, the initial exchanges were sharp and quick, and led to Fenix diving over the top-rope with a corkscrew plancha. They seemed to skip the middle portion of the match and went straight to an exchange of big moves, all of which had the crowd biting on near-falls. Penta delivered a sick package piledriver on the apron(!) then hit the Pentagon Driver in the ring for the win. Everything these two did looked great and this was exactly the right match to pick up the crowd post-intermission.
The Elite (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks) vs. British Strong Style (Tyler Bate, Pete Dunne & Trent Seven)
Three North Americans associated with NJPW vs. three Brits associated with WWE and as they stood in the ring this felt like a BIG DEAL. British Strong Style (BSS) did a triple Triple H water spit for their entrance:
The opening section saw a run through different pairings, ending with Omega and Bate teasing their finishers for a stand-off. At this point, The Elite got on the mic and disparaged BSS, with Matt Jackson claiming they’d made more at the merch table in the last two days than the downside guarantee for a WWE UK contract! At that, BSS retaliated and the match started proper. Highlights included BSS all hitting pedigrees and using their own version of the Indytaker to Kenny and Matt on the outside. The Elite did a triple suicide dive, but Kenny overshot/wasn’t caught and landed hard on the floor right in front of us. He spent the rest of the match holding the side of his head, so I hope it wasn’t too serious. Bate did a combination airplane spin + giant swing to Kenny and Nick, which demonstrates just how crazy strong he is. In the end, Omega took all of BSS’s finishers, but kicked out, and a bunch of super kicks from the Bucks to Dunne allowed Omega to hit the One-Winged Angel for the win. As you can imagine, there’s a whole lotta stuff I’ve left out here, but safe to say this was worthy of the hype.
The Elite’s post-match promo put over their opponents, and all six men walked through the crowd to close the show.
We left the venue just before midnight exhausted and elated by the experience and spent the three-hour drive home discussing everything we’d seen.
This was a brilliant show. Having sold out on the strength of the massive main event alone, FCP could’ve easily gone low-key with the undercard, but instead stacked it with the biggest British names around and top international talent. Credit to them for delivering an extraordinary card which further serves to highlight that the UK scene is at its hottest for decades.
Above photo by Chris Brookes. All other photos by me and Johanna D’aloia.