Fight Club: Pro – Dream Tag Team Invitational 2017 – Night One (April 14, 2017)

Fight Club: Pro kicked off their inaugural Dream Tag Team Invitational tournament with a monster of a show in Wolverhampton – and one that had a nice surprise for those of us who couldn’t make it there live!

With around a thousand people packed into the Diamond Banqueting Suite – literally across the street from the promotion’s usual base at the Fixxion Warehouse – Fight Club: Pro had told us all that the advertised main event of the first night of their three-day tour wouldn’t be released on-demand. Of course, given the rigmaroles faced by promotions (and other non-wrestling activities) when they’ve tried to use WWE UK contracted guys, it wasn’t a surprise that the six-man main event with the Elite trio of Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks against British Strong Style was going to be a minefield.

Except it wasn’t… by hook or by crook, the match not only made tape, but was released too. Joy! We start the show though, with a sweeping crane shot – revealing a video screen – ahead of the opening contest…

Chris Brookes vs. Omari vs. Dan Moloney vs. Mark Haskins vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. Nixon Newell
Brookes had his dirty wolf Lykos with him… one who didn’t get any of water spraying either. This was quite the loaded line-up for an opener, which was originally going to be a four-way before the surprise gatecrashings from Nixon and Jimmy. Nixon didn’t actually ask to be in the match, unlike Jimmy, so she really gatecrashed!

So… as an opener, this was a good choice for a chaotic, all-out six-way with plenty of action, even if it stuck to the “two in, everyone out” formula in the early going as everyone cycled in and out of the match. #CCK decided to cheat – with Chris Brookes pulling referee Shay Purser’s shirt over his head so that he and Lykos could pull off the lungblower/back senton combo. I thought six-ways were inherently no-DQ?

Newell stops Brookes with a tiltawhirl into an Octopus, but he frees himself and boots Nixon to the floor, before Jimmy Havoc takes an F5 onto the apron by Moloney. Dan! He then blocks a Destroyer from Nixon, only to take an uppercut in the corner and a tiltawhirl DDT. Brookes’ trapped-leg German suplex disposes of Newell for now, before Mark Haskins hits a pair of topes into the front row. Yep, this insanity is not going to be stopping anytime soon, especially as Nixon landed a flip senton off the top rope into the pile.

Moloney and Brookes dove off the top rope, only to get caught in single-leg crabs by Haskins and Havoc… who used their free hands to punch each other, before Omari tied them up with a pair of armbars and Nixon threw in a sleeperhold to complete the unholy triad… oh wait, it got even more evil with a bunch of wet willies from Brookes.

Brookes continued the assault with a twisting suplex to Haskins, only to fall to a Destroyer from Nixon, then a Rainmaker from Havoc… who then took another Welsh Destroyer, only for Nixon to leap into a swinging side slam from Omari. Haskins returns to take out Moloney with a pumphandle driver, and then finish off Omari with a sharpshooter to bring this breathless opener to an end… even if we didn’t see the tap because we’d cut to the crane camera. An impressive way to open the show, and a perfect way to introduce Fight Club: Pro to the newbies who’d packed out the larger venue. ***½

Unfortunately, the camera work wasn’t up to usual standards here – with one mobile camera and a crane camera forcing the editor at times to pick between two shots that weren’t exactly optimal. Apparently we can blame Dan Moloney, or at least, his music, as Fight Club: Pro’s video editor (and all-round Brit-wres Good Egg G-Man) revealed that Dan’s song was partly why the hard camera was out of action. Given how much the camera shakes for Dan’s music, I can only dare guess what the hell happened!

Dream Tag Team Invitational 2017, First Round: Los Gueros del Cielo (Angelico & Jack Evans) vs. FSU (Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis)
The first match in the DTTI had a jump start, as the Lucha Underground visitors knocked FSU out of the ring in preparation for a pair of Sasuke Specials to the floor.

As you’d expect, the pace kept up at a similar clip, with Dennis catching dives from both opponents for a fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo, as they then went flying with a pair of tope con hilos – with someone’s scream in the crowd sounding rather operatic to boot! Back inside, Andrews pulls up Evans into a surfboard, then releases him into a swinging backbreaker from Eddie for a near-fall, before Evans gets flipped up from a powerbomb position into a crossbody-assisted suplex!

The insanity continues as Evans moonsaults off of Andrews to the floor – just before Angelico tried for a Fall of the Angels buckle bomb – and this is nowhere near settling down into a regular match, as Mark Andrews takes Evans towards the back of the building… and climbs up onto a balcony box for a cannonball – seconds after Angelico scored with a diving elbow. That went off better live than on tape, since we never actually saw anyone other than Andrews climbing!

Eventually people make it back to the ring as we get Angelico and Andrews kicking away on each other, before Angelico fell to a Stundog Millionaire and a shooting star press. Jack Evans returned in time to break up the pin with a springboard elbow drop as it’s left to Eddie Dennis to wear down the Lucha Underground pairing, dropping Evans with a pop-up forearm as we finally have a breather!

Angelico tries to give Eddie the Fall of the Angels – and succeeds – only to get dropped into the turnbuckles with a ‘rana as Andrews’ reverse ‘rana to Evans sets him up for a Next Stop Driver… for a near-fall! In the end though, the Last Stop Driver (a spike Next Stop Driver) is enough to end the second blistering match in a row. Perhaps a little spotty, and at times, hard to follow on the VOD, but also really enjoyable. ***

Shane Strickland vs. Sami Callihan vs. Lio Rush
Once we got going, this quickly matched the pace of the prior matches, with a load of roll-ups in the opening minute before Sami Callihan’s thumbs down to Strickland ended up sparking a series of kicks – that the King of Swerve ultimately won.

Callihan planted Rush with a nice death valley driver out of a leapfrog as he tried to snatch a win, before we went back to the fast-paced stuff as Rush started a series of dives as all three men got in on the act… forcing the poor buggers in the front row to evacuate their seats as Strickland finished off with a Space Flying Tiger Drop.

Once the crowd found that referee Joel wouldn’t do a flip, they chanted “you’re just a shit Chris Roberts” at him, which stung, before the proper action resumed with Sami Callihan doing his lap of honour… before he got ‘rana’d into Strickland in those comfy front row seats. Just to make sure young Lio wasn’t left out, Sami powerbombed him into those seats seconds later, only to be forced to block an attempt at a receipt as Rush tried to superplex him into the front row again.

Instead, Strickland made the save by giving Sami a German suplex… which ended up suplexing Rush back inside to avoid certain doom. When things “settled down”, by which I mean, people stopped diving, Callihan tried to grab the win with an Air Raid Crash on Strickland, before trading boots with Rush and falling to a roundhouse kick for a near-fall. Callihan recovered to stack up Rush and Strickland in the corner for a running boot, before we went back to the kicks as Rush impressively countered a suplex into a ‘rana for another two-count.

A pair of headbutts knock Callihan into the ropes as Rush decides to go loco with a pair of reverse ‘ranas, but that gets us no nearer to a win. In the end though, a Go To Sleep from Callihan to Strickland, then a package tombstone to Lio sorted out the win for the “Worldwide Desperado” in a fun triple-threat that was hampered by the visual problems that blighted the entire show. ***¾

Fight Club: Pro Championship: Will Ospreay vs. Travis Banks (c)
At last, a singles match! If you don’t count their appearance in a five-way for WCPW last year, this is the first time Ospreay and Banks have been in singles action.

Will’s back is sporting cupping marks and is taped up from the off, which was expected given that barely a week earlier he’d crashed and burned in a tag match for Rev Pro, slipping off of Bubblegum’s back and smashing into the side of the ring. He started with an Okada-like mock break in the ropes as the pair started with a more technical exchange than some may have expected.

A hiptoss rebound off the ropes from Ospreay leads him to dropkick Banks to the floor, before he aborted a dive… and took a diving dropkick as the Kiwi Buzzsaw was in no mood for any of Will’s shenanigans! A forearm confirmed that, but Ospreay rebounds with a dropkick again, and then missed with a moonsault off the apron as our second Space Flying Tiger Drop of the day connected!

A double underhook into almost a Falcon arrow gets Ospreay a near-fall back inside, as does a Nakamura-esque Bomaye in the corner, before Banks fought free of a chinlock, only to get knocked straight back down. Banks responds with a reverse legsweep, before superkicking Ospreay as he tried to rebound out of the corner, leaving the challenger perfectly placed for a cannonball!

Banks nearly wins it with a brainbuster, before some back and forth leads to a handspring overhead kick from Ospreay, whose attempts to beat down on Banks in the corner saw the champion zombie up… and get taken down with a forearm off the top rope. That seems to be the cue for a Rainmaker, but instead Banks takes a roundhouse kick and a Rainmaker… but he doesn’t budge!

The Kiwi reverses the grip on the wrist as he boots Ospreay down to the mat, then stomps on him for the hell of it, before his attempt at a Slice of Heaven’s countered with a dropkick. Ospreay hits his Revolution corkscrew kick for a near-fall, before the double moonsault/standing shooting star press connects. However, Will decided not to go for the cover, and went for another moonsault off the middle turnbuckles, this time landing in a Gargano Escape that he somehow rolled back out of and followed with a reverse ‘rana.

The pair trade – and stand up from – German suplexes as they go back to battering each other, before a Fisherman’s driver gets Banks another near-fall. A low pe from the champion takes Ospreay deep into the aisle, only for Ospreay to catch Banks back on the top rope for a Spanish fly, before following with a corkscrew shooting star for another near-fall.

Ospreay snaps and stomps away on Banks’ head after that kick-out, but Travis zombies up and slaps his foe, before countering an OsCutter with another Slice of Heaven for a near-fall. From that kick-out, Banks grabs the Gargano Escape again, before rolling Ospreay into the middle of the ring, this time clinging on… but yet again Ospreay escaped! An OsCutter attempt’s caught in a Torture Rack that Banks spun out of for another two-count, and then at the third attempt, the Gargano Escape forces the submission. Another really good outing, and so much easier to follow using this camera set-up without having a multiple bodies flying around. ****

Dream Tag Team Invitational 2017, First Round: The Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter) vs. Leaders of the New School (Zack Sabre Jr. & Marty Scurll)
The revolving door of Hunter Brothers’ theme music continued here as they came out to Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On”… their opponents came out with so much gold as Marty’s ROH TV title was on display. Oh, so was Zack’s trio of belts, which seemed to hurt his partner’s feelings.

Marty heeled on the Wolverhampton crowd for things like “ten” chants… which I agree with, by the way, whilst Zack toted an umbrella like it was a shotgun. Scurll declares this “a squash match” before Zack calmed him down for a bit. We get a five-second pose so everyone can see the belts, but the Hunters capitalise with a pair of superkicks as they open with a near-fall.

The crowd gets to do their ten chants courtesy of mounted punches in the corner, but the Hunters end up whipping the Leaders into each other for a never-ending do-see-do. Wrestling! They catch some more superkicks and kick the Hunters’ legs out of their legs, which just prompts Joel to tell them to “stop pratting about”.

The newest member of the Anti-Fun Police, everybody!

When the Leaders do get series, they launch a double-team stomp onto Jim’s arms before Sabre scored with some neck twists, before Marty slammed Jim into the ropes for a near-fall. I’d make the Glen Joseph/Rick Martel joke here, but he’s stopped referencing that, so I shan’t! Jim’s arm continues to take a battering as the Leaders continue to wear him down… before Jim rolls into the corner to tag in Lee, whose first order of business is to take down the Leaders with a moonsault out of the corner!

The Hunters score a two-count out of a slingshot suplex, but the tables turn quickly as they went for superplexes, with the Sabre rolling through into a double armbar on Lee – before a Scurll superkick and a brainbuster continued the damn-near murdering of the Tipton lads. Sabre grabs another Octopus on Lee, and holds on despite superkicks from Jim, who just gets waffled again by Marty who snapped Lee’s fingers as he was in the hold. Brutal!

Marty calls for a chicken wing, but the Hunters recover to hit the over-the-knees double-team neckbreaker before targeting Sabre on the top rope, landing a top rope rana before Lee leapt into an armbar… which proved to be the end, as Lee withstood the armbar and folded Sabre up for the surprise pin! That wasn’t the result many were expecting, but a suitable end to a match that had largely been the Leaders dicking around. ***¼

Rey Fenix vs. Penta el Zero M
Fast and furious action started us off as the Lucha Brothers went for covers early, before a corkscrew hilo saw Fenix fly into his brother in the front row.

Penta became familiar with the ring post as the pair fought around ringside, before doing his best to Owen Hart Fenix. And by that, I get to make my second “kick his leg out of his leg” reference in the same show! The audio/visual nature of wrestling kept up with plenty of audible chops as Penta damn-near abused his little brother, who finally retaliated with a roll-through into a cutter for a near-fall.

Penta quickly gets back on top with a series of Slingblades, before drilling Fenix with a Destroyer after a short hop off the middle rope. Somehow that sparked Fenix into life, managing a flurry of offence for a near-fall, before leaping into a pumphandle driver as the hard hitting back and forth continued. Sometimes, you don’t need fast paced action… two blokes leathering each other will also suffice!

Of course we had a reverse ‘rana, which Fenix threw in before a tiltawhirl into a Destroyer for a near-fall as he chained together two moves that never win a match, before he ate a Fear Factor (package piledriver) on the apron. So much for brotherly love. Back inside, Fenix mocks his brother’s cero miedo hand gesture… so he gets another Fear Factor for the win. Fair enough – a great way to end a brilliant hard-hitting exchange, proving that there’s more to lucha than flippy do’s! ***¾

…and now, the special surprise! As the Lucha Brothers went to the back we get a jump cut into Love is Blindness. We weren’t trolling you – this made it onto tape!

British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs. The Elite (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks (Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson)
Unlike other shows that got publicity during the Elite’s tour of the British Isles, Fight Club: Pro should be commended for resisting the temptation to put on an “all-star” line-up for their main event, and instead have three of their own guys facing up to the Bullet Club’s finest.

By this point, I’ve already seen the Elite’s trios matches for OTT and Rev Pro, and I was hoping that this’d be a different outing – at least in terms of pacing. The Elite heeled themselves early as Kenny refused to wave to the crowd, before Pete Dunne effectively gave Tyler Bate permission to wave… solidifying their role. Kenny was not the man for waving tonight!

An eye poke from Matt Jackson looked to have broken him free of a wristlock from the Bruiserweight, who likewise was happy to wave, before we cycled through to Trent Seven and Nick Jackson… with Trent reacting to Nick’s shrill cry of “suck it” by almost pulling himself into the path of a superkick. Of course, that took us to Kenny and Tyler, which seemed to be the pairing everyone wanted to see most. So yeah, their first thing was a test of strength, and to be fair, this crowd was so easy, they could have done just about anything. Including tease their finishers ridiculously early, which they did.

And then… Kenny Omega grabbed the mic and cut a mid-match promo, supposedly saying something about how The Elite made more in merch money than those WWE UK contracts gave them. None of this was heard though, as the duelling “British Strong Style/The Elite” chants were dubbed all over this part of the match! Ah, politics…

The sound returns as British Strong Style all bite as the Elite try to Too Sweet them, before a trio of Pedigrees got revenge for whatever they’d just said. Only those live in the Diamond Suites will know for sure…

Back to the action, as Omega snapped Seven with a ‘rana, before the Bucks killed Tyler with an impressive combination of a backbreaker and a corkscrew neckbreaker into yet another backbreaker as their Superkick shenanigans started. The Terminator dives followed, before the Bucks took a page out of the Leaders’ book earlier and started to dick around like only they (and Kenny) can. The Elite work up to the “four boots” spot that they did throughout the tour as their patterned match crept in, along with an inadvertent shout-out to Mondai Lykos’ brainbuster.
Tyler busts out the airplane spin/giant swing to Matt and Kenny, before the British trio play pass the parcel with Matt Jackson in a vertical suplex. Omega gets a measure of revenge with a double Kotaro Krusher, before a V-Trigger to Tyler’s met with a Koppo kick as the ring filled up once again, leading to a Superkick Party. Tyler and Peter took a double rope-hung senton from Nick Jackson for a near-fall, before more superkicks and V-Triggers set-up for a parade of Dragon suplexes.

Some more superkicks almost lead to a pin on Peter, before a trio of punches put the Elite down for a Tyler tope con hilo! Nick goes crazy with a springboard facebuster before exploding into an Asai moonsault, as the Bucks ended up teasing a Meltzer Driver to the floor. Tyler blocked that, and instead we got a tope from Tyler into two spike piledrivers on the floor… a British Meltzer Driver!

Another parade of moves follows back in the ring as we set up for more back-and-forth superkicks, before a pop-up Meltzer Driver and a One Winged Angel from Omega finally put away Pete Dunne and bring an end to a hell of a contest. This was easily the best of the three Elite matches that we’ve covered from that weekend – with less emphasis on the patterned matches and more of the stuff they’re able to do on the bigger stages. ****¼

There’s no post-show, as the VOD abruptly stops amid a “please come back chant”… perhaps they were going to talk down those WWE UK deals once again?

Once in a while there’s a show I come across that I’m told was an absolute blast to be at, but barely come across as such on camera. This was one of those shows. Although the action on this show was among the best in the UK, this was a really hard show to watch, caused by the retrospective decision to use a crane as a “hard camera” – unfortunately this led to the always-moving camera shots giving me headaches, both in terms of what was missed and the feeling!

Overall, this show was worth the inflated price tag on DVD and VOD (with this show selling for £15 on either format, whilst nights 2 and 3 are slightly lower at £10 – a fair bit higher than the £4s their shows were selling for in 2016). In an era where the “race to the bottom” may have left some fans feeling put-out by the price, this is a show that you should reconsider for – and having seen night three live, I’m confident that all three shows in total will be more than worth the combined £35 price tag.

Our review of night two will follow… tomorrow!

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