Fight Club: Pro ended their year with their traditional Infinity tournament – with some of the stars of their self-named dojo taking their chance to shine on the big stage!
There’s another change to this year’s Infinity formula, with the tournament being comprised of four singles matches and a four-way finale, as opposed to last year’s two four-ways and a singles final. We’ve also got a change to the line-up, as Travis Banks comes out first to announce that he won’t be defending his Infinity title, as he has unfinished business with Low Ki. He wanted Low Ki one-on-one, and of course that request summons everyone’s favourite bass-voiced killer… along with Homicide and Eddie Kingston.
The lighting in the Starworks is even darker than usual this month…
Low Ki, whose knee had healed up pretty quickly after the suspended ligament damage at wXw two months earlier, took the mic and warned Banks (amid a tonne of feedback) that his emotion had put him in trouble. Ki told Banks that he’d come for British Strong Style… who were over in the States. So Ki’s family were still looking for a fight, and offered up Banks for a trios match later tonight. Fill in the blanks!
Infinity 2017 – First Round: Kyle Fletcher vs. Jordan Devlin
Wolverhampton take shots at the size of Devlin’s cranium to get us underway, with “Go Back to Easter Island” being a particularly geographical shot at him. Perhaps for that reason, it’s a bit of a slow-paced start as Devlin and Fletcher measured each other up, leading to a lot of swinging and missing before Kyle connected with a springboard crossbody for an early two-count.
Devlin replies by just choking Kyle in the ropes as the Irishman seemed to be coasting… even if little was happening aside from a slap contest. A contest that fired Fletcher back into life as he nails a diving forearm to put Devlin in the corner, before getting a near-fall out of a missile dropkick. Another dropkick takes Devlin to the floor for a step-up senton from Kyle, then a frog splash back in the ring that almost ended the match. Back-and-forth kicks saw Fletcher edge ahead, only for a headbutt from Devlin to put Kyle down for a solid two-count. Well, if the fans are railing on you about it, you may as well use it…
The pair looked to be exhausted as they traded boo/yay forearms, before Devlin spiked Kyle with a brainbuster, then a Destroyer… only to miss with a moonsault as Fletcher cut him off and lawn-darted him into the turnbuckles. Fletcher tries to follow-up off the top rope, but Devlin shoves the referee into the ropes, crotching Kyle as a package piledriver books the Bray native’s spot in the final. This one took a while to get going – at least as far as the crowd’s responses were concerned – but this was solid between the bells. I have a feeling we’ll be in for a lot of “fine” matches since we’re in the dreaded one-night tournament format… ***
Infinity 2017 – First Round: Kay Lee Ray vs. Mark Davis
Oh boy… this could get ugly. And I mean that as positively as it can be taken!
Knowing she’d have to stick and move, Ray dived at Davis early, before utilising a tiltawhirl roll-up for a near-fall… but then she tries to chop him. Nope. Not today. Kay Lee does have more luck rolling up Dunkzilla into the Koji clutch, but he powerbombs himself free as this quickly became David vs. Goliath.
A right hand knocked Kay Lee down after Davis’d slapped away her chopping hand, and as the pull-up piledriver looked to follow, Kay Lee manages to ‘rana out of it! More sticking and moving takes Davis outside for a tope into a tornado DDT in the dimly-lit aisle, as the pair returned to the ring one more time.
Ray catches Davis in the ropes with another Koji clutch it seemed, before spiking him with some headscissors for another near-fall… and Dunkzilla looked to be in big trouble here. A swift flapjack puts him back in control though, as does a sliding forearm into the corner and a one-handed powerbomb… but Kay Lee’s not staying down!
Somehow she gets Dunkzilla up for a Gory bomb, and hits it… but we’re still in the land of the two-counts, as a frog splash off the top proves, before Kay Lee puts the Koji Clutch back on. Eventually Dunkzilla gets to the ropes… and he’s had enough, as he hits a twisting reverse DDT and the pull-up piledriver in quick succession for the win. A fun sprint, but a massive mismatch from the off! ***¼
Matt Richards reminds us all it’s now December, so we’ve got a Christmas treat… Session Claus and her… her helper. Yeah. The Uggs give it away – Session Claus’ gimped up reindeer is Jack Sexsmith, and someone send for the man, because Matt Richards is corpsing in the corner!
Their fun and games are quickly ruined by Dan Moloney and his short shorts which looked a lot like a cut-down version of Jack’s suit. He wipes out Sexsmith with a Bossman slam, before spearing Martina out of the ring. Moloney gets the mic, but he’s massively drowned out, so he goes after someone in the crowd. Which the cameraman decides to zoom in on… which means we get a screen of darkness.
Moloney’s tearing into the crowd as he reckons there’s nobody who can step up to him… cue some familiar Attitude-era music, and… yep.
It’s Shay Purser in a Kane mask. Wonder if he’ll run for mayor of Wolverhampton one day? Dan boots Shay-ne as he went for the pyro thing… because LOL Fight Club Pro doesn’t have pyro. A chokeslam through two chairs left Shay for dead, just in time for Joel Allen to hit the ring. Dan rips on the crowd some more, and begs for someone else to shut him up, claiming that nobody from the past, present or future could do it. Well, someone from the past came up to have a go… MK McKinnan!
Infinity 2017 – First Round: Dan Moloney vs. MK McKinnan
Apparently this is another Infinity match, and it’s over quick as the bell rings… Moloney turns around into a roundhouse from MK, before tapping out to a Tazmission. Ah well, so much for the talk!
At what point does the Moloney “all mouth, little trousers” act get worn out? By that, I don’t mean his new short-shorts…
Infinity 2017 – First Round: Omari vs. Millie McKenzie
Our final qualifier sees two of the hottest names to come from the Fight Club: Pro dojo face off against each other. We start with some chain wrestling as Millie fancied her chances going hold-for-hold, and to be fair she did hold her own,before edging ahead with a headscissor takedown into the corner.
Another ‘rana took Omari outside, where he’s met with a series of topes, before he avoids a third and instead has to avoid a sunset flip. An errant forearm looked to rock Omari, and have Millie begging for forgiveness, and it seemed none was forthcoming as a wheelbarrow facebuster saw Omari take control.
More forearms from Millie just led to her getting dumped with a mixture between a slam and a flapjack that actually drew boos for Omari. At the second try, he keeps up with a leg lariat for a near-fall, before she almost shocked him with an inside cradle. The rough housing continued as Omari gave Millie a German suplex off the middle rope… but she popped up and replied in kind as Suplex Millie was in full effect!
Millie keeps up with a cannonball into the dark abyss that was the ringside area, and tries to fly again back inside… but Omari catches a sunset flip and tried to counter into the O-Zone, only to get rolled up again for a near-fall. Out of nowhere, Millie hits a cutter then a reverse ‘rana, but Omari’s not done yet, and eventually finishes off Millie with a satellite O-Zone for the win. Some of the crowd did NOT like that one, but this was a pretty solid match… plenty of flashy stuff attempted, not all of which ended as crisp as you’d like, but this was far from the spotty mess you’d have seen out of similarly-experienced trainees even a decade ago. ***¼
We’ve got three matches left, and 90 minutes on the video. Uh oh.
No DQ: Drew Parker vs. Clint Margera
These two have form, shall we say? Not withstanding their involvement in *that* Project Mayhem match earlier this year…
Drew charged into Clint with a tope from the off as the match started outside… and thankfully, in the better-lit part of the ringside area, where Clint tries to sodomise Drew with a part of a turnbuckle. In the ring, there’s chairshots-aplenty as Clint opens up, then puts some chairs on their side… and someone’s taking the Bad Bones bump. Wrestling Logic dictates… it’s Clint who gets thrown onto them for a near-fall. Ouchie.
More plunder comes into play as Clint pours some drawing pins onto a pile of chairs, but he doesn’t use them immediately as a few punches led to a DDT to Drew, before taking him onto the top rope for… a backpack super stunner? Nah, Drew shoves away, only to get a handful of pins ground into his face instead.
Clint tries again, this time for a Samoan driver, but again Parker escapes as a ‘rana off the top ensures that Clint again falls into his own trap. Parker follows up with a brainbuster into the pins, and that’s all folks! Mercifully short and sweet, but this felt rather incongruous… It’d barely been two months since Death House at Project Mayhem, this felt like it was too soon to come back with this kinda match. **
After the match, Clint took the microphone to talk about Death House… before asking the crowd in the Starworks to give Drew the ovation he should have had back in September for that insanity.
Next: we get the Anti-Fun Police’s siren! Except it’s not them, thankfully, it’s Low Ki and his family out for their fight with Travis Banks, who stood in the aisle as his partners came out…first up: Chris Brookes. Logical given they team elsewhere, but we’ll be ignoring their little skirmish over the Fight Club: Pro title. Brookes had a hurt wolf with him… so Lykos needs a replacement… but we do keep it CCK.
Jonathan Gresham’s in the house – old school CCK represent!
Low Ki, Eddie Kingston & Homicide vs. Travis Banks, Chris Brookes & Jonathan Gresham
Yep, this one instantly heads outside, with the ringside area getting a lot of action early on. It means we get the picture-in-picture goodness, which is better than the hard camera view, but still… it’s our one big gripe of Fight Club: Pro, at least from the VOD perspective. We get fifteen minutes of picture-in-picture, various crowd shots where something seems to be happening in the background… to the point where I’m thinking that some of the fans who were recording stuff at close quarters would have had better footage!
After the LONG spot of crowd brawling, Homicide and Banks enter the ring, and now the bell rings. That drew loud cheers from the Starworks, funnily enough. CCK took over once the match actually started, with diving knees and topes taking Low Ki’s gang down, before Homicide gets peppered with kicks from Banks. Double-teaming turns it back around as Homicide and Kingston barge down Banks, as a tag out to Brookes led to an attempted wet willie… but Kingston avoids it and bites Brookes’ finger instead.
Jonathan Gresham has better luck, taking down Low Ki and Homicide with a dropkick out of the corner, followed by a tope to the darkness of the outside, but the numbers game seemed to always be against the CCK trio. Gresham’s forced to flip out of a Cop Killa and almost snatches the win with a wacky roll-up, only for Eddie Kingston to stomp it apart.
Chris Brookes slingshots in with a cutter to Homicide to even things up, before tags take us to Travis Banks and Low Ki – where this all started! Banks tried to go for an early Slice of Heaven, but Low Ki avoids it and just rains down punches in the corner, before almost getting the win with a Zack Sabre Jr-esque Euro clutch! In a bid to win, Low Ki goes for the Ki Krusher… but Travis uses the same move and knows how to counter it… and counter it he does as an inside cradle gets the Kiwi Buzzsaw the win!
This is a tough one to rate… so I’m not. The long, unwatchable brawl at the start really took me out of this match, and it felt like the “proper” part from bell-to-bell was over before it started. Two matches merged into one, but neither really stood out on the VOD. It’s a dead horse, but it’s FCP’s biggest downfall…
Needless to say, Eddie Kingston was far from happy with the result, cursing out the crowd for fun afterwards… Chris Brookes has a few words too, offering Gresham a spot in next year’s Dream Tag Team Invitational since Brookes’ regular partner is unlikely to be healthy by then. That’s disconcerting.
Brookes flips off Travis Banks to get us back to the norm with that part of CCK, and the spot ends with Gresham taking the applause from the Starworks…
Infinity 2017 – Final: Mark Davis vs. Jordan Devlin vs. MK McKinnan vs. Omari
This year’s final is a four-way elimination match, and we’re going long folks!
The Starworks want “anyone but Devlin” to win, which is a bit harsh… but it’s Devlin who started the flurry with Omari, scoring with a double-stomp before being forced to fend off MK and his shiny singlet. It’s good they managed to repurpose Jack’s suit so quickly!
MK dumps Devlin with a sit-out Alabama slam, but then turns around to face Dunkzilla, who rocks him with a single punch as the ring filled up. A neat combo from Devlin sees him chain together a Finlay roll on Omari, with a monkey flip to MK… only for Devlin himself to get propelled courtesy of Dunkzilla as the match entered the seemingly-obligatory “everyone dives!” portion. Back inside, a one-handed powerbomb drops Devlin before a right hand takes Devlin down, only for the Irishman to viciously rebound with a package piledriver on the apron to Omari. Meanwhile, MK slips out of a pull-up piledriver and almost eliminates Davis with a lucha roll-up, before decking Davis with a reverse ‘rana.
MK almost got eliminated when Devlin countered a Tazmission into a roll-up… but the ref spots his feet on the ropes. Nevertheless, Devlin gets the elimination moments later with a package piledriver, as MK’s comeback wasn’t to be golden. Not today, anyway.
Devlin went toe-to-toe with Davis next, but the Aussie was left standing and able to follow up with a sliding forearm into the corner, followed by a huge Batista bomb that almost sealed the second elimination of the night. Instead, Devlin responds with a backcracker in the ropes, followed by a slingshot cutter for a near-fall, and then a top rope Spanish Fly as Devlin caught the Aussie on the top rope… but it’s still nowhere near enough for that three-count! The pair continue to tease their big finishers, with Davis escaping a package piledriver before pulling up Devlin into a piledriver… and Wolverhampton goes wild as the big head isn’t winning Infinity!
That leaves us with Davis and Omari, who’d been MIA since Devlin’s previous package piledriver on the apron… and that forces the referee to start a 20 count as Omari had to fight from the bottom. Sportingly, Mark Davis holds the ropes for Omari to roll back in, before asking him if he’s okay to continue. When the answer is a shove, you can probably guess that there’s some fight left in the big O.
Perhaps not for long though, as Davis’ inverted torture rack slam puts him back down… as does a running boot. Davis perhaps hesitated too much, and didn’t keep on top of Omari, and so the inevitable comeback began to mount, with Omari sending Davis flying into the turnbuckles with a release Fisherman’s suplex. Omari hits an O-Zone, but he doesn’t have anything left to make the cover, but he does have enough to take Davis into the crowd for a senton! Back inside, a sit-out gutwrench powerbomb gets Omari closer to victory, but that just spark some more back-and-forth, ending when Davis tried to suplex Omari… only for both men to spill out of the ring!
Davis gets up first and manages to go all Sabu on us with an Arabian press, before taking Omari back in for some more high-impact stuff as the Aussie found it was his turn to come agonisingly close to a win… but that just got the crowd more and more behind Omari, who came back with a top rope ‘rana and a moonsault… and we’re now within a hair’s breadth of someone winning!
Both men whale on each other with forearms, then slaps as they’re running on fumes… but it’s Omari who chains together offence, knocking Davis into the ropes with an enziguiri, only to get wiped out by a huge lariat as the momentum swung. Another pull-up piledriver’s avoided as Omari instead plants Davis with another O-Zone, and that’s the fatal blow as Omari ends the year with the Infinity trophy!
The elimination rules made this feel like several matches melded into one, but the final stretch with Omari and Davis was quite superb. My only quibble is that this could have worked better with a solid bad guy against Omari, but there’s a dearth of those in Fight Club: Pro right now. ****
Infinity 2017 was a show that I felt was a microcosm of the company as a whole right now. Some really good wrestling in portions, but on the whole a show that felt like it had been bundled together late on. I’m not going to beat the by-now flea-ridden dead horse that is the camera work for arena brawls, but Fight Club: Pro need to either eliminate those or figure out a way to shoot them better, especially if those segments are going any length of time.
In recent podcasts, it’s been joked that Fight Club: Pro book on the fly – and that could be something that hurts them in the long run. We’ve long bemoaned how the promotion has seemingly ditched obvious storylines in favour of mystery show-style cards to get the surprise reactions. That can only last so long – after all, wrestling is built on story-telling, both between the bells and away from the matches.
One other note that may be worth considering for the new year: would a change in distribution model would be beneficial at this stage? Last year saw the promotion sell their shows on VOD for around £4-£5… this year the “regular” shows have gone up to £7.50, with the bigger shows going over £10 (with the option to download for offline viewing on computers being disabled to fend off piracy).
With the increase in big names, you’ve got to expect an increase in price, but it’s also taken the promotion away from the area of being a “curiosity purchase”, especially in an era where you can buy access to some promotion’s entire back catalogues (or in the case of Powerbomb or Highspots, multiple promotions’ catalogues) for less. As Fight Club: Pro are now cemented in running monthly shows, perhaps a switch to a subscription VOD service would be beneficial – and allow fans to be able to bed themselves in with the product without the financial hurdle that their back catalogue currently would present?