Editorial Columns

My Experiences As A British Wrestling Fan

From Fight Club to PROGRESS, Peter gives us a diary of the first few shows he attended at a fledgling fan of British Independent Wrestling.

My love-affair with wrestling started when I was young during the much vaunted Attitude Era of the late 90s and early noughties.

Unfortunately, this passion waned as I grew older but came back stronger than ever in 2014, and I’ve not stopped watching for any real length of time since. If anything, my love for wrestling has grown, at first the WWF/E was the only company that existed in my universe. When i returned, older and wiser, I knew that wrestling existed in other places, other promotions put on shows but the WWE still ruled the roost. Then, mostly due to the Tuesday Night Jaw podcast, I realized that there was a British Wrestling scene, and I thoroughly caught the bug for Progress Wrestling.

Fast forward a couple of years, to this weekend and I am going to my fourth show in 6 months (I admit this isn’t as regular as some people who go to shows on a weekly basis, but it’s still a lot for me).

The three shows that I will present below are in no particular order, they are just the three companies that I’ve been able to see and my experiences from there. I will like to note also, that as much as I can be a complainer, where I nearly represented Britain at complaining, I will be positive about BritWres. Sure, it has its flaws, but this article is about celebrating the effort of the varied talent involved in each show, and the unique side of each company.

 

PROGRESS Wrestling

As I have mentioned already, I have been watching Progress online for roughly a year and a half now (it feels like longer but in a good way). Eventually I won the battle of the F5, to bag myself some tickets for Chapter 59 in Sheffield. In fact, I did so well at buying tickets that I accidentally bought 8 instead of 4. Thankfully twickets is a thing and I was able to fairly re-sell the tickets. Come the weekend of the show, it was affected heavily by snow. This led to some of the billed matches not able to go ahead as planned and much improvisation by Progress management to get a show together.

Despite this difficulty, it was a tremendous show that was put together and all of the talent stepped up and delivered big. Progress was my way into the UK independent scene, it is also the one show I can keep relatively up-to-date with. They care as much about storylines as they do putting on high quality matches and that really shows in the emotion that I invest into watching their matches.

 

Fight Club: Pro

Due to the name, I was tempted not to talk about this, but hosted in the Starworks Warehouse, my friend and I attended FCP, who put on an amazing show (if not a little cold one, but this was in January in a repurposed Warehouse). I really hope that the venue is able to get up and running again. The show presented was a combined show with Attack!, which ensured that levity was the order of the day for some of the matches. There may even have been some Stupid Sexy (™) Shenanigans in the main event from Travis Banks and his teammates in an 5-on-5 elimination tag match. As much as there were comedy moments, there was also some hard-hitting strikes, including Keith Lee’s terrifying chops onto Omari’s chest. Each time Omari was chopped, I could have sworn a little bit of his soul was trying to escape.

The show was on a Friday night, which meant I annoyed my colleagues by going on about how much I was looking forward to it during the day. It also meant that it was a good way to unwind after a long week, and for many was a good excuse for a night out after the event. I am led to believe there was an after-party post-matches, but it was freezing cold, and the prospect of a 2-hour drive at 2 or 3 in the morning didn’t appeal that day, so we disappeared after spending a short time at the merchandise tables. There are a few things I noted from being at the merch tables, which are that all the wrestlers I’ve spoken to are really nice people, making them seem like standard people you would end up bumping into in the street, and yet I felt almost cripplingly nervous when it came to speaking to them.

The other thing I found out was that Millie McKenzie is hugely popular. This normally sounds like a positive thing, but on that Friday night, she had got injured during the match (I believe a lower leg or ankle injury). This meant she had a chair at the merch area, so that she wouldn’t do more damage. However, whenever someone wanted one of her T-shirts, she would stand to have this interaction. As soon as the person had left, she sat back down, only for another person to greet her, forcing her to stand again.

One further point of note was, it’s super easy to get to FCP at Starworks, and although we allowed extra time to get to Wolverhampton, we made the inspired decision to get food before the event (we had no idea there was food inside the venue), which caused us to return to Starworks bang on 8. Matches hadn’t started (I’m led to believe this is normal for BritWres, not starting on time), and we couldn’t find any spare seats. To their credit the staff at FCP got a couple of seats out for us, and placed us in the available space. Unfortunately, this space was in the middle of a mini-aisle, which now had a two-person blockage making life awkward for anyone carrying drinks wanting to go past us.

All in all, it is a fabulous show and is fantastically compered by Trent Seven, who definitely needs to start doing stand-up as a secondary career – not that he needs it, he’d just be ruddy good at it.

 

HOPE Wrestling

This is very much a Midlands based promotion and the only company I’ve seen solo. I went to their spiritual home in Forest Town near Mansfield, which is close enough to home for me. First glances were thoroughly encouraging, the queue was amenable enough and the venue had a large village hall feel. This might not suit everyone, but it had a nice atmosphere to it.

For me, this was a venture into the unknown, with a different roster from what I was used to with Progress and Fight:Club Pro. This meant I had to get up to speed with who the good guys and who the bad guys of HOPE are. I learnt about Cara Noir and his black swan inspired gimmick, as well as Chris Tyler, who was very popular with the crowd, but who’s dad got involved with the match to keep the balance of power towards his son. I also got to see Kip Sabian – who I wrote about in my previous article. He is supremely talented and I can’t speak highly enough of his potential. Another wrestler who has great potential, and I want to see more matches of is Jayde. She has held the Hardcore 24/7 title in HOPE, which I believe was defended around 25 times that night between at least 6 different wrestlers.

For as much as the roster was different, I saw some familiar faces from the BritWres scene. Tyler Bate teamed with Martin Kirby, to take on the uneasy alliance of Cara Noir and Kip Sabian. To open the show I saw Chief Deputy Dunne, who wasn’t very fun at all (well he was, but he wouldn’t want anyone to say that about him), and Jack Sexsmith, El Ligero and Flash Morgan Webster. The latter two meant that I saw my first ‘No Disqualification’ match in person, which was entertaining and a good live introduction, as I have seen several through Progress and WWE, that said, you cannot replicate the live atmosphere for those matches.

Lots of good wrestling was on offer, but the style of wrestling wasn’t what I personally enjoy and that’s to be celebrated.

Rather notably, each time I have gone to a show before, it has been a different promotion – I have never gone to one company more than once before this Sunday (10th June). Just as notably, Chief Deputy Dunne has been at every show I’ve seen to date. He really doesn’t get the plaudits and accolades that he deserves.

So, onto this weekend, I am looking forward to seeing Progress again. I suspect there won’t be a reappearance of snow to change the card, but then again this is Britain so who knows. Chief Deputy Dunne is on the card again, so he keeps his 125% record of being on shows that I’ve attended (he wrestled twice at FCP so I’m counting this as 5 appearances from 4 shows). Also on the card is Jimmy Havoc in a deathmatch, which is both terrifying and exciting in equal measure, plus I’ve bagged a seat this time. Although, I suspect being seated could be somewhat of a poisoned chalice. Yes, I get to sit down and relax a bit more than when I’ve been stood, but then it’s Jimmy, in a deathmatch, which probably means either him or Spike Trivet will be flying into chairs and we’ll have to move. Either way, I am glad of what I’ve seen before in the UK and can’t wait to add to these experiences.

 

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