Introducing Fight Club: Pro - British Strong Style
The UK independent wrestling scene is absolutely booming at the moment, with so much high-quality wrestling displayed on a regular basis in a variety of promotions. It's no surprise that British wrestling is being put back on the television, with ITV commissioning a one-off 'World Of Sport' special featuring the very best talent that Britain has to offer.
Wolverhampton-based Fight Club: Pro are one of the most prominent products in Britain and have garnered a reputation for their hard-hitting, smash-mouth style. 'British strong style' is the term commonly used.
Fight Club: Pro are about to embark on a mammoth three-day tour with two shows in Wolverhampton and a date set in Manchester on Sunday. To get the lowdown on the promotion and what it's all about, we spoke with Trent Seven and Pete Dunne, two wrestlers who lie and breathe 'British strong Style'.
Fight Club: Pro is a very unique promotion, they don't rely on washed-up ex-WWE stars, instead there is a focus on fresh, homegrown talent. And when imports are called upon, they are there to mix it up with the very best of the best in Britain.
Dunne, dubbed the 'Bruiserweight', sheds some light on what Fight Club: Pro is all about and the vibe it gives off.
On what to expect from the upcoming tour, Pete said:
"A whole lot of British strong style! In terms of the Wolverhampton shows you can expect a very intimate punk rock style wrestling show that I don't think is replicated by any other company in the UK. There are a few companies with a punk rock vibe and are doing a great job at it but none in such an intimate setting as Fight Club which gives it its own personality. I have never wrestled in the Manchester venue but we will go the extra mile to establish what Fight Club is about to people up North who may not have seen the show before.
"It's all in the name Fight Club: Pro. It doesn't feel like most wrestling shows, it has a much more grungy smash-mouth feel to it which hopefully means the audience are able to suspend their disbelief and feel that they are a part of a fight club. I think FCP deserves more credit than it gets for the way British wrestling has grown as they were one of the first companies offering 'strong style' wrestling and utilising top foreign independent talent instead of ex-WWE guys. After moving to Fixxion and expanding in to Manchester, there is a sense from everyone in the locker room and definitely amongst the audience that FCP is back on the rise and from my point of view I feel like it is one of the most fun wrestling experiences you can have in Britain."
Dunne has been a real roll this year, churning out a series of stellar matches in a number of different promotions. He goes into this tour as the champion - a top guy and a main eventer. It's the sort of pressure that he thrives off, he says.
"I'm really proud to be in the position of Fight Club champion, as I said I feel like FCP deserves more credit in terms of a company that was involved in the rise of British wrestling and it's good to be in a position where I can bring one or two fresh eyes on the product who may not have heard about it before but have seen me elsewhere. It's also exciting to me to be featured in a main position on a card full of amazing wrestlers trying to steal the show. It pushes me to up my game!"
Trent Seven, sometimes tag team partner for the younger Dunne, has been on the scene for some time and is all about strong style. It's a phrase that is commonly used in wrestling, but he has a definition of what it means.
"It's been branded around a lot over the course of the last three or four years but being a moniker of Fight Club: Pro myself since 2009 when we started, at the time there wasn't a lot of genuine hard-hitting, there was a lot of comedy stuff, camp-style stuff and I've always been a massive fan of the Japanese style and the US independent style so I thought we'd mix it a little with the British scene and that was the birth of British strong style."
The British wrestling scene is on fire at the moment, with so many promotions turning out great products. Like Dunne, Seven has really come into his own this year after going under the radar for a few years. He is a tag team champion with both Progress and CHIKARA, a regular in Insane Championship wrestling and is featured on Revolution Pro as well as his ventures with Fight Club: Pro. He is thoroughly enjoying his time in wrestling at the moment.
"It's brilliant. I made a decision at the start of this year to go full-time pro and I can only sense that the promoters and companies kind of appreciate the fact that when you are a legitimate pro wrestlers, as in that is your profession, there's a lot more backing for you. It frees me up to do things like this [interviews], it frees me up in the travel aspect of things - it's obviously incredibly hard when you're doing an international show or tour once a month or so, you don't have the stress of a part-time or full-time job. It's a combination of the work I'm putting in with ICW, Progress and RevPro and the fact I am full-time professional wrestler now, I think that's helped me establish myself hopefully regarded as one of the upper tier guys in the UK at the moment. It's a ridiculous amount of fun, the travel can be tiresome but I wouldn't change it for a thing."
Pete Dunne echoes his tag team partner's thoughts on the British wrestling scene and the opportunities available.
"I can't stress enough how great it is to see British wrestling in a boom period and getting recognition from not just fans here but also fans worldwide. I've been wrestling for 10 years and it was a completely different scene back then, even as soon as two or three years ago we still had no platform that the US indies seemed to have. Now we have multiple companies that are being watched by people all over the world and British wrestling itself has a huge buzz behind it. As great is it is, I want more eyes on companies such as FCP, OTT (in Ireland) and Attack as I still feel they are all hidden gems, all unique in their own way."
A huge marker was laid down in September when several top British talents such as Will Ospreay, Mark Andrews, Marty Scurll, Mark Haskins and Zack Sabre Jr competed in PWG's precious Battle of Los Angeles tournament alongside household names like Cody Rhodes and Jushin "Thunder" Liger. Dunne was also involved and had quite the experience in Los Angeles, as he explains.
"I expected to come out at BOLA and have no reaction from the audience and have to establish myself from the get go. I was really pleasantly surprised by the response I got and after the match so many people came up and told me they had watched my stuff in various companies back home. It speaks volumes for how far British wrestling has come and how big the reach is now. It was a fantastic experience and a one of a kind place to perform. I can't wait to go back!"
As a Fight Club Pro stalwart, Seven has locked up with the best of the best and this tour will feature a match between him and familiar foe Mikey Whiplash - with whom he has had some incredible bouts with in a number of promotions. He can't wait to mix it up again.
"Specifically, it will the debut of Mikey Whiplash for the debut on this Fight Club Pro triple-header, with the final show at the Metropolitan MMU another one in the ever-expanding war between Trent Seven and Mikey Whiplash. Expect the unexpected. Expect the strongest, most brutal matches that you've ever seen and hopefully I'll live to see another day."
As previously mentioned, Dunne is in a rich vein of form and has become one of the most hottest talents in British wrestling. A contributing factor to his meteoric rise is the presence and aura he possesses, helped by a gumshield that makes him look utterly menacing, You see him and can't help but feel he wants to smash your face in.
He feels he is producing best work at the moment, but constantly strives for improvement.
"I was always heavily focused on the fundamentals of wrestling, it's in the last year that I realised I needed to focus on standing out. You could have the most amazing fundamentals but the audience would never even realise or the promoters for that matter. Creating an image that stands out from everyone else was very difficult for me but I finally got the ball rolling at the start of the year with the Bruiserweight idea and added one piece to the puzzle at a time and finally I'm standing out. I'm definitely producing my best work at the moment in terms of crowd responses but I'm a goal orientated person so I'm always looking to add more to my act and get even better reactions in each match."
Additionally, Trent is making waves both as a singles competitor and in tag teams. He was a mouthwatering bout with Chris Hero coming up for Revolution Pro, while he also regular delivers in two different tag-team dynamics; Moustache Mountain with Tyler Bate, and British strong style with Pete Dunne. With 19-year old Bate, he is able to show off his natural charisma with a 'Peaky blinders-esque entrance' and a whole lot of entertaining ring-work, yet with his other partner he displays a more heelish and hard-hitting approach. He enjoys the ability to flick between the two personalities.
"I don't like comparing wrestling to anything really but just to make a little bit of a comparison at this point, I kind of look at as an actor would. When the bell rings, when I'm wrestling for ICW or Rev Pro, that's the show. When you turn up or you're preparing for your match to say at a Progress show, that's all that matters - anything else that exists in the wide spectrum of wrestling needs to be put on hold because they [fans] are paying for a Progress show or a Fight Club: Pro show, or Rev Pro or ICW show, I just make sure they get the product that they pay for."
High-flyer Will Ospreay became the youngest ever and first British winner of New Japan's Best of the Super Juniors in June. Many, including Ospeay, hold the opinion that Pete Dunne would be perfect in Japan. He had a short stint there a few years back and believes there could be an opportunity to go back in the future.
"I actually spent 3 months training and touring in Japan as a younger wrestler with Michinoku Pro. They treated me great and I owe them so much for teaching me such great basics and fundamentals. That kind of training was not available in the UK at the time. I would love to be able to go back for a company like New Japan, it would feel like a full circle moment in my career to be able to go back in a company of that size. I can't thank Will enough for going out on a limb for me, especially to do that publicly. I don't know what the future holds but of course it's something I'd love to do and after Will's success as a young British wrestler going over and Revolution Pro's great work in building a relationship with them, there's every chance there could be opportunities in the future."
The final day of this series will see Jimmy Havoc, one of the biggest names in British wrestling, return to action. Havoc came to prominence thanks to his excellent storytelling in Progress in what was a lengthy story mapped, and has a reputation for hardcore matches - which go hand in hand with his dark and sinister tendencies.
Seven is delighted to throw Havoc back in the mix after a torn ACL and MCL injury left him sidelined for quite some time.
"It's obviously wonderful to have him back. On a slighty more personal level, for someone get injured no matter how severe it is especially if they are on the sidelines for any length of time - it has been quite a long process of rehabilitation for Jimmy and as I much as I say it's pleasure to have him back, I'm not sure how he'll embrace the fans."
The tag team partners have locked up with the very best in Britain and elsewhere and with the standard so high, it's no surprise that they had difficulty singling anyone out when asked for their favourite opponents.
However they did pick out some of the wrestlers who they enjoy slugging it out with.
"At the moment It would be hard to pigeonhole anything at the minute simple because the quality of wrestling is just so high. Specifically if I had to pick anyone out: Pete Dunne is really setting the UK scene alight at the moment, obviously Mikey Whiplash, Travis Branks is another one; Mark Haskins. Someone I've never had a match with but absolutely would love to [with] is Zack Gibson, he's doing some fantastic stuff at the minute but like I say, it'd be hard to pick anyone out because the quality is so high in and around the UK." said Trent.
"Mark Andrews, Sami Callihan, Will Ospreay & Tyler Bate are a few names that spring to mind. The majority of the Fight Club roster are always enjoyable to work with as it's the closest thing to a 'home' company I have being from the midlands so I have grew up in wrestling with a lot of those guys and have the same goals and I guess ultimately we all know each other so well any combination of matches is bound to be entertaining." Pete added.
A final bit of Fight Club goodness came from Trent, who talked about the "stacked" roster the company have assembled for this tour. WWE's Drew Gulak will be unable to compete but his replacement is more than up to scratch.
"We're starting at Fixxion warehouse on Friday night with an absolutely stacked card. The Fight Club Pro roster [includes] Pete Dunne, Travis Banks, Dan Moloney, Nixon Newell then you've obviously got the drops of Fire Ant, Kimber Lee, Joe Coffey making his debut, Mikey Whiplash making his debut for Fight Club Pro. I believe unfortunately WWE have drafted Drew Gulak in for Raw so unfortunately he won't be able to make it, but there will actually be another Fight Club Pro debut in Shane Strickland [Lucha Underground's Killshot]."
All images via the Ringside Perspective.
For tickets for any of the three shows visit http://www.fightclubpro.bigcartel.com/.
Featured Image Credit: The Ringside Perspective