Monday, 12 February 2018

FCP/ATTACK! WrestleHouse '18 [Live] Review // 26th January 2018

It was the first time inside Starworks Warehouse this year and we had the sequel to last year's classic WrestleHouse show, that saw two BritWres favourite Fight Club: PRO and ATTACK! Pro Wrestling come together for a WrestleBration of epic proportions. The show featured the first TeamHouse Elimination Situation match as it's main event, as Mark Haskins, FCP Champion Chris Brookes, Jordan Devlin, Chief Deputy Dunne & Dan Moloney took on Trent Seven, Travis Banks, MK McKinnan, Clint Margera & Millie McKenzie, as well as a rematch between WWN star Keith Lee and Infinity Trophy winner Omari and a tag team clash with Aussie Open's Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher facing Team SPLX members Zack Sabre Jr. and Angelico. WrestleHouse '18 had a lot to live up to, but was it up to the task?  

Photo Credit // The Ringside Perspective // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Big Cartel

Fight Club: Pro // Big Cartel // Website // Twitter // Facebook // Vimeo

Attack Pro Wrestling // Big Cartel // Twitter // Facebook // Vimeo

Before we get into the wrestling content, lets talk about the changes made at Starworks for the show. Firstly, it was fucking freezing. I'm not entirely sure why, but there appeared to be a big hole in the far wall. An industrial heater placed in the corner of the room did little to combat this and indeed only seemed to heat the few feet immediately in front of it. It felt like this effected the atmosphere somewhat as the crowd was definitely more subdued than previous events, especially during the opener and stretches of the main event. Other minor issues included moving the food stall parallel the bar, meaning the queue stretched to in front of the merch table. Starworks taking over the running of the bar also seemed to create longer and slower moving queues for drinks. I don't know what happened, but not only did it make it harder to buy beverage (with prices also soaring - £2.50 for a can of Red Bull?), but also to move around the venue in general.  

TeamHouse Elimination Situation Match // Mark Haskins & Chris Brookes & Jordan Devlin & Chief Deputy Dunne & Dan Moloney def. Trent Seven & Travis Banks & MK McKinnan & Clint Margera & Millie McKenzie 

Where to begin with the lengthy main event? There was an awful lot going on in the first ever TeamHouse Elimination Situation match and I'll get into what worked and what didn't work for me in a moment. Firstly, lets talk about the team and some of that Stupid Sexy stuff that's been sweeping through ATTACK! like the sexiest plague you ever did see. Beyond the captains of Travis Banks and FCP Champion Chris Brookes, there was nothing known of who they'd chosen to be on their teams before they headed out. Haskins being on Brookes' team was a surprise, because to my knowledge he'd been a babyface beforehand in FCP, however the little story with the former PROGRESS World Champion initially appearing uncomfortable teaming with the likes of Dan Moloney, before becoming a viciously integral part of Team Brookes was one of the stronger parts of the match for me. Chief Deputy Dunne working double duty was also a strange move. Whether this was the initial plan or not I'm not sure, but if you pushed me I'd lean closer towards the latter. Banks' team read like a Then...Now...Forever of Fight Club: PRO, featuring four former champions. It was great to have MK McKinnnan back with us once again and when given the opportunity he showed glimpses of what had made him a highly touted prospect before his hiatus, highlighted by a nice sequence with Jordan Devlin. 

Lets delve into discussion of the match, by looking at the positives. Obviously, the booking of Millie McKenzie in the match was a major plus point (as has been since McKenzie debuted in FCP last June) but I want to focus a little more on that and the finish a little further down. So instead lets begin at the begin, the wild and crazy brawl around ringside, that erupted as Team Banks had made their Stupid Sexy reappearance. Thankfully (and selfishly), the majority of action was kept to around the ring, as this meant that from my front row vantage point I didn't miss much at all, as has been the case when FCP multi-mans start roaming the entire Warehouse. All ten wrestlers scrapping and chopping and striking each other with good intensity was a great way to start the match and made use of the sheer amount of bodies available. How often do you get ten performers in the same match in the UK? Kid Lykos mirroring Chris Brookes' actions at ringside, like if Damien Mizdow had been a damn dirty Wolf, was highlight of the short face-in-peril situation, before a Travis Banks hot tag sent the match into chaos once more. Multiple corner cannonballs, a spectacular four-way Coast to Coast and multiple dives to the outside were capped off by Clint Margera climbing a ladder inside the ring and leaping off over the barricade and onto the multiple bodies below.

That's enough being nice for now, because as much as I love praising FCP there were a few issues with the main event for me. Firstly, the cold crowd was absolutely knackered by the time this match started, which was equal parts the temperature in the room, a lengthy interval causing the match to go on super late even for Fight Club and the draining nature of Keith Lee vs. Omari. This meant that parts of the match played out in front of what I'd refer to as a subdued audience, not exactly silent, but not exactly what you'd expect from a record FCP crowd during a main event either. For me, this wasn't helped by the general lack of story heading into the match. In December, we'd seen Banks tag with Chris Brookes, but in June we'd seen Brookes cheat Banks out of the FCP title. For me, these big matches work best when there's a grudge between the two teams or a reason that they're fighting and whilst the majority of the characters involved are well-defined, it was difficult to be fully invested without a burning issue. Alongside this, I wasn't a massive fan of how the match was structured either, with a flurry of eliminations coming in a block, meaning that those exits felt unimportant and in fact, inconsequential. Coming soon after a series of one in one out finishers that saw everyone get involved didn't help the elimination stretch, that saw Moloney, McKinnan, Dunne, Margera and Devlin exit the match. 

So, lets get back to Millie McKenzie, shall we? Her story throughout the match was the strongest part of the contest. From her early hot tag and german suplex festival, to a stretch as face-in-peril, her narrative heated up following the aforementioned dive sequence. It was difficult to get a full view of the spot, as it was on the opposite side of the ring from where I was, but Brookes gave McKenzie an neckbreaker off the barricade and onto the hard concrete floor. From my vantage point the spot looked nasty and I certainly wouldn't want to fall onto the solid Starworks floor. McKenzie was helped to the back by staff, with little details like Trent Seven disappearing backstage for a while adding to the angle. The crowd gave McKenzie a rousing applause upon her exit, but following Travis Banks departure at the hands of Brookes, the fans loudly called for Millie to return, because this is wrestling and we like to think we know how it works. Out came McKenzie, selling like a boss, for a gutsy underdog scrap with Brookes, taking everything that the Champion had to offer but continuing to stay in the match. The finish would see PROGRESS' Jinny make her FCP debut, costing Millie the match just when it appeared that McKenzie was going to able to do the impossible. It was a cool way to start introduce a new character and begin a proper feud in FCP and also allowed Brookes to walk out as the last person standing and make up a little for the fact that he didn't defend the championship once again.

Keith Lee def. Omari // Pinfall

Opening sentence mentioning difficult second albums. Follow up sentence listing second albums that improved upon the original. Third sentence discussing a comparison between second albums and Keith Lee and Omari's second match in Fight Club: Pro. You get the picture. The original clash between Lee and Omari at International Tekkers Part 1 last July was an incredible match, with a result that no one saw coming, but in my opinion the second clash topped it. Yes, it didn't have the massive shock surprise finish, with Omari going from strength to strength since July, including winning the Infinity Trophy in December, but here was a richer match, with a deeper story, featuring opportunities for call backs, awe-inspiring highspots and some of the most painful sounding strikes Starworks has ever witnessed. It was fucking glorious stuff, it really was. 

The best match of the night had the crowd in the palm of the performers hands, with the two often taking their time to tell the story right and knowing when to speed up at the right moments. Special shoutout to the "Ooooh, bask in Omari" chant because it was brilliant. The repeated strikes sequence with Omari trying to keep up with Lee and getting the fuck beaten into him, selling his beating and returning for more. If anyone in the crowd hadn't already been won over by Omari's fighting spirit, then this would've done it. The tilt towards the finish was balls out ridiculous. From Lee's super silly one handed chokeslam to the pair of one counts for both men to the call back to the finish of their first match to Omari hitting a German suplex with Lee positioned on the middle rope, the final third of the match was utterly bonkers. Oh yeah, they did a top rope Spanish Fly as well, because why the fuck not? Lee has no business taking Spanish flys, but I'm not going to tell him that. There'd been so much going on and Starworks was rocking, that it almost felt like an anti-climax when Lee managed to vanquish the Infinity winner with Ground Zero. To be honest, I was just glad to be able to get my breath back! 

Following the match, Lee got on the microphone, letting Omari know that he originally believed the result of their first encounter was a fluke, but after the rematch he'd changed his mind. Lee then challenge Omari to a rubber match at some point in the future, before requesting that Omari's Infinity Trophy and therefore FCP title shot would be on the line. Oh yes, please and thank you, sir. The first two matches between this pairing have been electric, mixing storytelling and indie madness with the emotional connection between the up and comer from Birmingham and the Wolverhampton audience. The third clash between the two will have an awful lot to live up to, but even more opportunities to develop narrative and push the envelope even further. If you've missed the first two, treat yourself to 

Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis def. Zack Sabre Jr. & Angelico // Pinfall 

Aussie Open picked up their first win in FCP, as they picked up a big victory over the first time pairing of Zack Sabre Jr. and Angelico, with Fletcher pinning ZSJ after Davis hit Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck, following a very good tag team match. The contest was put together splendidly, with Davis and ZSJ and then Fletcher and Angelico working two lovely and very different sequences to kick things off, with a split crowd finding it hard to pick between the Aussie regulars and the international SPLX sponsored tandem. This changed pretty quickly when ZSJ starting pulling out some of that vicious technical bastardry that's he's become quite fond lately. Nasty looking holds, stomping and a little illegal use of the ropes kept Sabre and Angelico in control of Fletcher, with Davis getting crashed off the apron at any point it seemed like the Aussie Arrow was about to make a comeback. Whilst a portion of the crowd stuck with the scientific wankers, there was definitely a ground swell of support for Davis & Fletcher and even a good deal of heat for Team SPLX. I really get a kick out of this side of ZSJ and it's always a pleasure to boo him when he's doing his methodical arsehole routine, whilst Fletcher is a delight when fighting underneath because he sells using his entire body.

Once the hot tag was made the rest of the match featured some very good near falls for both teams, whilst Davis, knackered from constantly being knocked off the apron, looked to nail his Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck piledriver. This resulted in a wonderful exchange where Sabre Jr. was able to escape the piledriver attempt and lock in an arm bar instead, which was slickly done and set up the finish for later on. The near falls included a lovely sequence where Fletcher fired up after Sabre started slapping the fuck out of his face, only for Angelico to come sweeping in after a Michonoku Driver to pick up a strong near fall off a crucifix bucklebomb, as well as Aussie Open's Fidget Spinner. With Aussie Open finally able to isolate Sabre, they were able to get revenge for his rapscallion-esque behaviour with a superkick from Fletcher and the aforementioned CYEACTF (say it) sealing their first win in the promotion. With the Dream Tag Team Invitational just around the corner, Davis & Fletcher have to be considered amongst the favourites to take the crown, mostly because three Aussie Open matches across a weekend would be best for everyone. 

ATTACK! Tag Team Championships // Lloyd Katt & Split McPins (C) def. Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Super Santos Federales Jr. and Martina & The Love Making Demon and Drew Parker & ELIJAH // Pinfall

On an event that felt nowhere near as ATTACKy as last year's show, we did get to see the ATTACK Tag Team titles defend as Lloyd Katt & Splits McPins of Bowl-A-Rama made their fifth successful defence of the belts in a Four-way clash also involving The Anti-Fun Police's Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Super Santos Federales Jr, the newly formed Session Mouse duo of "Session Moth" Martina & The Love Making Demon and x Nothing to Prove x's Drew Parker & ELIJAH in a fun, yet occasionally rushed opener. The match was mostly comedy antics, based around a couple of character interactions and Santos saying things in his weird Spanish/Welsh hybrid accent. The highlight came from a wonderful bowling sequence, where Katt & Pinns fired bowling balls into the waiting crotches of their opponents seated in the corner, only for Martina to begin begging for the ball to be lobbed betwixt her legs, because she's mad into that bowling life. The finish was also well done with a flurry of action before Bowl-a-Rama picked up the pin on former ATTACK! Champion Dunne with More Bowl for Your Buck. 

However, the match wasn't without it's problems. The biggest of these for me was the crowd didn't seem all that aware of a number of the characters involved. Perhaps it was the cold, but the boisterous atmosphere that one would've expected for such a match in ATTACK!, especially when it comes to the popular Bowl-A-Rama tandem, just didn't seem to be present here, with only pockets of the crowd seeming to know the ATTACK! performers. A lot of the multi-man stuff didn't hit home for me either, with the usually creative promotion falling back on a number of multi man tropes, that beyond the bowling sequence, felt a little tired. The most obvious example being everyone getting involved in a vertical suplex melee that seemed to take an age to set up, as the competitors joined in one by one. The fact that the resulting suplex (or at least the half involved the Anti-Fun Police) ended up looking woeful didn't help the situation. I was also dissapointing to see absolutely nothing made of the brutal attack from x Nothing to Prove x on Dunne at ATTACK!'s Failure's Not Flattering (Where's The Passion?) in Bristol less than a week earlier, as seeing as this was supposed to be a joint show you would've expected the two teams to have at least hinted at what had gone down there. 

El Phantasmo def. Adam Brooks

El Phantasmo made the most of his first singles match in FCP with a victory over the debuting Adam Brooks in a good showcase for the Canadian and Australian. For some reason (I'll blame the freezing temperature once more), I decided to write three whole notes on this one, but that says more about this reviewer than it does about the match. Battling with a crowd that had just came back from one of the longest intervals in professional wrestling history, Phantasmo and Brooks worked hard to draw the audience in, with Phantasmo able to garner a decent amount of crowd support in the end, thanks to a fiery comeback that complimented the strong heel/face dynamic that was present throughout the bout. The series of suicide dives from Phantasmo was the highlight, alongside his always impressive rope-walk hurricanrana. This was the first time I've found myself fully on board with Phantasmo, after only seeing him in multi-man bouts to this point and it was his performance when fighting from underneath that made this match what it was. I've heard good things about Brookes from performances elsewhere in the country and whilst I'm not sure we got him at his best in Wolverhampton, there was just enough here to see his potential and hopefully he's back in FCP later this year.

Shay Purser stunnered Joel Allen and Matt Richards 

Because the main event had ended with popular babyface Millie McKenzie taking a beating from Jinny, the show closed with referee Shay Purser coming out to the ring, once again to Glass Shatters by Disturbed, before stunnering fellow ref Joel Allen and ring announcer Matt Richards. Why not? 

ATPW Scale Rating // 6.69/10

Written by James Marston // @IAmNotAlanDale

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