Friday, 26 October 2018

Tournament Preview // Fight Club: PRO Infinity 2018

On the 26th October, Fight Club: PRO present the 8th annual Infinity Trophy tournament at The Hanger in Wolverhampton, with one of the strongest line-ups in a long time. The list of winners reads like a who's who of Fight Club: PRO with Trent Seven (2010 & 2013), MK McKinnan (2011), Clint Margera (2012), Chris Brookes (2014), Pete Dunne (2015), Travis Banks (2016) and Omari (2017) all having walked out victorious, but who could be looking to join that list in 2018? Our sources say this year's tournament will follow the new format set down by last year's show, with four singles matches as semi-finals, before an elimination four-way final. There's a huge potential for storytelling in such a final, especially with the recent FCP vs. Schadenfreude storyline that has taken over the promotion over the last few month, as well as a number of super interesting semi-final possibilities. Lets take a look at the field, their recent record in FCP and tournament history, before evaluating their chances of winning and possible opponents and stories that could be told along the way. 

All photos courtesy of The Ringside Perspective

Tyler Bate 

On paper, Tyler Bate has to be the bookies favourite heading into Infinity on Friday. Obviously, matches aren't won paper, but it's hard to look past the run of form the Big Strong Boi has been on, as well as his obvious tournament credentials. Bate hasn't lost in FCP one on one since February 2016 and whilst a lot of his focus has been on tag team action with Moustache Mountain and British Strong Style, the run of eight straight victories has included putting away the likes of Will Ospreay, Daisuke Sekimoto and Jeff Cobb, as well as Travis Banks on two occasions. Bate also has the most wins in all match-types in FCP this year, totalling 11 out of 15. The 21 year old has also built up quite the tournament pedigree, famously winning WWE's United Kingdom Championship Tournament in 2017, topping FCP's other tournament the Dream Tag Team Invitational with Trent Seven earlier in the year and CHIKARA's King of Trios in 2017 with Seven and Pete Dunne. Further back, Bate picked up victories in Great Bear Promotions URSA Major One Night Tournament and Junior Heavyweight Cup in 2013 and 2014 respectively, as well as Shropshire Wrestling Alliance's British Lions Cup (also 2014). This will be Bate's fifth appearance in Infinity, but the first under the current format, having previously come out on the losing side of the 2014 final against Chris Brookes.

Bate's style is perfect for tournaments with his ability to fight from underneath, sell sublimely and gather crowd support creating a compelling atmosphere that is amplified in a tournament setting. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited about the possibility of Bate having to face Trent Seven in the semis, with that match having previously only happened in WWE. 

"Speedball" Mike Bailey 

In terms of Fight Club: PRO, Mike Bailey is the least experienced guy in the tournament, but his international credentials should put him amongst the favourites. Speedball made his FCP debut in June at International Tekkers: Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted, winning a wonderful four-way fatal match over David Starr, El Phantasmo and last year's Infinity winner Omari. Most of Bailey's time recently has been spent in Japan with Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) and Germany with Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw), where in terms of tournaments it's been a year of near misses. A strong performance in D-Ou Grand Prix was followed up by reaching the final of both Road to 16 Carat and AMBITION 9 in wXw only to lose to Marius Al-Ani and Timothy Thatcher respectfully. The Canadian's last tournament victory came in 2016 at Quebec's North Shore Pro Wrestling in their Standing 8 tournament,with Bailey also being victories in DDT's DNA Grand Prix in 2016, Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW)'s Best of the Best in 2015 and Capital City Championship Combat's (C4) Snowbrawl in 2014.

Speedball is arguably the guy with the most varied style in the whole tournament, able to fly with the best, strike hard and mix it up technically, after his superb showing at Tekkers I'm looking forward to seeing him get in there with some more of FCP's best.

Trent Seven 

The only former FCP Champion in the tournament, as well as being a two-time Infinity winner and four time finalist, Trent Seven has the most impressive record of anyone in Fight Club: Pro, having also won this year's Dream Tag Team Invitational, but hasn't had a singles match in the promotion since losing to Travis Banks at DTTI Hangover in May 2017. To that end Seven is winless in his last four singles matches in FCP, going down to Banks again in the final of Infinity 2016, Mikey Whiplash at Breaking into Heaven and Pete Dunne at Pulp Fixxion Part 2, leaving Seven without a one on one victory in over two years (a win over Mark Haskins at Project Mayhem V in September 2016 was the last success for the Super Don). Tournament wise, Seven's only success outside of FCP came in CHIKARA's King of Trios with Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne, whilst he reached the final of Adriatic Special Combat Academy (ASCA)'s Super 8 tournament and Melbourne City Wrestling (MCW)'s Melbourne City Invitational Tournament, both last year. 

Beyond than the tournament, I'm super stoked to see a Seven singles match in FCP after such a long time, because for me Seven's style was such a big part of what made me a Fight Club: PRO fan in 2014 and I'm looking forward to him chopping the shit out of someone, nailing 46 piledrivers and doing some ridiculous no selling. Will his issues with Schadenfreude members Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis play a part? We'll find out Friday.

Jordan Devlin 

Jordan Devlin has been on a marvellous run in FCP in 2018, with victories over MK McKinnan, Angelico, Naoki Tanizaki, Trey Miguel, Scotty Davis and El Phantasmo. In fact, Devlin's only loss this year came at the hands of the current PWG World Champion & ROH World Television Champion Jeff Cobb in July. The 28 year old Irishman reached last year's final, besting fellow 2018 competitor Kyle Fletcher in the semi-finals, only to be eliminated 2nd by another 2018 entrant, Mark Davis. Despite a strong showing, Devlin comes into the competition without a single tournament victory to his name, with his only other final appearance coming back in 2011 at Fight Factory Pro Wrestling (FFPW) in their European Cruiserweight Title Qualification tournament, where he came out on the losing side against B. Cool. 

Devlin has recently been involved in a feud with Millie McKenzie and Pete Dunne (with Jinny on his side), so there's a lot of potential in doing a Devlin vs. McKenzie singles match in the semi-finals, but there's also the prospect of Jordan avenging last year's elimination at the hands of Mark Davis. With a whole extra year of experience and will the Killer Import be able to go any further this year?  

Millie McKenzie 

Millie McKenzie has become one of the most popular acts in FCP over the last 12 months, helped by her association with mentor Pete Dunne and the dynamic of their tag team The Bruisermates. She comes into Infinity on a run of form, having put away both Jinny and Bea Priestley lately, as well as winning the Pro Wrestling Revolver Tag Team titles with Pete Dunne at FCP in June. McKenzie ended up being eliminated in last year's semi-finals by eventual winner Omari and has managed a number of semi-final appearances in other companies tournaments, reaching the final four of the PROGRESS Wrestling's Women's Title #1 Contender's Tournament in 2017, Revolution Pro Wrestling's (RevPro) British Women's Title Tournament, Defiant Wrestling's Ringmaster Tournament and wXw's Femme Fatales Tournament this year. Could she go one further and make the final four of Infinity? 

Whether technically Millie is ready for the win here and the spot that comes with it, I'm not entirely sure. Her popularity is undeniable, with her in-ring performances being improved from working with world class wrestlers like Pete Dunne, but personally I think she needs a good 12 months more to develop as a singles competitor before reaching a regular main event spot. That being said, I think there's a number of interesting potential match-ups here, with the Jordan Devlin one being the most obvious because of their issues lately, whilst a clash with Mark Davis would he elements of what made Davis' match with Kay Lee Ray in last year's tournament one of the strongest bouts of the night. 

Mark Davis 

And so we reach our first of two Schadenfreude members in the tournament. Mark Davis is undefeated one on one in FCP, beating all four of the opponents that have been put in front of him over the last 18 months. Kyle Fletcher, Kay Lee Ray, Clint Margera and MK McKinnan have all fallen to the Aussie, whilst Davis also made the final two of last year's Infinity, eliminating Jordan Devlin in the final four way, before Omari was able to pull out the win. It's been a great year for tournaments for Davis, both with Aussie Open partner Kyle Fletcher and a singles performer, having won PROGRESS's Natural Progression Series V and Thunderbastard Tag Team Series, as well as reaching the final of the Dream Tag Team Invitational. Outside of 2018, Davis has often found himself in the final, but struggled to complete the deal, coming second in Pro Wrestling Alliance Queensland (PWAQ)'s Tag Team title tournament with Mason Childs (as the Sex Panthers), both PWAQ's Rise of the Warriors 5 & 6 in 2011 & 2012 and Newcastle Pro Wrestling's Kings of the Castle 2013 with Ryan Eagles, before coming second in both of FCP's last two tournaments. Will it be third time lucky for Dunkzilla? 

With a whole new attitude since joining Schadenfreude its difficult to see how Davis couldn't be considered a favourite for the tournament.

Kyle Fletcher 

Kyle Fletcher may have claimed to be Fight Club: PRO Champ for a little bit, but that title wasn't really his and he didn't even steal it himself, then got battered by the delightful Meiko Satomura upon her return. That being said, since joining Schadenfreude Fletcher has been able to pick some impressive victories, besting both former FCP Champion Travis Banks and last years Infinity winner Omari, when before joining the group the Aussie Arrow had lost every single one on one contest he'd been placed in. The 18 year old has limited tournament experience, especially as a singles performer, most recently finding himself out in the First Round of RevPro's British J Cup, Defiant's Ringmaster tournament and Riptide Wrestling's Brighton Title tournament. In a tag team, Fletcher has reached finals, including this year's DTTI, as well as Newy Pro's Kings of the Castle 2017 with SnapChad. 

Fletcher has a lot to prove coming into this one, after his antics with the belt and the presence of Schadenfruede could prove fruitful. If Davis and Fletcher both manage to make it to the final, it will be difficult to look past one of them taking the Trophy. 

El Phantasmo 

El Phantasmo has become a real slow-burn favourite in FCP for me and I think for many others as well. Initially confined to scrambles, it was difficult to get fully invested in the Canadian, even if his rope-walking spot is rad af. However, since breaking into singles matches, his worked has really began to shine. Unfortunately, those performances haven't translated into victories with ELP falling to Jordan Devlin, MK McKinnan and Tyler Bate in his last three, whilst also suffering a loss to the seldom seen Elijah back in 2017. That leaves ELP with just one singles victory heading into Infinity (against Adam Brookes in January), whilst also only being able to win one of the eight scramble matches he's taken part in. To say that Phantasmo is the tournament's outsider would be an understatement. However, he has shown tournament prowess elsewhere this year, having won RevPro's British J Cup in September and reached the final of Defiant's Ringmaster tourney in July. The 32 year old has also won Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW)'s Pacific Cup in 2009, as well as reached the final an impressive three further times in 2008, 2013 and 2017. 

Could El Phantasmo create a huge upset and take the Trophy at The Hangar?

There's a lot of questions that I can't wait to find out the answers to heading into Infinity! I'll see you here after the show for the full review! All the best xoxo 

Written by James Marston 

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