Lucha Forever is the latest major promotion to form in the UK which will be aiming to bring a taste of top level BritWres to FloSlam on a monthly basis. Ran with the backing of two quality wrestlers in Will Ospreay and Ryan Smile, and boasting a very impressive roster I have high hopes for the company going forward. Would the first show deliver? Let’s find out.
The Dawning of Forever
April 17, 2017
The H Suite
“Magic” Mark and Harvey Dale on commentary. Hearing a name like that never has me optimistic.
Kings of Flight Championship
Kip Sabian def. Connor Mills, Ashley Dunn & Kelly Sixx
This was for HOPE Wrestling’s Kings of Flight Championship, held by Kip Sabian. Before the match he got on the mic and announced that he was the King of the Spotfest, and as such a three way was just not enough bodies so issued a challenge to the crowd. One guy (Connor Mills) stood up from the crowd, but Sabian ignored him and went on to ask what felt like every audience member if they’d like to participate; the bit went on eons too long.
A spotfest as an opener certainly has its place. When done well, a high paced sprint can fire a crowd up and improve the reactions for the rest of the night. Sadly though, this match failed in that regard. Firstly, the match ended up being far too long for what it was going for, and had far too slow a pace for the all-action match they were aiming for. The focus of the match was all on Connor Mills (the guy from the crowd), and in theory I’m behind the idea they had here: in the first match of a new promotion put a spotlight on an unknown to try to make him. Unfortunately, he just wasn’t ready for the opportunity. He didn’t look good at all, trying a lot of things but little coming off; he was very sloppy. Mills is only 18, and currently training at the ProJo. He just wasn’t ready for this spot.
As a whole, this opener came off very low rent, this would have been far better served as a dark match. Not a good way to kick off the promotion. Sabian retained by stealing a pin on Mills after he’d been the victim of a double-underhook Canadian destroyer. *
Alex Windsor def. Toni Storm
With Windsor in the ring, Toni Storm was attacked mid entrance by Dahlia Black with a crutch as revenge for when Dahlia broke her leg in a match with Storm recently in PROGRESS. Windsor then made the ref ring the bell to start the match, and Storm was counted out before even entering the ring.
As an angle used to switch some matches on the card I had no problem with this, the one negative here was the the attack came off quite weak, so Storm looked a little dumb lying there at ringside after just a couple of super soft looking crutch shot to the back.
As Windsor celebrated in the ring, Nixon Newell’s B*Witched theme hit and we have our new match.
Alex Windsor def. Nixon Newell
This was Nixon Newell’s last match on the indies before reporting to Florida for NXT, and she showed exactly why she’s been signed here in this match. All her offense just pops off of the screen, it’s super crisp and as a whole package she just comes off as a level above nearly everybody else of the UK womens scene.
Windsor, while still being very young, has been on the UK for an age and has the reputation of being a very good foil for opponents if they bring dynamism to the match but will struggle when the match requires her to be the one to bring the flair. This match almost perfectly encapsulated that. While Windsor overall looked fine here, the gulf in class between these two was glaringly obvious. The match was structured to make Windsor look great since she was the one sticking around, but compared to Newell she came across very basic.
Windsor picked up the win after using Newell’s own Canadian destroyer finisher against her. I get the impression that Windsor is going to be one of the centerpieces of the Lucha Forever women’s division, so her winning here was 100% the right move, but I hope she shows more in her future matches than she did here. ***
After the match we got a nice emotional moment with Nixon saying goodbye, putting over Windsor and the promotion and thanking the fans.
Omari def. Jigsaw
Omari is probably best known as the super impressive (and super tall) rookie in Fight Club Pro. He wears all black, has great fundamentals, a great body and a fairly basic moveset that he gets the absolute maximum out of. The obvious comparison for his current stage of career is that of a Japanese style young boy, and a damn impressive one at that.
Jigsaw, especially when over on the British Isles, gets puts against inexperienced wrestlers a lot because he’s such a safe veteran hand who always makes his opponent look good and never has a bad match. One of the many strong points Omari has going for him is how great his facials are to convey pain, and this was highlighted in this match as he fought from underneath to achieve the upset victory with the O-Zone swung reverse STO. ***
Sami Callihan vs. Will Ospreay
This was a bizarre match. The first half was your typical high paced, high intensity, lots of outside the ring Sami Callihan match. It was good stuff.
Then Callihan pulled down Will’s trunks to reveal some Uptown Funkers speedos underneath. From here the match turned into a dance off, followed by teenage ref Shay accidentally beating up Callihan due to an invisible rope, which then lead to Shay getting a pinfall victory over Callihan counted by Ospreay. Following this we got a conga featuring almost the entire roster coming out from the back to try to entice Callihan to dance.
I didn’t enjoy this. Maybe that’s because I have a grumpy disposition, but at the same time I don’t even think it was particularly well executed. I watched Jack Evans and Will Ospreay do a very similar thing the day early in Fight Club Pro, and there it just came across so much more natural and logical, whereas here the whole palaver came off as super forced. It probably helped the FCP occurrence that I didn’t have two terrible commentators doing their absolute best to make the whole scene as cringeworthy as possible.
Trios Championship Qualifier
Damian Dunne & #CCK def. Bea Priestley, El Ligero & Drew Parker
This trios match brought us back from intermission, and it was revealed that all trios matches in Lucha Forever would be under lucha scramble tag rules. I’m cool with that, it’s something different for the UK scene that will help them stand out a little, and it gives Lucha Forever something to point to as evidence that there name does make a degree of sense. They did a really good job with them in this match, I’m the type of nerdy fan who subconsciously keeps track of who is legal and get annoyed if a pinfall occurs between wrestlers who aren’t the legal participants (since it invalidates the logic presented by the babyface-in-peril heat segment), and I am delighted to be able to report they nailed it in this one.
Damian Dunne is under his Anti-Fun Police gimmick from ATTACK! here. I’m all for that, it’s a gimmick that really allows Dunne’s charisma and personality to shine through. Without the gimmick he’s a good in-ring wrestler but a little dry, but Chief Deputy Dunne is the complete package and, dare I say it, incredibly fun to watch.
Dunne would also be disheartened to know that this was a really fun match, with his team in particular working really well together. Parker didn’t have his best showing, coming across a step or two off time in a couple of instances, but it wasn’t anything so bad as to drag down the match. Anti-Fun #CCK advanced after Dunne handcuffed Ligero to the turnbuckle, which then allowed them to exploit a 3-on-2 advantage, picking up the win with a springboard codebreaker followed up by a gory blockbuster. ***1/4
Toni Storm def. TK Cooper
Storm came out and called out Dahlia for the attack earlier, but got jumped from behind by Cooper instead leading to a match. A really good match at that. Cooper is incredibly charismatic and made a great foil for Storm here. For me, one of the bigger compliments that can be paid to an intergender match is that you barely notice it’s intergender; this was just a damn good match.
Lucha Forever seems to be aiming for a fun light-hearted vibe, and they could do a lot worse than looking to emulate the tone portrayed in this one. One spot I particularly enjoyed was Storm hitting a great looking headbutt (Goto style not Shibata style, worry not) to which Cooper staggered backwards slightly before shrugging it off and informing everybody “I’m part Samoan”. Storm would go on to pick up the victory not long after when Cooper got distracted mid way through a People’s Elbow by a makeout session with Dahlia Black then turned around to a piledriver. Great stuff. ***1/2
Between the semi-main and the main, we inexplicably had the raffle drawing. If you want to have your raffle then do it at intermission or after the main event, not on the stream. You’re appearing on a major league streaming service, do everything you can to appear big time; don’t waste online viewers time. This just came across as low rent.
Lucha Forever Championship
Travis Banks def. Shane Strickland
Let’s start with the negatives so we can get them out of the way. There were a couple of very noticeable miscommunications that disrupted the flow of the match. The first of which was midway through the match when Travis went for the Slice of Heaven kick, which involves him springing back out of the corner from the second rope and delivering a kick to the head, but Strickland clearly wasn’t where Travis expected him to be. This wasn’t an occurrence where Strickland dodged out of the way of the attack, he was just never in place to be hit to begin with. As such Travis came off looking real dumb, and this was compounded by Strickland’s look of confusion before deciding to fall to the ground and sell after decisively not getting hit. There was another far more minor miscommunication later in the match where Strickland tried to catch Travis on a dive in a fireman’s carry position and failed, and then Travis just jumped onto Strickland’s for no apparent (in cannon) reason. Both these occurrences took me out of the match a little and negatively affected my enjoyment.
The second thing that took away from the match a little for me was the unnecessary ref bumps. It wasn’t like they really served any purpose, there was no interference of foreign object usage while Joel was out, and again it was just another minor thing that disrupted the match’s flow. A minor complaint for sure, but I would have enjoyed the match more without them.
I refer to these negatives not to tell you that this match was bad, because it really wasn’t. I’m pointing it out for two reasons. The first is to highlight how damn good the good parts of this match were, because with all the negatives I just listed the overall packaged was still really good. Secondly, I wanted to get across just how great a match that these two could have together if they managed to iron out all the kinks.
Both guys meshed well stylistically, both brought the intensity and excitement in droves, and as a whole the match had a really nice flow to it and peaked well. While, for the aforementioned reasons, I wouldn’t quite consider this match to be great as a taste of the potential that these two could have together it was nothing short of delicious. Having watched this match I really feel that these two have a MotYC in them, even if this wasn’t it. Banks won the match, becoming the inaugural Lucha Forever champion with the Lion Clutch over-the-shoulder crossface following two Slice of Heaven kicks.
A really good way to close out Lucha Forever’s debut show, but one that could have been so much better with just a few small changes. ***3/4
There were definitely positives to take from Lucha Forever’s debut show, but ultimately this was a thumbs in the middle show. Looking at the show pre and post intermission, if Lucha Forever can capture and replicate the feel and quality of the second half of the card then I very much think they’re going to be a great edition to both the British scene and FloSlam’s schedules. If the first half of the show becomes what is typical then it will rapidly lose my interest. I’m optimistic we’re going to get something closer to the former though.
I get the impression that Lucha Forever is aiming for a distinct atmosphere that’s actively different from any of the other major promotions in the UK, with a light hearted and fun vibe (think a mixture between PWG and ATTACK! or prime CHIKARA). You currently have RPW for your sports style “wins and losses really matter to moving up and down the card” promotion, PROGRESS for your serious storytelling promotion, ICW for your Attitude Era knockoff, FCP for your grimy fighting spirit exclusive club vibe and ATTACK! for your cartoony, kinda goofy but loveable promotion. Lucha Forever doesn’t seem to be trying to be any of those things; they want to be there own thing. That’s great, different is good and it helps you stand out. To my eyes, the second half of the show did a fantastic job of working to that identity, whereas the first half it came off feeling far more forced.
One thing that I can’t go through this entire review without mentioning at least once was the abysmal commentary. Utterly, utterly abysmal. I don’t know where they found these guys, but they need to look harder or look somewhere else because “Magic” Mark and Harvey Dale are not the two people you want as the voices of your brand. Think your Dad and Uncle getting together at a family get together where they’re slightly tipsy, cutting horribly cringeworthy Dad jokes for three hours on end. They think they’re hilarious, but nobody else in the whole world does. That’s just about what you got here.
“You could cut the tension with a knife. But he doesn’t have a knife” was a line uttered.
Let that sink in.
“You could cut the tension with a knife. But he doesn’t have a knife”. These people were presumably paid for that.
I’m sure some will say that commentary is only a minor thing, and that you should be able to ignore it if you don’t like it, but it is really damaging to a product. It hurts the tone of the promotion. You want your promotion to be cool. You want people to want to be a part of it, to want to go to shows, to get invested in the storylines. This commentary is the opposite of that. If you look at the recent BritWres boom, almost all the big promotions have thrived because they’ve had an aura of cool about them. PROGRESS was built upon that vibe, there’s few places in the world that feel like more of an “it” destination than the Electric Ballroom, and a lot of that had its foundations in Jim Smallman’s commentary for the early chapters. FCP: definitely cool. OTT: cool. Even ICW, a promotion that isn’t really my cup of tea, has an undeniable sense of coolness about it. It’s a place you want to be. The vibe that commentary gave this show was the opposite of all of that. It felt like a primary school disco where the “DJ” is somebody’s 45 year old Dad trying to prove he’s still hip.
It wasn’t just their style that was bad; they weren’t particularly eloquent either. Both guys would frequently struggle to get their words out and often couldn’t keep up with the action and would get flustered, especially during the trios match.
While I had some issues with the first half of the show that I mentioned, so many of them were amplified by this commentary job. A better commentary team would probably have made the first half an easy watch which would then have allowed the quality second half to make a good show. As it was, “Magic” Mark and Harvey Dale made it a slog to get through. If there’s one thing that Lucha Forever needs to change for next month when they return to FloSlam, it’s the commentary team. I can’t stress that point enough.
So yeah, overall a fun show with some issues, but I’m hopeful to see where the promotion goes from here. Hopefully the negatives are just teething problems and hallmarks of worse to come.