LUCHA FOREVER, AGAIN

Added by Emily Russell

It only existed for less than a year but now-defunct BritWres promotion Lucha Forever is still talked about with love and longing by fans and wrestlers alike. It can be revisited thanks to a number of shows availabe for viewing on PROGRESS Wrestling’s On Demand streaming service. Having been to one of their shows and now enjoying the ones available online, it’s been a real eye-opener realise the surprisingly large amount of influence Lucha Forever had on the current British wrestling scene. I encourage you to take a look. Here’s why.

To start with, unsurprisingly, with so many BritWres favourites regularly working for a promotion which also showcased terrific international talent, Lucha Forever crowds frequently got to enjoy excellent wrestling. The company employed a raft of really popular and acclaimed Brit scene wrestlers – including CCK, Mark Haskins, British Strong Style, El Ligero, to name only a few – and great international names such as David Starr, Jigsaw, Keith Lee, Scarlet & Graves (now known as The Rascalz, and current PWG Tag Team Champions), and most impressively, Japanese star Naomichi Marufuji, making his first U.K appearance in ten years and only doing so for Lucha Forever. Talk about a coup! There’s a real range of match styles on display too, including comedy, hardcore, strong style, etc. The variety of styles is impressive, as is the fact that show by show the combination of contrasting styles doesn’t feel jarring. It’s always highly watchable, almost celebratory in its presentation of the breadth and depth of both talent and style. And it all works together.

So far, so standard for many current British wrestling companies. But what made Lucha Forever stand out was that attending a show meant you didn’t just get to see really good wrestling, you also got to see wrestlers doing unique things character-wise. Pete Dunne and Chris Brookes teamed together as the Pigeon Murder Squad (due to a stuffed pigeon that was brought to shows and had its own Twitter account, and which they duly destroyed). This team made such an impression that a Pigeon Murder Squad t-shirt was actually designed and sold. It also involved Dunne donning a Kid Lykos mask and wrestling at least once as the Bruiserwolf. When Kid Lykos was injured (get well soon, Lykos!), Chris Brookes also teamed with an inflatable version of Lykos. El Ligero wrestled wearing a bear suit. Viper made her only appearance as Vice Officer Viper, a member of the Anti Fun Police. Rockstar Spud made several appearances during his amnesia phase of believing it was 2002. Weird creative ideas were clearly very welcome and maybe because the wrestlers themselves performed them with so much enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment, the crowd responded just as just enthusiastically back. These were moments made for social media and acted as great advertising for the company – stuff happened at Lucha Forever that didn’t happen anywhere else.

Notably, after Lucha Forever came to an end, many wrestlers Tweeted, and still Tweet now, about the fun they had being part of those shows. Being allowed to stretch different creative muscles and try out crazy ideas often brought out the best in a lot of people who were also thoroughly enjoying themselves and getting to show off different sides of their personalities and skill sets in a way they hadn’t been afforded before. Many of those ideas became beloved by fans and, despite how bizarre some of them seemed, both with and without context, many of them are still talked about on social media today. Most tellingly, some ideas first showcased and thoroughly embraced at Lucha Forever have actually since appeared in other companies – for example, Brookes has memorably been partnered by inflatable Kid Lykos in promotions such as Attack! Pro Wrestling and PROGRESS Wrestling, and Pete Dunne has wrestled as Brookes’ partner in a Lykos mask in Riptide Wrestling.

It’s not just the weird fun character ideas from Lucha Forever that have bled out to colour BritWres. Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis teamed together for the first time in Lucha Forever and have gone on to regularly team as Aussie Open to great success around the country and will also be taking part in wXw’s Tag League event this year. Drew Parker was frequently allowed to show what he could do as a hardcore wrestler, taking on hardcore luminaries like Jimmy Havoc and Sabu. His No DQ act has since found a place in many BritWres promotions, memorably impressing in Fight Club Pro’s Death House match, and it’s been announced that he will enter this year’s CZW Tournament of Death. Talents like Chris Ridgeway and Kip Sabian, who maybe weren’t as widely known before taking part in Lucha Forever shows, made the most of the promotion’s brief but bright spotlight, gaining appreciation and acclaim, and have rightly gone on to be rewarded. Since Lucha Forever folded, both have debuted for PROGRESS Wrestling, Revolution Pro Wrestling and OTT Wrestling. Ridgeway has also since claimed probably his biggest accolade yet – triumphing at the TETSUJIN: The Second Stage shoot-style tournament.

Another gift to the current BritWres scene via Lucha Forever is the Tuesday Night Graps shows that the company ran in Manchester’s Frog and Bucket. The atmosphere created there and the shows themselves were so popular that since Lucha Forever’s demise, IPW:UK have started running Tuesday night wresting shows in the same venue. The spirit of Lucha Forever’s bonkers creativity lives on at those shows, using much of the same talent and featuring equally bizarre and memorable moments such as Chris Brookes wrestling painted up like a severely creepy Easter Bunny. Southampton has also gained regular wrestling thanks to Lucha Forever; Revolution Pro Wrestling has picked up where Lucha Forever left off at The 1865 venue. Pockets of the country now have live wrestling regularly available, in places that likely wouldn’t have that if not for Lucha Forever successfully running there.

Since Lucha Forever held their last show, other companies have learned lessons from its successes. Riptide Wrestling have established a clear and unique identity, partly through filming shows in a singular way, almost like movies. Also they, and other companies, feature intergender wrestling, not as special attractions, but as competitive wrestling matches like any other, with crowds responding accordingly, something Lucha Forever did to great effect, particulary through an excellent Chief Deputy Dunne-Bea Priestly feud that went on to include talent like April Davids, Will Ospreay and Viper. As mentioned before, there’s IPW:UK’s Tuesday Night Graps. There’s room for creative off-the-wall character moments alongside fantastic wrestling.

Despite all of this obvious influence on the current scene, Lucha Forever’s legacy living on throughout the UK on a weekly basis, fans still discuss and miss the original, maintaining there was nothing like the fun and sheer enjoyment of a Lucha Forever show. Does that memorable live experience translate to the screen? Can they live up to the online hype? I really do recommend that you take a look at the pigeon, the wolf and the whole menagerie, and find out.