A glorious shit hole that looked like it had been hit by an explosion and the staff just ran in and swept all the debris away. The kind of place where you felt that the mud you brought in from the sole of your shoe would actually improve the place. It’s dark, with a colour pallete of blacks, greys, purples and other colours one would normally associate with the local goth shop. (I used to be a goth/emo looking lad back in the day, so I consider myself an expert on such matters).
Planet Nightclub was a shit hole. But it was our shit hole. It was wrestling’s shit hole and what better place to house a promotion called Fight Club:PRO? None. It was perfect. Before the days of Starworks and Fixxion, Fight Club PRO got it’s real start at the turn of this millennia’s first decade.
The Planet was located at the end of a street in mainland Wolverhampton, surrounded by gut-wrenching takeaways and sex shops, and a few pubs scattered up the road. You knew what you were in for on the journey there. Waiting in the queue, the cold snap of the dirty air hitting you face, you’ll see drunkards stumbling up the near by alleys and the sounds of grumbled voices ordering kebabs.
That’s even if you found the bloody place. As is typical of later FCP venues, there’s a sense of caution and confusion if you were too early or didn’t spot the queue of black tshirts and hoodies worming around a generic, worn-down building. It’s the least likely looking place you’d expect to find the best wrestling in the UK so it was easy to dismiss as you headed further up, insistent that you were in the wrong area. This worked to FCP’s advantage; it encouraged you to talk to people that may look like they are going where you are going. It encouraged you to make friends with other weary and excited travellers, just to make sure you were in the correct location. This would become more vital when FCP moved to a club hidden underneath a car park, but that’s for another day.
Yes, Planet Night Club was a proper shit hole. Luckily for me, I was used to it. If you were like me and weren’t a fan of mainstream clubs, you probably had a similar, grimy haunt that suited your tastes better. Mine was a Birmingham night club built under a bridge called Subway City. It had a familiar vibe to Planet; the dark colours, grubby interior, sticky floors and an exterior that looked like a scene from a Jack The Ripper serial. It’s these kind of places that the Bogey Man lives…or at least, that’s what my parents told me when I was 5. It’s the kind of place where I stood in a circle, can of beer in hand, drunkenly singling along to Taking Back Sunday. It’s the kind of place where I stood in a circle, can of beer in hand, singing along to ‘Sledgehammer’ as Tyler Bate made his way around the venue. There’s a sense of familiarity to Planet Night Club. As soon as you step through the doors, you feel like you’ve been a regular for years. I’m not one to make assumptions, but I feel like a lot of the fans who attended these FCP shows also felt the same feeling when they first walked in. Everyone had their own Subway City or Satan’s Hollow, maybe the local dive pub or a Carling Academy (showing my age with that one, fucking hell). They were accustomed to, and loved, the down’n’dity surroundings. It’s often said that the crowds at the ECW Arena were more like a rock gig. Well this was the next level; this was a crowd that looked like they were off to a 5-day music festival. Some smelt like they had just got back from one. The toilets were no better than those found at Bloodstock. It helped bring everyone together in solidarity. Instead of thrashing about to ‘Chop Suey’, we’re going to bash the fences to Chop City.
Yeah, I forgot to mention the fences. The ring was placed in the centre of the dance floor. The apron height was really small in order to accommodate the ring posts and to make sure no one hit the ceiling. From the ring to the audience was a gap of maybe a meter at the most, and separating the wild, cannibalistic psychos from the wrestlers were fences that looked like they had been lifted straight from a building site. The fans would cling, grasp, shake and kick the fences as a means to show excitement, rage and happiness. Yes, a promotion called Fight Club: PRO felt like an actual, living, breathing fight club.
Due to the close proximity to the action, you heard and felt every single strike. Every single kick. Every single pile driver. Every single bodyslam, side suplex, clothesline, dropkick and powerslam. It really drove home just how physical the sport of professional wrestling was and you damn sure well appreciated every drop of sweat and blood that was spilt just a mere few feet from your own face. I hope they had decent cleaning facilitates for the wrestlers afterwards, because have you seen Planet Night Club? It’s a shit hole.
In some ways, I prefer those days to what we have now. Planet was located in such a great location for out-of-towners like myself. It was a 1 minute walk from the train and bus stations, a 30 second walk from a cheap as chips hotel, with pubs and food only a stones throw away. You would arrive, check-in, chuck your bags onto the bed that had less give than a church pew, and head out. You could pre-drink or just go to the venue, and afterwards the night is yours. You (usually) had time to grab the last tram or train home and if you were staying there are plenty of drinkeries to dive into. These days, for all the greatness of Starworks, it makes the party around the wrestling rather difficult. It’s situated outside of the town centre and you’ve not got a chance of making the last bus home. The surrounding area is quite barren for pubs and diners, so you’ll be heading out of the area if that’s what you’re after. Planet was an all-day, all-night event. Starworks lacks that convenience, but all this could just be me being an old git. I’m 30 in April for fucks sake and I’ve got grey hair for days, I’m done.
Planet, shit hole that it is, had it’s bad points. The crowd could be awfully arrogant at times and just fucking awful at other times. Not the majority, but there a vocal few who thought they were funnier than they actually were. The kind of folk who shout gay sluts whenever some mat work was going on. I remember Zack Sabre Jr getting the large brunt of this but Zack being Zack, he told them where to shove their homophobia. Tommy End got slack from a small group who branded him as a “cheap CM Punk” throughout his matches. Tommy being Tommy, he told them where to shove their ignorance. Trevor Lee got flack for being a TNA/Impact guy by another small group of fans, even though most of us knew him for his PWG work. Trevor being Trevor, he danced a bit to Miley Cyrus and just angered them more. You can’t win them all.
What also came along with the place was a sense of exclusivity. FCP rarely advertised outside of social media and you’d hardly see forum posts advertising their shows and you’d be hard pressed to find a poster around Wolves for the next show. I still have no idea how I found about about my first show back in 2012. Everyone at the shows felt like they part of a secret, underground promotion which helped the atmosphere to no end and created a great hardcore fan base, but with this came some bad eggs who let it all go to their heads. I remember being ridiculed for not going to a pub where the wrestlers hung out after the show (I’m an awkward bugger at the best of times so I tend to keep my socially-inept self away from wrestlers for fear of saying something really stupid or just generally annoying them). If you showed love towards the imports, you’d get weird looks off people like you just walked into their house on Christmas Day and pissed on their kids. I must reiterate though; this was all very minor stuff. Like any club, pub or venue, there’s going to be some tosspots; you just have to treat them like you would any other tosser. Moan about them 5 years later in an article, obviously.
As a larger venue, Starworks has Planet beat. Everyone is welcoming and it’s quite well self-policed. There’s casual, laid back conversations peppered between 8-counts and headlocks. The venue packs a punch visually and the high ceiling allows for all your favourite Fire Pro moves to be done. FCP have done a great job in making everyone feel part of something whilst maintaining a friendly atmosphere.
Yeah, Planet Night Club was a proper shit hole. It had it’s ups and it’s downs, it could embrace you and, at times, it could alienate you. It was a pivotal time in the history of Fight Club: Pro and paved the way for the promotion’s massive future. They made all the mistakes here and learnt from them, and we loved being part of the ride. They’ve smoothed out the wrinkles, accentuated the positives and I honestly believe that right now, the Starworks era is the best Fight Club: PRO has ever been. Would I like a show every now and again held in Planet? Maybe a similar location? Of course. But FCP have bigger plans and I’m really excited to watch them continually evolve and prosper.