LIVE from The Frog and Bucket, Manchester
Lucha Forever is a promotion in its infancy, its debut show taking place in Birmingham just a few months ago. A co-venture between Ryan Smile and Will Ospreay, it’s no surprise that the cards have been stacked with big names from the start. Tonight is no different, although due to injury, Marty Scurll is unable to compete against Lucha Forever Champion Mark Haskins in the main event as advertised.
For anyone unfamiliar with the Frog and Bucket, it’s a comedy club in central Manchester. The ring takes up half the venue and the fans stand around it, making it a very intimate venue, which I’m sure the promotion will outgrow quite quickly. I really rate it as a wrestling venue and it’s conveniently located a few minutes walk away from my flat, however I do imagine some of the wrestlers feel a bit restricted by the lack of space around and above the ring.
Upon arrival at the venue, Will Ospreay is greeting fans at the door. If you haven’t already, I recommend watching the Facebook Live video he did on Lucha Forever’s page. Never has watching someone tick names off a list been so funny. Before the shows starts, Will gets on the mic to inform us that Ryan Smile hasn’t turned up yet so he is in charge. Even after Smile turns up, he remains entertainingly involved in the show, announcing during the interval that a purse had been found in the toilets and amusingly refusing to hand it over until my forgetful sister could prove it was hers and even trying his hand at commentary during Alex Windsor vs Su Yung.
Lana Austin & Bubblegum vs Chief Deputy Dunne & “Superbad” Kip Sabian
Manchester’s own Lana Austin and Bubblegum kick things off against Chief Deputy Dunne and “Superbad” Kip Sabian, a pairing which works so well because they’re both such fantastic heels. This match progresses the storyline between Austin and Sabian, who faced each other at last month’s Manchester show with different tag team partners. I’m a big fan of Dunne’s gimmick and Sabian struggling to remember he is supposed to be having NO FUNAAAAHHHHH made this match lots of erm, fun. Dunne and Sabian take turns to beat down Austin, preventing her from making the tag to Bubblegum. Austin isn’t on the losing side this time though and Bubblegum eventually pins Sabian after a shooting star press to end a suitably amusing match to get the show started.
Bea Priestley vs. Charli Evans
The first singles match of the night is between Bea Priestley and Australian Charli Evans. This is the first time I’ve seen Evans wrestle and she doesn’t disappoint. Evans is particularly over with the crowd, who seem a bit confused as to whether they should be cheering Priestley too (she was definitely a face at the last Manchester show in July). Eventually the crowd decide they can cheer for both women, who work a solid match that eventually sees Priestley victorious, a result which makes sense to me. The women hug before leaving the ring and pose for fan photos together during the interval.
Drew Parker vs Chris Ridgeway
Next up is a no disqualification match between the Urchin Prince Drew Parker and Chris Ridgeway. Parker decides to take it upon himself to make the match no disqualification, entering the ring with a baking tray and a spike and using the mic to let Lucha Forever management know he doesn’t care what they think. Parker is a fantastic heel to the point that when a particularly rowdy group of blokes shout stuff at him I wonder whether he genuinely hates them. The big spot of the match sees Parker and Ridgeway up on the balcony directly above the ring, although all I see positioned directly under the balcony is various body parts teetering over the edge. They make their way back down the easy way though, with Ridgeway claiming the win and Parker looking despondent at yet another loss. This won’t be the last we see of him tonight…
Aussie Open Challenge: Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher vs Chris Brookes & Pete Dunne
CCK were advertised to appear at the show so it’s no surprise when they answer the open challenge, however Lykos is sporting a sling and is unable to compete so Brookes takes to the mic to ask for someone in the back to join him. Out comes Pete Dunne, who was originally scheduled to face David Starr in a singles match. Brookes comically dismisses Dunne immediately, stating he isn’t high profile enough to team with him. Lykos and Dunne then reappear to CCK’s music, however this time Dunne is wearing a Lykos’ mask and leather jacket, which he amusingly struggles to get out of. Unsurprisingly the fans go wild for this and chants of “Pete Lykos”, “PeteCK” and “Bruiserwolf” persist throughout the match.
As if getting to see the WWE United Kingdom Champion don a wolf mask and make howling noises wasn’t enough, there are so many other elements to this match that make it special. From Fletcher falling to the floor when Dunne’s music hits, Dunne being too scared on Brookes’ shoulders and Lykos having to step in to finish the move, Lykos later getting jealous when Brookes and Dunne hit some sick tag moves together and shoo him out of the ring, Lykos and Dunne hitting the brain buster together, Dunne continuing to impersonate Lykos even after his mask is removed by Davis and Fletcher, I could go on. At one point Dunne pulls a lighter, fluid and a pair of scissors from Lykos’ bag and asks where the pigeon is, an angle that was initiated earlier in the day by Brookes on his Twitter account (if you’re unfamiliar with Pete the Pigeon a quick Twitter search will help you out). Unfortunately the feathered embodiment of the UK Champion was nowhere to be seen and lives to fight another day.
The match itself is fantastic and everything you would expect from CCK and Dunne. Fletcher and Davis are making their presence known on the British wrestling scene and their role in this match can’t be understated. Brookes and Dunne are victorious and Dunne proceeds to pile Davis, CCK and referee Paul Winstanley into a cross face, before Fletcher dumps him on top of everyone else and applies the hold. The wrestlers then turn on Paul Winstanley to help Dunne execute a Pedigree, which is becoming customary for the poor referee every time Dunne is in the ring. This match made the show for me and everyone who was lucky enough to be there won’t forget it any time soon.
Logan Bryce vs Scotty D vs Omari
Paul Winstanley is still out so Will Ospreay pulls on the referee shirt for this triple threat match. The previous match is difficult to follow, but Omari is over with the crowd and Ospreay’s continuous interaction with the fans doesn’t hurt either. For those unfamiliar with Omari, you won’t be for long. The 18 year old Fight Club: Pro trainee is being booked by various promoters and I was lucky enough to see him wrestle an outstanding match against Keith Lee at FCP back in July. This match is billed as qualifying match for Road to Gold, which I assuming is a number one contender tournament given Lucha Forever have announced they will crown the first Road to Gold Champion at Ultimo Battle in London in October, but the finer details are unknown. Omari was always going to win being a Lucha Forever regular, following which he is attacked with a steel chair by Drew Parker (Omari beat Parker at the last Manchester show), setting up a steel cage match between them at the Birmingham show later in the week.
Alex Windsor vs Su Yung
Alex Windsor and Su Yung terrify me in different ways. It’s not a bad thing. I haven’t seen Su Yung before but the undead bride immediately goes to the top of the list of my favourite gimmicks. Windsor is a formidable heel herself and rightly doesn’t cow too much to Yung’s creepiness. Wrestling-wise, this is the best match on the card and interestingly the only one that goes ahead as advertised. The action spills out of the ring and onto the bar. One member of staff looks particularly unimpressed and at one point I’m convinced he’s thinking about intervening, but perhaps he’s just good at selling. Windsor is the unexpected victor with a submission, an end which I am not entirely convinced by, perhaps because I’m stood in the wrong position to see Yung tap but I just think a pinfall would have been more realistic. This takes nothing away from the match though and props to Lucha Forever for featuring five women on the card (I have been to several shows recently where there have been no women at all).
Mark Haskins (c) vs Joseph Conners vs David Starr vs Travis Banks for the Lucha Forever Championship
In the absence of Marty Scurll, the (second) main event is rejigged and Haskins is forced to defend his title in a four-way. Conners and Banks were due to face each other and as Dunne was needed elsewhere this match makes sense. Haskins is proving to be a great heel as the Lucha Forever Champion, which he protests about defending at such short notice against three unworthy competitors. No one expects the title to change hands given it wasn’t even supposed to be on the line tonight, but the crowd lets Haskins know that Banks, the man he beat for the title, is still our champion regardless. Starr’s presence is a welcome one but Banks is the hottest wrestler on the British scene right now and the fans can’t get enough of him. This is a solid match with some great spots, although it seems a little short and ends quicker than expected. The ending is done well, with Haskins solidifying his heel status by taking advantage of a signature knee off the top rope from Banks on Starr, tossing Banks out of the ring and claiming the pin for himself. Following the match, Chris Ridgeway reappears to let Haskins know he wants the title, which Banks doesn’t take kindly to and all three men square off in the ring. In typical heel fashion Haskins suggests he’ll defend the title again right now, before making a quick exit.
As promised, the raffle is the main event. It’s clear that a load of raffle tickets have been sold, which is great because the proceeds go to charity (half to Cavendish Cancer Care and half to a charity of the winner’s choice). My sister wins both second and first prize, so they redraw second prize as she gets booed in the ring and people shout “fix”. It’s all good fun.
Somehow the absence of Marty Scurll and the fact that only one of the matches goes ahead as advertised doesn’t matter and everyone leaves thoroughly satisfied by #TuesdayNightGraps. Lucha Forever’s next show in Manchester is on 26th September and you can also catch them in Birmingham, London, Southampton and Cardiff.