GCW’s 24-Hour ‘Fight Forever’ Aims to Aid the Wrestlers Most Affected by the Pandemic

The Week in Wrestling: how Game Changer Wrestling is trying to help indie wrestlers, a look ahead at the Royal Rumble and more.

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Marathon GCW show aims to raise $50,000

Game Changer Wrestling is running its first-ever 24-hour show, Fight Forever, beginning Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

“We’re going to have a great 24 hours of wrestling, and maybe even more,” GWC owner Brett Lauderdale says. “Our goal is to raise $50,000, which will all go directly to the wrestlers. We’re amazed at how much people have already donated, and we still have a few more days to go before the show.”

There will be a wide array of professional wrestling on display at Fight Forever, which will stream for free on both FITE TV and YouTube. There will be opportunities throughout the show for viewers to make contributions to independent wrestlers, a subset of the industry that has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19’s impact on live entertainment. Funding for the event has been donated by Adam Abdalla, a name wrestling fans may recognize from his zine Orange Crush: The Journal of Art & Wrestling. Lauderdale and Abdalla have built a friendship over their mutual passion for pro wrestling, and Abdalla was eager to find a way to contribute to the indie scene amid such a bleak period in time.

“Wrestling brings me so much joy, and doing something like this show is a way to give back,” says Abdalla, who is covering the cost of the venue, production and the ring. “Brett has a lot of energy and ambition, and COVID-19 has made it hard to do anything in independent wrestling. He had this idea to do a 24-hour wrestling show, and I loved it. Coming from the art world, we call that ‘durational performance.’

“More than a show, this is a telethon. And we’re making fans part of the show, like selling commercials on the air and sponsoring matches and having the wrestlers do live reads on the air. We had no idea how people would respond, but it’s been amazing—there are already over 100 sponsors.”

Fight Forever will be filmed from a closed set in the Northeast and offers a spectacular array of matches. The card is set up in one-hour and two-hour blocks, featuring some of the industry’s rising stars. One must-see talent is Calvin Tankman, who works a physical, demanding heavyweight style, which is even more impressive considering his agility. Tankman wrestles PB Smooth during the For the Culture block on Friday, which is an opportunity for him to prove that he among wrestling’s most talented performers.

“All eyes are going to be on this show, and I can’t wait,” Tankman says. “I’m here to prove myself. I am going to go out there, smack JB Smooth in the mouth, and deliver.”

Tankman is also immensely proud to be part of the For the Culture segment at Fight Forever.

“For the Culture is giving a spotlight to Black wrestlers in a business that hasn’t always been the kindest,” Tankman says. “You hear horror stories of the ’80s and ’90s when there was a ‘two-Black quota’ per show and there was a glass ceiling. GCW, AJ Gray and so many other people are giving a platform to young Black wrestlers to show we’re represented in this business and we’re represented well.”

There is a lot at stake with Fight Forever. This represents a significant opportunity for breakout moments, as well a chance for the wrestling community to come together. Lauderdale, who is actively working to keep performers safe by requiring a negative COVID test from within the last week in order to work the event, is also excited to showcase a variety of different wrestling promotions from across the nation. A priority when creating Fight Forever was to offer viewers a chance to see performers and styles that do not always appear on GCW shows.

“We have guests from No Peace Underground in the 3 a.m. block, and they do death matches and no-ring stuff, which will bring a very different element to the show,” Lauderdale says. “We’ll have VXS at 5 p.m. on Saturday, and we’re going to welcome Freelance from Chicago, Glory Pro from St. Louis and Black Label Pro from Indiana. And there is a whole block of Effy-themed wrestling, which features all LGBTQ wrestlers and performers, and there is Allie Kat’s block right after, which is all women’s wrestling.”

Effy’s Big Gay Block runs from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Announced matches already include Dark Sheik against Devon Monroe, as well as Effy vs. Billy Dixon. That block is immediately followed by Allie Kat’s Real Hot Girl S--- at noon, which features a must-see match pitting Allie Kat against Willow Nightingale.

“We’re getting the opportunity to put on as much cool wrestling as possible,” says Effy, who is gaining popularity as one of the top indie stars. “The LGBTQ talent has this moment to bring wrestling to the people. There is going to be athleticism and fight and emotion, and some wild showmanship.

“Allie Kat has the block right after ours, so I’m looking at this as a massive women’s, LGBTQ block that we are coordinating together to make sure we present the biggest and best version possible.”

One of the highlights of the past year has been the rise of Chris Dickinson, who put on a tremendous match at GCW’s Josh Barnett Bloodsport against Jon Moxley in October. Dickinson wrestles during the World on GCW III block that begins on Saturday at 6 p.m., squaring off against 24-year-old Juicy Finau.

“I have a lot to prove at Fight Forever,” says Finau, who is an explosive 6' 4", 430-pound heavyweight who received training at the Fale Dojo in New Zealand. “Chris Dickinson is a monster. I have so much respect for him, and this is an opportunity to show I truly belong.”

Fight Forever is a unique presentation of pro wrestling, offering opportunity for established talent, as well as exposure for performers in need of visibility. The show gives viewers the chance to immerse in so many different compelling aspects of the beauty, joy, and do-it-yourself nature of the indie wrestling scene. Fight Forever has the chance to set the tone for indie wrestling after a devastating year, as well as allow people the chance to give back with a contribution of their own.

“I’m so happy our fans can be part of a history-making event,” Lauderdale says. “We’re donating, we’re sharing, we’re all watching together, and it’s going to bring the wrestling community together.”

Long and bumpy road to the Royal Rumble

The Royal Rumble is on Sunday. No matter the temperature of the WWE product—and yes, right now SmackDown is worth watching in its entirety every week, while Raw is certainly not—this is one of the rare shows that is always appointment viewing.

There are the natural questions for the women’s and men’s Rumble matches. Who comes out first? Who will be last? And some new questions surround this year’s event, specifically whether there will still be surprise entries without a live crowd to erupt during those moments and just how much the lack of a crowd will factor into a match largely carried by the people in the stands. One benefit is that the ThunderDome setting certainly enhances the environment; it would be hard to imagine a Rumble match taking place in the sterile Performance Center. But even with all that the ThunderDome offers, there is no replacing real, organic noise from people in the crowd.

For the women’s Rumble, the clear choice for a winner should be Bianca Belair. This would mark the beginning of a breakout run that carries her to WrestleMania and then elevates her as one of the company’s defining stars throughout the year. Belair is the complete package: She can cut compelling promos, as well as deliver an extraordinarily powerful style in the ring while still adding finesse and precision to her work. The sky is the limit for her potential in WWE and winning the Rumble would establish her as a true top star, further elevating her up the card as she approaches WrestleMania. Belair is currently working a program with Bayley, and they still have another month together to make magic before shifting focus to Sasha Banks.

A match pitting Belair against Banks represents the type of build, anticipation and action that belongs in the main event. With WrestleMania 37 taking place over two nights, the likelihood is extremely high that either Roman Reigns or Drew McIntyre is headlining one of those two nights—and Banks should headline the other against Belair.

The men’s Rumble places WWE in a unique position. Vince McMahon and his team should follow the same path used earlier this month by New Japan Pro Wrestling at Wrestle Kingdom 14. That two-night show ended with Kota Ibushi overcoming the odds and finally attaining the IWGP heavyweight championship on the first night, then closing out night two with an epic title defense. This past year was long, taxing and cruel, and the Ibushi storyline was a perfect way to start the new year with hope and optimism. WWE now has the opportunity to achieve that very goal by turning to one of its brightest stars in Daniel Bryan.

This finally appears to be Bryan’s time to win the Rumble. After not even appearing in the 2014 Rumble match, then getting eliminated a year later with a complete disregard to the fan base, which was even more infuriating than the year prior, Bryan has the chance to capture this year’s Rumble and pursue a heavily anticipated match at WrestleMania against Roman Reigns. A program pitting Bryan against Reigns will showcase the ultimate bully against wrestling’s best underdog. If there is an in-person crowd at WrestleMania 37, which is the current plan from WWE, this marks an opportunity to send the crowd home chanting “Yes!” while Bryan celebrates as the new champion. And while it is great to have Edge back, and he absolutely needs to have a run with the WWE Championship in 2021, the Rumble should belong to Bryan.

The (online) week in wrestling

  • Raw was boosted this week by the in-ring appearance from Drew McIntyre. There is a plethora of reasons why McIntyre should not drop the WWE championship this Sunday at the Royal Rumble, including that he just dedicated the match to all the people dealing with the effects of the horrid coronavirus. For a proud babyface champion, that should be reason enough.
  • WWE’s move to NBC’s Peacock is a profitable choice, but still so many questions remain, including whether the WWE Network’s current smooth user interface will be replicated on a new platform. 
  • Edge returned to Raw on Monday, and his presence alone generates a lot of excitement. Clearly, he will be seeking vindication from Randy Orton, but how will he factor into the Orton–Fiend–Alexa Bliss story
  • The Undertaker was a guest on Joe Rogan’s podcast last week, but he did himself no favors by insulting the current WWE locker room in comparison to prior generations. I’m surprised he wouldn’t have found a more positive take about a collection of stars that has gone out of their way to highlight his legendary body of work.
  • Young Rock looks incredible.
  • My pick for standout match across the brands this Wednesday night will be found on AEW’s Dynamite, as FTR’s Dax wrestles Jungle Boy—with the added caveat of each of their tag partners being handcuffed at ringside.
  • Another Dynamite highlight will be seeing the wrestling return of Ryan Nemeth, a filmmaker who had a run in WWE developmental—and also happens to be the brother of Dolph Ziggler. And after turning down the Dark Order last week, it will be interesting to see where Hangman’s story goes next. 
  • This is uplifting and heartbreaking all at once.
  • Best wishes to Bill Eadie, who had an incredibly successful career in pro wrestling, especially during his run in Demolition as Ax, and who is still battling the coronavirus. For those old enough to recall, it was magic whenever Ax and Smash were together on screen.

Mickie James was a guest of Stew Myrick’s Sports Guys Talking Wrestling, and it was great to hear her go into detail about her faceoff with Trish Stratus at the Royal Rumble in 2018.

  • Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica. And a Pop-Up Powerbomb? 

Laredo Kid defends AAA cruiserweight championship on Wednesday’s MLW Fusion

Laredo Kid returns to Major League Wrestling this week, putting the AAA cruiserweight championship on the line against Zenshi. The match is an opportunity to see one of AAA’s titles defended in a different company, and a chance to see the wildly talented Laredo Kid.

Laredo Kid’s work stood out last month when he wrestled a match of the year contender against Kenny Omega in the co-main event of AAA’s Triplemania XXVIII. Omega, who is AAA’s mega champion in addition to being the AEW champion, won in an outstanding bout, but Laredo Kid believes there is still unfinished business between the two.

“I think I can still give more in a fight against Kenny Omega,” Laredo Kid says. “I would like to face Omega once more to regain that title that belongs to AAA.”

MLW Fusion adds another element of excitement to Wednesday nights, the most action-packed part the week for wrestling. The show is available in a number of different outlets, including the MLW YouTube page beginning at 7 p.m. ET. And an appearance from a rising star like Laredo Kid gives MLW an outstanding draw for this week’s show, especially to see him defend his AAA title.

“I believe the titles are to defend them, that’s why I am the champion,” Laredo Kid says. “I demonstrate that in the ring. Senshi is a very good fighter, but he will not be able to with Laredo Kid.”

Tweet of the Week

Stay safe, everyone.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.