Arnold Furious: February 26, 2017. We’re in Camden, London at the Electric Ballroom. The title “Old Man Yells At Cloud” is a tip of the hat to a Simpsons episode but also a sly dig at tennis racket wielding critic Jim Cornette after his recent derisory comments about the promotion’s ring announcer/co-owner/young man not yelling at clouds Jim Smallman. Hosts on commentary are Glen Joseph and RJ Singh.
James Drake vs. Damon Moser
This is Drake’s third Progress match and second Chapter outing. He impressed against Fabian Aichner but obviously got overshadowed a bit by Aichner’s star power.Damon Moser hasn’t been on Progress’ main shows since Brixton, despite a few appearances on their non-chapter shows. There was perhaps a feeling that he didn’t belong on the bigger stage although a cracking match with Nathan Cruz last year shows he has potential. Moser takes a horrible shot to the jaw, actually breaking it, and they quickly go to a DDT finish. A shame for both guys as the match was shaping up nicely.
Final Rating: *3/4
Natural Progression Series IV
Dahlia Black vs. Martina The Session Moth
Martina has a fantastic character, which means she’s immediately over in Progress and it’s a big contrast to Fight Club Pro where she received a tepid reaction. Although, to be fair, she wasn’t actually wrestling in Wolverhampton. The glowsticks and the entrance music (Sandstorm by Darude) turn this into a rave atmosphere and it’s delightful. It’s the difference in approach and a tip of the hat to Progress, knowing their crowd and creating a fun environment. Martina makes a point of molesting Jim and Chris Roberts before making eyes at TK Cooper. Immediately she creates an impact and without doing any wrestling at all gets herself over in the Ballroom. The combination of hard work and character creates some memorable moments. Including Martina hitting a tope to set up her riding TK on the floor. TK low key steals the show by putting over Martina’s antics. Dahlia kicks him out for enjoying a liplock but that in turn leads to Martina firing up thanks to the power of lager. It’s all such good character work. Dahlia is the best opponent I’ve seen Martina have. The chemistry is instant. Poor Roberts takes the 4% mist and therefore misses Martina scoring the visual pin. TK runs back in, punches Martina in the jaw and Dahlia advances. This was lots of fun.
Final Rating: ***
Jordan Devlin vs. Travis Banks
Jordan works firmly heel, which allows an interesting experiment; a beloved Travis Banks in the Ballroom. He’s so good and the crowd have been itching to cheer him. This gives them the opportunity, for one match at least. Especially when Travis sends TK to the back. I was standing next to an Aussie at this show and he was apoplectic at the “Kiwi Buzzsaw” chants. Devlin is here to prove he can wrestle with the best of them and the ‘best of them’ is Travis f*ck*ng Banks. It’s a match that features a lot of quality technical wrestling and some serious Ballroom banter for Jordan and his oversized head (“like a Finn Balor bobblehead” – Glen Joseph). It’s not just a technically sound match either. The strikes are excellent. It’s a coming out party for Travis in singles, which is long overdue in Progress, and a great debut for Devlin and his massive head. “You’re going to get your massive head kicked in” (credit to Golazo Dan) even has Glen cracking up on commentary. The match manages to find a higher gear with the dives and Travis’ super-speed tope wipes out three rows of chairs. They finish with a very tidy sequence, with Banks getting his ear cut open, before the Slice of Heaven springboard Enziguiri finishes for the Kiwi. Cracking match and a great debut for Devlin. Proof positive that Travis Banks is a breakout singles star just waiting to be thrust into the main event limelight.
Final Rating: ****
Promo Time: Sebastian
Seb is out here to address the William Eaver situation and how he still controls the Pastor. So he wants to give him punishment with a Singapore Cane. Some were not impressed. As Eaver is about to succumb to Seb’s abuse out comes Chuck Mambo. He’s dressed as a lawyer (sort of) and wants to discuss the statute of limitations. 150 days has passed, Seb hasn’t pressed charges, so Eaver is now a free man. As a result of that Eaver wants a match and it’s no DQ!
No Disqualification Match
Sebastian vs. William Eaver
The booking has finally paid off on the Seb-Eaver angle and this is the logical conclusion. It might have taken a while to get here but the payoff is absolutely worth it. The no DQ stipulation helps immensely and these two have the war they should have had in Brixton. Eaver bleeds but that doesn’t stop him hitting an insane running Crucifix Bomb into the crowd. Fair play to Seb for taking that nutty bump. The intensity here is fantastic with Sebastian biting Eaver’s bloody forehead and unleashing brutal cane shots. The match isn’t perfect, by any measure, and Sebastian still has timing and bumping issues but the brutality makes up for it. Eaver literally bleeds for his art here, his back lacerated in multiple places. Seb goes after his finisher only to get countered and Eaver finishes with the lariat. There is a wonderful touch from Eaver afterwards, placing Seb in the recovery position to avoid future legal ramifications. I may have spent the majority of this angle complaining about it but at least the payoff was a winner. There’s a superb post match angle too where the ring crew, who Seb claimed to own at the last show, carry him out of the venue, kicking and screaming.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Mark Andrews vs. Shane Strickland
Strickland is one of those top notch imports who has managed to slot into the British scene effortlessly. Andrews is the number one contender, after winning the Thunderbastard, but hasn’t yet suggested when he’s cashing in. They start out slowly here, building momentum before hitting the flipz. Given their similar styles they are able to find common ground quite easily and the chemistry is pretty good right out of the box. Once they get going it gets totally crazy with Andrews hitting a moonsault off the rail, getting caught and turning it into a satellite DDT on the floor. That’s a sample of how excellent the flow is of this match. The degree of difficulty in the counters is extremely high. While Banks-Devlin was rock solid wrestling, this is even harder to get right. The possibility of something going wrong is much higher. Example: Strickland flipping out of a super reverse rana and landing on his feet. JML Driver is countered into the Stundog Millionaire and the SSP finishes for Andrews. Seriously fun match that had to follow a big storyline blow-off. Post match Jim Smallman offers Shane a spot on the ‘Mania weekend show.
Final Rating: ****1/4
El Ligero vs. Nathan Cruz
Ligero comes out here to a different mix of Turn the Page, which is a nice touch and people happily sing along to a song that’s been routinely been booed for years. Ligero brings some statistics in preparation, including mocking Nathan for being a Rosebud. Ligero is a “cross between Jushin Thunder Liger and an otter”. Ligero mucks around in this one, using all the banter business and carny stuff he picked up working Butlins. Cruz asks him to “stop pissing about”, which results in Ligs emptying a bag of Haribo in the ring and taping up his thumb like Umaga. Roberts continues his surprising run of competency this evening by preventing a Cruz chair shot. These two have worked together a lot so they construct a strong contest based on familiarity and banter. Ligero repeats the Mastiff ‘thumbs down’ motif and ends up winning with a small package. Cruz gets a measure of revenge by ripping off Ligero’s mask, exposing his pasty white head.
Final Rating: ***
Jack Sexsmith vs. Zack Gibson
Gibson coming out to Turn the Page makes it three wrestlers in a row. Gibson gets nuclear heat for his introduction and is doing fine character work in getting upset at the booing. Sexsmith is a massive underdog and Gibson makes a point of calling him on it, telling Jack he doesn’t belong in a wrestling ring. Gibson is way ahead of Sexsmith in terms of in-ring, having a huge experience advantage. The rallying support for Jack is truly a grassroots response. Jack earned the respect, love and loyalty of the Ultras and that shows when he gets the fans to crotch Zack on the ring post. Sexsmith is one of us. Unlike the interaction between these two in the Thunderbastard Jack doesn’t feel drastically below Gibson on the Progress totem pole. This is a lot closer and more competitive. As if Sexsmith learned from his defeat. Jack survives the Helter Skelter, the move that finished him in the Thunderbastard. Gibson has to make do with a cheap win, via count out, after a second Helter Skelter outside the ring.
Final Rating: **3/4
British Strong Style vs. Jimmy Havoc, Mark Haskins & Flash Morgan Webster
If any of the faces win they get a title shot. If any of the faces are pinned/submitted they get no title shots for six months. Which would take us up to Brixton. The show has been running long at this point so the main event is about fifteen minutes. This is Haskins first match back in Camden since giving up the Progress title. There’s been a lot of debate about Tyler Bate and why he doesn’t bring the UK title when he’s on shows. Well, he brings it here and the heat is amazing.
BSS try and increase that by going after a trio of Pedigree’s. The meat of the match is that all three faces want to get the pin to get the title shot and they fight over pinfalls. The match is an exciting sprint, with the occasional ricket like Trent and Havoc getting a flying rana horribly wrong. Where the match excels is in ignoring traditional tag rules and allowing carnage instead. It keeps the pace entertaining throughout. Even Pete Dunne, who usually reigns himself in, is hitting moonsaults to the floor.
The best parts of the match come from Haskins vs. Bate, which is technically outstanding. I can only imagine Progress are planning on doing that match, or perhaps Haskins & Flash vs. Moustache Mountain. The trio spots towards the finish are all a bit silly, like triple Canadian Destroyers, which are all no-sold and a triple Pedigree spot where Flash gets a counter. Havoc ends up getting a pin on Dunne with the Acid Rainmaker. Pete does a tremendous sell on being pinned, shocked at being caught and also realising he’s now got to face Jimmy Havoc…in a death match.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Summary: Two great singles matches on the undercard, a fine blow-off to the long running Sebastian-Eaver angle and a really fun main event adds up to a strong show from Progress.