Arnold Furious: April 23, 2017. We’re in Camden, London at the Electric Ballroom. I was at this show. My pre-show pub ritual was broken up a bit by the lads deciding to have a few cans in the park. Also by Henry Kerr’s sense of direction taking us about a mile in the wrong direction. As per usual fun times were had by all. This is yet another Progress show that ran quite long though, causing me to scuttle towards the exit at last bell in order to avoid spending another night sleeping in McDonalds. Host in the ring is Jim Smallman. As per usual he manages to trigger a bizarre chant, this time “Virgin Mary”. Hosts on commentary are Glen Joseph and RJ Singh.
James Drake vs. Eddie Dennis
Live we got Eddie coming out to “Party Hard” but that’s clipped from the VOD, instead replaced by his second entrance to new music. James has 93 written on his head. Presumably because it’s the year he was born and not because he’s the 93rd attempt at cloning Mark Haskins. Like in Alien: Resurrection. Somewhere there’s a room full of James Drake’s at various horrible stages of mutation waiting for Number 93 to come along and burn them all up with a flamethrower. The match is a bit flat, which is why I’m talking about Sigourney Weaver and not the wrestling. It’s actually a slight disservice to the boys as Drake puts in a solid shift. He’s been termed a “piss break” wrestler, which is harsh. He’s just been programmed in with other lower cards guys and will probably have some great matches with more gifted opponents (like say Mark Haskins). Drake remains unbeaten and downs Eddie with the Jawbreaker Forearm and the Mr Mayhem DDT.
Final Rating: **1/2
Natural Progression Series IV Semi Final
Laura Di Matteo vs. Alex Windsor
NPS4 has been a tricky tournament. The highlights have been limited and with Progress only doing one women’s match per show it’s actually been a detriment to their division as the bigger stars are hardly appearing. Laura in particular who’s only been in NPS matches since Brixton. She had a tonne of heat back then and it’s dissipated due to inactivity. She’s still over but there’s no Roadwarrior reaction for her nowadays. MMA inspired gear and hair hasn’t always been reflected in Laura’s style, although she shows flashes of it here. The downside to the tournament is especially prevalent here where the match is relatively heatless (for Progress, which is normally super rowdy). Laura’s inexperience is in evidence here and in particular misjudging a missile dropkick. There are no blatant botches, like during her first big match with Jinny, and Alex covers for any shortfalls. Windsor is fairly solid but still has the stench of that terrible Livvi Grace match from Birmingham on her. Laura puts her away with the Rings of Saturn, the little shooter, and books her spot in the final. I get them wanting to do Laura vs. Jinny for the underdog vibe it creates but I would rather see Jinny vs. Toni in the final straight up.
Final Rating: **
Mike Bird vs. Flash Morgan Webster
I must admit that while watching this live the show felt like a non-event up to this point, which is really weird for me. Progress shows are usually very heated affairs. The concept of this match didn’t help the situation as I’m not a big Webster fan (it might be the coat or the mod gimmick or his face). However as it progressed I got very into this. Bird makes a point of bossing the match and getting Flash to fire up. Bird trained Flash and they have decent chemistry because of this. You never lose that respect and chemistry that you get from your trainer. After a slow start the spots come thick and fast too, including a 619 style rana around the ring post from Morgan and a variety of swank powerbombs from Bird. The transitions are tidy and everything is crisp. It’s the match that gets the crowd properly invested in the show. It’s a strong debut for Bird, who deserves the spot given his efforts in the smaller Indies. Some of the spots are spectacular. Especially Flash catching Bird with a flying knee as he comes off the top. Bird refuses to tap to the Strangler but passes out and Webster gets the big win. I hope Bird gets another shot and this isn’t just a one-off. He made Webster look terrific.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Flash tells us he’s happy with the progress he’s made since coming back from injury and promises he’ll “tear it apart” from now on. So James Drake appears and nails him with the Jawbreaker Forearm.
South Pacific Power Trip vs. The London Riots
This is the farewell match for TK Cooper and Dahlia Black. They’ve been wrestling in the UK for two years and their visa has now expired. They’ve been heels for the entire time they’ve wrestled for Progress but have gained respect during that time and get an enormous pop for their entrance. Dahlia has a hard time keeping it together, which shows how much they care about Progress and wrestling in the UK. It’s been one hell of a ride. There’s nothing like emotion to put wrestling over the top.
There is a prolonged and sustained round of applause for the departing wrestlers and while TK is clearly effected it’s Dahlia openly weeping that really gets to me. Once we get underway there are elements of comedy with Rob Lynch having issues with the mechanics of a nip up and TK finding it tough to wrestle with all the feelings. For once it doesn’t involve him getting an inappropriate erection. Although the inappropriateness comes in the form of a buttock fondle from referee Chris Roberts.
Once the daft stuff is out of the way the match explodes into life and the South Pacific lads continue their recent record of being an outstanding tag team. James Davis does his best to try and kill TK in his last match, dropping him off the top rope to the floor. Dahlia has a word with James about this and bashes the poor bastard in the face with her moon boot. The match gives us a brief tour of the Ballroom, during which all the lads who hang around the bar are visible on camera for once. Roberts has trouble doing his job and the match is permanently in a tornado rules state. The near falls and carnage this creates is a wonderful mess causing Joseph to yell “my f*ck*ng god”. Rob Lynch, in the midst of this, manages the most ridiculous kick-out at one, ever from a triple finish. Luckily he eats the Sky Tower immediately afterwards for the pin.
Final Rating: ****
We get more emotion with Dahlia abandoning character to talk about their time in the UK. “It really does suck that we have to go home”. “We may have been born in New Zealand but we were made in Progress” adds TK. Glen Joseph heads down to the ring to offer them a tag title shot anywhere in the world. This leads to British Strong Style coming out and bodying TK after offering them the shot here and now. I could have lived without BSS being involved here when TK and Dahlia had such a lovely moment. Tyler holding Dahlia in place while Trent beat up TK Cooper was genuinely quite unsettling. I know the aim is for heels to do dastardly things but I didn’t think the segment needed heel work. It was fine as a beautiful farewell. Otherwise this was a delightful send-off for one of the best acts in wrestling today.
Before the second half gets underway Pastor William Eaver runs to the ring, having completed the London Marathon that morning. He looks very tired. Jim Smallman tells him he’s got a spot in Super Strong Style 16.
Mark Haskins vs. Mark Andrews
This is a number one contenders match. They had a blinder for OTT when Haskins had his return match earlier in the year (OTT Martina’s Gaff Party, Feb 4, ****1/2). This doesn’t have the same stakes. Haskins doesn’t need to prove anything in front of this crowd and Andrews is coming off a title shot himself. The crowd happily chant “both these Marks” supporting both faces. The contest is far from the electric OTT contest, taking time to get going despite the fluidity of both wrestlers. It’s not that this is a bad match, not by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is it lacking in effort, as is evidenced by Haskins’ nutty high speed dives and Andrews flipping Haskins off a rana into the crowd. The problem with the match is that it builds nice and slow and then finishes. It doesn’t have that top end excitement that both men are famous for. Maybe the bar has been set a little too high by certain wrestlers and it’s almost impossible for them to hit it time after time. I’m especially worried this is true of Haskins, who needs to protect his neck by working a less insane style. They throw in some nice counters but the finish is underwhelming with Haskins hooking a triangle choke, Andrews leaning into it for the pin and the submission and pinfall going down at the same time. Only they don’t because Andrews tapped out first.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Paul Robinson vs. Jack Sexsmith
Sexsmith keeps losing but doing so with great heart. The stakes are high here with a Sexsmith win qualifying him for #SSS16 and Robinson going on record as saying he’ll quit Progress if he loses. Robbo, an absolute bellend throughout Progress history, is an ideal heel for Sexsmith to vanquish here. Not only in normal heel terms but Robinson stands for traditional values. You sense he probably voted Brexit. As a character he’s not in favour of ‘everyone welcome’. He wants to punt all these weirdos in the head and prove his way is better. The match definitely has issues. Sexsmith completely no sells the Essex Destroyer. As it pops up to his feet and hits a move right afterwards. However I dig Robinson lifting Ospreay’s finisher when his own Curb Stomp finish doesn’t work. Sexsmith is at his best when he’s doing last gasp kick-outs. With each kick-outs Robinson tries something more ridiculous. Like throwing back the years and doing a Shooting Star Press. Robbo suddenly finds himself unable to beat Sexsmith and throws everything at him. When he goes to the well, a second Curb Stomp, Sexsmith slips out of it and gets the Crossface for the submission win. Sexsmith is in the Super Strong Style 16 tournament. It’s a chance for him to be taken seriously.
Final Rating: ***
Robbo gets on the microphone to confirm his departure from Progress and from wrestling in general. He talks out of character about his hereditary blood issues and feels he can’t compete at this level anymore. It’s a surprising outpouring of emotion from a guy who normally acts like a complete asshole. None of this makes it onto tape by the way. We fade to black with Robinson leaving the company as a heel. However it’s played out in full at the end of the VOD. “I can’t compete at this standard without dying” is troubling. I’m glad he got the chance to show what he could do before being forced not to.
All Championships On The Line
British Strong Style (c) vs. Ringkampf
If someone manages to beat Pete Dunne they become Progress Champion. If someone beats either Trent or Tyler then they, and a Ringkampf guy of their choosing, wins the tag titles. Naturally this seems unlikely as Axel Dieter Jr is on his way to Florida. This is one of his final European appearances and his final Progress match. British Strong Style have started working matches together and had a cracker against The Elite in Fight Club Pro. They’ve developed into main event talents in Progress as a group but have all had solid singles runs too. The entrances take about ten minutes leaving thirty minutes for an energetic and loaded main event. There is an incredible amount of talent involved in this and the technical wrestling is excellent from all concerned. Trent is probably the worst technician in the match and he’s solid. Thatcher enjoys giving him a smack. I would love to see that singles match. Where is this Thatcher when the EVOLVE title was involved? He legitimately pops the entire crowd here by wailing on Seven, clearing out the ring and then, when Pete Dunne throws a chair into the ring, grabbing the chair and sitting down while giving a V salute. What a man.
As per usual WALTER is a hit with the Progress fans, demolishing everyone. BSS bring their usual amusing take on being Triple H Guys. It’s met with strong style brutality from RIngkampf. I hope WALTER and Thatcher continue to be used after Dieter Jr’s departure. Trent is too nice to be one of the biggest heels in Progress. He’s clearly enjoying the role but he can’t help but be funny. This is in evidence when he chops WALTER and realises he’s f*ck*d up. There’s a delicious little subplot where Pete Dunne throws Tyler Bate in the way of WALTER, causing the WWE UK Champ to get pissed off. I really want that fight between Dunne and Bate in a less sanitised environment than WWE. The only downside to this match is an extended heat sequence on Thatcher, which drags a little. The rest of the match is great fun. Even the heat has Dunne being a prick and stealing Ringkampf’s pose. Dunne also has a lovely little underlying theme of working Axel’s leg over, which includes him breaking up a pinfall by stomping the leg. Dunne is great throughout, brining excellent characterisation and ideas. In a match full of talented guys, one of which is going to WWE, he’s the stand-out. Tyler Bate also has an outstanding match, especially with facial reactions.
As the match nears a conclusion it goes completely mental with a series of ridiculous occurrences. Tyler backflipping out of a lariat for example before deadlift German suplexing WALTER. There are daft kick-outs, huge spots, WALTER being crazy powerful and Tyler introducing the big Austrian to his wackiest dive. The finish sees WALTER clocked blindside by the Progress title while he’s got Trent in a Gojira Clutch. An unconscious Trent gets the pin and BSS retain all their belts. This was great. The ending was unsatisfying but the journey was tremendous.
Final Rating: ****
Summary: An emotional evening with a multitude of departures. None plucked the heartstrings quite like TK and Dahlia heading home but both Axel Dieter Jr and Paul Robinson will both be missed in the Indies. Having a show where so many talents leave makes it tough to get through with dry eyes. If emotion isn’t your thing there is plenty of solid wrestling on this show.