Arnold Furious: 6 September, 2015. I’m new to PROGRESS but I’ve been hearing about their rowdy crowds and adult storylines for some time. It’s an intriguing promotion that easily sells 700 tickets to their shows in London in a matter of minutes and has built a hardcore ECW-esque fanbase in three short years. They’ve gone from running every three months, to every two months, to putting on secondary ENDVR shows to running two-night tournaments to putting on shows at the Download festival. In the previously barren three months leading into this show ran seven shows. They’re still sensibly spaced out though and the promotion is growing steadily.
PROGRESS was the brainchild of three men; Glen Joseph, Jim Smallman and Jon Briley. Their gimmick was simple. They wanted punk rock wrestling. It caught on so fast and so hard that just three years down the road they’re selling out shows without naming any matches on them. They’re selling the brand. It’s been some time since anyone could do that, especially in the UK. I’m not sure it’s ever been done in the UK. Even when I was a die-hard 3CW fan, I pretty much checked out the line-up before deciding to go to a show.
Title reference: Danger 5. Favourite Danger 5 moment; when someone gets shot down a phone.
We’re in London, England at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Hosts are Glen Joseph and RJ Singh. Love the geezer stormtroopers!
Promo Time: GZRS
They’re here to answer the open challenge for the tag straps later. Immediate “please don’t die” chant. Sebastian does the Worm. Fun times. Jim Smallman takes over. He points out the show sold out in 18 minutes. “That’s pretty quick”. The one rule of PROGRESS; “don’t be a dick”. PROGRESS has the kind of cult following that is hard to describe. I don’t think there’s ever been a UK promotion quite like it.
The Origin vs. The London Riots
The Origin are El Ligero and Nathan Cruz. Ligero has been a UK Indy darling for years and years. Both men are former PROGRESS champions. The Riots are James Davis and Rob Lynch. They’ve become one of the foremost UK tag teams and have the tag titles from most of the more popular promotions. The Riots are the faces in a big way. The fans are less keen on the Origin chanting “you’re a wankstain” at Cruz. The atmosphere is tremendous and it’s an adults only show. It’s like an 18-30’s holiday! Ligero as a heel is bizarre. I’ve never seen him work heel before and he’s great at it. Imagine Rey Mysterio Jr. if he was a complete shithead.
The heels do a lot of stalling, drawing an astonishingly disgusting “wankstain city” chant. You can’t beat a hot crowd. The match isn’t much to write home about but a lively crowd can improve even a lacklustre contest. The whole “shitty little horns” series of chants was just magnificent. The wrestlers don’t have to do anything! When they head into the bigger spots nothing seems to click. Cruz takes an awkward bump off an Exploder where he flips and lands on his face. Credit to the Riots though, they’re not put off and the slingshot into a spear is great. Someone in the big leagues will steal that. They start to click on the counters and things really pick up down the stretch. Ligero takes a monster District Line Powerbomb into the seats. Zack Gibson swings by the ring to hand a foreign object to Nathan. It’s a fork and Cruz stabs both faces with it for the pin. Rob Lynch, of the Riots, took a nasty bump off a German suplex before the finale and hurt his neck pretty badly. Kudos to him for carrying on to the finish. He looked hurt when it happened.
Final Rating: **1/4
Jack Gallagher vs. Pastor William Eaver
Eaver has a religious gimmick. It has limitless potential, as he looks a bit like Jesus, BUT he needs to study up on the words he can use during a match and especially his promos. Gallagher has an old-timey circus strongman gimmick, which has less mileage. I love the t-shirt from Eaver; it’s the CM Punk one but it’s been altered so it says “Blessed in the World”. Limitless, I tells ya. “He’s working on the Sabbath” chant the crowd, winning me over by themselves. Gallagher is a solid British style technician with good power. Eaver has a few tricks up his sleeve too, busting out lucha stuff. As much as I like Eaver’s gimmick, it’s Gallagher that excels. Plus he looks like David Thewlis on steroids. That’s a look I can get behind. Gallagher catches Eaver in the King Crab, which is the Maple Leaf only with both legs. Eaver has a long way to go but has incredible potential. Gallagher isn’t far off being really good. Watch out for him.
Final Rating: **3/4
Eddie Dennis vs. Zack Gibson
Gibson is a scouser who has a Liverpool football club gimmick so naturally I despise him. Who comes out to “You’ll Never Walk Alone”? What an absolute wanker. Eddie Dennis is a 6’ 6” Welsh monster babyface who happens to do judo on the side and he’s got a fun loving personality. Plus he comes out to “Party Hard” by Andrew WK. He’s got star written all over him. Gibson is slow and overly mechanical. He looks green. His movements are deliberate and he stands out as the worst wrestler on the show so far. Like most guys who struggle with basics, Gibson has a few showy spots otherwise he wouldn’t be on a PROGRESS show. He’s also not a bad technical wrestler and spends most of the match working the arm. Dennis is culpable for some spots, including the safest looking Bucklebomb, ever. It barely qualifies. Gibson brings a bit of pantomime with the fork before kicking Dennis in the balls for the win. This was rough.
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Jimmy Havoc
Havoc just lost his title to Will Ospreay so he’s a little salty. PROGRESS don’t have a re-match clause so Havoc wants to face anybody in a number one contender’s match…right now. Smallman promptly books Havoc against bald-headed servant Paul Robinson. “All the best!”
#1 Contender’s Match
Jimmy Havoc vs. Paul Robinson
Both these guys are in Regression, which is Havoc’s stable. Robinson initially looks as if he’ll lie down but Smallman tells them if they rig the outcome, they’re both fired. They don’t build up to a big spot, they hit a table piledriver off the apron as the first major move. I’m not keen on throwing a spot that big into the first sequence but it gets us into the near falls from the go, so in a way it’s good. Havoc, who has a history with hardcore, busts out a lot of weaponry. Havoc blades off a frying pan shot and the match starts to get sick. From there Havoc takes a staple gun “straight to the bollocks”. All the abuse seems to come Jimmy’s way as his light tubes spot backfires. Robinson gets tubed in the head for a double gusher. I’m impressed with how Robinson collapses into the ropes, showing his head wound off to the fans. That’s a veteran move. You have to sell blood. SUPER RANA into thumbtacks! I take back what I said about the early table spot, they were building towards something completely over the top. Thumbtack senton! That was brutal. That must have sucked for both men to take. This match is absolute carnage. It’s reminiscent of CZW. Robinson makes an absolute hash out of the finish and has to re-do it. A Curb Stomp through light tubes. This was a little bit sloppy but suitably brutal. They built the storyline well and the conclusion, minor botch aside, worked. There’s a lovely little moment of redemption too as Jim Smallman offers a handshake and Havoc leaves to a round of applause for his hard work.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Marty Scurll vs. Kris Travis
Trav is a huge babyface after missing time with cancer and beating it. He gets a HUGE standing ovation. This is his first PROGRESS match since May 2014. They play up the psychology of Scurll being a villain and yet Travis’ cancer issues being so extreme that not even Marty can bring himself to take a cheap shot into the effected area. Not that Trav has any compunctions about hitting suicide dives. The landing seems to kick-start the match as Scurll feels slightly less guilty about laying a beating on Travis and Kris himself looks more confident. Scurll seems more aggressive, on the whole, showing superior speed and a wider range of skills. Travis is more on hand to capitalise on Scurll’s overconfidence. The match definitely improves when they hit the exchanges, based on pre-arranged sequences. The striking and suplexes are tidy. However there’s a feeling, especially on the near falls, that there’s no actual attempt to win the match. Scurll at one point pushing Travis into his own kickout. Little things like that can just take the edge off a match for me. The finish has a similar set up where they awkwardly move away from the ropes before hitting a suplex counter spot. If Marty was just going to hit a suplex, why move away from the ropes in front of him? Unless he’s about to get countered? Anyway, despite holes in the work this was solid enough. Good effort and nice pre-planned bits and pieces. Sadly Travis would be forced into retirement shortly afterwards so this was it for him. Scurll, in a magnificent display of villainy, takes Travis out with the Chickenwing after the match.
Final Rating: ***
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship
The Sumerian Death Squad (c) vs. Adam Cole & Roderick Strong
This was an open challenge and PROGRESS went and brought this team in to face SDS, which you can do as a surprise if a) you’re hotter than hell and sell out in a matter of seconds and b) you want to stay that way. Bringing in two top Indie talents, and ROH mainstays, in Cole & Strong showed how ambitious PROGRESS are when it comes to keeping the fanbase happy. The Yanks try to play heel, drawing a chant of “you’re gonna get your fucking heads kicked in”, before the crowd round on Roddy Strong’s shitty little boots again. The singing of “Shit Boots” to the tune of “Hey Jude” is nothing short of amazing. The match can’t quite live up to the crowd but the work is tight. End vs. Strong in strikes is a beautiful thing. Michael Dante gets a bit overlooked as a worker because he teams with someone as good as Tommy End but Dante is a solid technician for someone of his size. Some of the counter work with Cole shows that. He might not be in the best physical condition but he can move. Tommy End is the man who wants to take this to another level with flying kicks and double stomps off the ropes. Adam Cole acquits himself well in the situation, taking a beating and dishing out kicks of his own. The crowd appreciate the all-round effort and start to chant “all these guys” in support. A big question; how are Strong and Cole not a team somewhere? They clearly click well together and yet they missed, like ships in the night, with Mount Rushmore and they’re apart in ROH too. Cole eventually falls to the Anti-Hero in a hard-worked contest. Everything clicked nicely in this. Good match.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Will Ospreay (c) vs. Mark Haskins
This is Ospreay’s first title defence since becoming the champion at Chapter 20, beating Jimmy Havoc and ending his ridiculous 609 day run. Haskins, on the same show, won the Thunderbastard to get a title shot. Seeing as I live just down the road from Haskins (he’s in Malvern, I’m in Bromsgrove), I feel a certain degree of fandom for him but it’s virtually impossible to root against Ospreay because he’s so goddamn entertaining. Haskins has a terrific range of skills, from aerial to striking to countering to mat technique. He’s perhaps a little too lightweight to overcome a top guy but he’s got enough about him to wear down Ospreay. Will is a big underdog performer so he fights from the bottom, getting dissected by Haskins. Ospreay’s improvement has been fairly meteoric. If you look at his career on paper he’s hardly wrestled anywhere at all but has such a range of skills, which he excels at, that he’s on top of the British tree at the tender age of 22. His only downfall, for me at least, is that he gets a bit too pleased with himself but even that is somewhat endearing. As if he’s not quite aware that he’s a superb wrestler, working a level above his contemporaries, until he nails a really difficult spot.
Haskins destruction of Ospreay’s arm is joyous. At one point Ospreay tries to flip around him and Haskins just kicks the arm out. Haskins knows the flipping playbook and has a counter for everything. As the match progresses it becomes apparent this will not be a routine defence for Will. It’s an intense fight and Haskins baits Ospreay in with almost every move. At one point provoking Will into slapping him only to turn it into a flying armbar. The match gives Ospreay not only a genuine challenge but makes him look better for overcoming Haskins, when he’s so routinely outwrestled. Haskins gets to show some guts down the stretch as Ospreay unleashes a series of hyper violent spots. MADE IN JAPAN! Haskins hits it to counter Ospreay coming off the top again but Will kicks out. “Nobody has ever kicked out of that” yells announcer RJ Singh. Ospreay fires back with a load more heavy rope assisted moves and takes it with the 630 Splash. This match was insanely good until they started into a few silly kick-out spots, designed to make the match feel more epic than it actually was. A pity as the lead in was sensational. Haskins told a great story.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Summary: This was my first PROGRESS show and it certainly landed. The main event alone is worth the price of checking PROGRESS out on demand. You can ‘demand PROGRESS’ at demandprogress.pivotshare.com. I’d advise that you do as British Wrestling is going through a renaissance at the moment with Rev Pro, ICW, Preston City and the British guys wrestling at BOLA all delivered. PROGRESS is the raw, visceral centrepiece of this British wrestling revolution. It’s not like anything else that’s out there. The Electric Ballroom is a small venue with a great atmosphere. It’s up there with the Hammerstein Ballroom, Viking Hall or Korakuen Hall for having that small venue atmosphere where the crowd are on top of the action. It’s not anywhere near the size of any of those places, which makes it all the more cosy.