Arnold Furious: December 11, 2016. We’re in Sheffield for Progress’ first show in that city. The switch from Manchester coming because of the Manchester venue double booking them. The band booked at the O2 Ritz? Ash. The title reference on this show is to their song “Angel Interceptor”. The venue is interesting to look at and they’ve lit it just like the Ballroom. I like different venues. Host in the ring is Jim Smallman who blames Ash for ruining the show in Manchester. There’s a small child on the balcony, this will not go well. Also not going well is the hard-cam, which moves around during the playing of music. Perhaps not the sturdiest of locations to mount the camera! RJ Singh and Callum Leslie are on commentary.
London Riots vs. The New Nation
New Nation made a splash in losing on their debut. Both looked really solid, especially Primate who I’ve been bigging up all year. The Riots are in a different class after some major title matches during 2016 and they start this fast and hard with flipz. It’s not a totally reinvented Riots though and they head into the lumber before Chris Roberts gets insane heat for being a shit ref and not being able to control anything. The crowd bite on Alex Henry cheering his heel team on and chant “evil Sami Zayn” at him. That’s a form of racism, lads. “You have no soul” yells another fan. More racism. Shocking. The match is four big lads putting a beating on each other. There’s not a lot of selling. It’s meaty. Rob Lynch gets all fired up and pulls off the mask protecting his broken face. That’s a fantastic visual but Rob’s face is suffering. The Big Lads stuff is decent apart from the finish where Rob slightly mistimes the Slingshot Spear. That gets it done and the Riots pick up a rehab win.
Final Rating: ***
Natural Progression Series IV
Bea Priestley vs. Toni Storm
Toni would be a firm favourite for this tournament if she wasn’t wrestling so regularly in Japan with Stardom. I really miss having Toni on UK shows regularly. She’s so wonderful. Bea is naturally heel here. She’s Will Ospreay’s girlfriend don’t you know? This is her first match on a Chapter show. She has worked on an ENDVR show before. Toni does a bunch of ass offence so Bea goes after her arm to force Storm to take it more seriously. Bea’s technical work is impressive here. She’s certainly improved over the past year, getting exposure and experience. She’s yet another wrestling teenager. She’s only 19. It’s scary how many teens are in the BritWres system at the moment. Bea’s technical skill allows her to boss big chunks of a match that Toni should dominate based on experience levels. Bea stealing the Cheeky Nando’s gets predictable heat. Bea shows her inexperience when taking Toni’s bigger spots. Her bumps and sells are a bit rough. Toni finishes relatively quickly with the Australian Jam. This was fine. Excited to see the semi-final’s and final of this tournament when we get into the business end of things. The three semi-finallists thus far are Toni, Nixon Newell and Jinny. That should be good.
Final Rating: **1/4
Atlas Championship Open Challenge
Rampage Brown (c) is out first. His opponent is Dave Mastiff…dressed as “Banter Claus”. He’s accompanied to the ring by Elf Ligero. This is not well received by Christmas hating heel Nathan Cruz. They come out to Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” for fuck’s sake. Dave Mastiff dressed as Santa is my new favourite wrestler. I’ve never seen so many people smiling. Even Rampage has a massive grin across his face. It’s beautiful. “Fuck him up, Santa, fuck him up!” Dave wrestles the match with the white in his beard. It’s not just banter and beatings, there’s actual psychology in this as Rampage works over Dave’s hand to limit his offence. There’s one person singing Christmas songs during this match. It’s not catching on at all. I don’t care. It’s everything that’s wonderful about the season: drunkenness. When the banter starts to dry up they beat the shit out of each other. Mastiff might be the most underrated wrestler in the country. He’s been doing the Big Lad style for years at a high standard. He’s an innovator! Dave misses the Cannonball and gets planted with the piledriver in a satisfying piece of Santacide. No news on whether the child on the upper deck got Izzy levels of upset at this outcome.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Marty Scurll vs. Jimmy Havoc
Marty brings a brolly. Havoc brings a fucking axe! Now that’s the correct level of preparation for a no DQ match. Havoc’s first move of the match, after getting his axe taken away by the crew, is to dive over the first two rows! This is a crazy brawl where they wipe out entire sections of chairs. Marty goes for conventional WWE-esque weapons but Jimmy has other ideas. He’s hardcore so he brings a staple gun. The brawl heads too far away from the ring and camera bums out. Most of the chairs end up in the ring, thanks to Jimmy asking for help. It stops short of Terry Funk stupidly asking for chairs in the ECW Arena, thankfully. Mainly because people want to keep their chairs. What chairs do make it into the ring get decimated by chair stacking spots. Both guys bring a tonne of personality to the dance to the point where people can’t help but cheer for Marty, a rarity in Progress. Or perhaps a concern regarding Havoc as a face. One of the biggest spots in the match is a table spot off the stage. They tease it a lot before Havoc, aiming for a spear, flies through the table solo. That gets a one count. The contest has that big match vibe and Havoc ups the ante by chucking drawing pins all over the ring. Scurll takes a sickening back suplex into those. Followed by a DVD. Holy shit. He’s like a pincushion. Acid Rainmaker finishes and Marty can hobble to the locker room and have those fucking thumbtacks taken out. Jesus.
Final Rating: ****
Jim Smallman gets a quick read on the makeup of the Northernness of the room. A “chips and gravy” chant breaks out. That’s how you know you’re Oop North, lads.
The Origin (Nathan Cruz & El Ligero) vs. FSU
Crowd hate Cruz but are in favour of Ligero seeing as he’s into Christmas. Nathan does not like banter because he’s a total prick. It’s ok though because it’s time to Party Hard! FSU are the high bar firing up a crowd. FSU have a jolly good time beating up Nathan. Ligero immediately turns the match into a delicious farce by getting on Roberts’ shoulders for a chicken fight! FSU respond in turn and Nathan Cruz is not best pleased. When Cruz refuses to help Mastiff jumps in there! Eddie manages to whip Mastiff off the ropes, with Ligero on his shoulders. My God. “Tall lads wrestling”. When the heels attempt a leapfrog it all goes wrong and Ligero rolls up Mastiff for the three count.
Hang on, what?
“Match of the year”. Things speed up slightly after that with Cruz looking to institute some actual wrestling, rather than the spectacularly goofy work beforehand. The Origin continue to miscue, clearly struggling to get on the same page. The Origin vs. FSU was a great main event earlier in the year when the tag belts were involved. Here it’s very different. Example? Ligero pulls out a bag of Celebrations and scatters them across the ring. The crowd launch into a spectacular rendition of “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang and Ligero gets rolled up for the pin. I have no idea how to rate this but I had a wonderful time watching. Nathan rejects the offers of post match sweets, which enrages The Bastard! Finally a special Christmas miracle; the Prime Banter Squad make friends with Joe (@oldathers). Tis the season to end all this fussin’ and feudin’!
Final Rating: Banter
Adam Cole vs. Will Ospreay
The opening moments involve a lot of posing, BAY BAY. This doesn’t last long as Cole turns himself heel by shoving Ospreay off the top rope. There’s an argument that in Indie wrestling the lack of heel/face structure hurts things. Which is arguably demonstrated here with Cole being heel and then doing a crowd-friendly mockery spot right afterwards. Then immediately doing the ‘move the crowd and do no move’ bullshit. Only at least he switches that up by throwing Will into the crowd after they’ve moved back. The crowd, cheering on the heel, proceed to do the “Moose” thing in the counts. Sheffield, you’re ruining it for the world. I have a further issue with the match, which is Cole’s mediocre work being contrasted by Ospreay’s world-beating innovation. They’re not close enough together, in terms of skill, to make it a believable match. I thought the exact same thing of Cole-Ospreay for the ROH title in New Japan. Adam Cole is a perfectly fine wrestler but he’s not in Will’s league. And it’s not like Taguchi, who could raise his game. Cole is just Cole.
They go into a few striking sequences to make things more interesting but that just shows up the astonishing inconsistencies in selling. It’s mainly from Cole. Will’s selling generally makes sense. He stays down when he should. The inconsistencies are such that Jim Ross would *hate* this. The antics are entertaining, once selling has been largely abandoned, and we get cool spots like Will getting superkicked out of the air going for the Oscutter. I get wound up by Cole not grabbing the ropes when they’re in reach during the pin on an Imploding 450. That makes no sense. It’s actively bad psychology. The match continues to escalate as they trade big spots in an attempt to finish things. Will’s selling gets genuinely good as he takes the superkicks down the stretch. The pop up at one after the ‘execution’ superkick is incredible far contrast of this, but it still makes sense. He’s found that one last reserve of energy. Another Oscutter attempt meets with the superkick and Cole finishes with the brainbuster over the knee. The athleticism in this was impressive and Ospreay brought the kind of fight that defies his 0-8 record in Progress since losing the title. I didn’t like a lot of Cole’s work in the match though, despite his hand in making the match epic. It leaves me torn over the rating. I liked a lot of things about the match but they were almost all from Will.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Video Control gives us clips from the outstanding British Strong Style interview. I love that Trent Seven and Peter are wearing the same gear here, where they talk about using the titles to sign contracts on, as they were during the WWE UK Championship tournament reveal. That’s some deep psychology. They must have known.
Progress World Championship
Pete Dunne (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Peter gets a touch upset at the crowd reaction to him as champion. Luckily Tyler Bate is out here to watch his back. The crowd seem quite drunk at this point and you can hear people screaming “Peter!” Tyler gets a little bit worked up and runs into the ring, resulting in Roberts actually doing something for once in his life and ejecting young Master Bate! This allows ZSJ to take over and control the match with his technical excellence. This is a brand new challenge for Dunne. Being the Progress champion and having to fend off challengers of this quality. He’s done it elsewhere, and beat Zack in OTT earlier in the year, but this is a major test of his resolve. Pete responds by sticking to his strengths. He bites Zack and gouges the face. The Sheffield fans continue to not cover themselves in glory as I hear a “shit Jack Swagger” attempt from one guy. On your own pal. You may be at the wrong show. Dunne’s aggression here is a joy to behold. If he left the contest as a straight up technical match it wouldn’t be realistic for him to hang with Zack. So he approaches it with a range of heelish tactics.
Zack is equally aggressive in response, at one point standing and stamping on Dunne’s head. Peter’s insistence at turning this into a fight gives him a narrow advantage as Zack tends to temper his aggression to be within the wrestling environment. Whenever Zack tries to slip back into wrestling Pete brings him back into a fight. That doesn’t always work in his favour though, because ZSJ is tough, and at one point Pete gets knocked silly by a slap. It’s a good match, largely because Sabre controls the pace and makes sure Dunne doesn’t look lost or out of his depth in his first title defence. In a way Pete justifies being given this spot but it helps he’s working Sabre, massively. Dunne impresses with his power and he’s been gaining weight constantly for years. The mixture of technical skill, striking and power puts him in Sabre’s league. The double Tombstone spot is very impressive. The way he jacks Sabre back up shows that core strength. The match is long, over thirty minutes, and incredibly intense for a match of that length. It ends when Pete manages to score the Drop Dead. Sabre does a magnificent job of selling the fatigue on the cover by flailing his legs around but lacking the strength to actually kick out. Excellent match. Kudos to Progress for letting it go that long and let them develop a layered story.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Summary: I wasn’t that excited to watch Chapter 40 but when will I learn that there’s no such thing as a skippable Progress show. They’re all great. If it wasn’t for Fight Club Pro being even more consistent during 2016 they’d be my promotion of year. Another very good show here. Dunne-Sabre and Havoc-Scurll were both excellent in different ways. I hear the live crowd had mixed feelings about Havoc-Scurll due to them brawling all over the place. It might not have come across as well live as it does on tape. I get the feeling people will like Ospreay-Cole more than me too. I feel like I artificially increased my rating on that to match to convey how excited the crowd were. Everything was solid on this show. Nothing bad. Some very good wrestling and some great comedy stuff from the Origin’s banter squad. I’m tempted to call Mastiff and Ligero joint MVP’s for this show based on their fine comedic talents. This is also a great show for Pete Dunne. He came here and proved he deserved that title belt. If he won the title in slightly dubious fashion he certainly retained it in convincing style.