Arnold Furious: November 27, 2016. We’re in Camden at the Electric Ballroom. This was the show to crown a new Progress Champion after Mark Haskins forfeited the belt at the end of Chapter 38 due to a serious neck injury. There are five qualifying matches and the winner of each will meet in an elimination match at the end of the show. Jim Smallman welcomes us to the Ballroom. On commentary are Glen Joseph and RJ Singh. This show sold out in one minute and forty-eight seconds. I fortunately had the pleasure of being there. Jim puts over Joe Atherton (@oldathers) for giving out sweets outside the venue. “The world’s most ambitious paedophile”.
FSU vs. The South Pacific Power Trip
Opening the show with “Party Hard” gives the Ballroom an electric feel. I’m not entirely sure what the deal is here, as SPPT are number one contenders for the tag titles. That might be on the line here but I’m not 100% sure it was even announced as such. Dahlia Black accompanies the heels and she’s got a hole in her tights. Once you see it, it just screams at you. TK has his dungarees on so naturally he looks like a complete twat. “You’ve got shit dungarees” is totally appropriate. First spot of the show is Dennis hitting the Razor’s Edge on Dahlia over the top rope onto the lads. Dennis is fairly underrated, as he’s got great presence and does decent strong style. Joseph puts over Travis for winning the FCP Infinity tournament on Friday. Another cracking BritWres show in a year of seemingly never-ending great shows. Travis Banks is so great here. He’s in position all the time and takes every spot perfectly. Travis is the heart of the match while Eddie brings his power and Andrews the likability. TK brings shit dungarees. I’m kidding, he’s good too. Everyone knows their role and SPPT look very strong in winning. Travis bleeds horribly from the ear, which he cut the previous night wrestling Paul London and El Ligero in Southside. Dahlia kicks Eddie in the balls and SPPT pick up the win. FSU did a good job of getting the crowd all fired up but there’s no doubt that Travis is the future of this company (and all British companies).
Final Rating: ***1/4
Joe Coffey vs. William Eaver
The storyline with Sebastian continues. He’s in Eaver’s corner and he’s crap at it. As a manager he has the opportunity to interact with the fans and the opponent and he can’t do any of that. There’s zero banter. That heat he’s getting is not heel heat. It’s ‘we don’t enjoy your company’ heat. I know he does work behind the scenes but for f*ck’s sake, less Seb. I imagine the front row wants less Seb too as he takes a tope off Coffey and ends up writhing in the masses. From there the Pastor works slightly heel, which is a bit worrying. The crowd don’t really want that and the lack of noise reflects the general apathy toward the angle. Which is weird in Progress where the crowd are usually hotter than hell. The actual work is quite decent but it doesn’t feel special in any way, which is unfortunate. Seb being the focus is all wrong because I don’t believe in his character. At all. The atmosphere and the story get to the boys and they don’t have the fluid match they could have. Eaver hits a high angle crucifix that looks downright dangerous, which is the last thing Eaver needs after injuring Sebastian in Brixton. The finish is horribly screwy with Seb distracting while Eaver taps out. Then Eaver gets the pin with a handful of tights. Boo. This fell flat on its face. Sebastian decides to steal Eaver’s spot in the final but Eaver’s cheating felt totally unwelcome.
Final Rating: *1/2
Post Match: Jim Smallman gets into significant and delightful banter with 14 year old Toby who’s sat at ringside. “Stay away from the bloke with the sweets”. “Maybe he’s got Benjamin Button disease”.
Progress Tag Team Championship
British Strong Style (c) vs. The London Riots
There’s a great story here where Rob Lynch messed his face up and now has to wrestle in a mask. This becomes important at the conclusion. These two teams had a great match in Brixton. Trent does some wonderful symbolic work in this match, throwing the tag shield down pre-match because now it’s all about the progress title. Trent is heel in Progress but his natural charm keeps seeping through and he leans face, compared to Peter anyway. Him yelling “Christopher” at Chris Roberts when he wants a pin counted is great. The Progress fans have discovered that Dunne gets triggered by being called “Peter”, even though Trent calls him that all the time. James Davis kicks this off with a crazy tope before everyone accidentally chops the ring post. It’s sickening. They do a lot of work on the floor, as they did in Brixton. The champs isolate Rob so they can work over his face, adding to the storyline of Lynch being seriously hurt. James Davis runs through his smashmouth cricket style, which reminds me that nobody seemed to know who Graham Gooch is. I compared James to Gooch at the venue and just got blank looks. I feel old. There’s a nasty botch when Davis can’t get BSS over for a double Death Valley Driver. That’s a lot of weight. The finish is a series of abuse for Rob Lynch, including an array of head drops and his protective face mask being torn off. The match lacked in tag team structure, with the exception of isolating Lynch at times, but it was a lot of fun. Pete biting Rob Lynch’s injured face is sick. Champs finish with the pump kick piledriver. Love it.
Final Rating: ****
Tangent: The main event is looking weird at this point because it’s all heels. Literally five heels and no one else. The biggest issue Progress seem to have going forward is they don’t have a lot of top tier babyfaces.
Matt Riddle vs. Will Ospreay
Oh my God, this was amazing. From the second that Matt Riddle walked out here he was treated like a world-class talent. He looks like a Greek God, he can make flip-flops look cool and he has an instant connection with everyone. He absolutely destroys Ospreay during the introductions. “Matt Riddle is not f*ck*ng about” says RJ Singh. Riddle has only been wrestling for a year and a half. It’s ridiculous. He looks like he was born in a wrestling ring. Will has to throw in his wackiest offence just to stay in the match. What kind of wacky offence I hear you ask? Moonsault off the wheelchair area! Followed by the Space Flying Tiger Drop. When they start trading moves back and forth it shows how far along both guys are, in terms of talent. Joseph points out that Ospreay has lost a lot in Progress since being champion. I don’t think he’s won at all. Riddle’s fast hands are too much for him and the match is incredible apart from one unfortunate botch where Ospreay slides through a reverse rana and Riddle ends up backflipping after the move has taken place. Riddle gets a mount, elbows the shit out of Will and hooks the Bromission to book his ticket to the main event. Standing ovation follows and Britain just fell in love with Matt Riddle. His ceiling is so high that if it wasn’t for the drugs he’d probably be in WWE already.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Marty Scurll vs. Jimmy Havoc
They start out by doing the double spear spot from Goldberg-Lesnar, which gets the crowd suitably worked up but Scurll survives the Acid Rainmaker and we settle into an actual match. Havoc is pretty much the lead babyface in Progress now, although that doesn’t feel right somehow. They do a lot of stuff around the ring, which is Jimmy’s style. Lots of brawling. Both guys add in an element of cheating. It’s in their DNA. It’s a tough act to follow the last two matches and I’d probably have slipped this in before Riddle but it’s always tough to know how a newcomer will be treated. Havoc does some solid recognition work in this including stealing the “superkick, just kidding” by hitting an actual superkick and elbowing out of the Chickenwing because Marty yells “chickenwing” right before attempting it. Scurll also gets in on the act by countering the Acid Rainmaker right into the finger snap. The match gets very booking-heavy toward the end with a clumsy ref bump. This leads into Havoc nicking the umbrella, hitting himself with it and pulling an Eddie Guerrero finish. Roberts gets up to see Scurll with the umbrella and calls a DQ in a hilarious spot. The timing and selling on it was amazing.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Natural Progression Series IV
Nixon Newell vs. Katey Harvey
Katey is Irish and her fashion choices get her flak. She has one sleeve. The best chant that breaks out is “you’re just a shit Winter Soldier”. The “sleeve” antics almost take over the match. Nixon has to be a contender for best British women’s wrestler in 2016. She is prone to the odd ricket and they make a hash of a headscissors takeover. The women overcome the somewhat distracting chants and the early flub and have a solid match. The strikes are on point, even though they create a weird atmosphere as the crowd yell “sleeve” at every Harvey strike. Speaking of fashion choices; Nixon has “nos da” written across her arse, which means “good night”. Presumably referencing the sleep induced by the Shiniest Wizard. Which coincidentally gets the pin here. Solid match. Love Nixon. Everyone should buy her Harry Potter inspired “Girl with the Shiniest Wizard” t-shirt.
Final Rating: **3/4
Jimmy Havoc vs. Matt Riddle vs. Pete Dunne vs. Trent Seven vs. Sebastian vs. Travis Banks vs. TK Cooper
Title is vacant and this is under elimination rules. Two tag teams out there, which gives them a natural advantage. Seb brings Eaver with him for added support. Sebastian’s presence in the match drags it down because everyone is wanting him eliminated. Progress would have been best suited to eliminating him quickly to allow the rest of the match to kick in. The worry was that the match would be very storyline driven and that Sebastian would feature into the latter stages. Scurll jumps Havoc before the match to tease his elimination. This leaves Riddle as the sole babyface. An occurrence that led to people excitedly expecting him to run through all the heels and win the strap. Riddle’s connection to the crowd results in the crowd singing “Gold” by Spandau Ballet with the words changed to “bro*”. Riddle runs through all the heels one after another until a fantastic display of mat grappling with Travis Banks. It’s blow-away awesome technical work. Travis is quite sensational here. Proving he belongs in the top matches in the country. On the other hand is Sebastian who takes two terrible bumps for Riddle before Matt goes on a chopping rampage and we get insane topes from Trent and Travis. TK adds in a flip off the top and it’s bonkers! It’s TK’s last act as Riddle puts him out with the Fisherman Buster, with bridge, right after a nifty submission chain.
Jack Sexsmith runs in to give Seb the Mr Cocko Claw. This leads directly to Jimmy Havoc returning and, thankfully, dumping Seb with the Acid Rainmaker.
Travis looks to take over the match until Trent kills him with a piledriver off the ropes. He’s gone and British Strong Style move on to Riddle.
The champs do the Pump Kick Piledriver and dump Riddle. Quick-fire eliminations! That leaves British Strong Style vs. Havoc. The suspicion is immediately that Havoc overcomes the odds to win in this storyline.
Havoc and Seven do some tidy counters with Trent eating an Acid Rainmaker. Peter gets kicked out of the ring and a second Acid Rainmaker puts Trent out, much to my dismay.
Roberts takes another bump, this time to protect Havoc, who scores a visual pin with the Acid Rainmaker. Paz comes down to replace Roberts but Trent decks him to save Dunne. As British Strong Style look to put Havoc away Tyler Bate runs in. Trent turned on him months ago to set up the British Strong Style tag team but Tyler has had time to think about that. He turns on Havoc! Dunne hits Drop Dead and the Midlands lads stand tall with the title. Pete Dunne is the Progress wrestling champion! The story in this match was incredible. I loved everything they did. It made sense throughout and having Dunne walk out as champion, and as head of a trio of great Midlands wrestlers, is sensational stuff.
Final Rating: ****1/4
*This chant caught on like wild fire and was being sung outside the venue after the show. The result of which was Matt Riddle joining the rabble and going into local pub The World’s End and promptly getting banned for making too much noise. The lyric in “Gold” is “always believing, you’re indestructible”. As the bouncer ejected Riddle he quipped “not so indestructible now are you?” A harsh burn. Nevertheless the fans totally connected with Riddle in a big way and I’m sure Matt enjoyed his trip. He’s back in the New Year because he’s wrestling Katsuyori Shibata for the Rev Pro title. Love the graps.
Summary: I loved this show live and it comes across just as strongly on VOD. There are three really great matches on this show (Riddle-Ospreay, tag titles, main event) and the story telling over the course of the show is fantastic. I love that Tyler Bate felt he couldn’t get even with Trent Seven but he looks up to him so much that he has to join the dark side to remain relevant. It’s a touching father-son relationship that they have and it makes me so happy to see them reunited. Even if it’s as a pair of total bastards. I’ll never not love the duo and their work. The show as a whole was an easy watch and the overarching storyline of Pete Dunne’s ascent to glory had a tremendous supporting cast. A genuine contender for best show of the year and it’s been a great year for wrestling.