Arnold Furious: December 30, 2016. We’re in Camden at the Electric Ballroom. I was at this show and it was one of the rowdiest, drunken shows I’ve ever attended in my entire life. The lads, of which I’m included, got tipsy in the Ice Wharf before the show and had been drinking for three hours by the time Jim Smallman stepped into the ring to address the crowd. We all piled into the same area of the Ballroom and I couldn’t see as well as I usually can. This meant I was very close to the bar…and this was very dangerous as I continued to drink for the entire show. To the point where the bar staff, all of them, knew what I was drinking. I get the feeling I wasn’t alone in my lack of sobriety. You can tell as the crowd agree to recreate the Lion King and fail horribly at singing in unison. Commentary comes from RJ Singh and Glen Joseph. The latter looks like Buddy Holly.
South Pacific Power Trip vs. FSU & Nixon Newell
Crowd react huge for everyone. That’s always a good sign and Party Hard is such a brilliant song to kick a show off. The faces are all Welsh, which gets a brief “Wales” chant before the crowd turn on the idea. It’s testament to Nixon and Travis that they wrestle an entirely convincing sequence to open the match. Nothing is made of the gender. The concept behind this match is to get the crowd going with a fiery hot opener. It works. They have a kiss-off spot that is amazing. Eddie threatens to kiss Dahlia so TK threatens to kiss Nixon and Andrews and Travis find themselves facing off. That’s a bit weird. They have an awkward stand off afterwards before a handshake while the crowd chant “we don’t judge”. Only in this company could you get the awkward kissing spot and pay it off like that. The Power Trip do oblige with awkward sex positions selling. Travis, mate, your mouth is getting everywhere on this show. When the match is more serious it still takes place at a blinding pace and in front of appreciative audience. Dahlia’s series of crotch kicks is great, because it leads to Nixon doing a series of headbutts, including one straight to TK’s fist. Shiniest Wizard pins Dahlia. I make no apologies for adoring this match.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Post Match: the Welsh trio dance to B*Witched. It’s every bit as great as that sounds. Love the graps. Smallman’s “Weekend At Bernie’s” reference is equally brilliant. One match in and this is a late candidate for ‘most fun show of 2016’.
Toni Storm vs. Kay Lee Ray
This is a match I’ve been screaming out for so kudos to Progress for actually putting it on. They’re probably the two best women talents available to UK promotions. KLR takes a few shortcuts despite being cheered. She’s only wrestled once for Progress and she was a heel then. Toni, when quizzed about topics for discussion on commentary offered: “well, I use my arse a lot”. Aussies. They do some mat grappling and, shock of shocks, it’s really good. I think I’d prefer a straight up match but KLR deliberately leans heel to give it a specific structure. They have some nifty ideas including suplexes and strikes. Toni uses her posterior throughout. Sometimes it’s goofy and ineffective but when she gets up a head of steam it’s brutal. KLR tries a few different tactics; Gorybomb, senton and a front choke. Toni finds a way out of all of it and finishes with a piledriver. These two are as close to the finished article in women’s BritWres so this was always going to be good. I’m looking forward to seeing how good Toni will be in a few years time. She’s oozing with potential.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Bodyguy has a new Twitter handle (@RoyJohnsonYeah). Get on it. He’s a good follow. Roy calls himself the “one and only Bodyguy” because his old Twitter handle got snapped up by Ellis. This provokes a chant of “fuck you Daniel”…who’s in the building. Awkward. The surprise opponent for the Wasteman Challenge is Mad Man Manson! He’s retired and hasn’t wrestled for two years. His last Progress date was in 2014 against Michael Gilbert (better known as Mikey Whiplash). Manson greets Johnson with “thank you black man”. “This is a race war”. “I’m like a really shit version of Grado”. “Everyone else has been signed so they had to get me”. He’s been retired for two years learning to rap. Crowd chant “drop some bars”. “I have none on me”. “Is there a hard cam in here?” “This is why William Regal wouldn’t sign me. He signed every other fucker”. Roy spends the promo chuckling uncontrollably. “I was not in prison, that’s fucking bullshit”. Johnson’s rhymes include mentioning Manson’s reversal issues (press R2) and singing “My Heart Will Go On”. Like, actually, for real. “Let me lip sync the song of my people”. Yes, Manson lip syncs to Wham instead of actually responding via the medium of rap. My favourite in-ring segment of 2016.
Progress Tag Team Championship
British Strong Style (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs. The London Riots vs. The Leaders of the New School
LDRS are a big surprise third team with Marty coming out first before unveiling Sabre from a box. The belts are vacant after Pete Dunne tried to give his title to Tyler. Scurll, usually a bad guy, is instantly turned face by teaming with Sabre and he’s more playful than usual. There’s something about the LDRS being paired up that makes both men more entertaining and they’re already two of the best in the world! Marty taking so long to the run the ropes that Davis escapes a Sabre hold into the ropes is peak silly Scurll. The match gets really good when they hit the faked dives spot leading to James Davis doing an insane tope that wipes out three other guys. Davis also stars in a submission chain. He yells “I don’t know any submissions” before applying a headlock. Trent chops the whole thing apart after being unable to figure out how to add his own submission. Trent is too funny to be a heel. He walks a fine line on all of these Progress shows. It’s one that Peter kept him firmly on the heel side of. Once we get super serious the match becomes a spree of near falls and teams being unable to get one man isolated for the pin. Scurll is so over in this match that the build to him declaring a “Chickenwing” is deafening. Moustache Mountain manage to pick off Sabre for successive piledrivers and Tyler gets the pin to claim his tag shield.
Final Rating: ****
Post Match: Trent and Tyler pantomime signing WWE contracts on the tag shields and in a stupendously dickish move Seven gets Bate to give him a Too Sweet sign afterwards. After that Jim Smallman gives a shout out to Sophie Owen (@legallyblonde22) for attending fifty Indie shows this year. Well played.
Progress World Championship
Pete Dunne (c) vs. Fabian Aichner
Pete promises in 2017 he’s “leaving for good” and taking the belt with him. Peter draws a lot of heat and Aichner doesn’t have to work hard to get love from the audience. What he does do is budget Cesaro antics. He’s very good at it. Dunne’s response is largely vicious. Going after the nose, or biting the fingers. It’s a level of savagery that sets him apart. Aichner, content to operate within the rules, is at a disadvantage. He tries to compensate by delivering a huge array of stuff from his incredible leaping springboard to the floor to his stern lariat. He has an impressive range of skills. Until Pete forearms him out of the air. I love that spot. It reminds me of Samoa Joe stepping out of the way of fliers big spots. Only there’s no disdain here, only aggression. Aichner misses his double springboard and Drop Dead finishes. This was a rock solid title defence.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: Pete nails his heel persona by saying he’ll “see you on the Network” before basking in the heat from the one standing section. What a fucking year this man had.
Sebastian & William Eaver vs. Sex on the Beach (Jack Sexsmith & Chuck Mambo)
I headed to the bar as soon as Seb came out here and I was not alone. I vaguely remember apologising to Jack in the World’s End (unless I dreamt that). These are all the lads from the Progress training school and while Seb’s mate, Tom Irvin, isn’t around anymore Eaver and Mambo are pals. So they don’t want to fight. At least among other inexperienced wrestlers Seb doesn’t look out of his depth but the other three are here to entertain. Seb is just the heel. His presence is important for the dynamic of the match but his work doesn’t do anything for me. It kills the momentum. He does take better bumps here than in bigger matches but his selling is all over the place. Some people just aren’t cut out for wrestling. The gimmick of the match is that Sexsmith gives Seb a stinkface and he ends up with poop on his nose, so he vomits on the floor and then slips on it. You’ve taken this too far lads. Seb forces Eaver to lariat Mambo, which is mean. They lost me at the nose business.
Final Rating: ¼*
Jimmy Havoc vs. Will Ospreay
This angle has come back full circle. Jimmy is now the beloved babyface and Ospreay is the heel (although he enters as a face). Although Havoc has done little to be a face, other than returning from injury at Brixton. Will is fully aware that Havoc has never apologised for all the dick things he’s done. Ospreay’s attitude is in evidence immediately as he volleys one streamer out of the ring and catches another without looking. Will brings incredible aggression, spearing Havoc into the fourth row. Havoc’s response is to start flipping around like a maniac. Jimmy does a great job of selling his knee, which is what he was out injured with for so long and Ospreay goes after the knee like a son of a bitch. The great thing about Ospreay is we know what a phenomenal flippity dude he is but we’ve barely scraped the surface of his personality. He is a cocky little shit. There’s an awesome spot in this where Havoc no sells the Canadian Destroyer, by grabbing his neck and cracking it back into place, before flooring Ospreay with the Rainmaker. Will doing the Cheeky Nando’s kick to the knee is just perfect. What a prick. His speed allows him to do incredible things. Everything seems so purposeful and direct. Even a toned down Ospreay is remarkable. Perhaps even more remarkable because he does basics incredibly well. The match is all about Ospreay but Havoc comes firing back with an array of Japanese favourites including the GTS and the Burning Hammer. The selling goes completely out the window down the stretch, which hurts the match a touch. Jimmy pulls out the win with an Acid Rainmaker, although if Ospreay had not fired up in between the two big Japanese spots this would have worked better. Still an outstanding performance from Ospreay. World beating stuff throughout. Excellent execution.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Post Match: Jimmy Havoc points out he deserves a broken rib for “trying to murder you and shit”. “Me and you, we built this company”. Jimmy asks for Will’s help in fighting British Strong Style. He even apologises. Will shakes hands and then kicks Havoc in the nuts just as he’s mouthing “thank you”. What a prick. As he’s continuing the assault out comes Paul Robinson with a barbwire baseball bat and he gives it to Ospreay! They were a tag team before Robbo was in Regression, listening to Havoc’s anti-Progress rhetoric. I love Will symbolically putting on black gloves to beat Jimmy down.
Summary: A hugely enjoyable show. I regret getting a bit too tipsy during the second half and blame…people who bought me drinks? Nah, I blame myself. Importantly I had a good time though and was able to watch the main event back at my leisure thanks to Demand Progress. Excellent show and a strong way to finish a great year in BritWres.