PROGRESS Chapter 1: In The Beginning
Watch: Demand PROGRESS
The Garage – Greater London, England
Ever wondered how the story of the PROGRESS Chapters goes? Well, I’m here to review them all, so sit back, relax and read all about it. You can check out all of their shows here, or check for events in your area from PROGRESS here (warning: they sell out fast).
Noam Dar vs. El Ligero12:01
The first of four semi-final tournament matches from the show pits Noam Dar against El Ligero. Before the bell, there’s a short but sweet promo from Dar who claims he’s going to beat Ligero and go on to become PROGRESS champion. Those aren’t his exact words but I simplified it for everyone. To the ire of Noam, the crowd very politely tell him that Scotland sucks and to be fair, they aren’t lying. The pace in this match is incredibly quick right from the jump, to make things even better, neither man truly establishes dominance over the other until towards the end of the match when Dar works over the leg of Ligero, informing the crowd that he “won’t be able to fly with a broken wing”. Smart strategy really. There are quite a few two counts with some coming extremely close to being three which only adds to the excitement and feel of the match. Something that isn’t necessarily linked to the wrestling aspect but thank god the production value of PROGRESS has picked up over the years as it’s rather difficult to see some of the action that goes on outside of the ring, if the cameras aren’t in a good position. It’s quite interesting to see where they’ve come from compared to what they’re doing today. The crowd is fully behind Ligero throughout the match, whilst Dar tries to annoy them with multiple insults or even sexual gestures. Dar begins to take control with some really great limb work but Ligero slowly starts to make a comeback when frustration sets in after yet another two count. Eventually, he signals for the end of the match hitting a springboard DDT for the win. Ligero advances to the finals of the tournament. This was an incredibly fun first match with great crowd participation, mostly mocking Dar but also rallying behind Ligero throughout during dire moments for him. If this were the first ever PROGRESS match I’d ever watched (it’s not, but it would have been for someone else at some point) I would have wanted to see more from them, which is great.
Nathan Cruz vs. Colossus Kennedy10:41
The second semi-finals match in the tournament, Nathan Cruz against the absolutely gigantic Colossus Kennedy who looks like a Big Show and Braun Strowman love child. Scary thought. Perhaps my favorite chant ever starts up, aimed at Cruz “sh*t Zack Ryder, woo woo woo”. This time around, we get a promo from both men before the match, Colossus’ is not very good as he fumbles his words a few times but the message is basically “I am big, no one can stop me”. Cruz, however, proclaims that he is the biggest star the UK has and that we are looking at the first ever PROGRESS wrestling champion. Colossus being the bigger man of the two easily overpowers the smaller Cruz, who rather ingeniously grabs the big man by the beard and gets in a number of strikes. Due to the clear size difference, you would assume that the whole match would be dominated by Colossus, however, Cruz manages to outsmart him by working over the leg, similar to the first match, except it stops Colossus from using any offense as he struggles to move around the ring. After screaming “show stealer” the earlier chant about Ryder yet again echoes throughout the Garage, again, truly a wonderful chant. Colossus tries to go for some offense twice, but his knee gives way both times. Colossus signals for the finish but Cruz has other ideas, hitting a dropkick to the knee and a shining wizard for the win. Arguably the best thing about this match is the extensive limb work on display from Cruz, although Colossus takes control early on, you somewhat naturally expect him to completely dominate the match due to his sheer size and power alone, yet instead you get something completely different as Cruz destroys the big man’s leg and takes over the entire match. This wasn’t better than the opener, but it made Cruz look amazing.
Colt Cabana vs. Mike Mason w/Becky James10:07
The third match in the semi-finals of the tournament and the chants for Mr. Cabana begin before the bell has even rung, they linger throughout the match, whilst Mike Mason growls. There are a good three or four minutes of Cabana just doing random stuff, he first takes extra care in folding his jacket, before just throwing it behind him and thus making his prior actions completely pointless. He then puts a tennis ball inside his singlet in the crotch region and insists the referee check him correctly and remove it. He does not. However, being that Mike Mason is a mad twat who believes he is a dog, he wants the tennis ball, so Cabana takes it out of his singlet and begins to play fetch, with a grown man. The tennis ball is then placed inside of the referee trousers, which causes everyone’s favorite dog man Mason to bite at his crotch. Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Cabana does take advantage of this rather strange situation and rolls Mason up for a two count. What proceeds is the tennis ball being thrown around the ring and into the crowd, it’s closely chased by Mike Mason whilst the crowd start a “This is wrestling” chant. The tennis ball does eventually get lost which means the real action is over and that fake stuff has to come into play instead. Sigh. There’s an abundance of holds to start out the match so it’s incredibly slow and makes you appreciate the comedy more because at least that was semi-entertaining. A wrist-lock from Cabana turns into a waltz. Sort of, the crowd suggests that the pair are dancing, so, Cabana obliges and shows off his incredible dance skills. I’m not kidding, they start to bark at each other and really play into the whole “he’s a dog” thing. The pair trade strikes until Colt gets the upper hand with a bionic elbow and a splash, but it only gets two, frustrated that Mason kicked out he puts a claw on his groin. I wish that didn’t have to be written politely. A hip attack knocks Mason to the canvas in the corner of the ring, however, Cabana drags him out and cinches in the Billy Goat’s Curse, realizing things aren’t going the way of Mason, Becky James gets involved distracting the referee away from the submission hold, she throws a chain dog leash at Mason who hits Cabana over the head with it and picks up the win. Alright, comedy match. A nice little breather from the hype of the first match and the great limb work of the second, but not really my cup of tea, unfortunately. Colt is great, he’s a lot of fun to watch but this was incredibly bland. Maybe a few extra barks from Mike may have swayed me into believing this was good, but I didn’t enjoy this.
Marty Scurll vs. Zack Sabre Jr.21:45
The last match in the semi-finals of the tournament, and by far the match I was most looking forward to when I double checked the card for this event has Marty Scurll going up against Zack Sabre Jr. In Marty’s promo package before the match he says that if he wins the PROGRESS championship, he’s going to hold the biggest party so everyone can have an “amazing wicked time”, whilst Sabre Jr. says he will become champion because he “chuffing loves armbars”. Initially, this is an intriguing match-up due to the pair being tag partners, but I knew this would be a great match and I wasn’t disappointed at all. With this being the first chapter, you have to believe that they were attempting to show people what they’re all about and if any match signifies what to expect from PROGRESS, it’s this one. The match starts out with incredible pace and a sequence of mat wrestling with neither man gaining the upper hand due to the partner’s aspect, both know each other extremely well and thus a lot of the offense is well-scouted. The match flow is incredibly smooth with great participation from the crowd, including asking the men if they’re going to kiss, they do, it gets a holy shit chant. However, you’d be wrong if you think this is a comedic attempt like the prior match as both begin to beat the hell out of each other, literally. Sabre Jr. works over the arm throughout to gear up for that armbar which was teased and had the crowd waiting in anticipation for it, the move is eventually locked in after Marty kicks out of a sit-out powerbomb which causes the crowd to go crazy. A dive through the ropes from Scurll which takes out Zack got another holy shit chant, but honestly this whole match deserves that chant, it’s that good. It’s crazy to think that the win came from a simple roll up from Scurll, yet honestly, after watching them beat each other up for most of the match, it’s not unrealistic at all. The crowd truly appreciated the effort from both men, who hugged it out at the end. If you can, watch this match. Sabre Jr. has been praised as one of if not the best from the British scene in the last few years and matches like this one is proof as to why he’s labeled that. PROGRESS struck gold with booking this one.
BWC Scarlo Scholarship Championship: Xander Cooper (c) vs. Darrell Allen vs. Zack Gibson13:44
BWC was/is the British Wrestling Council, their title was initially supposed to be defended on every PROGRESS chapter, however, that only lasted for three chapters, so I’m fairly certain you can figure out that they didn’t last very long and their site suggests they haven’t been active since roughly 2012. A long-haired Zack Gibson only furthers the point that this show is the first chapter, it’s weird not seeing the bald head. This match is the cool off match before the main event and finals of the tournament, but it’s not a bad match at all, it’s not as great as say the opener or the match before it, but it does what it needs to do. There’s a pretty good heel/face story despite it being a three way match, Xander is booed due to him being part of the BWC and also because he’s playing the part of what I would consider a “posh twat”, whilst Gibson is also booed seemingly because he’s from Liverpool, Darrell Allen, however, received a decent amount of cheers from the crowd. Gibson is the standout performer in this match and could probably still to this day be called a rather underrated talent. There’s technical wrestling from all three of the men involved but Gibson just adds a hard-hitting edge to everything he hits. It’s Cooper who ends up picking up the win after stealing the pinfall from Allen who hit a 450 splash on Gibson, retaining his title. The crowd hated this, but knowing that the BWC is no longer active, I can’t say that this disappointed me at all. Solid match, it just suffered from following such an amazing match in Scurll/Sabre Jr.
El Ligero vs. Nathan Cruz vs. Mike Mason vs. Marty Scurll26:05
We have finally made it to the finals of the PROGRESS Wrestling Championship tournament. Some names in this surprised me as I fully expected Kennedy to advance to the finals, however, my mind was changed after watching Cruz destroy the huge Kennedy earlier in the night. Mike Mason is another odd name here, as Colt would seem like the obvious choice to go with, but here we are. The next thing that’s different to the usual championship matches is that there isn’t a championship belt. Instead, the winner is awarded a staff. No, there’s not just a random person who works for PROGRESS who is awarded to them, it’s almost like a cane with a metal PROGRESS bird attached to the top of it. Anyway, let’s get into the match. A lot of it is absolute carnage with a lot of it being outside of the ring, there are dives from Ligero, brawling from all four men and even a pint for Scurll. That’s an alcoholic beverage for any non-British readers. Cruz ends up on the receiving end of a “chop off” well, that’s what I’m calling it, where Scurll and Ligero tried to figure out which of them could chop him the hardest. It’s an interesting contest. Once the match comes back into the ring, it transitions into somewhat of a tag contest due to the men having to tag into the match, which is somewhat unusual but I quite liked it being different. Scurll had a good opportunity to win the title, however, the referee, of course, was distracted. It wouldn’t be a championship match if that spot didn’t happen. The crowd REALLY don’t like the fact he was screwed out of winning and they let him know in a very British way by chanting “the referee’s a wanker”. God, I love being British sometimes. Cruz is the one who picks up the win and the championship after a kick to the side of Scurll’s head. If I was completely unaware of what the results of this show were before writing this, I would have had either Scurll or Zack Sabre Jr. down as the first champion. Nathan Cruz is somewhat of a swerve in my opinion, but he won me over throughout the show, there’s just something that drew me into him, he was so desperate to win in the Kennedy match that he destroyed his legs, whereas here he used a dirty tactic to win. It’s perfect for his character and makes you feel bad for Scurll who came so close but failed.
This show was incredibly difficult to get into at first for me because it’s not the PROGRESS that I’m used to, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad show. Dar/Ligero and Scurll/ZSJ are definitely the standout performances of the night, whilst Cabana/Mason was the throwaway match that I could have done without seeing, and the finals had a pretty good swerve for first-time viewers. All in all, at the time I imagine they achieved what they wanted, to show what PROGRESS is all about and to put people on notice for future shows. We shall see how the story of PROGRESS continues when we take a look at Chapter Two.