In collaboration with WrestleCrate UK, the team bringing subscribers a crate full of wrestling-related goodies each and every month, PROGRESS have produced a DVD exclusively for this month’s WrestleCrate: PROGRESS Picks 2015, featuring five of the best matches that took place in PROGRESS that year. 2015 saw some real highs for PROGRESS, as well as some major firsts. From the inaugural Super Strong Style 16 tournament, to the promotion’s debut in Manchester, to the dramatic final act of an iconic story line that helped put PROGRESS on the map; the PROGRESS Picks 2015 touches on all of these moments and more, providing a great first look at PROGRESS for new followers and a snazzy collectable DVD for longtime fans. Each match is introduced by PROGRESS co-owner and ring announcer Jim Smallman, giving some insight on the match selection and providing background for the bouts and the competitors involved, plus the set comes with a code entitling the user to a free month of Demand PROGRESS.
1. ‘Flash’ Morgan Webster vs Zack Gibson – Natural Progression Series II Final – January 25th, 2015 – The Electic Ballroom, Camden
The first match on the set comes from Chapter 17 and was the final of the second Natural Progression Series, which is designed to give fresh faces a chance to establish themselves in PROGRESS and to earn a title shot along the way. The two finalists in the tournament were ‘Flash’ Morgan Webster and Zack Gibson and, for both men, this match was a defining moment for them in PROGRESS and their best performances in the promotion up until that point. Right from the start Morgan Webster demonstrates just how slick he can be in the ring, catching Gibson off guard with a beautiful low armdrag followed up by a huge tope. The crowd are all over Gibson and he plays off it exceptionally well, drawing their ire when some nefarious tactics turn the tide in the favour of “Liverpool’s Number One”.
Gibson is excellent in this portion of the match, showing off some great technical skill as he counters Flash’s counter to a hammerlock, and does a great job of dictating the pace of the bout. But Webster picks his moments well and hits a frankly insane tope off the ringpost that took it out of both men. The match becomes much more back-and-forth from this point on, leading into a crazy finishing stretch that had the fans jumping to their feet multiple times. This is a hugely exciting bout that really played to the strengths of both guys. Gibson is one of those guys the crowd just loves to hate and the atmosphere here is electric. A great match to kick off this set and introduce fans to the atmosphere that makes PROGRESS live events feel so special.
2. Zack Sabre Jr. vs Will Ospreay – 2015 Super Strong Style 16 Final – May 25th, 2015 – The Electric Ballroom, Camden
Next up is the finals of the first ever Super Strong Style 16, which brought together sixteen top talents from Britain and beyond to face off in a two day, single elimination tournament with the winner earning a PROGRESS title shot. It was a fantastic weekend of action to witness in person, with some great stories told, thanks in no small part to the two men who reached the final. Both had faced some big obstacles en route, Zack coming up against some of the biggest names in the field with Zack Gibson, Tomasso Ciampa and his long-time tag partner Marty Scurll. Ospreay, meanwhile, had to go through El Ligero, Mark Haskins and Roderick Strong. The last two names in that list doing some serious damage to Will’s arm and leaving him with a big disadvantage against a technician like Sabre.
Ospreay starts off at a frantic pace, showing off his astouding speed and aerial prowess. It’s remarkable that, as good as Will is here, one year later the improvement he’s made from then is so evident. What an exceptional talent. But that’s taking nothing away from the man facing him in this match and, after kicking out of the big shots Ospreay fired early on, Zack Sabre Jr. is in his element, punishing Will’s high flying offence with precise strikes and contorted limbs. Sabre is so comfortable dictating the pace of a match and we see this here as he cuts off Will’s comebacks and they build to a great finish. This was a great bout to close out the first PROGRESS Strong Style 16, but as good as it is in isolation, it’s even better when watched in context with the rest of the tournament.
3. Jimmy Havoc (c) vs Will Ospreay – PROGRESS World Title Match – July 26th, 2015 – The Electric Ballroom, Camden
The story of Jimmy Havoc and PROGRESS wrestling goes all the way back to the very earliest days of the company. Havoc’s rise came hand-in-hand with the rise of the promotion itself, the story line that pitted former fan favourite turned bitter villain against the wrestlers, the fans and the owners of PROGRESS was one of the major highlights that helped put PROGRESS on the map. But somewhere along the way the story became about a young man in the midst of a meteoric rise of his own, as Will Ospreay emerged as one of the men most likely to defeat Havoc for his title. After earning his third shot at Jimmy’s belt, the stage seemed set for the biggest moment yet of young Will’s career, but Havoc did not make it easy for him and the resulting match was an exercise in brutality and excess, as befitting the end of a six hundred and nine day feud that had seen Havoc unleash hell upon PROGRESS.
To avoid shenanigans Ospreay was accompanied to the ring by The London Riots, but while Jimmy did send his Regression team mates to the back initially, later on both Paul Robinson and The Omega would make their presence felt in spite of The Riots. The match (easily the most chaotic and destructive on this set) saw all manner of weaponry employed, from kendo sticks, to tables, and even an axe at one point. Both guys endured some tremendous punishment as well, Havoc taking a nasty fall off the top-rope and through a table, while Ospreay was dumped head-first through a chair with a Burning Hammer. Without the benefit of having followed the story along from the beginning some may find this bout to be over the top, but when it pays off the sheer elation of the fans in attendance is testament to what a great story PROGRESS, Havoc and Ospreay told.
4. The Sumerian Death Squad (Tommy End & Michael Dante) (c) vs Roderick Strong & Adam Cole – PROGRESS Tag Title Match – September 6th, 2015 – The Electric Ballroom, Camden
After winning the PROGRESS Tag Titles from The Origin at Day 2 of the Super Strong Style 16, Michael Dante and Tommy End (AKA The Sumerian Death Squad) issued an open challenge to any and all tag teams that wanted to try and take their titles. This resulted in a hugely exciting tag match at Chapter 21 with two surprise opponents both familiar to the PROGRESS faithful: Roderick Strong & Adam Cole. Strong debuted at the Super Strong Style 16 and had a great showing, reaching the semi-finals only to be upset by the eventual winner. Adam Cole, meanwhile, was making his second appearance in PROGRESS after a great match with Mark Haskins all the way back at Chapter 10. Both men got a great ovation from the crowd, the match itself starting off at a fast and frantic pace.
While the Sumerian Death Squad are top tag team specialists, Adam Cole & Roderick Strong have far less experience teaming together and that’s the theme of the match in the early going. The SDS hit some of their patented tag combos that see their surprise opponents scrambling out of the ring to regroup, but Strong & Cole show their ingenuity in the ring and use every trick in the book to regain control and keep Tommy End isolated. Eventually Dante, the biggest man in the match, comes in like a wrecking ball, but some miscommunication from him and End swing things back in the challenger’s favour. The finishing stretch is full of twists and turns, with a number of false finishes that had the crowd out of their seats, referee Chris Roberts struggling to maintain control as this highly memorable tag title match comes to a close.
5. Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomasso Ciampa – December 6th, 2015 – The Ritz, Manchester
For their Manchester debut PROGRESS lined up one of the most anticipated rematches in the promotion’s history, a return fixture from the quarter finals of the Super Strong Style 16 as ‘Technical Wizard’ Zack Sabre Jr. took on ‘The Psycho Killer’ Tomasso Ciampa for the second time. In their previous encounter (a comparatively well mannered affair compared to this match) Zack Sabre Jr. came out on top after forcing Ciampa to submit to a vicious double-wristlock. This time around, Ciampa was desperate to avoid the move and scrambled to the ropes the moment Sabre tried to apply the hold in the opening moments. Ciampa shows what a versatile wrestler he is in this bout, looking as at home on the mat trading holds as he does on the floor trading elbows.
He also shows the frustration and aggression that lend him the ‘Psycho Killer’ moniker, forcing Sabre to lose his cool and engage him on a more physical level that puts things decidedly in Ciampa’s favour. This is a very back and forth match that tells a good story, with Zack trying to negate Ciampa’s hard-hitting offence by expertly working over his arm and leg, and Ciampa relying on his explosiveness and physicality to level the playing field. But it ends up being a rather gruelling match for both competitors, as they struggle to make the decisive strike, or lock in the perfect hold, and the pace of the fantastic pinning sequence that ends it all belies the exhaustion both men show as the match wore on. This proved to be the highlight of the first Manchester show for PROGRESS and a real stand-out match in the resume of both Sabre and Ciampa that year.
If you missed out on last month’s Wrestle Crate there will be limited copies of ‘PROGRESS Picks 2015’ on sale at WrestleCrate.co.uk towards the end of October. Sign up for WrestleCrate today to ensure you get your hands on future exclusive collaborations with PROGRESS!