As I stated in THIS article, I was going to look back at all PROGRESS shows from the beginning, it will be a mammoth task but here we go…..
Right, so we begin way back when, in 2012, The Garage in Islington. The main point of the show is to crown the first ever PROGRESS champion. Eight men will compete for a spot in an elimination four-way final, those eight men are: El Ligero, Noam Dar, Colossus Kennedy, Nathan Cruz, Colt Cabana, Mike Mason, Zack Sabre Jr and Marty Scurll. There’s also scheduled to be a triple threat match between Xander Cooper, Darrell Allen and Zack Gibson. With that card run down, let’s get onto the action.
El Ligero vs Noam Dar (PROGRESS Title Semi Final 1)
These two could probably have a serviceable match with each other with their eyes shut. At the start of the match we get a short promo video from Noam, who says he’s going to: “Nut (Head-butt) Ligero and become the PROGRESS champion.” You don’t hear that on 205 Live, if you did more people might tune in. It’s a very young Noam as well, my my approximation he’s about 17-18 here, yet still very solid.
The crowd are solidly behind Ligero as Dar spends the match heeling it up, their sequences are smooth and Dar carries himself like a much older competitor, he uses some solid psychology, targeting Ligero’s leg, in an attempt to ground the high flier, he pulls off an impressive reversal of Ligero’s finisher deep in the match for a close two count, his offence gets stiffer and more devastating at the match goes on, his attack on Ligero’s leg is consistent throughout the match. The crowd have tried the whole match to rile Dar up with ‘Scotland sucks’ chants, occasionally encouraging the young Scot to reply with some shall we say… colourful language, which as our commentator points out: “Well, he is from Scotland” just to sprinkle some stereotyping in, not that that’s a bad thing as most Scots are too drunk to get offended much (joking, obviously).
Moving into the matches closing stretch, Ligero fights out of a knee-bar submission, then a chant of: “Deep fried Mars Bars” breaks out, if you don’t understand that Google it, showing us a glimpse of the future of PROGRESS fans and inventive chanting. Back to the action and Ligero has Dar trapped in the tree of woe and Ligero pulls off the Del Rio foot stomp thing years before ‘Berty himself, Ligero hits his C4El finisher for the three count.
RESULT: El Ligero wins by pin-fall
RATING: **1/2. As I said it was a serviceable match and it served it’s purpose to set the tone, that being said it wasn’t particularly special, but nothing bad either.
Nathan Cruz vs Colossus Kennedy (PROGRESS Title Semi Final 2)
These two are regulars at my local promotion NGW, although Colossus doesn’t seem to appear as much these days, he’s your typical ‘big man’ wrestler, with a single strap singlet, while Cruz has made a name for himself around the country, and even a tour of the US, these two are no stranger to each other having faced off in NGW multiple times, the crowd are behind the big man, even encouraging him to dance at one point (“Funkasauras!”).
The match is typical big man vs smaller man fare with the crowd cheering loudly every time Cruz is overpowered, one thing to be said of Colossus is he uses his size and strength to his advantage, suplexing and throwing Cruz around with little effort and Cruz for his part is a master of being a heel, so when he isn’t being pummelled by the big man his using the same tactic Dar employed by taking out Kennedy’s leg to take control the match.
The bulk of the back end of the match is Kennedy on the mat selling the attack on his knee, before being brought up into the corner by Cruz, Kennedy attempts a comeback out of the corner, but his leg gives way, he catches Cruz’s finisher attempt again, before hitting multiple head-butts, he goes for a lariat, misses and hits a spinning side slam for a two count.
Kennedy hits a big clothesline as we hit the last stretch, he calls for the end, but Cruz slips out of a power-slam attempt and hits his Exit Stage Right finisher for the three count and the win.
RESULT: Nathan Cruz wins by pin-fall
RATING: **. The did their best here. Obviously Kennedy is limited in what he does but seems to play to his strengths, together they put together a match that the crowd got invested in, so job done I’d say.
Mike Mason vs Colt Cabana (PROGRESS Title Semi Final 3)
I think we know what to expect from Cabana after all this time, I’m not expecting a serious match, I’ve never seen Mike Mason before, but his nickname is ‘Loco’ so I’m expecting his to have a ‘madman’ character, or something similar and Cabana is, well Cabana.
Cabana starts off by throwing tennis balls at Mason, at least I think they’re tennis balls, setting the tone quite well, Cabana is quite understandably the most popular man in the match, to compound his popularity he instructs referee Chris Roberts to inspect his crotch, as the crowd chant ‘Do Your Job’ at Roberts.
Also Mike Mason appears to like tennis balls as he gets distracted easily by them, which Colt uses to land a cheap slap to open the match, then the tennis ball gets put down Chris Roberts’ pants and well, you can probably guess what happens after that, Cabana uses the distraction to roll up Mason for a two count.
More weirdness from the men in the ring, as Roberts bails out of the ring to remove the tennis ball from his trousers he rolls the ball back into the ring which results in a scramble to get their first, giving us the alarming visual of two grown men fighting over a tennis ball, Cabana gets to the ball first and throws the ball into the crowd, resulting in Mason running into the crowd to retrieve it, a ‘This is Wrestling’ chant breaks out, the crowd seem to be really into the wacky fun, however Mason’s manager Becky James manages to get the ball back and the action returns to the ring.
For the first time we get some actual wrestling as Mike Mason takes control and takes Cabana to the mat, however Cabana manages to reverse into a head scissors, who’d have thought a few minutes ago that we’d get some mat wrestling? An old fashioned spot is brought out as Cabana does an airplane spin on Mason, as Cabana is dizzy and stumbling about Becky James low bridges Cabana sending him out of the ring, allowing Mason to re-take control.
We’re back on the mat as Mason hits clubbing forearms to Cabana’s chest. The fans are having a whale of a time in this match with their inventive chants, it seems that isn’t a new thing for PROGRESS fans.
Forearms are exchanged before Cabana hits the shake , rattle and roll, that gets a close two count, testicular claw from Cabana, another shake, rattle and roll attempt and Cabana locks in the Billy Goat’s Curse, Becky James throws a chain in to Mason, who clocks Cabana and gets the three count!
RESULT: ‘Loco’ Mike Mason wins by pin-fall
RATING: *1/2. That might seem harsh on a match that was merely a bit of comic relief, but it didn’t feel as though the two gelled very well, I’m all for a good comedy match, and the crowd seemed behind it, but it seemed off to me.
Zack Sabre Jr vs Marty Scurll (PROGRESS Title Semi Final 4)
Now this is an interesting one, nowadays these two are two of the independent scenes biggest names, and this match has main evented it’s fair share of shows around the world, but here the two are fresh faced, and Marty Scurll isn’t the ‘Villain’ we all know and love today, so this should be interesting viewing.
We get some mat wrestling to start off, a bit of a stalemate too, makes sense given how well these two know each other, some lovely exchanges in the early stages, still difficult to judge who’s on top at the moment though.
Scurll starts to work Sabre Jr’s arm, possibly trying to take his arsenal of arm-bars out of the equation, Sabre Jr bridges out though. A surfboard attempt from Sabre Jr is countered into a pin-fall attempt for two. A lot of solid mat work in this match, as is to be expected from these two, given their ability and how well they know each other.
Scurll plays some mind games with a fake hand shake, signs that the villain always lived within Marty, the two exchange shoulder tackle attempts, all to no avail as neither men budge, Scurll eventually sends Sabre Jr to the mat though and follows up with a huge enziguri followed by a lovely suplex for a two-count. Marty attempts to lock in a figure-four, which is reversed into a small package for two again, Zack finds his way out of a second attempt too, eventually Scurll does manage to lock it in, not for long however, as Zack rolls out.
A big kick from Zack doesn’t even register a one-count, he takes Scurll down to the ground though, back up on the ground Marty hits some stiff forearms, Zack reverses a backslide account into a massive sit-out powerbomb, this gets two but is transitioned straight into an arm-bar, but Scurll reaches the ropes. A suicide dive from Marty takes out the first few rows of the crowd, undeterred the two get back in the ring, Zack is caught mid-air in a lung blower, followed by a dead-lift suplex from the apron by Scurll, we’ve certainly picked up the pace here in the late stages.
A beautiful dragon suplex only gets a two count, it feels as though we’re approaching the finishing stages, a Tornado DDT from Scurll! Roundhouse from Sabre Jr, selling took a back seat there but both men are down on the mat. Back up and both men exchange forearms, stiff looking ones too, both men look out on their feet, a penalty kick attempt is ducked, victory roll into an arm-bar from Zack, Scurll reverses into a powerbomb and they’re both down again.
Big kicks and forearms exchanged again, they charge at each other with increasing ferocity, Sabre Jr hits a roundhouse kick, Scurll hits a roaring elbow, both men still up but staggered, Sabre Jr with a backslide, but Marty reverses it into a pin attempt of his own, and gets the three count!
RESULT: Marty Scurll wins via pin-fall
RATING: ****. A match that was dripping in drama and intensity, playing off the two being tag partners, they laid into each other and produced the match of the night so far, great stuff.
Darrell Allen vs Xander Cooper vs Zack Gibson
Time for a break from the tournament, and the nights only non-tournament match, to bring us a battle of three young up and comers, and is for a belt called the BWC Scarlo Scholarship Championship. Zack Gibson is probably a recognisable name to those familiar with the British wrestling scene, although he does have hair here, which is an unfamiliar sight, although I do remember him with hair, was a fair few years ago though, I can’t say I’m familiar with Xander Cooper though, I’ve heard of Darrell Allen though, so it should be interesting to see what these three bring to the table.
Xander Cooper attacks Allen from the start, throwing him from the ring, he also has some opening exchanges with Gibson, before Allen returns to the match via the top rope, now there’s some smooth sequences between Gibson and Allen, Cooper is back in though and takes control, before a big chop from Allen derails that, Allen attempts a big flying cross-body but is caught, but manages to score a head-scissor take-down on Cooper.
Cooper repays the favour by hitting a cross-body of his own, both he and Gibson are not popular among the PROGRESS faithful, Cooper because of his arrogance and Gibson, because he is a Scouser. A nice reversal from Cooper in the corner as he brings an attempted superplex down as a powerbomb, some nice sequences here in the early goings.
We just have Gibson and Cooper in the ring now, as Darrell Allen has been thrown to the outside, Cooper makes sure he stays outside too, as he kicks him off the apron, Xander Cooper now sends Gibson outside, but Allen is back in, but is taken down by a big kick, a pin attempt only gets a two count. Cooper is controlling the ring here, keeping one man out of the ring and one man on the mat, not for long however as all three men are back in the ring exchanging blows, and a nice double lung-blower from Gibson, a pin attempt is broken up by Allen, who follows up by hitting uppercuts on both men in opposite corners, then monkey flipping Cooper into Gibson.
Cooper retakes control, but is soon put down by Gibson, who suicide dives between the corner posts! Lovely spot, a series of roll ups lead to a neat double roll up by Zack Gibson, a big enziguri from Zack Gibson followed up by an exploder, a pin-fall is broken up once more by Darrell Allen, who takes control with some big kicks, a 450 splash by Allen but Cooper steals the pin and gets the win!
RESULT: Xander Cooper wins via pin-fall
RATING: ***. A really strong match with nice spots and sequences, there’s glimpses of the future for Gibson who is nowadays a somewhat underrated stand out, this match shows that this is not a new development, Darrell Allen was also very impressive as was the slimy heel Xander Cooper.
El Ligero vs Nathan Cruz vs Mike Mason vs Marty Scurll (PROGRESS Title Final)
And now the main event, the match that practically the whole show has built towards, the final to crown the inaugural PROGRESS Champion, we now know what all four men are capable of, and we should be in for an exciting affair. It’s also worth noting that this is an elimination match. Also the PROGRESS Title isn’t a traditional belt but a staff, which the crowd are quick to label a ‘Nazi’ staff, but Jim assures us is instead ‘regal’.
Scurll jumps Mike Mason to start the match, and throws Ligero out with him, Ligero isn’t out long though as he cross-bodys Cruz from the outside. Ligero and Cruz are alone for the moment and Ligero takes Cruz down with a hurricanrana, Mason drags Ligero out and Cruz vaults onto nothingness and eats the floor, it’s Ligero’s turn to get some air as he sentons onto the rest of the field, the match is now roaming round The Garage and the cameras are struggling to keep up, it is worth noting that the filming set up is basic, as is to be expected from a debut showing.
It appears they’re fighting near the bar, as the fans chant ‘It’s Your Round’ at Marty Scurll, we’re still in the crowd, Scurll and Cruz are fighting on the stage, now Ligero is joining them, Scurll and Ligero take turns in chopping Cruz, even getting the fans involved in holding Cruz for them, he gets some measure of revenge though by sending Ligero into the ring post, Ligero and Cruz have disappeared, leaving Scurll and Mason, the other two reappear from what is apparently the toilets, oh PROGRESS you mad bastards.
Scurll accidentally chops the ring-post, in a spot that is always cringe-worthy, as Ligero sends Cruz into the ringside chairs, the camera appears to have been knocked over as nothing can be made out, Ligero and Scurll team up to take out Mason, but turn on each other with duelling chairs, it’s now Ligero’s turn to go into the chairs via an Irish whip by Nathan Cruz, Scurll is in the ring now, sitting on a chair, he has someone’s beer too, and of course he downs it, they don’t call him ‘Party’ Marty for nothing.
Back into the crowd and Ligero is sent flying down some stairs, and back into the ring, Ligero has a chair now and he dropkicks it into Mike Mason’s face, it’s good for a two count, he gets some payback by laying a beating on Ligero in the corner, and Cruz hits a big suplex on Ligero, he then jumps Scurll who’s sent back to the outside, a big double spot from Ligero as he simultaneously bulldogs Mason and kicks Cruz.
Some fast action follows as Ligero gets a near fall on Cruz on the back of some high flying spots, he then hits a super-kick on Cruz followed by an enziguri on Mason, a big splash on Mason looks certain to get a pin-fall, but his manager Becky James pulls referee Chris Roberts out of the ring, in the confusion Cruz hits Exit Stage Right on Ligero for the three count and the first elimination.
El Ligero Eliminated
A big suplex from Mason on Cruz, but he’s rolled up by Scurll and eliminated!
Mike Mason Eliminated
We’re now down to the final two, Nathan Cruz and Marty Scurll, they lay into each other with big strikes, Scurll picks up the pace and a big knee drop gets a two count, Cruz is back up and a neckbreakers gets a two count. Cruz is firmly in the drivers seat as he has Scurll on the mat, a comeback attempt is put down by a big flying knee from Cruz, he still can’t put Scurll away though and his frustration is visible for all to see, Scurll challenges Cruz to keep on hitting, and Scurll hits an inverted lung-blower, a delayed cover gets a two count.
The crowd are firmly behind Scurll, but Cruz keeps kicking out of everything he throws at him, Cruz tries pinning Scurll using the ropes for leverage, his Stow Stolen finisher only gets a two count, a roll up with a bridge from Scurll also only gets two, a double clothesline takes both me down, Cruz is back up first, quickly followed by Scurll and they trade elbows, while on jelly legs, Scurll gets Cruz up but the ref gets knocked down in the process, a big rolling elbow would have got a three count for Scurll but Chris Roberts is still down, a low blow from Cruz, followed up by a cutter, but it only gets a 2! Cruz looks to set up Exit Stage Right, it’s reversed into a quick two, Cruz springs back up and hits Exit Stage Right to get the three count to win the match and the title!
RESULT: Nathan Cruz wins by last eliminating Marty Scurll (New Champion)
RATING: ****. The manic and dramatic main event that this event needed to finish a very promising debut show, it set up interesting stories for the future and in crowning a heel champion means that they can build the next few shows around a baby-face chasing the belt.
FINAL VERDICT: ***1/2. For an opening show this was incredibly strong, not only did it feature good to great action it also gave us some good characters to get behind or to boo, some nice set ups to future storylines, and a worthy champion, it all makes me look forward to the next show even more.