Picture Credit: Rob Brazier Jr & PROGRESS Wrestling
After two years and eleven sell-out shows, PROGRESS yesterday said goodbye to The Garage, the home which it has out-grown in recent months. Three hundred plus fans packed into the esteemed rock venue in the heart of Islington to see eight representatives of eight nations compete in the PROGRESS World Cup for a shot at the PROGRESS Championship, currently held by the nefarious Jimmy Havoc. The promotion made its name in this building and it was here that they engendered the spirit which has made the promotion such a success so, as they prepared to leave The Garage for the last time, it was fitting that yesterday’s show would feature a few of the most memorable moments in PROGRESS to date.
1. PROGRESS World Cup – Quarter Final: Eddie Dennis [Wales] vs Tommy End [Netherlands]
Proceedings kicked off in good style, with ‘The Pride of Wales’ Eddie Dennis taking on ‘The Anti-Hero’ Tommy End in the opening quarter final match. Two strong fan favourites here and the crowd was fairly evenly split as the big men began trading blows, both refusing to go down after successive shoulder tackles. End’s striking ability is something to behold and I’ve witnessed very few wrestlers who are able to apply kicks with such force and precision and Eddie did well to hold his own in the face of such aggression. The Welshman’s height came into play on several occasions, most notably when he caught Tommy on the top rope and hoisted him up with startling ease to deliver a splash mountain-style buckle bomb. Eddie’s height, however, would also provide an easy target for End’s high-angle kicks and after a flurry of strikes, a disgusting brainbuster followed by a double stomp off the top rope, Tommy End was victorious and the Netherlands progressed to the semi-finals.
A good opening match that got the crowd going and set the pace. Dennis, as just about the tallest member of the PROGRESS roster, plays his role well and provided a good challenge for the ever-impressive Tommy End who, for my money, is vastly underappreciated on the world stage.
2. PROGRESS World Cup – Quarter Final: Rampage Brown [England] vs Paul Synnot [Canada]
The debuting Paul Synnot, accompanied to the ring by honorary Canuck for the day Laura Cruz, was met with a loud chorus of boos. Comparatively, Rampage Brown (who has somewhat of a murky past in PROGRESS) received a great reception from the PROGESS faithful and things were about to get underway when Synott grabbed the microphone and demanded the Canadian national anthem be played, much to the fans distaste. As the last strains of ‘O Canada’ died away, Rampage grabbed the mic and said it was only fair if our national anthem was played as well, cue ‘God Save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols. Synnot caught Rampage off guard as the match begun, taking control early on with a side-headlock while taunting the fans at ringside. Rampage struggled to gain any momentum with the Canadian repeatedly cutting him off, but when things spilled to the outside Brown was in his element and quickly took the upper hand. As the match returned to the ring, things went quickly downhill for the Canadian, Rampage hitting a huge powerbomb and following up with sit-down piledriver to pick up the win and advance England to the semi-finals!
This match was fairly short, but Synnot looked good in his debut and did a fine job of riling up the fans, who spent most of the match making South Park references and singing ‘Blame Canada’. Good reaction for Rampage, who was many fan’s favourite to win the cup.
3. PROGRESS World Cup – Quarter Final: Grado [Scotland] vs Noam Dar [Israel]
Huge ovation for the Noam Dar, who missed the last two shows through injury, while Grado’s entrance never fails to get a great reaction wherever he goes. I’ve seen these two billed elsewhere as ‘Best Friends, Rubbish Enemies’ and that was largely the theme of the match, with lots of comedy spots throughout, but also some good wrestling from Dar & Grado. At one point Noam inadvertently swung Grado’s leg into referee Chris Roberts’ nether regions, Dar then took advantage of the mistake and kicked Grado low. He tried to follow up with a waistlock, but Grado mule kicked him in the jewels and all three men were down, so the fans began to administer the ten count. As the match was wearing on well past fifteen minutes, an exhausted Grado pleaded with Noam to just end it already, so Dar obliged, hitting the HBK/Flair superkick spot and pinning Grado to advance Israel to the semi-finals!
This match was a lot of fun and probably the best match I’ve seen out of Grado yet, while Dar hasn’t missed a beat since his impressive victory of El Ligero at Chapter 11.
4. PROGRESS World Cup – Quarter Final: RJ Singh [India] vs Darrell Allen [Jamaica]
The Bhangra Knights collide, as ‘Dazzling’ Darrell Allen takes on his tag team partner RJ Singh. These two have been involved in PROGRESS from early on, making their debuts at Chapter 1 & 2, respectively, and have become fast fan favourites, so an interesting match-up here. Neither man was pulling their punches, showing none of the early hesitation that Dar & Grado displayed earlier on, which was exemplified by a hard hitting enziguri over the ropes from Allen, followed by a springboard splash for a near-fall. This was the most back-and-forth match of the show so far, both men getting time to shine as they traded blows. Singh attempted to lock in his trademark Ethnic Submission, only for Allen to smartly counter into a pinning predicament for another close near-fall. Singh eventually got the hold applied, but couldn’t keep Darrell from the ropes. Allen counters a charge from Singh with double knees, then turns the tide with his awesome looking twisting brainbuster and soon has the match in hand to advance Jamaica to the semi-finals.
5. PROGRESS World Cup – Semi-Final #1: Rampage Brown [England] vs Tommy End [Netherlands]
These two faced off last time PROGRESS were at The Garage, back at Chapter 11 in January and it was a hell of a match that stood out on an already excellent show, so I was very excited to see what Rampage and End could bring to the table here. Suffice to say, I was not disappointed. Tommy came out first and was raring to go, as was Rampage, who wasted no time stalking to the ring, both men exploding into action and nearly knocking the referee flying! Tommy gained a quick advantage, laying out Rampage with a high kick to the skull before heading up top to hit the double-stomp. Rampage kicked out and the match continued, but there was very little downtime as both men beat each other from pillar to post. I’ve already mentioned Tommy’s kicks and they were once more on-point here, leaving his larger opponent staggering, but End couldn’t keep Rampage’s top-tier offence at bay forever and Brown turned things in his favour when he caught Tommy in mid-air with a forearm, before following up with a brutal powerbomb. He made the cover and Tommy kicked out at one! The crowd went absolutely mental and Rampage hoisted Tommy up, before sending him crashing back down with a disgusting snap-piledriver. England advance to the World Cup Final! There’s a sentence I never expected to write.
This was a highly enjoyable match, clocking in at just under ten minutes both guys tore the house down in the time given and proved why they are regarded as two of the best in PROGRESS at present. A pleasure to see them work. After the match, Rampage & Tommy seemed to agree to a third match somewhere down the line, which I personally can’t wait to see.
6. PROGRESS World Cup – Semi-Final #2: Darrell Allen [Jamaica] vs Noam Dar [Israel]
The second semi-final followed, with Jamaica vs Israel to decide who would get to face England in the World Cup Final. Not an enviable prospect, considering Rampage’s penchant for powerbombing fools. Still, Noam and Dazzler gave it their all, in spite of the sweltering heat in The Garage by that point. Darrell had speed and agility on his side, but Noam proved himself to be a crafty competitor, kicking Darrell’s leg out from under him before going to work. Allen tried to mount a comeback, but kept being cut off by Dar, who at one point rocked Allen with a beautiful release German suplex for a near, near fall. Elevated over to the apron, Allen managed to score with an enziguri over the ropes and hit a springboard crossbody to give himself some breathing room. However, when he missed a dive from the top that left him sprawled in the centre of the ring, Noam wasted little time in locking in the Champagne Super Kneebar and forced Darrell Allen to tap.
A good semi-final match with Dar controlling the majority, but Allen still looked very strong in defeat and received a warm reception from the crowd post-match. PROGRESS has a number of wonderful high-flyers at present (Allen, Ospreay, Robinson & Andrews) and I’d love to see them face off one day.
7. PROGRESS Championship: Jimmy Havoc (c) vs ???
The PROGRESS Champion Jimmy Havoc makes his entrance, accompanied by his cronies in Regression, and is met with a load of abuse from the fans (as is par for the course since Havoc’s despicable actions back at Chapter 9). A fan in front of me gets in Havoc’s face and is shoved back a few rows for his troubles. Havoc doesn’t play nice, people. Jimmy gets on the mic and says there is no one in the locker room to answer the challenge, because everyone’s too afraid to face him. As such, he gives the title shot to the newest member of Regression and former Sword of Essex, Paul Robinson. The bell rings and the match begins. Havoc applies a wristlock, only for Robinson to immediately tap. The bell rings again and the crowd boo, while Havoc and his chums celebrate. PROGRESS co-owner Jim Smallman gets on the mic and says that if Havoc sends Regression away, they’ll have a little chat. Havoc complies and Smallman tells security to lock the doors after them. Jim reveals that they do in fact have an opponent for Havoc and then three hundred plus fans go absolutely mental as Prince Devitt’s music hits!
Devitt appeared from the entrance to the venue, strapped to a gurney and flanked by medical security guards. He was sporting a straightjacket and facemask, dressed as Hannibal Lecter! Amazing. Devitt, once his facemask had been removed, stood in the corner of the ring, staring dagger as Jimmy Havoc. He charged at Devitt, still wearing the straightjacket, but Devitt ducked out of the way at the last second. He extricated himself from the jacket and set up a chair in the corner, before taking a seat and producing a wine glass and bottle of nice chianti! Jimmy charged with a senton, but Devitt moved once more and Havoc went back-first into the chair! Devitt took the match to the floor, hitting not one, but two huge running dropkicks that sent Havoc flying and busted him wide open. They brawl around the venue and I lose sight of them for a bit, but soon emerge and take the action back in the ring, Havoc now bleeding profusely. Devitt goes to work on Jimmy, showing the skills that mark him as one of the best in the world today, but for all his obnoxious behaviour you have to concede that Havoc is a tough, tenacious competitor.
Devitt hit a reverse Bloody Sunday and made the cover, but Jimmy kicked out at two and the crowd groaned, desperate to see Havoc lose the title he never earned in the first place. Devitt then searches under the ring and produces a table! He sets it up in the ring, but suddenly Paul Robinson runs in and tries to attack Devitt with a chair. Devitt fights him off and returns his attention to Havoc, setting him up on the table before hitting a double stomp off the top rope! The table doesn’t break, in spite of the impact, but one of the legs snapped under the force. There was next to no give in that, must’ve been painful for Jimmy. Devitt follows up, but Havoc sends him into the ropes where Paul Robinson reaches up from outside the ring to smash him in the back of the head with a chair. Havoc hits his finisher and pins Devitt to retain the PROGRESS Championship. Goddamn, what a match. Jimmy gets on the mic and says he doesn’t give a fuck about the fans, but he’s known Devitt for ten years and says “now we know who the better man is…now fuck off to America!”. Devitt kicks Havoc in the gut and then hits Bloody Sunday, to rapturous approval from the audience!
Post-match, once Jimmy and his crony have fucked off back to the hole they crawled out of, Jim Smallman puts over Devitt and announces that this was Devitt’s final match in the UK! The fans give him a standing ovation as he leaves. I very much enjoyed this, Devitt is without a doubt one of the very top performers in the world today, while Havoc is proving himself to be a hell of a talent, regardless of his actions. Incidentally, it speaks volumes as to the quality of PROGRESS that Devitt would chose the promotion to be the hosts for his final independent match on UK shores.
8. PROGRESS World Cup – FINAL:
Main event time, as Israel faced off against England in the World Cup Final! Lots of support for both men from the crowd, who could be forgiven for being a bit worn out after witnessing so much action in the boiling hot Garage. Rampage wasted little time in overpowering his opponent, quickly taking the fight to the floor. He picked up Noam and slammed him hard, back-first into the ringpost, before brawling off in the direction of the bar. I lost sight of them for a bit, but eventually caught as glimpse of Rampage hitting a piledriver on top of the bar itself! Brown made his way back to the ring and the ref began the count. Noam couldn’t get to his feet, however, and had to enlist the help of two fans to carry him back to the ring apron! Noam was decidedly on the receiving end of things for the first half of the match, but showed some good resilience and eventually scored a desperation manoeuvre, kicking Rampage’s legs out from under him as he stepped between the ropes. Dar went to work on Rampage’s stricken leg and the match became a battle to see if Rampage could put Noam away before he succumbed to the injury.
In between being thrown around like a rag doll, Dar took every opportunity to lock in the Champagne Super Kneebar and Rampage came incredibly close to tapping on more than one occasion, the pain etched on the big man’s face. He managed to fight back though, hitting a huge powerbomb that shook the ring, but still only scored him a two count. After battering Noam with forearm smashes, he hoisted him up for the piledriver, but Noam escaped, shoved him into the ropes and caught him in a roll-up for the 1-2-3! Israel win the PROGRESS World Cup and Noam Dar is the new no.1 contender for Jimmy Havoc’s PROGRESS Championship! Big standing ovation for both men, who wrestled a good 40+ minutes each across their three matches. Jim Smallman confirms that at Chapter 14: Thunderbastard, it’ll be Jimmy Havoc (c) vs Noam Dar for the PROGRESS Championship, but then also offered Rampage Brown a tantalising opportunity: if Rampage forsakes his Screw Indy Wrestling allegiance, PROGRESS management will book him against Samoa Joe at the next show! Rampage says he’s done with Haskins and Cruz and readily agrees. What a match that’s going to be.
Noam gets on the mic and cuts a great promo, putting over PROGRESS and the fans and reminding us again of just how young he is. It’s often easy to forget, when he’s so gifted in the ring. Rampage was excellent throughout the show, as well. Easily one of the best powerhouses in the British wrestling scene today and deserving of a lot of credit for his performances this year. Once both competitors have left the ring, Jim Smallman thanks everyone for coming and brings the show to a close, saying goodbye to The Garage for one last time. The fans left happy and exhausted after another top-quality show from PROGRESS, already eagerly anticipating the (totally sold out) Chapter 14 and the prospect of more amazing wrestling from one of the hardest working groups in British wrestling. #ThisIsPROGRESS
Review by @SenorLARITO