On the face of it, how good could a wresting card promoted by a stand up comic and his manager be?
After watching the debut of Progress Wrestling last night the answer is simple - Very good.
Presented at ‘The Garage’ in Islington, a legendary music venue, already set the stage (no pun intended) that this show was going to be different. Elevated setting on the stage, a huge crowd in the standing room only area and an adult only crowd that had the opportunity to drink? This was not going to be ‘PG’.
Jim Smallman was one of the promoters and as a stand-up comic; he knows how to conduct himself infront of an audience. He encouraged the crowd to swear, heckle and chant anything they wanted. This was like a green light to the fans. But not in a “I’ll get myself over by being rude and noisy” way. Genuinely funny chants were rewarded with a round of applause. All the wrestlers responded to chants and some even included them in their matches!
So, to the matches, first up was Noam Dar vs El Ligero. I was familiar with Dar having seen him in IPW, but this was my first look at Ligero – although I knew his reputation as a very good worker – and this was a great bout. Dar played heel with a long ring entrance and cocky attitude, the crowd responded with a chant of “deep fried mars bars”. Dar played off the crowd really well, Ligero obviously had to get by with claps to get the crowd to make some noise, and either man would have been a good fit as the inaugural Progress champ. Ligero won after a swinging DDT off the 2nd rope.
Next was Colossus and Nathan Cruz. This match didn’t grip me as much as the first match, as seeing Colossus as the babyface monster didn’t really work. I tried to start a “Funk-a-sauraus” chant but people were enjoying shouting “Shit Zack Ryder” at Nathan Cruz . To be fair, this match had the least crowd heat but every other match was so well received that on an average show this might have stood out as being a very good match. Cruz won with a running boot to the head.
Colt Cabana, who is one of the nicest people that I have ever met, then met the replacement for RJ Singh – Loco Mike Mason. How can I describe this match adequately? Only in wrestling would 200 adults cheer as another man throws a tennis ball into the crowd for another man (who thinks he’s a dog) to chase. I think we had tennis ball jokes for a good 5 minutes. Mason, who I’m told doesn’t have a lot of experience, was carried to a good match with Colt here although it was largely a comedy match. Mason won with a chain after his valet distracted the referee. Crowd not happy, but it allowed Colt to spend more time having his photo taken with fans at his merchandise table.
We all knew that the LDRS squaring off had the potential to be the match of the night, infact I’ve seen on the Wrestling Observer update that it was one of the best matches that the UK had seen in years in the opinion of some fans. I can’t wait to see it on DVD as what I saw was excellent. I went down to ringside for the end of it and even being that close the elbows and fore-arms during the end sequence looked really snug. Marty played a slightly heel role, but the crowd was only 60-40 for Zack. Sabre is, for me, one of the best workers in the UK right now. His kicks look so good, he sells very well and when he got Marty in the armbar the crowd erupted! However, Marty reversed a roll-up to progress to the final. The crowd gave them a standing ovation – and rightly so. One crowd chant here that I mustn’t forget to mention, when the match-up started they were doing an English style match and someone shouted “Are you gonna kiss?” so the LDRS did just that!
Intermission time, Colt and the LDRS were very popular and so were the guys from “Defend Indy Wrestling” - I had some spare time to take in the crowd. Lots of UK wrestling stars in attendance, plus the guys from Wrestle Talk TV and Alex Shane.
Next up was the bout for the BWC Scarlo Scholarship title between defending champion Xander Cooper and challengers ‘Dazzling’ Darrell Allen and Zack ‘Diamond’ Gibson. I have only seen Darrell as a heel in the Bhangra Knights tag team so seeing him as the babyface here was different. The crowd decided to hate both his opponents and this was an entertaining bout. Again, the crowd got involved as Gibson shouted ‘Liverpool’ at one stage. On a southern show, what did he expect? Chants of ‘2-1 Wigan’ is what he got, and I don’t think that’s a chant heard often (even at Wigan games). Cooper retained after Allen hit a 450 splash on Gibson but injured himself so Copper got the sneaky pin. Unfortunately, I was distracted here as I had to help Darrell outside as he separated his shoulder – so by the time I came back in the 4 way main event was well under way!
All 4 men were brawling in the crowd. I walked in and guys were being slammed head first into the wall next to me, thrown into chairs (luckily, Mason asked them politely to move!), and Marty downed half a pint of lager to wild applause. There was too much going on to remember it all, but Ligero was eliminated first, then he tripped Mason to allow Marty to roll him up. That left Scurll and Cruz, to win the Nazi staff! What, you didn’t know what the winner received? Well, it was a long staff with the Progress logo on the end which is a black eagle which made it look like a Nazi staff? So when Cruz got the upset win, “He’s a nazi chants” filled the room. Marty then did a promo and a Ric Flair impression before host Jim Smallman – who was marking out for every match – thanked us warmly for making it such a memorable evening and plugged the next show on June 24th.
This event was unlike any other wrestling event I had been to. Someone compared it to Fight Club: Pro, if that’s true, book me a train ticket to Wolverhampton!
This was progress.
This Is Progress.
Below: Jim Smallman thanks the fans at the end of the night