Making PROGRESS: Chapter 2

There is an unwritten rule that anyone who is interested in media of any form generally understands; the sequel is often worse. However, there are exceptions to the rule (Aliens, Terminator 2, Rocky 3/4, Empire Strikes Back – all arguments that could be made, not necessarily my opinion). To that list, you can add PROGRESS Chapter 2, as they were able to take the blueprint of the first chapter and cram the show full of even better matches, characters and gimmicks to make it head and shoulders above the first show – and the first show was pretty damn awesome.

Without further ado, here is my review of Chapter 2.

Stixx vs The Lion Kid

The best thing about this watchthrough of PROGRESS from the start is the opportunity to see new talent from the UK that I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing before. In the opening match of the night, both wrestlers are new to me; a rugged heavyweight with a hairy chest called Stixx, and a skinny guy dressed in his pajamas called The Lion Kid (having looked him up on Twitter, I can say now that the outfit has definitely improved).

There are one of two ways matches like this could, and arguably should, go. You either have the bigger guy steamroller the little guy, or the plucky underdog winning from fighting underneath most of the match. Luckily, we are treated to the former. Stixx has a range of excellent power moves, and after falling victim to a 180 degree huracanrana, takes over with a ringpost powerbomb after catching a leaping Lion Kid. Stixx bullies the smaller man, stamping on his hands and throwing him around the ring with ease. I particularly liked the backbreaker into a gut breaker, as well as the crossbody into the corner, Stixx showing good agility for a man his size. Naturally, all of Kid’s flurries involve him using his speed to counter the power of Stixx, and he lands a nice double springboard dive and a flying headscissors off of the top rope. Finally, The Lion Kid is able to outsmart Stixx, locking him up in a pinning combination for a surprise (at least in my eyes, as I expected Stixx to win) victory. A good start to the show, and the precursor to string of well booked matches that persists throughout the card.

Wild Boar Mike Hitchman vs Mark Andrews (champion) BWC Scarlo Scholarship Title Match

For me, this match might have stolen the show. Maybe it was based on my expectations – neither of these men have ever crossed my radar before – and it isn’t a knock on any of the other matches, but these two just tore the house down in my eyes. Polar opposite in looks; Mike Hitchman’s long haired stockiness matched up against Mark Andrews’ finessed physique and (arguable) good looks.

The men exchange holds at the start of the match, which surprised me due to my unfair expectations based on Hitchman’s looks – I just didn’t expect him to be a particularly technical wrestler truth be told. However, he is very technically sound and the men show that they are both equally adept when it comes to grappling. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting back into watching the UK Indy scene is when I see new spots, or old spots I haven’t seen for a while, and I got a cheap laugh out of Andrews tripping Hitchman on the drop down, a move that I think should happen more often (though we do see it later on in this show as well)

Andrews takes control, and nails a perfect looking apron moonsault. In terms of looks and polish, Mark Andrews feels like he has something going for him with regards to his wrestling future (a statement backed up by his recent work with TNA). Hitchman is no slouch though, and when he takes over, he takes over. An apron DDT is the start of a string of power moves designed to wrestle the title away from Andrews; he nails him with strikes and a beautiful dragon suplex after reversing a pinfall. Andrews gets short-lived respite following a Kidman-esque powerbomb reversal, but Hitchman is not to be denied, nailing Andrews with a spear in the treee of woe position, a turnbuckle exploder and a package piledriver that I thought would be the finish.

Showing the mark of a true champion, Andrews is able to dig deep and fight his way back into the match. It looks like he has made the ultimate mistake when he riskily attempts a shooting star press that misses, but Hitchman is punished for going to the well one too many times, a package piledriver being reversed by Andrews to allow him to retain his championship. His celebration is short lived however, as Xander Cooper runs in – connecting the dots, I can only assume that they are feuding since Andrews seemingly took his title away. Later in the show, it is announced that the two men will meet at Chapter 3 – a great match in the offing there.

Naom Dar vs Darell Allen

It is good to get an opportunity to see both men again – game losing efforts the order of the day in Chapter 1. My suspicions about Allen are confirmed early on, as he did dislocate his shoulder on the over-rotation of his 450 splash in the triple threat from Chapter 1; indeed, his arm is still taped up. Dar is his usual charming self towards the crowd, and this should be fun.

Dar does the little things incredibly well to help build his character and create heat. His interactions with the crowd and the biting and joint manipulation of Allen makes it incredibly easy to dislike him, even with a local boy opposite him in the ring. The majority of the match focuses around Dar attacking Allen’s legs, setting him up for his leg grapevine finisher. Similar to The Lion Kid, I feel Allen works best as a plucky underdog, and this is the position he is booked in throughout this match. Dar is aggressive, headbutts and strikes peppering Allen’s body and kicks to the knee used as a quick way to stop Allen getting any momentum.

Only when Dar is disgusting enough to try and stick his chewing gum in Allen’s mouth do we see Darell begin to fire up – he positively nails Dar with a superkick to the back of the head. His comeback is short lived however, and Dar smashes Allen’s knee with a top rope foot stomp. A kick to the face is followed by the leg grapevine, leaving Allen little choice but to tap. A decent match, booked smartly to really play to the strengths of both men.

Jimmy Havoc vs Danny Garnell

In my time reading about PROGRESS, the name that has constantly come up is Jimmy Havoc. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to see him in the ring as he goes up against his trainer, Danny Garnell. Once a spoon is removed from Jimmy, we are able to begin.

The trainer/trainee relationship gives us a good built-in storyline, as Garnell outwrestles Havoc in the opening, and a couple of comedy spots have Garnell talking Havoc through spots. The first meaningful moves see Havoc launch himself over the top rope, showing agility that is deceptive for what appears a bigger guy than some of the high-flying wrestlers on the roster.

The match is made by Havoc’s bumping and Garnell’s willingness to chuck him around the ring. A stiff as hell clothesline shows a sign of things to come, and after a suspended 2nd rope DDT, Havoc is nailed with a release German suplex, a half nelson suplex, and a spiked snapmere, all bumps taken neck/head first. I cringed and popped all at once – then tweeted Jimmy to offer him up my kudos. It was an insane sequence of moves from Garnell, and an insane willingness to sacrifice your body by Havoc.

Havoc also brought his own moves to the fight, a particularly pleasing lungblower from the second rope the highlight. I also liked his use of the crossface – whilst Havoc was a fan favourite, the crossface is an easy heel submission and could transition into an important facet of his repertoire if/when he turns heel. The trainer/trainee relationship is evident in the finish, as Garnell rolls through the crossface and pins Havoc for the three count. A very good match, and I look forward to seeing more from Havoc. Garnell, for his credit, more than held up his end of the bargain also.

The London Riots vs Velocity Vipers

I’ve seen TLR once before, and they offer a fairly no-nonsense approach to tag team wrestling. The Vipers are new to me as a team, though I was surprised to see Will Ospreay, who I know better as one half of The Swords of Essex. Ospreay is a wrestler that continues to grow, so it is interesting to see him still quite early on in his career.

This is always going to be a question of speed vs power, highlighted early on by Esmail’s somersault senton over the top rope. Power initially wins out, with Ospreay rocked with an uppercut as he tries to join Esmail in flying out of the ring. A slam that lands Viper on Viper further cements Riots’ control. They continue to bully the smaller Vipers, and even a ‘house on fire’ tag to Esmail is cut short with a superb spear by Lynch.

The match is unfortunately disrupted (possibly also cut short) by an injury to Esmail, who lands awkwardly following an exploder suplex. As he is carried to the back, Ospreay begins his comeback, getting a near fall with a Code Red and using his speed to take it to the bigger men. He takes one too many risks however, and misses an impressive double rotation moonsault. This leaves him easy prey to a Riots lariat, and the Riots pick up the victory. A match that was building up nicely – shame about the injury curtailing the latter end of the match.

El Ligero vs RJ Singh vs Greg Burridge to become Number One Contender to the PROGRESS Title

Whilst is does feel a little bit arbitrary as to why this is a Number One Contender match, it does promise excitement with a nice mix of styles and gimmicks on display. Burridge is hilarious throughout the match, his jokey nature possibly detracting from a very impressive technical style. RJ Singh and his entourage is the easy heel for the fans to dislike, and eats some double team action from Ligero and Burridge early on. Burridge even finds time to whip out his dice, only to be on the receiving end of a tag team testicular claw.

An STO from Singh is soon followed up by a Burridge corner clothesline, knocking Singh off the apron whilst nailing Ligero across the chest. The match is a mile a minute, and even RJ’s entourage takes the brunt of some attacks, the Director getting face humped by Burridge and his furry dice, whilst Ligero lands an expert somersault plancha to take out both men in the entourage.

As the match heads towards a conclusion, we get another cheap laugh as Singh locks on the ‘ethnic submission’: the camel clutch. His attempts to win by submission are thwarted, and it is Burridge who gets closest to taking the victory, locking Ligero up in a beautiful submission. This isn’t enough, and it is Ligero who takes the victory, a cheeky handful of tights a surprising addition to the pinning combination. Even Ligero is willing to go to extreme lengths to get a shot at the PROGRESS Title.

Nathan Cruz (champion) vs Marty Scurll in a Two out of Three Falls match for the PROGRESS Title

The two men who duked it out in the Fatal Four Way at Chapter 1 are back to main event Chapter 2 as Marty Scurll aims to wrest the title off of Nathan Cruz.

As the shows progress, my notes tend to get shorter and shorter as I want to focus on what is going on. This is never looking to be a play by play run through of everything that happens, but certain spots are worth mentioning. Both men trade holds at the start, with Scurll coming out on top and bossing the early stages of the fight. A missed suicide dive (which looks like it takes out a few audience members ) turns the tide, allowing Cruz to get back into the first fall – a slingshot back suplex a particularly clever twist on an oft-used spot. When Scurll takes back control, he shows off his strength with a stalling suplex that has Cruz in the air for fifty seconds! There is continued back and forth which leads to a brawl on top of the turnbuckle. Scurll, rocking Cruz with strikes, drives him into the mat with double knees off of the top rope in an awesome looking spot, leaving him easy prey to the Hangover, putting Scurll 1-0 up.

The second fall is all Cruz. He isn’t a flashy wrestler, but what he does, he does well. The fall is built around Cruz’s attempts to get Scurll counted out. There are a few teases of this finish, none closer than when Cruz hits a fireman’s carry slam onto the sound desk. With the help of the fans, Scurll is able to beat the count (I’d even pre-emptively noted this being the countout to make it 1-1 – hastily crossed out following Scurll’s return). Finally, Cruz is able to reverse a Scurll attack and plant him with a tombstone. 1-1 and we head to the final fall.

The last fall shows each man moving through the pain and the tiredness to try and get that final pinfall or submission that is needed. Tired strike exchanges show each man summoning up that last ounce of energy to take out the other guy. A teased Double KO follows, both men eventually up at 9. Cruz shows that he would do anything to keep the title, low blowing Scurll before getting near fall from a German suplex. A following release German suplex just seems to piss Scurll off, the challenger rushing Cruz and slapping on the figure four. Cruz is so desperate to win, he even uses the referee as a shield to block a flying attack from Scurll. With the ref out, he plants Scurll with a fireman’s carry into a sitout slam, before grabbing a chair to put the finish beyond doubt. The number one contender, El Ligero, heads to the ring to stop this nefarious assault, grabbing the chair out of Cruz’s hands. A superkick from Ligero misses his target, nailing Scurll in the face…and Ligero shrugs and walks off! Cruz, ever the opportunist, pins Scurll and the groggy referee has another wherewithal to slap the mat three times, giving Cruz victory in his first title defence,

Every match brought something to the table on his show – there were no duds. From Hitchman and Andrews tearing the house down, to the PROGRESS debut of Jimmy Havoc and the El Ligero heel turn (?…if that is what we saw), the show begins the build to Chapter 3 nicely – and I, for one, look forward to watching.

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