PROGRESS hits the trilogy as we enter into Chapter 3. The big names are still there, vying for the right to call themselves the best that PROGRESS has to offer, yet we also get to see some of the best the UK indy scene has to offer enter the PROGRESS ring.
Noam Dar vs Paul Robinson
I think PROGRESS have stumbled onto a great formula here – stick Dar in the opening match for guaranteed gold. He is also guaranteed to get the fans fired up, as they like nothing more than abusing Dar. Paul Robinson, a wrestler I saw in the flesh as one half of the Swords of Essex, is the replacement for MK Mckinnan. I’m pretty happy with this, as Robinson interests me far more than MK. This does mean that the match does, in places, feel like it has been thrown together a little, but with two wrestlers like this, it is definitely a solid outing.
Dar’s assault on Robinson’s knee (and other joints) sees Dar control the majority of the match. The wrist and knee stamps just make Dar look like an arsehole, coupled with such heelish moves as the chewing gum in the mouth and a good old thumb to the eye. The match as a competition picks up as soon as Robinson is able to utilise his speed, nailing Dar with a tope and a springboard forearm. A wheelbarrow kick by Dar is followed swiftly by a superkick from Robinson, and the match is a better offering as they trade moves. The airplane spin/northern lights suplex is dished out by Dar, whilst Robinson nail a picture perfect blue thunder bomb to get a close fall.
In the end, it is the risk taking nature of Robinson that costs him the match, as he lands hard on a missed legdrop off of the top rope. A fisherman suplex, followed by a brutal fisherman buster, isn’t enough for Dar to win, but he grabs a leg on the kickout and locks in the leg grapevine for the tap out victory. Dar is slowly moving up the ladder – does that mean he’ll no longer be in the opening match? Colour me unhappy.
Xander Cooper vs Mark Andrews
In terms of opening my eyes, these two men have arguably impressed me the most, both as characters and as wrestlers. This is for the Scarlo Scolarship title, Xander having attacked Andrews at Chapter 2. There is some fan interaction/stalling at the start, followed by Andrews taking control, utilising his speed to keep himself one step ahead of the challenger in the match. His momentum is stopped, however, as Cooper hits him with a kick to the face, following up with a dual action neckbreaker, the first to Cooper’s knee, the second to the mat.
Cooper controls the match at a more methodical pace, yet never truly looks like he gets Andrews in a position to take the title off of him. Indeed, Andrews is able to fight back, dropping Cooper with several kicks, a full nelson atomic drop (Bubba Bomb) and a springboard crossbody block. Andrews than lands one of the most amazing, yet also confusing, moves I’ve seen in a wrestling ring – a standing 540 (…I’m not good with math, that might be wrong…), landing head and back first on Cooper for a nearfall.
Even though the champion was in control, Cooper opportunistically nailed an STO to allow him to head to the top rope. He missed the resulting moonsault, but then dropped the champ with a violent straitjacket backstabber. Only the champions presence of mind allowed him to keep the belt, as he rolled to the outside. The resultant pinfall was also stopped by a foot on the rope, Andrews too hurt to kick out. Thinking he clearly needed to up the ante, Cooper tried to hit him with an avalanche straitjacket backstabber, only for Andrews to block it, knocking Cooper off of the top. One shooting star press later, and the champion has retained. A good match from two impressive wrestlers who I am really growing to enjoy.
The London Riots vs The Bastard Squad
The Bastard Squad are the team of Danny Garnell and Darell Allen, a name gained via a vote before the card (a very good name at that). Unsurprisingly, with the Riots in the match, the fight starts off with a brawl, The Bastard Squad taking initial control as Allen nailed a nice armdrag followed by a huracanrana. The match heads to ringside, and a Fire Thunder Driver on the floor has Garnell in a lot of trouble, garnering a ‘holy shit’ chant out of the crowd. A chair is stolen by the Riots off of a fan at ringide, only for Allen to hiptoss one Riot into the other, destroying the chair in the process!
As the match settles down, the Bastard Squad take control in the ring. Lynch and Garnell trade chops, before Garnell drops him with a beautiful german suplex and a DDT. Allen uses his speed to continue the charge, knocking both Riots down with a missile dropkick, before monkey flipping one into the other. A standing submission is locked in by Allen, only for a facebuster to finally see The Riots take over in the match.
As I expected when the match was announced, Darell Allen is the face in peril, as we see a second rope foot stomp and an exploder suplex from the Riots. They effectively cut the ring in half, cutting off several attempts by Allen to make the tag. Finally, Allen is able to make the hot tag to Garnell, and Garnell works over both members of the Riots, including nailing a beautiful swinging DDT off of the second rope. A wiffed top rope move by Garnell allows Lynch to nail him with a spear, before launching Allen off of the top rope with an overhead belly to belly suplex.
The ref loses control of the final portion of the match, with all four men fighting around the ring and ringside area. In an attempt to repeat the missile dropkick from earlier, Allen heads to the top rope but is caught coming off by the Riots. Allen is thrown in the air and unceremoniously dumped in a sitout powerbomb. Three seconds later, and The Riots are victorious. Not content with that, they pillmanise Garnell’s leg, before offering up an open challenge going forward. A suitably hard hitting match, with the correct guys going over. It will be interesting to see who they end up facing further down the line.
Jon Ryan vs Jimmy Havoc
Fresh from his defeat against one of his former trainers in Chapter 2, Havoc faces another trainer of his in the form of Jon Ryan. The ring introductions promise no hardcore and no blood, with Havoc also promising in his inset promo to prove how good he is as a technical wrestler. In the early feeling out process, that is exactly what he does, as he has Ryan on the mat (allowing him to give him a quick spoon in the process), before sending him to the outside. As Havoc goes for a tope, however, he gets nailed with a frying pan by Ryan for the DQ victory…
…or at least it seems. Havoc is busted wide open, but grabs the microphone and implores the owner to allow them to continue the match with No DQ rules. With the immortal words ‘fucking kill him’, the match restarts.
What follows is a car crash of brutality and violence, something that I really wasn’t expecting and was hard to watch, yet even harder to look away. Kendo sticks, cheese graters, staple guns, pins and barbed wire are all used to damaging effect. Ryan wipes out an ironing board with a powerbomb to Havoc. Surgical gloves get stapled to both Ryan and Havoc, whilst Havoc also gets a staple shot to the groin for his troubles. Havoc even finds time to whip out a bat covered in nails to further damage to Havoc’s lacerated forehead.
Havoc comes close to victory late on, with a death valley driver onto the thumbtacks getting a close fall, and a double foot stomp onto the barbed wire board. The finish, though, is outrageous. Ryan plants Havoc with a package tombstone piledriver on the nails, before holding on and throwing Havoc head and neck first into the barbed wire board with a wheelbarrow suplex. The three count is inevitable, as is the standing ovation.
Rob Cage vs RJ Singh
After the interval, this match feels like it is designed to be a bit of a break, with the tension and drama of the Havoc/Ryan match still fresh in the memory of the fans in attendance. Cage has a chance to become part of RJ Singh’s team, though he promises to give all Singh’s possessions to the fans if he does. Initially, Cage takes control in the match, using his weight advantage to manhandle Singh. With so many people at ringside, it isn’t surprising when they get involved, Singh dropping a distracted Cage with a neckbreaker.
Still, Cage is able to fight back, hitting a fireman’s carry into a lungblower, a belly to belly suplex and a shining wizard to both Singh and one of his entourage (who I couldn’t quite make out the name of). However, there are two men at ringside watching Singh’s back, and as Cage goes to the top rope and the ref is distracted, The Director pushes Cage off of the top rope. This leaves him easy prey to the Ethnic Submission, leaving Cage no choice but to tap. A decent, if unspectacular match – I’ll be interested to see Singh in matches of more importance before I truly make a judgement on him.
Stixx vs The Lion Kid
A re-match from a surprise upset during Chapter 2, Stixx looks to avenge his defeat against the Lion Kid. He isn’t messing around either, as Lion Kid is assaulted before the bell. The fans in attendance and the viewers are informed that Kid has picked up a knee injury, but has decided to still compete, which sets the tone for what is to come.
What follows is dismantling of Kid by Stixx, with several hope spots from Kid which are made even more difficult to pull off due to the injury. This is a well booked match, as you get to see Stixx do what he should do, brutalise Kid, whilst Kid build real sympathy with the crowd. Stixx wraps Kid up in a single leg crab, swings him around in a single leg swing and even has the opportunity to lock on a top rope anklelock when blocking a comeback attempt by Kid. The closest Kid comes to victory is with two quick flash pins, but it is only a matter of time before he is defeated. Stixx eventually puts Kid out his misery with a crucifix bomb. Whilst not the best match, a well booked match, and a match that rebuilds Stixx, yet also makes Kid look good in the process.
El Ligero and Nathan Cruz vs Greg Burridge and Dave Mastiff (Marty Scurll the guest referee)
The only complaint I have here is that the ending feels all too telegraphed from the start. Ligero is the number one contender to Cruz’s title, so has no real reason to work with him. Also, Scurll doesn’t like Cruz or Ligero, so can only really be a ticking timebomb waiting to go off against the heel team.
Still, with the quality of wrestlers in this main event, the match is good and enjoyable in equal measure. A lot of it does centre around Ligero and Cruz’s lack of team work – Ligero refuses to tag in early in the match, allowing Cruz to be worked over by the two faces. When Ligero finally gets into the ring, he is caught in a stalling suplex by Mastiff, made even worse by Burridge poking him with a foam finger.
I love Mastiff. Big men who can move, but also use their bulk in their offense are some of my favourites, and Mastiff is able do that with aplomb. He drops both men with a double suplex after a failed tag team move, before launching Ligero with a deadlift German suplex. He is stopped with a lungblower, yet later on, manages to block a crossbody block off the top rope from Ligero just by standing there – an excellent spot that got a laugh from me.
Inevitably, Ligero annoys Scurll by pushing him away before hitting Mastiff with a suspended top rope foot stomp. Scurll counts to two, and then refuses to count the three count. Seconds later, he refuses to count a pinfall for Cruz. A miscommunication sees Ligero hit Cruz with a massive superkick and in current Ligero style, he shrugs and walks off. Cruz is out, but a cannonball senton in the corner by Mastiff puts the exclamation mark on the victory for the faces.
With the title match at the next Chapter, there is still time for more Cruz vs Ligero interaction, Ligero interrupting a Cruz promo at the end of the show for a pull apart brawl. The title match should be exceptional.
I felt that this show lacked a little from Chapter 2, though I’ve never quite seen something like Ryan and Havoc. What PROGRESS is doing, whether this show could match up to Chapter 2 or not, is offering shows that are worth watching, and genuinely offer highspots on every card. Onwards and upwards to Chapter 4!