Progress Wrestling report, 25th June 2012
By Ed (Gorilla Position Team)
Progress implies forward momentum, evolution and differentiation. Progress wrestling had its second show on Sunday. Whether or not it achieved the grand ambition of its title is open to debate but what few fans who attended would disagree with is that they put on a fine show and the future looks bright for this fledgling company.
The Garage in Highbury is a smallish music venue; your writer was last there 14 years ago, when I lived just up the road, to watch the John Spencer Blues Explosion. That was a noisy night. This was a noisy afternoon. The 3.30pm bell time clearly had the football in mind and this thoughtfulness pervaded the show. The promotion is aiming for a Pro Wrestling Guerrilla feel, a mixture of hard-hitting puro style action with lots of laughs on the way. With this in mind, no one under 16 was getting in. Apart from the 10 year old in the front row. So there is a bar, right? And you are in a nightclub? So have a drink. Have two or three. Enjoy the show. The small venue held about 200, although probably could take another hundred. The promoters played of this intimacy. Wrestlers mingled with fans, there was a half-time angle at the gimmick table, crowd brawling was up-close and personal. The promoter is a stand-up comic? Have him MC, get the crowd laughing. Played to strengths, an identity emerged.
This is not to say the show was perfect or that this promotion is the next big thing. It is not. At this level, fans who attend shows will go back and they will sell some DVDs. The British market can sustain this, and I hope they do well. But the promotion thrived on the night-club vibe and this occasionally spoiled the otherwise excellent action. Is this adult only variation on the theme likely to engage fans like ECW did in the 90s? I’m not sure. Fans sick of the kid friendly WWE product will find a lot to like, though. Long term, assuming that ‘progress’ is based on realistic, slow expansion they can sell this place out. And that, as they say, is a start.
Onto the card. Opener saw Lion Kid take on Stixx, a burly Pitbull lookalike. It should be noted that the crowd chants were the highlight of this show. Lion Kid, a British worker with Zero One experience, has a slightly cheesy Lion king finish and turned the ‘yes!’ chants into ‘rar!’ chants with the mere raise of his paw. Stixx tried to break these claws by stomping on them. So this was the opener, then. The ropes looked slack, and at one point Stixx got his hand caught between them after taking a bump over the top, think Foley/ Vader/ ear. The lack of room at ringside also meant that dives were a tricky prospect, although Lion Kid’s double jump plancha puts the lie to that. Kid won with a rollup.
Second on the seven match card (just the right amount in my view) was the Scarlo scholarship match between two of the Scarlo wrestling school’s brightest prospects, Mark Andrews and the special-looking ‘Wild Boar’ Mike Hitchman. At 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide, Hitchman proved a good opponent for Andrew’s high flying. Andrews, baring more than a passing resemblance to Draco Malfoy received the best chant of the night- ’10 points to Slytherin!’- and at one point turned to the crowd and complained they had not popped after he has done a “fucking flip”. From that point on, all fucking flips were described as such by the crowd. A Dragon’s Gate card needs the “fucking flip” chant. So they had a wrestling school high-spot get-your shit-in kickout-from-package-piledriver kind of a match and fans enjoyed it. Malfoy won with a rollup.
Third was Naom Dar against the bland Darrell Allen. This was a showcase for Dar, a fine heel who has a Liam Gallagher gimmick. An excellent heel gimmick, rounded off with the judicious use of chewing gum and bags of personality, Dar put the most of the card to shame and this match was his showcase. After placing his gum into Allen’s mouth, Dar hit a double stomp off the top and a leg bar for the submission win. Lacking some basic psychology- don’t work the leg the whole match then have the guy with bad leg hop up and superkick- this was effective in what it set out to do. As a rule, much of the undercard overused spots. I saw three Misawa style suplex, hop up and roar spots and far too many rollup wins. Selling was, on the whole, poor although the second half of the show was much better.
Next up was Danny Garnell against Jimmy Havoc. There was some twitter stuff involved in this which I ignored. Havoc is a deathmatch wrestler whose gimmick is that he can actually wrestle although he prefers to use a chair. He brought a spoon to the ring, hidden in his kneepad, which the ref quickly found. The fans encouraged the wrestlers to spoon. They obliged. The comedy soon ended after a far-too vicious series of suplexes on Havoc culminating in the puro hop-up no sell spot. Again. Havoc won with a roll-up. For a death match wrestler, Havoc takes good care of his barnet. What would Ian Rotten say to this multi-layered tribute to boy bands past that lay resplendent on Jimmy’s head?
Interval, more drink, smoke, pull-apart at the gimmick table. Man tries to work me, feebly (“What’s this, the half time angle?” Man at gimmick stand “No mate, look they are really going for it!” Me “It’s an angle.” Man “No, they are fighting! Want to buy a shirt?” I walked away.)
Tag match next, and here I will highlight one of the problems with the show. Heat is heat- Dar managed to get it, as did Nathan Cruz in the main event. Cheap heat is just that and London Riot, one half of this match, were out to get it. They were not alone, but they were the worst. From the constant middle finger to the four letter abuse they hurled at the crowd these two bouncer lookalikes tried every shortcut in the book. If this was not enough they were given two streamlined 16 year olds to wrestle, the (ahem) Velocity Vipers. If they didn’t look 12, a name like that tells you all you need to know. And they had ‘Vipur’ on the hems of their pants. A fine pair of jobbers, they made the Jackson brothers of Generation Me look like a top-quality Hardy Boys tribute act. A loud ‘Justin Beiber’ chant was the highlight of this extended squash, one of the kids was carried out, leaving the partner to miss a double rotation moonsault (or a fucking flip as I like to call it) and get a clothesline finish for the pin. The London Riot then proceeded to give everyone the bird and tell us all to fuck off. Well done, boys.
Penultimate match was a three way for the number one contendership between RJ Singh (Tesco value Jinder Mahal), The Cockney Crusader Greg Burridge (playing face but needs to be a heel desperately, also fond of swearing) and El Ligero (star presence, El Generico gimmick, excellent worker). Face Burridge wasted little time in showing everyone what he had down his pants. Out came a pair of fluffy dice which he shook and wobbled and eventually simulated forced oral sex on one of Singh’s indyrific posse of about 8 people. He was also fond of calling people slags, and got the crowd to chant this. In the North of England, this man would be a heel. In fact, anywhere outside of London he would be a heel. Many of the Londoners in attendance hated him. And a two face on heel three-way makes no sense. Singh provided a highlight as he shouted “Ethnic submission!” before slapping on a camel clutch. Burridge fell to Ligero in the end with a- wait for it- rollup. Match was better than I have made it sound but ended as the Cockney Cockmaster called his opponents ‘pus filled cunt slags’. Nice.
Main event time, and Nathan Cruz tangled with the slick Marty Scurll in a two out of three fall match for the Progress championship. This ill-advised championship takes the form of a staff, rather than a belt, resplendent with a huge iron eagle perched on top. The ‘Nazi staff’ chant was as inevitable as it was funny, although the staff has got to go. Not a good idea. The two main eventers worked like main eventers, and there were near falls-a-plenty in the ring before Scurll nailed the larger Zak Ryder lookalike with a torture rack into a backstabber, an excellent move, for the pin. Second fall saw lots of crowd brawling, Cruz hitting Scurll with a DVD ONTO A SOFA a near count-out as Scurll sold this DVD by rolling about on the beer-soaked floor (far worse than the move I would imagine) before Cruz hit a tombstone to level things. Final fall ended when El Ligero ran out after a ref bump, went to kick Cruz, missed and hit Scurrl, shrugged heelishly and left. Cruz retains. Scurll cut a promo on Ligero and went to the bar as the show closed.
Slick and with a clear sense of its own identity, Progress is one to watch. Some of the talent needs to remember that if it looks like a cunt and talks like a cunt, it is a cunt. But with more shows like this- next one is in September and I will be in attendance- their following can only grow. And that is a very good thing for British wrestling.