After taking most of the month out to try (and fail, admittedly) NaNoWriMo, I’m back to watching chronological PROGRESS shows in a hope of catching up sometime in the next few years! At Chapter 10, we saw the dastardly deeds of Jimmy Havoc, demanding the title shot that was written into his contract after jumping Mark Andrews, the only just crowned PROGRESS champion after he had challenged Rampage Brown following the Natural Progression tournament final! That’s a mouthful for sure, but what we did see is the complete Havoc heel mode in play, forcing Jim Smallman to come into the ring and count the pinfall. The question becomes – where does Havoc go from here, and does he have what it takes to beat Zack Sabre Jr., a man he lost to at Chapter 7?
Nathan Cruz and Mark Haskins vs Stixx and Dave Mastiff (PROGRESS Tag Team Tournament Match)
The ongoing feud between Screw Indy Wrestling and Stixx continues in the opening bout, with Dave Mastiff showing up to even up the numbers. With the Bhangra Knights/London Riots draw, this is for a spot straight in the final, and SIW waste no time by jumping Stixx before Mastiff has even hit the ring. However, when he does, it is the strength of the two faces that allows them to keep large portions of the match under their control, with an early sliding clothesline by Stixx taking Haskins’ head off.
Cruz is good comedy foil in this match, refusing to get into the ring with Mastiff at several opportunities. This leaves Haskins to take a lot of punishment until he catches Stixx heading up top, stopping him with a kick and dropping him hard with knees to the back. Unsurprisingly this sees Cruz head into the ring, where SIW hit a beautiful slingshot back suplex to the bigger man. We see a lot of the standards of tag team style – blind tags, tags cut off by the heel getting into the ring illegally – which all build up nicely to the Mastiff hot tag.
The referee loses all control at this point, allowing some big Mastiff assaults on SIW (a big back drop followed by a senton on Haskins a highlight), before SIW whip out some interesting tandem offense in a neckbreaker/double foot stomp and a fireman’s carry bomb followed by a Haskins’ kneedrop from the top rope – Mastiff just aware enough to break up the three count. Katerina Rose, the valet for SIW, interferes at this point, blocking a Mastiff cannonball attempt, allowing Cruz to knock Mastiff to the outside and Haskins to drop Stixx with a modified michinoku driver for the three count.
A solid match which worked the tag formula well – I’ll be interested to see how Cruz/Haskins do in the final.
Josh Bodom vs Flash Morgan Webster (Natural Progression Tournament)
I don’t like Josh Bodom. I’m not even sure why. He just looks pretty obnoxious. I’ve seen him wrestle once live, and now once on tape, and I find it hard to formulate an opinion outside of general disdain for what he offers, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Flash Morgan Webster is a guy that I’ve never seen before, so this match could have been all sorts of wrong for me.
However, it was an interesting and competitive match, even if it didn’t set the world on fire. Bodom did a lot of work on the arm in the initial stages, whilst Webster tried to pick up momentum to use his array of high-flying moves. What started off as a fairly friendly contest saw Bodom raise the bar with a hiptoss straight into a vicious knee to the face which I particularly enjoyed.
When Webster did finally get his chance, we saw a nice range of athletic moves, from a top rope huracanrana to a moonsault press off of the second turnbuckle. I thought Bodom had done enough to pinch victory when he nailed his rope assisted piledriver…thing, but that was only enough for a two count, as was a high angle german suplex. Following some brawling on the top rope, Webster was able to knock Bodom down and nail a 450 for the victory and progression in the tournament. I’ll be interested to see what Webster might offer in a more competitive match where he doesn’t have to play ragdoll for the most part. As for Bodom? Meh. I guess we’ll see if he shows up again.
Noam Dar vs El Ligero
In proof that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, Dar is cheered heartily upon his return to a PROGRESS ring since he fought El Ligero for the title at Chapter 7. This is a match that is now technically making this feud a trilogy, and there is good feeling all around, especially when Dar and Ligero give a jacket and Mexican flag to fans respectively.
Ligero is 2-0 in their previous encounters in PROGRESS, and a lot of this match revolves around Dar’s desire and ability to come back from serious injury to compete against a man who has beaten him already. They trades moves early, and we get a range of different Dar songs – it is pretty easy to replace any song lyrics with the word ‘DAR’. Ligero shows the first hint of an edge, mocking Dar’s Champagne pose following a fake out dive.
Dar, as always, targets the knee, hitting a big kick to the knee and a dragon screw off the top. This is all working towards the Champagne Super Kneebar, but upon first locking it in, Ligero has enough to reach the ropes. A two count is gained following a fisherman buster, and Dar even finds an opportunity to bust out a Khali Chop after avoiding a Ligero C4L, again for a two count.
The intensity of this match escalated quickly, as Dar’s collarbone injury flares up and Ligero sends him out to ringside. We get a countout tease after Ligero plants Dar hard on some chairs at ringside, and little of the friendliness and cheer is evident now. Ligero goes for the submission with a cross face, but then sees another C4L attempt blocked into a kneebar, followed by an STF after the rope break. The collarbone injury threatens to derails Dar’s momentum as he can’t lift Ligero, but he somehow manages to kick out at 1 from a C4L that connects, before countering another attempt into a roll-up for the three count. An excellent match, just as you would expect from both men. We get handshakes, and a funny Dar promo about his return to PROGRESS to wrap up the first half.
FSU vs The Swords of Essex (PROGRESS Tag Team Tournament Match)
Another match in the PROGRESS Tag Team Tournament sees the newly reinstated Will Ospreay team with his Swords of Essex partner in Paul Robinson going up against FSU, the team of Mark Andrews and Eddie Dennis. This is one of those matches where I bemoan that I review a lot of these by watching and writing up on my phone – a man’s fingers are not designed to move this quickly!
The first sign of what is in store is a multiple revolution headscissors by Mark Andrews on Will Ospreay, but Eddie Dennis is quick to show he is no slouch by donning a Rey Mysterio Jr. mask to become Eddie Mysterio Jr. and bust out some lucha armdrags! As the mask comes off, he plants Robinson with an excellent chokeslam, just the way Dennis should be in the ring with a guy so much smaller than him. FSU show some unique double teams as Andrews uses a surfboard to send his opponent into a Dennis spinout back breaker.
By now, these wrestlers no each other very well, which is highlighted by a midair collision by Andrews and Robinson on a crossbody attempt. This allows the match to kick into high gear as we see Ospreay nail a shooting star press to the outside, whilst back in the ring, Andrews lands his standing sky twister press.
If there was one complaint about this match, it feels that there were several moves that should have been endings, in particular a double foot stomp assisted God’s Last Gift by Eddie Dennis that got a two count. The Swords of Essex were no slouches, with one of their own double teams seeing Ospreay hit a throw up ace crusher before Robinson nailed a running shooting star (again, only for a two). The end saw Dennis throw Ospreay in a crucific bomb position into the turnbuckle with the added impact of an Andrews’ enziguri, before Ospreay’s fate was sealed with an Andrews’ springboard huracanrana. The crowd chant of ‘You’re all mental’ was correct. Very entertaining, if a little overkill in places.
Rampage Brown vs Tommy End
When you see these names on the marquee, you know it is going to be a slugfest, and a slugfest it was. Brown controlled the majority, an expectation considering the cache he already has built up within PROGRESS compared to End, yet End had his moments, especially as the match moves towards its conclusion.
Brown slowed the match down early, using European uppercuts and a couple of big strikes to drop End hard on the mat – End choosing to bump a bit like a tree falling to really emphasise the power of Brown’s strikes. A big back suplex and a Russian leg sweep allows Brown to keep control, and we see a grounded bear hug, a move that isn’t exactly common but works to Brown’s gameplan of grinding the dangerous striker down.
End is deceptively agile at times though, and following a succession of big kicks, he lands a springboard crossbody following a blocked springboard moonsault attempt. He is not to be denied, however, and he does land his springboard moonsault to the outside. An attempt at the double foot stomp comes too early, and Brown decimates him with a flapjack and a falcon arrow. End still has enough in him to fight back, but a powerbomb blocks a huracanrana attempt, and a springboard by End sees him hit out of the sky with a lariat for the three count for the big win after losing his title.. The match did exactly what it said on the tin. Following the match, Brown also had a few words, promising that he was back to regain his title against whoever he had to.
Jimmy Havoc vs Zack Sabre Jr. (PROGRESS Title Match)
Jim Smallman makes the announcement at the start that Chris Roberts will not be referee (following Havoc attacking him the previous chapter) and will be replaced by Marty Scurll. This seems to put the match firmly in Sabre’s control, and Havoc, sensing this predicament, is quick to get on the mic and offer for the match not to go ahead. With no luck, Havoc jumps Jr., but Zack is quick to fight back with unorthodox heads to the stomach. An early armbar attempt sees a rope break, and the main event is off with a bang.
Havoc kicks Sabre Jr. out of the sky on a tope attempt, leaving him an opportunity to brtualise him at ringside. However, he misses a cannonball on a seated Sabre Jr., leaving him to crash into a steel chair and then be subjected to several kicks against the ringposts. The inevitably happens though, as Havoc dodges, leaving Sabre Jr. to hit the metal and turn the tide of the match in Havoc’s favour.
Havoc is relentless with the knee, using a figure four leglock and a single leg boston crab to really wear down the challenger. Sabre Jr. is not an opponent to take lightly though, and he catches Havoc rushing in with a kick to the chest, before finally hitting his topes with three in a row for good measure. An armbar on the stage had Havoc tapping, but as this is not a falls count anywhere match, it continues on.
Havoc becomes even more desperate, slapping on a sleeper following a DVD onto his knee. This becomes the gameplan for Havoc, as he practically no sells a back suplex and German suplex to try and lock the choke back on. Eventually, Sabre Jr. drops him with a dragon suplex for two, before hitting the penalty kick for an agonisingly close two count. We even see a super dragon suplex in Sabre’s attempts to win the title, but that also only gets him a two count.
It was unlikely to be a Havoc defense without drama, and Scurll eats a wayward kick and is knocked out at ringside. We get another ‘phantom tap’, this time in the ring, but realising the situation, Sabre Jr. breaks the hold. This allows Havoc to hit a low blow, drop the Go Home Driver onto the staff (moved by a random security guard at ringside who is apparently working for Havoc)… and still only gets a two count! Havoc deems Scurll surplus to requirements now, and drops him with a DVD, before locking back in the choke on Sabre Jr. He promises to ‘kill’ him if Smallman doesn’t come in and drop the arm three times … but Sabre Jr.’s arm doesn’t drop at the third time. This is just prolonging the inevitable though, as Sabre Jr.’s fightback is shortlived and Smallman drops the arm three times to give Havoc his first ‘proper’ win in PROGRESS.
I really enjoyed the match, but I’m slightly worried about the ‘extra curricular’ activities of the main event. To me, there was a little too much. You had:
- Two phantom taps
- A ref bump twice
- A ‘guard’ interfere – only for a two count
- Sabre Jr. tease getting out of the choke, only to be choked out ten second later
I get the twists and the teases, but I am worried about the law of diminishing returns. Hopefully not all Havoc’s matches will degenerate into this type of angle, especially when PROGRESS has shown itself more than capable enough of running angles outside of matches that are worthwhile.
As always, a really good show with no dull matches. Whether areas of the PROGRESS booking is starting to border on overkill is yet to be seen though – guess it is time to load up Chapter 12!