After a short break for me, I’m back with the next chapter of my tour of the world of PROGRESS wrestling, as I listen to The Ballad of El Ligero in preparation of his shot at Nathan Cruz’s PROGRESS Championship Title.
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The London Riots vs The Hunter Brothers
Opening up the show, we have the continuation of The London Riots desire to destroy every team that stands in their way as they go up against The Hunter Brothers, a brother tandem debuting at the show.
This is where I am open and honest about the watching of this show – I watched this match on its own, sans notebook, followed by the other five matches, with notebook. What this means is that a lot of what I am recalling for this match is from memory, and memory is definitely fallible.
Arguably, of all the matches on the card, this is the one that needs least notes, as you know what you are going to get out of the London Riots – no messing around abuse of their opponents. This is both a positive and a negative, as whilst it is always enjoyable to see, I’m still waiting for the ‘eureka moment’ where I see a London Riots match which is more than just fun. The match is booked how you would expect it to be – initial use of speed by The Hunter Brothers gives way to a beatdown by The Riots. Even as the Riots take control, you do see glimpses of real ability, the top rope belly to belly from Lynch a particular highlight. We also see an Exploder suplex, another big favourite with the fans.
After a reversal of the Riots’s finishing move, The Hunter Brothers begin to use their speed to get a couple of near falls, before Rob Lynch jumps over the top of one of the Brothers and goes down clutching his knee. The match stops as he is attended to, but it is all a ruse, and the Riots get back to their feet, throw out one Brother and nail the assisted sitout powerbomb for the victory. A good, solid opener – I’m looking forward to seeing The Riots against a team who can match them for power as I think that will allow them to really show what they are capable of.
RJ Singh vs Paul Robinson
Two men who have already seen time in the PROGRESS ring meet next, as we see RJ Singh face off against Paul Robinson. Singh still feels a little bit like a wrestler treading water – he seems to be positioned as a top member of the roster, yet seems to be kicking about in matches that arguably have little real relevance to the bigger picture.
The initial exchanges see Robinson utilise armdrags to control Singh before booting him hard after rolling through a pinning attempt. The match seems to revolve around Robinson’s attempts to hit a 619, the initial attempt seeing Robinson choose to hit a baseball slide on Singh’s entourage and a tope on Singh following his escape from the ring.
Eventually, Singh is able to take control with a beautiful tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, followed by an attack at ringside by Singh’s entourage. Singh does a good job of targeting the back, though his lackadaisical pin attempts leave Robinson ample opportunity to kick out. Robinson manages to fight back, hitting a springboard DDT, before missing a top rope legdrop, a spot that seems to be a favourite of his, if only to allow him to present some epic facial expressions. A second dodged 619 allows Singh to hit a double underhook backbreaker, yet a collision with one member of his team sees Singh taken out with a superkick for a double countout tease.
It is Robinson in the ascendancy towards the end, with a spinning wheel kick, roundhouse kick and Sliced Bread #2 leading to very close fall. One last attempt at the 619 is stopped by Singh’s team at ringside, allowing Singh to drop Robinson with a Gory Buster and lock in the Ethnic Submission for the submission victory. Before he leaves, Singh shakes hands with Robinson – is this the start of a face turn for the Bollywood superstar? I’m enjoying Singh, though I would like to see him in more of an actual programme to see what he is truly capable of.
Noam Dar vs Jimmy Havoc (Submission Match)
On paper, this is the match I’m most excited about – Dar, a submission expert, versus Havoc, a wrestler trying to prove he is more than just a proponent of the hardcore style. Dar makes it clear to the announcer that Havoc will lose if he uses weapons, foreshadowing events later in the match.
Dar stalls to begin the match, trying his best to avoid altercations with Havoc at all costs, especially following a dropkick and knee to the face in the corner. Dar takes control with a superkick and begins to work on the leg, before locking Havoc in a move I’ve dubbed ‘The Teabag Submission’. Proving his technical expertise, Havoc jabs a finger in Dar’s bum to break the hold – truly a sentence I never thought I’d write in a wrestling review. Dar returns to the knee whenever in doubt, controlling the pace of the match and working towards his submission finish.
The two men trade sleeperholds, but Dar always goes back to the knee as soon as things get dangerous. Going to the top rope, he is caught with a punch by Havoc, who locks in the sharpshooter. Unlike Dar, Havoc doesn’t have a submission finisher, so the tension is built around how he might take out Dar for the victory. The sharpshooter isn’t enough this time. Wrestling back control, Dar drops thumbtacks in the ring, almost enticing Havoc to use them. Jimmy even gets the chance, but a fireman carry slam is away from the tacks, before he grabs a broom and sweeps them out of the ring – wrestling at its finest!
Dar hits his signature foot stomp to the knee and gets a kneelock sinked in, only for Havoc to reach the rope. Havoc then decides to go through his repertoire of WWE submission finishers after an inverted piledriver: an armbar, crossface, ankle lock, figure four and mandible claw all used in his attempt to get the win. Dar, sensing victory slipping away, hits a low blow, before attempting to use the Florida Brothers’s finish of pretending to be hit by a briefcase shot by Havoc. The match is awarded to Dar, only for the announcer to alert the ref to the nefarious tactics being used. The match re-starts, only for Dar to catch Havoc unaware, slapping on the knee bar and utilising a bite to the foot to guarantee the submission victory. A very good match, and an enjoyable continuation of the storyline that sees Havoc trying to be taken seriously as a technical wrestler, yet being thwarted at every turn.
Mark Andrews vs Will Ospreay (Natural Progression Tournament)
Another match which, on paper, is very exciting. Mark Andrews has been a stand out wrestler of the first three chapters, whilst Ospreay knows how to use his agility to create excitement. This is a first round match in the Natural Progression tournament, the winner of the tournament getting a title shot.
Unsurprisingly, the men trade holds at the start of the match to show their equality. Andrews slaps in a bridging leglock, matched by a knee-assisted armbar from Ospreay. One of my favourite Andrews spots follows, as he trips Ospreay coming back off of the ropes, before dropping him with a headscissors takedown. The fight spills to the outside, with Ospreay nailing Andrews with what looked like a headfirst baseball slide – was a bit difficult to tell from the camera angle!
Ospreay took advantage, nailing a standing shooting star press, an elbow and pele kick in the corner before slapping on a chinlock. Andrews needed to pull out the big moves to wrest control from Ospreay, and he does just that – a springboard backflip into an inverted spinning DDT (…that’s how I’ll describe it)! It is mental, and just shows the capability Andrews has in the ring. He plants both feet square in Ospreay’s stomach with a standing double foot stomp, further impressing the crowd with a somersault senton.
Close falls follow for Ospreay, as he is able to plant Andrews with a tilt-a-whirl DDT, holding on to hit a devastating brainbuster and then hit an outragrous reverse hurricanrana off of the top rope! It seems like Andrews is about to be beaten, but he digs deep into his reserves, trading corner moves before avoiding a 450 splash. Ospreay rolls through on landing, only to be dropped with a springboard rana, the cradle providing enough leverage for Andrews to take the pinfall. A good match with men whose stars are on the rise – if anything, it would have been interesting to see them go a few minutes more. Still, well worth a look.
Stix vs Marty Scurll vs Dave Mastiff
A match that you could argue will set-up a potential Number One Contender for the PROGRESS Title, the penultimate match is a triple threat between Stix, Marty Scurll and Dave Mastiff. The initial stages of the match are pure comedy, playing off Scurll’s lack of size compared to the two bigger men – a slam on Mastiff never gets going, and Scurll is dropped by both men. We then see our first collision of the big men, as they barrel into each other in the middle of the ring, leading to a huge slam by Mastiff.
The match is full of incident, with Scurll eventually able to give as good as he got in the early going, including a running slap in the corner to Stix. This leads to an insane spot, as Scurll completely misses a tope out of the ring, plowing into the wooden seats at ringside! The two big men go at it in the ring, only for Scurll to make a miraculous recovery and slap on a sleeper hold on Stix. He even avoids an attempted vertical splash by Mastiff, and rocks Stix with a tornado DDT. Just as it feels that Scurll is getting his footing in the match, Nathan Cruz interferes! The two rivals fight through the crowd, leaving Stix and Mastiff to battle it out to the finish.
And battle they do. There is probably nothing I enjoy more than two agile big men beating seven shades out of each other, and that is what they proceed to do. Stix hits a huge shoulderblock off of the top rope and lands a senton, only for Mastiff to no-sell the move, showing Stix how it is done with a rolling fireman’s carry and senton of his own. He attempts a powerbomb, but Stix reverses it with a backbody drop and gets a near fall with his spinning bossman slam. Visibly frustrated, Stix is caught napping by Mastiff, who slips behind, crushes him with a German suplex into the corner, followed by a huge cannonball in the corner for the three count. You have to believe that Mastiff will get a title shot in the near future, though Scurll with have his own arguments to make after being taken out of the match by Cruz.
Nathan Cruz vs El Ligero (PROGRESS Title Match)
Speaking of Cruz, the main event is up next. A heel vs heel title match seems a bit of an odd piece of booking, but PROGRESS have done a good job at making Cruz hugely unlikeable, whilst Ligero retains some of the likeability that makes him the easy crowd favourite. Before the match begins, Cruz insists that Marty Scurll is banned from ringside, a decision that the owner is forced into by Cruz’s insistence that he will walk out of the match if Scurll turns up. The bell rings, and the match is underway.
Without question, this is the best match I’ve seen so far. The first ten minutes (or close to) are spent fighting around the ringside, through the crowd and into the top section of the building. Ligero primarily controls Cruz during this segment, throwing Cruz into the chairs before hitting a dropkick onto the chairs. Cruz does give as good as he gets though, planting Ligero on a wooden merchandise table that has no give whatsoever. When they battle into the top section, Cruz takes a bump over the balcony, to be met by Ligero with a beautiful springboard senton to wipe him out! After a suplex onto the chairs by Ligero, the match is finally able to head back into the ring.
The passion and desire for the belt doesn’t dissipate, as we see Cruz pulling out all the stops to retain the title. A release German suplex is followed by a picture perfect slingshot back suplex. Neither man takes control for too long though, and Ligero hits a leaping DDT to tease double countout. Both men get to their feet, Ligero rocking Cruz with a leaping enziguiri, Cruz retaliating with a lungblower. Not to be denied, Ligero is able to hit White Noise for a close two count.
A springboard is met with an ace crusher by Cruz for another near fall, before Ligero has his last concerted period of offense, hitting a cannonball into Cruz whilst he is in the tree of woe position, and a splash off of the top rope. Cruz isn’t the champion for no reason, and hits Show Stolen, only for Ligero to kick out! He hits it again…and Ligero kicks out at one! Cruz doesn’t know what to do, so he blasts Ligero with the kick that got him victories in Chapter 1, only to see Ligero kick out twice more for two counts. Ligero has taken all of Cruz’s best shots, and manages to lock in a double underhook submission lock with a body vice, leaving Cruz no choice but to tap! El Ligero is the new PROGRESS Champion!
A great, great finish to a very good show overall. The last four matches are a great stretch of action, with the first two matches both solid exhibitions of wrestling. El Ligero as champion isn’t what I expected to see – I thought Cruz would retain before another match against Scurll – but I’m pleasantly surprised. By turning Ligero into a no nonsense proto heel, his run to the title has been booked exceptionally well. Now, to wait and see who his first challenger will be.