As regular readers will know, Royal Ramblings have been on tour, taking in the best the UK indie wrestling scene has to offer. In March, this took us to one of the most popular promotions in the country, Progress. The show at the 700-capacity London electric ballroom sold out in an astonishing 36 minutes and the crowd was certainly in full voice. They had reason to be, as it was clear to us that for Progress, it's all about the fans.
For days in advance, those on the facebook fan network had been discussing their plan, the most anticipated matches and more. Progress have managed to build not just a fan base but a community and it is clearly paying dividends.
The show itself began with an introduction from one of the trio of Progress masterminds, Jim Smallman. A stand-up comedian, Smallman has the ability to deliver banter at breakneck speed and the crowd, to give it back in spades. Whilst the mood was boisterous, we were reminded of the Progress mantra ("don't be a dick") and the crowd gladly obliged, delivering a respectful homage to Drew McDonald and El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo.
Progress went straight into action, with the 'Download Dog' delivering the message that the remarkable promotion will be staging shows during the music festival. So clever is the team's booking that this announcement facilitated an angle with the 'banned' Jimmy Havoc promptly appearing to deliver his verdict to Download, sending his acolytes Paul Robinson and The Omega to attack the festival mascot.
Once the fracas had cleared we started with proudly Liverpudlian Zack Gibson (cue 'where's my car stereo' chant), against a debuting ICW star, Damo O'Conner. Damo was particularly impressive in a match which told a good story but a fork to the head won Gibson a strong first bout.
Next up was Sha Samuels, who had set a 'ProJo' challenge. The ProJo (open for stag and hen parties!) is the Progress training school and they invest heavily in their future. The rookie that deigned to answer the challenge was Kyle Ashmore and if the provocation of Samuels was anything to go by ("fat Cantona"), the crowd were behind him. Despite a nice running knee and shooting star press from Ashmore, who shows real potential, it was the veteran Samuels who took the bout.
Next, we had tag-team action as Germany's Sumerian Death Squad (Tommy End & Michael Dante) faced 'Sweet Jesus!' (two more ProJo graduates, Chuck Mambo & "Pastor" William Eaver). This was great, fluid tag-team wrestling. The no-nonsense style of SDS is a joy to watch and whilst the brits held their own, a combination of finishers saw SDS earn their shot at the Progress tag titles.
In the pre-interval bout, Mark Haskins (again suffering unyielding Haaassskins taunts) faced Rampage Brown. The no DQ match moved from floor to unforgiving stage, to ring. There were some tremendous spots including Brown nearly lariating Haskin's head off and twice powerbombing him into a table. Haskins meanwhile used a coat hanger to attack Brown and then literally rubbed salt in his wounds. It was therefore in the face of significant adversity, that Brown got the win with a piledriver onto a chair. Devastating.
The second half commenced with the announcement that Progress was rolling out its own on-Demand service for 4.99 a month. Having left early owing to illness and now as customers, we are happy to recommend the service to all our readers. Another remarkable string in the progress bow.
The second half picked up where the first left off, with Eddie Dennis and Wild Boar taking on two of Progress' mystery bad guys, 'the faceless'. Fans have been kept guessing about this menacing group and the reveal will likely be big. The match was solid but the faceless retained their Progress tag-titles.
The penultimate bout set a cocky debuting (and genitally obsessed) Bubblegum against indy hot property "Flash" Morgan Webster. The match was well booked, ramping up the pace following the slower tag match. The two talents were looking to steal the show and did well, with Webster delivering a brilliant 450 splash for the win.
For those that have followed the story of Progress, you will know that Jimmy Havoc, the plucky underdog turned evil king, has been the champion basically forever. The main event was Progress' latest attempt to unseat him and even allowing for his alliance with Robinson, in Noam Dar, Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll and Dave Mastiff, Havoc faced a real challenge. A six-man match is no easy feat but these men proved themselves to be the jewels in the UK indy wrestling crown. There was move after brilliant move in the ring, with action thick and fast and early signature moves on show. There was elimination after elimination and a sheepish apology from Robinson for an attempted pin on Havoc. Ultimately though, it was down to Ospreay and Havoc with the latter winning following a menacing 'Chelsea smile' on the bottom rope. It was a wonderful match, all sound tracked by the chanting crowd. Progress wasn't done there though. "Flash" Morgan Webster was soon back out and given he has a title shot in the bag, served his 'insurance policy' on Havoc in the form of the returning London Riots, who will face Havoc and Robinson at Progress next show (any remaining tickets here).
Our first Progress show was a triumph. It is now clear why one can see Progress paraphernalia at so many other wrestling events. The company has given the show to the fans who own and are proud of it. We encourage you to be a part of it too.
Our next stop on tour was at the Fight Club Pro/Chikara show, the review of which will be up soon.