The Garage is a legendary music venue, and it was a coup for Progress Wrestling to book their first show there. With rows of seating set out close to the ring, and more chairs on the stage, with standing area by the bar, it was organised beautifully with great sightlines all round.
Which is fortunate, because there was so much going on in the ring you really didn’t want to miss it.
The first half of the show were the quartet of match-ups to select the finalists for the four-way to contest the inaugural Progress Wrestling title. The opener was El Ligero v Noam Dar, and this was a compelling bout. I know I’ve said it a million times before but Dar really is destined for the very, very top. The crowd were noisily behind El Ligero, with a “Scotland sucks!” chant starting just as the bell rang, prompting Dar to yell: “Scotland’s only up there! He’s from Mexico! That’s the other side of the world!” And he did have a point. Still, the crowd were firmly behind El Ligero – arriba! – and were delighted when he won.
In the second match, Nathan Cruz was welcomed to the ring by a chant of “shit Zack Ryder”, and Colossus Kennedy was greeted as “Funkasaurus”. This was a strange match-up, as the ones featuring giants usually are, but Cruz managed to get everyone booing him en route to victory, so mission accomplished for him.
The third match featured the bill’s big import, Colt Cabana. An aside – when I arrived at the venue, he was manning the merchandise stall and looking a bit lost, so I went to talk to him. He admired my CM Punk vest, and we talked about Money in the Bank and the Wrestling Road Diaries (volume 2 should be out this summer). He was so personable I’ve nearly forgotten the grudge I hold against him for the awful tasteless offensive joke Steve Corino made on The Art of Wrestling.
Anyway, Cabana was up against Loco Mike Mason in the absence of RJ Singh, who pulled out from the show due to a family emergency. Mason’s gimmick is that of a crazed dog (seriously), and his manager Becky James drags him to the ring on a lead. There was all sorts of japery involving tennis balls, a segment where Mason bit Cabana’s neck resulting in the American shouting, “Ref! I’ve got RABIES!”, and obviously there was interference from James and a cheating win for Mason in the end.
And the first half finished with one of the best matches I’ve seen possibly ever – two Friends of TOWIS, and the LDRS of the New School, Marty Scurll and Zack Sabre Jr. It looked like ZSJ was going to play the heel at first, coming out with a gorgeous expression of pure contempt on his face, but it turned out to be an evenly contested fair fight with fantastic technique on display. It began with Scurll kissing Sabre, which was funny in its surprise element but also oddly touching – these boys genuinely love each other. Bless. Then they proceeded to kick and slap the hell out of each other, working wonderfully stiffly, and with ZSJ’s trademark move being met with a cheer of “ARMBAR!” from the crowd. I fear that when the DVD of this show is released you will be able to hear me screeching, “COME ON, ZACK!” at one audible point, but hey ho – my cheers came to naught as Scurll took the win and the pair embraced.
During the interval, I finally managed to get my hands on a ladies’ fit LDRS t-shirt, which I’ve been after for ages, and I was glad to see Mark Andrews representing Defend Indy Wrestling and selling their excellent shirts and hoodies (albeit on the warmest day of the year so far).
The second half opened with the BWC Scarlo Scholarship match between defending champion Xander Cooper and challengers Dazzling Darrell Allen and Zack Diamond Gibson. Cooper defended successfully with style and made 250 new enemies with his heel attitude and aggression – even when he got applauded for a move he wasn’t happy: “I do one suplex and I get a clap?” Of course, that triggered a chant of “YOU’VE GOT CLAP!”, which annoyed him even more.
And then the afternoon concluded with the title match elimination four-way between El Ligero, Nathan Cruz, Loco Mike Mason and Marty Scurll. This one went all round the venue, with acrobatics, beer spills, chair shots and even Scurll downing a pint in the ring. I did think that Mason did look a little out of place in both his matches, but he couldn’t have been thoroughly prepared for the afternoon having been drafted in at such short notice. After the first two eliminations, we were down to Cruz and Scurll for the title, and a ref bump contrived to hand the first Progress title to Cruz.
Ah yes, the title. No ordinary belt is good enough for Progress, apparently. No. They have a staff. A big old staff. With an eagle on. Which was greeted as “NAZI STAFF!” by the crowd. Ring announcer Jim Smallman assured us that it wasn’t actually a Nazi staff, so I suppose we’ll have to take his word for it.
Oh, and just a note to the boys sitting in front of me. It’s not fun or clever to heckle everything, or to shout things if you think you’ve seen a mistake, or to shout out moves before they’re performed, and then giggle at how very wise you are. Nobody’s impressed at your knowledge. You just look stupid for spending three hours at an event that you clearly think you’re much too good for.
So thus concludes Chapter One of Progress. Chapter Two is scheduled for the end of June. It’ll have to be a hell of a bill to live up to this one – won’t it be fun to find out?