Progress Wrestling UK Review
SSS16 Day 1: Saturday May 27th 2017
by Zahid Fayyaz
Progress recently had their annual SSS16 (Super Strong Style) tournament over the bank holiday weekend, at London’s Camden Electric Ballroom. Progress, for all those who don’t know, are a very highly regarded UK wrestling promotion, who have been around for 5 years, and who have had a very well-reviewed US debut over the Wrestlemania weekend and a future one coming up in August in New York. Out of the hot UK wrestling scene, Progress is one of the hottest. SSS16 is a 16 man knock out tournament over 3 days, with the winner getting a title shot at current Progress champion, Pete Dunne.
They sold out all 3 days of the SSS16 in 5 minutes, and the crowd is full of season ticket holding Ultras, as well as fans all the way from Italy, Canada and the Philippines for their first time. The atmosphere, as you can imagine, was electric. It’s all very friendly, with wrestler before, in the interval and after the show at the merchandise tables selling their t-shirts and taking photos. No paid meet and greets needed here!
It started off with co-owner and host, Jim Smallman, paying tribute to some ultra-fans whose kid was caught up in the Manchester bombings, and so were at the hospital with him instead of at the event. This led to a spontaneous 5 minute standing ovation, and some emotional reactions from Jim, so a sombre note.
I wasn’t taking notes during the shows, so it won’t be a play by play, but I’ll describe any super notable moves and explain who people are, as well as give a rating. Day 1 of the weekend is taken up with 8 first round matches.
Jeff Cobb v Nathan Cruz:
Nathan Cruz was the first ever Progress champion, and is a smarmy heel who hates ‘American indie wrestlers taking the spots of UK originals’. Jeff Cobb is a great ‘Big Lad’, who has had some great matches in EVOLVE and plays Mantoza is Lucha Underground. This is his Progress debut.
Jeff Cobb was the clear crowd favourite, and pretty dominated the match with his throws and crazy feats of strengths (like a hanging saito suplex and lifting Cruz up from the mat with a suplex), as well as his impressive standing SSP. Nathan got some heat on him with chop blocks, ramming him into the post, low blows, and a codebreaker, but no one really bought Cobb being in much trouble, and Jeff Cobb finished him off with the tour of the islands (spinning standing power slam) fairly early on into the match.
Grade: C It was one step up from a squash, but Cobb had some fun offence and the crowd really hated Cruz, so was a good atmosphere and there was good chemistry between the wrestlers.
Mark Haskins vs Flash Morgan Webster:
Mark Haskins is a Progress regular. He is a very good technical wrestler, a former champion who had to give the title up due to injury last year. He came back in January and is trying to make his move back to the world title. Flash Morgan Webster was also injured for most of 2016, and also came back in January this year. Flash Morgan has a ‘Mod’ gimmick, and is a much underrated high flyer.
As both wrestlers are faces, they started off with a handshake, before going to the mat to exchange armlocks and wristlocks. After a few minutes of this, they started with the strikes and high flying. Haskins hit a vicious plancha through the ropes and several nasty kicks to the chest, and concentrated an attack on Flash’s arm, leading to nasty bridging armbar. Flash managed to score with a swinging DDT, vicious head-butt (safe-style thankfully, to the chest) top rope missile dropkick and reversed Haskins rolling DVD into a dragon sleeper. However, Haskins managed to reverse a second DDT, and hitting the DVD, locked in his liontamer style cranked-back sharpshooter to win.
Grade: B+: This was a very evenly paced match, everything was smooth and the near falls at the end were extremely well done. Both wrestlers are underrated, and they managed to get across an extremely entertaining match
Travis Banks vs Jimmy Havoc,
Jimmy havoc is another former Progress Champion, who held it for a full year. He is a death match veteran, who is currently face and very much trying to get his title back. Travis Banks is a New Zealand wrestler, very highly regarded in UK wrestling circles, and is an excellent Benoit style grappler (minus the stupid headbutts).
Whilst both are faces, Bank’s offered handshake was met with a raised middle finger by Havoc, and they quickly starting laying into each other with chops and kicks, before brawling into the crowd and throwing each other into the crowd ( literally, there are no crowd barriers in Progress). Havoc hit his flying knees, top rope double stomps and clotheslines, Banks was whacking him with kicks and suplexes, as well as his top rope disaster kick (the Slice of Heaven) and cannonball in the corner. They had a great spot when Havoc threw chairs at Banks, who swatted them away with one hand. Banks then threw a chair full into Havoc’s face, who no sold it and gave him the ‘bring it on’ gesture for a massive pop. They had a great finishing sequence where Havoc tried for his rain maker finisher, only for Banks to kick the arm repeatedly. He then kicked Havoc in the head, got him the mat and kicked him in the side of his head repeatedly, before lifting him up from the mat into a Ki Crusher to finish him off.
A great match, with a lot of intensity and passion. Some of it was a little sloppy, but was extremely entertaining nonetheless.
Zack Sabre Jr vs David Starr
Everyone generally know Zack Sabre Jr by now. He came out without any of his other belts alas, so no ‘Zacky three belts’. David Starr is an excellent US based wrestler, who recently debuted for ROH, and who is known as the ‘man with a thousand nicknames’ ( Half of which were seemingly read out!). This weekend is his Progress debut.
The town men started off on the mat, before graduating up to strikes. Zack kept up the pressure with his range of submission moves, incredibly hard penalty kicks to the chest, and suplexes. David Starr matched him with strike, got an incredibly close near fall with a nasty brainbuster on the knee, some vicious german suplexes and a rolling elbow to the back of the head. Zack eventually got the duke with a nasty double arm bar variation, twisting Starr into a knot until he had no option but to tap.
This was match of the night in my opinion. Great matwork, and super smooth big moves with a lot of intensity. Two experienced indie wrestlers just giving each other hell.
Jack Sexsmith vs Zack Gibson,
Zack Gibson is an awesome heel from Liverpool. He’s got a good vicious streak and great promo skills. Jack Sexsmith is a newish wrestler, who is an underdog baby face with a story of overcoming prejudice due to his pansexual lifestyle. They have a backstory to this match, in that Zack has beaten Sexsmith twice before, once by submission and last time by countout. This is Sexsmith’s third try at getting a victory.
Winner of this match gets Zack Sabre Jr on day 2 for the quarter finals. Zack came out to his usual massive heat from the crowd. Jack came out to a massive pop, and with rainbow flags everywhere. Zack grabbed the mic for his usual pre-match promo routine, where his words are drowned out by the booing from the crowd. Zack called Sexsmith a joke, said how his ‘bullshit flags’ aren’t going to help him, and that he chose to beat him by countout last time because ‘He’s a joke who doesn’t belong in the ring with a real wrestler’. At that, Sexsmith flew into him with a running dropkick and started the match.
The story of the match was Gibson beating the tar out of Jack with strikes, a codebreaker of the second rope, and clotheslines, whilst Jack was fighting from underneath with underdog moves like dropkicks, a DDT, and a nasty double stomp of the top on a standing Gibson. Gibson hit a brainbuster on the floor to Sexmsith, and tried to win by countout a second time in the same way he did previously. However, this time, a group of fans on the front row stood up and threw Jack back in the ring to beat the count. Zack was appalled by this, and went for a second brainbuster in the ring, but was too busy jawing at the fans, and Sexsmith reversed the brainbuster in mid-air to a small package to win the match. Sexsmith got a MASSIVE pop for this, the loudest of the night.
Grade: B +
The work was decent, with both wrestlers being smooth in the ring. The story of the match and the crowd reaction elevated it up to being a lot better than it had any right to be however. An example of a good story and crowd elevating a match upwards!
Tyler Bates vs Pastor Bill Eaver
Everyone is aware of former WWE UK champion Tyler Bates by now I assume. In Progress, he plays a heel, in the British Strong Style Stable with Trent Seven and Pete Dunne. He is one half of the current Progress tag team champions with Trent Seven. Bill Eaver is another former Progress champion. He is a product of the Progress Dojo and has a ‘preacher/Jesus’ character ( Hence the clever wordplay with his name). The winner of this match gets Mark Haskins in the next round.
This was pretty much a squash as well. Bill Eaver had a few hope spots with a powerslam and some clotheslines, but Tyler never really seemed to break a sweat and finished Eaver off clean with his rolling kick, followed up with the Tyler Driver.
Nothing wrong with this, but it was very short and no one really bought Tyler losing this early in the tournament.
Flamita vs Mark Andrews,
Mark Andrews is known from the WWE UK tv show. He is a very good Welsh highflyer, who was once horribly misused by TNA. Flamita is making his Progress debut on the show, and is a highflyer who has featured previously for Lucha Underground. I had not heard of him before today! The winner of this match gets Travis Banks in the next round.
They started off with the generic indie matwork/flip stand-off sequence, before the meat of the match commenced. This was a superfast match, with both wrestlers being super agile. They managed to keep the sloppiness to a minimum, and the crowd LOVED the flips. They dived on each other on a regular basis: Andrews hit his standing SSP, Stun dog millionaire and reverse frankensteiner. Flamita scored with a musclebuster into a gutbuster, a quick succession of a frog splash and 360 splash from the top rope, and a powerbomb into a backcracker. Flamita managed to catch Andrews with a standing Spanish fly in the middle of the ring, and got the surprising victory.
Grade B +
This was a great light heavy weight match, with the big moves really landing and a great intensity throughout. Flamita wanted to make an impression, and he most definitely did. The crowd loved him so much, they made a ‘Flamita’ version of Maneater by Hall and Oates to sing along to, which cracked up everyone in the ring.
Trent Seven vs Matt riddle (Main Event)
Trent Seven is part of British Strong Style, and is also part of WWE UK. He came to the ring in an NXT jacket, and was very much playing a hell. Matt riddle is the current Progress Atlas champion (their secondary title) and is an extremely popular indie wrestler only 2 years into his pro-wrestling career. He is often compared to a less crazy Kurt Angle. The winner of this match gets Jeff Cobb in the next round.
Trent grabbed the mike to start off with, and called Riddle someone who ‘failed to get a foot in NXT, and who failed in MMA’, He then called him a ‘pussy who needs to go back to his corner before he gets his arse kicked’.
The bell rang, Riddle came flying out with a Daniel Bryan style running knee, and knocked out and pinned Trent in 6 seconds.
Total squash, but story wise, this was absolutely hilarious. Needless to say, this incident very much bled into days 2 and 3…
Overall grade: B+
This was a wonderful first day to the tournament. There was nothing which was terrible, a lot which was great, and it all sped by with minimum fuss. I would rate it higher, but Days 2 and 3 are even better, so I don’t want to overate this one…
Definitely worth catching on the Progress on demand service. It should be here now https://demandprogress.pivotshare.com/
Review of Days 2 and 3 to follow if people liked reading this!