The PROGRESS Prerogative – Chapter One: In The Beginning

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Hey folks! What you’re reading right here is the first in a weekly series where I,”Smart” Mark Blake, will review every single PROGRESS Wrestling chapter. The cunningly called PROGRESS Prerogative!

I will cover every chapter and every era in the history of the promotion. From the very first chapter to the very latest, all will be covered by yours truly over the coming months.

Now with the intro out the way, let’s crack on with this very first piece all about Chapter One: In The Beginning.

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Sunday 25th March 2012 will go down not just in British wrestling history but in the history of wrestling itself. It was the day that PROGRESS Wrestling took a chance and held their first ever event at The Garage in Islington, London. And this…..This is my review of that show –

PROGRESS Wrestling Championship Tournament
Semi-Final
El Ligero vs Noam Dar

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Looking back on not just this match but this entire event, it’s amazing to see where the talent are now. Boith these guys are now under contract with WWE. Who would have thought that when this was taking place?

With Ligero (or Ligs to his friends 😉 ) a lucha, Noam took to the technical side of things to try and control the match up. Headlock takeovers and the like to slow the pace down. But it wasn’t long before they began to trade strikes. And this London crowd, starved of any wrestling for a fair few years, loved it!

When Ligs began to “lucha it up” the crowd responded in kind by raising their volume in respect and in awe. But then just like that, the match was over. A springboard DDT by Ligero onto Dar for the win and advancing into the final. A bit out of nowhere finish as it felt like the match still had plenty of life left in it.

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A shame as the fans were really getting into it as the match was won. But as the old saying goes, “Leave them wanting more”.

Winner – And Advancing Into The PROGRESS Wrestling Tournament Final, El Ligero

PROGRESS Wrestling Championship Tournament
Semi-Final
Nathan Cruz vs Colossus Kennedy

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Going back to what I said above about where wrestlers are now compared to here – Nathan Cruz has certainly got better over time. His look, his demeanour, his moveset and aptitude in the ring. Pretty much almost unrecognisable. And Kennedy? This is my first time seeing him and I’ve never heard if he did much after this. He’s a big old dude that’s for sure but a bit clunky in the ring here.

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It was the age old routine of the speed and agility of Cruz (whose not a junior by any stretch) against the power of Mason. A lot of cat and mouse dodging by Cruz with some stick and run offence so to speak. Kennedy looked a bit gassed just before the match finished, but it might be my untrained eye, as Cruz scored the pinfall victory with a simple dropkick…..Yup, a dropkick.

It was an ok match leaving Cruz plenty in the tank for the main event Tournament final.

Winner – And Advancing Into The PROGRESS Wrestling Tournament Final, Nathan Cruz

PROGRESS Wrestling Championship Tournament
Semi-Final
Mike Mason w/Becky James vs Colt Cabana

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RJ Singh was meant to be in this match but due to unknown circumstances he was replaced by Mike Mason. RJ later became one of the voices of PROGRESS when he took up a commentary position with Glen Joseph…..I miss RJ’s dulcet tones on commentary.

Anyway back to the match – Mason reminded me of a British version of Rick Steiner back in the day in his Dog Faced Gremlin phase. Becky James is his Valet/Manager who, and I’m sorry to say, is a bit cookie cutter standard. She just “happened” to be there and help out her guy. She didn’t bring much to Mason or the match.

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Colt is a legend and a firm favourite of mine. Seeing him here playing up to the crowd and showing off his old school World Of Sport style of wrestling made me smile and many in attendance too.

Unfortunately for Cabana, he ended up the unlucky loser here as Mason conspired with James and picked up the tainted win with the help of a big old chain wrapped around his fist. Booo that heelish move!

Winner- And Advancing Into The PROGRESS Wrestling Tournament Final, Mike Mason

PROGRESS Wrestling Championship Tournament
Semi-Final
Zack Sabre Jr vs Marty Scurll

Here’s where my interest peaked. I love both these guys work, have done for many years. And seeing these two at the first PROGRESS Wrestling event is amazing. At this time they were together as a tag team called the Leaders Of The New School. They were tearing up the British tag scene and Zack was also working in Japan with NOAH, so they both came into this match with a lot of pedigree.

Admittedly seeing Scurll here as Party Marty and not the Villain is a tad disconcerting, but it is part of his evolution to where he is now. Zack on the other hand, has hardly changed (well apart from his hair 🙂 ). His style and physique has not changed one iota.

Being partners for so long, both men knew each other inside out. Seeing them counter each other was so good. It was always so seemless and just perfect. Then the pysicality began and BOY did it go off! There was no holding back by either man here. You could see grown men in the crowd legit wince in pain after seeing Zack and Marty square off with chops.

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This match was so back and forth and you really didn’t know who was going to win and where that win was coming from, such was the level playing field between the two.

But Zack raised the intensity and began to take control and went for the pin after a rather stiff head kick, but Marty kicked out at two. They both then revrsed Sunset Flips before Scurll made his flip stick and won a bloody great match!

Winner- And Advancing Into The PROGRESS Wrestling Tournament Final, Marty Scurll

BWC Scarlo Scholarship
Darrell Allen vs Zack Gibson vs Xander Cooper (c)

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The Scarlo Scholarship championship was a title that wasn’t connected to any one particular promotion in the UK. It was instead taken to various promotions by the British Wrestling Council Scholarship champion and competed against graduates from BWC accredited schools.

It’s a shame that this championship flew under the radar for many British wrestling fans around this time, as this match was a shining example of what talent wrestling schools from around the country were producing. A young Gibson with a full head of hair was still booed like he is now. Allen looking like a young gun before he became head trainer at the famous Knucklelocks gym.

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This was a fun scramble of a match. Intent on making sure the fans left knowing exactly who they were, all three men went all out. Gibson brought the physical strikes, Allen the technicality and Cooper a mixture of the two. The spot where Zack gave Darrel and armdrag and rolled through into a small package was great, but when Cooper tried to steal the win with a small package of his own made the spot even better. Great stuff.

Xander Cooper retained his championship and stole the win when he gave Allen a stiff running knee right after Darrell hit a sweet 450 splash onto Gibson. Nice showcase of a match from (at the time) three up and comers.

Winner – And STILLLLLLL BWC Scarlo Scholarship Champion, Xander Cooper.

PROGRESS Championship Tournament Final
El Ligero vs Nathan Cruz vs Mike Mason vs Marty Scurll

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It was announced that this match was a four way elimination match, not just a bog standard first fall to a finish four way. Even with that caveat this was still a bog standard style of four way. All four begin, two are sent outside for a few minutes while the other two duke it out. Rinse and repeat.

To be fair, this wasn’t a bad four way, I’ve seen worse trust me. The now staple “leave the ring for 5 minutes and brawl in the crowd” parts were becoming part of PROGRESS law here, but even that wasn’t too bad. The mix of styles – lucha, power, technicality and a mix of the three – helped too.

Seeing Cruz and Ligero battle it out to the ladies toilets was something I hadn’t seen before so props to them for that, as it let Mason and Scurll time to shine in the ring.

Photo/@ThisIs_Progress

The first and second elimination happened within a minute of each other. A hard kick by Cruz to the head of a prone Ligero, eliminated The Mexican Sensation, but mere seconds later Ligero (trying to exit the ring) tripped Mason who was quickly rolled up by Scurll to be eliminated. Again nice booking there, shwoing that eliminatins could happen at any second.

With just Scurll and Cruz left to battle it out, the crowd got more vocal. Both men found a second wind and began to brat the crap out of each other. Trading stiff as eff strikes which legit looked real, just as they should. If you thought another quick elimination was coming then you’d be wrong. Both these guys went another 10 minutes before a hint of the last elimination was coming.

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Back and forth the action went until Cruz had a chance to literally kick Marty’s head off his shoulders via an Orton style punt. But as he went to deliver it, Scurll rolled him up for a very very close two count! Cruz was back to his feet first and this did hit the punt kick and became the first ever PROGRESS Wrestling champion (not world champion at this stage, as the title hadn’t been defended on a different continent yet).

Winner – And NEWWWWW PROGRESS Champion, Nathan Cruz!

The show ended with Cruz displaying the Championship Staff (yes a staff emblazoned with the PROGRESS eagle logo at the top) to the booing crowd.

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And just like that the first chapter was in the books. But it was another three months until PROGRESS came back to The Garage to hold Chapter Two. Luckily you only have to wait until next saturday to read all about it!

As always you can hit me up on social media if you want to talk all things wrestling. I can be found via the links below. So until next week…..ADIOS!

Mark Blake Facebook – MarkBlakeSmart
Mark Blake Twitter – @Smart_Mark_B

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