Yesterday’s PROGRESS show may as well have been titled “All The Feels” as the usual 700-plus crowd in Camden said goodbye to some stars (slight spoiler behind the cut).
In the only spoiler we’ll reference here Paul Robinson’s departure was the biggest shock, as he lost a Super Strong Style 16 qualifier against Jack Sexsmith – a match that Robinson also threw in an extra stipulation for, that being if he lost, he’d leave PROGRESS; a rather surprising choice given how irregularly he’d been around.
On the last show of 2016, Unboxing Live, Robinson made a statement when he aligned with a newly-heel Will Ospreay to reform the Swords of Essex. Unfortunately, they never teamed again in PROGRESS from there, as Robinson’s high-profile in-ring career would be limited to losses to Spud and Sexsmith, alongside a trio of matches for WCPW in the first week of January. Curiously, Robinson had been announced for January’s Thunderbastard match at the semi-eponymous Tropic Thunderbastard… but in the matter of days between the announcement and the show, Robinson was forced to withdraw with injury, with (eventually) Sebastian taking his spot.
Since then, Robinson only had one match (per cagematch.de), for the RCWA promotion in Rainham, whilst remaining limited to a run-in appearance in that loser leaves town/fans bring the weapons match between Jimmy Havoc and Will Ospreay last month. After taking the fall against Sexsmith, the reasons for Robinson’s departure were laid out… and it wasn’t a “wrestling retirement”, that was it. A hereditary condition that, in his words, could have killed him if he continued to wrestle at the top level. And with those words, a man who’d been loathed in PROGRESS since he turned on Will Ospreay back at Chapter 13, received the ovation and the send-off he deserved. Some say that wrestling is real… in truth, the real world is the only thing that is real. For years, we all loved to hate Paul Robinson… and he revelled in producing that response too.
As one of the few genuine bad guys in wrestling, Robinson believably carried that aura that he could probably kill you if he wanted to. Which is why it required a blend of intoxication and stupidity for any fans to try and face him down. Whilst his most recent run may have seen him compared to Gillberg (let’s not touch that, for the sake of our own lives), there was a lot more to the man once called “Mr Wrestling” – and anyone who can believably go from a flippy guy to someone who has you in fear of your life has to have done something right.
Elsewhere on the show, we saw the final match (for now) on the British independent scene for Axel Dieter Jr, who’ll be moving onto pastures new at the end of the month. Although his PROGRESS career was limited to five matches, all in this year, Dieter firmly fell into the category of a wrestler that regardless of his good guy/bad guy alignment the fans loved because of his ability. In comparison to the rest of the card, Axel’s send-off was pretty low-key, with him waving goodbye to the Electric Ballroom after the main event.
The “big farewell” (or is that “so long?”) was one that hadn’t officially been plugged as one. Thanks to podcast appearances and word of mouth, it was common knowledge that we’d be saying goodbye to two of PROGRESS’ favourite Kiwis, as TK Cooper and Dahlia Black were having to go back home. Stupid Visas. In the build-up, they released a t-shirt to commemorate their farewell, which achieved the remarkable combination of being a shirt you can literally wear… nowhere (TK’s words, not mine!), but also sold out. And earned a second run. If you can release a shirt that sells like that… you’re onto a winner there!
So, with that in mind, the standing ovation before their introductions perhaps should have been expected!
Whatever the result of their match yesterday, it was all about the chance for everyone to say their “see you laters” to a duo whose story over here was all a long shot that paid off… and one that started with a broken camera.
Remember that show we mentioned earlier, “Unbelievable Jeff”? Video issues meant that PROGRESS released that whole show on YouTube for free – and caught the eye of someone. Someone whose love of that one show went from them asking for a PROGRESS t-shirt, and ballooned to the point that he and his other-half dropped everything they were doing back home, upped sticks and moved halfway around the world, for the chance to train with the company they’d become big fans of. Whether you loved them, hated them, or loved to hate them throughout their tenure, you can’t help but be endeared by someone who took a risk like that. And PROGRESS’ fans, by the end, were. In the age of the internet, it’s never been easier to keep in touch, or even keep up to speed with your favourite hobbies, like watching wrestling, no matter where it is in the world.
Unlike the departures we saw at Brixton, where Messrs Gallagher, End and Ciampa left for the land of WWE, this feels different. There’s no guarantees in this world, unfortunately as we saw one favourite say “auf wiedersehen” and someone we loved to hate have his career cut short… I really, really wish that that Kiwi couple who creeped us all out (you know what you’re doing TK) are back over here sooner, rather than later.
After all, I’d have hoped that hassling Grandtheft for that song wasn’t just for two shows!