We’re going back into the Demand-Progress.com catalogue for another show from the company’s past, with July 2014’s brilliantly-titled Thunderbastard.
Already, you can see how far PROGRESS have come in the last few years – with the opening video showing highlights from the prior month’s PROGRESS World Cup, which was held at the Garage in Islington. A positively tiny venue compared to their more recent London venues, and that’s not even counting their base for September’s show in Brixton! They then recap Noam Dar winning the World Cup to get a title shot, and Rampage Brown (the losing finalist) getting a shot against Samoa Joe.
We open with the self-titled match, which seems to be a Royal Rumble without over-the-top-rope eliminations. By the way, there’s an incredible double of PROGRESS founder Jim Smallman on commentary, with Jim Barnett doing the Gabe Sapolsky/Vince McMahon “promoter as commentator” act, which is probably the best thing a small group can do to help hammer storylines through.
Thunderbastard: Paul Robinson vs. Joey Lakeside vs. Will Ospreay vs. Darrell Allen vs. Danny Garnell vs. Stixx vs. Marty Scurll vs. Mike Hitchman
Paul Robinson and Joey Lakeside open out with brawling on the outside, before bringing it in where Robinson takes control with some ground and pound, although I’m not sure how a standing somersault legdrop meshes with the heel heat that Robinson gets. Barnett on commentary sounds non-plussed at Robinson’s short-DDT into a guillotine, but the countdown comes on as Will Ospreay enters at number three with a chair, only to get low-blowed. That earns Robinson a cheap DQ as he eliminates himself from contention for a shot at the PROGRESS title, but it does give him a chance to spit at Ospreay.
Ospreay hits a dive to the outside that takes out Lakeside, and out comes the fourth entrant: Darrell Allen, and he immediately gets to work with some basic lucha-inspired spots. Allen seems to hurt himself after a double dropkick spot, and rolls out to the ring before his withdrawal is announced, citing a suspected concussion. That early elimination sees Danny Garnell come out as number five, as he lays waste to Lakeside and Ospreay, eliminating Lakeside with a Northern Lights Suplex. Number six is Stixx, and he makes a beeline for Garnell, eliminating him with a Bossman slam after a superkick from Ospreay, who then gets flattened with a stalling front suplex.
The seventh man out is Marty Scurll – wearing the top-knot and fur coat combo, but hasn’t completed the transition into a full blown villain yet (announced as “Party” Marty, in spite of his “Villain” trunks) – and there’s a weird camera cut in his entrance. Scurll drills Stixx with two topes, before Ospreay nails a tope con hilo before flipping off Scurll. Stixx pulls off a nice power move, picking up Scurll for a body slam, but holding him up so he can grab Ospreay off the top rope before dropping them at the same time. Mike Hitchman comes out as the final man, with the Wild Boar drilling into Stixx with headbutts, kind of like a Welsh Sami Callihan.
Hitchman tries to package piledrive Stixx, giving us an unwelcome view of Stixx’s rear end, but Hitchman gets it at the second go, and then grabs the three-count over the bigger man. Scurll eats a cannonball in the corner from Hitchman, but flips out a package piledriver into the chickenwing, and Scurll secures his place in the final two – Scurll vs. Ospreay!
Scurll dumps Osprey on the ropes, and then charges him into the crowd, and the two men charge into a rapid-fire sequence of finishers that we’d know and love by 2016, with Scurll coming close from a tornado DDT into a chicken-wing sequence, but as Scurll keeps rolling through for a chicken wing, Ospreay traps Scurll’s shoulders and scores the win!
A bloody good opener – and considering that the Thunderbastard was the opener (and such featured less-established talent), it was surprisingly good, in spite of Darrell Allen’s retirement which could have deflated the match. ***¾
Mad Man Manson’s Open Challenge: Mad Man Manson vs. Michael Gilbert
Aah, Mad Man Manson – a guy who probably should have gotten more notoriety than he did for his comedy routine. “Weighing 8lb 6oz at birth” was part of his intro this time, as was the mocking of “No Gimmicks Required” Michael Gilbert – his opponent – who’s “so serious, he doesn’t wear kneepads”. Gilbert is probably better known for being Mikey Whiplash in ICW, but right now he’s getting a new one torn into him by Manson.
So, Manson’s comedy act works supremely well with this crowd, whose response to Manson’s plea of “I don’t know any reversals” on a Gilbert armbar was to chant “press R2”. Only if you time it right. Manson finally gets in a headlock to continue the comedy shtick, but it’s all one-sided save for the odd move here and there from Manson. A missed enziguiri from Manson leads Gilbert to lock in the STF, and it’s a tap-out from there. Pretty basic, but enjoyable nevertheless **
Martin Kirby vs. Mark Haskins
So, I guess the PROGRESS “one fall” gimmick happened after July 2014, since we didn’t get any of that here. Both men are already in the ring, and Haskins gives his own ring introduction… only to be caught with an enziguiri from Kirby and a bridging German suplex for a near-fall right out of the gate.
Haskins traps Kirby in a tree of woe on the outside of the ring, and levels him with a dropkick from the apron, but thankfully most of this is contested in the ring, with Kirby scoring a near fall from a snapmare that looked like a more impressive version of Adam Rose’s party foul. Haskins comes close with a superkick and a lariat with a stacked-up pin to try and snatch a win, but Haskins cheats to win, rolling up Kirby before propping his feet onto the ropes for the three-count.
Decent match, especially considering that these two come from the era of British wrestling from just before it’s recent explosion, which meant this had a slight touch of the “old school” to it. Unfortunately the constant heckling towards the pair (“Haskins! Haskins! Haskins”) and the Richard O’Brien/Crystal Maze “jokes” aimed at Kirby meant that the crowd struggled to get into it. ***
PROGRESS Tag Team Title Match: The London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) vs. FSU (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews) (c)
The Riots come out with a nice take on the Brock Lesnar “Eat, Sleep…” shirts from the time, whilst FSU get jumped by Jimmy Havoc and Paul Robinson as they make their entrance. After the assault, Mark Andrews gets thrown up into a sit-out powerbomb, but kicks out as the trend of matches trying to end early continues.
The London Riots use their brawling style to neutralise the champions, with Rob Lynch nearly taking off Andrews’ head with a lariat.Eddie Dennis eventually gets the hot tag in and clears house on the Riots, taking down Davis and Lynch with swinging side slams, but he ends up eating a release German suplex for a near fall.
Dennis gets back into things with a diving clothesline off the middle rope, and then makes the tag to Andrews whose springboard crossbody gets him a two count on Lynch, before an attempt at a superplex sees him crotched on the top rope, before Lynch leaps off the top and clotheslines him back into the ring. A collection of dives follow, with Andrews topping it off with a shooting star press to the floor, which almost went awry Brock Lesnar style, giving him a nasty cut just above his eye.
Andrews went for another shooting star press, but missed and landed straight into the path of a spear that sent him to the outside, leaving Dennis two-on-one against the Riots. Andrews recovered in time to assist on a Next Stop Driver that got the champions a two-count on Lynch, but the champions eventually retained when the Riots’ attempt at a pop-up spear were countered into a huracanrana by Mark Andrews, getting the pinfall over Lynch.
The London Riots sold their first defeat really well; this was a really good match, especially after the jump-start threatened to ruin things ****
Natural Progression Series II Quarter Final: Ali Armstrong vs. Chuck Mambo vs. William Eaver
This should be interesting – Eaver has a religious-based gimmick that’s lasted way longer than Friar Ferguson ever did, whilst Chuck Mambo’s playing the stereotypical blonde surfer dude. I don’t know what Ali Armstrong is, but I’m not that keen on the character on first sight, particularly when Armstrong’s first big move sees him overshoot a back senton.
The future “Sweet Jesus” tag team partners work well in a one-on-one environment, with Mambo going for a literal surfboard on Eaver (not the hold). Armstrong returns to the ring, only to get thrown out again, as Eaver nails a Fisherman’s suplex for a near fall, before Armstrong gets a two-count from a belly-to-belly.
Eaver is massively over with the Camden crowd, who resort to chanting the lyrics to “Away in a Manger”, as Mambo does the Cactus Jack clothesline, which is the set-up for a run-in by another Pro-Jo graduate in Isaac Zercher to hit the ring and fail in an attempt to use a steel chair on Ali Armstrong. They all shake hands, before Eaver cheapshots Mambo, then runs into an airplane spin from Armstrong, but again missing a senton splash off the middle rope. Yep, your friendly, everyday incompetent wrestler! On the flip side, Eaver tosses Mambo from the ring and into the crowd with a Jesus Wept (release crucifix powerbomb) – Ali Armstrong comes back in and sneaks behind Eaver as he sent Mambo back into the crowd, and Armstrong took the win with a bridging German suplex.
“The wrong man won” is probably the best way to put it here, especially as Armstrong would make a handful of further appearances in PROGRESS before being forced into retirement through injury. Good match, especially for a bout featuring trainees ***½
PROGRESS Title: Jimmy Havoc (c) vs. Noam Dar
This was from back in the day when PROGRESS’ championship was a staff, rather than a conventional belt. Noam Dar’s wearing a jacket that looks like a piece of rip-off Sting merchandise from back in the day…. Whilst Havoc appears to have ripped off his namesake Jessicka’s facemask.
The one downside to Noam Dar is that his surname can be used to hum along to any song… such as the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”, the Imperial March from Star Wars, or the themes to “Match of the Day” or even the theme to the British soap “Eastenders”. It certainly created a wild atmosphere, but it wore thin really quickly as the match got going.
Dar got the upper hand early on, sending Havoc to the outside with a dropkick, but Havoc got back on top, rolling out of the corner with a stiff clothesline for a near fall midway through the mat. Dar then dropkicks Havoc off the top turnbuckle and onto the apron, before finally kicking Havoc down to the floor… but his effort at a dive needs two attempts to succeed, after eating an uppercut at the first try.
Dar’s repeated dropkicks cause Havoc to flip him off some more, before they spill out of the ring and out of the Electric Ballroom… nope, it’s the set-up for Dar to try and throw Havoc over a balcony. Havoc flips out and goes to powerbomb Dar off the stage, only for him to get back body dropped into some convenient security, as Dar followed up with a tope con hilo over the balcony.
Dar accidentally powerbombs Havoc into the referee, and then locks in the Champagne Super-Knee-Bar on Havoc, who taps… but there’s no referee! The hold’s released, as Dar tries to get Jim Smallman at ringside to make a decision… and Smallman rolls into the ring, just in time to see Dar take a roaring elbow and a Rainmaker, but Smallman cannot hide his glee as Dar kicks out. Nice continuation of their ongoing storyline there… Two more Rainmakers can’t get the job done, but after a German suplex from Dar, the Scotsman locks in a sleeperhold, only for Havoc to walk up the ropes and flip over into a pinning predicament as he taps… but only the pinfall’s counted, and Havoc retains! Post-match, Dar bicycle kicks Havoc’s head and poses with the PROGRESS title staff, before the rest of his Regression stable came out to make the save, with FSU making the save – leading to a titles vs. careers match at the next PROGRESS show.
A good match, but the crowd’s singing of whatever-song-they-could-fit-Dar-into kinda made this tough to get into. If the NXT/Full Sail crowd get into Dar, then this could become an insufferable part of the Global Cruiserweight Series, knowing their reputation! ***¼
Rampage Brown vs. Samoa Joe
Well, this is a PROGRESS rareity – an import! TNA loaned PROGRESS a copy of Joe’s music and entrance video, and you can see that Joe’s thrilled to be back in the UK. Excluding TNA’s annual tours, this was Joe’s first indy match in the UK since the days of 1PW, and if you’re just looking at London, well, it’s 11 years since he appeared for the old FWA.
The then-TNA X-Division champion didn’t have his belt with him – because this isn’t TNA, damnit! A predictably hard fought affair between the two, with stiff strikes in the early going, as Joe pounds Rampage in the corner before going through his “best-of” spots, only for Rampage to escape a face wash in the corner.
Rampage just about shaded the early going, getting a near fall from a big boot after Joe elbowed his way out of a headlock, but Joe pulls the rope down as Rampage charged at him, and that led to a tope into the crowd by the Samoan. After getting back on top with a back suplex for a two-count, Rampage got locked in an STF after being caught on a leapfrog. A Muscle Buster from Joe only resulted in a two-count, but the Samoan followed up with a diving lariat out of the corner as Rampage Brown fell to defeat.
A good match, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the fans were expecting Joe to lose to the homegrown star here, and as such, the ending came out of nowhere ***¾
From top-to-bottom, another good card from PROGRESS, but I dare say that the homegrown/home-trained talent stole the show, both in the eponymous Thunderbastard match, and the Natural Progression Series three way (well, two of the members). Well worth the watch, if only to see where the sweary-Thunderbastard match all began.