PROGRESS wrapped up it’s first calendar year of business with their fourth show in November 2012 – entitled “The Ballad of El Ligero”. This was the show where El Ligero got his title shot against Nathan Cruz, coming on the heels of several matches where Ligero went against his long-standing clean cut character to cheat his way to the top.

The pre-show video recapped Ligero’s less than clean win over Greg Burridge, and his accidental superkick of Marty Scurll. There’s highlights of chapter three, with the whole montage set to music that reminded me a lot of a Quentin Tarantino movie.

We’re in a different part of Islington for Chapter Four, as the Boston Dome near Tufnell Park, London is our venue here – and it means another fixed camera angle. This time with a crowd control railing covering the lower third, instead of a computer monitor. It’s an upgrade, I guess!

The London Riots (Rob Lynch & James Davis) vs. The Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter)
The Hunters suffer from Young Bucks syndrome with me, in that the two of them look fairly alike; so with all due respect to them, I may get their names wrong many times here.

The Riots start off with a two-on-one attack on the white t-shirt-wearing Hunter, before the grey t-shirt wearing Hunter (apparently Jim) comes in with a dropkick to both Riots. White Hunter (by process of elimination, Lee) lands a somersault plancha, before a slingshot suplex earned the Hunters a two-count.

James Davis drilled Jim with a spear for a near-fall, then levelled him with a brainbuster for a two-count as the crowd rode the London Riots with chants of “London Diets”. Rob Lynch was tagged in and snapmared Jim to the mat, as he leant down on him in a rear chinlock, but Jim was able to fight free into a jawbreaker, before a tiltawhirl was turned into a facebuster by Davis.

Jim Hunter found himself in the wrong corner, as he took a chop from Davis, before Lynch was brought back in, where he resumed the rear chinlock. Jim tried to fight back again, but was shoved to the mat, and took a double stomp to the back by the much larger Lynch. Rob Davis took the shirt off of Jim, so now I’ve got no way of telling these two apart if they quickly switch around.

A shoulderblock from Lynch got a couple of near-falls, as did an snap overhead belly-to-belly, as Lynch again knocked Lee Hunter to the mat, allowing Davis to choke away on Jim in the other corner. Jim’s effort at a sunset flip saw him flattened by a sit-out splash from Davis, before a kick to the head and a lackadaisical cover from Lynch led to a near-fall, and finally a comeback from Jim Hunter, who was able to drop Lynch with a superkick as Lee Hunter ran the apron like he was the Ultimate Warrior.

Lee finally got the hot tag and dropped Davis with a Michinoku driver for a two-count, before Lynch got his clubbing forearms in. A superkick knocked Lynch off the apron, but Davis came back… and took an assisted Tipton Destroyer after a superkick from Jim Hunter. Lee went up top but got caught with a belly to belly superplex from Rob Lynch for a near-fall, as the referee counted the two illegal men in the match. An innovative drop toe-hold into a knee got the Riots a two-count over Jim Hunter, who then took a spike double underhook piledriver, but Jim hurricanrana’d out of the District Line Powerbomb, then hit an enziguiri as he mounted a comeback.

Lee hit a double stomp as Jim held Davis in a neckbreaker, before the Hunters landed a hurricanrana/frog splash combo for a near fall. And now I can’t tell the Hunters apart… one got tossed out of the ring, whilst the other got slapped by Lynch, and dropped with a butterfly suplex. The Hunters got out of the way of a corner charge, but failed with a superplex, as Lynch leapt off the top rope and appeared to blow out his knee. Well, it was a ruse, as that led to Lynch popping up and throwing one of the Hunters into the District Line Powerbomb for the win. A good match in spite of the fake injury finish (for an opener), even if it threatened to enter extended squash match territory, as the London Riots continued to cement their place in the company. Not sure that the Hunters should have been able to walk away as if nothing’d happened given that they’d taken such a beating in that match. ***¼

RJ Singh vs. Paul Robinson
Fun acrobatic stuff at the start, as Robinson uses the kip-ups to free himself of a wristlock and armdrag Singh into the ropes. More kip-ups gets Robinson out of another wristlock and sends Singh out to the floor, who returns to work a knuckle-lock with Robinson, and we get more athletic armdrags from the impressive Robinson.

Robinson flips out of some headscissors and drops Singh with a knee to the face, before a drop toe hold sent Singh into the middle rope and eventually to the outside, where Robinson met Singh’s entourage with a dropkick through the bottom rope, before connecting with a tope to Singh himself on the other side of the ring.

A tiltawhirl backbreaker sent Robinson to the mat, and after being sent to the outside, Robinson found himself double-teamed by Singh’s entourage. Singh kept going for lax covers, getting two-counts from a vertical suplex then a backdrop suplex, before a springboard forearm got Robinson a near-fall of his own, as he then kicked away at the back of the “Bollywood Dream”.

Robinson scored another two-count with a springboard DDT on Singh, before going up top and missing yet again with the high-angle leg drop, a move that needed to be removed from his repertoire sooner rather than later. Singh went for the Ethnic Submission, but was greeted by a kick to the back, before Robinson missed a 619 and took a butterfly backbreaker for another near-fall.

As one of Singh’s entourage jumped onto the apron to remonstrate with the referee, Robinson whipped Singh into the other member, before landing a superkick as both men collapsed to the mat. Another kick to the head got Robinson a two-count, as did a Shiranui (Sliced Bread #2), before he set up Singh for the 619 once more (or whatever the Southend area code is).

Shah Boudica (the entourage member without the megaphone) took the 619, which meant that Singh could drop Robinson with the Gory Buster and the Ethnic Submission for the straight-forward tapout win. A decent match, with Robinson getting more in than his first match – although the RJ Singh gimmick was not connecting well with the audience here in PROGRESS. ***

Post-match, Shah Boudica and “The Director” tried to beat down Robinson before being ordered out of the ring by Singh, who then offered a handshake to Robinson… face turn incoming, perhaps?

Submission Match: Noam Dar vs. Jimmy Havoc
After the bloodbath at chapter 3, this continues the “Jimmy Havoc as a proper wrestler” storyline, as he takes on a man in Noam Dar who’s won both of his PROGRESS outings to date via submission.

Dar gets chants of “shortbread”, which is a new one on me for a Scottish wrestler, as a fan hands him a packet of the sweet treat… which then gets tossed to the back of the Dome.

Havoc starts with a waistlock takedown on Dar, but gets reversed as Dar flipped him over for a wristlock. After a takedown, Havoc made a rope break then went in with a side-headlock and rubbing Dar’s hair, which sent the Scotsman to the outside to regroup. Havoc missed with a leapfrog, but quickly recovered to send Dar into the corner, where he met him with a leaping knee as Dar once again went to the outside.

Dar returned to hit Havoc with a leaping kick, and instinctively went for a cover before going to work on the knees of Havoc. A rear chinlock almost forced the submission with Havoc powering up after the referee did the arm-drop test twice, before Havoc locked Dar in a sleeperhold… with Dar quickly going for the ropes.

The rules started to get bent as Dar removed his wrist tape and used it to choke Havoc with, as the referee missed the obvious tape that was hanging out of the back of Dar’s trunks. Another kick to the gut floored Havoc as the crowd continued to chant for anything Scottish they could think of. Dar shoved Havoc out of a superplex attempt, but got caught with a punch to the midsection as he came off the top, with Havoc then tying Dar in a Sharpshooter (of all holds!)

Dar grabbed a bag of thumb tacks and scattered them across the ring, but the referee stood in the way of the tacks as Havoc went to hit a death valley driver. Havoc stopped the match briefly to sweep up the tacks, before Janitor Havoc ended up taking a kick to the head from Dar, who followed up with a double stomp to the knee of Havoc, as he set up the Champagne Super-Knee-Bar, only for Havoc to make the ropes.

Back on his feet, Havoc whipped Dar into the corner, and followed up with a back-to-belly package piledriver, then an armbar which was easily escaped. Havoc went for the crossface (and more “Benoit” chants… seriously guys), then an ankle lock. Dar kept escaping though, and shoved out of a Figure Four attempt as Havoc grabbed a sock from the crowd and pulled off the Mandible Claw. Dar resisted the hold though, and snuck in a low blow on Havoc as Dar’d unsighted the ref, before bringing a chair into the ring. Not a folding chair, but a wooden chair…

As the referee removed the chair, Dar went back out and threw in a metal briefcase, tossing it into the hands of Havoc a la Eddie Guerrero, and the referee fell for it, leading to the disqualification. Jim Smallman came in to restart the match, which quickly saw Havoc go for the crossface, with Dar finally making the ropes.

Havoc dragged Dar back into the middle of the ring, but fell into the Champagne Super-Knee-Bar once more, with Dar sinking his teeth into Havoc’s heel to force a submission. Another decent match from Dar, in spite of the Sports Entertainment finishes which were thrown in to continue building the Havoc character. ***½

Natural PROGRESSion Series – First Round – Mark Andrews vs. Will Ospreay
The first ever Natural PROGRESSion Series match here, with the NPS of course being a tournament to unearth up and coming British wrestlers. Andrews doesn’t have his BWC title with him, as that seems to have disappeared into the ether since the last PROGRESS card.

They started off on the mat, with Ospreay working a front facelock on Andrews, who rolled forward with a Gedo Clutch for a near-fall. Ospreay works a heel hook, but gets spun out by Andrews as the pair jockey for position. More ground-based holds followed, with Ospreay getting shot into the ropes from a headlock, before flipping over Andrews and eventually getting tripped up as the pair increased the tempo of the match.

A satellite headscissors sent Ospreay into the corner, with Andrews landing on the apron before being kicked off, and Will went flying with a tope con hilo through the bottom ropes into Andrews. Ospreay ended up apologising to a fan for spilling their drink, before going back to business with a standing shooting star press in the ring for a two-count, as he tied up Andrews in a keylock.

After sending Andrews to the corner, Ospreay dropped him with a back elbow and a Pele kick before locking in a surfboard arm-stretch on the mat. A second attempt saw Ospreay take an elbow from Andrews, whose leapfrog from the corner failed… only for him to land a backflip into a tornado DDT.

Andrews continued the comeback with a somersault into the ring, which turned into a wheelbarrow and a double stomp, following up with a somersault backflip into a senton for a near-fall. Ospreay fired back with kicks and a tiltawhirl into a DDT, then a brainbuster as both men were left out on the mat.

Ospreay got up first and went to the top, but got crotched in the corner, as Mark Andrews followed… only for Will to take him down with a reverse ‘rana from the top rope. A dropkick sent Andrews down, but Ospreay took too long to pull off a 450 Splash, landing on his feet, before Andrews springboarded into the ring and pulled off a Dragon ‘rana for the win. At ten minutes, it felt a little short, but this was a fine fine outing for these two. ***¾

Marty Scurll vs. Stixx vs. Dave Mastiff
An odd combination for the semi-final here, in a three-way outing for Stixx, Dave Mastiff and former PROGRESS title contender Marty Scurll. The latter started off by doing his best Ric Flair impression as they tried to do a story that he was too drunk to wrestle, and that he started off by trying to bodyslam Mastiff kinda reinforced that.

Mastiff easily picked up Scurll, who found himself bouncing between Mastiff and Stixx before the two bigger guys locked horns. A series of shoulder tackles from Stixx barely moved Mastiff, who replied with a bodyslam before Scurll unwisely interjected himself into things. Scurll knocked down Stixx with a dropkick, then followed up with a corner charge and a slap, which wasn’t the smartest thing he’d done as he ran into a tiltawhirl backbreaker.

Stixx clotheslined Mastiff out of the ring and followed him to take the fight to the floor, separating only to give a diving Scurll a clear path into the non-folding chairs of the audience as he took another pratfall.

Back inside, Stixx wriggled out of a Fireman’s carry, before Scurll leapt in to lock in a sleeperhold on Stixx, who easily flipped out of the move. Scurll tries for a double suplex on Mastiff and Stixx, who end up easily dumping him with a double front suplex instead. A forearm from Mastiff ended up sending Stixx to the outside as Scurll missed, with another charging forearm later knocking Stixx off the apron.

Mastiff missed a sit-out splash and took a Blockbuster-like neckbreaker for his troubles from Stixx, whom promptly took a tornado DDT from Scurll as Nathan Cruz ran out to attack Scurll. The pair brawled to the back, leaving just the big guys in the ring, with Jim Smallman’s Godzilla-like sound effects on commentary.

Stixx held on to avoid a German suplex, and followed up with a shoulder block off the top rope for a near-fall. Mastiff no-sold a back senton and promptly squashed Stixx with a Finlay roll and a senton of his own for another two-count. Stixx backdropped his way out of a powerbomb attempt, and dropped Mastiff with a Bossman slam for a two-count, but the “Bastard” quickly finished things with a German suplex into the turnbuckle, then a cannonball dive as Dave Mastiff kept up his unbeaten run in PROGRESS.

A fine match, which would have been much better without the needless involvement of Scurll in my mind. ***¼

PROGRESS Title: Nathan Cruz (c) vs. El Ligero
Pre-match, Cruz demands that Marty Scurll stays backstage, or he’ll abandon the match and his title defence. Rather than strip him of the belt, PROGRESS booker Jim Smallman agrees, and we’re underway as Ligero kicks Cruz in the midsection and tosses him to the outside at the bell.

Cruz returns as the wrestling match turns into a fight, with the two of them trading punches on the ground, before Ligero goes to the outside, quickly returning to enter a chop battle. Ligero hurled Cruz into the wooden chairs, as the action spilled into the crowd, connecting with a dropkick into the chairs, before throwing Cruz into the toilets. Ligero took Cruz into the bar area, but Cruz grabbed a mouthful of water and spat it at Ligero to get some distance, ending with Ligero taking a suplex into his own merchandise stable.

Cruz bounced Ligero off the merch tables, before they went up to the stage area, and we had our first stage dive, as Cruz was thrown over the guard rail into the chairs below… and was met by a somersault plancha from the stage from the masked Ligero. In the middle of this, we hear an announcement asking for fans to get off the ring – which’d have made sense had a bunch of people not been shifted from their seats earlier!

Finally Ligero and Cruz get back to the ring, but Cruz immediately goes out… and suckers in Ligero for another shot and we’re back fighting in the crowd. Cruz takes a suplex into the non-folding (but thankfully not wooden) seats, before going back to the ring where Ligero misses a dropkick, and gets laid out with a German suplex from Cruz. A Tully Blanchard-esque slingshot backdrop suplex gets Cruz a two-count, before he lands a vertical suplex… for just a one-count.

The champion stayed on top of Ligero for a while, before Cruz lost control of a fireman’s carry and was taken down by a springboard kick from Ligero, as Cruz tried to hold onto the advantage, with a roll-up getting a two-count. Ligero took a lungblower after sending Cruz into the corner, but again the champion couldn’t put the challenger down. Cruz missed a superkick attempt, and ended up taking the Emerald Fusion from Ligero, yet again for a near-fall.

Cruz came back with a jumping knee strike, but a European uppercut decked Cruz again, leading to a small package that nearly stole it for Ligero. After a sit-out powerbomb, Cruz tried to set up for a knee trembler, but missed and took another roll-up for a near-fall. Ligero waited for Cruz to get to his feet, and went for the C4L tornado DDT, only for Cruz to turn it into an Ace crusher out of nowhere.

Ligero looked to go to the top rope but got crotched by Cruz, who went for a superplex, only to get headbutted into a tree of woe, before leaning back to avoid a double stomp, but Ligero landed a cannonball splash anyway. A body splash off the top almost won it for Ligero, who went to the outside to grab Cruz’s title staff.

The referee blocked Ligero as he tried to smash it over Cruz’s back, but he walked straight into the Showstolen for a near-fall as Cruz almost took ultimate advantage of the distraction. Cruz flipped out at Ligero and landed the move a second time, but this time it only got a one count, and the fans in the Dome sensed that there’d be a title change coming. Especially after kicks to the head got Cruz a two-count, and eventually an unorthodox (for Ligero) triangle choke which turned into a Guillotine… and out of nowhere, Cruz tapped out and we have a new champion!

A fine, fine main event, which started out with all the intensity you’d expect from a title shot… and continued at a fine pace throughout. You could criticise them for the over-use of crowd brawling, but this was the only match on the card that did that, so it gets a pass. ****

Curiously, the Marty Scurll thing didn’t play into this match at all – nor the aftermath, which was Ligero celebrating with his newly-won staff.

“The Ballad of El Ligero” was a much better show than PROGRESS’ third offering, with decent matches on show, and the first title change for the PROGRESS staff. Whilst we saw Noam Dar, RJ Singh and the London Riots continue to build up steam with wins, and the ongoing evolution of Jimmy Havoc, we’re still lacking anything in terms of a hierarchy – and although a babyface champion in El Ligero opened the doors for the likes of the heel Dar to get a title shot, it wouldn’t be until well into the new year that that materialised… as did further storylines.

2012 turned out to be a fine debut year for PROGRESS. Some good action with some nagging issues (particularly involving production and commentary – it’s not the worst you’ll hear, but the frequent barbs aimed at others in wrestling seem a little pointless to me). In short: a good start, and it’s uphill from here!