After a hit-and-miss fifth show, PROGRESS came back with a loaded card in March 2013 – and this edition of #BACKFILL will cover it, featuring a main event for the PROGRESS title between El Ligero and Ricochet. On paper, at least, that’s got to be good, right?

Our pre-show video includes Noam Dar building up his #1 contender’s match with Dave Mastiff (or rather, bemoaning that he’s not been automatically given a shot). The voice of Glen Joseph appears for the first time so far in PROGRESS, voicing over a mock news-bulletin voiceover covering Mastiff’s loss to El Ligero last time out, citing that since Mastiff didn’t submit, he’s getting a chance for another title shot here. The London Riots pop up next to build their weapons match with the Hunter Brothers later on…

#1 Contender’s Match: Noam Dar vs. Dave Mastiff
We’re underway with the high-stakes match here, and Mastiff immediately backs Dar into the corner, as the Scotsman is visibly uneager to lock up. And to be fair, if I was facing a man twice my size, I’d be scared too!

Referee Mark Parry falls for the crowd’s “count one ahead” act, skipping from six to eight, and so a gimmick is born!

Dar tries to get Mastiff to back off, and screams “bad Bastard” at him, like he were a dog, as he attempted to enter the ring. We finally see some action after Mastiff gets in Dar’s face, but a headlock from the Scotsman ends in a shoulder block that has… no effect. A punch to Mastiff’s jaw only angers him, and Dar’s attempt to run away by going between the Bastard’s legs ends in him taking a massive sit-out powerbomb for an early-two count.

Dar avoids a suplex, but gets hoisted onto the top rope with ease before escaping a superplex and kicking Mastiff to the mat. That allows Dar to target Mastiff’s legs, working on them with kicks, before landing a dropkick after trapping Mastiff’s left leg in the ropes.

Mastiff moves out of the way of a double stomp to the leg, and replies with a back senton for a near-fall on Dar. Another superplex attempt nearly went awry as Dar staggered off the top rope after a couple of forearm shots, but Mastiff was able to hoist Dar in a stalling superplex for 20 seconds, before crashing down to the mat.

Mastiff looked to go up for a Vader bomb, but was caught by Dar who kicked him to the mat, before following up with a stomp to the knee and then a diving dropkick to the leg for a near-fall. After kicking-out, Dar locked in the Champagne Super-Knee-Bar, but with his good leg, Mastiff kicked his way free and locked in a heel hook on Dar.

They resort to uppercuts and headbutts to try and recapture the upper hand, with Dar landing a bicycle kick to daze Mastiff, before he ends up running into a slap from “the Bastard”. Mastiff looks to get another suplex, but Dar sweeps the leg again, sending Mastiff to the corner, but his charges get caught, and a waistlock catch ends up with Dar sailing into the turnbuckles courtesy of a German suplex.

Mastiff follows that up with a cannonball splash in the corner, and all of a sudden Nathan Cruz’s music plays – bringing out the former champion and his bodyguard, Fug. Cruz is wearing a t-shirt that reads “Screw Indy Wrestling” (this is going somewhere…), and makes a beeline for the ring, which causes the obvious distraction, as Dar rolls up Mastiff and grabs the ropes for the win.

Eh, I could have lived without the distraction finish, but I guess that sets up Mastiff/Cruz for down the line. Good match until that point though. ***

Natural PROGRESSion Series – First Round – Paul Robinson vs. MK McKinnan
At Chapter 4, Robinson filled in for McKinnan against RJ Singh, and now they’re up against each other in the first NPS tournament. Such is life! Paul Robinson has adopted the Mr Wrestling nickname it seems, and he takes down McKinnan with a wristlock, before McKinnan scores a near-fall with a roll-up.

From a knuckle-lock, Robinson ends up in a wristlock himself, but manages to reverse it, only to get sent into the ropes with a forearm shot. A wrist-lock based armdrag sends McKinnan down, as Robinson tries to tie some offence together, only to take a knee to the jaw in the corner. They keep going back and forth for a while, with a superkick sending Robinson to the outside, and in prime position for a tope con hilo from McKinnan.

Returning to the ring, McKinnan goes airborne once more, but Robinson evades the leap and connects with a roundhouse kick for a near-fall. They trade forearms back and forth, before McKinnan moves into the kicking game, which isn’t quite so wise against the former kickboxer, but Robinson ends up taking a move which looks like he was about to give a Famouser, before he backflipped over into a front bump. That got MK a two-count, and he followed that up with a chop in the corner, before taking a back elbow from Robinson, who was then taken down to the mat.

Robinson fired back with a low dropkick, then a low-angle DDT and a standing shooting star press for a near-fall. McKinnan caught Robinson going up to the top rope, before kicking the kickboxer off the top rope, and drilling him with a brainbuster in the middle of the ring. A Shining Wizard got MK another near-fall, as Robinson found the strength to kick out, as he then reversed a German suplex attempt into a roll-up for a near-fall.

Another kick sent MK to the mat, and Robinson finished him off with the super high legdrop for the win. A good back-and-forth match, with Robinson finally getting his first PROGRESS win. ***¼

Jimmy Havoc vs. Nathan Cruz
Ah Jimmy Havoc… if you ignore the DQ win over Jon Ryan at Chapter 3 (which was then followed up by a loss in a no-DQ match), he’s still looking for his first win in PROGRESS after his fan campaign got him into the company in the first place. Yet in spite of this, he’s the head trainer at the PROGRESS training school. Purely from a kayfabe perspective, that’s not great, is it?

Cruz is playing up his “Screw Indy Wrestling” act, noting in his intro that he’s a full-time professional. Havoc starts with some basic wrestling, working a wristlock despite Cruz’s hair pulling, before Cruz reversed the hold. More chain wrestling followed, as neither man was able to conclusively gain an advantage.

Havoc scores a two-count from a crucifix pin after knocking Cruz down with a hurricanrana, with a kick to the head sending the former PROGRESS champion to the outside and the safety of his bodyguard.

A slingshot tope back into the ring from Havoc gets a two-count, but Cruz attacks him from behind to end Jimmy’s brief period on offence. Cruz chokes Havoc in the corner with a boot, before Fug gets involved whilst Havoc was draped over the apron. The slingshot back suplex gets a two-count for Cruz, as Fug grabs a chair from a fan, which gets offered up to Havoc for an easy way out.

Havoc refuses the chair, and gets beaten down some more by Cruz, before being whipped into the corner and flattened with a clothesline. Cruz keeps on top of things with a floatover suplex, before resorting to punches as Havoc teased getting back into the match. A jumping knee strike took Havoc down once more, before a dropkick got Cruz a two-count in what was becoming a long, drawn-out period of offence for the former champion.

Cruz tossed Havoc out of the ring, and he took a long time to get back in, narrowly beating the ten-count to the delight of the crowd in the Garage. Some chops from Cruz seemed to fire up Havoc, as he came back with punches in the corner, then landed a flying hurricanrana off the top rope.

A death valley driver scored Havoc a near-fall, but he quickly got caught in a bridging German suplex from Cruz, and was forced to kick out at two. Cruz went for the Show Stolen, but Havoc avoided it and caught Cruz in the crossface. Instead of reaching for the ropes though, Cruz stood up and worked out of the hold, before surprising Havoc with a tombstone piledriver for the win. A decent match, in spite of the long period of offence from Cruz, and Havoc is still waiting for his first W in PROGRESS. ***¼

Post-match, Cruz talked down to Havoc, saying that he was a professional and that Havoc wasn’t. Somehow, that speech isn’t quite as intimidating when it’s said in a Yorkshire accent. Fug gave Havoc the move that every man in wrestling who’s over 6’ 8” are legally obliged to use in at least one stage of their career – a chokeslam. Insult was then added to injury when Fug followed up with another chokeslam, this time whilst diving off the second rope.

Weapons Match: The London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) vs. The Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter)
This is like my worst nightmare this – two of the three teams I struggle to tell apart facing each other. Apologies to all involved if I screw up names!

The ring is already strewn with weapons as we start, with one of them looking like a badminton racquet with extra goodies tied to it. Jim Smallman offers up his Xbox 360 as a weapon, which was of no use anyway thanks to the dreaded “Red Ring of Death” error.

The Riots jump the Hunters and toss them to the outside, but a dropkick takes out both of the Riots, leading up to a tope to Rob Lynch on the outside.A Hunter puts on a cricket helmet and follows up with a more traditional tope, getting a really half-arsed “this is PROGRESS chant”. Meanwhile, James Davis took another of the Hunters and threw him through a doorway, before brawling around the bar and the ringside area. This was wild and extremely tough to keep up with, as you’d expect!

Finally in the ring, James Davis smashed a hubcap over one of the Hunters’ heads to block a sunset flip, then scored a two-count from a sit-down splash. On the outside, Rob Lynch delivered a stiff bodyslam, whilst another Hunter suplexed Davis before a Hunter used a hubcap shot over the head of Davis back in the ring.

A roadworks sign was set up in the corner like a ladder bridge, and was promptly used as a platform for a backdrop suplex on Davis, as Rob Lynch ran into the ring and was promptly smashed over the back with a Guitar Hero controller. The Hunters worked together to trip Lynch off the apron, whilst James Davis took a painful-looking atomic drop onto a traffic cone.

Davis was then cannonballed into the road-sign, as Rob Lynch returned to take a drop toe hold into a hub cap, before the Hunters tied him up in the ropes like he were Andre the Giant. That left Lynch exposed for a Singapore cane shot to the head, before the Hunters brought some keyboards in – and the new keyboard warriors went all New Jack by smashing them over Lynch’s head. All unprotected, of course!

The Hunters went up to the merchandise tables and grabbed a chocolate Easter bunny (since this happened on Easter Sunday, afterall), only to be smashed by a clothesline from behind from Davis, and it looked like the Riots’ comeback was on, particularly when Lynch threw a traffic cone at a Hunter.

The Hunters worked together to turn a sunset flip attempt into a double-team lungblower, before a tope rope hurricanrana was blocked, leading to the Hunters being suplexed onto themselves in a move that almost ended the match. Another hub cap was smashed over the head of a tied up Hunter, and then Rob Lynch grabbed the Easter bunny, and hurled it into the crowd.

An overhead belly-to-belly followed for a near-fall, as did a double-team shoulder block, before Davis used a keyboard to swat away a springboarding Hunter for a near-fall. The Riots went for the District Line powerbomb, but the Hunters escaped it before finally smashing the Chocolate Bunny over the Riots’ head. A DDT onto the Xbox followed, as did a hurricanrana onto the road sign on Lynch, and a Superfly splash for a near-fall.

James Davis pulled out the referee to stop the count, then went to work on the Hunters on the outside, before we finally get one of the Hunters identified… when Davis uses hazard tape to tie Jim Hunter to the ringpost. That leaves Lee Hunter on the inside to take a spear from Rob Lynch, and we get a up-close-and-personal shot of the Riots assaulting Jim on the outside, before an in-ring view of a lariat on Lee Hunter.

Lynch chokes away at Lee with a Singapore cane, before the District Line powerbomb finally ends things. For a weapons match, it was what it was, but watching this in 2016 left me feeling a little unnerved by the unprotected headshots. **½

The second half started with the first ever PROGRESS raffle, which needed to be drawn three times as the winners didn’t own up. That was followed by the main prize, which saw a fan enter the ring to claim a massive Easter egg, before being interrupted by the debuting Mexican Eagle. Oh dear…

The Mexican Eagle vs. Mike Mason
On a podcast taped over the Super Strong Style 16 tournament in 2015, Jim Smallman brought up this match, and talked about it as if it were one of the most boring bouts he had commentated on. Let’s see if this lives down to the hype.

Mason’s back for his first appearance in PROGRESS since the debut show, whilst the Mexican Eagle – usually a regular in the nearby IPW:UK promotion – was making his one and only appearance to date in the company. After intimidating the raffle winner, they played “Stop The Pigeon” to anger the Eagle, who proclaims that he’s not a pigeon. In a really bad English-with-a-hint-of-fake-Mexican accent. This just comes across as surreal and what I’d imagine resembles an acid trip.

The Eagle’s pre-match promo seems to focus on Mason’s valet, Becky James, and he promises that “he’ll do things that even Jimmy Savile wouldn’t even do”. Insert age-related joke here, as we jump cut past the entrance of Mason (who’s seemingly using Andrei Arlovski’s old UFC music for himself).

Mason starts with a clothesline or two to the Eagle, then a Thesz press, before the Eagle pulls out a tennis ball and throws it into the crowd, as Mason goes chasing it. We already get bored commentary as the match is ignored, instead listing favourite birds of prey and breeds of dog. To be fair, I paid more attention to that than the match, as the uninspired action continued outside, with Mason being shoved into the ringpost after a tepid brawl.

The Eagle chased Becky James around the ring, and walked into a clothesline from Mason, who then spent too much time barking and got the rope kicked into his groin. A headbutt down south got the Eagle a two-count, as he worked over Mason with some chops against the ropes. Things went from bad to worse when Eagle slowed things down further with a rear chinlock, which Mason reversed, before a gutwrench powerbomb got the Eagle another near-fall.

Our commentary segued into “the noises that dogs make in different countries”, stopping in time to call a Mason spinebuster for a two-count. A spear came next, before Mason missed a Vader bomb in the corner. The Eagle pulled an Eddie Guerrero by pretending that Mason had hit him with a chain, but the match continued, only for the Eagle to hit Mason with a small toy guitar for the win. I never need to see either of these guys wrestle ever again. And I mean it. ½*

That was perhaps the most bored any PROGRESS crowd have been for a match, and not even giving polite reactions as well to the guys. Eagle went to the back with Becky James in tow, with the rematches (thankfully) not materialising from that angle.

Bhangra Knights (RJ Singh & Darrell Allen) vs. Team DEFEND (Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis)
Andrews and the debuting Dennis are of course the team now known as FSU, playing off the Defend Indy Wrestling/Screw Indy Wrestling storyline going on, and this face vs. face match could be interesting. Or at least it will be once everyone’s derobed and shown off their entire range of merchandise in the process!

Allen takes down Andrews early on with a heel hold, which is spun out of, whilst a waistlock yields similar results, with Andrews finally grabbing a headlock from it. Some headscissors sends Allen into the corner, before he’s backdropped onto the apron, and sweeps himself back in with an armdrag for a near-fall. Nice little move, that.

Allen landed on his feet following a monkey flip attempt from Andrews, and in comes the debuting Eddie Dennis, who intimidates Allen into making the tag out to RJ Singh. They continue with the basic wrestling stuff, as RJ tries to cut Dennis down to size. Dennis takes down Singh with several headlocks, but gets caught in some headscissors, forcing another reversal, and eventually a modified surfboard stretch.

Dennis powers out of another headlock from Singh by lifting him up and dropping him “across the threshold” and onto the apron, as the Bhangra Knights continued to offer little in response to the monstrous Welshman. Singh cheapshots Dennis from a handshake, but he still gets taken down with ease.

Andrews tags back in and gets a near-fall from a legdrop to the arm of Singh, who continues to absorb punishment as Team DEFEND make frequent tags. A standing corkscrew shooting star press gets Andrews a near-fall, before Dennis comes back in, only to miss a corner charge and finally take an enziguiri to the lower back by Singh, who then tags in Allen for a slingshot ‘rana to the outside on Dennis.

A dropkick from Allen got him a near-fall, before bringing back Singh into the ring, where the Knights hit a double-team hiptoss then a double elbow drop for another near-fall. Singh kicked away at Dennis while he was caught in the ropes, then landed a lungblower as Allen came in with a slingshot tope cone hilo onto the prone Dennis for a two-count.

Dennis tried to hit a version of Cesaro’s old Ricola Bomb (straight-jacket powerbomb), but Singh worked free. A tope con hilo from Andrews took out Singh on the outside, before Allen was forcibly sent to the outside with a Razor’s Edge/Border Toss from Eddie Dennis over the top rope. Dennis looked to capitalise back in the ring, but was dropped with a flatliner from Singh, and then the Ethnic Submission, which was broken up by a superkick from Andrews.

Andrews then accidentally leapt into his own man after Singh moved away, but Dennis caught him and used Andrews as a human weapon, buckle bombing him into Singh in the corner. An elevated double stomp got Andrews a two-count before Allen interfered, with the Razzle Dazzle roundhouse kick sending Dennis to the mat.

Out of nowhere, Andrews found himself caught in a double-team cutter for a near-fall with Dennis making the save, but a double-team superkick led Dennis into the path of the Bhangra Buster (Samoan Drop/Blockbuster neckbreaker) as the Knights took the win. A good showing from both teams on their technical debut, but to me it felt like it was missing something. ***¼

PROGRESS Championship: El Ligero (c) vs. Ricochet
If my maths are right, this is the 700th match I’ve watched and reviewed this year (at the time of writing this in July). No wonder my head hurts. Still, at least this should soothe things.

Ricochet starts by taking down Ligero early in as they grapple for an advantage, before both men climb to the top rope for the hell of it. More waistlocks and headlocks follow, before Ligero takes Ricochet into the corner for a clean break. The pace picked up a bit with flips from Ricochet, and a headscissor takedown sending Ligero to the outside, before we saw our first fake, a Ricochet stopped himself mid-flight.

Back in the ring, Ricochet stayed on top of the champion, landing a dropkick before indulging in a spot of break dancing. Ligero gets caught in an upside-down submission, looking like he’d been frozen in place after a shoulder-breaker, before Ricochet opts for a pinfall and a two-count from that. Ricochet stretched Ligero across his back, and rammed him into the middle turnbuckles repeatedly for just a one-count from the innovative offence.

Ligero regained some control after catching a Ricochet kick, then went flying with a springboard tope con hilo off the top rope, scoring just a one-count after bringing the action back to the ring. A single-leg dropkick got a two-count for Ligero, as did a backbreaker, before Ricochet tried to kick his way back into things from the ground, eventually working back up to his feet and taking the champion down with a dropkick.

Ligero gets sent into the corner and is taken down with a flying clothesline for another two-count, before Ricochet drops him with an Ace crusher and a running shooting star press for another near-fall. Ricochet heads up to the top rope again and looks for a double moonsault, but Ligeo gets out of the way and replies with the tombstone into a Codebreaker for a near-fall.

Ricochet blocks a suplex attempt, but gets rolled up by Ligero for a two-count, before Ligero’s attempt to slide outside for cover saw Ricochet go flying once more, this time flipping over the ropes and connecting with a plancha, landing in the lap of a fan in the front row. Inside again, Ricochet gets a near-fall, before finally hoisting up Ligero for a deadlift Regalplex That gets the challenger, yes, a near-fall, and he leans back into a Rings of Saturn, but ends up losing the hold when he added a leg scissor to it.

After dumping Ligero on the mat, Ricochet went up top again, but was cut off by an enziguiri from Ligero. Ricochet kicked Ligero down to the mat though, and gave him an opening for a shooting star press that got nothing but Ligero’s knees. One reverse ‘rana later, Ligero took the chance to land the C4 tornado DDT, and that was it – another successful defence from Ligero, without any of the “conflicted” shenanigans to boot! ***¾

A fine main event for an unofficial first anniversary show. This card featured plenty of solid wrestling and some memorable moments: good and bad. I never ever need to see another match involving the Mexican Eagle or Mike Mason ever again; and whilst this fit in with the London Riots’ image, we could also have done without the headshots in the weapons match.

Still, if you’ve got two hours and a Demand-PROGRESS subscription, this is worth watching for the main event. And the “comedy” match too.