Review by Nick Davie (@Nick_Davie)
For the first time in just over two years, I made my return to the always superb Electric Ballroom. Lots of things have changed since my last visit to the Ballroom when 2017 Strong Style weekend was closing with Travis Banks being crowned the winner in front of an ecstatic crowd. Things may have changed but one thing is for sure; it’s one of the best feelings in the world when Metallica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls starts to blare out at 4pm.
This Sunday’s June show holds special memories for me as back in June of 2016 Chapter 32 was my favourite Progress show. In fact it was one of my favourite ever wrestling shows I have ever attended. Damon Moser vs Nathan Cruz in a brutal No DQ match, Laura Di Matteo vs Jinny taking the women’s division to new heights, Mark Haskins vs Johnny Gargano for the SMASH Wrestling championship and then Marty Scurll beating Tommy End in the main event, only for Pastor William Eaver to cash in his Natural Progression Series title opportunity to win his first ever Progress championship.
The day began with the usual lovely surroundings of Camden High Street and, more importantly, the sight of the Progress queue already gathering good speed at 11am with plenty of diehard Progress fans enjoying the weather. TK Cooper and Chuck Mambo were also enjoying the Camden sunshine and were walking up and down the queue chatting to various fans excited for the show ahead.
Also since 2017 the Electric Ballroom itself has changed and, when we took our front row seats, it was a sad and strange sight not seeing Jon Briley in his usual location. The Ballroom changes are impressive and with it getting extra capacity this is only good news when it comes to pressing the F5 refresh button at noon.
The pre-show match featured Billy Haze vs Levi Billy; two wrestlers I have never seen live and to be quite honest it did require an extensive internet search to find out more information about them. It’s great seeing young up-and-coming wrestlers in action and both men certainly showed sign of promise. Billy Haze got the win thanks to a roll up when Levi appeared to be looking for a gory bomb. It was also nice to see Haze back out for the main show wearing his Progress crew shirt and assisting fans when needed to do so.
The show kicked off in an extremely appropriate way and once again another reason why I love everything about this company and in fact the wrestling community. Jim Smallman placed his hat and microphone down in the ring and a minute’s applause began around the Ballroom in honour of Adrian ‘Lionheart’ McCallum. Lionheart never wrestled in Progress and I was unlucky never to see him wrestle but one thing is for sure; he did so much for British wrestling and was fondly remembered by so many people in the industry and on a personal level to those who knew him dear. RIP.
The opening contest featured NIWA (accompanied to the ring with TK Cooper and Travis Banks) taking on Rickey Shane Page. I have never seen NIWA perform, but I have seen Shane Page back on my Wrestlemania trip to New Orleans. The match itself was enjoyable with RSP displaying an almost lucha style of attack and NIWA displaying great heel work, including spitting in the face of RSP. Banks and Cooper didn’t appear to be much of a distraction until the referee’s back was turned and both men attacked RSP on the outside. RSP did his best to mount a comeback, but NIWA was in full control and hit a running boot followed by a lariat to take the win. ‘Please come back’ chants followed the match for RSP, a man who I would love to see back again and hopefully in a hardcore match of some kind.
Next up we had the debuting Brent Banks take on Jordan Devlin in what many people were building up to be a match of the night contender. I have never seen Banks before but have heard great things, especially from his time in SMASH Wrestling. Devlin I have most certainly seen live and he wrestled in one of my favourite ever RIPTIDE matches against Kyle Fletcher. Banks dominated most of the match, showing a lot of impressive aerial offence. In the end it was Jordan Devlin who came out on top after making a late comeback and countering Banks into a suplex for the win. Devlin gets more confidence going into his match against Iija Dragunov on Saturday at Chapter 91 in Newcastle. Whilst its not going very well for the Toon Army when it comes to football, they can certainly look forward to some wrestling to cheer up any Toon fans! Progress’s first ever show in Newcastle should be a very good show.
Next up we had a women’s division match with Candy Floss taking on the debuting Lana Austin. The trend continues for this match; I have seen Candy wrestle many times in Progress, Riptide and even WWE UK while it was my first time seeing Lana Austin. The match started with a bit of humour which saw Candy escape from an Austin hold by hugging her; the hugs then turned to referee Paz. The humour soon disappeared and we got a very good competitive high energy match. Candy got the win through the modified rings of Saturn. There was a show of respect at the end from each competitor but they were interrupted by Holidead, who came out and attacked both women. Since then Holidead will face both Candy Floss and Lana Austin, in single matches at Newcastle and Manchester this weekend.
The final match in the first half of the show saw natural Progression competitor Dan Moloney team with his mentor Trent Seven to take on one of the hottest tag teams in the world, LAX. Also interesting to note, the Chapter 32 show I mentioned earlier, was actually Trent Sevens’ debut in the Ballroom. I had never seen Moloney or LAX wrestle live, but have obviously heard great things about both. The match itself was great, lot of trash talking but more importantly a very well executed tag team match. LAX isolated Trent for most of the match before a hot tag was made to Moloney, but LAX managed to get the win thanks a double reverse suplex.
After the interval Jim Smallman made an announcement for Chapter 93, the next Ballroom show at the end of July. He will unfortunately not be at the show, as he is taking a deserved holiday with his wife and son. He announced that the special guest ring announcer for the show will be none other than the Pride of Wales Eddie Dennis.
The 198 then came out to address the Ballroom, following their attack on Aussie Open and stealing the tag team titles back on day 3 of Super Strong Style 2019. Flash said the reason behind them taking the belts was lack of respect and title opportunities given to both men despite being at Progress from the start in 2012. Flash then announced in serious news that, due to a recurring shoulder injury, he may never be able to wrestle again. This promo caused all sorts of confusion amongst the crowd, many believing it was a trick and just some good heel work and so when Flash and Boar made their exit it wasn’t to a great ovation. Aussie Open, who were invited back into the ring to claim the belts, were jumped from behind by the South Pacific Power Trip. History looked like repeating itself as Banks and Cooper decided they deserved the belts as well so made an exit with them. Before they could leave the Ballroom, Mark Davis said there was no chance they were leaving with the belts so challenged them to a main event match for the titles. Jim Smallman agreed and the main event was set.
Next up we had another tag team match with both potential Progress title and Natural Progression series implications. Super Strong Style winner David Starr teamed with his protégé OJMO to take on Progress champion Walter and his protégé Veit Muller. Unfortunately Muller was involved in a car accident in the morning so was unable to travel to the show. Thankfully he is OK and the injuries were minor. Walter’s replacement was Shigehiro Irie. I had never seen Irie wrestle, but judging by the pop, I had reason to be excited. David Starr was getting control of the match, before tagging in OJMO who wasn’t interested in fighting Irie and made it clear he wants Walter. Ask and you shall receive. He got Walter, but Walter dominated him around the ring. OJMO got into the corner where Starr asked if he wants out. Starr then slapped OJMO round the face to fire him up. OJMO then got Walter down to his knees thanks to a series of drop kicks. The crowd is very hot for OJMO, but Walter and Irie start to dominate. Starr did get tagged in and the action soon turned to the outside, where OJMO displayed more high flying offence and took out Walter from the outside. Starr hit the ushigoroshi on Irie for the win with Walter unable to make the save as OJMO was holding him back outside the ring. It was a big win for Starr and OJMO and they received a standing ovation. My match of the night for sure.
Next up was Paul Robinson taking on Connor Mills; two men I have seen compete many times before! Connor Mills has been impressive in his single matches in Progress, but is still looking for a big win. The test of Paul Robinson couldn’t be tougher. It was hard for these guys to follow the excellent tag team match but they gave it a good go for sure. Robbo largely dominated the knees of Connor Mills throughout the match. Robbo got the win, with a foot stomp to the back of Mills head.
Main event time. Aussie Open and SPPT went to war with each other. Wild brawls, lots of counters and near falls. Towards the end of the bout, TK Cooper grabbed the titles and him and NIWA looked to make an early exit. They shouted for Travis to join them, but he hesitated. He shouts back to them, claiming they have the match won. Eventually Travis decides to join them, but the delay in doing so allows Kyle Fletcher to launch himself out the ring to stop them. Aussie Open hit the double team pump handle slam to get the win. Great match, and a nice ending to the show.
Overall really enjoyable show. On a personal level it was great to see so many wrestlers compete for the first time, and also nice to see the blend of NXT UK guys, top indie wrestlers and up-and-comers. Progress is still in an extremely strong place and I’m already pencilling in my next visit to the Ballroom. Mark Davis’ new Dunkzilla shirt, becomes the latest wrestling merch I now own.
Please check out our latest podcast where we review this, along with AEW Fyter Fest and a discussion about Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff’s new roles in WWE.