I was looking forward to this wrestling show but also I wasn’t. Let me explain. It was PROGRESS’s biggest ever show, at the Brixton Academy in London, meaning there would be three times the normal amount of fans present. I wasn’t looking forward to the possibility of bad behaviour from people who don’t normally get to a PROGRESS show or how different the atmosphere would be. But I was looking forward to the spectacle, to PROGRESS getting such a brilliant opportunity to shine on a bigger stage, to the stories being told.
We nipped into London at our usual time, despite having assigned seating this time, and made our way to Brixton which meant a completely different route. Neither of us had ever been to the Brixton Academy so we wanted to know where we’d be going. Once we got out at Brixton tube station we heard our names bellowed and there was S, one of our PROGRESS friends, who was full of stories of the wrestlers she’d already seen walking around Brixton. While she went to get lunch, we ate ours on benches by the police station and enjoyed the peace. We went into a CEX DVD shop where I bought a Bret Hart boxset dirt cheap and Anthony bought Borgen series 1, as he was intrigued by it. Then we joined the PROGRESS queue, where we were soon joined by our usual PROGRESS friend C who wouldn’t be sat with us for once due to the assigned seating – we didn’t get to choose our seats.
Getting inside was much quicker than at usual PROGRESS shows as all they had to do was scan our ticket barcodes rather than also find each punters’ name on a list to tick it off. Inside, there was a merchandise section which was very busy. Anthony bought a PROGRESS scarf; a recently-released piece of merchandise which he really liked the look of. Inside the academy is very beautiful, clearly it was once an old theatre or something because there’s ornate balconies and statues and it’s a really big space. Our seats were row 6 which didn’t seem too bad.
The first huge moment of the night was Kris Travis’ entrance theme being played before the usual Drake and Metallica (two tracks played right before the start of every show). The crowd immediately got on their feet and applauded and I shed tears. Because I miss Trav very much and he absolutely would have been part of this show had he lived. A brilliant respectful moment. Jim Smallman, co-owner, had an amazing giddy look on his face as he got in the ring to do his usual wonderfully casual intro and thanked everyone for coming and making the day so special for him and the other co-owners, who started a little wrestling company 4 years ago simply because they love wrestling.
So onto the wrestling. The first PROGRESS Atlas Champion was crowned – a division for competitors at 250lbs and over. Rampage Brown vs Joe Coffey. We’ve seen them face each other before and boy was it hard hitting and tremendous. Neither man disappointed on such a huge stage and getting to sing along to Rampage’s entrance theme – ‘I Will Be Heard’ by Hatebreed – was even more awesome than usual. Both men threw everything at each other and got the crowd going at the start of such a different show. Rampage ended up winning – we assumed he would as he’s been with PROGRESS since the early days and is so loved and so would be the perfect first champ. He absolutely deserved it and Joe showed again why he’s one of the best in the UK right now too; really hope he continues to appear at Progress shows as I love watching him work. Rampage got presented with the beautiful new belt, as you can see below. Can’t wait to see who will challenge him for it, we can’t wait for more big lads wrestling.
Seriously scary moment of the night – someone getting legitimately hurt. Pastor William Eaver vs Sebastian was a real grudge match with an excellent build-up package shown. Then Eaver jumped Sebastian before the bell with his patented Clothesline from Heaven and knocked Sebastian clean out. Sebastian went dead-weight and wasn’t moving so the referee raised his fists, crossed at the wrists, a well-known sign for a legit injury. Now WWE have used this before for fake injuries so some people thought this was part of the show but PROGRESS never use it falsely so we knew it was real, especially when medical staff ran out to help. Sebastian was loaded onto a backboard and was awake by this point and eventually taken to hospital for a full check-up. He’s fine, though very sore. It’s such a shame for him and Eaver, all that build-up and not getting to perform in the end. Hopefully he won’t be out for long and the rivalry can continue but wow, really scary moment.
The ladies were in the full force with Dahlia Black, Alex Windsor, & Jinny taking on Nixon Newell, Laura Di Matteo and Pollyanna. All six were on fire and while it got a bit messy here and there, it was still a very strong match, all the ladies showing how good they are in the ring and the fans treated them like wrestlers, not eye candy (at least in my area, I can’t speak for all the people there). The match featured Dahlia’s other half TK Cooper getting involved, though for once he accidentally knocked out his girlfriend rather than purposefully KOed her opponents and took a kick to the balls from another for his troubles. There’s so many rivalries bubbling away there and I can’t wait to see what happens next with the ladies; they’re all so awesome and I’m super proud of them. They inspire me.
There was an impromptu match as Paul Robinson came out to a huge heated reaction, demanding a match. He’s a legit hard man and a scary little bloke. Chuck Mambo came out to answer the challenge, meaning beachballs were thrown into the crowd as his music hit, always fun. Anthony and I have two of them at home now. It was a strong little match; Chuck showing how he’s improved over the past few years and Paul showing always what an insanely hateable charismatic character he is – the heat he got was fantastic, and yet he hasn’t been seen at a PROGRESS main chapter show since late last year! Hopefully we’ll have more of him as there’s always a place for a nasty little villain like him and he is very good in the ring.
The PROGRESS Tag Team Titles were on the line as the London Riots defended them against British Strong Style. Both Rob Lynch of the Riots and Trent Seven of Strong Style had a black eye each from shows the previous night. This was a richly-entertaining, really hard-hitting match, showing just how good all four guys are, how tough they are and what great story-tellers they are. At one point they were outside the ring, all got chairs, sat down and just started smacking each other! This was definitely my fave match of the night and I can’t wait to watch it back. There’s something so believable about everything they do, which I love. I hate having to boo Trent as I adore him but I can’t cheer him either when he’s so villainous and wants to be booed. I assumed Riots would retain and that Strong Style would win the titles in a few months but no, they ended up attacking Rob’s bad eye and then got the win. I am so pleased for both Trent and Pete; they’re amazing performers and both doing so brilliantly this year but wow, was not expecting that. A friend opinioned that the Riots are getting a bit stale right now so it makes sense for Strong Style to win but the tag division is currently pretty sparse in PROGRESS. Who is gonna challenge the champs? There’s not enough hero teams. So it’ll have to be folk from outside the company, which throws up interesting possibilities admittedly. I am so proud of the Riots though and really hope they don’t turn villain again. I really don’t know what’s next for them; I just know that I love watching them at shows and feel the shows would be less without them.
Ah the eight man tag team match – the Origin vs F.SU, Damon Moser and Jack Gallagher. If the Origin lose, they disband. Now Zack Gibson of course was prepared to do his usual identical speech before the match which gets everyone booing like you wouldn’t believe. But as soon as he started, toilet rolls started getting chucked in the ring! I later found out that PROGRESS themselves bought them and gave them out to fans specifically for this moment. The hero team bailed and watched as the ring filled with toilet paper and the bewildered and angry Origin tried to dodge and weave though inevitably got caught up in it all. And of course we were all booing anyway so Gibson couldn’t be heard. I actually had to stop booing I was laughing so much. Interesting note; after messaging Nathan to wish him good luck at the event, he responded by daring me to wear my Nathan Cruz t-shirt at the show. I told him I wasn’t that brave and later messaged him that it was lucky I hadn’t worn the shirt as I could have ended up pelted with toilet paper!
This match was shorter than others but packed a lot in. For a while they all fought outside the ring, breaking off into different areas of the room, meaning we had to stand and crane our necks to spot any of them. One moment featured Mark Andrews moonsaulting off the lower balcony – insane as always! Eventually everyone was more or less back towards the ring and we got some marvellous moments like Jack Gallagher tying up Gibson, Ligero and Cruz and turning them over and using one of them as a seat, Andrews and Dennis doing the same. Then Mastiff got in the ring to chuck them out and looked totally confused by the state of the rest of his team. Amazing. A great fast-paced fun match, so wonderfully entertaining, and it was great see Moser, who is a PROGRESS trainee graduate, getting a match at such a huge event.
A great moment featured Ligero and referee Joel (who has feuded with another wrestler in another company so we know he can handle the physical stuff). Ligero used Joel as a barrier twice, dragging Joel in and hiding behind him until Joel got sick of him and executed a Stunner on Ligero, only it didn’t quite go right. Whoops. But it was still a fantastic moment that rightly got a huge cheer. This is the third time Joel has interacted like that with Ligero during a match so I hope it’s going to continue, going to keep bubbling under, because it always really makes me happy.
The finish saw Gibson pinning Gallagher after first clocking him with a car stereo (that again!) and then executing a final move, actually a very emotional moment. You see, when wrestlers are going to leave a company, in their last match traditionally they lose – you leave looking at the lights. Gallagher is moving onto WWE and this was his last independent wrestling show. He and Gibson have worked together a great deal over the years; probably more than they’ve worked with anyone else. They’ve become perfect opponents. Anthony also pointed out that Gibson won ultimately after hitting a move he used to use a lot early on in his career; a nice touch. How wonderful that Gallagher could say goodbye with his most infamous opponent, and likely real life friend, in such a way.
So the Origin survive – I honestly wasn’t expecting that. But as Anthony said that there’s still another story to tell and they’ve got to start telling it now before the Origin get stale. Gibson is absolutely ripe to become PROGRESS Champion – I think he’ll be the next one to be honest – and I think he’ll win and somehow the other Origin members will turn on him as I think as hated as he is now, fans are genuinely entertained by him and given a chance would cheer for him. Having watched him as a hero in other companies, he doesn’t change the character that much as a hero – dials down the nasal tone of his voice and plays to the crowd a bit more but that’s it. Nathan Cruz’s character would need way more changes to make him a hero in PROGRESS and they only turned Ligero and Mastiff villainous last year. Also I can’t see Gibson holding the title for long when part of a group that loathes PROGRESS fans – it’d be too much like Jimmy Havoc and Regression.
Two out of Three falls – Zack Sabre Jr vs Tommaso Ciampa. Their third PROGRESS match together, Ciampa’s last independent wrestling match before beginning a more exclusive WWE contract. Signs were given out by an enterprising crowd member – simple black and white printouts stating PSYCHO KILLER (Ciampa’s nickname) with the PROGRESS logo on. I was proud to hold it up with Ciampa entered and to see his reaction to the whole sea of them. Naturally the two wrestlers did not disappoint; both so technically skilled, both so intense. The first fall was a double-pin which wasn’t popular with the crowd but that Anthony and I thought was incredibly smart. In the end of course Zack won and Ciampa got the cheers and thank yous and you deserve it chants. Another fantastic wrestling showcase from both of them. I feel so blessed to have seen them wrestle so many times. What an experience. I’ll treasure their matches the more I think about them.
So the main event. Tommy End vs Mark Haskins vs Marty Scurll for the title. Tommy too was leaving us, presumably for the WWE. He came out in corpse paint looking wonderful. Champion Marty had a special entrance – four gorgeous girls in fur coats and carrying umbrellas; his Scurll Girls apparently, dancing before he made his entrance and then disrobing him. Was it a great match? Absolutely, three of the best in the world right now beating the hell out of each other, all desperate for the title, desperation and determination obvious from Mark and Tommy while Marty was his usual sly wicked self, determined to keep the title by any means. There were moments like Mark putting a Star Armbar on both Tommy and Marty at the same time, Mark being suplexed through a table set up outside the ring. Incredible breathless moments.
Now I assumed Marty was retaining, due to the tag titles changing hands already. Then, after not getting the three count at one point, Marty beat up the referee, causing another to come out. When he didn’t give Marty the win on the next pin, Marty beat him up too. The same thing happened to the third referee. So that was all three PROGRESS referees knocked out. I didn’t like this as it’s a moment Marty has indulged in before it also makes no sense – if there’s no referee, who can award the win? And as Marty’s done it before and the end to his recent PROGRESS matches have almost all involved outside interference, I was very cross. It was disappointing; I feel PROGRESS are usually way more creative than that.
Now Jim Smallman had crawled into the ring to check on the referees and got to his feet once Marty spotted him, pointing his umbrella, indicating that he meant to hurt Jim. I leaned over to Anthony and murmured very quietly, ‘you know now would be the perfect time for Jimmy to-.’ And his music hit, ‘I Hope You Suffer’ by AFI blasting out. The whole venue rose to their feet with a roar, beers were thrown in the air, it was a riot of excitement because JIMMY HAVOC WAS BACK.
I’m getting emotional writing this, can you tell?
A quick primer – Jimmy was once a lovable loser before beating up Jim Smallman in one of the most memorable PROGRESS moments ever, became PROGRESS Champion (still the longest reigning ever by the way) and recruited Isaac Zercher, the Riots and Paul Robinson to form the Regression stable that utterly terrorised PROGRESS. Jimmy was a monster, delivering incredible promo videos, being utterly despicable in the ring (what a storyteller he is) and bringing a lot of attention to PROGRESS, staying champion for almost two years before Will Ospreay won it in an amazing long-term underdog story. Jimmy then lost a No DQ match (my fave ever PROGRESS match) vs Robinson, which saw the crowd give him a standing ovation and Jim Smallman help him to his feet before he acknowledged the crowd for the first time in forever and left.
He is a monster and he is loved. Because he’s so good at what he does and the crowd loves that. So his music hit and out he came in his long leather coat and leather half-face mask. He hasn’t been wrestling most of this year as in March he suffered a very serious leg injury. But Marty has been crowing for months that he’s the greatest PROGRESS Champion ever and clearly Jimmy had had enough. He got in the ring and looked at Jim Smallman – was he going to beat up Jim again? Instead he hit Marty with his Acid Rainmaker finisher and held the PROGRESS title high to rapturous applause. Jim scrambled out of the ring, Jimmy pitched the belt to him, flipped his middle fingers at the fallen Marty and left.
Being part of that moment, looking at Jimmy making his long overdue return, it made my night. I knew he’d be there because it was PROGRESS’ biggest ever show and he’s a huge part of their success so he had to be there and wow, a feud between him and Marty? That’s actually never been done anywhere before. I’m so excited for these two vicious villains wanting to tear each other apart. And cheering Jimmy on will be such a pleasure, what we’ve all been wanting to do for so long. He absolutely deserved that cheer, that heartfelt reaction. Welcome home, Jimmy : )
The match ended when Mark Haskins cinched the Sharpshooter onto Marty Scurll and got the win and the belt – his first ever PROGRESS title win. Completely deserving. Mark has been wrestling at such a high level this year and last year too and will be such a different champion to Marty. I know this meant the world to Mark and to do it in Brixton, at such a big show, that moment is a huge compliment to him from PROGRESS. Well done, Mark. You’re not underrated anymore. Thankfully despite the enormous Jimmy reaction, Mark’s win still got an tremendous ovation. He wasn’t overshadowed. Who will face him for the title? Marty will surely slide into a feud with Jimmy and Tommy is leaving so maybe we’ll get a few guest challenges or top roster members gunning for Mark before it’s the Origin’s time and we’ll get that story rolling.
Jim finished the night by bringing out Gallagher and Ciampa to stand with Tommy to drink in the applause and the love from the crowd. None of them made a speech but they stood there, grinning, sweating, tired, but clearly so moved. I will miss all three of them. I’ll miss Ciampa’s wild-eyed intensity and utter devotion to the job. His kind words about PROGRESS in a WWE.com interview were a real indication of how much he loves PROGRESS. He really did fall for the company and loved performing for it and we appreciated that so much. He was kind and professional when I spoke to him and got a photo and I’m glad I did. I’ll miss Gallagher’s brilliant characterisation and silky-smooth wrestling, how much he entertained – his match vs El Ligero from Manchester is still the funniest match I’ve ever seen - and how fantastically I saw him develop in terms of character. Once he hit on that ‘extraordinary gentleman’ persona, he hit another level. It informed every movement he made and paired with his supreme technical talent, was always a marvel. I always looked forward to his matches. I never got to talk to him – he rarely did merch table stuff – but I hope my cheering indicated how much pleasure his work has brought me.
Tommy End is who I’ll miss the most; how much his character work utterly inspired me and how much I loved every drop of what he did, in the ring and in pre-match videos – for PROGRESS and especially for ICW. Fun fact, it was a video Anthony showed me of Tommy and tag partner Michael Dante slitting a guy’s throat in an ICW video that got me interested in their tag team in the first place. I was fascinated by the characters and the story. Then that 2014 moment when Legion were born in ICW; Tommy and Michael dressed in robes over their wrestling gear, carrying a leather bodybag down to the ring. Once in the ring, they spit alcohol over the body and the body sat up. Tommy undid it and there was Mikey Whiplash reborn, in facepaint and fishnets, visible for the first time in a year, reborn thanks to the blood spilled and collected by Tommy and Michael in slitting a throat. I get goosebumps thinking about.
I loved them first in ICW (Legion vs the NAK is still one of my favourite ever feuds, so well done) and then in PROGRESS. Tommy was always a gentleman whenever we talked in person, even though I was super nervy as he’s so very awesome and completely intimidating. I even once asked for a hug which made him laugh but he obliged. I can’t believe I did that. How he will work in PG-rated WWE, I have no clue. He’s covered in tattoos and a Satanist in real life and he usually plays that in the ring. To fans who don’t know him he looks like a cross between the Wyatt Family and Baron Corbin (current WWE names) It’s going to be incredibly interesting. Oh Tommy, I will miss watching you live in small venues, witnessing your intensity, your matchless storytelling, your amazing striking and submission skills, how you gave absolutely everything to the performance. Go well, sir, and shine.
Any negatives to the show? The sightlines were pretty crappy. The floor was lower than in the Ballroom so it meant that from our seats we didn’t get to see nearly as much. I had to watch the screen almost the whole time which eliminated a lot of the fun. Some people experienced the problem of people near them being incredibly frustrating, nothing brings you down at a show more than someone near you shouting something offensive or unpleasant or acting like a drunk moron. But the atmosphere was lively and generally good-hearted and what a difference a big room made in terms of how things felt and sounded.
I was glad to see my friends. I got to hug Jim Smallman’s wife who is a lovely friend and who hasn’t been at recent shows due to giving birth to baby Claudio so it was so wonderful to see her again. The baby was there too in little ear defenders and a PROGRESS onesie, fast asleep and adorable. It was so lovely to meet him. I got to hug RJ, the commentator, who was so smart in his three piece suit and always so friendly and lovely. Sadly he’ll be wrestling elsewhere on future PROGRESS show dates this year so we won’t see him for a while which sucks. Mark Haskins’ wife was there looking utterly stunning in a glamorous red dress but she was deep in conversation so I couldn’t say hi, so I told her later online that I owe her a hug. Anthony and I briefly said hi to coowner Jon, the one we always buy crisps for, who didn’t look too exhausted for once and was grinning from ear to ear. My friend R in his wheelchair was in good spirits and I was glad to get my hugs from him and chat. I was too shy to say hi to Joe Coffey who was nearby when I was chatting to RJ, and I was also too shy to say hi to Travis Banks who was also there. I really didn’t know how I could say to him ‘hi, I’m Emily, we’ve talked online a bit.’ Eeep. And he never comes out at PROGRESS shows usually as he’s a villain.
Overall, it was another great show from PROGRESS, with a few dips and the surroundings made it special as well as hampering my view sadly. But they are going to do it all over again next September and of course we’ll be there. But I admit, I really can’t wait to be back in the Ballroom again next month : )
: We Are ReadyFandom
: The HobbitCharacters
: King Bard of Dale, Tauriel, Kili, Sigrid, Bain, Tilda, featuring Kili/Tauriel and Bard/ThranduilRating:
: I own nothing.Summary
: Kili visits Tauriel in Dale for the first time since the battle. He has been assumed dead for months. Bard, his council and Tauriel have made plans.( I accept my duty, for DaleCollapse )
A couple of bits of September baking. Two new experimental bakes, both from my Hummingbird bakery book. First up, 7Up pound cake (or lemonade cake I guess, if you don’t know 7Up). This was a lovely loaf cake which tasted citrusy and not too sweet at all. A nice non-sickly dessert that was really easy to make. I always judge desserts on whether my Dad would like them or not – he’s not a sweet dessert person – and this one he would like for sure. I really recommend this as a simple tasty cake. Plus using my silicon loaf tin made everything easy – the cake slipped out so easily. Silicon bakeware is definitely one of my favourite things.
I decided to try a cupcake recipe – I rarely make them as I can never seem to get a proper hang of them. They always end up looking sloppy and really unappealing. Anyway, in the Hummingbird book most of the cupcake recipes had alcohol content which wasn’t going to work for me but I did find a recipe in the book for tomato soup cupcakes. Never heard of that before and wow what a weird idea. Even Anthony who eats incredibly adventurously was a bit unsure.
Anyway, I had a go and really did try my best to be tidy with them – having a cupcake tray to put paper cases in rather than just sticking full cases on an ordinary baking tray really did dramatically improve the uniform shape. I love it. Once they’d cooked, I decided to have a go with my silicon piping bag again. I’d tried with cupcakes before and I just couldn’t work it out. This time though, having used it for frosting my sandwich biscuits a couple of months back, I had more of an idea of what I was doing and managed to frost my cupcakes actually quite decently. My only problem is filling the bag; I still get the frosting everywhere and not cleanly into the bag. I stick it in a glass so I can use both hands, I think I need to find a way to stretch the open end around the rim, might use one of Anthony’s tankards.
The cakes are very delicious, taste like carrot cake, and the frosting is cream cheese and works lovely with the cake. There are various spices mixed in and it really is a tasty cake, something unique and very yummy. Another non-sweet recipe. Another one I definitely recommend, especially if you want a talking point : )
: And Where The Other BeginsFandom
: Robin of SherwoodCharacters
: Herne the HunterRating
: I own nothing.Summary
: Herne the Hunter has a vessel. There is much to be remembered and forgotten. There are many voices and so many leaves.( He was himself, perhapsCollapse )
I realised I hadn’t photographed my most recent wrestling t-shirt purchases : )
The one on the left is a Jimmy Havoc shirt. Die Havoc Die was a popular t-shirt slogan when he was PROGRESS Champion – PROGRESS produced their own shirts in black or white with the slogan in red (it was very much a best seller), this is a different one produced only recently. I like the bloody handprints as it’s a great connection to the hardcore-wrestling character of Jimmy and it makes me smile. I’m glad to finally own a Jimmy shirt, especially as he’s been injured for ages and merchandise sales will especially help him right now. I’ll probably wear it to the PROGRESS this month; the first time I’ll have worn it out anywhere.
The one on the right is a WWE shirt, for female wrestler Asuka. She’s a Japanese wrestler who is one of the best wrestlers, technically speaking, on the whole roster, male or female. She hits hard and has a spooky-beautiful image. I love this shirt as it’s beautiful and bloody – the back of it states ‘tomorrow brings danger’ – and it’s also one I can wear to work as it’s not obviously a wrestling shirt, and is suitable.
They’re the last shirts I’ve gotten recently as I’m on a hiatus from buying wrestling shirts right now. Anthony points out that I own rather a lot and we have limited space lol. After our birthdays, we went through all our clothing and got rid of a good couple of bags full – to the charity shops they went – because we do have limited space and when you receive a lot, I think it’s important to give away too. Otherwise you’re just accumulating stuff. So we do a sort through after our birthdays and after Christmas. That probably sounds too thorough but I think it’s important.
: Take A Breath, Count To ThreeFandom
: Lucha UndergroundCharacters
: Matt Striker/VampiroRating
: I own nothing.Summary
: After getting knocked out at Ultima Lucha Dos, Matt Striker wakes up and doesn’t know where he is. All of the people Vampiro is watch over him.Author Note
: Set right after the season two finale Ultima Lucha Dos
.( Someone was praying for himCollapse )
I’ve not seen Blazing Saddles, or The Producers, or Young Frankenstein, or any of his work with Richard Pryor, only clips. I know, what a philistine. And to think I have a film degree.
I’ve seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory though. A film that enthralled me and scared me as a young child. There’s some wonderfully dark moments in it, twisted and nasty, as in the book – Roald Dahl liked to punish bad people, adults and kids alike. And that boat side sequence I can remember completely freaking me out. I always thought my sister was like Veruca Salt, though I can thankfully say she’s vastly matured since.
What I treasure most is Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, in particular the song ‘Pure Imagination’. A completely magical, inspiring song and performance. I urge you to watch it, because all these years later I still find it incredibly moving.
Gene Wilder was a phenomenal talent. Whatever you’ve seen him in, I guarantee you’ve loved his work. Everyone has a favourite of his films and Willy Wonka is mine, as it is for many of a certain age I think. A dark treat of a family film, if you’ve only ever seen Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, check out Willy Wonka. I’ve seen both and Willy Wonka is definitely superior in my mind, in pretty much every way. His Willy Wonka is actually pretty dark and unpleasant and yet still magical and compelling, you want to spend time with him anyway. He's complicated, not a sugary nice adult. I like that nothing is simple about him.
Since Gene Wilder's death, I have read wonderful stories about him as a person – his wonderful notes on his Willy Wonka costume, what he wanted out of it, how to tweak the wardrobe department’s ideas, and the story of how he delightfully turned down James Corden’s invite to be on The Late Late Show, how he interacted with someone at an art gallery. Those have made me so happy. I hope you’ve read them too. Because while he was a genius in his work – not a word to use lightly but absolutely true in this case – it is also clear that he was an exceptional, delightful person, who touched so many people’s lives as himself as well as through his acting.
Thank you, Mr Wilder, for lighting up the world with your work and your own quiet but delightfully magical presence. Thank you, for the pure imagination.
A Progress Sunday always sets me bubbling and bouncing, especially as the one last Sunday was the last show before the show in September which will be Progress’s biggest yet – in the 2,000 seat Brixton Academy. Amazing. While the weather was warm at home, it was cool in the queue and there was even a period of light rain. It was grand to see C after his absence last month and time in the queue passed quickly. I was very impressed with how quickly everyone got into the Ballroom too; now wristbands are left on seats for punters to put on (identifying which section they should be sat in) so the people on the door just have to check your ticket and tick you off the list.
It was an 8 match show – rather enormous – because there was a bank holiday the day after so most people didn’t have to rush home to sleep well for work the next day, As only co-owner Glen was on commentary all night, guest commentators joined him for certain matches (a good way to progress some storylines without involving actual wrestling). The first match was new team British Strong Style (Trent Seven & Pete Dunne) versus their former partners Tyler Bate & Damian Dunne. A properly emotional match, Tyler and Damian really physically laid into them for their callous betrayal last month – at one point Damian really did seem to be crying as he beat on Pete – while Trent and Pete were a really formidable tag team. It was a great match that showcased all four guys, I love their style anyway – hard-hitting strong-style, looks so legit – and the character stuff was so good and believable. Trent is never a villain anywhere so this was his first proper chance and he was alarmingly good (he and Tyler have only split in Progress; they team together everywhere else).
Also The London Riots, current Progress Tag Team Champions, were on commentary. After the match, Trent & Pete made their way over to shove them and indicate that they want the titles – a point made earlier in a promo video from British Strong Style about this match. After British Strong Style sauntered off, the Riots made sure that Tyler & Damian got applauded by the fans. Lifelong villain Damian even shook the Riots’ hands and then Tyler’s, a real surprise and moment for his character. I truly hope Progress use him again, not just drop him now that Trent & Pete have progressed as a team.
The final of the Atlas Championship final was decided as there were two semi-finals – Joe Coffey vs Dave Mastiff, and T-Bone vs Rampage Brown. I assumed we’d end up with a Mastiff vs Brown final as they’re both long-time Progress guys but Coffey got the win over Mastiff which really delights me as Coffey is phenomenally talented – strength, speed, technical wrestling ability, all amazing, and I always believe what he says. Having seen him at ICW shows, I love watching him in the Ballroom for Progress, an amazing feeling as he’s so astonishingly good. How WWE haven’t picked him yet beggars belief. T-Bone versus Rampage was a weird one because elsewhere they’re a really successful tag team. It was another good rough match though, neither holding back, and Rampage got the win. I really hope this means we’ll get them as a tag team in Progress because them versus the Riots or British Strong Style would be bone-shaking and awesome : )
Mikey Whiplash goaded Mark Haskins into putting his number one contendership for the Progress title on the line in their match by vilely insulting Mark’s wife and children. I am always in awe of Mikey’s presence – he comes out to ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Placebo, wearing a demonic mask, under which his face is ghoulishly painted. And he’s an amazingly experienced in-ring competitor and tells stories almost better than anyone I’ve seen; through promos, his body language, the wrestling, everything. I get chills watching him and do my best to never make eye contact; he’s got no problem verbally laying into fans that are disrespectful. Haskins is just amazing in the ring, so talented and driven, 2016 really has been his year. I just adore watching him, how much he wants to succeed, how much it all means to him. This match didn’t disappoint; they threw everything at each other, really going for it, their quite different wrestling styles meshed really nicely. I’m convinced Haskins can’t have a bad match though and once again, he didn’t. He’s just so good. There really were gasp moments and Haskins won, though Whiplash easily could have done; his rivalry with Tommy End would have meant him and End both being in the Brixton title match would have made vicious sense. I’d love to see Haskins and Whiplash face each other again too.
Ladies in the house! Two debuts for Progress. First, Alex Windsor who turned out to be a very solid wrestler, with black and purple hair and a black fabric and lace outfit. Her work didn’t excite me but I enjoyed it, she definitely has talent, just not the special something some wrestlers do, that thing that makes fans immediately interested, not yet anyway. She faced Nixon Newell, who’s worked across the UK, against men and women, and is adorable and awesome and has been wanted in Progress by fans for a long time. She came out clad in gear like the Welsh rugby team and her entrance theme was, as it is everywhere, ‘C’est La Vie’ by B*Witched, the most bubblegum bouncy 90s pop song. And everyone in the Ballroom, mostly metal and rock fans and looking like it, sang along enthusiastically. It was an amazing uplifting moment. Nixon didn’t disappoint, both ladies were respected for their wrestling ability though it definitely wasn’t the best women’s match we’ve seen there, just felt a bit lumpy in places which is weird as I know they’ve faced each other before more than once. I really hope we see them again in a Progress ring, hopefully against our regular female competitors. Nixon (who definitely has that special something) has to be in the upcoming tournament to crown the first ever Progress Women’s Champion.
The other Progress debut was American Shane Strickland – who works most famously under a mask as Killshot in Lucha Underground – versus our own king of flight Will Ospreay. They’ve faced each other elsewhere so know how to work well together and what an amazing match we got to see – astonishing complicated high-flying agile sequences that left the crowd applauding wildly and chanting about how awesome it was. Definitely match of the night. Most tellingly, Will, pure hero forever in Progress, tried to cheat to win, feigning a shoulder injury so serious that Glen rushed down from commentary to check on him. When Will suddenly leapt up and kicked Shane in the head, he didn’t get the win, Shane managed it instead. This means Will has not won in Progress since returning this year, a fact that has lead him to be noticeably angry and vicious in his matches.
This and the angry chants against him when he tried to cheat perhaps signalled a turn into a villain, but instead Will got on the mic, congratulated Shane (who got a well deserved ‘please come back’ chant from the crowd) and apologised, stating that his schedule no longer matches up with Progress’s so he won’t be back for a while. That got him applause and love. It really will be a shame to be without him because he is such an astonishing in-ring talent and his storyline against Jimmy Havoc was amazing to witness. We’ve seen him grow so much as a performer and wrestler both, it’s been satisfying and so wonderful to watch. Him as a villain would really work – young talent receiving a ton of worldwide exposure and love, becoming big-headed from the adulation and lashing out at the Progress fans who now sometimes boo him. I’d love to see it happen and as he’s been a villain elsewhere, I know he can pull it off. But he’s flying high in some very important places now. Wherever he goes, I wish him so many good things. He deserves it. And hey, he promised as he left that he’d be back : )
The most fun match and my favourite of the night for sure definitely goes to the four-way featuring El Ligero, Jack Gallagher, Zack Gibson and Eddie Dennis. The boos that greet Gibson when he gets anywhere near a microphone in Progress are louder than any I’ve heard anywhere ever. Not even Jimmy Havoc got that level of verbal hatred! Ligero, as his stablemate, tried to help by holding the microphone while Gibson got a megaphone to use along with the microphone in order to actually make himself heard...the boos were still louder. Jack and Eddie went into the crowd to boo along with us, even sitting in the front row at one point. I was booing until I was helpless with laughter, it was amazing. And also before the match Ligero again insisted on facts about him being read out by long suffering ring announcer and co-owner Jim. At the last show, Ligero wonderfully interacted with a regular fan who is in a wheelchair in the front row, leading to the fan pushing Ligero who fell down wonderfully and tried to get the referee to have the fan thrown out. This time the facts finished with the fact that anyone in a wheelchair trying to interfere would get clamped. Amazing.
I had so much fun watching this match as all four are tremendous wrestlers and also have a real sense of humour and they worked so well together. There were some hilarious moments – Jack and Eddie going to suplex Zack and Ligero at the same time only Eddie found Zack too heavy so he and Jack swapped opponents to suplex, Jack tying both Zack and Ligero into human ball shapes that they couldn’t get out of. And of course some terrific exciting wrestling too, I just loved it. Gallagher got to maintain his momentum from previous wins by getting the victory, despite Gibson trying to attack him and Eddie with a car stereo (a very funny moment as one thing fans chant at Gibson is ‘where’s my car stereo?’ playing on the stereotype that Scousers like Gibson are all thieves. This was the subject of a long thread in the Facebook fan group, is it offensive to chant that sort of thing at Gibson? As he wears a Liverpool football shirt to the ring and plays up his Scouse accent, I’m of the opinion it’s okay but some are very sure it isn’t. I believe at least one guy won’t be renewing his season ticket because of it).
After shockingly returning to Progress last month – and wow, it really was a shock – Sebastian came out to give a speech, refusing to yet tell the secret he knows about Pastor William Eaver as he wants the Pastor to suffer. He also got the Pastor out to try to get the Pastor angry, to make the Pastor hurt him, even handing him a chair and turning his back. The Pastor resisted, despite Sebastian slapping and goading him. The Pastor, Sebastian claims, has a bit of a temper. Could that be connected to his secret? Eventually Sebastian beat up the Pastor, hitting him over and over again with the steel chair. Sebastian has bulked up a bit – his arms are noticeably more muscular - but he’s still the same guy who was a GZR; so sure of himself but in a different malicious arrogant way now, looking down on the fans for dragging him down before. It’s a good tweak of an established character – this is the same person, it’s just their perspective has changed.
It’s a good feud at the right level for both of them – the Pastor isn’t ready for sustained main event status yet and it’s a great way to bring Sebastian back into the company – and should produce something really interesting, as long as the secret isn’t something incredibly lame like secrets usually are in wrestling storylines (something like a secret lovechild, yes really, and it’s always so badly executed too. Urgh). I have faith though : )
The main event was mouth-watering – Marty Scurll defending his Progress Championship against Mark Andrews. Mark has racked up victories in Progress recently so it was a just reward for him to be in the main event. I don’t think they’d ever faced each other one on one before in Progress so I was excited and of course Mark is one of my faves. It was a really good tight match, both long-time Progress roster members really showing what they can do – Marty’s villainous ways vs Mark’s sharp high-flying. I honestly never thought Marty would lose – him vs Mark Haskins vs Tommy End next month for the title is too good an idea to lose. The match featured Marty throwing a chair at Mark Haskins who was on commentary and then escaping Andrews only for Andrews to leap off of the stage onto him, a real ‘holy crap!’ moment. And yes, Marty won.
Then things got even more interesting – Zack Gibson, El Ligero and Dave Mastiff of the Origin came out, scared off Marty and beat down Mark. Mark and tag team partner Eddie Dennis have been feuding with the Origin throughout the year and clearly the Origin weren’t done with him. I got very cross and was shouting at them, much to Anthony’s amusement. The beatdown brought out Eddie Dennis and Jack Gallagher, and then Damon Moser, who has also had issues with the Origin this year as he continues to seek revenge for being thrown out of the group last year. The three of them tore into the Origin, all six men eventually fighting their way out of the room, leaving Marty to slide back into the ring and apply his Chicken Wing submission onto a helpless Mark.
Mark Haskins returned at this point, kicking Marty in the head and standing over the fallen champion, raising the championship belt high. A glimpse of what might happen in Brixton? A breathless busy way to end the show, but one that made sense when you thought about all the people involved. I think that kind of ending is fine as long as it’s not always like that lol.
Outside of the great in-ring action, I got to chat for ages to Mark Haskins’ wife V who is such a delight, so funny. I feel blessed to call her a friend. I love chatting to her and to S who as always was full of brilliant stories. I’m always a bit in awe of her wrestling friendships. I got to meet Francesca for the first time properly (Sebastian’s other half) as we’ve chatted online before but never met in person. She works professionally as a Katy Perry lookalike and really does look exactly like her, it’s uncanny!
I brought homemade peanut butter and marshmallow cookies with me which were chewy and sticky so they stuck together a bit but were delicious. So glad we had them and C had made amazing super sweet cakes again so we had them as well. I gave some cookies to fellow fan R who had a birthday that day, and a birthday card and plenty of birthday hugs. It’s nice to be able to spoil friends.
As for wrestlers, I got to chat to Eddie Dennis for the first time in ages. He spotted Anthony and I and when I went for a hug, he said he’d come out from behind the table so that I wouldn’t get a half-arsed one lol. He’s such a dorky delight. I chatted briefly to Rob Lynch of the Riots but always feel a bit shy around him, JD his tag partner is a lot easier and chatty and goes immediately for a hug. I do wanna hug Rob but there’s no easy way to go for it when you don’t know someone that well. S just goes with her arms open, I’m not that brave.
I chatted briefly to Tyler Bate who was sweet and clearly a bit shy but it was awesome to say hi to him. We talked to Damian after the show – they were busy planning out their match beforehand - and the poor guy looked so knackered. It was great to see him again and hug him, though I’m sad we won’t see each other again indefinitely as that was his last Progress booking so far. I’m hoping he gets more, am subtly tweeting Progress to request this. He appreciated the cookies which was nice too.
And Brixton is incoming, so exciting. We picked up our tickets on Sunday and made sure we were sat next to each other as promised by the fact our season tickets were bought together – we are indeed next to each other, yay. The whole card has been confirmed already. The interesting question is whether Scurll and the Riots will both retain their titles – it’s rare that at any show all champions lose their titles or all champions retain them. I can’t see the Riots losing to British Strong Style, not so early in this rivalry, it just wouldn’t mean much. But I can see them losing the titles to British Strong Style later on for sure. I can see it being a really brilliant rivalry.
Atlas wise I think Rampage will win as he’s a through-and-through Progress guy and it would make sense to give the title to someone who will be here regularly while Joe has more Scottish commitments. Having said that, we have crowned champions from other countries in Progress and it’s worked out fine so who knows?
As for Marty, I assume he’ll retain. Mark Haskins will absolutely be the next champion; Tommy End will soon be off to WWE it is assumed so I can’t see him winning. I can see Marty winning by cheating and then lauding himself, drunk on his own success as always, and then, then, I can see Jimmy Havoc returning. Because Marty has been proclaiming himself the best ever Progress Champion and well, the crowd have all voiced that they believe that particular acclaim belongs to Jimmy. Jimmy has been out with a really nasty leg injury for most of the year – badly injured doing a very simple move, as is often the way, during a show in Australia – and Brixton, Progress’s biggest ever show, would be the perfect place and time for him to return. He has been so sorely missed and is bound to get an enormous reaction. Oh happy day, I hope : )
He was always known as ‘the Devious One’.
Mr Fuji began his wrestling career as an in-ring competitor and won the WWF Tag Team Championships five times, as well as finding success in other wrestling territories.
It is his time as a manager that he is best remembered for, one of the many colourful managers of the 1980s & 90s WWF as it was then. Infamously he managed Demolition and wore paint around his eyes to match their full face paint, a contrast to his tuxedo and bowler hat which immediately recalled Oddjob from the James Bond film Goldfinger. Actually his whole persona and look was a startling contrast to Demolition’s leather outfits, moody rock entrance theme, and generally angry attitudes. He managed a whole range of clients including Crush and the Lords of Pain, using his ever-present cane against their opponents.
He then shed that look, switching to traditional Japanese robes and carrying a Japanese flag to manage the intimidating Yokozuna to the WWF World Heavyweight Championship in controversial fashion. He now threw salt in opponent’s eyes. A quick note – neither Fuji nor Yokozuna were actually Japanese, though they were both presented that way. Yokozuna was a Samoan from California while Fuji was Japanese American born in Hawaii.
There were also laughs to be had. His campy vignettes, like ‘Fuji Vice, with Don Muraco are being talked about a lot now, how they made people laugh then and now. I miss those kinds of managers, the ones who bought and sold wrestlers’ contracts, who were in it as a business, there to see their clients win, amazing colourful characters who talked when their clients couldn’t and who added so much to a wrestling show. Mr Fuji undoubtedly brought a lot to the WWF as a character, that’s why he’s remembered so clearly and fondly today. Rest well, Devious One.