For the first time ever, the stars of the UK’s Progress Wrestling promotion represented their home promotion in Canada. Zach Sabre Jr., Jack Gallagher, Mark Haskins, El Ligero, Mark Andrews, and The London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch) spent three nights in the GTA, taking on the stars of Smash Wrestling.
Progress Wrestling vs Smash Wrestling: Two Nights in Toronto
- I attended Smash vs Progress Night One, and Smash vs Progress Two which took place Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately I was unable to attend Smash vs Progress Uncensored in Oshawa on Friday. Speaking to fans who went all three shows, they were all strong, but Oshawa’s was a clear third place of the three.
- I will try to avoid giving spoilers (results wise) in the article. You will be able to check out all three nights via Smash on Demand. Where the results of Title defenses on Night One, effect Night Two, there might be a subtle spoiler. I also will have to give away some, not all, of the memorable spots in order to make the article have some content.
Night One Notes
This was easily the hottest crowd of any Smash Wrestling event I have ever attended. Joined by a number (estimate about 10) fans of Progress who came over from England for the event, the Smash Crowd was louder and more involved than I’ve ever seen. Chants were heard throughout the entirety of the four hour show, and the atmosphere really had to be experienced to be believed.
Mark Andrews vs. Scotty O’Shea
“Hacker” Scotty O’Shea‘s heel turn is complete, along with a new entrance video and song. Getting rid of the Prozzak was badly needed with this new character, and it really helps him to be more menacing. The “Hacker” character just works better as a heel than a face and the character development is a good direction.
O’Shea and Andrews had a very good opener which got the crowd buzzing. The two worked well together, with Andrews speed and arial attacks a good contrast to O’Shea’s more strong style wrestling. The opener got plenty of time and really got the crowd’s energy up (more on this in night two).
The London Riots vs The Overdogs (Sebastian Sauve and John Greed)
The story going into the match was about how Sebastian Sauve was frustrated by the ‘Dogs recent losing streak, and wanted things to be more serious. Subtle changes showed the new attitude in effect. There would be no more Cider drinking on the way to the ring, with John Greed instead opting for water. There was also no more dancing and a general intensity from the Overdogs that has really been missing. This is another good change. Greed and Sauve are good workers, but their comedy act, well it just was not that funny. Being willing to take a more serious and intense approach was good on this night, and something to look forward to for future Smash shows.
The Overdogs would need this seriousness, as the London Riots are one of the best tag teams in the world. The Riots bring powerful brawling and intensity and the two teams were able to have an extremely hard hitting match. It is always surprising, and good, to see a team like the Riots use the same hard hitting style in a match in front of about 300 people as they do in front of larger crowds, and is much appreciated. Obviously fans will understand if you tone it down a bit to perserve your body in a smaller venue, but that did not happen here. A must watch match in a night full of them.
Jack Gallagher vs “Psycho” Mike Rollins
In a change of pace from the first two matches, we had the Extraordinary Gentleman take on Psycho Mike. Gallagher showed off the technical wizardry and old-school submission and mat based grappling that impressed so many during WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic, and ensured that he is working one of his last weekends as an independent wrestler. This match showed “Psycho” Mike Rollins’ improvement as a worker. He didn’t look out of place in the ring with Gallagher, and was able to keep up with his pace and work.
El Ligero vs Evil Uno
Our comedy match was very well placed on the card. It gave the crowd a chance to breathe and change gears for a minute. I can’t really say enough about the order of the matches and the booking here. It really kept the crowd energy for later in the night.
El Ligero’s gimmick where he doesn’t talk, but instead has the ring announcer read out a prepared statement for him is very good for comedic heat, and gets him over as a heel. Evil Uno‘s versatilty was on full display, as he showed a completely different attitude and style than we normally see with Super Smash Bros. It worked well though. I wouldn’t want to see him do this on every card, but it was a nice change of pace.
Zach Sabre Jr. vs Tarik
This is as high profile a match as Tarik has had on any of the Smash cards I’ve seen. It is a much deserved spot though. Over the last three years, I’ve seen him really grow from a green, and somewhat boring worker; to a solid worker, able to tell a story and entertain through his facial expressions and interractions with the crowd.
What is there to say about Zach Sabre Jr.? He is already one of the best workers in the world. Will Ospreay gets the majority of the press as Progress’ biggest breakout star, but the truth is that Sabre Jr. is not far behind in terms of ability. He works a fast pace, and truly is a man of 1000 holds. Sabre’s style is far different from his rival Ospreay, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. As good as he is on television, he is even better in person. This match was one of the best of a weekend full of good matches (3rd Place). (Spoiler: Sabre may appear in the top 3 again).
Kevin Bennett vs Facade (Ladder Match for the #1 Contendership)
Kevin Bennett is an incredibly talented heel. He had an absolutely incredible amount of heat tonight. And it wasn’t the “Kevin Nash” cool heel heat either. No, this crowd hates Bennett with a passion, swearing, giving fingers, and generally cheering anything that puts him in pain. His rap-star character plays itself extremely well with this crowd. The conceited attitude, the constant interference from security while bragging about “doing it by myself”. You know its a brillant gimmick when there is a lineup to buy F*CK YOU BENNETT shirts at the merch stand.
As for Facade, I have to say, I don’t get the character. I think Facade is very talented as a worker, and an excellent high flyer. As far as his in-ring work goes, I don’t have any questions. He is extremely talented. That said, the “Neon Ninja” character, just doesn’t work for me. First off, why is he a “Ninja” with literally no martial arts style moves? Secondly a ninja is supposed to operate in the shadows, to attack without being seen. The whole idea of a Neon Ninja just doesn’t work. Hiding in the shadows, covered in day-glow green? Nope. Not only should that neon green outfit have been buried a long time ago as an affront to fashion, but its something no Ninja would ever use. Also the “Go Ninja, Go Ninja Go” song from a nearly 25-year old Ninja Turtles movie is terrible and needs to be scrapped. Facade seemed like the most over babyface on the card tonight, but that seems to be a function of facing Bennett more than the fans actual investment in the character.
That said, Facade showed more character development this weekend than I’ve ever seen before. His crowd interactions really worked for him. His hatred of Bennett and his security and muscle was easy to see. And his care and concern for his valet was a nice touch. He’d go a little further with a promo on night two (more on this later). Overall, it made him more of a character than was seen before, and gives hope that he won’t always be the good worker stuck with a bad gimmick.
The two had a top notch ladder match, and pulled out all the stops. They destroyed a number of ladders, and their bodies in the process. It was a really well worked match, with a fitting finish. As wrestling fans we’ve all seen good ladder matches, and we’ve all seen bad ladder matches. There is a certain formula to them, and when done well it can be great. This match was done well.
Brent Banks vs Mark Haskins (Smash World Title Match)
An impressive match that really showcased Progress’ Strong Style wrestling. The main event was the perfect capper to an excellent weekend. Haskins is developing a reputation as one of the best wrestlers in the world. Pretty soon, he will need to get rid of the “underrated” tag, as everyone will know his name. He might not be the biggest guy out there, but with the WWE going to cruiserweights, its only a matter of time before he’s noticed. He can work a wide variety of styles, traditional WWE style, arial, strong style and submission.
Brent Banks is well known on the Ontario Indy scene, and you’d be hard pressed to find a weekend he doesn’t work. It shows as well, as he gets my vote for most improved wrestler in Smash. He was green when I first saw him, but now wrestles well in a variety of styles. He also has the ability to convey a wide range of emotions, and can have the crowd in palm of his hand with just a facial expression.
The variety of styles was important in this match, as the two men went from working strong style, into a portion of arial based offence, and finally a battle of submission skills. Match of the night, and the 2nd best of the weekend. The crowd definitely went home happy on this night. There was a clear moment when Banks slow face turn became complete, and it really worked well. After the match Haskins had some really nice things to say about Banks and the work he showed on this night.
Smash has long brought in a lot of outside talent to help supplement cards and and it works to draw fans and bring attention to the shows. What really makes this promotion on the verge of being truly great though is the constant improvement of the local talent. Guys like Tarik, Bennett, Banks, and O’Shea can hang with the super-indy talent that Smash brings in. Over the last several months the booking is really focusing on telling some very good stories with this talent, and its an area where the stories are becoming more and more engaging.
This weekend showcased not only the great wrestling we see from Progress on a regular basis, but also showed that Smash could be a player on the Indy scene. A number of the British wrestlers, fans, and even co-owner Jon Briley all shared similar sentiments. Smash Wrestling reminds many people of what Progress was 3 years ago. They have a lot of undiscovered talent, hard workers, innovative booking, and passionate fans. They are a promotion to keep your eye on.
Is this review very, very positive? Yes it is. But i cannot emphasize enough that this was truly a great night of wrestling. I’m more than willing to be critical of things I don’t like (and believe me, I’ll be a little more critical about Night Two than I was about Night One). Don’t get me wrong, Night Two has a lot more good than bad, but there were some mistakes made. Night One on the other hand, was a night of almost pure indy wrestling perfection.
Later this Week
I will write up Night Two for you and likely have it out on Wednesday.
We have some quotes from Q&As with the Progress Talent that you will find interesting. I’ll be releasing some of the best quotes later in the week. Stay Tuned.