Some might say that British wrestling is dying, whilst others believe that the scene is in a good state.
Whatever their opinion, however, the consistent consensus is that ‘BritWres’ is in a transitional period. On Saturday, the biggest independent company in the UK showed us exactly why we, the fans, need not worry about our beloved scene.
Leading up to the company’s biggest show of the year which took place at Alexandra Palace the day after, PROGRESS held its sixth Natural Progression Series at a sold out Electric Ballroom in Camden as a one-night single-elimination tournament consisting entirely of the fastest rising stars in European wrestling, some of whom had never graced a PROGRESS ring before. Let’s take a closer look at how those performers fared.
Nominated by the previous NPS winner Mark Davis, Duggan was already a familiar face to the PROGRESS faithful after coming up short in last year’s semi final against the tournament’s eventual winner. Since then, his development as a performer is clear. His in-ring work has come a long way and he looks to be in the best shape of his career. It is no surprise then that he went all the way to the final in this year’s tournament, defeating Malik and The O.J.M.O before losing to Scotty Davis.
His match against The O.J.M.O took an interesting turn as he was victorious as a result of interference from Do Not Resuscitate’s Chuck Mambo and William Eaver, before aligning himself with DNR. Duggan’s “robotic”, no-frills wrestling style makes him stand out amongst his flashy stablemates, and will do wonders for both Duggan and DNR in my opinion.
It did not take long for the PROGRESS Ultras to take to the ‘Damn Dirty Dog’. His Twitter game is as strong as his in-ring charisma and the NPS was the perfect platform to showcase his wit, both in the ring and on social media. From the day he was announced as part of the tournament, Munny was sure to heavily promote the show with live-streams and frankly hilarious threads describing his method of beating his opponents.
His charisma was clearly visible on Saturday too. Entering from a dog house and catapulting himself into the ring, the basis of Munny’s character was made clear to anyone who was unfamiliar with his work prior to the NPS. Despite mainly connecting through comedy, his quarter final match against eventual winner Scotty Davis was fantastic, and the Resurgence champion’s in-ring ability should not be overlooked. The impression he left on the PROGRESS fans was very positive, so much so that his appearance in the following night’s PROTEUS Championship Rumble sent two thousand people into a frenzy.
From the days of Alan Partridge chants in the early days of NXT UK to becoming Fight Club: PRO’s biggest prospects, Dan Moloney’s story is definitely an interesting one. He is in no way a new face in PROGRESS having answered Trent Seven’s ATLAS Championship Open Challenge and teaming with Seven to take on LAX in the past, but the NPS certainly proved to be a great way to reintroduce him to the audience with his rugged, heavy-hitting style. It is to my surprise then that despite so many people predicting that he would be in the final, he lost in the first round to Cara Noir in an excellent match.
Simply put, Cara Noir is sensational. I had been told about him for months, and boy did he live up to the hype this weekend. Defeating Dan Moloney in the first round before losing to Scotty Davis in the match of the night, Noir was my personal standout performer from the entire tournament.
His sheer presence combined with his totally legit in-ring style is a recipe for a megastar. We might have a phenomenon on our hands with Cara Noir, and it sounds to me like Pete Dunne agrees after Noir answered his open challenge the day after and putting one an incredible match. I would certainly like to see the Black Swan in a PROGRESS ring on a consistent basis.
If I was a betting man, my money would have been on the master of the half-crab, and I feel like he was the favourite among many. Nominated by David Starr and representing the We The INDEPENDENT movement, The O.J.M.O definitely had some high expectations to live up to in this tournament. He is arguably the fastest rising star in the entire European scene right now and is starting to spread his wings internationally, recently debuting for OTT in Ireland.
After defeating Veit Müller in the first round, his loss to Danny Duggan via DNR interference shocked the Electric Ballroom into a silence, before heavy boos rained down. It could be argued that The O.J.M.O does not need the NPS win after being highly featured by PROGRESS already, but one thing is for sure; the fans were not expecting this result.
Perhaps the best first impression of any tournament participant was that of Malik. Nominated by Paul Robinson, it was to the surprise of no one that Malik is one hard-hitting wrestler. Sure, he lost to eventual finalist Danny Duggan, but Malik impressed the PROGRESS crowd like none other and after his performance, I am sure that they will welcome him back to Camden with open arms.
I mentioned The O.J.M.O carrying the weight of the INDEPENDENT movement on his back, but perhaps Veit Muller representing RingKampf is a bigger responsibility, especially after being nominated by then PROGRESS Unified World Champion WALTER. In his losing effort against The O.J.M.O, I thought that Müller showed very good fundamentals and wrestled a simple but effective style that stood out in the tournament.
LAX (Santana, Ortiz and Eddie Kingston) vs. ThiCCK (Chris Brookes, Jonathan Gresham and Jordynne Grace)
Before we discuss the NPS winner, let’s unravel this special attraction match. With Lucky Kid unable to travel, CCK’s partner was changed to Earl Perkins, Greaham’s staple gun. After a while, however, CCK needed a real tag team partner in the no-disqualification match. Enter, Jordynne Grace. What followed was complete chaos and an all-out brawl that toured the Ballroom. With Gresham accidentally spearing Grace through a table, LAX hit Brookes with the Street Sweeper through a couple of chairs to put an end to the insanity. This was a nice addition to the card and a great setting for the feud-ending match.
Scotty. Scotty. Scotty F’n Davis! This eighteen year-old from Dublin is responsible for my throat feeling like a junkie’s carpet coming out of the weekend. Earning his way to the tournament final by having two excellent matches against Gene Munny and Cara Noir; the crowd were firmly behind the Supreme Suplex Machine as he fought DNR’s Danny Duggan in the main event. Sure, it’s nice when ‘your guy’ makes his way to the final of a big tournament, but it’s even better when your chanting of his name is accompanied by 699 others in attendance. The Electric Ballroom became unglued when Davis submitted Duggan in the middle of the ring to become the sixth Natural Progression Series winner, etching his name alongside the illustrious class of past winners.
Words cannot describe my elation at the end of the show. Jordan Devlin coming out to hand Davis his NPS trophy was a beautiful moment in PROGRESS history that I will never forget.
This Natural Progression Series tournament felt to me like a turning point for PROGRESS, and will be remembered as a fresh start for the company as all the performers involved came out looking like stars, which fills me with excitement for the future of PROGRESS. Is British wrestling dying? I don’t think so. The NPS showed what is possible with the independent wrestlers that we have in the British scene, and proved to be a very positive step forward for not only PROGRESS, but British wrestling as a whole. The future is exciting.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @DeiOwen. Thanks for reading!