Jim Smallman’s voice commanded the attention of the room; earth-shaking chants from a capacity crowd at the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne were hushed by the Progress founder and figurehead, as all eyes rested on him in the centre of the ring.
After the success earned by the UK Independent wrestling scene, the Australian scene follows closely in its footsteps. Nowhere was that momentum more imminent than at MCW x Progress. Progress has just wrapped up a tour of Australia, visiting Explosive Pro Wrestling (EPW) in Perth, Melbourne City Wrestling (MCW) in Melbourne and Po Wrestling Australia (PWA) in Sydney for the first time, taking some of their biggest names along for the ride.
The ever-veracious Smallman stuck around as the evening’s MC, acting as ring announcer and bringing signature Progress character to the collab; ‘Who wants to see some wrestling?’ Do we ever.
First up, Trent Seven popped the crowd. With a cheeky smirk and a twirl of his moustache, he sauntered to the ring, serenaded by MCW faithful. The pitch-shifted in the room, as cheers reverted to fierce and rapturous boos, aimed at ‘Loverboy’ Lochy Hendricks, MCW’s boy next door turned total piece of shit. Both men squared up with the Intercommonwealth Champion, Slex. (You can catch me in the corner, booging to the Business’ walk on.) Three diverse talents humoured and humbled the crowd, with some comical antics and solid wrestling. Ultimately, it’s Slex who picked up the win, after submitting Hendricks with the Close of Business. This writer is excited to see what the future holds for Slex and his title.
Next up, Alan Payne faced Jimmy ‘fucking’ Havoc in a No DQ match. Two sinister and captivating characters brawled into the crowd, with Payne getting the pin, and Julian James, Helter Skelter manager, seemingly reaching out for an alliance with Payne. Toni Storm made her return to MCW, to defend her Progress Women’s Championship against Kellyanne. The girls grappled in what was a spirited contest, only to be interrupted by Indi Hartwell. Hartwell’s attempts to distract Kellyanne were fruitful, as Storm hit Strong Zero on her opponent and collected the pin. Indi attacked Kellyanne post-match, anticipating their grudge match the following evening. But Storm shooed her away, signalling mutual respect between the champ and her challenger.
MCW Heavyweight Champion Dowie James and Tyler Bate led the night into intermission, with a non-title bout full of back and forth graps and impressive feats of athleticism. The MCW champ was the furthest thing from the crowd favourite, an interesting dynamic leading him into his title match with Gino Gambino the following evening.
Pete Dunne vs Mike Burr was the match of the night; hard-hitting, brutal and seamless rhythm from a UK phenomenon and an Aussie veteran. They were a perfect pair, digging deep and bringing out the best in each other. The WWE UK Champion finally hit the Drop Dead on Burr, then the brawler’s bumped fists at the match’s conclusion. Another title retention occurred in the Prehistoric Death Cult, Syd Parker and Caveman Ugg with Erika Reid, against Helter Skelter, Ali and Andrewartha flanked by Julian James. A team finisher reinforced the harmony of the dinosaur and caveman, confirming they are a force to be reckoned with.
In the main event, MCW’s resident party boy JXT and the trophy boy Elliot Sexton, took on the Kiwi Buzzsaw Travis Banks for the Progress World Championship, under triple threat elimination rules. It was a night of interruptions, as Tom Filip took to the stage, JXT his victim. With JXT out of the equation after taking a pin from Sexton, and after such a struggle, Banks was eventually able to topple the giant Sexton, bringing him down with the Lion’s Clutch submission.
Ballroom Brawl the following evening, was by all accounts as successful as Friday’s event, renewing grudges and tying up loose ends from the night before. The doubleheader is a testament to the talented performers at MCW and Progress who took part, and a symbol of the success in store for Melbourne’s prosperous wrestling scene. With exciting things ahead for Melbourne wrestling, plus the success of the Sydney and Perth Progress shows, Australian wrestling is stronger than ever.
But it was young Owen’s spotlight at intermission that spoke to the strength of our community more than anything that night. Fans are the heart that pumps blood through wrestling’s veins. Fans are the reason we are so full of life.
Owen is a legend.
The 700 people chanting his name are also all legends.
I ❤ professional wrestling. pic.twitter.com/8QcYLI21L6
— Jim Smallman (@jimsmallman) April 20, 2018