Marty Scurll (c) vs Mark Haskins vs Tommy End
Progress Chapter 36: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Room… Again
25th of September 2016
O2 Academy Brixton, London
Haskins was dead to begin with.
OK, that’s not quite true. Mark Haskins started Progress Super Strong Style 16 with a great performance that left me – and probably many others – even more certain that finally, the nearly-man would get his due. Then he collapsed backstage, and had to pull out of the tournament.
Fast-forward four months, and Haskins has earned another title shot at Progress’ biggest show to date. Over 2000 people are crammed into Brixton Academy to see Haskins take on champion Marty Scurll, as well as Tommy End – the man who won SSS16 in his absence.
A Villain in one corner, an Anti-Hero in the other. Guess who’s going over?
It feels like the obvious booking decision, but the match comes seriously close to convincing you that Haskins might fall short again. It starts fast and frantic with brutal strikes, quick counters and a fantastic pair of suicide dives from Haskins. End is merciless, Scurll is vicious, Haskins is (as is so often chanted at him) on fire. He sells well, which is helpful when the Villain is on such brutal form: Scurll is the kind of cocky yet sadistic heel who clearly loves making rivals suffer. When briefly teams up with End to put Haskins go through a table, you’re actually genuinely worried he might be out. How often does pro-wrestling do that these days?
The pace builds as what feels like the final stretch of the match plays out. Scurll uses his title belt as a weapon, knocks out a series of referees when End refuses to stay down (even after a sick-looking Gotch-Style Piledriver). All three Progress referees are out and Scurll goes on the rampage, taking on security and anyone who gets too close – the last one left, Progress ring announcer and co-owner Jim Smallman, is alone in the ring with a bloodthirsty Villain.
Out comes Jimmy Havoc.
Sometimes, the pop of a crowd stays with you. When Stone Cold Steve Austin helped Mick Foley with the WWF title. When Shane McMahon turned up on Monday Night Raw this spring. The audience in Brixton was tiny compared to either of those arenas, but good god, this pop felt on that level.
Gone for almost a year after a nasty knee injury, Havoc is almost a mythical figure in Progress – rarely seen since his title reign ended. The fact that his was the best heel title run of at least the past 15 years can’t have hurt. When he levels Scurll and passes the belt to Smallman, Brixton goes into meltdown.
And finally, Haskins gets back in the ring, has a final flurry of offence, and taps out the Villain. Brixton goes barmy.
How it defined 2016:
This match is great, and I cannot recommend watching it on Demand Progress highly enough. However, what really matters here is the context.
Once upon a time, Britain was the ugly stepchild of the global wrestling industry. The days of the tribute shows are now, of course, well and truly over, and it goes without saying that the UK now has one of the world’s best pro-wrestling scenes – hence the return of World of Sport and WWE’s desperate attempts to improve its foothold in the market.
All three of these men have worked in the UK for years, travelling up and down the country and playing a major part in building the scene on which WWE is trying so hard to muscle in. This huge, huge main event is the well-deserved apotheosis of all of their efforts.
Yet none of them are in the UK and Ireland Championship tournament. Why?
Marty Scurll is Ring of Honor TV champion, signed with them exclusively. Tommy End is Dutch, although a regular in British indies – not that it matters now, because he’s in NXT. And Mark Haskins, is out indefinitely to deal with health problems caused by a lifetime of wrestling. The title that he won so spectacularly in this match was vacated one month later.
This agony and this ecstasy aren’t exclusive to 2016, but in this year I do think they’re definitive.
Only in this time of aggressive NXT signings could Tommy End go to WWE. Three years ago, they wouldn’t have looked at him twice – or they would have, but caught sight of his tattoos and run away screaming. The idea of who can be successful in the Fed has evolved and expanded to a point where he is an asset to them.
Meanwhile, the likes of Scurll can still have great international careers whether the Fed come calling or not. He’s ROH TV champion, won PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles this year and has held gold in the UK, US, Germany and Japan (bless you, DDT). Maybe if he got the call, he’d take a trip to Orlando. But who knows, and who cares when he’s already on such a roll?
But for every Scurll, there’s a Haskins. This year, he beat Johnny Gargano for Canada’s Smash! Wrestling title, finally got his hands on the Progress belt, and entered the Battle of Los Angeles. I, for one, was excited thinking about the momentum he was finally gaining – only to have his rise cut short. In a year when Daniel Bryan hung up his boots, wrestling fans are becoming more and more conscious of the risks that performers take for our enjoyment.
I went to SSS16, my first ever Progress show after lots of online streaming, fully expecting to see Haskins leave with a guaranteed title shot that would put him at the top of the Progress mountain. His withdrawal left much of the audience gutted – as much for him as for themselves, because his brand of honest intensity and huge talent means you just can’t help but cheer for him.
If I was sentimental enough, there might be some sort of symbolism in Havoc clearing Haskins’ path to victory at Brixton. I’m not. But I hope that, like everyone’s favourite AFI-loving sadist, Haskins walks back into Progress to rapturous applause one day – and not just because his entrance music is badass.
In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy watching Havoc beat the shit out of Marty Scurll. The prick.