In June 2014, with the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in full swing, Britain's Progress Wrestling decided to cash in.....I mean compliment the tournament with a tournament of their own, drawing together eight international stars for a one night single elimination tournament for the first ever Progress World Cup, with the winner getting a shot at the Progress title.
So let's start this DVD review at the very beginning with....
Quarter-final #1 saw Eddie Dennis of Wales taking on the Netherlands' Tommy End.
These two fan favourites put on a hell of an opener. It began with some nice back and forth exchanges, but perhaps the best parts were End's array of kicks. They were some of the most brutal kicks I've ever seen, even more brutal than those of a Daniel Bryan or Davey Richards.
Dennis did his part to make this match what it was, but in the end it was the aforementioned kicks that did for him. They set him up nicely as End took the win after a double stomp from the top rope.
Quarter-final #2 saw England's representative Rampage Brown taking on Canadian Paul Synnot.
I loved the beginning of this one. As Jim Smallman (who is in no way connected to commentator Jimmy Barnett, even though they do sound similar) made his introductions Synnot demanded that the Canadian national anthem was played. So once Oh Canada was over Rampage demanded the same treatment. Needless to say that Synnot was none too pleased when God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols boomed out through the speakers.
When the match finally began it was another of those short and sweet encounters. As always Rampage looked in top form throughout. Synnot looked okay, especially during the brawl at ringside, but I think I'd need to see a bit more of him before I form a long-lasting opinion.
As for the end things went downhill for Synnot when Rampage blocked his superplex attempt, and moments later he was on the receiving end of a piledriver as Rampage took the win.
Quarter-final #3 saw TNA star and Scotland's entry Grado going up against Israel's favourite Scotsman Noam Dar.
If you've ever seen a Grado match before then you know how unique they are, and this one was filled with his usual brand of mad-cap action. It would probably take too long for me to describe everything that went on here, but when you have a match in which the wrestlers take a break halfway through so they can go and get a drink at the bar then you've probably got a good idea of what else went on here.
The ending fitted in perfectly with everything that had gone on before. Grado had injured his knee when he took Dar down with a pedigree, so much so that when both men recovered Grado pleaded with Dar to put him out of his misery with his finishing move. Cue Dar's Khali chop to the skull, and a three count later the Israeli Scotsman had advanced to the semi-finals.
Quarter-final #4 was the battle of the Bhangra Knights partners as India's R.J. Singh faced Jamaica's Darrell Allen.
This was the complete opposite of the previous match, a fast-paced encounter between two guys who know each other so well they could probably wrestle each other blindfolded. The action was fast-paced throughout with both guys putting in good performances, and a part of me wished that they'd been given a bit more time. But given the format of the tournament I understood perfectly why this was given the short and sweet treatment.
In the end it was Allen who came out on top, taking Singh out of the tournament with a twisting brain buster for the winning pin.
Semi-final #1 saw Tommy End taking on Rampage Brown.
Now this was a wild one. Rampage decided to take matters into his own hands early on and attacked End before the ring introductions could be made, and after they brawled around ringside for a few minutes they eventually made it back into the ring where Rampage took control.
End made his comeback a few minutes later, unloading with a few of his brutal kicks, but Rampage was more than a match for him with his powerful lariats, and in the end England's representative made it to the final after taking End down with a powerbomb and sealing the deal with a piledriver.
Semi-final #2 saw Noam Dar taking on Darrell Allen.
It was an altogether more serious Dar in an encounter in which the slow and methodical approach was the order of the day. These two tied each other in knots early on as we were treated to some good old fashioned technical wrestling with a few high spots thrown in for good measure.
In the end it was Dar who emerged victorious, working over Allen's leg before locking in his champagne super-knee bar for the submission win and the last place in the final.
So with the final all set it was on to non-tournament action in the form of Progress Champion Jimmy Havoc's open challenge.
Now this one had an interesting beginning. Havoc was incensed that promoter Jim Smallman had left him off the card for this show, the last at their original venue at the Garage in London. Hence the open challenge, but when Havoc came to the ring he announced that as Smallman hadn't found him an opponent the man challenging for his title would be one of his own flunkies, Paul Robinson.
Well, this wasn't a finger poke of doom-type scenario. Havoc applied a wrist lock, and Robinson tapped immediately, giving Havoc the title-retaining win.
As far as Havoc was concerned that was it for the evening, until Smallman asked his flunkies to leave so he could have a chat with his champion, and after they made their way back to his dressing room he asked one of his staffers to go and lock the doors.
It was then that Smallman revealed that he had indeed found him someone to challenge him for the title in what would be a no disqualification match. The man in question was none other than the future Finn Balor himself, Prince Devitt, looking resplendent in his Hannibal Lecter garb.
What followed was perhaps the most brutal Progress title match I've seen. Devitt took his man to the proverbial woodshed early on, biting chunks out of his face and drawing blood, and that was before he'd taken his straight-jacket and orange overalls off. Then he took things up a notch by chopping the hell out of the champion before brutalizing him a little more during a brawl through the crowd.
Havoc only managed to come back into the match when he applied a sleeper hold. Devitt managed to survive this particular move though, and after almost stomping Havoc through a table he took him down with his bloody Sunday move for what he thought was the winning pin, until Paul Robinson returned to the scene and dragged the referee out of the ring as he made his count.
Robinson's interference was both a help and a hindrance to Havoc at times, but a final chair shot from the flunky eventually set Devitt up for Havoc's rainmaker clothesline and title-retaining pin.
That wasn't the end of things though. Havoc grabbed the microphone and told Devitt that although they had started wrestling at the same time and had trained together this was their first match against each other, but just when it looked as if he was going to offer some praise to the Irishman Havoc slapped him in the face before telling him to go to America in a rather unpleasant manner. Devitt responded by taking him down with a brain buster for his troubles.
The crowd then gave Devitt a standing ovation when Smallman revealed that this was his last match before he headed off to WWE.
So with all that business out of the way it was on to the World Cup Final between Rampage Brown and Noam Dar, with the winner getting a shot at Jimmy Havoc's title on the next show.
They certainly saved the best for last in this tournament. Two guys with two distinct styles put on a hell of an encounter which ticked all the right boxes.
It began with Dar working over Rampage's in preparation for his submission hold of choice. His attempts took him out to ringside where, after wrapping his man's legs around the ring post he ran up and delivered a Reigns-like dropkick to Rampage's knee.
The tide turned completely when they began to brawl through the crowd and made their way to the bar area. It looked as if Dar was going to suplex his man off the bar at one point, until Rampage countered with a piledriver that sent Dar crashing to the floor.
The referee ordered Rampage back to the ring while the security staff carried Dar back there. It looked all over when Rampage took him down with another piledriver, but somehow Dar managed to kick out and slowly work his way back into the match.
Eventually Dar managed to lock in that knee bar of his, and although Rampage managed to get the ropes Dar applied the hold again. This time around Rampage punched his way out, but when he went to pick him up Dar rolled him up for the three count and win.
In conclusion - okay, let's break out that tired old line, because these boys have gone and done it again, haven't they?
Yep, you guessed it, Jim Smallman and his crew put together another great show. The tournament was great and had a deserving winner in Noam Dar, while the Jimmy Havoc/Prince Devitt title match was Progress at it's best, with the future Finn Balor showing just why he's so highly regarded by the WWE's powers that be. In fact that match was so good it's going to get my prestigious match of the night no-prize.
So with all of that out of the way there's just one more thing to do, and that's to give this release the big thumbs up.
With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. For details on how to purchase Progress World Cup online visit www.progresswrestling.com.