A tale of two tag teams

The promotion: PROGRESS

The venue: Electric Ballroom, Camden

The show: Chapter 50 — I give it six months

Good tag team wrestling is an art form. Wrestling at its most psychological, with the potential to tell the most dynamic, agile, complete stories of all.

But they often don’t; they can fall into the trope trap very easily, especially given that they’re not a huge part of the televised modern-day wrestling product, meaning fans are less sure how to interact with them.

The bad guys wail on one of the good guys, testing the boundaries of the rules, until he makes the desperate tag to the emergent hero good guy who saves the day for the 1… 2… 3.

At Chapter 50, I definitely didn’t expect to fall in love with a team simply known as ‘banter edition’, in my first time seeing them perform.

They are Dave Mastiff, a sizeable man who reminds me of my World of Sport-watching days, and his lithe, masked partner El Ligero, against the well-established, well experienced tag machine that is the London Riots.

The Riots are a ‘full time’ tag team, PROGRESS stalwarts, and their journey is perhaps one of the most interesting to document across the last five years. They’ve been loved and hated, stonewalled and supported, and they’re capable of having the widest variety of match styles on the whole roster.

Now, I have a lot of time for a lot of different types of wrestling. Anything that makes me laugh has a really special place in my heart. Anything that surprises me, ditto.

And so when El Ligero tried all the power moves, to be rescued by a high flying, rana-performing Dave Mastiff, I officially lost my shit.

I wasn’t alone, and that’s something particularly special about the Ballroom. You never are alone. Whatever feeling wrestling is evoking from you at any moment in time, it’s being felt by someone else in the 700-strong crowd, somewhere.

There’s a keener appreciation for wrestling as a true variety act in PROGRESS than in other shows I’ve been to, especially considering the adult audience that they attract. But that’s awesome — because fun is for grown-ups, too. You’re never the only one laughing.

And fun is for grown-ups watching grown-ups wearing shiny masks with giant horns sticking out of them. You’d be absolutely forgiven for looking at the brightly coloured, masked El Ligero, and assuming he primarily a kid’s favourite.

He may well be… but alongside being an immensely talented wrestler, he’s the crown prince of physical comedy in the ring.

Often when I giggle at wrestling, it’s because of the sounds I hear, the words the wrestlers say, or their facial expressions. But El Ligero manages to make me cry with laughter even though I’ve never seen his face, or heard his voice.

Giant, oversized arm movements, the way he plays with his body language — particularly the movements of his head, accentuated by the aforementioned giant horns (there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write), make him an engaging performer that you can’t take your eyes off — and you don’t want to, either.

And as Ligero is sent flying to the outside, caught by his bigger, stronger counterpart, they embark on a little game of ‘trust’ on the outside. Ligero closes his eyes and falls backwards, safe in the knowledge that Dave won’t be letting him fall.

They switch places and there’s a collective intake of breath in the Ballroom, as we wait to see if we’ll see an amazing catch, or a roadrunner moment where we end up with a flattened Ligero imprint on the floor.

He does, of course, catch him.

Not to be outdone, JD hollers at Rob: “Catch me!” There’s a count, but as we reach one, a masked mischief maker distracts Rob with the promise of free beer, and JD ends up in a heap on the floor.

Comedy wrestling?

They’re a riot.