Paul Robinson vs Jack Sexsmith
Super Strong Style 16 Tournament Qualifying Match
Electric Ballroom, Camden, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
(reviewed 09/28/2017) When I saw this one coming down the pike, a small quiet thought of “this might be my favorite PROGRESS match of the year” meandered its way through my mind. Though I like this match a lot, it’s not quite my big favorite. Sure, there are some awkward moments and a doofy Canadian Destroyer and everything, but that’s not what bothers me so much here. What really gets to me is the greater thematic issue.
This match is a qualifying match for PROGRESS’ big yearly SSS16 tournament, with the winner entering the field at Chapter 49. What’s more, there’s an added twist to this match where Robinson stated that if he loses this match, he’ll leave PROGRESS forever.
The build to this match had these two going off on each other on Twitter. Most if it’s pretty tame, really, especially when accompanied by loads of non-kayfabe tweets from both sides, but a couple of comments rub me the wrong way. In that YouTube video above, Robinson suggests that Sexsmith feels entitled because he’s openly pansexual, that he should get shots he doesn’t deserve because he’s different. He states “just because you’re different, just because you’re different to everyone else here, you think you’re owed something”. Shortly after that video was posted, Sexsmith vaguely addressed it on Twitter.
Obviously this is touching on themes of homophobia, something that is very much a central part of Sexsmith’s character, something that is right up Robinson’s alley as a character (and an irl person, woooo) as well. For starters, I’m not sure how exactly I feel about tackling homophobia on a storyline level in professional wrestling, an entertainment style so heavily steeped in casual and blatant homophobia. When people flirt around implied eroticism between two male wrestlers for profit, when people are still shouting slurs at shows on a constant basis, when Billy and Chuck was barely 15 years ago, when this very promotion is selling rainbow-colored shirts on a site that printed shirts with 1488 on them just a few months ago, when this very promotion is cuddling up to a larger promotion directly in bed with the Trump administration, it feels so very hollow when someone like Sexsmith rallies against and defeats and sends someone like Robinson packing, ESPECIALLY when to do he has to force himself sexually on Robinson with a kiss and use a condom as part of his submission finish. When someone like Sexsmith is actively predatory towards his opponents even in a coy way, or when he doesn’t address accusations that he’s being coddled in the industry for being openly gay, it makes me feel like we’ve barely progressed past the Christopher Street Connection. And that breaks my heart.