So… PROGRESS has a new champion, and boy, what a show it was.
After Mark Haskins was forced to relinquish the title due to injury a month ago, PROGRESS management announced a five-match undercard that led to a seven-man elimination match to crown a new champion. Some quick thoughts from Sunday’s show, which was announced as an impressive 108-second sell-out. Okay, it would have been, had four people not had tickets reserved by PayPal for an hour!
FSU, as a late replacement for the Hunter Brothers, went down against the still-undefeated South Pacific Power Trip in a barn-burner of an opening match. Travis Banks was bleeding heavily early on after a cauiflower ear burst… he completed the match, which started with Dahlia Black taking a crucifix powerbomb from inside the ring to Cooper and Banks on the outside, but Black had a hand in the finish with a low blow
William Eaver went over Joe Coffey via a roll-up with a handful of tights in a decent match. Sebastian came down before the match and acted as a distraction to the crowd. Of course, after the match, Sebastian took Eaver’s spot in the final – a twist that may have been predictable, but made sense. After all, Seb would be a really useless “master” of Eaver if he wasn’t going to take his spot in title matches like these!
British Strong Style – Pete Dunne and Trent Seven – retained their tag team titles over the London Riots in a Brixton rematch. This match seemed to cool off at times, as a lot of it was spent outside the ring. Once they returned, it turned into a nasty war, culminating in Rob Lynch having his facemask removed and his nose bitten by Peter, before a pump kick-assisted piledriver saw the champions retain. Trent’s selling throughout this match was a joy to behold –
Matt Riddle vs. Will Ospreay. Oh man. I was looking forward to seeing Riddle live for the first time, and bro… he did not disappoint. As you’d expect, Ospreay held up his end, but from the off this felt like a showcase. Or should that be “bro-case”? Nope, definitely showcase. Riddle flew into Ospreay with a leaping knee at the bell, and it was hard hitting from there. Riddle tried to make Will tap, whereas Ospreay relied heavily on his speed and aerial attacks, but in the end Ospreay was forced to tap as Riddle booked his place in the final.
Jimmy Havoc beat Marty Scurll via Eddie Guerrero-ism. They started with Havoc playing Bill Goldberg last Sunday – spear, spear, Rainmaker… and a near-fall. The match continued back and forth, ending with a ref bump that led to Havoc getting an umbrella and threatening to beat Scurll with it… except Jimmy just cracked himself in the head with it and fell down. Referee Chris Roberts fell for it, and Havoc earned his spot in the final.
The second half contained just two matches, starting with the debuting Katie Harvey vs. Nixon Newell in the Natural PROGRESSion Series tournament to crown a new Women’s champion. Poor Harvey got so much stick for her ring gear – chants based on her one-sleeved gear that started out funny and by the end were about to jump the shark. Another decent back-and-forth match, ending with a Shining Wizard from Newell.
Then our main event… a seven-way elimination to claim the vacant PROGRESS title: TK Cooper and a bandaged Travis Banks (aka “Terry Butcher” from a section of the crowd…), Pete Dunne & Trent Seven, Sebastian, Matt Riddle and Jimmy Havoc. Except Havoc was wiped out on the stage by Marty Scurll who broke an umbrella over him. Not counting the accident at Brixton, this was Seb’s first PROGRESS match in over a year… and his first singles match since his Natural PROGRESSion Series quarter-final over Damian Dunne in July 2015.
As you’d expect, Sebastian was not exactly loved here, and he took the first offence of the match as he was left alone with Matt Riddle – a man who became something of a God in this match, with the crowd breaking into a version of Spandau Ballet’s “Gold”. Unfortunately, he was not to leave as champion:
TK Cooper was the first one out, thanks to Riddle, before Sebastian was eliminated courtesy of a Rainmaker from a returning Jimmy Havoc. Yep, Jimmy came back, but not before Jack Sexsmith made a welcome cameo and caught Seb with Mr Cocko, before taking glee at the elimination. So there’s your next story for Seb (perhaps with Pastor William Eaver subbing for him)…
Trent Seven almost killed Travis Banks with a middle rope piledriver for an elimination, before both of the tag champions combined to dispatch Riddle. Seven quickly left via a Rainmaker, leaving Pete Dunne and Jimmy Havoc as the final two… but the returning Tyler Bate rushed out and kicked Havoc low before Dunne scored the pin to add the PROGRESS title to his ever-growing list of titles.
PROGRESS World champion. PROGRESS tag team champion. OTT/NLW Champion. Fight Club: PRO Champion. And those are just the belts that are active… not quite on Mark “Ultimo” Haskins level, but still mightily impressive for someone who has really exploded onto the scene in 2016.
All-in, the big takeaways from “The Graps of Wrath” were centered around several key players. First off, a shout-out has to go to Travis Banks for wrestling twice after his burst ear ensured that the rule of wrestling – if something is unusually white, it must be covered in blood (in this case, the ring canvas). Secondly, there are questions over the direction of the main titles since PROGRESS has their first ever concurrent champion in the form of Pete Dunne. Heel Tyler Bate is certainly a rareity, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out – even if there’s a bit of explaining to do given that Trent turned on Tyler to form British Strong Style with Dunne.
Jack Sexsmith’s appearance, going into a seeming feud with Sebastian can only be a good thing; even if we do get Eaver subbing for/helping Seb, having another storyline apart from “you must do as I say” opens up some new avenues. With any luck, that will progress the storyline, which seemed to be hurting Eaver, at least going by the crowd reaction where I was sitting…
PROGRESS don’t have another Sunday show in Camden for two months (they debut in Sheffield in two weeks, before holding a mystery show, “Unboxing Live!” at the end of December). If this show is anything to go by, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we’re back in the era of stupidly-quick sell-outs for this company as we enter 2017. Our full review of this show will appear in the coming days, after the show has dropped on Demand-PROGRESS.com