Cara Noir’s first defence of the PROGRESS title came in Cardiff, as Chris Brookes finagled his way into a shot.
The show opens with someone spray painting what looks to be a new logo – or rather, stylised text, minus the problematic eagle. Hey, they’ve got a new ring canvas too, as we come from the Tramshed in Cardiff. It looks absolutely packed, and we’re straight to the action after barely THREE MINUTES. Refreshing AF, as the kids say. Glen Joseph and Frasier Thomas are on commentary. The flags are back, and look just as inorganic as they did in the Ballroom…
Chris Ridgeway vs. ELIJAH
It’s a PROGRESS debut for Elijah, who’s probably best known on the scene for his stuff in ATTACK!
Ridgeway stung ELIJAH with a kick to the leg from the off, before they scrambled on the mat as Ridgeway escaped headscissors and swung for a PK. ELIJAH manages to mount some offence, but his ‘rana’s caught and turned into an ankle lock that ends in the ropes, before this broke down into a battle of forearms. ELIJAH’s charged down with a shoulder block, as kicks begin to get Ridgeway some pinning attempts ahead of wacky deathlock/bow and arrow combo. A Dragon screw off the middle rope stuff’s ELIJAH’s latest hopes, as it’s back to the strikes as ELIJAH really struggled to get out of the blocks. Just as I say that he floats out of a suplex and spiked Ridgeway with a DDT, taking Ridgeway outside as ELIJAH followed in with an elbow strike.
More clubbing blows follow back inside as ELIJAH locked in a neck crank, before going in for a springboard dropkick that almost got the upset. Ridgeway tries for another PK, but ELIJAH ducks it and hits a cravat neckbreaker, before an electric chair facebuster led to another near-fall. Another missile dropkick doesn’t find its mark as Ridgeway rolled in with another ankle lock… but his reliance on the hold almost cost him as ELIJAH rolled back and nearly snatched the pin. ELIJAH accepts Ridgeway’s invitation of a strike battle, which looked to be a bad idea until he snuck in a release German suplex… before Ridgeway slapped him away and hit a receipt for a near-fall. Kicks follow as ELIJAH was in the ropes, but a crucifix bomb turned it back around for ELIJAH, who survived another onslaught to hit a neat Fisherman Powerbomb for a near-fall.
Ridgeway’s back with a half nelson suplex, before an axe kick and a PK drew some near-falls… with a bridging German suplex finally getting the job done. Not popular with the locals, as Ridgeway’s looking to heel a little. Even if it only was evident with a slightly-more aggressive finishing stretch. A decent debut for ELIJAH, but this was on the verge of dragging… ***
PROGRESS Proteus Championship: Danny Jones vs. Paul Robinson (c)
Another challenger for the Proteus title then, and another local lad on the card. That makes for some old school “my country’s better than yours” stuff, and the slip that Camden is a city? Since when?
Jones towers over Robbo, who wanted a chair to help him get back into the ring, and we’re stalling as the crowd are on Robbo’s back. We start with a ragdolling release German suplex from Jones, then another, then another, before a cheap shot from Robinson found its way in, before he charged Jones to the outside.
Robbo plays keep away, stopping Jones from getting back in, before an apron PK attempt was caught, as Jones took Robbo around ringside with chops. Robinson tries to fight back, but gets caught on the apron with a piledriver as he spent too long mocking Kyle Fletcher’s pose for… reasons. It doesn’t lead to the KO though, so Jones swings Robbo in a guillotine as he tried to get the stoppage… then again with a forearm smash and another German, but Robinson flips out and hits a low blow before forcing a stoppage with some hammer elbows. This was a little brief, but then again the pseudo-shoot style stuff would be. It’d be nice to see this title be the base of a feud, and I think the “arrow” mannerisms could be signalling just that. ***
Mark Andrews vs. Ilja Dragunov
Andrews is out with Eddie Dennis, as the pair get FSU chants. So Andrews flips off everyone.
Andrews bails at the bell as they teased another short match… Ilja gives chase, but has to contend with Eddie Dennis’ distraction before making it back to the ring as he proceeded to pummell Andrews. A back senton helps Ilja’s cause, before another distraction from Dennis led to Andrews hitting an enziguiri, taking Ilja outside. More distractions led to Ilja getting dived on, before Andrews worked the leg, standing on the knee before hitting a standing moonsault onto it. An Indian deathlock followed, but Ilja’s able to get free and hit a clothesline despite Andrews’ knee sliding under the Konstantin spezial. A second one connects for a near-fall, while a knee lift drew a similar result ahead of a teardrop German suplex.
Andrews manages to hit back with a wheelbarrow into a Stomp 182 to the knee, following in with a Figure Four for good measure. Eddie helps out under the guise of “stretching his shoulder”, but the pair end up in the ropes as we got the break. On the apron, Andrews kicks out the knee again, then followed in with a stomp, before Ilja came back in with a superplex, only to see his roll through lead to a Stundog Millionaire from Andrews. Chops from Ilja led to an enziguiri, before another teardrop German suplex was countered, with Andrews taking the long way around to a reverse ‘rana. A shooting star press followed, but Ilja got his knees up, then rolled up to take Andrews into the corner with a death valley driver, following with a back senton that jarred Ilja’s knee some more.
There’s more shenanigans as Eddie Dennis removes the turnbuckle covers, exposing the middle buckles as Ilja charged into it while supposedly going for Torpedo Moscau… and a shooting star press gives Andrews the win. This was okay, but I’m sure some will pick holes in things like how rough some of the counters looked and what have you. Andrews getting his win back probably sets up for a rubber match, and after the turnbuckle incident, maybe we can borrow from NXT UK? **¾
Eddie gets the mic afterwards, and called Cara Noir an imposter champion… we’re then treated to Gene Munny, who’d been on hand to run PROGRESS’ social media. He’s got a load of “#Gene4SSS16” flags that he’s handing out, continuing his guerrilla campaign. They let him talk, as he tells us that he needs one opportunity… and then they play his music. Well, it was going great until then, because that last bit sure took away the “invasion” feel to it.
Delayed rugby scores greet us at the start of the second half, along with Matt reading some names off the canvas. They’re slowly drifting away from “New Jim”…
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Anti-Fun Police (Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Federales Santos Jr.) vs. Jordan Devlin & Scotty Davis (c)
Devlin’s got two belts, wearing the shiny new NXT Cruiserweight strap… and the champions are the bad guys because Cardiff’s Bizarro-land.
Devlin’s the early aggressor, but Dunne’s able to get free as he almost rolled up Devlin for a pin. More pinning attempts follow before Scotty Davis came in and crashed into Dunne with a low dropkick for a two-count. Santos tags in next, as he cartwheels away from Davis, only for Scotty to Gator roll him around by the ankles on the way to some stretching. Santos gets free and tosses Davis across the ring as the challengers exchanged some frequent tags, but it’s a suplex from Davis that bought him time as Devlin tagged in and began to clear house on the police. A backbreaker, a uranage and a standing moonsault’s good for a near-fall on Dunne, while a slingshot cutter gets a similar result on Santos.
Davis comes back in and goes for more Gator rolls, but almost pinned himself as Santos rolled on top of him… so Scotts flips in with Cattle Mutilation instead before a double-team suplex on Santos eventually got reversed. Dunne’s back to clear the apron as he crashed into Devlin with a spear… a tope takes out Davis by the stage steps, before Scotty’s “accidentally DDT’d” as Dunne hit a standing Sliced Bread on Devlin. All four men stay in the ring for a spell as Santos slammed Devlin… but a tag’s made back to Davis as he cartwheeled into… a German suplex attempt? It doesn’t work as Dunne came in, only to get caught in a crossface… which Santos broke up as he suplexed Devlin onto the pile. Devlin tries to put away Dunne with a package piledriver, but it’s escaped as a 999 awaited… only for the Irishmen to charge Santos into the corner as Dunne’s met with a Spanish Fly off the top from Devlin for a near-fall!
Santos is back, clotheslining through the champions for a near-fall before headbutts and a Davis German suplex had the big man down. Dunne’s back for a springboard lungblower, but it’s caught and turned into a package piledriver, aided with a spike from Davis, as the champions retain. This was fun, but man, the pro-AFP crowd made this a weird watch, especially as the champions didn’t seem to lean into it much. ***½
Why am I getting an air of Peter O’Hanraha-hanrahan from The Day Today with some of Frasier Thomas’ comments?
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Gisele Shaw vs. Dani Luna vs. Jinny (c)
Jinny added herself to this match on the last chapter show – and was on the defensive early on when Dani Luna hurled her through Gisele Shaw with a fallway slam.
Jinny goes outside as the two challengers went at it, leading to a springboard ‘rana from Shaw and a head kick, before Jinny returned to hit a Koppo kick at Luna. Another ‘rana waits for Dani, as Jinny followed through with a Magistral cradle on Shaw for a two-count, before an attempted double Acid Rainmaker came to nought. The challengers combine to take out Jinny with a pair of back elbows, before Shaw gets kicked into the ropes by the champion. Luna throws Jinny to the outside as the two challengers again lay into each other, before Luna got taken outside as a convenient ring crew popped up just in time for Shaw to hit the Air Canada tornillo to the floor.
Back inside, a knee lift from Jinny drops Shaw, before Dani Luna showed off her strength with a fireman’s carry/fallaway slam to Jinny and Gisele at the same time. A Parade of Moves breaks out, with Shaw dropping Luna with an enziguiri, then Jinny with a half nelson suplex and a cutter… but Luna stops a pin from being made as she caught Shaw with a backpack stunner. Dani tries to push on with a suplex, but Jinny counters into a DDT, only to get caught with a knee and a DDT from Shaw, who looked to get the win with a levering armbar. Jinny’s dragged away from the ropes as Shaw leans back, but Luna breaks it up and hits an Air Raid Crash on Shaw, sending her outside, before Jinny struck back with the Makeover (X-Factor out of the corner) for a near-fall.
Luna’s got a second wind, but she staggers into an Acid Rainmaker, and that is that. Decent for the time it got, but I doubt anyone bought we’d get a title change here, not with a feud already set up for Jinny. ***
PROGRESS Unified World Championship: Chris Brookes vs. Cara Noir (c)
Let’s try to disconnect the Godawful Twitter “beef” from this match shall we? An evening that completely overshadowed the fact that this was Cara Noir’s first defence…
…a defence that started out hot as Brooked hit a missile dropkick to the back of the champ as soon as he got into the ring. That dropkick took him outside, where Brookes followed as Frasier seems to have taken over Glen’s Exposition Minute™ – you know, where the match almost takes second stage to explaining the background story telling? Brookes stays on Cara with chops, before Brookes forced into the crowd so he could jump off the front row with a stomp. Noir fought back with chops before they went up towards the stage, but Brookes has other ideas as he wraps Cara around the ring post instead. Cara tries to fight back, but a kick hits the ring post as Brookes ducks, before they ended up on the stage as a Praying Mantis Bomb’s countered out of with a back body drop.
Brookes capitalises by stomping on Cara’s feet by the ring steps, as Brookes then got into it with Chris Roberts, supposedly over that comedy spot in the Proteus Rumble. Yeah. Back in the ring, Brookes turned up the aggression, throwing Cara into the turnbuckles, before he used, erm, a Greco-Roman toe lock? Noir tries to pull himself free, but Brookes just bites the big toe as the crowd finally cottoned onto who they should be booing. Using the bottom rope, Brookes maintains the toe torture, but Noir got free and eventually met Brookes with a lariat. A German suplex is next, then a superkick and a Rude Awakening neckbreaker for a near-fall, but Brookes is quickly back in control, only to be taken into the corner with a Swan Woo as Cara looked for the Blackout sleeper while on the top rope. He lets go to avoid a (title-retaining) DQ loss though, and ends up getting caught by a butterfly superplex as Brookes popped back up.
Noir’s forearms weaken Brookes, but another stomp to the foot stops all that as an Octopus stretch has Cara on the verge of defeat, before he countered into… Kaepernick? The Madame Guillotine sees him chain together another of David Starr’s featured moves as the champion got a near-fall, before Brookes slipped out of a package piledriver and jumped out of the ring as referee Chris Roberts took a Swan Woo. From there, Brookes’ slingshot cutter lands, as did a package piledriver from Cara Noir, but Roberts is collecting himself on the outside as the fans counted the visual pin. Kid Lykos comes out from nowhere as Roberts is still on the outside. A low blow and a baking tray shot has Noir rocked, before a Praying Mantis Bomb landed just in time for Joel Allen to come out and count the pin. Except Chris Roberts pulls out Joel to stop the pin from being counted, because he saw Lykos using the baking tray.
Of course it’s not a DQ. Why would it be? So Brookes grabs the PROGRESS title belt and tries to walk out, and gets stopped by a diving Cara Noir as security were in Brookes’ way. Plunder comes as Lykos gives Brookes a chair, which gets hurled at Cara Noir’s head, and rather than walk out with the belt now, he grabs a bag from under the ring. You know what that means. Drawing pins! Except Brookes hits a clothesline and another Praying Mantis Bomb first, as Chris Roberts returned to make a two-count, before an Octopus stretch had Cara Noir down in the middle of the ring. Noir drags himself towards the rope, but stops to grab the bag instead to spill the drawing pins… before powering up, only to get flipped feet-first into the pins. Brookes tries to finish it, but he’s caught with a Blackout sleeper, and powers out to fall back into the pins.
Cara Noir sits straight back up though and reapplies the hold… and there’s the submission. Well, the finish was utterly bananas for Cara Noir, but my God, you need to shut your brain off, or at the very least, try not to apply any kind of logic here. It’s truly the little things – had Chris Roberts not pantomimed that he’d seen something I’d not be mad, but here we are. ***½
DEAR GOD. The back of Cara Noir was a state as he got to his feet, with blood dribbling from the dozens of pin pricks he’d had to endure moments earlier. Yuck.
The show ended with Cara Noir bowing down to his title, while the crowd chanted “Thank You Brookes”, who was carried to the back by Chris Roberts. No emotional farewell here then, as we fade to black on Cara Noir, before ending with the police chasing the graffiti guy again. They’ll get him eventually.
PROGRESS’ debut in Cardiff ended up falling into the “travelling show “template, giving us six matches (Connor Mills, who was meant to face William Eaver, ended up working GOOD’s No Ring show in London instead). On paper, what looked like a strong card ended up flattering to deceive. While nothing here was objectively bad, it just felt like “a show” that was buoyed along by a hot crowd. Coming in at under two and a half hours, it’s probably one of the quickest chapter shows in history, but one for only the completists, I’d wager. If you were looking for a short, brief review of the show, it’d be this: “Good, but they really can’t help themselves, can they?”