After a stormy week (to say the least), PROGRESS returned for their second show on the WWE Network, featuring the first all-women’s Thunderbastard.
Natural Progression Series – Semi-Final: Warren Banks defeated Danny Black via referee stoppage at 10:50 (**¾)
Natural Progression Series – Semi-Final: Luke Jacobs defeated Ethan Allen via referee stoppage at 12:48 (***½)
Kid Lykos & Kid Lykos II pinned Big Guns Joe & Gene Munny in 14:22 (***)
ELIJAH pinned Chuck Mambo in 11:15 (**¼)
Natural Progression Series – Final: Luke Jacobs pinned Warren Banks in 10:14 (***)
Cara Noir defeated Chris Ridgeway via referee stoppage to retain the PROGRESS World Championship in 19:42 (***½)
Kanji won the Thunderbastard match in 23:34 (***¼)
Where do we begin? If last week’s show was under the cloud of PROGRESS’ social media handling… this week’s show is taking place in a pea-souper of a fog. Look, it’s real simple: if you say you’re going to do something, you do it. That’s just how professionalism works. Safeguarding and transparency are more than buzzwords. It’s more than taking a straw poll of “the boys.” It’s actually being upfront, addressing accusations, be it publicly or privately. It’s not painting fans as concern trolls. It’s not battening down the hatches and hoping that the “vocal minority” go away. Not in 2021. Not after the lights that were shone on historical abuse.
These shows were meant to be a simple first step for PROGRESS to get back on the wagon. To get new footage in the can and to keep their brand name out there – regardless of the perceived value of the brand in 2021. Even with the “anti-PROGRESS detractors”, this should have been an open goal. A penalty with no goalkeeper.
They didn’t just miss the target, they whacked the ball against the post so hard it came back and hit them in the face on the way back. In normal times, it’d have been impressive that they’d messed things up this badly. But these aren’t normal times. These are times where promotions need to be putting their best foot forward, looking to atone for the scene’s collective past. PROGRESS this week displayed – whether intentional or otherwise – a lack of care and an unwillingness to improve. Promotions mess up. Bad booking. Issues with the venue. Streaming woes. For a promotion to fuck up to the level that we saw over the weekend, that’s a special kind of collective stupid. An already difficult rebuilding job has gotten tougher – and the willing audience has gotten a little smaller after this latest cock-up.
These were shows that should have had us talking about names who were going to form the foundations of the British wrestling scene coming out of the pandemic and beyond – even if there was some trepidation of where it’d lay. Shame on everyone involved in the shitshow last weekend – from making the initial decision, through to the half-arsed follow-up. For those of you who are still reading and watching… let’s go.
Last week, the Natural Progression Series saw Ethan Allen, Luke Jacobs, Warren Banks and Danny Black move into the semi-finals… while Millie McKenzie got some momentum ahead of today’s first all-female Thunderbastard match, with a win over Mercedez Blaze. We’re back at the Theatre Peckham in London, with Roy Johnson hosting. Today’s going to be the NPS semis and the final as well… that feels like that second part was kept quiet. Hustle Malone and Charles Crowley are on commentary.
Natural Progression Series – Semi-Final: Danny Black vs. Warren Banks
Well… this was taped the day after last week’s show by the sound of things.
We start with Black looking to muscle down Banks, but there’s a big size difference as Banks blocks a sunset flip. A springboard headscissors and a running kick take down Banks, before we zoom in tight on a standing moonsault that Banks has to kick out of. Black hits the ropes for a springboard something or other, but Banks turns it into a backbreaker before a back elbow off the ropes knocked Black down for a two-count. Right hands from Banks knocks Black down for some short-range elbow drops, but Black kicks out at two, before his attempt at a comeback was stopped with a forearm. Black has more luck with a flying ‘rana, before a rolling Koppo kick knocked Black out of the ring. An Asai moonsault keeps Banks down, as Black looks to throw him back inside… eventually following up with a springboard cutter out of the corner for a two-count.
Black measures himself for a springboard corkscrew splash for a near-fall, only for Banks to return with a Flatliner, a German suplex and a diving clothesline for a near-fall as well. From there, Banks ties up Black in a crossface… then let go so he could; turn it into PAC’s Brutaliser… but Black gets to the ropes to force a break. A spear from Banks misses as he slides into the corner, allowing Black to fire back… only for a ripcord leaping knee to threaten Black before he countered a death valley driver into a neat push-down stomp. Things descend to strikes, which gave Banks an advantage, but Black’s able to stomp away on Banks in the ropes before a wrist-clutch suplex – Out of the Black – landed for a near-fall… with the camera zooming out to show Banks had his foot on the rope.
Banks blocks another springboard cutter, and locks in a guillotine to drag Black to the mat for the submission. A pretty good, even outing, but it’s Banks who makes the finals later on. **¾
They hype up Jordon Breaks again… no “debut” date was given.
Natural Progression Series – Semi-Final: Ethan Allen vs. Luke Jacobs
This is an all-Young Guns semi-final, and these two have had some crackers against each other in the past.
They lock-up to start, with Jacobs pushing Allen into the corner… before Allen ducked a chop. Allen hits a chop in the ropes, but Jacobs just charges him down before an armbar attempt and a wristlock had Allen on the mat. Kicks from Jacobs make it worse as he rolled his tag partner down for a cover, then went back to the armbar before a crossbody from Allen led to a retaliatory armbar. Heading to the ropes, Allen hits a Cornish hype/hiptoss before shrugging off a chop as Jacobs took him into the corner for a back body drop. Jacobs gets a two count from that, then kicks Allen in the back again and again as Jacobs looked to dominate proceedings. A sunset flip gives Allen hope, but Jacobs is up at two before he’s knocked to the outside, allowing Allen to go for a dive… he aborts it, but gets chokeslammed onto the apron, then clotheslines before Jacobs took him back inside for some stomps.
Right hands on the mat from Jacobs earn him a two-count, but Allen offers a fight back as a rear spin kick decked Jacobs. A deadlift Angle slam drops Jacobs for a two-count, before Allen backflipped over Jacobs and tripped him into a crossface… but Jacobs gets to the ropes! Allen pulls the leg off the rope, forcing Jacobs to swivel back to the rope to ensure the break was called. Jacobs hits back with a spinebuster for a near-fall, before he went after Allen with more chops. A roll-up from Allen, then a butterfly suplex lands, but Jacobs ducks a kick and wallops Allen with a lariat… a second one looks to follow, but Allen beats him to the punch, only to miss a springboard moonsault as Jacobs capitalises with a Figure Four, eventually forcing the stoppage as Allen faded away. This was a heck of a match between two tag partners – if you knew their history you’d be into this more, but considering this was just their third show for PROGRESS, it’s hard to build up history. ***½
Seriously, if we’re going to mention groups like North West Strong, would it kill commentary to mention who they are? Not everyone watches everything…
Roy Johnson’s doing his next set-piece in the aisle but gets interrupted by both Kid Lykos’. The Lykii?
They’d advertised their tag team debut so this perhaps wasn’t a shock… Lykos the First says that their mission statement is to rebuild British wrestling, while they talked like they’d killed Chuck Mambo. He’s wrestling later… Yorkshire Lykos says that they’re looking for “unbooked losers” to take on the “best team in the country”. Out comes Big Guns Joe to accept the challenge as a handicap match… Lykos 1 wants it to be a tag team match, and asks for a partner for Joe… who wanders backstage and talks Gene Munny into it. Even though he was having his lunch…
Lykos Gym (Kid Lykos & Kid Lykos II) vs. Big Guns Joe & Gene Munny
The Lykii kick Gene as he did his slingshot into the ring entrance, then focused on Joe in the early going.
A back elbow from Joe takes Lykos 1 into the corner, before a diving uppercut off the middle rope force Lykos 2 to tag in. Lykos 2 wants Gene Munny though, and gives himself a wedgie in doing so before he ripped off Gene’s nipple tape. A suplex chucks Young Lykos down, before Munny chopped him in the corner. Joe tags back in to press slam Lykos 2 into a gutbuster from Munny, before a squatting slam gets Big Guns Joe another two-count. Munny blind-tags in to hit a slingshot spear for a two-count, then brought Joe back in as commentary painted Lykos as a tag team veteran due to his past team with Chris Brookes.
A side headlock from Joe’s eventually fought out of by Lykos 2, who pushes into the corner to bring in Lykos 1, before Lykos 2 distracted the referee to mask a punt to the dick from Lykos 1. A Stretch Plum from Lykos 1 has Joe in trouble, as the Lykii cut the ring in half and continued to double-team Joe. Lykos 2 punts Joe in the back for a two-count as the Lykii took control, exchanging quick tags before a brainbuster from Lykos 1 was escaped. Joe counters back with a fireman’s carry slam and a gutwrench suplex, before he tagged out to Munny, who cleared house with diving kicks. Munny keeps going with a spinebuster to Lykos 2 for a two-count, then pulled in Lykos 1 for a Finlay roll.
Munny tries a one-handed chokeslam on Lykos 2, but instead he hits a pair of them onto the Lykii for a near-fall. Joe’s back in after Munny tosses Lykos 2 with a wrist clutch fallaway slam… but he loses track of Lykos 2, who goes for a brainbuster, and eventually lands a tiltawhirl DDT for a near-fall. From there, Lykos 1 comes in and ties up Joe in a grounded Octopus, while a regular Octopus trapped Munny… but Munny damn near kills Lykos 2 with a TKO gun stun, sending Young Lykos to the outside. Munny trades rights with Lykos 1, but an attempt at the Ainsley Lariat’s stopped by Lykos 2 and a baking tray, before a bulldog into Lykos 2’s knees put Munny down and out. That leaves Big Guns Joe on his own, as he takes a Sliced Bread onto some knees, then a Total Elimination for a near-fall, before Joe is taken back in side with the Howling. Lykos 1 comes back in to help with a double-team inverted suplex… and that’s all folks. By the end, this was a lot of MOVEZ as the Lykii were busting out all sorts of double-teams – now, if only there was a proper set of tag teams for them to go through. Keep an eye on these two… ***
Chuck Mambo vs. Elijah
Elijah was knocked out of the Natural Progression Series last week, so he get a chance at redemption against Chuck Mambo, whose arm was supposedly destroyed by the Lykii, as they bragged just one segment ago.
Mambo started, ironically, by working over Elijah’s arm, but Elijah armdrags his way free before hitting a dropkick. An elbow puts Mambo in the corner, but a drop toe hold switches things around as a Romero special gave Elijah something to think about.
Mambo gets a little too carried away though as Elijah slides out and drops Mambo onto the apron. It leads to a count-out tease, but Elijah leaps on Mambo with stomps, before Mambo hit a tiltawhirl into a reverse DDT. Elijah tries to cut him off, but gets elbowed in the corner ahead of a springboard back elbow. A swinging side slam gets Mambo a two-count, before a cravat was spun out of, with Elijah then getting tripped into the corner. Running knees keep Elijah in the buckles, as did a through-the-ropes dropkick, before a Bad Burrito gutbuster was caught. Elijah can’t capitalise as Mambo comes back with a superkick, then a Reef Break springboard Meteora, before the Bad Burrito was countered into a crucifix for a near-fall.
Mambo fires back with a delayed superplex, but Elijah’s back with an Electric Chair facebuster for a near-fall. Mambo finally lands the Bad Burrito, then heads outside for a springboard splash… he whiffs badly though, as Elijah’s able to counter with a springboard splash of his own to the back, getting a delayed two-count. More pinning attempts break out, before a suplex into a sit-out powerbomb – the Graveyard Smash – drew Elijah a near-fall. The Chuck You from Mambo gets him close again, as he then tries for the springboard splash once more… Elijah gets the knees up though, then trapped Mambo’s head between his legs and hit a backheel kick, before a cross-armed DDT gets the win. An emphatic first-win for Elijah, but on the surface this was “just a match” with little meat to it. **¼
There’s a recap video of the Natural Progression Series matches, with commentary lines that seemed… odd?
Natural Progression Series Final: Luke Jacobs vs. Warren Banks
We open with a lock-up as the pair head into the corner, where Jacobs angers Banks with a chop, then an elbow.
Banks retaliates with a shoulder tackle, knocking Jacobs to the outside, but Luke’s able to return and gets shot into the ropes as he ducks a leg lariat and knocked Banks down again. A leg lariat from Banks offered some response, but Jacobs just muscles him back up for a suplex, before clobbering him with a clothesline in the corner. They mention how the tournament winner can take a shot at any PROGRESS title – be it the Proteus champ Paul Robinson (ahem) or the World champion. Interestingly, they don’t bring up the vacated tag titles…
A low kick from Banks knocks Jacobs down for a two-count before the pair traded elbows. Banks’ knee lift knocks Jacobs back to the mat, but a spinebuster and a PK keeps Luke in it for a two-count. Jacobs’ front kick lands, but Banks’ diving boot and a spear turns it back around for him. Banks tries for a second spear, but Jacobs countered back with a back suplex, before a lariat gets a near-fall…
Jacobs fires away with strikes as Banks clung onto the leg to reduce the space… but to no avail as Jacobs leaves him laying. A pair of ripcord knees from Banks looked to put him back in it, as did a Kamigoye-style knee, before Jacobs slipped out of a Fireman’s carry. He’s shoved into the corner though, but counters another spear with a clothesline, falling on top of Banks for the win. A decent, but not great tournament final – run this one back in a year or two with more experience and they’ll knock it out of the park. ***
Backstage, Jacobs celebrated winning the Natural Progression Series – calling himself the best 20-year-old wrestler in the country… and declared that he was going for the World title.
PROGRESS World Championship: Chris Ridgeway vs. Cara Noir (c)
Ridgeway won this shot after winning the four-way that opened the last show…
Ridgeway starts out by taking Noir into the ropes, before he went for a takedown. Headscissors take Cara to the mat, before the search for an armbar was blocked by Cara, who looked for one of his own. Cara escapes headscissors and tries to get the leg, but Ridgeway rolls out into an ankle lock, forcing Cara to scurry to the ropes for a break. Resuming, Ridgeway works over Cara’s foot, before Cara countered out and worked into a side headlock. Ridgeway gets a front headlock and rolled Cara down for a triangle armbar, but to no avail as Cara escaped and reset. After taking a breather, Ridgeway returned and was sent into the ropes, but he hangs on as Cara looked to tee up for a kick… and we reset again as Ridgeway grabs Cara’s tongue and pulled him down to the mat.
A kick to the back followed as the pair began to trade those strikes… Cara’s capoeira kick was caught, with Ridgeway punting the champion in the ribs ahead of a front suplex that dumped Cara in the ropes. Standing on Cara’s ribs follow, along with a stomp, before a kick to the back led to another submission attempt as Ridgeway worked into a Deathlock’d STF. Breaking in the ropes, Cara Noir couldn’t escape further kicks as Ridgeway was picking his spots. A forearm to the ribs keeps Cara winded, then another… but a headbutt out of nowhere staggers Ridgeway as Cara began to kick back. A snap German suplex flings Ridgeway back in for a superkick, but Cara can’t follow up immediately, instead taking Ridgeway into the corner with shotgun dropkicks.
Ridgeway stops Cara with a kick to the midsection, only for the follow-up to get caught… with Cara turning it into a Rude Awakening neckbreaker for a near-fall. Another dropkick from Cara lands, before the pair end up on the apron, where Ridgeway manipulates Cara’s toes ahead of a kick to the knee. More kicks follow on the apron, before Cara hit a short package piledriver onto the edge of the ring. Rather than take the count-out, Cara rolls Ridgeway back inside… and gets caught in the ropes as he comes back inside. A running knee followed as Ridgeway follows up with a German suplex for a near-fall – but he was still feeling the effects of that package piledriver. A cross armbar looks to follow, but Cara blocks it before taking a wrist-clutch Go 2 Sleep for a near-fall.
Cara bites to avoid a submission attempt, but Ridgeway reapplies the armbar before moving up to an ankle lock that ended in the ropes. A Madame Guillotine over-the-knee brainbuster lands, but Ridgeway pops back up and goes for the ribs again before a mid-kick gets a near-fall… a PK gets a similar result, before Cara countered a third kick by leaping into a Blackout sleeper for the stoppage. This match really didn’t click with me at all – Cara Noir having to bite to block submissions showed Ridgeway’s dangerous side, but at the end of it all it’s another win for Cara Noir as Luke Jacobs waits in the wings. ***½
After the match, commentary talked as if Luke Jacobs hadn’t made his decision… I mean, they could have just dropped his video in here?
The winner of this gets a shot at the PROGRESS Women’s champion, who was not named at all… it’s a Royal Rumble-style match with two entrants starting, and more coming in at three-minute intervals. Eliminations occur via pinfall, submission and DQs, and apparently the winner earns a future title shot of their choosing (according to the graphic)… I mean, make your mind up lads!
Millie McKenzie and Lana Austin are the first two in, locking up to start as they go to the corner… there’s a clean break, as Austin then took down McKenzie with a collar-and-elbow tie-up… then tripped her for a double legdrop. McKenzie returns with a diving European uppercut and a spinning neckbreaker, getting a two-count before Millie went for a German suplex… but Austin clings to the ropes to prevent it.
Austin’s front facelock is escaped as Millie rolled her down for a one-count, before a diving dropkick started the countdown of DRAMATIC MUSIC to bring in entrant three… the debuting Alexxis Falcon. Falcon hits a clothesline and a dropkick to Millie… but gets caught from behind by Austin, only to shrug it off and hit a neckbreaker on Austin for a two-count. THANK YOU HUSTLE MALONE. Calling out that Millie isn’t breaking up covers because it’s elimination rules. That sort of thing is a pet peeve in these matches… Falcon stays on Austin, but eats a dropkick from McKenzie, before a suplex struggle led to a roll-up for a two-count. Alexxis stays on Millie, but Austin’s back to take her into the corner for some stomps… only for Millie to roll up Austin for a two-count.
Falcon drops McKenzie with another kick, before Austin hits again for a pair of near-falls that cue the DRAMATIC MUSIC again. Out in fourth is another debutant in Taonga, who clocks Millie with a high kick on the way in before a diving boot took McKenzie to the outside. Taonga follows her outside, but gets pulled off the apron by McKenzie as Falcon and Austin stay in the ring to trade head kicks, leading to a diving splits kick from Falcon that gets another near-fall… Austin responds with a discus forearm before a draping DDT eliminated Falcon. Taonga’s in to kick away on Austin for a two-count, before an Unprettier dropped Austin… who rolls outside. In comes McKenzie… but she’s got to block an Unprettier as the DRAMATIC MUSIC hits, with our final debutant coming out in Kanji… who watches as a spear from McKenzie eliminated Taonga during her entrance.
Kanji goes right for McKenzie, throwing her down before elbowing away a waistlock… a step-up legdrop lands for a two-count for Kanji. Austin’s back to hit a powerbomb on Kanji for a two-count, but McKenzie sneaks in to land a German suplex to eliminate Austin, and leave us with Millie and Kanji for the time being. They pull themselves back to their feet and begin trading elbows… McKenzie’s knocked down, but we’re back to elbows until a roll-up gets a near-fall for McKenzie. A second spear from Millie gets another two-count, before the MUSIC returned as Mercedez Blaze joined the match. Blaze apparently has a plan for this match, which involved her not getting into the match immediately.
Kanji boots Millie as Blaze watches from ringside, before a German suplex took Kanji to the mat… only for Kanji to pop back up and cradle McKenzie for the surprise elimination. Kanji’s screaming for Blaze to join the fray, but instead Blaze waits for the final entrant: Gisele Shaw. She looked to make a union with Shaw against Kanji, but Shaw instantly put a fork in that, throwing Blaze into the wall instead. Instead, Shaw had her own backup: a pipe under the ring. I mean, DQs do count in this, so it’s not entirely a great idea. Shaw uses the pipe on Kanji, disqualifying herself as commentary brought up how Shaw already has a title shot in the bank as she used the pipe to wrench away on Kanji’s arm after the DQ. That I guess leaves Kanji and Blaze to pick up the scraps, both beaten up… but Blaze is right in hot, stomping away on that arm. An arm whip in the ropes drops Kanji for a two-count, before an armbar looked to give Blaze the win… but Kanji gets to the ropes.
Blaze stays on the arm, wrapping it around the rope, before a missed double knees in the corner put Blaze on the back foot. Kanji returns with a springboard forearm, then some chops only for Blaze to pull her back down for an armbar… Kanji rolls free of it, but gets knocked into the ropes ahead of some headscissors. A shotgun dropkick keeps Kanji in the corner, as Blaze proceeds to launch her into the corner with a butterfly suplex for a near-fall. Kanji tries to nick it with a roll-up, but Blaze kicks out at two, only to get caught with what I can only describe as a step-up springboard stunner for the win. Kanji – having eliminated the favourite in Millie McKenzie – leaves with the win and the title shot, following a Thunderbastard match that wasn’t without its issues. They put the most focus on Kanji (out of the three debutants), and while everyone held their own, it’s clear they’re looking to Kanji and Gisele Shaw as a long term thing. ***¼
The cameras follow Kanji backstage, where she promised that the revolution starts with her now… and that Women’s championship will be her’s soon enough. PROGRESS returns next week for Chapter 106: Stick A Pony In Me Pocket – with nothing announced so far…
By this point you should know that “this ain’t PROGRESS” – at least, not how it used to be. They’re rebuilding the roster as they go, but there’s not much in the way of stories aside from the basic “he won a match, gets a title shot” stuff – which perhaps is for the best in the early days. There’s things that can be worked out in time, like the commentary which veers from “super serious snooker commentary” to the indie trope of “let’s shout to make it seem urgent”. Unfortunately the biggest millstone around this set of talent is the very name on those banners, and all that comes with it.