Kanji defends her PROGRESS Women’s title for the first time, with Mercedez Blaze being her maiden challenger while Cara Noir faced the threat of Elijah.

Quick Results
Alexxis Falcon pinned Gisele Shaw in 11:56 (**¾)
Man Like Dereiss pinned TK Cooper in 11:02 (**½)
Big Guns Joe & Gene Munny pinned Brendan White & Danny Jones in 19:24 (**¾)
Dean Allmark pinned Chuck Mambo in 10:33 (***¼)
Laura di Matteo submitted Taonga in 7:58 (**)
Jody Fleisch pinned Danny Black in 10:51 (**½)
Ethan Allen, Luke Jacobs & Chris Ridgeway pinned Warren Banks, Kid Lykos & Kid Lykos II in 28:53 (***)
Cara Noir defeated Elijah via referee stoppage to retain the PROGRESS World Championship in 23:10 (***¼)
Kanji submitted Mercedes Blaze to retain the PROGRESS Women’s Championship in 15:58 (***)

Something tells me this show was slotted for four weeks ago to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest – given the title of this show is a reference to a Lordi song… with Lordi having gotten some fame from winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006. Here in 2021 though, we’re back at the empty Theatre Peckham with Olie Spring and Hustle Malone on commentary for this monstrous nine-match card that I’m going to try and summarise for you today because the Network really doesn’t like me rewinding or even pausing this.

We open with a backstage promo from after the last show, with the Lykii celebrating their tag title win… before Roy Johnson vaguely runs down the card and the commentary pairing.

Gisele Shaw vs. Alexxis Falcon
Commentary’s talking about imaginary awards as Gisele Shaw heads to the ring…

Having come up short in the best-of-three series for the Women’s title, Shaw looked to take control here early, but Falcon surprises with a bulldog as she threatened early. A tornado suplex gets a two-count for Falcon, only for Shaw to respond with a ringpost figure four as she began to target Falcon’s leg. Shaw pulls Falcon into a splits and stomps on her legs some more, but there’s a fightback from Falcon, featuring another shotgun dropkick and a hanging neckbreaker. There’s a rolling neckbreaker too, only for Shaw to hit back with a powerbomb and a knee strike for a near-fall. A Trailer Hitch follows from Shaw, who bridges back like Charlotte’s Figure Eight as Falcon narrowly got to the ropes.

Ground and pound followed, as did some strikes on the top turnbuckle, leading to a backpack stunner out of the corner from Falcon. Alexxis tries for one more push, with a buzzsaw kick and a swinging reverse STO… and that’s the win! On paper that’s an upset, not that Falcon would care as she picks up a big win in a match I’d like to see someone run back once crowds are a thing… **¾

We’ve a barely audible Lykos Gym promo. They’re teaming with Warren Banks later on tonight, and they’ve got a Lykos mask for him too. Am I going to have to refer to Warren as Kid Lykos III?

Man Like Dereiss vs. TK Cooper
They change the graphics to make this “MLD.tv” – that website doesn’t seem to exist, at least when I was watching…

Commentary are going in heavy, thinking out loud as to why Dan Moloney’s not around, as TK enjoyed the better of the early going, at least until he took a 619 to the gut – and that’s what Dereiss targets as TK struggled to get back into the match, with a clothesline spinning him to the mat for a two-count. Things screech to a halt when Dereiss threw TK into the corner head-first, and that sparked the comeback, with short-arm clotheslines and an overhead belly-to-belly getting Cooper ahead. A boot through the ropes keep Dereiss down, as TK went for a springboard Quebrada for a near-fall, before Dereiss finally caught him with a knee in the ropes.

Cooper rolls out of a tornado DDT, then cracked Dereiss with a headbutt, only to get caught with a floatover DDT as Dereiss nearly nicked it. Some crucifix elbows from Dereiss end in the ropes, before a trip up top ended with a Spanish Fly from TK. From there, a springboard somersault scissor kick gets a near-fall, but Dereiss’ barrage of knees leads to a gutbuster and a 450 splash for the win. This was a solid “babyface” match, largely serving to establish Dereiss as a singles guy. **½

Greedy Souls (Danny Jones & Brendan White) vs. Big Money Gun Dogs (Gene Munny & Big Guns Joe)
As we look for the next contenders for the PROGRESS tag titles, we’ve got this match with the Greedy Souls looking to make it two wins in a row.

Joe looked to work Brendan White’s arm early on, but a front facelock stopped that as the early exchanges drew no clear advantage. After taking some slams, Joe finds a way in with a shoulder tackle, before tags brought in Munny and Jones. A back suplex lands from Jones, who then ripped off Gene’s nipple tape, only to get decked with forearms. Munny hits a Finlay roll to Jones, while Joe tagged in to hit a Vader bomb elbow as the Gun Dogs looked to take over. Munny’s slingshot spear gets a two-count, as did a double-team gutbuster, but Jones manages to launch a fightback… only to get charged over by Munny for another two-count.

Brendan White tags in, but the ref doesn’t allow the hand-to-boot tag… and the arguing masks some face raking that put Jones back in the game. A legitimate tag has White back in as the Greedy Souls pushed ahead, wearing down Munny… at least until Gene found a way in with a crossbody out of the corner. Joe’s back for a Boston crab, but his determination to put it on the illegal man in Jones nearly cost him. Clotheslines and a Fireman’s carry flapjack has Joe ahead though, with a Vader Bomb next… before Joe stacked up the Welsh lads for a double Boston crab. They overpower him to the outside, then threw Joe back in for a backbreaker that gets a near-fall. All of a sudden, the ref doesn’t care about hand-to-hand tags as the Souls push on, leading to a powerbomb/neckbreaker for a near-fall on Joe.

Joe back body drops out of a powerbomb, then suplexed White as the hot tag’s made to Munny… who wipes out Jones with a killer spinebuster. Jones is tossed out too as Munny’s dive wipes them out. A Macho Man elbow’s good for a two-count back inside, while Munny’s mounted butterfly hold on Jones was broken up. Jones and White come close with a slingshot into a Bossman slam on Munny, before White removed a turnbuckle pad… which drew out TK Cooper and Chuck Mambo into doing some ring crew work. Munny capitalises with Ainsley Lariat as the match breaks down again, leading to a boot-assisted sit-out powerbomb that gets the win. There’s some acts whose personalities mean they simply work better in front of crowds. Munny and Joe are two of those – and while there’s no doubting their effort, it’s not fully working in this environment with the weird booking thus far. **¾

Another low-volume promo, this time with Danny Black ahead of his match with Jody Fleisch. Black wants to make a name for himself here, and if that means beating Fleisch to get his second win, then so be it.

Dean Allmark vs. Chuck Mambo
It’s a quick return for Allmark… and the third time we’ve seen Chuck Mambo tonight. TEW would be tearing me a new one for that.

Allmark works Mambo’s wrist early, before a headlock takedown and a seatbelt pin nearly ended this in the opening minutes. Headscissors and a standing moonsault get Allmark a two-count as I’m left wondering why on earth it took PROGRESS so long to use him. A breath of fresh air, he’s been… Uppercuts wear down Mambo too, but Mambo’s able to springboard back in with a back elbow to catch out the veteran. The Macho Man flying forearm to the apron follows, then a tiltawhirl backbreaker for a two-count, as he then looked to wear down Allmark’s arm. A Gory bomb’s next for a two-count from Mambo, who then missed a frog splash before back-and-forth pins dizzied the ref.

A double clothesline leave both men laying, but Allmark’s able to get back into gear first with a double stomp to Mambo in the corner, then with another moonsault. Allmark blocks a gutbuster, but can’t avoid an enziguiri as Mambo threw in a Reef Break for a near-fall. Mambo’s swinging side slam gets him closer, only for Allmark’s gamengiri to turn the tide. Allmark’s Tennessee Jam legdrop lands, and from there it’s just a case of a Ruby Cutter and a Clash Bomb for the win. Like I say, Dean’s a breath of fresh air around here – offering something new without the “broken toys” thing from the past hanging in the background. ***¼

Taonga vs. Laura di Matteo
It’s a PROGRESS return for di Matteo, who’d last been on a PROGRESS show back in March 2019 when she was on the winning side of a trios match with Jinny and Kasey Owens against Martina, Millie McKenzie and Nina Samuels.

We’ve a pacey start as di Matteo and Taonga work the arms early, but it’s di Matteo who was the early aggressor, landing dropkicks for a two-count. Taonga gets back in with a facebuster, but Laura just trips her into the ropes and lands another dropkick. A snap suplex is good for a two-count, but Taonga’s back with a series of clotheslines and a urange that nearly wins it. Di Matteo’s pushed out of the corner as a sliding Flatliner came next, before Taonga’s I’m Prettier is slipped out of, with Laura returning with more clotheslines. An enziguiri and a short DDT follow, but it’s still not enough as di Matteo’s attempt at a submission was blocked.

Taonga tries to block again, hitting a front suplex to free herself before a kick sent di Matteo flying for a near-fall. We keep the near-falls flying as commentary covers a tornado bulldog for a two-count, before Taonga tapped to the Veni Vidi Vici – a grounded Octopus. Almost an extended squash, di Matteo picks up her first singles win in PROGRESS since July 2018. **

Interview time as the Greedy Souls are upset at their loss earlier. TK and Mambo (who’s out for a fourth time tonight) interrupt, which led to a challenge for matches, as we get singles outings agreed between the foursome.

Danny Black vs. Jody Fleisch
Fleisch is back after having had two prior PROGRESS appearances – with his appearance in a six-way at 2018’s Unboxing show being followed by a loss to Angelico in January 2019.

Fleisch has been wrestling for longer than Black’s been living, which speaks volumes. Like a few other matches here, we start with wristlocks as we reach early stand-offs. Black comes back with a springboard armdrag, then a drop, before he backflipped into a Naito. Yup. Jody’s springboard moonsault misses, but his enziguiri and reverse ‘rana didn’t. Black tries a moonsault to Fleisch on the outside, then an armdrag… but Jody cartwheels free before landing an Asai moonsault. They make it back inside, where Black invited some kicks, and took another enziguiri before a rolling Koppo kick sparked a comeback.

Black’s spiked with a ‘rana, but sidesteps a springboard dropkick from Fleisch… then went airborne with a springboard spiral tap. Keep it on the deck lads. A double clothesline makes sure they do, before Fleisch came close with a Spanish Fly. Black returns with a springboard cutter that nearly wins it, before a Blackbuster – wrist clutch brainbuster – ended with Flesich getting a foot on the rope just in time. Fleisch heads back outside, but he can’t land the 720 DDT… he gets a second bite of the cherry though, and that’s enough to win. Not my graps, this, feeling a little rough at times. A throwback to the early 00s indies, if you will. **½

We cut to an interview with Fleisch, who’s glad to be back wrestling… and wants to go to the top of the promotion.

Lykos Gym (Kid Lykos & Kid Lykos II) & Warren Banks vs. North West Strong (Chris Ridgeway & Young Guns (Ethan Allen & Luke Jacobs)
Yup, Banks donned the mask.

We’ve arguments before the bell, which subside as Lykos II does his best Toru Yano to escape Chris Ridgeway’s presence. Ridgeway goes to the arm early on, but Lykos II slips out… and got taken to the apron as we quickly reach a stand-off with Ridgeway only wanting to face Warren Banks. Ridgeway stretches Lykos II, who gets to the ropes as the Lykii tag each other, rather than bring in Banks. Ethan Allen’s in to defend a hammerlock from Lykos, before he came in with a side headlock on the mat. Allen keeps it grounded, before he opted to hiptoss and slam the wolf for a two-count. Eventually, Lykos tagged in Warren Banks, but the Young Guns played similar mind games and brought in Luke Jacobs as we’re kept waiting for Ridgeway vs. Banks.

Jacobs almost dumps Banks on his head with a teardrop takedown, with Banks coming right back with a tight side headlock. Banks takes it to the corner, where Allen tagged in as we get some quick double-teaming, before Ridgeway snuck in to kick Banks when he was down. A back elbow from Allen knocks Banks down again, but the Lykii come in to quickly turn the match around, with Lykos II starting to target the arm. Lykos goes into his bag of tricks with a bodyscissor’d armbar while Lykos II’s guillotine on Allen got countered into a butterfly suplex. Ridgeway comes in with kitchen sink knees for the wolves, before his kicks led to him taking the Lykii outside… only to get caught with an Asai DDT onto some knees. Ridgeway gets posted as they tease a countout, but of course that’s not the finish as the Lykii continued to keep the upper hand back inside.

The wolves keep picking apart Ridgeway, and kept Banks fresh on the apron while doing so, but it didn’t stop Ridgeway decking him with a forearm before he found his way free to tag in Jacobs. Luke runs wild, charging into Lykos I before hitting a Saito suplex for a two-count, before Banks came in and took some clotheslines in the ropes. Jacobs stays hot with a German suplex to Lykos I, then an uppercut-assisted one as Allent tagged in… and then things break down with all six men in the ring. Three leaping knees lead to three brainbuster counters, with a hattrick of crossfaces going nowhere as Lykos I slithers to the ropes as Allen’s crossface eventually broke. A flying knee from Allen meets a hung-up Lykos I, with Ridgeway picking up the count. Lykos II takes care of Ridgeway with the Lo Mein Pain, before Banks demanded to tag in. Just as Ridgeway was down, too…

Ridgeway manages to land a forearm to the ribs and tag out… the Young Guns run in, but Banks back body drops Jacobs into Allen. Lykos II’s in to get propelled into Allen with a lungblower… Lykos I dropkicks Allen in the arse for a near-fall, before triple-teaming to Allen led to an assisted Code Redand other shenanigans. A Banks spear’s good for a two-count, but the North West Strong lads turn it around with a punt-kick’d piledriver to Banks for the win. I imagine this would have been really boosted by a crowd – hot or otherwise – but sadly, it wasn’t, and this just dragged, especially given that it was a weird mix of an “after the big match” match and build for another feud. ***

Post-match, Ridgeway stretches Banks in a crossface before he finally broke free.

Backstage, the Lykii are having photos taken when they’re interrupted by Gene Munny and Big Guns Joe. They want a title shot, despite only having one win… but end up getting a non-title match instead.

PROGRESS World Championship: Elijah vs. Cara Noir (c)
As looks to be the norm, Charles Crowley gets to introduce Elijah after he’s had a full entrance. The switch between cinematic, normal and back is a cool touch for the home viewer as we bleed into the pantomime-y speech as Crowley berates all of us who are thinking out loud that this is “just another defence.”

Unfortunately, Crowley having a cinematic entrance means Cara Noir’s lost the one he used to have. He starts off brightly, again, going for the arm in the early stages as the match is worked on the mat, before Cara began to ran Elijah into the turnbuckles repeatedly. Cara ties up Elijah in a cross-legged abdominal stretch, before a lariat pretty much took off Cara’s head. Oh hey, there’s Sebastian – better known as the monkey with the cymbals that lived in Homer Simpson’s head. He’s popped up and is making a racket, distracting Cara Noir… who just hits another lariat before he bowed to the monkey. This will be a little too sports entertainment-y for some, as the “mind games” just get Elijah beaten up some more.

Elijah manages to get some offence in, taking Cara to the outside with an enziguiri as Crowley stalked the champion. Uppercuts from Elijah have Cara staggering, before Cara got thrown into the turnbuckles. The champion’s thrown outside as Elijah slammed him on the floor, before Crowley got involved to do a slam as well. This being wrestling, of course, the referee didn’t hear the loud thud…

Elijah breaks the count-out so he can roll Cara back in, before he decided to take a page from the champion’s book with some kicks. Elijah goes for his finish, but gets met with a headbutt and some kicks from a resurgent Cara, then a rebound German suplex and some forearms. The one-way traffic has Charles Crowley beside himself as Cara Noir built up to a neckbreaker, but instead scored a Victory Roll before falling to a crucifix driver for a near-fall. A springboard splash leads to a slip from Elijah as he misses… but Cara Noir couldn’t fully capitalise, and ends up getting lifted into an avalanche electric chair… but slips out and went for a rear naked choke, only for Elijah to fall back to the mat. Cara’s back up first as he tries to deadlift suplex Elijah, but he’s cut off… only to block a springboard splash. A package piledriver from Cara’s next, but Crowley puts Elijah’s foot on the rope… and that spells the end of Elijah.

We’ve a Benny Hill chase as they may as well play Yakety Sax with Crowley eventually running to the back. He’s quickly back out though, as Elijah found a way in with a suplex/powerbomb… then an Electric Chair Snake Eyes for a near-fall, despite Crowley pushing Cara’s leg off the ropes. You think they’re building Cara vs. Crowley off of this? Elijah rolls Cara into a cloverleaf, but despite Crowley’s annoyances the champion escapes and dives on the ringmaster. Cara kicks Elijah on the outside after unsighting him with Crowley’s jacket, before a Rude Awakening neckbreaker, and a Madame Guillotine over-the-knee neckbreaker left Elijah laying.

We’re back to the monkey, which Cara Noir sets off before he went to kick it… Elijah takes the punt instead, before a Blackout sleeper forces the stoppage. Take away the dramatics here and this would have been more enjoyable for me, but unfortunately… sportz entertainment that reminds me further, this is a far cry from the promotion that got me back into following the indies. ***¼

Backstage, Spike Trivet professes to be a victim of prejudice from the fans. Apparently people don’t see him of being capable of “those kind of matches”… Spike isn’t here for five-star matches… he’s here for status and power, which means he’s going to have to go through Cara Noir. Sign me up for that!

PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Mercedez Blaze vs. Kanji (c)
This was Kanji’s first defence of the title, since in the last chapter she was in a tag match…

Kanji has Blaze in the ropes early on, but the challenger’s spun out, only to have Kanji go back to the arm with a bridging hammerlock before we’re back in the ropes. Forearms from Blaze have Kanji rocked, but the champion’s back with some lucha stuff before she armdragged herself out of a Fireman’s carry. Blaze is right back with a dropkick… but Kanji kips up and trips Blaze for a step-up leg drop that gets a two-count. A dropkick from Kanji has Blaze on the outside, but Mercedez traps Kanji in the ropes and beats on her, before forearms back inside led to running double knees and a neckbreaker for a two-count.

A flatliner gets a two-count for Blaze while the commentary was talking a lot about Jinny – which is curious given she’s the former champion and there’s still no timetable for shows with fans, which is where you’d assume the rematch would be. Kanji found a way back in with an elbow, then a gamengiri on the apron, only to get brought back in with a Trish Stratus-ish ‘rana as Blaze pushed on. Kanji’s quickly caught in a Dragon sleeper, then a rear naked choke, but she backs into the corner to break it as a diving forearm to Blaze’s head bought the champion some time to recuperate. Another forearm smash, then a roll-up gets Kanji a near-fall, with a springboard forearm keeping the pressure going.

Blaze is caught in the ropes, as a leg sweep spikes her onto her head, before an elbow drop led to Kanji firing up for some more strikes. A back elbow drops Blaze, but it’s not enough as Kanji goes back in with some Danielson-ish elbows to a downed Blaze’s neck that eked out another near-fall. There’s a desperation eye rake as Blaze used headscissors to take Kanji into the corner… a snap suplex into the buckles follows, but Kanji kicks out as the match continued. Kicks to the head from Blaze lead to a Tower of Blaze attempt, but Kanji pushes free and rolled into a triangle armbar for the submission. This felt like a war as Blaze’s run of good form came to a sudden end – and with Kanji now having that tricky first defence under her belt, it’ll be curious to see who’s next in line for a shot in a rather crowded women’s division. ***

Speaking of… here’s Laura di Matteo coming out to point at the belt as the show faded to black. I’d have perhaps waited a show or two before doing the “she’s never held the belt” story, and re-establish her with the crowd, but in lieu of an obvious next challenger it works.

Let me get my whinge over early. Even if it’s for a big show that’s had multiple storylines built up to, three and a half hours of empty arena wrestling is virtually a chore. So you could imagine the reaction when I clocked that runtime of 3h 23m. The longest PROGRESS show for quite some time… It’s enough to put off all but the most hardcore of fans – especially when we’re now well into a year of having enough shows to determine what an “accepted” formula for “empty arena wrestling. For my money, PROGRESS is in a weird position. The booking on paper all makes sense and is building up everything nicely, but the shows themselves are a slog to get through. It’s a weird cognitive dissonance that I hope can be overcome once fans return.