One week on from their Iron Man draw, Cara Noir and Chris Ridgeway are called to challenge Nick Riley and Charlie Sterling in the latter’s first defence of the tag team titles.

Quick Results
Danny Black pinned Hari Singh in 7:36 (**½)
Kid Lykos & Kid Lykos II pinned LK Mezinger & Sandy Beach in 8:47 (**½)
Raven Creed pinned Taonga in 9:05 (***)
Jody Fleisch pinned Man Like Dereiss in 11:14 (**)
Luke Jacobs pinned Ethan Allen in 20:13 (***¾)
Gisele Shaw submitted Skye Smitson in 14:23 (***)
Charlie Sterling & Nick Riley pinned Cara Noir & Chris Ridgeway in 20:39 to retain the PROGRESS Tag Team Championships (**½)

We open with a backstage promo from Skye Smitson, who’s a part of next week’s Revelations of Divine Love tournament… but she wants to challenge Skye Smitson to a non-title match tonight.

We’re then at ringside as Roy Johnson and Hustle Malone are in the ring to introduce things… starting with the Parade of Entrants for next week’s Revelations of Divine Love tournament. Alexxis Falcon, Laura di Matteo, Mercedez Blaze, Taonga, Lana Austin, Raven Creed (whose music BADLY needs the intro chopped off of it), Rhio, Lizzy Evo and Skye Smitson all get individual music and entrances. Yes, there’s nine names there – Mercedes Blaze and Taonga will have to choose which of them will wrestle… and that’s called out here.

Surprisingly, we don’t get the “we’ll both be in” thing like the Grizzled Young Veterans did at Super Strong Style 16 a few years ago – Blaze is picked, and luckily, they already had names in envelopes, handily prepared for Blaze to have been picked. Kayfabe, you know? With Mercedez Blaze out first as they did the tournament brackets via these first round matches:

Mercedez Blaze vs. Raven Creed
Alexxis Falcon vs. Lizzy Evo
Rhio vs. Lana Austin
Laura di Matteo vs. Skye Smitson

Gisele Shaw politely waits until the draw’s done before she interrupts. She rips on the tournament and chapter name, preferring it to have been called the Gisele Shaw Invitational. Shaw then picked out Smitson for her earlier challenge… Shaw refuses the mat, and then all hell breaks loose as Smitson slapped Shaw to the outside and tied her up in a leg lace… until Shaw accepted the challenge amid a lot of shaking and zooming. Kevin Dunn would be proud.

Backstage promo from Charlie Sterling and Nick Riley in front of a new sponsors board… where they challenged Cara Noir and Chris Ridgeway for their first defence.

Danny Black vs. Hari Singh
Danny’s still waiting for that second win…

Commentary’s stupidly quiet for this compared to the opening segment, to the point where the bowling-alley ring completely obliterates their audio. Black’s armbar has Singh in trouble early on, but he’s pushed off as we get leap frogs, arm drags and the like as everyone misses their big shots ahead of some back-and-forth pins out of a side headlock. Black’s Koppo kick cracks Singh for a two-count, while a mid kick gets Danny another two-count, before Singh rebounded in the ropes and charged back with a clothesline. Double-handed chops and a springboard crossbody gives Singh a two-count, before Black almost overshoots Singh on a Meteora for a near-fall.

Singh returns with a neckbreaker for a near-fall, but an enziguiri and a Black-buster leaves Singh laying, ahead of a 450 elbow drop for the win. Short, but it got the job done. **½

Post-match, Black tries to console Singh, who was convinced it was only a two-count…

Lykos Gym (Kid Lykos & Kid Lykos II) vs. LK Mezinger & Sandy Beach
Holy makeshift team, Batman!

Lykos II starts by backing Beach into the corner, but Sandy came in with a chinlock to ground the young wolf, who cartwheels free as the feeling out process continued. Sandy surfs on Lykos II in the ropes, then took him outside with a dropkick ahead of an apron PK. All four men end up in a brief shoving match before tags bring in Lykos and Mezinger. Mezinger caught a kick, then charged down Lykos, who begs off and gives LK the Enfield Kiss. He doesn’t want his boots licked though, so Mezinger pushes Lykos away and hits a spinning sidewalk slam for a two-count, before Beach returned to get kicked in the ropes by Lykos II. The wolves combine as a low dropkick nearly put Sandy away, but Beach rolls away and tags in Mezinger, who clears house.

A full nelson slam from Mezinger and a release German suplex dumps Lykos II, while Lykos I took a slingshot slam for good measure ahead of cannonballs. Lykos grabs Mezinger in the ropes but LK counters a brainbuster into a Side Effect as Sandy returned with a springboard clothesline to Lykos II. Beach’s double stomp keeps the makeshift duo ahead, before a Go 2 Sleep/superkick combo nearly put away Lykos II. We’ve an enziguiri and a Mistica from Lykos II, whose standing moonsault adds a near-fall to the mix, while Sandy Beach gets posted on the outside. From there, double-teams wear down LK ahead of a Lo Mein Pain and a Casanova knee that got the Lykii the win – and a lot more trouble than they probably should have had. **½

Backstage, Mercedez Blaze and Taonga take exception to the quiet interviewer trying to stir things up between them ahead of next week’s tournament.

Taonga vs. Raven Creed
Perhaps the natural match to make after the draw at the top of the show…

Taonga backs away at the bell as Creed weirded her out… when we got going, Taonga took Creed into the corner, only to get met with a forearm and a series of chops. A scream makes Taonga roll outside, but Creed’s caught when she joined her there… only to throw Taonga into the apron. Creed hits the post as she went for a clothesline, as the match turned on its head. Back inside, Taonga puts the boots to Creed, including one to the elbow that drew a two-count. Creed tries to fight back, landing a Goomba double stomp out of the corner before Taonga booted her down.

A Codebreaker to the arm nearly puts Creed away, as did an armbar, before Creed caught a kick… and spun Taonga into a clothesline. The comeback continues with a Busaiku knee for a near-fall, before Creed struggled to lift up Taonga for a back suplex. Instead, Creed manages to get a spinebuster, before she misses a shoulder charge in the corner… allowing Taonga to home in on the arm again. Taonga gets too mouthy when setting up the I’m Prettier, and ends up eating a Blue Thunder Bomb, before Creed hauled her up for a Hell Mouth death valley driver… and that’s your lot. A good, sub-10 minute match that debuted Creed to the (viewing) audience, but I fear that she’ll be out in the first round next week… ***

Backstage, Raven Creed introduces herself via promo, and promises to drag everyone in PROGRESS to hell…

Man Like Dereiss vs. Jody Fleisch
Jody’s being given another “future star” as PROGRESS seem to love these “generational” clashes…

We open with a dropkick as Fleisch came off the ropes, before Jody returned the favour… Dereiss hangs out on the outside to take the sting out of the match, before we reached a stand-off following some armdrags. A chinlock grounds Fleisch, but Jody escapes into a side headlock of his own as they keep things on the deck. Dereiss’ misdirection off the ropes manages to give him space for headscissors and a dropkick for a two-count, before Fleisch avoided a moonsault out of the corner. Jody does the same thing, then kipped up for an enziguiri and an overhead belly-to-belly as Dereiss was sent flying. An Irish whip took Dereiss awkwardly into the buckles, as Fleisch stays on top of things, leading in with a Superman punch before DeReiss knocked him down.

A backflip kick has Dereiss down briefly, but Fleisch is quickly caught with a cutter before some chops and a 619 caught Fleisch in the gut. Dereiss’ slingshot senton follows for a two-count, but Dereiss has second thoughts when he went up top for his 4-Fiddy splash… instead opting to mock Fleisch with a 720 DDT. Dereiss slips, then gets rolled up for a near-fall, before a Fleisch ‘rana off the top sets up the 720 DDT for the win. This felt very rough around the edges… not a good day at the office, you think, as both are capable of better. **

We’ve a handshake after the match… and a suggestion of a rematch?

North West Strong are backstage ahead of the number one contender’s match between Jacobs and Allen. They’ve met multiple times before, with Jacobs having won the lion’s share of them…

Luke Jacobs vs. Ethan Allen
This is for a shot at Cara Noir’s title – and a rematch from the semis of the Natural Progression Series earlier in the year.

It’s red against blue in terms of their tracksuit jackets (with Allen wearing his golden gear…), and we open with Jacobs getting taken into the corner from the opening lock-up. Jacobs returns the favour, then chopped Allen as the tag partners exploded momentarily. A side headlock on the mat keeps Allen ahead as he clung on, before armdrags and headscissors led to a shoulder block from Jacobs. Jacobs takes Allen’s back, but Ethan escapes as the pair get to the ropes. Allen stays on his tag partner with a chinlock, before a butterfly suplex and a hesitation dropkick keeps Jacobs in the corner for a two-count. Luke rolls outside for respite, but a baseball slide kicks him into the walls, as the pair ended up scrapping some more.

Back inside, Allen’s chops sting Jacobs, who then Bret Harts the turnbuckles from an Irish whip, as Allen continued to aim for the ribs. A knee to them keeps Jacobs on the deck, before he’s pulled up for a suplex, with a Million Dollar Dream-like submission attempt following as Jacobs gets a foot to the rope. Allen again stays on top of things though, until an O’Connor roll attempt was pushed off, with Jacobs knocking him out with a punch seconds later. Mudhole stomping from Jacobs follows, as do chops, before Allen’s uppercuts just earned him a back elbow as he came off the ropes. Jacobs gets a two-count from that, before Allen charges into the corner to break up a chokehold.

The pair look to give each other dead legs, but it’s Allen who pulled ahead, knocking Jacobs down to a knee before a roundhouse kick and an Angle Slam almost got the win. Another uppercut from Allen’s caught, but he’s able to roll through the waistlock for a two-count, before a Busaiku knee dumped Jacobs for a near-fall. Stomps from Allen keep Jacobs down, but a knee strike and a powerbomb leads Jacobs into a Figure Four as he tried to get the win. Allen rolls over to reverse it though, but Jacobs rolls back, forcing Allen to bite on his fingers to create a distraction before he made it to the ropes. Allen fights back again, ducking Jacobs in the corner before kicks took Luke outside for a tope.

Allen’s caught coming back between the ropes though, before he interrupted Jacobs’ run up with lariats of his own. Jacobs manages to throw some anyway, only to get pulled into a crossface. A roll-up breaks it up, before Jacobs clipped Allen with a lariat… only to land it flush at the second attempt for the win. Pretty much the match you’d expect with these two – and with age on their side, they’re only going to get better, you’d think. ***¾

Skye Smitson vs. Gisele Shaw
Shaw jumps Smitson at the bell, throwing the title in her face for the jump start…

Chops keep Smitson in the corner, but a back elbow and some dropkicks lead to a gutwrench suplex that gets Skye a one-count. Shaw’s right back with kicks to the midsection, before they headed outside, where Smitson’s thrown into the side of the ring. Body blows from Smitson offered some respite, but she’s choked back into the corner before Shaw gets a boot up to counter another fightback. Smitson tries to pull Shaw down, but instead gets roughed up with some Danielson-ish elbows before a slap and a missed dropkick allows Shaw to follow with a PK for a two-count. Smitson retaliates with a series of chops, but Shaw just throws Skye’s head into the mat before Smitson returned with an uppercut.

The pair trade blows, but Shaw hits a spinning Vader Bomb for a near-fall before Smitson’s spinebuster kept the back-and-forth going. Shaw’s knocked outside after a battle of strikes, before a Falcon arrow almost got the win for the debutant. A springboard forearm keeps it going, but Shaw again kicks out and built up to a spear for a two-count… then a springboard cutter (that’s called an OsCutter on commentary), before Shaw got her title belt and swung for Skye with it. It’s ducked, but Skye hits the Smitson Effect (Cross Rhodes) taking Shaw to the outside. Skye goes to roll Shaw back in, but Gisele kicks out at two, before she was caught in the same leg lace she was in earlier. Shaw eventually slaps free, then raked Smitsons’s eyes as she maneuvered into the levering armbar for the submission. ***

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Cara Noir & Chris Ridgeway vs. Smokin’ Aces (Charlie Sterling & Nick Riley) (c)
One week earlier, Cara Noir and Chris Ridgeway were getting medical help after their Iron Man match ended in a draw… in the week since, they’re seemingly both 100%, while Cara Noir’s gotten a fancy entrance with overlaid stars in the night sky. Either that or the PROGRESS camera lens just got REALLY dusty.

Riley and Ridgeway start us off, with Ridgeway taking things to the mat with some headscissors that Riley floated out of. A leglock from Ridgeway ends in the ropes, before he followed up with a STF… also in the ropes. Sterling tags in and resists a series of shoulder blocks, before charging down Ridgeway as the tag champions looked to be on top.  Headlock takedowns lead to Ridgeway rolling outside, but Cara Noir holds the ropes open for his tag partner to get back in. It’s shunned though, with Ridgeway eventually tagging Cara Noir in as Riley returned to take some armdrags. Sterling tags in and catches a leapfrog from Cara, who then clotheslined Riley out ahead of a series that ended with a dropkick to Sterling.

Ridgeway refuses to tag back in, so Cara looked to hit a neckbreaker… Sterling escapes, as Cara Noir ends up getting caught in the champions’ corner. A Riley armdrag has Cara on the deck, while Sterling’s side headlock led to Ridgeway just dropping to the floor as he wanted to admire the work being done on Cara. A roundhouse enziguiri from Sterling gets Riley a two-count, as the work continued on Cara, who took a backbreaker and a back suplex to keep the beating going. Sterling looks for an over-the-shoulder backbreaker, but Cara Noir wriggles out and chopped out Sterling’s knee… then made the tag to a willing Ridgeway.

Sterling’s spun with a Kitchen sink knee, while Riley ran in and got the same treatment. Kicks from Ridgeway led him into a Fujiwara armbar on Sterling… but Riley breaks it up and gets pulled into an ankle lock. Sterling’s back to break *that* up, before an uppercut/Flatliner combo took Ridgeway into the buckles. We keep going with backbreakers and suplexes as Cara Noir looked on in disgust at his partner’s output, which eventually improved as Ridgeway got back to submission holds – with a crossface on Riley and an ankle lock on Sterling… but again, the double-team breaks it up as Cara continued to just watch.

Riley tries to counter a Kitchen sink knee, but Ridgeway counters that back into a modified crossface. Sterling comes in to break it up and still Cara doesn’t intervene as the initiative remained with the champions – keeping the story of their opponent trying to leave the other person in long to wear them down, presumably to weaken them for an as-yet-unannounced rematch. Cara Noir finally offers a tag and is given it. He runs wild with Swan Woo dropkicks and superkicks, before a Rude Awakening neckbreaker dropped Sterling. Hey, the ref’s given up on the whole concept of the legal man again, as Cara hits the Madame Guillotine on Riley, who’s apparently legal, and has to kick out at two. Running forearms target Sterling and Riley – although why Riley shoved Sterling out of the way… I’m not sure because Riley was the legal man… and then Chris Ridgeway runs in to deck Cara Noir with a forearm.

Ridgeway and Cara trade strikes from there as the match descended into almost a farce… Ridgeway pulls Sterling into an ankle lock as Ridgeway again trades submissions on the champions. Cara’s back to hit the Blackout sleeper, but he’s thrown onto the pile as a backbreaker and a Hart Attack drops Ridgeway, leading to a slingshot into an elbow, then a double-team powerbomb… except Cara Noir breaks up the pin. Stomps from Cara looked to KO Ridgeway, but he drags him over to the corner to make the tag in as Cara ends up taking a headbutt. Sterling superkicks away a package piledriver, before the Smokin’ Ace Crusher finally gets the win.

I get the story they told here – both Cara Noir and Chris Ridgeway were being cute, throwing each other to the wolves so that they’d be weakened for when their rematch happened. Except (in the story) they were both A-OK a week after being laid out at the conclusion of their singles match, so you’d think they’d both be fine given that title rematch isn’t happening tomorrow. Do this match at, say, the first night of a Super Strong Style 16 with the title match 24 hours later and it’ll work. Doing it on a taped show like we had here, and it’s just a goddamned mess the second you put any thought into the “whys” of it. Just ditch tag team stuff and run everything under tornado tag rules if this is the new way lads… **½

Post-match, Ridgeway mockingly held his arm out for a tag, then walked to the back as the show ended with the Smokin’ Aces leaving Cara Noir alone in the ring, seemingly confused at what happened. Next time out: The Taking of Peckham: Chapter 123. That’s apparently on October 4 as they’re taking a week off…

Some empty arena shows are fine as they are – for what they are. Others just scream out that they’re a product of the time. This was one of those. It wasn’t a bad show, with Jacobs vs. Allen being the clear standout, but too much of this card just felt “there” and totally skippable – although the stuff they did to build up the women’s tournament next week hit the mark in terms of introducing new faces.