Pete Dunne made a memorable first defence of the PROGRESS title in Sheffield, headlining an enjoyable show.

#TLDR: PROGRESS made their debut in Sheffield with a knock-away show – featuring some unexpected sources of Christmas cheer!

The Full Review: PROGRESS’ final show before Christmas – originally booked for Manchester – had to be moved to Sheffield thanks to a double-booking at the venue with Northern Irish 90s band Ash. So Sheffield was offered up as a replacement, and thankfully it was packed out solid.

The New Nation (Alexander Henry & Primate) vs. The Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch)
After going down to British Strong Style in their rematch at Chapter 39, the London Riots seem to be expanding – as they were interchangeably tagged as The Riots and the London Riots here. Hey, if there’s a perception of them being too southern for some parts of the UK, then this makes sense.

The Riots were jumped at the bell, but they quickly turned the tables and laid out the Nation with a pair of topes into the front row, before Lynch threw a somersault plancha to the mix. Heck, James Davis even went in with a cannonball off the top as the Riots started off all guns blazing.

Primate took a barrage of forearms form the Riots, before Henry ran into a double chokeslam… but Chris Roberts chose to remonstrate with Rob Lynch than make a count, so all of that only got a one-count. From there, Davis was kept isolated against Primate and “Evil Sami Zayn” Henry, with the latter hitting a slam on Davis for a near-fall.

An avalanche clothesline from Primate eventually set up for a slam and a knee drop, before he started wrenching away at Davis on the may. Henry tagged back in for another lariat, but found a cross body caught and turned into a Finlay roll as Lynch finally made the hot tag in. Overhead belly-to-bellies were Alexander Henry’s Christmas present… before Primate and Lynch no-sold each other’s spear. More spears came, with Davis and Henry going down, as Primate took over with clubbering shots after Lynch willingly removed his facemask.

Another spear from Lynch took down Primate, but Lynch stayed down selling his eye as a diving headbutt from Primate was followed by an attempt at a swinging side slam from Henry… who saw his effort blocked and turned into a TKO-comes-uppercut from the Riots. Henry took a German into the bottom turnbuckle, then was slingshotted by Davis into another spear from Lynch for the win. A good outing from the slightly-tweaked Riots – and the New Nation more than looked good in defeat. ***

Natural PROGRESSion Series – First Round – Bea Priestley vs. Toni Storm
Storm was wrestling despite apparently suffering an eye injury a few weeks back, and she started by taking Priestley down early for a cover. They worked a headlock takedown sequence, ending with Storm slapping Bea to get free, before responding to a receipt with a PK to the back of Bea.

Priestley escaped a shoulder charge in the corner from Storm and followed with an armbar, before delivering almost a Yakuza kick to the Aussie. Whose face she then licked. An impressive arm whip was followed up with a Rings of Saturn that turned into a Tequila Sunrise as Storm tried to reach for the ropes.

A punt kick from Priestley got a near-fall, as she then went to a Camel Clutch with some forced used-gum eating as well. Enraged, Storm started to trade kicks and forearms with the Kiwi, before catching one and dumping Bea with a German suplex into the corner in a nice counter. Storm followed with a hip attack and a Fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall, before Priestley rolled through a DDT and caught Storm almost in a Kimura.

Another rope break frees Storm, who caught Priestley with a back cracker in the ropes for a near-fall. Priestley recovers to block another back cracker, but spends too long climbing the ropes… only to slip out and hit the Cheeky Nando’s kick to a chorus of boos. A powerbomb out of the corner comes next for a near-fall, as Priestley looked to get a submission with a guillotine choke.

Storm escaped by powering out into a deadlift brainbuster, before finishing Bea off with another back cracker and finally a top rope legdrop. Great stuff from both women; and as good as Storm is, I’ll say it again: Bea has improved in leaps and bounds this year! ***¼

After the match, Jim Smallman noted that someone got kicked so hard that their eyelashes fell off. Okay…

Atlas Championship: Rampage Brown (c) vs. Dave Mastiff
Tonight, Mastiff was going full-on with the “Banter-edition” of the Origin, as he wrestled in a Santa Claus outfit and wrestled as… Banta Claus. Complete with “Elf” Ligero, and a disapproving Nathan “Scrooge” in tow.

This match had been posted on PROGRESS’ Facebook feed (via an iPhone stream) as it happened, and watching it live… it was an absolute blast. Thankfully, that carried over to the on-demand release!

Cruz spent the start of the match lambasting Mastiff for not taking things seriously, and Rampage earned a loud cheer when he kicked “Scrooge” off the apron to start things. Mastiff got a near-fall with a powerbomb as Cruz wandered off with the Santa Claus outfit, taking Ligero with him ahead of their tag match later on.

We returned to the ring to see Mastiff chop the ringpost, which led to Rampage targeting that limb, including getting a fan to stand on Mastiff’s hand for the hell of it! A lariat from Rampage got a near-fall, but Mastiff hit back with a German suplex as “Banta Claus” took over… shrugging off a chop to the nipples.

Mastiff nearly broke the ring when he whipped Rampage hard into the corner, before following with a back senton for a near-fall. Rampage countered a short-arm lariat with a back suplex, then ended an exchange of strikes with a Samoan drop and a middle rope dropkick for another two-count. Another comeback from Mastiff proved to be the end as he was shoved down from a superplex, before missing a cannonball in the corner, as Rampage killed Christmas with a piledriver. Bah humbug! Not as much comedy as you’d expect, but perfectly fine Big Lads Wrestling ***

Ahead of the next match, Jim Smallman gave a warning to fans sitting in the first few rows… they’re likely to become part of an extended wrestling ring!

No Disqualification: Marty Scurll vs. Jimmy Havoc
Marty Scurll came out with his traditional umbrella… and a massive series of plasters on the side of his head. Havoc didn’t have any plasters on his head, but he did smuggle out an AXE with him. A weapon that was promptly removed by the ring crew. This may be PROGRESS, but this isn’t murder!

Havoc wiped out the ring crew, as Scurll raced towards the stage and used his umbrella to take down Havoc, who popped up and stage dived onto Scurll and some of the ring crew too. They went into the crowd as someone’s chair flew into the ring, whilst Havoc threw Scurll into the fourth row. The favour was returned by the Villain, who got into it with Joe Atherton, as they ended up using FANS as weapons.

Scurll went to the back for another umbrella, but Havoc found a staple gun, sending the Villain running in fear. It wasn’t too long before Scurll took a staple to the forehead, and if you were doubting their authenticity… Scurll bled immediately. The two then fought through the crowd, leading to a test card pattern as no picture was available. We recover the picture to see Havoc on an office chair, which Scurll shoved him into the stage railings a la Zack Gowen and Brock Lesnar. Good to see they’re looking to Brock Lesnar for inspiration!

Havoc recovered and started pelting Scurll with chairs, before asking fans to bring their chairs into add to the punishment. We got quite a few chairs, but they quickly ended up being used as a landing pad for a powerbomb out of the corner from Scurll. An apron superkick through a chair followed from the Villain, who returned to the ring to set up a landing area with eight chairs, just as Havoc pulled a steel chair from under the ring.

Wrestling logic didn’t prevail, and this time it was Havoc who went through the chairs, courtesy of a release suplex, before kicking out at two. The tables turned as Scurll used that staple gun on Havoc, before wrestling logic returned as Scurll set-up then ran into a chair wedged between the turnbuckles. A dropkick off a chair got Havoc a near-fall, before heading outside as Scurll got sent into the stage wall once more.

A table came next… but Scurll immediately put it away. Wash, rinse, repeat, as Havoc pulled it back out, and set Scurll on it by the stage. The Villain got up and tried to grab Havoc’s crotch to pull him onto the table, before instead going up and throwing Havoc into the crowd. Havoc tried to follow up by spearing Scurll through a table, but Marty side-stepped, as Jimmy crashed off the stage and through that table.

Eventually returning to the ring, Havoc kicked out at one! Tombstone from Scurll… two-count! Marty went for a finger snap, then a chicken wing, but Havoc went for a Pele kick and a rolling forearm, then an Acid Rainmaker to get a near-fall for himself. More goodies from Havoc came into play, in the form of a box full of drawing pins.

Scurll and Havoc teased the other’s finishers, with Havoc’s chicken wing ending as he mounted Scurll… then slipped out as he dumped Scurll with a back suplex into the pins. That was disgusting. A death valley driver into the pins followed, but Scurll still kicked out. This is insane! An Acid Rainmaker – not into the tacks – was enough though, as this all-out war came to an end. Such fun, such smoke and mirrors, and a memorable match to mark a debut in a new venue with. As a result of that, Jimmy Havoc is now the number-one contender to the PROGRESS title with this win., but won’t be claiming his title shot until the New Year… ***¾

After fading to black, we returned for the second half of the show, starting with some intra-Yorkshire hostilities, and (bizarrely) a “chips and gravy” chant.

The Origin (Nathan Cruz & El Ligero) vs. FSU (Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis)
Ligero came out on the shoulders of a cider-supping Dave Mastiff as the “Banter Edition” were in full force… much to the chagrin of Nathan Cruz.

Cruz started out all business, laying into Andrews, who then avoided a slingshot back suplex and started working over Cruz’s arm, bringing in Eddie Dennis for a spell. Eddie got a near-fall from a hanging suplex, before a mock double axehandle smash ended with Eddie landing a stiff forearm to Cruz’s head.

Ligero tagged in for a test of strength with Dennis, which was played for comedy as Ligero couldn’t reach. Despite the help of Chris Roberts, who gave him a piggy back… which led to a test of strength as if it were in a swimming pool, with Dave Mastiff instead giving Ligero a leg-up, despite Cruz’s pleas of “just kick them!”

We ended up with a collar and elbow tie-up at a height, then an Irish whip and a shoulder tackle… what the hell am I watching? More shoulder tackles led to chants of “tall lads wrestling”, before Ligero and Andrews traded forearms which led to an ill advised leapfrog as Ligero was pushed down into a Victory Roll to pin Dave Mastiff. The crowd ate this up, and somewhere, an irrelevant former manager was spinning as Nathan Cruz came in to break it all up.

Ligero tagged out to Cruz, who was quickly sent flying to the outside, then met with a somersault plancha from Andrews. Eddie added a dive too, as FSU hit stereo somersault planchas, before Ligero rolled back out of a Next Stop Driver… only to get cornered and squashed by FSU. A crucifix powerbomb/enziguiri combo looked to finish off Ligero, but he reversed as Dennis took a ‘rana and a enziguiri, before Cruz ran in to help pick apart the bones.

Andrews dropped Ligero with an enziguiri, before Cruz tied up Andrews in a reverse cloverleaf in the middle of the ring. Ligero returned to add a Rings of Saturn to it, but Dennis broke up both holds and caught Ligero and Cruz in that fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo that always happens to him.

Cruz avoided a Next Stop Driver, but took an apron enziguiri from Ligero, before the crucifix powerbomb/corner enziguiri softened up Cruz for the assisted Next Stop Driver… for just a near-fall as Cruz seemed to get spiked with that finisher. Ligero then opted to trade shots with Eddie Dennis, but Dennis ate a Codebreaker from Cruz , before Andrews took an assisted Wheelbarrow DDT and a Show Stolen.

The Origin didn’t make the cover though, and Ligero instead rolled out for a carrier bag. We’ve already had drawing pins, but instead it was a bag of Celebrations! Cruz stared at the diabetes-inducing treats with disdain, and tagged out to Ligero, who then took a bump into the sweets as he spent too long arguing with Cruz, allowing Eddie Dennis to score the win. This was ridiculous – fun, but absolutely ridiculous. And I think Joe Atherton needs to claim royalties for his bag-of-sweets gimmick being stolen! **¾

After the match, Ligero and Mastiff picked up the sweets and offered them to Cruz – who literally threw them back in Mastiff’s face. Cruz stormed off as the Banter Squad dished out some sweets, and just to complete the babyface turn, Ligero even hugged Joe to bring their feud full circle. We’ve got more dissension within the Origin then, and if/when Zack Gibson returns, this could be quite the antagonistic “Origin explode” feud.

Adam Cole vs. Will Ospreay
Cole seem to be quite the Marmite figure – I’ve not seen enough of him to be in either camp, but I can see why some would look on him as painfully average/over-rated, much like the Cody Rhodes debate.

They started out working a wristlock, before Cole ducked a spin kick after Ospreay was enraged by his “Bay Bay” taunts. Cole then ended up on the defensive after being kicked to the outside, before returning to take a stiff forearm and chops from Ospreay, only to recover by knocking Will off the top rope, sending him to the floor via a nasty apron bump.

Cole trolled the crowd by preparing for a dive, and then doing some slow motion rolls in the ring, before finally heading to the floor where he threw Ospreay head-first into the apron… and again into the ringpost. Another spot of trolling saw Cole fake out the crowd and throw Ospreay into the apron… before giving the crowd no warning and hurling Will there anyway.

Back in the ring, Cole continued to wear down Ospreay, before trolling us again by teasing a PK-style kick, and then… going back to a rear chinlock. Will was then sent into the turnbuckles chest-first before trying a comeback, capitalising on another “Bay Bay” taunt to knock Cole down with a handspring corkscrew kick.

A leaping forearm off the top rope gets Will a near-fall, but Cole replied with a pump kick, before taking a reverse ‘rana to the outside. Ospreay goes airborne with a Space Flying Tiger Drop, then again in the ring for a 450 Splash attempt, before landing on his feet and eventually caught in an ushigoroshi by Cole for a near-fall. Cole ended a kip-up by Ospreay by kicking his legs, then landing a pair of knee strikes for a near-fall as the pair traded strikes back and forth.

Cole’s Panama Sunrise variation of a Destroyer was countered as Will went flying, before responding to a Cole knee-strike with YOSHI-HASHI-esque lariat. He’s learning from CHAOS, Will is… more back and forth strikes saw Ospreay’s combination end with a right hand from Cole, before Hulking up once more. Spin kick to Cole, but an OsCutter was met with a superkick in mid-air, then a Panama Sunrise for a near-fall.

Ospreay was slowly resembling a ragdoll at this point, but the ragdoll wrapped himself around the ringpost to block a superplex and then change it into a Cheeky Nando’s kick. A picture-perfect imploding 450 only got a near-fall on Cole, as Ospreay nearly rushed into the referee in anger. Cole flipping off Will just got him a diving corkscrew kick, before an OsCutter was blocked and turned into a Last Shot (over-the-knee brainbuster) for yet another near-fall.

Another superkick from Cole knocked Ospreay into the ropes, before a second knocked him down once more, and a final superkick to the head saw the jelly-legged Will kick out. At one. Yup.

Cole looked like he’d seen a ghost, but took an Ace crusher as he tried to suplex Ospreay. Unfortunately, Will ate another superkick on an OsCutter attempt, as a diving knee to the back of the head and another Last Shot finally got Cole the win. What a war – I’m not fully sold on Cole, but this was a hell of a match, helped by Ospreay’s phenomenal selling throughout. ****

They strongly pushed that Will Ospreay was winless since losing the PROGRESS title back in January… you have to wonder if that’ll result in cheery Willy snapping?

Before the main event, they replay the British Strong Style promo with Pete, Trent, and dying-for-a-pee Tyler Bate. In that promo, Tyler was “given” one of the tag team titles as a reward for joining British Strong Style – something that PROGRESS have since nullified, with the belts now being held-up.

PROGRESS World Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Pete Dunne (c)
Peter was out with Tyler Bate, who was rocking the Peaky Blinders look, and boy, this first defence was one for the ages.

Sabre immediately took Dunne into the ropes, where Tyler Bate came into the equation early on for some reason… which led to Chris Roberts ejecting him from the match. Once Bate had left, we got into the technical portion of the match, and it was exactly how you’d imagine it to go. Dunne’s ankle was wrenched all over the place and into an impromptu single crab, before releasing it to let Dunne stand up once more.

An Indian deathlock followed, before Sabre bridged back to add more torque onto Dunne’s knees. Dunne made the ropes and went for a takedown… just so he could bite away at Sabre’s foot en route to an inverted figure four with some extra nibbling. Sabre worked free and got back on top of Dunne by holding onto a cravat, before countering a crucifix pin by bridging onto his head to break the count.

The crowd remained appreciative of the technical masterclass that Sabre was putting on… which ended abruptly via a forearm shot from Dunne. That just angered Sabre, who returned shot-for-shot, and threw in a couple of neck cranks to try and keep Dunne on the mat. Dunne rebounded though with a Dragon screw, before both men grabbed toe-holds on the other, forcing another rope break.

Dunne trapped Sabre between the ring and the apron, and used that to rain down on the challenger with forearms (and reveal the make-up of the ring!), before Sabre countered with a series of kicks to knock Dunne onto his backside. Back in the ring, Dunne outlasted an STF and followed back on Sabre with a series of dropkicks to the head, before they resumed trading shots back and forth, as kicks and forearms sent the other into the ropes.

Sabre caught Dunne in a knee-bar, but it was too close to the ropes, and Dunne hit back with a Saito suplex before resuming the back-and-forth strikes. Well, I say “back and forth”, Dunne hit at Sabre like a yappy Terrier, only to get slapped down with force. From there, Sabre briefly caught the champion in a guillotine, before a springboard roundhouse kick to the spine knocked Dunne down.

Dunne picked up with a finger bite, but Sabre rebounded with a tornado DDT into a tied-up Dragon sleeper and a roll-up for a near-fall. Sabre attempts a full nelson, but Dunne escaped both times before falling into the Octopus hold (the absurdly-long titled “Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness”). Again, Dunne made the ropes, then flew into Sabre with an enziguiri, before seeing a tombstone pieldriver countered into a prawn hold for a near-fall.

A snap German suplex from Dunne dumped Sabre in the middle of the ring, but Sabre countered a Drop Dead into a Guillotine choke, which was countered out with a release suplex from the champion. Sabre catches Dunne in a triangle, only for the champion to powerbomb himself free, and then fly in with a double stomp to the chest of Sabre. Dunne gets a two-count off of a sit-out powerbomb, before another Drop Dead’s countered into an Octopus hold, which merges into that double armbar that put “Flash” Morgan Webster on the shelf.

Dunne fought free though and went for another tombstone, this time getting it… and then stands back up to land a second in succession, but Peter can’t make the cover! Eventually Dunne gets up and tries for a superplex, but Sabre again catches him with an Octopus on the top rope, then went for a sunset flip powerbomb that Dunne broke up with a thumb to the eye. Sabre recovers with a Dragon superplex… but Dunne landed on his feet, only to lose a striking exchange and fall to a PK, with Sabre this time unable to make the cover.

The pair run into each other with forearms, then slaps, before Sabre lands his Dragon suplex to shock Dunne, then hit a PK for a near-fall. Dunne pulled the referee in the way, but to no avail as Sabre went for another prawn hold for a near-fall, before another triangle armbar led to the armbar from Sabre… but Dunne worked free and into a Drop Dead for the win. This told a fantastic story: Dunne originally scurrying for cover against an opponent some would have felt was out of his league, before finally getting a foothold and wearing Sabre down his way. ****¼

Dunne waved goodbye to the crowd on his way out – keeping that story going of “I’ve got the belt and it’s going to be my ticket to Florida or Tokyo”. Or in this case… Blackpool for the WWE UK title tournament!

Another show, another home-run from PROGRESS. This really was a something-for-everyone card – with a technical main event, two comedy matches that stopped just shy of absurdity, and a brutal all-out war. They have only one show left this year, in the form of December 30th’s “Unboxing Live” mystery show, which probably won’t attract the same criticism as PWG’s effort did earlier this month!