PROGRESS Chapter 46: I Like To Chill Out Here And Shoot Some Dinosaurs (March 26, 2017)

Easily the best show name of the year so far, the show shortened to “Shoot Dinosaurs” marked PROGRESS’ 5th anniversary with their traditional blend of great wrestling and memorable violence.

We start with the usual spiel, albeit with a heavily snipped “For Whom The Bell Tolls” intro as Jim Smallman heads into his anniversary-themed pre-show stuff. Sadly, there was no cake… just as well really, we all know how those go in wrestling!

Nathan Cruz & Zack Gibson vs. El Ligero & Dave Mastiff
The Banter Edition of the Origin used the Bob Seger version of Turn The Page as they continued to mock the more po-faced members of the team. Mastiff had brought a travel pillow because the switch to British Summer Time had cost him and hour and left him tired…

Before the match, Cruz and Gibson offered Ligero a spot back in the team, and his old mask back… a move he looked to accept by giving Mastiff the thumbs down, before scooting behind the celebrating bad guys and low blowing them. Banter! You know what else was also banter? Referee Paz being used as a Bushwhacker battering ram into Cruz and Gibson as they were stuck in trees of woe.

We had Ligero get talked into going on all fours so Mastiff could propel off of him. In the end, it went as poorly as you’d expect, with Ligero crumpling under Dave’s weight.Ligs came back with an RKO before demanding that Paz rang the bell… and in a nice touch, the commentary team kept quiet for the whole time until that bell was rung. It’s the small things! Once we finally got going, it was pretty serious stuff with Gibson and Cruz wearing down Ligero, at least until he made the tag into Mastiff, who ran wild with pancakes and back sentons.

Wasn’t that an indy WrestleMania show?

Big Dave flies with a tope to the floor, before Ligero flipped off the balcony with a senton of his own. Back in the ring, Cruz clotheslines Mastiff to the floor as Ligero was caught in the Shankly Gates, but Ligero was able to make it to the ropes to force a break. The comeback from Ligero’s rudely interrupted by Nathan Cruz, whose Show Stolen puts him down, before Mastiff lays out Cruz and Gibson. Mastiff teased a moonsault, only to get clipped and sent down to the mat hard, before a C4L from Ligero was caught and turned into a double-team tombstone for a near-fall from the “bad” Origin. The end was nigh though, as a double-team Ticket to Ride is enough to put Ligero away as the pairing of Cruz and Gibson stood tall. A pretty good mix of comedy here, but I get the feeling that this isn’t the end of this story… ***

After the match, Mastiff “revived” Ligero by pouring beer into him. Whatever works!

Natural PROGRESSion Series – Semi-Final: Dahlia Black vs. Toni Storm
The winner of this joins Jinny in the finals to crown the first ever PROGRESS women’s champion. Some of the snarky could have gone in saying the result was somewhat predictable, but that didn’t affect this at all, despite Storm laying into Dahlia from the off with hip attacks.

Dahlia avoids a powerbomb and clatters into Storm with a spin kick, knee strike and a cannonball trio in the corner for a two-count, before a set-up for the Dark Side of the Moonsault ends with Dahlia getting shoved to the floor. Back inside, Dahlia goes back up top, then actually hits that moonsault for a near-fall. Storm replies by catching a kick and turning Dahlia into a German suplex, before a Fisherman’s suplex gets a near-fall for the Kiwi-born Aussie.

We then get the spot where Dahlia picked up her unfortunate leg break, as a cross body off the top rope saw Storm land on her and TK Cooper – but adrenaline is a fine thing… TK came in to save Dahlia from a piledriver, only for Storm to kick him low, before a powerbomb and a piledriver booked Toni’s place in the finals. Understandably short, but a really good outing from both involved. Even “knowing” the Kiwis’ visa issues, I didn’t think at all that it was a foregone conclusion, which is how wrestling should be! ***¼

Travis Banks vs. Jack Sexsmith
Oh, how divisive this match was! The battle of the man who’s seemed to have turned around the South Pacific Power Trip, against PROGRESS’ favourite underdog. TK Cooper came out, but just like he did against Jordan Devlin, Banks decided to go it alone.

Callum Leslie on commentary noted the history between Jack Sexsmith and the South Pacific Power Trip, which looked to have ended last year in that tables match at “When Men Throw Men At Men”. With Sexsmith coming in evenly against Banks, the Kiwi quickly resorted to some strikes to get an advantage, whaling into Sexsmith with vicious chops and kicks.

A low bridge sees Jack send Banks to the outside, but his attempted dive’s quickly kicked away as Sexsmith slumped to the floor. Banks was more successful with his tope, sending Sexsmith into the aisle, before somehow Jack rolled out of a tornado DDT and levelled the Kiwi with a superkick to score a surprise near-fall.

Sexsmith continued with some atomic drops as a set-up to his Pearl Neckbreaker, before an LGBDT was countered into a German suplex. Undeterred, Jack pops up with some more chops, before finally spiking Travis with the LGBDT for a near-fall. A back drop takes Banks to the outside, where a cannonball off the top sees Sexsmith take Travis down again, before he catches a tope from the Kiwi and turns it into a T-bone suplex! Well that’s unexpected!

They return to the ring, where Sexsmith misses a top rope kneedrop, only to fall into a sit-out Fisherman’s buster for a near-fall. Jack turns the tables back his way with Mr Cocko, but Banks kicks and knees him away, only for Travis’ springboard roundhouse out of the corner to get countered into the Cocko Crossface.

Banks rolls free of the crossface and nails Sexsmith with a Blue Thunder Bomb… for a one count! Another superkick flattens Jack and sets him up for a spin-out torture rack for another near-fall, before that springboard roundhouse finally put away Jack. A fantastic match as they continue to tell the story of Jack trying – and failing – to get the win… but he’s getting closer and continuing to win over everyone in the process. Heck, after the match Jack earned himself the begrudging respect of TK Cooper and Travis Banks. ***¾

Jack received another standing ovation from the crowd, and it’s true to say that Sexsmith is one of the highlights of PROGRESS these days. When he gets his big win, it’s going to be a glorious happening!

Axel Dieter Jr. vs. Mark Haskins
Well, it had to be done. Since this show was named after a line from Mark Haskins’ son, Jack, we had an unusual entrance from the Haskins clan, featuring Jack… chilling out on the stage and shooting a dinosaur. All whilst “Welcome to Jurassic Park” was playing. Ace.

Jack gets a chant of “he shot a dinosaur” as the match got going, but it was his dad who took the early advantage as he led into Dieter with a wristlock, keeping the German grounded. They matched each other hold-for-hold for a spell, before they moved up to pinning attempts as Haskins edged ahead once more, wearing down on Dieter’s knee. Axel tries to chop his way free of a leg grapevine, but Haskins throws some more back his way as they switch into a striking battle instead.

Axel hits the first dive after uppercutting Haskins off the apron before connecting with a tope, but Haskins comes back with one of his own to keep things level. An Air Raid Crash sees Dieter get a near-fall, as does a Northern Lights suplex as the former wXw champ tries to take control of things. Another near-fall comes from a diving European uppercut, only for Haskins to come back with a death valley driver that almost snatched him the win.

Haskins grabs an armbar and manages to switch it into a crossface, then into a double armbar with Dieter so close to the ropes, but Axel uses his leg to force the break. A roll-through Sharpshooter attempt follows, but Axel counters with the Axel Dieter Jr Special, wrenching away on Haskins’ arm. They go back and forth with submissions in that vein, until Haskins is forced to kick out of a bridging capture suplex, before finally getting that Sharpshooter for the win! The ending felt a little abrupt, but this was a technical clinic that was a joy to behold! ****

Fans Bring The Weapons, Loser Leaves PROGRESS: Will Ospreay vs. Jimmy Havoc
Yes, you heard that right… during the match Will Ospreay threw in that second stipulation in a bit to force a result. This was an insane match from bell to bell… first, we had Ospreay mimicking Havoc’s entrance from chapter 18 two years ago, complete with Will “murdering” stagehands. Ospreay was dressed in white… and if you’ve watched enough old school wrestling, you know what that means.

Blood.

So, in the spirit of “fans bring the weapons” matches, we had a wacky assortment of plunder that came into play. Havoc stars by sidestepping Ospreay’s now-traditional shotgun dropkick, before throwing him to the outside for a wild tope into the video wall. A potted plant gets thrown at Ospreay, who then takes a cowbell to the groin. Yep, this is all over the place!

Will finds a posh serving tray to bash around Havoc’s head… so Jimmy replies with. A box of donuts and a mannequin head! Al Snow would be proud. Havoc finds Ospreay’s barbed wire bat, a four-pack of beers… and what the hell?! The original PROGRESS championship staff! So much for it being burned years ago!

Ospreay takes a DDT onto the Nazi/Regal staff for an early near-fall, before Will gives Havoc a Stunner, complete with a beer spraying reaction from Jimmy. A barbed wire bat shot’s shrugged off by Ospreay, who then reveals himself to be the first member of the Roman Reigns Cosplay club! Someone’s brought a PS2, and that staple of hardcore matches… a baking tray, complete with a show hashtag on it. Of course, it met Jimmy’s head. Next up was… a grandfather clock. Yes… someone brought an antique grandfather clock to the show! In the end, Havoc just opens one of the doors into Ospreay’s face, before we get a guitar… which Ospreay’s head takes full-force.

A cheese grater was up next, and yes, Jimmy’s got no qualms in using it, along with a mixed bag of thumb tacks, Lego and Haribo. Paul Robinson comes in out of nowhere and stomps Havoc into a piñata in a random run-in. Another curb stomp through a piñata on a chair follows, before that piñata is opened and mixed with some Lego, as the ring becomes a no-go space for anyone wanting to make a count.

Ospreay gets a microphone and demands £5 to stop them from stapling streamers to Havoc’s arm. That doesn’t go as planned, as an attempted OsCutter ends with a double Rainmaker as Robinson falls into the drawing pins. A death valley driver sends Ospreay into Lego for a near-fall, and of course, we get a Destroyer as Robinson takes the Lego too. Next up is a vinyl record that Havoc uses to rip between Ospreay’s fingers, then the edges of Will’s mouth as a credit card gets stomped into his mouth. A lime gets squeezed over the bloodied Ospreay, and yes, we’re well beyond the point where anyone squeamish should have hit the fast-forward button.

After a Cheeky Nando’s kick, Ospreay sets up the table, but Wrestling Logic returns as Havoc decides to give Will a taste of his own medicine, with a top rope Essex Destroyer through the table… yet it’s only good for a two-count! That’s what prompts Will to throw in the loser-leaves-town stipulation, citing his lack of a spot on the Orlando card as a frustration. Perhaps he should be mad at his ROH deal for that?

From there, Ospreay tries for an OsCutter, and lands it at the second try for a near-fall as we get a visual of Jimmy Havoc creeping his way up the Muta scale. A barbed wire board comes into play, as Will places it onto Havoc… who promptly pops up and press slams will down… for a Codebreaker onto the board!

Paul Robinson gets involved again, then quickly dispatched as Ospreay lands an Essex Destroyer and a 630 splash… but unlike the last time, when it was enough to win the PROGRESS title from Havoc, it was only enough to get a two-count as the crowd taunted Will with chants of “you can’t beat him”. So he gets some barbed wire from that board and tries to make Havoc floss with it… instead, Jimmy gets out for some barbed wire Rainmakers, and three of those prove to be enough to end the PROGRESS career of Will Ospreay for the second time.

So many call-backs to the past made this a joy to watch, but this did feel a little long, and for purists (if there can be such a thing as purists of hardcore matches), the late addition of the loser leaves town stip felt a little odd in hindsight. Absolutely brutal and poetic in equal doses. ***¾

During interval we have a canvas change, which makes sense given the state the mat was in!

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter) vs. British Strong Style (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) (c)
The Hunters managed to get a title shot despite their losing streak… we also saw the debut of some fancy new tag title belts, as Trent and Tyler threw down the wooden shields for one last time, replacing them with proper belts, complete with the ying and yang motif that the shields were modelled on.

The champions lay into the Hunters almost immediately, and tease a Pedigree/Tyler Driver from the off, but the Hunters backdrop them to the outside for a pair of tope con hilos! Jim Hunter hits an imploding standing senton for a near-fall on Bate, as Lee hits a slingshot senton from the apron… but Tyler immediately pushes him down into the opposing corner as it’s Trent’s turn to wear down on Lee.

Trent and Tyler tag anyway they can without actually tagging hands, to the point where it becomes a game… Tyler crotch chops like he’s 1997 Shawn Michaels after goading Jim Hunter into the ring, and eventually Jim makes the tag in, hitting a back elbow to Bate out of the corner before dishing out a neckbreaker to Trent. A back cracker gets Jim a near-fall, but the Hunters quickly fall into a Giant Swing/airplane spin combo from Tyler, who then blasts Lee with a pop-up uppercut for a two-count.

Lee backflips out of a Doomsday Device as the Hunters come back into it to trade fists with Tyler Bate, before everyone accidentally hits their partner, ending with a four-way right hand to send everyone down. The champs then trade off some crotch chops as the Hunter blast them with Pedigrees, before Chris Roberts decides to join in with some crotch chops of his own…

He’s like a refereeing X-Pac!

The Tipton Bucks pay for their charading, as Bate hits a lovely backflip into a German suplex, only for a moonsault from Lee to almost get them the win. Trent shoves Lee off the top rope, which leaves Jim on his lonesome to take a piledriver then a Tyler Driver as the champs retain. A fun tag match, but it’s business as usual for the champions who end up with the W. ***¾

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: WALTER vs. Matt Riddle (c)
This should be good – even without comparing it to their two prior matches in wXw earlier in the month, with both men winning a match each.

They go to the mat early as WALTER grabs a headlock takedown on Riddle, before WALTER tries to light up Riddle’s chest as if he were Ilja Dragunov. Some kicks from Riddle force WALTER into the corner, before the Austrian’s thrown across the ring with an Exploder, as a Bro-ton (back senton) gets Riddle the first cover attempt.

We go back to the Ilja chops, before Riddle gets a knee dropped onto his bare ankle. A sound tactic, and you’d think more folks would go after that…. WALTER keeps up the pressure with a gutwrench suplex for a near-fall, before a sleeperhold leads to a German suplex. Of course, you can’t German Riddle, who hits back with a Fisherman buster for a near-fall after flipping out of a pair of Germans.

WALTER catches Riddle up top and brings him back down with a butterfly superplex before going back to those chops, and yes, we’re back to kicking legs out of legs! Riddle’s shin gets kicked out from under him, but Bro comes back… and gets his face booted off in the corner. Just like that, he retaliates with an up kick and a Bro to Sleep, before somehow deadlifting the Austrian into a German suplex for a near-fall.

The tide turns again with an ankle lock from WALTER, before he stomps on Riddle some more and deadlifts him back into a German suplex. A lariat flattens Riddle for a near-fall though, before another deadlift suplex is turned into a guillotine… that gets broken by way of a charge into the corner. WALTER goes back to the sleeperhold, but somehow Riddle escaped and gets in a triangle armbar… and yes, WALTER powerbombs his way to freedom!

Both men manage to get to their feet for some more chops, until Riddle gets powerbombed for a near-fall. Another kick to the face follows for the champion, but Riddle climbs on WALTER’s back and drags him down with a Bromission, and just like that, we have a tap-out. That was an engrossing, hard-hitting, back-and-forth contest – exactly the sort of thing that epitomises this division. Can we have this match again and again please? ****½

PROGRESS World Championship: Mark Andrews vs. Pete Dunne (c)
This was Andrews’ cashing in his Thunderbastard title shot to continue a rivalry that’s gone from ATTACK!, to PWG, to WWE, NXT and now… PROGRESS’ 5th anniversary show.

Andrews starts by doing a Peter, biting the hand after a handshake offer and taking the champion outside with a ‘rana, before following up with another ‘rana on the floor. Back inside though, Dunne stamps on Andrews’ hand before taking a Shiranui on the apron in a really impactful opening minutes.

They kept up a similar pace throughout, with Andrews blocking a Dunne attempt at a Stundog Millionaire, before landing the Moonsent and then hitting a tope into a tornado DDT on Dunne on the floor. Back inside, a satellite DDT turned into a crucifix (called “Jimmy Eat World” by Andrews) gets a near-fall, but Dunne powers back in with a forearm smash before backflipping over Andrews to kickstart a pair of reverse ‘ranas. Yes, Peter finally figured out how to counter it… by hitting one of your own!

A Dragon suplex almost dumps Dunne on his head, as Andrews tries to finish off Peter… but the champion popped up with an enziguiri, only to take a reverse ‘rana off the top rope as the pendulum continued to shift. Of course, Dunne goes for a Bitter End that’s turned into a DDT, before a superkick meant for Dunne takes out referee Chris Roberts… who then takes an accidental boot as Andrews caught a kick from Dunne and swung it the direction of the referee. Silly Roberts…

With no referee, the match continued as Andrews landed a tornado DDT, but then out comes Trent Seven – complete in a WWE polo shirt – to blast Andrews with a Dragon suplex and a piledriver just in time for Paz to run down the aisle to make the two-count. Another Bitter End is countered into what I can only describe as a Tombstone Destroyer by Andrews, who follows up with a shooting star press… but Tyler Bate dives in to stop Paz’s hand from making the three count.

Andrews takes out the tag champs with a moonsault to the floor, before he puts on the breaks as Paz is pulled into the path of his springboard back in. The ref’s shoved aside so Dunne can kick Andrews low, before another Bitter End is caught and turned into a Vertebreaker that went awry. A second one worked, but Dunne rolled to the ropes… and with one foot underneath the bottom rope, Marc Parry counted the pin and we have a new champion!

Not so fast. The crowd celebrates, but Chris Roberts awoke as the two referees argued back and forth… we end up with a Dusty Finish, and the match is restarted.

Dunne blasts Andrews immediately, before Paz gets decked with a forearm as Dunne looks for an intentional DQ. That didn’t come, so Chris Roberts ejects Seven and Bate, and we’re back to one-on-one action, with Dunne seeing an X-Plex turned into a ‘rana for another two-count from Andrews. A Bitter End follows, but Andrews kicks out, then turns another X-Plex into a Stundog Millionaire as a set-up for a shooting star press!

Dunne somehow kicked out of that though, and now Andrews teases Peter with a Bitter End, but instead we get some biting and another reverse ‘rana. Yet another shooting star press follows, but Dunne forearms him on the way down, leaving Andrews prone for one last Bitter End as he retained the title. ****¼

These interference-riddled title matches are becoming a perceived booking crutch, and I know there’s some mumblings of discontent from those who seem to have linked Dunne’s WWE UK deal to his title run featuring “skin of his teeth” victories. That being said, you know what you’re getting with PROGRESS, good matches, with solid storylines (when they’re in play).

Far more often than not, every match on their cards is a potential showstealer… which means that it’s extremely easy for fans to become complacent and perhaps undervalue these shows. Yes, you can pick apart issues with the booking – especially after Mark Haskins got his title shot in Orlando, there’s nobody clearly being groomed to even contend for that top spot in the near future. Sure, there’s the slow build of Jack Sexsmith, but that story doesn’t look like it’s close to paying off… nor should it.

The next few shows look to be building towards the Super Strong Style 16 tournament, which should create an obvious challenger and see some bubbling up through the card to set up PROGRESS for the rest of the year.

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