PROGRESS reached their half-century with a post-SSS16 show at the Electric Ballroom – and a throwback to their days of fun, car crash tag team matches!
The pre-show spiel from Jim’s rather cut-short by way of jet lag, but before we can get to wrestling, he’s interrupted by Pete Dunne. He’d been billed “to address fans and management” before the show, so they got it out of the way early. Dunne’s decision was that since Travis Banks won himself a title shot, he was refusing to defend the PROGRESS title until the Alexandra Palace show. His reasoning, “nobody deserves it” – so in response to Dunne claiming he owned PROGRESS, Jim Smallman told him that he’d still be wrestling… but if anyone beat him, they’d get a title shot. Peter’s response? He just launched the title belt through the curtain…
There was some debate over this particular story, mostly centred around the “imagine if you told your boss you wouldn’t work” theme. I get where PROGRESS were coming from, and whilst there is an element of fans who’ve got their knives out for just about anything here, this perhaps could have been done better as Dunne having an announced match then trying to change the game beforehand.
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Kay Lee Ray vs. Toni Storm (c)
Onto someone who doesn’t mind defending their title… Toni Storm’s first challenge as PROGRESS’ new Women’s champion came in the form of Kay Lee Ray, who earned this spot by beating Katey Harvey on SSS16 finals day.
We’ve got a three-man booth with Glen Joseph, RJ Singh and Callum Leslie providing the call, and we start out fairly evenly as the pair backed each other into a corner before running through their ground game before Ray started to work over Storm’s arm… only to get dumped with a big boot.
Storm edges ahead with some hip attacks, only to get dropped with a sliding Flatliner as Ray went straight into the Koji Clutch… but Storm was easily able to make the ropes. Some chops leave Toni reeling, but she headbutts one away as some back and forth leads to Storm hitting a DDT as Kay Lee was trying to roll together some Northern Lights suplexes. They remained as even as the crowd chants were, before Storm took Kay Lee into the corner for a running hip attack… but an enziguiri sent her to the floor, and we know what that means…
A flip senton to the floor sees Kay Lee take out Storm in the aisle, but the Aussie took over back in the ring as she went for a Muscle Buster, before instead making do with a German suplex as she caught a springboard off the ropes. Storm came close to victory with the Strong Zero short piledriver, but Ray came back with a Gory Bomb out of the corner. That’s only good for a near-fall, so Ray segued into the Koji Clutch, and after a struggle, Toni reached the ropes to break it… with her tongue. That’s inventive!
Storm won seconds later with a Strong Zero off the middle rope – having gotten to her feet as Ray climbed the ropes – for a rather abrupt end to what was a really solid opener. ***½
Glen Joseph buggered off from commentary until the main event at this point…
London Riots (Rob Lynch & James Davis) vs. Banter Edition (El Ligero & Dave Mastiff)
Oh dear… the much-discussed music changes hit hard here, as the Banter Edition obviously weren’t able to use any version of Turn The Page. Unfortunately, their bid to get the fans to sing the song instead, with the warning that “if it’s too good, they’ll have to dub it over” flopped… as nobody remembered the bloody words past the opening line. So instead, the Banter Edition got some drunken caterwauling as their new theme…
Whether it was because of the singing, Mastiff just didn’t feel like wrestling, walking to the ropes for a break like a joyless Toru Yano. Instead he tagged in Ligero, who felt like trying to be Mastiff, running onto Rob Lynch with shoulder tackles… which weren’t working. A German suplex did, and that seemingly inspired Big Dave into coming in… and playing lucha Dave!
I’ve seen it all now!
The comedy continues as Ligero does a trust fall into Mastiff… who does the same. Wanting to match it, the Riots try it, but Lynch lets Davis fall as Ligero offered him a drink instead. Mastiff tried to secure the win with a schoolboy as a match broke out from there, with Ligero trying to hit a Batista Bomb. Thankfully Mastiff stopped him, but took a back body drop before James Davis went all Stone Cold with a Thesz press.
The Riots took over with a rope bung back senton to Mastiff, before using Ligero as a human cannonball into his tag partner ahead of a District Line powerbomb. Mastiff gets one too that almost won it, before coming back with a German suplex and a dropkick as Dave was still being somewhat lucha…
Ligero tries to push the boundaries again by trying to lift up Mastiff onto his shoulders. They swap around just in time for Lynch to spear Mastiff, then Ligero, as a St Georges’ Cross from Davis left Ligero laying, ahead of the GBH slingshot spear as the Riots picked up a rare victory. Not much of a match once you strip away the comedy, and commentary threw in a hint that the Riots may be turning bad perhaps? **½
Flash Morgan Webster vs. Jack Sexsmith
Remember how useless we were at singing the Banter Edition’s song? Well, everyone still knows the Divinyls… Flash Morgan was given the microphone to do his own introduction, which he messed up in seconds. That’s a new record! (Hi Maffew!)
Webster starts by grounding Jack with a headlock, which gave way to a shoulder tackle and a dragged-down leapfrog as Flash took the early initiative. After going under a leapdrog, Webster connects with an armdrag as Sexsmith almost looked unsure in his first PROGRESS match back from injury. Of course, Webster went after the arm, before a leap over turned into a pair of atomic drops with Sexsmith leading him into a Pearl Neckbreaker for a one-count.
It’s all good stuff, but played at a pace that RJ Singh on commentary called “blase”. It’s almost like this is a backdrop to something else… and when Webster snapped in with a leaping knee, a few perhaps suspected that the “something else” was Webster turning bad. The Special Brew Flip sents Webster a two-count, as he then took Jack around the corners with some chops… but that just fired him up into delivering a few back!
A diving dropkick takes down Webster as Jack unloaded on the Mod with some kicks en route to the LGBDT… which then took Flash to the outside for a flip senton! Back inside, Webster turns up the pace and lands a diving clothesline as he outfoxed Sexsmith, before a V-trigger left Jack flat on his back.
Webster then capitalised with a dive as Jack’d rolled to the floor, with that tope con hilo leaving Jack out once more, and again with a senton bomb in the ring. The Brit Pop Drop almost wins it for Morgan, but Jack kicked out in time and somehow came back with a Destroyer as it looked like Flash was going for an Alabama Slam.
Sexsmith again invites some shots, as he responds to Webster’s forearms with… kiss-butts?! Webster kisses him back as the roles reversed, before the hand’s up headbutt got Flash another kiss… but Sexsmith was taken down with a headbutt eventually as everyone looked to be having fun. Especially when Jack hit his double stomp and reached for Mr. Cocko…
Suddenly, the lights went out. Cue familiar sirens, and the arrival of Chief Deputy Dunne as the Anti-Fun Police branched out into PROGRESS. Dunne hadn’t been in PROGRESS since his “brother” turned on him last year to form British Strong Style, and he marked his return by wiping out Webster with his loudhailer… so Flash wins by DQ as Dunne then went on to leave Jack laying. Given how slow they started, a few were suspecting shenanigans, but not this. Decent enough, but this is clearly the first chapter in a longer story. ***
Dunne wiped out Sexsmith’s arm afterwards, before he got the microphone and declared that PROGRESS has been having too much fun. I’ll see where this goes, but this does seem like an odd fit. It’s nice to see Dunne back in action, but what I really want to know is… what the hell did he do with Mr. Cocko?
Pete Dunne vs. Donovan Dijak
The impromptu Pete Dunne Open started here as his refusal to defend the title earned him a match against a debuting Donovan Dijak.
Dijak started by dumping Dunne with a backbreaker, before a corkscrew splash and a big splash off the middle rope as he quickly went airborne… hitting an Asai moonsault into the third row! The pair brawled around ringside, with Dunne pulling his foe onto the apron by his nose, only for Dijak to reply with a chokeslam onto the apron.
Back in the ring, Dunne dropped Dijak with an X-plex as he started chopping away at the Tall Don’s legs, fish-hooking him for extra torque. Dijak uses his power to get back into it though, along with plenty of forearms and elbows, before taking Dunne off the top rope and into a sit-out spinebuster for a near-fall.
Yep, Dijak’s impressive – especially as he’s able to work multiple styles in the same match… as seen by him stringing together a chokeslam backbreaker then a top rope moonsault for another near-fall as he’d shrugged off a Dunne German. However, that aerial stuff almost led to his downfall as he leapt into a forearm, then a Pedigree for a near-fall, which seemed to spark off a strike battle.
Despite taking a forearm, Dijak’s able to rebound with a massive clothesline and a discus big boot as both men were left flat on their backs. The hard hitting continued for a while longer, as Dunne ate the Feast Your Eyes… but rolled out of the ring and into further harm as Dijak flew with a Space Flying Tiger Drop! This man’s a freaking monster!
Another discus big boot rocks Dunne, but he bites the hand to get out of another Feast Your Eyes, which leads to a Bitter End… and a three-count! A surprising finish given that Dunne usually needs several of those to win in PROGRESS, but this was a hell of a surprise match – and one I’d love to see again someday. ***¾
The Origin (Nathan Cruz & Zack Gibson) vs. Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins
June 25 just happened to be Mark Haskins’ birthday… so his better half hijacked the match to put party hats on him and a bunch of the crowd. Oh, and Jimmy Havoc. Which led to a rather iconic image…
Once Zack Gibson’d done winding everyone up with his usual pre-match promo, the Origin were thrown outside as Havoc went to do a double stomp onto Gibson on some chairs, whilst Haskins threw himself at Cruz with a dropkick. Cruz recovers to dropkick Haskins to the outside, only to get dragged there by Havoc… who then got stopped in his tracks as Gibson dug his fingers into Havoc’s Tournament of Death scars.
The back continued to take punishment as a backdrop suplex from Gibson earned a near-fall, as the remaining Origin worked together well on Havoc. Heck, we even had Cruz using the canvas against Havoc, dragging him to rub away on those wounds some more. Havoc rebounded with a tornado DDT, before finally bringing in Haskins who went for a Sharpshooter on the Scouser, before settling for a variation on the STF.
A PK from Haskins leads him into the Star armbar, but Cruz breaks that up as the match broke down for a little while, until a German suplex and a crossbody combo from the Origin earned them a near-fall too. Haskins and Havoc worked together as well, with a superkick into an Acid Rainmaker getting rid of Gibson, but Cruz went back to the back, only to get double-teamed by their opponents
Accidentally, the two H’s knock down Chris Roberts… and continued the beatdown on Cruz until Gibson interrupted. That just prompted Havoc to get Haskins a birthday present, which suspiciously looked like a gift-wrapped chair. Of course it was – as a way to make up for accidentally hitting him last time out – but Gibson hits a couple of low blows before teasing doing the Eddie Guerrero spot with the chair.
Except Chris Roberts was still down, so Havoc just looked at him and whacked him with the chair anyway. When being underhanded backfires, eh? The backfires continue when Haskins looks to throw a chair at Zack GIbson, but he ducks, as Havoc takes the chair instead… and Gibson scored the pin with a schoolboy and a handful of tights. Some nice storytelling here as they continue the simmering feud between the former PROGRESS champions… and I’m intrigued at where they go with this one! ***½
James Drake vs. Travis Banks
You can tell that Drake is relishing the role of being a potential spoiler – especially given how much he’s loathed by certain parts of the Ballroom crowd.
Drake takes a bicycle kick as Banks looked to start off with a dive… before instead delivering a PK off the apron as the Kiwi delivered forearms and kicks around ringside. More kicks in the ring just battered Drake, as this was looking to be a short night’s work for the Super Strong Style 16 winner.
However, Drake caught a PK and pulled Banks to the outside and went to work with some stomps. Drake kept up the pressure back inside, taking Banks into the corner with forearms as he took issue with the constant “arse face” chants, but that just gave Travis an opening, as he tripped Drake into the corner and hit a springboard double stomp to the back.
A Coast to Coast dropkick followed for a near-fall, before the pair fought over a suplex… until Banks just gave him a superkick. Out of nowhere, Drake grabbed Banks by the throat and whacked him with a forearm, before some back-and-forth corner attacks ended with a Drake dropkick and a suplex that planted Banks on his front.
Drake goes all Junkyard Dog on us with some headbutts, but those and some forearms just invoke the Terminator in Banks, as some bicycle kicks and a knee take Drake to the outside for the wild tope suicida! Back inside, a cannonball nearly wins it, as does the Kiwi Crusher (Fisherman’s driver)… but Drake keeps on fighting… and flying, as he hits a tope con hilo after taking Banks outside.
Drake tries for – but misses – a springboard moonsault, and that’s his downfall as Banks hits back immediately with a Slice of Heaven, and that’s another one in the win column! Very few would have guessed Banks would lose, and this is exactly what he needs between now and September – hot wins that continue to add steam as he heads for the big show in North London… ***½
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: #CCK (Kid Lykos & Chris Brookes) vs. British Strong Style (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) (c)
This was a hotly-anticipated match, to say the least! It was also a nice throwback to the days where PROGRESS’ tag title matches were fun car crashes of matches… remember the Riots vs. the Sumerian Death Squad?
It started off rather sedately… ah, who was I kidding? A tope con hilo from Chris Brookes sent Trent into the front row, before Lykos’ moonsault continued things. He and Trent traded chops around ringside as this started out being hard to follow with everyone brawling… and being thrown around, with Tyler Bate getting thrown into the crowd by way of a dive from Brookes.
A second one’s caught and turned into an Exploder that put Brookes into the standing-room-only part of the Ballroom… in the meantime, Trent chops the ring post as Bate threw a chair at the referee. Yeah, the bell’s not rung, so all of this is legal… including the numerous chair shots from both teams! Lykos teases a brainbuster on a chair, but we know how that goes!
Lykos clears a part of the crowd as Brookes takes a suplex into a chair… the response? Lykos gets thrown about eight rows deep as the champions took over the pre-match brawl. Bate reverses a similar whip as Chris gets Brookes’d, doing about as deep as Lykos did as the carnage just continued.
The champs do the Triple H water spit, just because, and before long all four ended up on the stage. Trent teases powerbombing Lykos off the stage, but a chairshot from Brookes was enough for the save, as Trent ended up going off stage as #CCK dove onto them instead. Yep, the Ballroom was suddenly front-row for all!
Finally everyone enters the ring – including Trent and his heavily bruised back – and after a good ten minutes of car crash action on the floor… the bell rings! We start the match proper with back and forth forearms, before the champs blatantly kicked #CCK low in a bid to incite a disqualification. For once though, the crowd chanted for Roberts to not do his job… and so Chris Roberts flipped off Trent and Tyler.
We quickly move to the “accidental” spots as Lykos gets slingshotted by Brookes into a Bate punch, before Bate threw in a pop-up uppercut as the champs almost retained. Brookes hits back though as the challengers’ brief resurgence ended with a Koppo kick from Bate. Things swung back as Trent took the elevated Codebreaker/back senton for a near-fall as Tyler barely broke up the cover, but there was more to follow…
More strikes led to a springboard cutter from Brookes and a 720 DDT from Lykos… but Tyler no-sold it and ran in with a double clothesline to keep the tension building. Lykos throws in another Lo Mein Pain… but Bate blocks it and comes out of the blocks as he gave Lykos a German suplex onto Brookes… before the wolf took a piledriver as the champs rolled through their finishers. Tyler Driver, Seven Star lariat… and a surprise tope from Bate to Lykos on the outside!
Another spinning piledriver drew boos, but Brookes kicked out… and that’s when the believers started to feel sure. Especially when Pete Dunne came out to offer assistance, only for Travis Banks to instantly chase him away! With that gone, Lykos takes a Dragon Suplex, before Trent’s low-pe is caught and met with a Magic Killer off the apron… that leaves just Tyler, who kicks away another springboard cutter, only to get dropped by Lykos, who called for… and hit a brainbuster onto the top turnbuckle… and the Best Boys win! Cue shocked wolf face. Cue delirium. Cue a long-ass queue at the #CCK merch tables!
As a match, this was a balls-to-the-wall riot of a match, going all over the building, and then some. In truth, this was the one match this show was built around… and as long as the crowd got their result (which they did), the rest of the show needn’t matter. ****¼
There’s parts of this show that I can easily see not resonating with certain fans… particularly the “imagine the sick fucking tag moves they’ll do as champions” line on commentary at the end. Were they only allowed to use mediocre moves as challengers then? But I digress – going into Chapter 50, the main event was the be all and end-all.
Having a really solid undercard helped bolster it, but now all attentions turn to how the rest of the card for Alexandra Palace will be built. After all, with British Strong Style losing one of their titles, the other “surely must follow”… or so you’d assume!