After debuting there in January, PROGRESS returned to Birmingham for what could have been a tricky second show… and pulled off a home run of a show with plenty of highlights and memories.

As is the norm now, we don’t get to hear For Whom the Bell Tolls ahead of Jim’s usual pre-show spiel, which is pretty echoey for some reason. This is taking place a week after PROGRESS debuted in Germany with an afternoon show in Cologne… ahead of this show they dropped WALTER vs. Mike Bird on their YouTube channel for reasons that’ll become clear.

Mark Haskins vs. Mike Bird
After grappling early didn’t work, the pair start slugging out with forearms as Haskins looked to edge ahead with a tope to the outside. Without warning, Bird just throws Haskins into the front row as the “Ginger Jesus” tried to force an early count-out, before being made to work for that win as Haskins returned to the ring.

From there, the story was mostly about Bird grounding Haskins, using a Dragon sleeper for a submission attempt, before the former PROGRESS champ fired back into his Welsh opponent with a barrage of kicks. A roll-up into a death valley driver followed for a near-fall as Haskins then had to block a Fireman’s carry gutbuster, which he then countered into the Star armbar… but Bird’s too close to the ropes as a break’s quickly called for.

Bird retaliates with a German suplex into the turnbuckle as a flying back elbow kept Haskins down for a Splash Mountain powerbomb, but Bird can only get a near-fall out of that. A pumphandle driver gets another near-fall as Bird tried to chop his way to a win… but Haskins again fires back as the pair exchange more strikes before Haskins rolled him up into a Sharpshooter for the submission. An enjoyable opener, but you get the feeling that Haskins is treading water at this point – with no clear path towards a way back to the title picture, yet only flirting with a storyline as the Jimmy Havoc thing burns slowly. ***¼

Ashmore vs. Eddie Dennis
This came about after Eddie’s planned match here – a tag match against the Riots and War Machine – was changed as Mark Andrews is still out injured. Given that he’d just turned full-time, it’d have been awkward to not have kept him on the card, so his new match was against an Ashmore who’d not made it onto a chapter show since December 2015’s Hit The North.

Ashmore jumped Eddie at the bell, sending him outside for a tope con hilo as the underdog looked to get an early win… but Eddie’s able to kick out of a missile dropkick. In Birmingham, Ashmore seemingly had to make do with “he’s got his head on upside down” chants rather than the Uncle Albert stuff, before finding himself the prime recipient of a forearm from Eddie on the outside.

Commentary was really pushing how Eddie’d moved away from being the “weekend warrior”, but after Ashmore returned to the ring, Eddie took a roll-through death valley driver for a near-fall. Eddie invited some shots, but blocked them and hit back just as hard before knocking down Ashmore with a clothesline after some misdirection.

Ashmore escapes a swinging side slam and throws Eddie outside… but his tope’s caught and met with that swinging side slam right onto the apron! Back inside, Eddie nails Ashmore with a Border Toss-like crucifix bomb for a near-fall, before Ashmore rolls out of a Next Stop Driver and tries for a head kick. That misses as Eddie comes back with forearms, only to run into a powerbomb onto the knee as that Black Mass-like kick almost earned the upset.

Ashmore goes for a Phoenix Splash, but succeeds with a reverse ‘rana as he looked to claim an impressive scalp, but a Spiral Tap misses as Eddie hits back hard, lifting up Ashmore into a Severn Bridge bucklebomb and a Next Stop Driver for the win – one that was Eddie’s first singles chapter win since January 2015 in Mark Andrews’ farewell match. How times change, eh? ***½

That bloody stuffed pigeon comes into the ring. Let’s pretend it never existed, eh?

Jigsaw vs. Jimmy Havoc
Incredibly, this was Jigsaw’s PROGRESS debut. Given that he’s wrestled in England for Kamikaze, Lucha Forever, PWP, HOPE, TNT, Fight Club Pro and many more, that was a bit of a shock.

Jigsaw looked to end it early with a roll-up, but Havoc surprisingly kept it ground-based and technical, before somehow talking Jigsaw out of letting go of a grounded abdominal stretch – particularly since he’d tried to pull Havoc by his bad knee. That was used to sucker Jigsaw in as Havoc found a way to poke through Jigsaw’s eye holes, but again Jigsaw takes it to the mat for a crucifix roll-up that gets a near-fall.

A Gory special just stretches Havoc as Jigsaw’s comfortably in the driver’s seat, at least until Havoc reversed an Irish whip into the corner as he started to pepper Jigsaw with boots that sent him to the outside for cover. Jigsaw matches Havoc with some chops and kicks into the front row, only to get thrown into the crowd as Havoc did what he did best, before sending himself deep into the crowd as his run-up into a dropkick to Jigsaw went wrong as Jigsaw moved away.

When they returned to the ring, Havoc earned a two-count from a back suplex onto the apron, but Jigsaw again goes airborne with a tope con hilo as he resumed his offence with a tornado DDT for a near-fall. Havoc sunset flips out of a Jig ‘n’ Tonic belly-to-back piledriver, then spikes Jigsaw with a tornado DDT and a tope of his own before a double stomp to Jigsaw’s back got a near-fall.

That stomp wasn’t too dissimilar to the one that put Havoc on the shelf last year, but this time it held up as he went for an Acid Rainmaker, only for Jigsaw to fight free and get a snap German suplex for another two-count. A brainbuster from Jigsaw doesn’t work as Havoc comes back with a shoryuken uppercut, only to get caught mid-superplex as a double stomp left Havoc prone in a Tree of Woe for a Coast to Coast dropkick!

Another Jig ‘n’ Tonic’s blocked as Havoc comes back with a Destroyer, a Roaring Elbow, then an Acid Rainmaker as the triumvirate of big moves managed to put away the masked man! A heck of a debut for Jigsaw, with Havoc having to veer away from his usual game to get past the world traveller. ***¾

After the match, Havoc took the microphone and addressed Haskins’ earlier comments about wanting to go for the PROGRESS title. Havoc’s got the same designs too, and called out Haskins for giving up the title when injured when he didn’t… so I guess those two are still on a collision course!

Tornado Match: London Riots (Rob Lynch & James Davis) vs. War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe)
After two barn-burners last summer, War Machine and the London Riots were back at it once again – this time in a tornado match (a late stipulation change suggested by Rowe) as PROGRESS’ staple car crash tag match returned in all of it’s glory!

Of course, War Machine brought their IWGP tag titles with them, having beaten the Guerrillas of Destiny a week earlier at New Japan’s G1 Special in USA… and yes, that meant they had the funky headgear as well, with Raymond Rowe’s lovely ponytail.

Here are some words to describe this match. Chaotic. Nuts. Thunderous. If you want more than one-word descriptors, then how about “hard hitting”, “balls to the wall” and “show stealing”? For big men, War Machine somehow surprise every time they’re in the ring with their strength and agility, with Hanson flipping around like a man his size should not be able to. Not to be outdone, the Riots were equally agile, with Lynch and Davis throwing themselves at War Machine with tope con hilos and cannonballs, before settling down for the rather more expected diet of clubbing blows.

Rowe dumps Lynch with a uranage into the front row Davis got squashed with a sit-down splash through a chair, before both the Riots took some running knees to the head. Back inside, Lynch dumps Rowe with a clothesline as Hanson tried to join in… and eventually succeeded with a whoopee cushion splash out of the corner.

A cracking forearm from Rowe drops Davis, before he turned around into a belly-to-belly from Lynch as Hanson then thought he’d pretend to be Will Ospreay with a handspring into a back elbow off the ropes. Davis returns with a Lionsault, before taking a knee strike from Rowe… and they all fall down. What is life, eh?!

Once everyone got to their feet, we got a rope-bending Tower of Doom as somehow the ring stayed in one piece. Hanson managed to get back to his feet to launch into a series of clotheslines to the Riots in opposite corners as we quickly got back to strikes before Rowe stacked up the Riots for a slam and powerbomb. AT THE SAME TIME. A big splash from Hanson almost got it as Lynch somehow kicked out in time, as the Riots then fought back into a District Line powerbomb on Rowe.

Hanson eats a double-team chokeslam from the Riots, but Rowe manages to escape a GBH spear and drop Davis with a chokeslam onto the back of Lynch as War Machine then looked for the Fallout… but the Riots again resurged and squashed Rowe with an assisted back senton off the top. Another attempt at the GBH spear connects, but again Rowe kicked out despite being piled on.

Somehow Rowe flips out of a District Line powerbomb attempt as Hanson returned to squash Lynch with a pop-up slam for a near-fall, before Fallout put paid to the Riots as these teams’ run of golden tag matches continued! Simply put: you need to see this match. Chaotic, hard-hitting… all that and more. These two teams click like few others do, and it’s absurdly good viewing every time. ****¼

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: WALTER vs. Matt Riddle (c)
WALTER beat Mike Bird for this title shot at the Cologne show… and you probably should have guessed this shot was coming soon when the match was put up on YouTube before the full Cologne show did! They’ve had three matches between them this year, all of which have received varying plaudits (from ***¾ at a wXw house show, to ****½ back at PROGRESS chapter 46 in March).

Both men got steam pyro, which is a rarity… either that or someone had the kettle on? Riddle decided to start off by initiating a chop battle… WHY?! The Austrian stung Riddle’s chest with plenty of receipts, determined to make the champion go full Ilja in a bid to make that chest red and bloody. Eventually Riddle ducks a chop, before taking a German suplex, which of course he popped up from as he started to lean into WALTER with forearms.

They headed outside again as WALTER laid in with more chops, before taking Riddle back inside to throw him around like he was nothing. Riddle retaliates with gutwrench suplexes of his own, then with a back senton as Riddle’s red chest could only pick up a one-count.

Riddle corners WALTER for a chop, but of course the Austrian fired back with pure venom as they continued to make mincemeat out of each other’s chests. Some kicks from Riddle were much more effective, but WALTER kicked Riddle’s legs from under him as der Ringgeneral came back with an ankle lock to counter Riddle’s overhead kick. A massive boot in the corner flattens Riddle, who then popped up from a German suplex – but not intentionally – as a big clothesline earned WALTER yet another near-fall.

WALTER snuck in a Gojira clutch, but Riddle’s able to throw his way free and sneak in a Bro to Sleep, then a German suplex for a two-count, before the Bryan Danielson elbows softened up WALTER for a Bromission… but he escaped and put in another Gojira clutch! Riddle tries to reach for the ropes, but he’s met with a sleeper suplex, then a pair of powerbombs as the champion was left in pieces on the mat before somehow kicking out at two!

From the kick-out, WALTER sinks in another Gojira clutch, dragging Riddle to the mat, and just like that… WALTER may not have achieved full Ilja in terms of chops, but he did get something much more valuable: the PROGRESS Atlas title as Riddle lost the belt in the very venue he won it in. Easily the best of their matches this year – and another one that you need to add to your wrestling watching pile. Two of the best at what they do – and hopefully this isn’t the last time we get to see them face-off! ****¾

If you enjoy reading into stuff, this marked the end of a three-day run in the UK where Riddle lost against WALTER, Tomohiro Ishii and… Alex Gracie.

Flash Morgan Webster vs. Chief Deputy Dunne
Surprisingly this was only the third time these had met, and if you want to borrow more than characters from other promotions, you could say that Chief Deputy Dunne was looking for revenge after Flash broke his foot on an ATTACK! show earlier in the year.

The crowd quickly noted that Dunne had “no fun on his dick” (complete with a timely zoom-in!), and the Chief started by kicking Webster low as the pair flew out of the blocks. Webster lands a series of armdrags before connecting with a Special Brew Flip, only to fall for Dunne’s “false alarm” enziguiri as he was knocked off the apron.

A series of sledging blows keeps Webster down, as Dunne targets the lower back of Webster with a backbreaker for a near-fall. Webster fires back with palm strikes and windmilling punches before responding to another “false alarm” by leaping into a Strangler guillotine. It’s quickly escaped as Webster flips over Dunne to get back in the game, throwing in some knees in the corner, before wheelbarrowing Dunne into the turnbuckles.

Webster heads outside with a tope con hilo as I swear everyone’s trying to make Matt Richards on commentary say that as much as they can. The flying continues as Webster swings around the ringpost into a ‘rana on the floor, before throwing Dunne back inside for a senton bomb that earned him a near-fall.

A Brit Pop Drop keeps the pressure up, but he misses with a Rude Boy moonsault as Dunne rushes in with a springboard Codebreaker to nearly snatch the win. Dunne tries for a rope-hung DDT, but instead loses out as Webster hits a hands-up headbutt and a reverse ‘rana. Another springboard Codebreaker’s countered as Webster gets another Strangler, but Dunne accidentally-on-purpose gets freed after he poked Joel Allen in the eye… unsighting him as a low blow to Webster is followed up by a rope-hung DDT as the Chief Deputy gets the win. A good match here, and with Dunne leaving with Webster’s scarf, you get the impression that he’s trophy hunting to try and strip PROGRESS of any fun. Whilst this is not a shot at PROGRESS here, but the introduction of the Anti-Fun Police in any incarnation is a very weird fit, given that PROGRESS are the polar opposite of, say, ATTACK! in terms of being happy-go-lucky, or for want of a better term, “fun”. ***½

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Travis Banks & #CCK (Kid Lykos & Chris Brookes) vs. British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)
Originally advertised as a six-man, the tag titles came into play when British Strong Style goaded #CCK with an offer to please the “paying crowd”… along with the promise that if Trent and Tyler failed to win their belts back, they’d never challenge for them again.

The match almost ended like a flash when Kid Lykos charged at Trent with a knee strike – but sadly we didn’t get a repeat of the Matt Riddle squash as Trent kicked out at two. Instead, things quickly turned sour as Pete Dunne came in and dissected Lykos for a spell, before countering a 720 DDT. Dunne headed outside as Lykos teased a springboard,before aborting as Dunne sidestepped away.

Tyler Bate comes in and quickly gets a “sick fucking tag move” – this one actually branded the “Wreckless Danger Machine” as the original SFTM (the propelled splash) put Bate on the back foot. Tags take us to Banks and Seven, who trade kicks and chops for a spell, as things start to get a little frantic as Trent’s taken deep into the aisle with a high-speed tope from Banks.

Chris Brookes throws in a tope con hilo so Matt can say that again, before Lykos’ dive ends with a bop-bang punch from Tyler Bate, who then hit his huge plancha to the outside. Dunne uses Lykos as a weapon as he dumped the wolf with an X-Plex to the pile on the floor, before completing the set with that moonsault off the middle turnbuckle.

Wait, I missed one – Lykos’ corkscrew plancha to the outside as the purple wolf came back with a 619 to Bate, only for BSS to come back with a triple-team pop-up uppercut. Lykos’ wrists take a pounding as Dunne wrenches away on them in the midst of a knee-stomp, but that’s just the start of a long spell as the wolf is in peril for quite a while.

Lykos makes a comeback, teasing a 720 DDT to Dunne, but instead hits an Asai moonsault to Trent and Tyler before flying in with a Dragonrana to Pete, who then had to face a shotgun dropkick from Banks. The Kiwi’s barrage continued with a cannonball into the corner, before he had to deal with Trent and Tyler… who then combined to dump the Buzzsaw with a double-team brainbuster.

Lykos finally gets that tornado DDT in on Bate after an assist from Brookes, but he’s then sent into his own partner via Pete Dunne. Things descend into a parade of moves as we get a variety of suplexes from everyone, including a suspended Exploder from Bate before Lykos’ Full Moon took Tyler down. A trio of Coast-to-Coast dropkicks follow as Roberts counts three sets of near-falls at the same time – leading to more duelling chants as Banks and Dunne traded forearms for a brief spell until it degenerated into a strike-off. Banks sneaks in a Slice of Heaven to Trent as that parade continues, ending with Lykos blasting Dunne with the 720/Vertigo DDT to leave everyone laying.

Another strike-off leads to everyone falling down, before Dunne swats away another Slice of Heaven as Banks eats a trio of forearms, as Bate German suplexes Lykos to the floor ahead of a… Meltzer Driver onto a chair?! Answers on a postcard as to what the British equivalent of that is…

Back in the ring, Brookes takes a piledriver, a Tyler Driver and a Bitter End, but Banks barely comes back in to break it up just in time to save #CCK’s tag titles, which just earns him more shots… which he fires back from as he delivers a trio of German suplexes! A Slice of Heaven accidentally wipes out Chris Roberts, which leaves Dunne free to kick Banks low and drop him with a Pedigree, but with no referee that’s just for nought.

Instead, Dunne heads outside and turfs Lykos into the crowd before heading under the ring… for a sledgehammer?! Peter’s playing Paul again! Banks ducks a sledgehammer shot as all three of CCK land superkicks before that unnamed Codebreaker/back senton combo lands. Things break down some more with a litany of low blows, before Trent drops Banks with a piledriver off the middle rope as Joel Allen trotted out to count the near-fall as Banks somehow kicked out.

The danger continued as Brookes was turfed into the crowd with an Exploder suplex, but Lykos looked to finish the job after planting Bate with a brainbuster on the top rope… but Joel Allen’s distracted by Trent, allowing Pete Dunne to kill the wolf with a sledgehammer and drape Bate over him as the former Moustache Mountain got their gold back! This wasn’t as tough to watch as the rest of the BSS travelling trios matches, largely because this had storylines behind it. Imagine that, storylines enhancing matches and getting people invested. That might just catch on… ****

The mixed crowd booed that result somewhat, as the final shots of the night were Chris Brookes cradling the wolf, and Pete Dunne crowing over what he’d done for his friends.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way… when the results from this show started to leak online, there was an almighty uproar over #CCK losing the belts on their first defence. Whilst it’s easy to complain, I must say that history doesn’t reflect too well on folks who won the big one on their first night in… only to lose them straight away. The second time is rarely as good as the first, even if that second time is in a much grander setting.

Still, we’ll let it play out and see whether the complainers were right… but it certainly is an odd choice, and one that left a bit of a cloud over the show… a show that’d been a massive thumbs up in spite of that result. War Machine and the London Riots tearing the place up… WALTER making mincemeat out of Matt Riddle’s chest and title reign? Whilst there are niggles in some of the booking choices here, it’s hard to dispute the in-ring quality of PROGRESS’ shows as they continue to bear down on Alexandra Palace in September.