PROGRESS’ biggest show of the year saw the downfall of British Strong Style, as 2,000 fans packed Alexandra Palace.
The audio seems a little out compared to Camden shows, but it’s a new venue – and it’s not inaudible, so that’s just me being picky. We do hear a weird “Asian wedding” chant, because there was an Asian wedding fair going on elsewhere in the complex – there’s a chant you’ll never hear ever again.Commentary today’s provided by Glen Joseph (in a suit), Callum Leslie (who isn’t) and Matt Richards (ditto).
Hey, they’re carrying ladders down to the match as Chris Roberts gets his own entry graphic. He’ll get an ego now…
Ladder Match for PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: #CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos) vs. British Strong Style (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)
Alexandra Palace is certainly a much different aesthetic to anywhere PROGRESS has run before – massive glass windows and the associated flooding of lighting makes this one of the better-lit shows they’ve had.
The last time PROGRESS did any form of a ladder match was about 18 months ago, with the ill-fated TLC match between the London Riots and the Sumerian Death Squad, as the infamous Britwres ladder dragged it down. Lykos has a new mask for the occasion, and this wasn’t exactly sedate, instantly heading to the outside to show off the ladders before Trent “accidentally” licked his own ball sweat.
PROGRESS have shelled out for new turnbuckle pads – gone are the old THIS. IS. PROGRESS. trio, and now we’ve just got a dozen pads with massive logos on.
There’s all sorts of obligatory ladder spots, with Lykos being the first to climb, only to get tossed outside, before Trent comically climbed the ladder as Chris Brookes just watched. Of course, Brookes tried to climb and was cut-off – and we wash, rinse repeat with varying degrees of insanity. Tyler threw Brookes into a ladder with an Exploder, before Trent gave us this latest Lykos face after a Dragon suplex onto the side of a ladder.
The wolf manages to get back up as he ran up a ladder into a tornillo to wipe out everyone on the floor, only for Tyler to go old school with an airplane spin/Giant swing to #CCK. At the same goddamn time. Tyler then went all Terry Funk, knocking everyone down with a helicopter ladder, including Trent. Whoops!
Fittingly, they continued to turn things up a notch for this big show, with the #CCK elevated Codebreaker/back senton off the ladder, before Lykos hit the Vertigo DDT off a ladder. That poor wolf gets caught on a ladder and thrown to the outside, so Tyler becomes a makeshift wolf for the next tag move.
Bate recovers to set up a ladder bridge, teasing a Tyler Driver through it, only to get a back body drop onto the ladder – and with everyone else down, that’s enough for Brookes to grab the tag titles – and earn #CCK a second run with those straps! Well, to paraphrase Glen, that’s how you want to get a show underway. High risk, plenty of “ooh”s, and it helped big time that there was nary a step put wrong in this whole outing. ****¼
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Dahlia Black vs. Toni Storm (c)
Dahlia won the title shot by beating Jinny a few weeks earlier at Chapter 54, and had TK Cooper with her for moral support. Albeit from damn near the back of the room!
This was another of those “here’s this month’s challenger” matches, with some sections perhaps not seeing Dahlia as being on the same level as the title holder going in. If you wanted another layer to this match, this was a rematch from earlier in the women’s title tournament; the one where Dahlia broke her leg – and although that wasn’t turned into a storyline point, it was worth bringing up, if only for redemption purposes.
Dahlia countered a hip attack by kicking Toni in the arse before flashing in with a series of knees in the corner, only to crash and burn with a cannonball… which led to a snapped leg-trap German from the Aussie. Things swung back with a Cobra clutch version of the Lethal Combination, before a Dark Side of the Moonsault gets nothing but knees.
Storm lands a neckbreaker slam – or “that move WWE called Strong Zero” – for a near-fall, but in the end a buckle bomb and the real Strong Zero looked to finish it… except Dahlia kicked out at two! Dahlia connected with the Dark Side of the Moonsault, but that’s only good for a two-count, as she’s damn near killed with a German suplex as she went for another one… then two Strong Zeroes as Toni retains. This was really good – Black outlasted Toni until that final flurry finished her off. A strong showing in defeat from the Kiwi. ***¼
Interestingly, PROGRESS have announced that they’re doing a one-night, eight-woman tournament in October to crown the next contender Toni Storm… perhaps it’s Jinny, who rushed the ring and stomped away at Dahlia after the match, before Pillman-ising her ankle? Clearly she’s still sore from losing that contender’s match… and the other title chances.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Marty Scurll
This was Sabre’s open-challenge – and with the likes of Kassius Ohno, Jack Gallagher and even Sebastian thrown out as possibilities, it was perhaps a surprise that Marty Scurll answered it. Heck, the crowd loved it, as the response lifted the roof off of Alexandra Palace, and swung a pro-Sabre crowd in his direction.
This wasn’t as meandering as the match they had at Rev Pro’s High Stakes in January – going closer to 14 than 40 minutes – and it started with Scurll whacking Sabre with an umbrella straight out of the gate. Sabre tries to cut him off, but gets dumped on his shoulder with an arm whip… and this is all action!
Marty’s wearing down Sabre for the chicken wing, working away on the arms for a long part of the match, countering a counter to a stranglehold escape… by dumping Zack with a back cracker. That seemed to piss off Sabre, who tries to unscrew Marty’s leg by going through his shopping list of submission holds… which today included an Octopus hold in the ropes. Hey, Minoru Suzuki’s rubbing off on him!
Sabre quickly snaps back in with those submissions, wrenching in a STF, only for Marty to use an eye rake to break it up. Like a villain. Indy’riffic pinning attempts come next, before Sabre kicks away a finger snap… and gets booed for it. Why are you booing a guy for saving his fingers?!
Instead, Marty gets a surfboard into a chicken wing – a submission that his sometimes tag partner would be proud of – and the Villain keeps up the momentum, finally sneaking in a finger snap before geeing up everyone for the chicken wing… except Zack avoids it, and traps Scurll in the Euro Clutch for the win! Well, unlike the Rev Pro match this didn’t have a long feud going in, but going less than 15 minutes this was much more memorable. All action, no down spots. Nice and compact. I love me some compact Sabre matches! ***¾
After the match, Marty cut a farewell promo, saying this’d be the last time he’d be in PROGRESS for a while. Given he’d not been in PROGRESS since January’s Thunderbastard, nor even been part of the picture, this was perhaps more symbolic than anything else.
Deathmatch: Jimmy Havoc vs. Mark Haskins
It’s funny, since winning Tournament of Death, Havoc’s been in a LOT of no-DQ, Hardcore, Street Fight, Death Match thingies. It’s almost like there’s capitalising to be done! This was the pay-off to the “sorta friends, bitter enemies” feud that was sparked by accidental chairshots, before blooming into a feud over each man’s claim to the PROGRESS title. So, what do you bring to a gunfight? If you’re Jimmy Havoc… it’s a goddamned AXE.
Unlike his prior attempts to carry them to the ring, nobody stopped him this time. Good. Ring crew sees sense! Yeah, they head outside instantly, and there’s lots of plunder going on… drawing pins, frying pans, and look – there’s a staple gun! And an 8×10 of Jimmy Havoc… who can guess where that ended up?
That drew blood as it was removed from Havoc, and now you know why he’s wearing white! There’s lots of head smashing, lots of loud bangs, lots of blood, and this match is barely getting started when Haskins lifts out a box from under the ring. It’s his own personal plunder: a Nerf gun and a toy dinosaur!
Eventually we move away from the weapons shots – after Havoc took duelling staple guns to the temples – as the pair brawl up towards the stage, where there’s a handily-placed table, ripe for a Haskins death valley driver through it! They’re back to the ring after that, where the hard shots continue, courtesy of some cinder blocks as someone watched the Joey Janela match. Sadly, some of those breeze blocks crumbled, but there’s still plenty left for Haskins to get powerbombed through. That can’t have been nice.
Havoc pulls out a Yano by tying up Haskins’ wrists together, and it’s back to that 8×10 again for some papercuts, including one to the TONGUE, which Havoc then salts. Yep, this is more akin to sub-Geneva convention torture than a wrestling match.
After avoiding a potential axe beheading, things start to swing back in Haskins’ way when Vicki heads out with a pair of scissors to free her husband. Well, someone definitely saw Toru Yano in the G1! Scissors aren’t the only thing she brought though – she’s planted a barbed wire bat under the ring too! Bloody hell. She gets a pop for slapping down Chris Roberts, at least.
Haskins has no trouble using it on Havoc, who punched back. So we get a barbed wire board. All the hardcore stuff here, eh? Haskins kicks it into Havoc, but he’s still no nearer the win… so drawing pins come into play, which leads to Haskins taking some death valley drivers into the tacks… then another into the barbed wire board as neither man will lay down!
Yep, that barbed wire’s real – the blood coming from Haskins’ back makes that evident, and it’s the barbed wire bat that gets the win as a shot to the head finally keeps someone down for three… and that, was remarkable. Perhaps it was my seat and reliance on the hard camera, but a lot of this didn’t sink in live. This was all kinds of brutality – one that hurt either man… well, metaphorically, anyway. I’m sure both of them experienced all kinds of pain in this. ***¾
Coming out of interval, they’ve changed to the black canvas, and Jim’s got a big announcement… PROGRESS’ big show next September’s coming from Wembley Arena! Tickets will have gone on sale by the time this goes up, and depending on how they set it up, this could well be PROGRESS’ biggest crowd ever. Yeah, the announcement went down huge with the live crowd, as this video’ll show…
Guys, all I’m asking for is football-style shirts for this. NOT the new ultra-clingy kind… the retro old-school shirts.
PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Timothy Thatcher vs. WALTER vs. Matt Riddle (c)
Riddle regained the Atlas title in New York during PROGRESS’ rather problematic tour, having originally lost it to WALTER in Birmingham a month earlier. If you thought this was going to be a 2-on-1 RINGKAMPF handicap match, you’d be proven wrong here – despite Riddle fighting off RINGKAMPF at the start, the competition between those two was equally as keen.
Both Riddle and Thatcher showed that WALTER could be taken off the ground, so we weren’t all left with sympathy chest pains after a myriad of chops amongst all three men. Well, when WALTER wasn’t kicking his sometime-tag partner full-on in the face, anyway…
Eventually WALTER got fed up of getting chopped by Riddle and just kicked his legs away, before a third German suplex finally proved to be the limit for Matthew’s “you can’t German suplex me” powers. Throughout the match, the only one who seemed to have no obvious vulnerability was WALTER – yes, he could be taken off his feet, but he just kept getting back up to hit harder than he’d take.
Well, except when Matt Riddle crushed WALTER with a back senton off the top rope, to break up a rear naked choke on Thatcher. A Bro to Sleep and a German suplex nearly wins it, but Thatcher breaks it up as we enter the “we break up everything” phase of things, before a Gotch-style tombstone on Thatcher gets… a two-count, because WALTER would rather dump Riddle with a German suplex, then a big boot and a powerbomb.
Super Riddle pops up from that though, and runs into a brutal lariat before replying with some knee strikes… only for his attempt to pull WALTER off the top for a tombstone backfired horrible, as the Austrian turned it into a sit-out tombstone… Riddle’s dumped on his head, and that’s enough for WALTER to get his second ATLAS title. Wonderful stuff – and potentially the last we’ll see of WALTER and Riddle for a while, which in a sense is good, but I’m going to miss seeing that match. ****¼
Before WALTER can celebrate too much, there’s a howl… and a groan. Out comes Wolfgang to a distorted-ish cover of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”. The Scotsman’s making his PROGRESS debut, and he’s going straight for WALTER’s newly-won title. Poor Strangler Davis, will he ever get his title shot?!
Number One Contender Scramble Match: Chief Deputy Dunne vs. Zack Gibson vs. James Drake vs. Strangler Davis vs. Mark Andrews vs. Eddie Dennis vs. Flash Morgan Webster vs. Jack Sexsmith
In the line-up here, there were two obvious picks: Jack Sexsmith, who was still riding the wave that got him to Super Strong Style 16 (before injury hit…), and Flash Morgan Webster, whom PROGRESS had released a series of videos painting him as the “Nearly Man”.
We don’t go straight to the match though, as the pre-match introductions see Zack Gibson and James Drake go on a tour of the building for the promo that Zack’s dumped last time out. James gets to say some of it this time, which is a little cute. Problem was, without the shrill Scouse tones, those “soon”s didn’t quite have the same response as Gibson, especially when he dropped a C-bomb. Yep, I think he might be well away from that ITV “no swear” deal!
This one starts out wild, with the two tag teams in the match squaring down each other early on, but that routine is pretty short as we enter the “do a move, cycle through” stage of proceedings. Flash drops Davis with a Special Brew Flip, before hitting a plancha… which earns him a pair of forearms from the Veterans.
Chief Deputy Dunne tries to shout down everyone’s superplex set-up, because it was too much fun (ahh), but to no avail as Eddie boots him and finishes the run of superplexes out of the corners. Davis comes back with a wacky submission pair – a Boston crab to Webster and a Gory stretch to Andrews, before releasing the two holds to leap onto Webster with the back senton.
Jack gets out Mr. Cocko… but James Drake cuts it off before a long series of waistlock switches confuse the Veterans, and now Jack’s got two Mr. Cockos! One blue, one red. Covering both sides of Liverpool for Mr Gibson, eh?
Things break down into a superkick session before the Veterans damn near murder Sexsmith in the corner, and the long series continues until Webster lands a series of those “hands up” headbutts. Morgan throws in his Pinball Wizard flip senton to the outside, before Eddie throws Dunne to the outside with a crucifix powerbomb… ahead of a Last Stop Driver that Mark Andrews “gave” for Eddie to make the pinfall on.
Webster broke it up and went for Eddie, landing his version of Destino, only for Andrews to capitalise straight away on the landing with a shooting star press, and that’s enough for the win! It was certainly an action-packed match, and some would say disjointed given how many bodies were flying all over the place, but an enjoyable match nevertheless. So… Mark Andrews is next up, but for who? ***½
After the match, Webster was offered a handshake by Andrews… but he slapped it away as the crowd expected Webster to snap after another loss. Even more so when Webster slid back in the ring with anger in his eyes… except they hugged it out. Instead, the real shock was to come…
Eddie Dennis slid into the ring and drilled Andrews with the Next Stop Driver, before leaving his former tag partner laying. Friends… Stood United. So, Mark Andrews has gained a title shot, but lost a friend, and the main question now is: Why Eddie, Why?
PROGRESS World Championship: Travis Banks vs. Pete Dunne (c)
You know how we got here: Travis Banks won Super Strong Style 16 and named Alexandra Palace as his “cash in” date. The run-in for this perhaps wasn’t the most spectacular in terms of having both men go in with momentum; first, Dunne refused to defend the title until Alexandra Palce, then, in a run of each picking the other’s opponents for the coming months, Dunne’s names went on a clean sweep over the Kiwi, whilst Pete Dunne appeared to keep up his momentum.
Still, it didn’t seem to hurt the reaction Travis got… even if commentary noted that Banks “has a history of not getting it done in the big occasions”. That’s a rather curious statement, even without adding more detail.
That threat continued when Dunne came out with the recently-dethroned tag team champions, as of course, he had to have Tyler and Trent out there. After an initial flurry from Banks, we had a teased walk-out from the champion in the opening stages, before Dunne and co returned with sledgehammers, which referee Chris Roberts actually managed to remove. Good God, Chris Roberts doing his job is the sign of an impending apocalypse!
Dunne decided to try and force a DQ by throwing Banks into the chairs, before dropping ring crew members with forearms, and we’re getting a LOT of Pete Dunne pushing Banks so far that he launched into spirited comebacks. To be fair, Banks’ forte does seem to be in fighting from behind, and when he got his foot in the door, Dunne felt the full force – cannonballs, springboard stomps and Coast to Coast dropkicks ahoy!
Things quickly swing back the other way when Dunne dropped Banks with an apron Pedigree… but it’s not long before Zombie Banks returns with a Slice of Heaven for a near-fall. The back and forth continued with Banks taking an X-Plex off the middle rope, before Banks counters a Bitter End into a DDT, as a follow-up Lion’s Clutch is quickly broken… aaand we’re back outside.
After kicking out from a tombstone on the floor, Banks keeps firing up as the crowd started to believe… and then Dunne dropped Chris Roberts with an enziguiri. Banks replies by going for the Lion’s clutch, in that enraging trope of going for a finish with the ref down… but at least Banks let go early. Just in time for the middle rope to break by force of gravity alone?!
Joel Allen slides in to count a near-fall from a Bitter End, before Banks climbed that broken middle rope to take Dunne down with a release German superplex! That’s still only good for a two-count as Trent and Tyler return to lay out Joel… before a Trent piledriver, a Tyler Driver and a Pedigree draws a two-count from a groggy Chris Roberts. Yep, he’s dropped again, this time with a Pedigree…
Finally #CCK hit the ring and clear out British Strong Style as they teased the sledgehammer again… before Dunne finally uses the sledgehammer to Banks. Out comes Paz as the third ref, but Banks still keeps kicking (out), before Paz disarms Dunne… and yeah, he’s slapped down. Banks gets payback, using the sledgehammer, before a Fisherman driver gets a near-fall… and finally, he grabs the Lion’s Clutch in the middle of the ring, and we have a new champion! Pete Dunne taps, and with a broken ring… British Strong Style is broken, signified by Pete Dunne just throwing the belt to Banks afterwards.
Live, there was a bit of a weird feeling to this – a sense of finality, and some perhaps feeling a little underwhelmed. I’m not sure how that could be, given that the story was building to this! At the end, #CCK returned to celebrate with Travis Banks… who then brought his parents into the ring to join in the celebrations! ****
PROGRESS at Alexandra Palace was a marvel – lots of good matches and stories paid off. Yet weirdly, as a massive blow-off, this felt… relieving in a way? Plenty of people had been unhappy at how British Strong Style, by hook or by crook, were lording it over the show, and judging by body language, and indeed, initial tweets after the show, I wouldn’t be too shocked if this was their farewell.
If it is, then PROGRESS has a rather altered landscape to work with now. Travis Banks as champion, and although Mark Andrews is his first contender… Eddie Dennis is hovering in the background against his former friend. After that, who knows? New title pictures need to be built for both the world and tag titles, and whilst we may have Dahlia and Jinny as a long-term direction, it kind of takes the focus away from whatever’s going to happen in Tufnell Park next month as they do a one-night tournament to find Toni Storm’s next opponent.
The British Strong Style run is over… the new chapter is waiting to be written.
- “Chapter 55 – Chase The Sun” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.