For the first time in two months it was back to the Ballroom as Travis Banks began life as PROGRESS champion.
There’s been some visual changes to the PROGRESS videos – starting with the ditching of the “you wouldn’t steal Jinny’s handbag” anti-piracy video, and in its place a rather more 80s themed warning. It was the first of several graphical changes, not least including a new opener, new titles, and (finally) everyone has their own entrance videos! No more was James Drake coming out to Zack Gibson’s bouncing footballs…
After some applause for Owen Davies, a PROGRESS (and BritWres fan in general) who’d recently passed away, we got going with former champion Pete Dunne, who’d requested some mic time. The last time he did this, he refused to defend his PROGRESS title until the Alexandra Palace show… this time though, he had two words for us (more or less). I’m sorry.
Yep, that’s all it took to make the crowd cheer for Peter again, and by extension, the rest of British Strong Style. Yes, we’ve not heard from anyone else involved as to whether they accepted the apology, but even after putting over the company, the whole “I’m sorry”/”yay, they’re good guys again!” felt weird as hell. Hey, the crowd accepted it, but in the cold light of day it felt like a massive leap of faith.
Anyway, the segment also saw Pete Dunne acknowledge that his “time in the UK was uncertain”, before the Grizzled Young Veterans hit the ring. Gibson and Drake were more of an annoyance than anything else, and were chased to the back by Trent and Tyler… before Dune was attacked by a debuting Joseph Conners. To say the crowd went mild would be an overstatement.
Never Say Die (Alex Cupid & Dillon D’Angelo) & Connor Mills vs. Omari & Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
It was a hattrick of chapter debuts for the Fight Club: Pro-based trio of Omari and the Aussies… as well as for Alex Cupid’s new singlet, which reminds me of the shirt that the British football team wore in the 2012 Olympics. Niche references!
With all six looking to impress on this stage, we had an insane trios match between the unofficial Knucklelocks/ProJo and Fight Club: Pro trios. Plenty of quick tags and hard shots – this’d not have looked out of place in the Starworks’ typical multi-man matches. Mark Davis used his high-five as an offensive weapon, knocking back Dillon D’Angelo early before literally dragging him into the corner.
Cupid chopped his way back in against Fletcher, whose period of isolation ended when he was able to bring in Omari, who had no trouble dishing out leg lariats to the cornered Never Say Die. The Aussies kept it up, with Dunkzilla chopping and squashing Alex Cupid in the corner, before a one-armed powerbomb from Davis left Mills down.
Just like that, the tide turned again as Mills rebounds into a running shooting star press for a near-fall, and we’re into the flashy, flippy stuff. In the end though, it was a simple right hand that put Connor Mills down, before a Fidget Spinner from the Aussies, an O-Zone from Omari and Davis’ pull-up piledriver – labelled “Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck” (after the song they can’t use in PROGRESS) flattened Mills for the win.
This was a heck of an opener, but the problem was, this match felt like a bit of a throwback to the indys of old – all the high-flying moves, but with no clear delineation, we had nobody to cheer and nobody to boo. Don’t get me wrong, nobody looked out of place here, but it says a lot when the “visiting trio” seemed to be more established by the Ballroom faithful than the “home team”. ***¼
Strangler Davis vs. Timothy Thatcher
Yes, Thatcher was wearing his eyepatch here. Yes, everyone made pirate-related gags. He even cracked a smile and pretended he had a hook for an arm… I guess he went to Germany and found a sense of humour?
Opposing him here was Strangler Davis, someone whose bad guy character hasn’t really been accepted by the Ballroom. Truth be told, I think it’s just too much change in one go for the former London Riot – going from being a jolly, drunken showman who indulged in brawling, to singlet-wearing technical wrestler who thinks we’re still lynching people.
Of course, Davis went for the eye early as he tried to outwrestle Thatcher. It didn’t quite go Davis’ way, but this quickly fell into Thatcher’s style of match – one that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and if it happens to be against an opponent whom the crowd are (at best) ambivalent to, it’s hard to engage in on any kind of a vocal level. Unfortunately, that’s what happened here, spurred on by the crowd taking their time to adjust to a rather different style after the opener (and a similarly energetic dark match).
After a headbutt to the eye, Thatcher fired back with some body blows, before a side Salto into a gutwrench took Davis down for a near-fall. That prompted the former London Riot to go back to work on Thatcher, using a stump puller to take him down for some more offence, but there’s another comeback as Thatcher busted out a crossbody off the top ahead of a belly-to-belly off the ropes.
Davis uses the ropes on Thatcher’s eyes, snapping it into his face… but that angers Timmy yet again, throwing down Davis with a butterfly suplex, before Davis slipped free and looked for his cobra clutch finish… only to fake out a ref bump so he could kick Thatcher low, before putting in the Strangehold as referee Marc Parry stopped the match. An unpopular result, but it solidifies Davis as a conniving villain. If only the crowd could care? **¾
Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs. Chris Brookes & Jimmy Havoc
Originally for the PROGRESS tag titles, Kid Lykos’ still-broken wrist ruled him out… so we had a change of partner for Chris Brookes, and a whole lot of anger from the vets as their tag title match was no more.
In Lykos’ place was Jimmy Havoc… a man whose run with tag team partners in PROGRESS had been rather spotty as of late. At least as far as results…
Brookes and Havoc worked well together in the opening moments, with Havoc playing guard on the outside to stop any sneaky tactics from the Veterans. That opened the door for a wet willie, as you do, before Drake raked away at the scarred back of Havoc as they forced their own way into things.
The wounds of Havoc were naturally a target for Drake and Gibson, at least until a series of switcharounds led to the Veterans jumping into each other as Havoc escaped. Brookes returned for a double Dragon screw as the makeshift tandem resurged, helped by Brookes backdropping Havoc onto them outside.
We got the Jimmy Lykos spot as he was handed a Lykos mask so he could play a goth wolf, and we then enter the land of “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” – Zack Gibson pulled out the referee after a slingshot cutter from Brookes… but then Lykos does the same to prevent a pin after Brookes took a Doomsday Device.
Problem was, that made Lykos a marked wolf, and he was caught by Gibson in a wristlock on the apron. Jimmy Havoc tried to break it up with Lykos’ baking tray, but he ended up wiping out Lykos by mistake, as the Veterans finished of Havoc with the Ticket to Mayhem (double team lungblower) as Brookes tended to Lykos. This wasn’t too bad a match, considering it was a replacement from the originally advertised bout… and some of it would play into events later in the night… ***¼
PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Wolfgang vs. WALTER (c)
This was Wolfgang’s in-ring PROGRESS debut… and unless you watched ICW, you’d have had no knowledge of him apart from his few WWE matches. That left Wolfie at the rather unfair disadvantage of having to win over a new crowd against a man who’d only just won back the Atlas title.
For the challenger to the Atlas title, it was a positively Herculean task.
To his credit, Wolfie did win over a decent portion of the Ballroom against two-belts WALTER, helped by a LOT of hard hitting. Just like all of our favourite big lads’ matches! A dropkick/leg lariat from Wolfgang took WALTER down early, but then he made the really dumb call to go for chops. Poor Wolfgang. He was no match for Austrian chops. Although he was able to escape a RINGKAMPF German suplex and ground WALTER with some waistlock takedowns, but WALTER came back with more chops, again taking down the Scotsman with a lariat.
The typical WALTER style served him well, but Wolfgang found some ways out, escaping from a powerbomb before taking the Austrian down for an attempt at the Howling. Except he was caught on the top rope with a huge chop. Ouch. A butterfly superplex takes down Wolfgang… double ouch… but the “Regulator” came back, taking WALTER to the outside for a flip tope that left both men laying.
It was just a matter of time though, and as soon as the match returned to the ring, WALTER swiftly got the win with a powerbomb. Good stuff, but I can’t help but wonder how much hotter this crowd would have been had Wolfgang not handled as a guy we “should have known about”… ***½
Sexy Starr (Jack Sexsmith & David Starr) vs. Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)
Oh come on, you knew why they called Jack and David “Sexy Starr” – cue an armbar joke as they used this to take a shot at the similarly-named luchadora. You know which one.
The crowd found a way to sing David’s “better” music. Do You Wanna Touch? Meanwhile, Trent and Tyler ditched Pete Dunne’s music, and dug up Tyler’s Sledgehammer sound-a-like theme from WWE’s archives.
So, this is how life after the tag titles started for once-again Moustache Mountain – as the bantering good guys against… two more good guys. Shades of the show opener, eh? It’s pretty even too, as Starr and Bate open up with a series of near-falls, before we get some kiss tags. Yeah, Trent tricked Tyler, and the banter continues.
Out of nowhere, Sexsmith abruptly grabbed a cross armbreaker on Trent, before throwing a chop. Yeah, it was a bad call, as he was silently chopped down like a tree straight after. Trent takes us back to the banter when he absolutely whiffed on a crossbody block, before he’s sent to the outside as the usual suspect’s chairs became endangered.
Back inside, Starr unloaded on Trent with the Product Recall, before Starr got shoved into Jack on the top rope, meaning that he had nobody to help him avoid a clothesline-assisted German… but at least Jack unleashed his BDSM onto both halves of Moustache Mountain to keep the match alive.
Sexsmith tagged in to fight off both Trent and Tyler with a Pearl Neckbreaker/LGBDT at the same time, before going back to the cross armbreaker… David Starr throws in the armbar to keep the Sexy Starr gimmick up, but Trent powerbombed himself free as the Authors’ of Pain Super Collider got the former tag champs free. A series of strikes quickly turned up the intensity as Starr hits a pair of Cherry Mint DDTs, before a BDSM-assisted Product Placement nearly killed Bate for a two-count!
Sexy Starr looked for duelling superplexes, but they’re fought away, with Sexsmith getting shoved to the outside before Trent Seven dumped Starr with a Burning Hammer, as the Tyler Driver gets the win. Fun stuff, but there’ll be plenty who’ll have issues with the phantom turn for Moustache Mountain. ***¼
After the match, proceedings were interrupted by Vicki Haskins… and a scary spiked bat. She provided a distraction as Mark came through the crowd and wiped out Sexy Starr with a chair… Jimmy Havoc makes the save, but it’s a hoax! He turned on Sexy Starr with his own chair, before using the bat to spike Sexsmith. Yep, he drew blood… and now PROGRESS has a new evil duo, who may be using the name “Entropy” if the tag line they’ve parroted on social media is anything to go by.
Well, after a year of the two of them being self-admitted let-downs, trying and failing to capture the PROGRESS title, it’s certainly one way to repackage them. It’ll be a different kind of chaos to what we’ve just come away from.
David Starr eventually helped Jack Sexsmith to the back after the new trio left… leading to an awkward silence. Well, not for long, anyway.
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Charli Evans vs. Toni Storm (c)
Charli won the one-night tournament at Revelations of Divine Love earlier in the month to claim her title shot… but whilst it created a hot challenger amongst those who were there, it didn’t seem to fully translate into the Ballroom.
Dahlia Black appeared on commentary for this one, starting with Storm easily walking away from a wristlock, before being taken down with a lucha-style armdrag as Evans unleashed a pair of running forearms… only for a headbutt to take Evans down. They headed outside where Storm decided to give Charli a seat, but only so she could deliver a hip attack… a second one misses, and Toni throws herself deep into the crowd.
Problem was, Evans wouldn’t win the title by count-out, so she broke the count and dragged Toni back in for another flurry of kicks and boots in the corner. A Saito suplex out of nowhere gets Charli a two-count, so she heads in for some Cattle Mutilation, but the double chicken wing’s released so Evans could try again for a cover.
It’s only good for a near-fall, as Storm fought back, dropping Charli with a snap German suplex and some more hip attacks, before countering a superplex attempt to drop Charli with a bucklebomb. From there it’s a small matter of a German into the corner and a Strong Zero piledriver, as Toni racked up another defence. Like most of tonight, this was a good outing, but Evans was facing a familiar problem: totally new to a decent proportion of the audience, which left her “fighting from beneath” to win over fans and be seen as a credible challenger all in the same match. Hopefully this isn’t Charli’s only appearance, as she showed a lot in her Ballroom debut here. ***
PROGRESS World Championship: Keith Lee vs. Travis Banks (c)
In his first title defence, Travis Banks looked to slay the dragons he’d built up during his run to the title, challenging Keith Lee after the “Limitless” one had beaten him handily back in July.
They called back to July’s encounter quite a lot here, starting with Keith Lee dancing to the crowd chanting for him. No, not that one about Keighley…
Lee quickly points out the size difference, and shrugged off an early chop from Banks… before proceeding to try and commit murder. There’s a lot of people in this life I wouldn’t try to chop. Keith Lee for sure is on that list, even if I could escape! Banks did manage to avoid Lee for a while, kicking him down to the outside, but a tope attempt stops in its tracks as Travis remembered what happened last time. Chop.
On second thoughts, he went back out for a trio of topes, finally knocking Lee down in the aisle, but back in the ring Lee finally gets off one of those devastating double chops. Ouch. Lee keeps up with a one handed slam and a sliding elbow to keep Trav down on the mat, ahead of a grounded abdominal stretch that Banks tried to kick away from.
Banks finally tried to hit back, but his double chop went just as you went. Absorbed, and replied to in kind. WHY?!
Regardless, Banks threw some back, and actually staggered Lee from corner to corner with them, only for the Keith Lee show to resume with a headbutt and a soul-destroying chop of his own. The familiarity returns with Lee throwing Banks around the ring with ease, at least until Banks fought back, working into a cannonball to the back of a crouching Lee.
A Slice of Heaven’s easily avoided as Banks bounced into Lee, prompting more onslaught from Lee, who bounced the Kiwi high into the air with a Spirit Bomb… but Banks somehow kicked out! Lee’s attempt at a moonsault’s quickly cut-off as Banks took his chance, hitting a back cracker and a Coast to Coast for another near-fall. Yet again, Lee’s size helped him swat away Banks with a forearm, but the tide kept on turning, with a pair of dropkicks leaving Lee down.
At least for a second or two, as another Spirit Bomb bounced Banks off the mat, but it’s still not enough! Lee tries to finish him off with Ground Zero, but Banks elbows free and flips out… only for a Slice of Heaven to get caught and turned into Ground Zero, which Banks turned into a roll-up in mid-air for another two! In the end though, Banks has to avoid another Spirit Bomb before hitting a Slice of Heaven…
Another Slice of Heaven takes Lee down to a knee, and then the insane happens. He escapes another Spirit Bomb attempt and pelts Keith with some kicks, before hoisting Lee up for a Kiwi Crusher… and that one shock is enough to but the big man down for the count! Travis Banks retains, and that’s defence number one out of the way after his run to the title had been characterised by defeat. A monstrous match to end the show, with both men showing plenty of battle marks afterwards. Travis’ chest after the match… yeah… chops aren’t good for you! ****
PROGRESS’ first chapter show after Alexandra Palace was a bit of a reset – with a lot of good matches, but nothing much breaking through that proverbial glass ceiling either.
A pretty major story was started, with the new unit of Havoc and Haskins looking to tear through PROGRESS… whilst the new direction for British Strong Style was perhaps the biggest take-away from this show – and as much as the crowd seemed to be willing to cheer on the guys they’d been hating for a year, it was absolutely jarring to see. I’m assuming that Joseph Conners isn’t a “one and done” appearance, and he’ll become some part of the Grizzled Young Veterans in a feud with British Strong Style.
That’s a feud that’s going to need to be sold to a few people, given that Drake and Conners are far from endeared in any way by the kind of fans that are attracted to PROGRESS. Regardless, these changes really made this show feel fresh – something that was much needed as the build to Alexandra Palace was starting to grate on folks…
- “Chapter 56 – La Danse Macabre” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.