Far from your regular show, PROGRESS’ visit to Camden in November was memorable for several reasons – some good, some unfortunate. Here’s our take…
We’re back in the land of shows going over 3 hours long for the final “regular” Electric Ballroom show of the year, and you know the drill with the show opens these days. New fans get “welcomed”, shall we say, and it’s off to the matches… but since Matt Riddle’s got to be in Yeovil later in the day, he’s on first!
PROGRESS World Championship: Matt Riddle vs. Travis Banks (c)
The “Travis Banks slays his demons” tour continued here as he took on Matt Riddle in what I’m guessing will be the last of these matches? Unless we get Jack Gallagher at Unboxing to tie up that loose end from Boston?
Anyway, going into this show, PROGRESS dropped a teaser about “Valhalla” – the arrival of someone, or something momentous. With the bulk of the crowd unaware of Riddle’s other obligation later that day, a lot of folks took this match being on first as a cue that Valhalla was coming early. It wasn’t… and it made for a bit of a weird atmosphere as some seemed to be expecting the run-in as Riddle and Banks grappled on the mat early.
We’re swiftly into chops too, and this is why we got this match – one of PROGRESS’ regular photographers just LOVES to get shots of a battle-scarred Travis, especially once he’s taken loads of kicks and chops… Some dives help with the battle-scarring too, with a trio of topes knocking Riddle into the crowd… but that third one is caught and turned into an Exploder into the fourth row. Ouch. All the kicks and chops resume outside, as Chris Roberts forgets the entire concept of a count-out, before Banks takes it back inside to set Riddle up for an eventual cannonball into the corner.
Banks almost became unstuck when his Coast to Coast dropkick was caught and turned into an ankle lock, with Riddle firing up into a Bro to Sleep and a German suplex as he looked to get the surprising win. Banks kicks out (just as my VOD froze in this wonderfully-timed spot), and fires back… before seeing a Slice of Heaven countered into another ankle lock! Trav escapes into a Lion’s Clutch, but Riddle gets to the ropes and rebounds into a pair of Fisherman busters to keep the match poised.
Another Slice of Heaven’s countered into a rear naked choke as Banks counters in and out into a tombstone slam… but Riddle lands it in the end for. A one count? Okay, thanks for coming. Even more chops and kicks follow, before duelling big boots led to a double-down – and some expecting Valhalla here. Not yet. Instead, yep, more chops, as Riddle goes into relatively unchartered terrotiry… and gets caught with a top rope Kiwi Crusher!
It’s Riddle’s turn to kick out at one, but Banks stays on top, throwing in a Slice of Heaven and a Kiwi Crusher for a near-fall, before his last ditch Lion’s Clutch forces the submission. Well, that’s a way to get going isn’t it? Balls to the wall… now, how the hell do you follow that? ****
M&M (Connor Mills & Maverick Mayhew) vs. Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins
“Save The Children!” was the cry from the crowd for this, as the debuting 17-year-old Mayhew was almost-certainly facing death. At least they’d be going out in matching ring gear…
Havoc and Haskins jump the kids at the bell, who respond by taking the fight to the morose pair, utilising the ropes to full effect – even if Mayhew slipped early. To their credit, they didn’t let that dissuade them, before Havoc and Haskins played them at their own game, with a homing-missile-like tope from Havoc wiping out Mayhew on the outside.
It gets quite savage as Havoc and Haskins decimate young Mayhew, with a wheelbarrow attempt getting turned into a backbreaker as Connor Mills – whom at a glance looked scarily-like Kyle Fletcher with those braids – could only watch. A half-nelson suplex from Havoc keeps Mayhew down, as the Kiss of Death – a nice double-team belly-to-back/regular piledriver would have won the match, had Mills not broken it up.
It was nice knowing you, Connor…
Predictably, Mills becomes the next target, with an apron death valley driver and a double stomp taking him out of commission, before going back to Mayhew with a pair of rolling death valley drivers, as the Kiss of Death – an Acid Rainmaker and superkick combo – gets the win. Exactly the kind of obliteration that Havoc and Haskins needed to establish this pair as a threat. M&M looked pretty good for their brief offence, with poor Maverick being the perfect target for the beating. ***
After the match, Vicki Haskins takes the microphone… but drops it, in keeping with their “no explanation” creed.
Jack Sexsmith vs. Eddie Dennis
This was Eddie’s first match since his character shift at Alexandra Palace in September. Notice, I’m not saying “heel turn”… since his promo work (and social media postings too) make it very hard to disagree with his reasonings. The best way to phrase this is Eddie’s gone aggressive, doing what he needs to to make his living.
Eddie’s got new music, switching from his screeching “Next Stop Driver!” intro to a melodic track that reminded me a lot of Mankind’s old outro song. As long as he doesn’t start donning a leather mask, all will be fine. Eddie jumps Jack at the bell, and I think we know what sort of match we’re getting – one with a vicious beating from Dennis, who turfed Jack outside as he had the odd heckle to deal with. Although to be fair “Demon Headmaster” would have been quite a wacky character…
The brutality starts as Jack’s thrown into the ring post with a crucifix bomb, but Eddie’s got enough sense to not go after Chris Roberts, instead returning to the ring to take what he thought would be a count-out win. Sexsmith beats the count, but he’s quickly sent flying with a Severn Bridge crucifix bucklebomb, then a short-arm lariat… but Jack kicks out again, prompting the crowd to taunt Eddie with chants of “you can’t beat him”.
Yep, there’s more beatings for Jack, who’s hung in the ropes as Eddie throws him back outside, where Jack’s next moment follows… escaping a crucifix bomb into the crowd and countering with a LGBDT off the apron!
Back inside, Jack does all Mark Andrews on us with a Stundog Millionaire as he tried to mount a comeback, hitting a Sliced Bread out of the corner before going for Cocko. Eddie punches free of it, only to get caught into a crossface as that fightback continued… and promptly ended with a spinning suplex off the middle rope as Eddie put the brakes on Jack… at least momentarily, as he slipped out of the Next Stop Driver and planted Eddie on his head with a nice-looking Rainbow Road destroyer!
Jack tries for one move too many though, and when his BDSM misses, he’s caught with a Next Stop Driver… but Eddie won’t pin him. He pulls him up at one, and hits another Next Stop Driver. Wash, rinse, repeat, and eventually Eddie forces Chris Roberts to stop the match as he refused to stop pounding on Jack. In some places, that’d be a DQ loss for Eddie for unnecessary violence, but here the ref stoppage (and ensuing intimidation) leads to Eddie getting the win. A dominating win for Eddie, who continued the beating afterwards… ***
…and Jack eventually gets saved by Travis Banks?! In Manchester, Eddie knocked out Travis with a forearm, but here he powders to the back, only stopping to challenge Banks to a title match after revealing his disgust at how PROGRESS had never given him a singles title match in his entire time here.
No Disqualification: Jinny vs. Dahlia Black
This was capping off the summer-long feud between the pair, which all started when Jinny started to target Dahlia’s healed leg at the ill-fated PROGRESS New York show. Things built up, including the Family Guy chicken-fight series in Manchester a few weeks prior, as we now get a no DQ match here, with the winner getting a Women’s title shot. There’s a fabulously under-rated promo package building this up, and then we cut to…
On the flip side, screaming Jinny’s saying is perhaps not the best thing to be doing when she’s carrying a barbed wire chair. Or indeed, ever. Boo the bad guys!
Neither Dahlia or Jinny held back here, with Dahlia storming the ring and throwing the first blow before the bell as the pair instantly fought outside. They make a beeline for the stage, where those forearms fly, as Jinny demands that they clear the commentary table… and true to Wrestling Logic, she takes it as Dahlia powerbombed her through the wood.
Dahlia quickly drags Jinny back to the ring, but she can only get a two-count, before wedging the barbed-wire chair between the ropes as she teased throwing Jinny into it. Jinny puts on the brakes and unloads with a flurry of strikes before Dahlia suplexes her onto that chair. Jesus wept!
They head outside again, and again Jinny’s orders backfire as she’s thrown deep into the crowd. It’s plunder time next as Dahlia grabs a Singapore cane, but has to avoid getting hit with it before dumping Jinny with a short suplex. An attempt at the Dark Side of the Moon(sault) sees things go off the rails as Jinny swats her out of the air with the first of a flurry of cane shots, before she orders some of the ring crew into setting up a table for her.
Dahlia tries to knock Jinny off the apron and through another table, but instead the pair fight on the apron until Jinny gets back in and delivers a pump kick as Dahlia crashes through the furniture. Next up: a fresh bag of thumb tacks! Jinny tries to shove Dahlia’s face into them, but instead Dahlia replies with a Samoan drop into the pins! Jesus wept…
More plunder follows as Dahlia grabs a splintered piece of wood and chokes Jinny with it… but an Acid Rainmaker counters it to almost snatch the win, before a Style Clash gets a similar result. Eventually, a few chairshots then a Style Clash onto the chair gets the win, making that one guy very happy. Well, they ticked the brutality and plunder boxes, but this felt a little rushed… going 12 minutes and squeezing a LOT in there. Good effort, and without trolling Jon Briley with the “I would have done…” route, the question has to be asked: where do you go next? Do you finally pull the trigger on Jinny as champion? **¾
After interval, we’ve got some shout-outs from Jim again, which featured an all-time classic moment. Chris Kyriakides – of which somehow there were TWO in the same room – was set-up by friends ahead of his wedding. He was asked what wrestler’s music he’d use for his wedding… with the answer being RINGKAMPF. So Jim offers him a dry-run, which Chris does with so much gusto that he’s oblivious to this surprise appearance.
Who thought Timothy Thatcher had a sense of humour?
Strangler Davis vs. Timothy Thatcher
After months of it seemingly being forgotten about, Davis’ Atlas title shot was on the line here… and perhaps we should have seen this coming? We’ll skip over the brief shoving match Davis had with a fan, which did nobody any favours… least of all the guy whose run as a baddie so far has been troublesome.
As for the match… well, it was short. Thatcher charged at Davis at the bell, peppering him with strikes, before Davis fired back and dumped him viciously over the top rope. Yep, that was quite the thud as Timmy went over the top… but this ain’t the Royal Rumble!
What it was though, was the surprise. Davis poses, but music hits as everyone figured out this was Valhalla… and Valhalla was… ROB LYNCH. Supposedly retiring last month, this was the return of Davis’ former tag partner… and in the ensuing shock, Thatcher hits the ring and rolls up Davis for the win!
That, of course, wasn’t the story…. Thatcher got out of dodge as the former Riots tear into each other, before ring crew – and a newly-suited Paul Robinson – eventually pulled them apart. Well, that was quite the return, and it looks like we are getting a proper feud here, rather than a one-and-done “retirement” deal.
Anyway, not satisfied with 90 seconds of work, Thatcher hung around for another match, issuing an open challenge.
Timothy Thatcher vs. Chris Ridgeway
Ridgeway had already worked on the show, beating Damon Moser in the pre-show match to qualify for the TETSUJIN tournament next year.
Well, this was quite the unexpected treat – particularly in the form of Ridgeway’s chapter debut here. There’s a lot of grappling early as Matt Richards on commentary seemed to think this was another TETSUJIN rules match… stopped when Chris Roberts started to count pins before Thatcher began throwing right hands to the body of “Smashmouth”.
Ridgeway rebounds and returns some of those favours, as the pair traded the advantage numerous times, with Ridgeway throwing Thatcher around for fun with a trio of German suplexes… but after kicking out Timmy goes straight to the key lock before slapping Ridgeway to the outside.
When Ridgeway returns, he’s instantly taken down with a butterfly suplex as they continued to go tit-for-tat, with Riddy hitting an enziguiri and an axe kick as he looked to polish off the RINGKAMPF member with a PK… but he’s suddenly caught with a Fujiwara armbar from Thatcher for a flash submission. Enjoyable, but I can’t help but wonder how much better this’d come across had it been built. Then again, with Thatcher being the number one contender for the Atlas title, it’d have been quite the shake-up if he’d won here. ***¼
Joseph Conners vs. Flash Morgan Webster
It was always going to be an uphill battle. When Joseph Conners first appeared in the Ballroom the prior month, the response was a mixture of laughter, yawns and “oh, for fuck’s sake”-style exclaimations.
So, when you’re in a new setting, with an audience that at best is indifferent, perhaps the best thing to do isn’t to go full Larry Zbyszko and stall for time? Unless the intent was to draw those chants of “Joseph Boring” and the like. Flash gets bored and dives onto Conners to try and spark something, but Conners stays out there, where he’s back body dropped onto the floor. Another one of those led to Webster trying to slide outside, but he’s caught in the ring apron a la Finlay, before Conners busts out something that looked nice – a reverse torture rack backbreaker.
It’s just a shame that there was precious little else to get the crowd to even think about engaging with him. We’ve been here before, with Wolfgang having an uphill struggle in October, but he at least managed to win the crowd over… Conners, just did “his match”, which was more akin to jamming a square peg into the proverbial round hole of the Electric Ballroom.
What Conners was doing didn’t generate boos, it just sucked the atmosphere out of the room while he was on top. Webster fires back with a diving clothesline, and now the crowd wake up (coincidence?), just in time for Flash to hit a Rude Boy moonsault press out of the corner for a near-fall.
More knees from Webster eventually acted as a set up for a Brit Pop Drop, but Conners manages to come back in with a slingshot Flatliner as Webster’s mettle seemed to frustrate him. That was nothing a sunset bomb into the middle turnbuckle couldn’t sort, as Conners picked up a two-count, before Flash landed his Eton Rifle (the Destino).
A Pinball Wizard senton bomb off the top crushes Conners, but it’s still not enough, and Conners burst back into life, hitting an Awful Waffle as he looked to target Webster’s repaired shoulder. Repeated elbows to that joint put Flash down, as Conners yellowed at him that his shoulder made him “weak… (which is why) I’m contracted and you’re not”, before the Don’t Look Down hammerlock Flatliner picks up the win. Well… by the time Conners showed life, a lot of the crowd had written him off as being bland and colourless. I just wish they hadn’t waved the flag the cynic were using for Conners’ arrival in PROGRESS – that it’s because of the WWE connection. **½
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Alex Windsor vs. Toni Storm (c)
Windsor won that four-way in Manchester a few weeks earlier to get this title shot – and with the winner facing Jinny next, this may be a predictable result.
Storm looked to end this early by going after Windsor with German suplexes, but an early hip attack misses as Alex powdered to the outside… and into the path of a dive! The pair ended up on the apron, where Storm hits a headbutt before being backdropped onto the edge of the ring. Sadly, this was another match where the crowd just struggled to get invested, despite the usual reaction-provoking reactions like that apron spot. In the ring, Windsor swiftly moves into a Sharpshooter as she tried to capitalise on the worn-down back, but Storm’s able to make the ropes for freedom.
More shots to the back of Storm followed as Windsor wore down the Aussie, landing a curb stomp for a near-fall before the match descended into another series of strikes. Storm snaps back out of nowhere with a German suplex before finally hitting that hip attack in the corner and an Okada-ish neckbreaker slam… one that looked to jam Alex’s neck badly.
Windsor senses the Strong Zero piledriver was incoming, so she hits back with another German suplex as Toni Hulk’d up… into a Shining Wizard as Windsor almost shocked the Ballroom. Another Sharpshooter’s attempted, but Storm powers out and gets in a back cracker for a two-count, before running into a powerbomb as the pair went tit-for-tat in search of the win.
Storm rebounds once more with a suplex into the turnbuckles, before building up to a dropkick… but it’s caught and turned into yet another Sharpshooter. Toni again escapes, and this time decides to just end things, spiking Windsor with the Strong Zero for the win. Bell-to-bell, this was pretty good, but Storm was severely on the back foot throughout before eking out the win with her big move. ***
Again, not to Brilo-Troll with the fantasy booking, but this is arguably result of the lack of a deep women’s division. Since the women’s title came into being, the general arc for the women’s’ title has been “someone wins a match for a title shot, loses their match” – with a lot of washing, rinsing and repeating. What that’s led to is cases when perhaps the lesser-involved stars like Alex Windsor get a shot, there’s no credibility, and we get flat matches like this.
PROGRESS World Tag Team Championship: Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs. #CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos) (c)
This was meant to have happened last month, but Lykos’ recovery from a broken wrist meant that he was replaced by Jimmy Havoc (and the rest was history). Of course, whilst the crowd were eager to poke fun at James “Choo Choo” Drake for his moment of fame on 205 Live, Zack Gibson gleefully took the piss at the fact that we had the rare sighting of a healthy wolf, which was unfortunate…
Especially since it forced Lykos to actually speak!
When we got going, Gibson went for the wolf’s freshly-healed wrist, before Lykos sent the Veterans into the switcheroo series, eventually pushing Drake into Gibson. Some headscissors takes Drake into the ropes for the Sick-1-9 cannonball, as #CCK looked to be taking control of the match.
A crushing back senton from Brookes puts Drake in place for everyone’s favourite wet willie, but the Veterans turn things around with a low Gibson dropkick to put Brookes down onto the mat. Lykos gets in a blind tag as #CCK again pair up into the original sick f’n tag move, only for their challengers to take a powder to the outside. Somehow all four men get in the ring for a square-off as Chris Roberts threatened to lose what little control he had, as the challengers again take things outside as they sandwich Brookes with forearms before catching a tope con hilo from Lykos and throwing him deep into the crowd. Bye-bye, wolf…
The attention shifted onto Brookes as Lykos slowly made his way back to his feet, but it’s a prolonged teardown of the Calamari Catch King, who doesn’t have the luxury of anyone to tag out to as Drake and Gibson freely made use of tags. Brookes manages a comeback, hitting a double Dragon screw, but the lack of a wolf means that the momentum swing was fairly short-lived.
Lykos eventually emerges… above me. Yep, he dives off the railing with a somersault plancha… but immediately grabs his right shoulder as the Lykos curse sadly hits once again. All by himself once more, Brookes tries to build momentum, succeeding with a moonsault off the middle turnbuckles as the wolf was tended to.
Everyone watching on as Zack Gibson stacked up chairs for an eventual landing pad… and you know Wrestling Logic by now. Brookes escapes a double-team powerbomb and instead hurls the Scouser off the stage onto the self-made pile of chairs… and Brookes can barely celebrate, as James Drake drags a bin from backstage to keep his little gimmick going! Eventually everyone heads back to the ring, including a newly-bruised Gibson, but Zack quickly locks in the Shankly Gates back inside to force Brookes to crawl towards the ropes… but to the shock of everyone, Chris taps out. We have new tag team champions – and a mass of confusion to boot. Soon… is now!
Watching live, it was pretty evident that things derailed badly once Lykos went down hurt. Still, they made a fist of it, and now we’ve got a new direction, however impromptu it may have been – as Zack Gibson and James Drake left with the gold, bringing a second brief #CCK title run to an end. ***
Chapter 58 was a weird, top-down show – starting with the World title match and ending with the tag title switch. Lykos’ reinjured shoulder looks to keep him out until the new year at the very least, which will probably force another rejig in plans, although for everyone’s sanity, hopefully not one that requires a day in Milton Keynes to sort out! By no means was this wasn’t a bad show, although the flat spell in the second half certainly left some a little down on proceedings. PROGRESS are still in their rebuilding phase after Alexandra Palace, and with speculation still mounting over the future of the WWE-contracted regulars, the rebuild may need a little acceleration.
Next up for PROGRESS is Sheffield this weekend, before the now-traditional end-of-year Unboxing Live mystery show, as the spectre of three days at Alexandra Palace for Super Strong Style 16 begins to appear once more…
- “Chapter 58 – Live Your Best Life” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.