PROGRESS headed to Manchester for their first show of the year there… and they brought a loaded line-up as the city finally got a long-standing wish!
Much credit goes to the PROGRESS team – that being Jon Briley – for editing this on holiday. Hopefully it’s not going to result in a crowd-funder for a divorce settlement for the madman… We’re in the O2 Ritz in Manchester, with Glen Joseph and Matt Richards on commentary.
Natural Progression Series V First Round: Spike Trivet vs. Drew Parker
We’re finally in the tournament proper here, with Spike Trivet resisting spitting whatever it is in his fancy bottle at the crowd… because he had a mouthful for Drew at the bell.
Parker reacted like you’d expect him to, sending Spike packing to the outside… but a missed dive gets Trivet right back in it, before getting a near-fall with a sit-out front suplex. Yup, didn’t expect Spike to be borrowing from K-Kwik’s repertoire! Spike keeps in control for long enough to have another swig of champagne, which he again sprays at Parker, who pulls his way out of a Tree of Woe as he took Spike out with a stomp.
Drew turns up the tempo from there, nailing a dive and a Detonation kick for a near-fall, but Spike’s still in it, kicking out the leg ahead of a DDT. A Slingblade and a Samoan driver gets another near-fall, but out of nowhere Parker nails Spike with a small package driver… and that’s him into the quarter-finals! A pretty fun opener, and very swift too – although hopefully this isn’t the end of Spike on these shows… **¾
Spike hung around the ringside area, and comes back in with a bottle of champagne, smashing it over Parker’s head as he celebrated. Crash! That led to one of the weirder pops of the day: electric hoovers!
House of Couture (Nina Samuels & Chakara) vs. Charlie Morgan & Toni Storm
After the events at the Electric Ballroom two weeks ago, we’ve got the first outing of Jinny’s new squad – the House of Couture. King of Trios warm-up, is it?
Toni and Charlie jump start the match, and it’s Toni and Nina who start in the ring as the good guys eased ahead. Morgan cracks Samuels in the corner with a dropkick that led into her Shawn Michaels-ish pose across the top rope, but Nina’s quickly back in it, cornering Charlie as she’s worn down with forearms.
She does manage to dive free and tag in Toni… who’s quickly distracted by Jinny grabbing her ankle as the House of Couture kept control, picking up where they left off. A snap suplex gets Nina a near-fall, as do some charging knees into the corner, before she’s forced to fight out of a superplex attempt… which she does by slipping under and delivering a Cheeky Nando’s style big boot into the corner.
Chakara keeps it going as Storm’s left in there to take a lot of offence, but Toni’s able to slip in a sunset flip as Jinny’s crew tightened their grip. One leapover from Toni helps her get free, as she throws in a German suplex and a hip attack before Charlie returned… and Morgan is a house on fire as her and Toni chained stuff together. A quick suplex from Chakara almost ends things, but Morgan’s able to hit a superkick before Storm cracked Chakara with a neckbreaker slam that almost ended things. The back and forth continues with a Go To Sleep and a backbreaker from Nina, but she’s quickly booted outside as Toni snaps in the Strong Zero piledriver on Chakara for the win. Entertaining stuff, and a solid debut outing – even in defeat – for Jinny’s crew. **¾
Jinny didn’t seem *that* fussed by her team’s loss… but it was when Toni Storm called her back to the ring afterwards that things went sour. After talking about finding a “good friend” in Charlie, and accidentally calling Jinny a “pirate”, there’s a turn as Charlie superkicked Toni. Well then. I’m not usually a fan of turns after a match like this – particularly when her partner took a beating during the match – but I guess it worked in the longer term context of “can Toni trust anyone?”
Flash Morgan Webster vs. Mark Andrews
Days before flying out to be a part of 205 Live, Mark Andrews had his match against the guy I was joking he should team with. There’s no surprise from Eddie Dennis before the match, and it’s a pretty even start as both men keep things on the ground, with Webster just about edging ahead.
Andrews tries to turn up the pace with some armdrags, but Webster stuffs one and frustrates the high flyer, before nailing a Rude Boy moonsault press as Andrews just couldn’t get into gear. It’s perhaps the most sustained offence Webster’s had in a PROGRESS match in a long while… and just as I type that, Andrews nails a tornado DDT out of the corner to snatch a near-fall.
A 450 off the middle rope misses as Andrews rolls through… only to turn around into Webster’s Angels Wings as the Mod kept racking up those two-counts. Andrews fights outs out of a Brit Pop Drop but can’t avoid the headbutt, as he’s then taken up top for a… bloody hell, a reverse ‘rana! Right on the head! It’s still not enough though as Andrews kicks out at two, but the Shadows over Malice senton lands on Andrews’ knees as Vicki Haskins wandered out to ringside.
Webster tried to order Vicki away, which she does… taking Webster’s moped helmet with her as Andrews capitalises, taking down Webster for a shooting star press for the win. This was much better than I made it sound, as endless buffering took me out of things. Flash’s winning streak is snapped at one, and he’s lost his helmet again! ***½
Flash wasn’t exactly happy with how things went, but he quickly smoothed it over with a hug. But wait, there’s more! Here’s Eddie! Webster steps aside for him, which is a nice touch as Flash is hardly a 100% blue-eye, as the old ones could have called him, and Eddie Dennis marches to the ring ready to call his old tag team partner a snake. Hey, I think someone in Germany has that act…
Eddie’s become really great at making anything sound rational, including the “huh-huh, you going to 205 Live to follow Mark?” mocking of the fans. He laid out Andrews as he promised that he wouldn’t be going to Bakersfield for 205 Live… and now it’s time for chairs as Eddie wants to make sure Mark can’t either. One of the ring crew saved Andrews from getting Pillman-ized, as Eddie’s left steaming in the ring.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyler Bate
You’ve got to go back almost two years to the last time these two had a singles match… with Kamikaze Pro having those honours.
This was a technical masterclass, with Sabre and Bate keeping things on the mat… Sabre going through his usual array of stretching submissions, forcing Tyler to try rather dubious ways to escape, standing on Sabre’s feet to try and escape a full nelson. Meanwhile, Sabre’s rather nonchalant in breaking up Tyler’s wristlock shenanigans, before he started to wrench away on Bate’s wrist as a way of showing dominance. Well, everything he stops Tyler from doing, and all that…
Tyler escapes with a kick though to save his wrist, and that starts a big strike exchange as the pair swap European uppercuts until Sabre decided to go “stuff it” and just try and wrench Bate’s arm off again. In spite of Tyler’s exploits, he’s relatively inexperienced, and Sabre’s treating him like the young boy he comparatively is.
A knee lift and a diving knee off the middle rope gets Bate back in, as he followed in with an Exploder and a standing shooting star press to give the former WWE UK champion a near-fall. Just like that though, Sabre’s right back in with an STF, throwing in a cravat and all manner of variations as he delayed the eventual rope break while slowly easing into his role as a bully.
A bridging half-nelson suplex after a PK nearly ends it for Bate, but his Bop/Bang punch got him a breather… before he powerbombed out of an armbar as Sabre thought he’d stopped Tyler’s rebound lariat. Good Lord, this isn’t disappointing! The Euro Clutch follows as Sabre countered out of a tombstone, and it’s’ not long before Zack’s climbing around Tyler again in search of submissions… but it’s quickly countered into a Gotch tombstone for a near-fall!
Yup. Still bloody great.
Sabre’s still going for armbars, and Octopus stretches, before the transitions continue into the Young Boy Killer – the double armbar that messed up Flash Morgan Webster’s shoulder… and the renamed Hyper Normalisation forces Tyler to quit. A veritable clinic of the graps, or whatever you want to call it… and a match that felt rather effortless. Well worth a watch! ****½
Before the start of the second half, Jack Sexsmith appeared to address the crowd. Long story short, he’s cashing in the title shot he won at Sheffield… and he’s going to do it in the main event of PROGRESS’ next big show in Manchester, at the Victoria Warehouse in May. Well then!
David Starr & Matt Riddle vs. British Strong Style (Pete Dunne & Trent Seven)
This was… ridiculous. Right from the introductions for the “Broducts”, as they did each other’s shtick, right down to amended nicknames and David Starr being branded the “Jew-serweight” when he wore Pete Dunne’s jacket.
Right at the bell, Trent rolled to the floor… he doesn’t want another six seconds with Matt Riddle. Smart man. Instead, it’s Dunne who starts as he tries to grapple with Riddle, but it’s the bare feet of riddle that come into play early as Dunne wrenches away on his toes to save himself from submission attempts. Tags brought in Starr and Seven, as they keep things calmed down, with “the Product” tripping the ever gullible Trent.
One chop makes Starr tag out, and the response from Matt Riddle… sees Seven fall like a tree. To the disgust of Dunne. As you were.
Pete Dunne’s had enough, but his attempt at interference is quickly quashed as the former PROGRESS tag champs were legitimately struggling. Chops from Riddle will do that to you, I suppose. Finally, Trent tries to chop his way back in, but duelling headbutts leave everyone laying, before tags take us to Dunne and Riddle… with neither man afraid to throw down.
Dunne’s German suplex is no-sold as Riddle is back up with a Bro to Sleep, and it’s not long before Trent’s back to chop the hell out of Starr again. A Product Recall yanks Trent back in, ahead of a Shining Wizard for a near-fall as Starr tries for a Blackheart Buster, only for Trent to counter with a piledriver instead. The Blackheart Buster follows eventually, as we’re back to Dunne and Riddle in a good old-fashioned fight as they threw bombs at each other.
Those bombs quickly end when Peter bites Riddle’s feet as the match breaks down, and culminated with a kick-assisted piledriver from Trent… only for Riddle to fly off the top with a back senton to break up the resulting pin.
A cheapshot from Dunne as he was in the ropes left Riddle down, but we get a series of 2-on-1 then 1-on-2 as Starr worked up to a pair of Cherry Mint DDTs before double German suplexes left British Strong Style down. The Doomsday flying knee gets a near-fall too, before Dunne backflips out of Product Placement as the match entered its final furlongs… an errant tope from Starr wiped out Riddle, with the Orihara moonsault from Dunne keeping them down too.
Still, Starr’s able to recover, but a backfist from Trent stops Dunne from taking a Product Placement, before a Burning Hammer from Trent and a Bitter End from Dunne sealed the win. Entertaining stuff from start to finish, but there’ll be those who’ll be watching this on the VOD shrugging their shoulders at what exactly this accomplished. It’s almost like we’re within a hair’s breadth of getting the British Strong Style trios matches in PROGRESS – and those have already worn thin on a section of British fans. In a vacuum though, this was terrific. ***¾
Mark Davis vs. WALTER
Good God. You know how much we’re a fan of the big lads here… especially when they’re gleefully laying into each other. Manchester clearly isn’t a RINGKAMPF ring-jacket city for WALTER, or perhaps it’s because it’s non-title?
We start with battering shoulder blocks before Davis cornered WALTER with a kick and a sliding forearm to nearly end things early on… and the Austrian responds by throwing a heavy chop. The first of MANY. Davis tries to throw back, but that doesn’t work out so great for him as WALTER has already drawn blood. Holy crap.
It still doesn’t stop Davis from trying, but WALTER’s right back in with more chops and clotheslines as the bloodied Aussie was forced to kick out from a butterfly suplex. The chops continue as Davis is forced to wriggle out of a piledriver, before he flips out of the RINGKAMPF German suplex as the comeback… quickly ended with another chop. Good heavens.
Davis tries to punch his way back in, and eventually clotheslines WALTER outside for a dive that grazed the big man… who ended up eating a lariat back inside as WALTER was finally knocked off his feet. Another right hand from Davis sparks a flurry of offence, but a shotgun dropkick from hell took Davis into the corner before he’s somehow able to kick out from a powerbomb.
Davis teases the pull-up piledriver… WALTER’s instantly “nope”ing it as he’s back in with chops, before dragging Davis to the mat for more clubbing punches and a rear naked choke as the match ended how it was always going to… in a bloody mess. This was beautifully violent, which isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if it is… this was exactly what you expected going in. ****
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) (c)
So, when you’ve got two pairs of bad guys, who do you back? Judging by the crowd, it certainly wasn’t Gibson and Drake, who vowed to make the PROGRESS tag titles “world” titles by taking the belts to China and New Orleans…
The bell goes once Havoc and Haskins shrugged off the jump start, but this suffered from a lack of an invested crowd, whom seemed to be into entertaining themselves with chants and heckles. There’s a spell where the challengers isolated Gibson in the corner, before a slingshot into a death valley driver from Havoc led to a pair of eye rakes between the two.
There’s some entertaining moments when Drake and Haskins try to pull each other off the apron as the bad guys tried to out-cheat each other. Haskins ends up almost countering Making Towns into a superplex, before instead he wriggled free and nailed a dropkick as Havoc’s tagged back in to poke some more eyes. Oh, and nail a pair of flying Khali chops. There ya go.
A missed Acid Rainmaker set up Havoc to take the Deftones enziguiri and a superkick-assisted enziguiri, but the cheating nearly ends the match as Havoc and Haskins went for the Warrior/Rude WrestleMania finish – with Havoc playing the Bobby Heenan role… but instead the ref’s pulled out. The distraction continued as the ref misses a small package that Havoc and Drake manipulated their way, but it leads to nothing as instead Gibson ends up laying out everyone – including his own man, by mistake.
More interference from Vicki Haskins means the ref misses a pair of low blows and small packages from the champions… that angered Drake and Gibson as Joel Allen remained distracted as all four men ended up with low blows. The champs go ahead with a Ticket to Ride from Gibson and a 450 Splash from Drake… but Havoc rolls outside and again the ref’s distracted as Flash Morgan Webster’s helmet comes into play, with Haskins laying out Gibson with it.
Flash appears to retrieve it, but there’s another distraction as Drake turns around into a superkick/Acid Rainmaker combo for the win as we have new champions! This felt flat, understandably so given the crowd had nobody to back. A wonky atmosphere that did the match no favours, and seemed to be more about the crossover with Webster at the end than anything else. ***
The main event is, ooh, two weeks in the making, after Chris Brookes cost TK Cooper his title shot against Travis Banks at the last chapter. At least this time the title match is the main event, and not dealing with the perception of “just being in the midcard”…
PROGRESS World Championship: TK Cooper vs. Chris Brookes vs. Travis Banks (c)
The PROGRESS cameraman went a little too Kevin Dunn with the zooming to TK’s music… no thanks!
TK suckered Brookes at the bell as the three-way stuff got going… and we’re right in with TK telling us he’s Samoan as he shrugs off some superkicks early. We then go to TK teasing *that* dive, but he’s still a little nervous about it, and drops down rather than hit the dive that put him on the shelf last year.
Everyone else does dives though, with a low-pe from Banks and a tope con giro from Brookes paying off, before TK just decides to throw chairs. Well, it’s no DQ, I guess… but Travis Banks is back to swatting those chairs away, before the receipts end up getting met by the ring crew as TK pulled those poor buggers into harms’ way. TK and Travis are going for chairs, with Joe Atherton thankfully not giving up his, but it seemed like just about everyone else in the front row did, given by how many of the bloody chairs came into play. So many swinging chairs, it’s like they’re repeating WALTER and Timothy Thatcher, but with seats rather than hands. Eh, it works…
Finally they make it to the ring, where Brookes nails a rope-hung swinging neckbreaker to Banks before TK comes in and starts throwing bombs with some neat series between all three men. For whatever reason though, this story just doesn’t seem to be clicking as well as it perhaps ought to, hence the crowd’s muted reactions. A Spider German suplex from Brookes dumped TK on his head, but Cooper’s back with a Spanish Fly after Banks had taken out Brookes with the Coast to Coast, wrapping up another rapid-fire sequence. TK’s back-and-forth chops earn him another superkick, but he’s still Samoan… and we all fall down eventually!
TK’s back to mock Chris Brookes with an Octopus on Banks… but Brookes returns to add his own, as he wrapped up both halves of the South Pacific Power Trip in the hold instead. We’ve got a little longer to go, and there’s still time for something scary as TK tries to give a pair of Spanish Flies at the same time… landing right on his head! Bloody hell, that was scary.
A Kiwi Krusher to Banks nearly does it for TK, who then goes for the PROGRESS title belt as he’s going for another shortcut. Travis dares him to do it, but Chris Brookes ends up doing it instead, and almost gets rolled up for the win…. Brookes tries to make TK pay with a kneebar, but Travis’ stomp broke that up, before Brookes returned with a slingshot Ace crusher as we’re still going!
Banks turns Lykos with the elevated lungblower, before Brookes uses the CCK baking tray and a Jay Driller to almost make himself the new champion… the Octopus follows to TK, only for Banks to break it up with a Slice of Heaven, following up with a Lion’s Clutch to force the submission. This got real good at the end, but there’s a sense that there’s a large part of the crowd that didn’t want to see this storyline, for much the same reasons the tag match suffered previously: nobody wants to pick favourites (or least favourites!) ***¾
After the match, Travis pulled up his former (?) tag team partners before heading to the back… but TK Cooper’s more keen to punch out Brookes than shake his hand, ending the night firmly on the dark side?
This was a weird show. Taking everything in isolated segments, there wasn’t a bad match – or story – on the card. Together though, in a package, I just felt cold to it all. The common complaint of the British scene, in that there’s a distinct lack of heels, really came to the fore here, and felt like it was being thrown in our faces when the company’s only real established bad guys were put against each other.
It’s exceptionally harsh to call PROGRESS stale, as they do at least have storylines going… but I’m becoming a little worried that the British Strong Style trio’s holding pattern is leading to the same kind of popcorn matches that turned me off OTT last year. Still, with plenty of signpost events coming – PROGRESS in New Orleans, Super Strong Style, the Victoria Warehouse show and, of course, Wembley, we’re not in any danger of the product entering a creative lull – but it’d be nice if more stuff clicked with the crowds.
- “Chapter 63 – Take Me Underground” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.