PROGRESS’ first Thunderbastard of the year was a weird affair – and not just because of cosmetic changes – as the winds of change surrounded Travis Banks.
Yeah, we’re getting two of them this year, with New Orleans playing host to a second match over WrestleMania weekend. The Electric Ballroom looked a little weird too, as the massive sound booth/projection screen had been dismantled since the last chapter… so Jon Briley’s proverbial castle was replaced by… a table and a guard railing. That’d become interesting as he was now firmly in the splash zone… Glenn Joseph and Matt Richards are on commentary for this one.
Anti-Fun Police (Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Federales Santos Jr.) vs. Sexy Starr (Jack Sexsmith & David Starr)
A debut for Santos here, and it’s exactly the kind of nonsense you’d be more used to seeing in ATTACK! Just in front of a larger crowd and a ring announcer (“Senior Smallman”) whom perhaps wasn’t expecting to be asked to do an introduction in Spanish!
When that wasn’t forthcoming, and as soon as the crowd called him Eric Cartman, Santos just stormed off… slipping off the apron on his way. Yep, that was fun! As was “Sexy Santos” and his twerking…Once the wrestling got going, it was exactly what you’d expect… with some edutainment from Santos as he taught us all how to count to two. En Español! Oh, and a slight lover’s tiff after Starr whacked Santos with “it”.
After Santos got a little too amorous with Sexy Starr, the Anti-Fun Police kept control, at least until Dunne tried to slam Santos… in comes Sexsmith to dump both halves of the Anti-Fun Police with standing sliced breads, before almost winning with the LGBDT. Santos goes flying with a double dropkick and a massive stage dive-like tope, as the Anti-Fun version of the Midnight Hour almost ends it… but Starr’s back with forearms to have the AFP reeling.
Chief Deputy Dunne tries to WALTER Starr. Yeah. Santos tries too, as they both effed up. They don’t work unless you’re Austrian. Somehow Starr’s able to hurk up Santos for a Blackheart Buster, but that’s quickly shrugged off as Starr’s taken down with a Doomsday Chokeslam. Sexsmith almost has the same ending… but he shoves Dunne to force a reverse ‘rana on Santos, before a BDSM Product Placement spiked Dunne on his head for the win.
In PROGRESS the Anti-Fun Police are ironic comic relief, which I’d love to see on a regular basis – but I don’t know how many folks are on the PROGRESS roster with characters that’d mesh anywhere near as well. I’d hate for this to be a one-and-done deal, and that’s not just me selfishly speaking because of Santos either. Oh God… can the Banter Edition reform one last time? Either way, this was mad and entertaining. More of this please! ***
After the match, Sexsmith takes the microphone and tells us he has some demons to slay before he gets to his title shot… and issues a challenge to some pretty big demons: Havoc and Haskins!
Charlie Morgan vs. Millie McKenzie
After joining Jinny’s “House of Couture” on the last show in Manchester, this was Charlie Morgan’s first outing… and it’s against a Millie McKenzie who was smarting from losing her title shot last time in Camden.
They kept things simple early, working over each other’s wrists before they tease German suplexes… but McKenzie ends up running into a superkick as Morgan put herself ahead, cornering McKenzie with chops as the camera showed the approving looks of Jinny at ringside. Out of nowhere, Millie nails a German suplex that dumps Morgan out of the ring, but she’s forced to abort a dive and nail Charlie with a forearm as she went for one of her own, before lifting her onto the apron for an eventual… German! Charlie gets back in it though, landing a low dropkick as she maneuvered Millie into a surfboard, pulling back into a full-on Romero special as I wonder who else in the House of Couture is going to have to borrow Jushin Liger’s arsenal.
Millie hit back with chops and a spear, before catching Charlie with a cutter and a deadlift German suplex for good measure. Those Germans keep racking up, before Millie went for an O’Connor roll… from the kick-out Jinny whacks McKenzie with a boot, and that’s enough for Morgan to get the win with an Implant DDT. The boot shot wasn’t that obvious to the live crowd, and I don’t think many “accepted” the result, but the story of Jinny having her squad racking up wins so that she has a strong collective when she gets her title shot is certainly an intriguing one. **½
Natural PROGRESSion Series V Quarter-Final: Mark Davis vs. Maverick Mayhew
Both these men qualified for the tournament by beating their tag partners in absolute stormers of qualifying matches at PROGRESS’ Live At The Dome shows. The size difference on show was stark though, so much so that Mayhew was greeted with semi-ironic chants of “please don’t die”.
Mayhew manages to evade Davis early on, escaping a powerbomb before confounding Davis with a mega satellite headscissor takedown! A high five and a punch later though, and Mayhew was spark out on the canvas. Thanks for coming!
Davis keeps toying with him with a Beele throw and a body slam, before he was taken into the corner for some chest-caving chops. I guess you learn how to throw them after you take so many your chest bleeds, eh? Mayhew fights back on the outside with forearms, but a chop snuffs that out before Davis Beele’s him from the floor and into the ring. Connor Mills egged on his tag partner from ringside as he lands a ‘rana to counter out of another powerbomb, before nailing a Code Red to nearly pick up the upset.
Mayhew’s call to go for a monkey flip goes wrong as Davis just throws him down, as a sliding fist into the corner and a pull-up piledriver obliterates the kid as Dunkzilla wins. Yep. This was the squash it should have been… and I wouldn’t be too surprised if the Natural PROGRESSion Series is what gets Davis his Atlas title rematch with WALTER. ***¼
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs. Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins (c)
After Havoc and Haskins won the titles two weeks earlier in Manchester, we had an instant rematch. Unlike Manchester, where the reaction was palpably awkward, the Camden crowd just chanted for “none of these guys” and just about anyone else. Even Chris Roberts.
It was quite ironic that Haskins got the Gibson-like “we hate Haskins” chants, as he spent the early part of the match getting double-teamed and isolated… a dropkick to Havoc knocked him off the apron, but he comes back to poke him in the eye, after shaking off his knee from that earlier landing.
More eye pokes keep the champions ahead, but Gibson saves Drake from an Acid Rainmaker before everything spilled to the outside… where things derailed a little further, as Havoc set Gibson and Drake across some chairs on the front row, and leapt off the apron onto them with a double stomp. Havoc stayed down, clutching his knee, as the match ground to an uncomfortable halt. Havoc got lifted to the back by Haskins, and while stuff was sorted out, Gibson cut a scathing promo on the champions for “falling apart”. Haskins returned to fight on his own, after being egged on by Gibson… and the crowd getting behind solo Haskins was awkward given that not even fifteen minutes ago they were doing the “we hate Haskins, we hate Haskins” chant.
A brief double-team laid out Haskins for a near-fall, and the match goes as you’d expect at this point – plenty of double-teaming, with Haskins eventually firing back into life with a tope towards the sound desk, as Jon Briley’s face seemingly flashed before his eyes for a split second. An arm-trapped crossface ends when Gibson drags Drake’s legs in the rough area of the bottom rope, but Haskins isn’t put off, as he’s back in with a Samoan driver and a pair of bridging armbars, trapping both opponents the same time.
Except THAT was the moment Chris Roberts decided to enforce the “legal man” concept. Yup.
A blind tag let Gibson cross-chop away a Sharpshooter to Drake, but we’re back in with the double-teams as Drake lands a vicious dropkick to Haskins in the corner, ahead of Gibson’s Ticket to Ride and a Doomsday Device… but Haskins still kicks out! He does so again after Drake’s Organ Crusher 450 splash… and that’s the cue for Jimmy Havoc to hobble his way out again.
Haskins quickly tags him in, but Havoc instantly takes the Ticket to Mayhem… and we have new champions! Watching this back, the live awkwardness that comes with injuries didn’t come across as much… but the match felt pretty disjointed for the obvious reasons. That’s twice now that Gibson and Drake have won the PROGRESS tag titles over injured opponents… but we’re back to square one now as they’d only just returned after “refusing to appear” because they’d beaten everyone. **¾
Jonah Rock vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Before the show, PROGRESS held a Twitter poll to decide Travis Banks’ challenger today. Jonah Rock lost out, so his “runner up” prize was a match against Zack Sabre Jr. God, Jonah’s music here is creepy, in like a “Super Nintendo level music” sense.
The story of the match was Sabre’s technical chops going up against Rock’s power, as the Australian grappled Sabre to the mat early, and we wash, rinse and repeat a lot of times, with the odd bit of impressive strength from Zack as he was somehow able to bridge up when Rock was perched on top of him.
For every time Sabre was able to out-wrestle Rock, he was never seemingly too far away from being put back on the mat, with things like crushing back sentons and chops featuring heavily in Jonah’s playbook. A chop took Sabre into the crowd, but back inside Sabre’s able to finally block some kicks as he takes down Rock with a Dragon screw, looking to stop the big man from even standing.
Submission attempts force Rock to reach for the ropes repeatedly, but he’s back with strikes, a neat pop-up Samoan drop and a Vader bomb off the middle of the ropes, showing off some insane agility… only for Sabre to show that he’s able to get on his Octopus hold instead. A tornado DDT out of the corner follows once Rock shoves out, before Sabre tries for the omoplata, just slightly too close to the ropes as Rock forces a break.
Sabre tries to kick away at Rock, but it’s one of those “I’ll take several and deck you with one” deals as Zack was slowly starting to have an effect… finally taking Rock down with an ankle lock, only for the big guy to push away and flatten him with a leaping crossbody. Regardless, Sabre’s able to lock in a cross-arm triangle, but Rock powerbombs away from it with such scary ease! Rock almost crushes Sabre with a frog splash off the top rope, somehow only getting a two count from it… and that fires Zack up some more to start throwing paintbrush-like slaps, only for a single swipe from Rock to put an end to that, before he heads… to the top rope. What the hell?! Rock misses a moonsault, before kicking out at ONE from a PK. Good heavens.
Zack does the same after a lariat, before rolling Rock down into a cross-legged heel hook for the eventual tap-out. Much to the chagrin of a section of fans, whom Zack gleefully flipped off at the bell. This was a phenomenal showing in defeat for Jonah, whose foray to the UK and Europe ought to win him over a whole new bunch of fans in the process. ****
Royal… Rumble… Fatigue… was not quite there, to be honest. This was a Royal Rumble-ish gauntlet match, with eliminations via pinfall, submission and DQ. The main story going in was that Eddie Dennis had fought to keep his spot in the match – which he’d originally lost after getting injured… but after saying he just wanted to have a title shot in the bag to guarantee his spot on the Wembley show, he revealed his true colours. Of course, it was to have a crack at Mark Andrews!
Tyler Bate and Chris Brookes started us off, keeping things pretty straightforward until the Thunderbirds-inspired counter introduced the third man: TK Cooper. Brookes went straight for him as they brawled into the aisle, before Tyler Bate took over until the fourth man entered: Trent Seven… who went straight for TK with chops and a DDT. Trent teased an assisted backflip… but he just cuts out the flip and squashed Cooper with a back senton of sorts, and then we get the fifth man out: Eddie Dennis. He got a weird collection of cheers and boos, with more than a handful of the crowd in the Ballroom applauding him for appearing while hurt… and dumping Brookes with a swinging side slam on the apron as his first move.
Considering that’s what caused the injury, that was… a brave choice. Eddie clears house, avoiding a chop from Trent Seven before sending him falling with a forearm smash. The next countdown starts, and Eddie clears the ring in anticipation of it being you-know-who… but it was instead revealed to be Flash Morgan Webster. Yeah, it was the wrong Welshman, as far as Eddie was concerned. Flash hits the ring and dumps Eddie with the Eton Rifle, sending Dennis to the outside in agony before joining out there to dive into Brooke and Bate, sending them into the crowd. TK gets a similar fate as Glen Joseph leaves commentary to check on Eddie, before Trent did his cross body… missing it of course as he crashed into the front row.
Pete Dunne is out as the penultimate entrant, instantly drilling Webster with a superkick and an apron X-plex. Brookes gets one too, before TK tried to chip away at the WWE UK champ, but it’s the “I’ll take a bunch of forearms” deal before a single one knocked TK flying. In the middle of this the camera tried to get a shot of Dennis, but was instantly waved away. Eddie’s right back as the final countdown hits (no, not the song), because it means one thing: Mark Andrews is out!
Dunne shrugs and walks away as Andrews laboured his way to the ring… so much so that Eddie got shocked by a roll-up by TK Cooper, robbing us of that confrontation. Cue loud boos from sections of the crowd, and a smugger-than-usual TK. That’s going to mean we’ve got a longer wait than some wanted for the first real step of a feud that has been on fire… without a single punch being thrown.
Paul Robinson (and another guy from the ring crew) helps escort Eddie away as the action quickly picked up, with Chris Brookes wiping out Moustache Mountain with a flip plancha, before Webster’s “hands up” headbutt only saw him help Brookes on the way to a brainbuster. Flash quickly replies with a Strangler, before landing a Pinball Wizard senton into the pile of British Strong Style on the floor.
In among the madness, where Flash gets see-sawed into a German suplex by Bate for a near-fall, and Mark Andrews nails a reverse ‘rana on Dunne, TK almost comes unstuck against British Strong Style when he does the circle game… as Dunne bites his fingers instead. With the ref distracted, TK kicks Trent and Tyler low… but Dunne replies, and gets caught, leading to his disqualification. TK would have been smug about that, but he was too busy getting stomped on… before shocking Trent with another roll-up! Somehow, TK’s gotten the first three eliminations!
With everyone distracted by Trent and Pete’s departure, Chris Brookes takes advantage, bouncing Lykos’ baking tray off of TK’s head (and into the crowd), before a Praying Mantis Bomb led to Cooper’s elimination. The final four tee off on each other with forearms and kicks, but it’s a shooting star press onto a piled-up Brookes and Bate that saw Mark Andrews get rid of Brookes… before Tyler took over with an airplane spin/giant swing combo on the other remaining entrants. He suckers Andrews into the bop/bang punch, then counters a Stundog Millionaire before nailing a Tyler Driver for the penultimate elimination, as Flash instantly pounced on Bate with a series of indy’riffic pins.
A Brit Pop Drop from Webster leaves Bate reeling, before he countered a Tyler Driver into a Strangler… to no avail, as Tyler countered out into a Gotch-style Tombstone. Vicki Haskins came out in the interim, taking the eye of the easily-distracted Paz, and giving Flash a window back into the match. Webster wasn’t exactly happy, and ordered Vicki away, before returning to counter a Tyler Driver into a roll-up for the win! A bit of a surprise win when you consider that not even two months earlier Flash had done his “going away” speech, but it’s nice to see someone new in the title picture as, yes, Flash has a title shot coming out of this.
This was a nice blend of stories and action – without a single match, and with the aid of words and emotion only, PROGRESS have managed to invest their entire fanbase into the Mark Andrews/Eddie Dennis story… and with the pair not even coming close to blows here, we’re having that tantalisingly drawn out for several more months as Eddie Dennis recovers from his torn pectoral. As for the rest of the match, Flash Morgan Webster and TK Cooper came out of this looking really good, albeit in different ways, with the first signs showing of the rest of the roster perhaps not believing Flash in his dismissive behaviour towards Vicki Haskins, as that tie-in is yet to be fully explained. ***½
PROGRESS World Championship: Matt Riddle vs. Travis Banks (c)
How’s this for odd? Nine months earlier, Travis Banks was adored by the Electric Ballroom as he won Super Strong Style 16. Flash forward to here, five months in as champion, and there were loud sections of the crowd turning on Banks, after a reign that in the last few months has sort-of derailed thanks to the “piggy in the middle” feud with his sometimes tag partners Chris Brookes and TK Cooper.
Truth be told, there was an expectation of an upset in the Ballroom, with a few expecting a title change out of nowhere. Riddle started out the aggressor, going for early submissions as the pair kept it grounded early on, before a switch flicks and they go to chops and forearms. It’s suitably aggressive, but Riddle always looked to be a step ahead with the strikes, sending Banks to the outside with a ripcord knee.
It’s a weird one, as the match looked to have Banks portrayed as an underdog – having already done so with his early defence against Keith Lee, and perhaps again at Unboxing Live against Will Ospreay. It is a role that most would have expected Banks to have moved away from by now, but perhaps that is the plan?
After Banks’ trio of topes, they brawl around ringside, taking out a fan in the process before going back in to keep up with the chops. Banks sets up for the cannonball in the corner, then the Coast to Coast… but a bicycle knee intercepts that as Riddle went for his own “Bro-ast to Bro-ast”. Yep, that met its mark! Riddle edged ahead, but he’s caught unawares with a shotgun dropkick and a springboard stomp… before we’re back with chops and forearms as Riddle went ahead again, only to get swept down with a low kick as the champion flicked a proverbial switch once more. Banks gets himself caught on the top rope, but he counters into an avalanche Kiwi Krusher for… a one-count?!
Banks keeps up with a Slice of Heaven and another Kiwi Krusher for another one-count as the crowd perhaps sensed a new champion was on the cards… before going into the Lion’s Clutch as the crowd begged for Riddle to hold on. A rope break followed, before Riddle countered another Slice of Heaven into an ankle lock. Some back-heel kicks looked to force a submission, as did a powerbomb and a vicious knee, but Banks still had enough left in him.
Riddle sets up for some Danielson elbows and a Bromission, the usual sign of a win, but instead he switched into a tombstone… which gets reversed for a near-fall. Another tombstone attempt is followed, with Riddle this time nailing it off the middle rope, but it’s still not enough, so Riddle goes flying with a back senton off the top rope, before nailing a Gotch Tombstone for another two-count!
More elbows and a Bromission follow, but Banks slips out and rolls up Riddle… and there’s the three-count. Cue a cacophony of boos, as Travis Banks retained his title by the skin of his teeth. The completion of the trilogy saw Banks narrowly escape with the win, and set off something for down the line – particularly when Flash Morgan appeared on the stage at the end, with Vicki Haskins in tow, to do the universal belt symbol. ****
Whether you want to read into the base of “hey, Travis’ New Zealand flag/facemask is black… that must mean he’s going bad” or not, the crowd were definitely turning on Banks at the end, which gives us an interesting seed to see grow, especially considering that the next major challenger that’s in Banks’ future is Jack Sexsmith… but that’s assuming he gets past whatever’s lined up for him in New Orleans and beyond!
Thunderbastards Are Go was a bit of a return to form for PROGRESS. It’s so easy to get hung up on “this show was eh” if you’re in the mindset of every show having to be the best ever… sometimes, it’s alright in hindsight to have shows that largely keeps stories ticking along, as long as they actively do something to, erm, progress it. We ought to make note, also of the commentary on this show. We’ve been critical in the past, but the duo of Matt Richards and Glen Joseph were admirable here, with the latter having made a conscious effort to move away from the meme-like antics that quickly became an irritant. Overall a solid thumbs up as PROGRESS venture further into a long string of milestone shows that pepper their 2018 calendar.
- “Chapter 64 – Thunderbastards Are Go!” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.