Two weeks on from Super Strong Style 16, PROGRESS lurched into another huge show, as Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse came calling for a rather pivotal evening.
We’ve a slightly Fire Pro-ish isometric angle from the hard camera today for the promotion’s biggest ever UK show outside of London. Jim Smallman’s usual intro spiel was just about done when the Grizzled Young Veterans came out, as they were more than a little upset over the whole Tag Team Series.
For the uninformed, PROGRESS announced a seven-team round robin series going into the Wembley show. In short, Aussie Open, Grizzled Young Veterans, M&M, Anti-Fun Police, CCK, Mark Haskins & Flash Morgan Webster and Sexy Starr are in the round robin series, with points being given for a win, loss or draw. Concluding ahead of the Wembley show, the final league table decides who’ll enter where in a Tag Team Thunderbastard match… and one more thing: the tag titles will be on the line in every match that the champions are involved in. So it’s conceivable that we could have a tonne of title changes!
Speaking of… we get underway with the first match of the series:
Thunderbastard Tag Team Series: Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) vs. M&M (Connor Mills & Maverick Mayhew)
Licensed music is here to stay, and given how quickly M&M were squashed at Alexandra Palace, you’d have to think they’re rather unlikely to get anything out of this match.
Glen Joseph and Matt Richards are joined on commentary by Gibson and Drake here, and it’s M&M who get going early with Mayhew’s satellite headscissors taking Davis to the outside, as we set up for our dives, starting with a step-up senton from Fletcher to the floor. Davis then takes M&M in the ring for a double-powerbomb, before squashing them with back sentons, as Fletcher picked up an early near-fall.
The Aussies are all over M&M here, with an assisted neckbreaker dumping Mayhew for a near-fall, but Mills gets the tag in to help turn things around, charging into Fletcher with a knee in the corner before a double stomp left the Aussie Arrow reeling. Mark Davis rushes in to punch out Connor, before Mayhew’s DDT took down Dunkzilla, as the Aussies were taken outside for a corkscrew Asai moonsault from Mills. The Millshot followed for Fletcher, but Davis breaks up the cover and tags himself back in as some palm strikes chipped away at the youngsters, only for them to return fire with superkicks and a Code Red!
M&M try and stack up Davis as referee Paz doesn’t enforce the concept of the legal man, and that’s the cue for Davis to mount a comeback, dumping Mills with a lariat, then punching Mayhew off the apron as the Aussies double-teamed some more with a double-team spinebuster and a Doomsday Cutter for Fletcher.
Maverick Mayhew’s barely in in time to break up the cover on that, before he’s forced to flip away from a pull-up piledriver… and just gets punched out by Davis for good measure. The Alphamare Waterslide takes him down as Gibson loses his rag on commentary for the continued run of moves, as Mayhew eventually falls to a fidget spinner as Aussie Open took the win. Pretty one-sided, but enjoyable stuff to get us underway. ***
One match in, Aussie Open have two points, M&M are bottom on zero, while everyone else has yet to play.
Mark Andrews vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
I was shocked at how little these two had faced each other – but I guess their international travels meant their paths diverged a lot. They’ve only had two singles matches against each other, the last being in Southside about two years earlier…
Mark Andrews was in his first match in ages without having to worry about Eddie Dennis, who’d been banned from the building as per his agreement to fight Andrews at some point down the line.
It’s a pretty even start, with Sabre going into his usual route of working over the wrist… but Andrews tries to hit the same playbook too as we reached a stalemate. Sabre grabs a chinlock, but Andrews escaped and tried to roll past Zack… only to get caught time and again in full nelsons. Armdrags finally work as Andrews took Zack to the outside, but Sabre stops a plancha and catches him between the ropes with an Octopus stretch.
Back inside, Sabre’s pie-facing Andrews as he begins to pick his shots, but Andrews escaped as fell into the territory of the overly zoomed-in-camera as he sent Sabre outside with a dropkick… before leaping off of the ring stairs with a senton! A springboard crossbody just gets a two-count for Andrews back in the ring, before the pair trade snapmares, ending with Sabre twisting Andrews’ neck between his legs.
Sabre keeps up on Andrews with kicks, taking him to the mat for a surfboard, before cancelling out an escape by grounding Andrews in a STF attempt, as this was looking rather easy for the Super Strong Style 16 winner, especially when he just shrugged off chops from Andrews and wrenched him down to the mat with a strangle hold, turning Andrews’ face purple in the process. Andrews flips over to reverse it, then tries a wheelbarrow into a stomp, only to get choked in the corner as Sabre had been placed on the top rope. A gamengiri resets things, as Andrews joined Zack up top for a ‘rana, then a cartwheel into a moonsault as the Welshman started to sneak back into the contest.
A 450 splash had to be aborted as Sabre rolled away and comes back in with a tornado DDT… but he rolls through and counters a Stundog Millionaire into a Dragon sleeper, ending only when Andrews rolled into the ropes. They resume with an exchange of strikes ahead of a crucifix driver from Andrews, before he went back to those strikes and chops as we saw an unusually aggressive side to the Welshman. Sabre stops all that by pulling him down into a PK, only to get hit with a reverse ‘rana as the match became rather more tit-for-tat.
Andrews goes back up, but his shooting star press lands right into a triangle choke from Sabre… somehow Andrews flips over into a pinning predicament as Zack’s forced to let go, as the tournament winner is pushed even closer, before a ‘rana is rolled out of and into the Hyper Normalization double armbar, with Andrews quitting to save his shoulder joints. A really good technical outing from these two – reminding us of the aggression Andrews has when he needs it, while Zack picked up another win to keep him on course for Wembley. ****¼
David Starr vs. WALTER
We’ve been here plenty of times before, and with the same result. In one-on-one action, WALTER’s won every time, with the nearest thing to a loss being when he was eliminated in the No Regrets rumble at Defiant last month.
Despite vacating the Atlas belt, WALTER is still out with gold, in the form of the PWG strap. Just to rub it in a little bit more for David…We’ve got the usual laser-focused approach from Starr here, pacing back and forth as his list o’ nicknames were read out, while WALTER didn’t seem fazed at all. Heck, when you’re 9-0 up in singles matches, it’s almost risking complacency at this point…
From the bell, WALTER takes Starr into the corner, but it’s quickly reversed as they scrappily broke up. Next time around, Starr grabs WALTER’s arm and tries to headbutt the upper arm… but WALTER drops him and tries to go for a Boston crab, except they’re way too close to the ropes. A knuckle lock from WALTER’s escaped as Starr tries a hammerlock, but it’s easily flipped out of as WALTER puts the boots to Starr in a methodical manner, before he looked for his first chop.
That’s ducked by Starr, but WALTER’s quickly back in with a shoulder tackle as Starr decided to take a page out of the Ilja Dragunov playbook and try and prevent those chops. Throwing one of his own perhaps wasn’t so smart, as he took WALTER outside for a dive… but despite being caught, Starr shook free and throws a caught kick from the Austrian into the ring post. Starr keeps up on the leg, wrapping it around the post, before grapevining the legs as the strategy looked to be to keep WALTER off his legs, but then, the inevitable happened. CHOP!
Yep, David’s had plenty of those, but he’s right back on the ankle of WALTER, who’s instantly in the ropes… which WALTER uses to wrap around the ankle… but even after all that, WALTER’s able to propel him out of the ring from a kick-out! Back inside, WALTER grabs a Gojira clutch, but Starr kicks the leg and gets free… only to run into a spinebuster-like takedown as WALTER seamlessly floats over into a STF as the Product was forced into the ropes. The leg work had had an effect as WALTER’s boots were having a slight effect on him, before he decided to go back to the chops before sending Starr crashing into the turnbuckles with a shotgun dropkick!
If those turnbuckles weren’t there, Starr may well still be airborne…
We’re back to chops as Starr kicks out WALTER’s leg, but he’s again caught with a Gojira clutch before escaping a RINGKAMPF German. A Han Stansen’s absorbed by WALTER as the butterfly suplex drew a near-fall, before throwing Starr onto the apron… where the Product suckers him in for a Cherry Mint DDT, only to get wiped out by another pair of lariats. So brutal, such ow. Somehow, Starr’s up at two, and manages to hit back with a thrust kick and a Figure Four, trapping the big man in the middle of the new, larger PROGRESS ring… except WALTER’s able to roll into the ropes for freedom. Undeterred, Starr keeps up on the ankle, stomping on it in the ropes, before teasing a German suplex off the ropes. WALTER forces out and exchanges lariats before a Han Stansen knocked him down for a near-fall.
Right from the kick-out, Starr’s back to the ankle, before he just jars the knee into the canvas as he looked for a Sharpshooter… but that just gave WALTER the opening he needed for an inside cradle, and that’s enough for the win. This is the closest Starr had ever gotten to getting that win, but WALTER being able to eke out a win with a small package just shows his dominance. Not their best, but still really, really good, as the WALTER streak extended to 10-0. ****¼
British Strong Style (Pete Dunne & Tyler Bate) vs. Jimmy Havoc, Mark Haskins & Flash Morgan Webster
The cheer for the return of Love Is Blindness was a little muted considering how much of a punchline that song was! Originally advertised as a trios match, Trent Seven wasn’t exactly dressed to wrestle, and this ended up becoming a three-on-two handicap match instead, after Trent plugged the WWE show in Royal Albert Hall.
We start with shenanigans as a failed jump start from Jimmy Havoc saw him cannonball into an empty corner, before Haskins and Webster were punched out at the bell. Dunne’s on top of Havoc when the match starts, stomping on the arm before laying in a lariat as the WWE UK champion then began to work over a potential challenger to his title in Flash Morgan Webster, working the arm and the nipple. Yes.
Bate and Dunne then double-team Webster with a roll-through leg grapevine before doing all Junkyard Dog with some headbutts. Once again, Webster was made to look like the weaker of the trio as he offered very little against Dunne, all while Havoc and Haskins watched on impatiently from the apron. Eventually Haskins gets in a kick, but Dunne overcame that, only for Haskins to tag himself in as suddenly the group informally tagged as “Entropy” turned up the aggression.
Havoc keeps it up by biting on Dunne’s hand, as the crowd started to wake up, encouraging Dunne to get to the ropes as crossface from Haskins looked to force a submission… but then Webster’s tagged back in, and you might guess what happened with the runt of “Entropy”. Dunne fights out of his sleeperhold, only to get taken down with a Special Brew Flip as Haskins and Havoc come back in… as Jimmy’s death valley driver finally draws Tyler Bate into help as the match was kept alive. It wasn’t much cop though, as Dunne was dragged into the opposite corner, where he began his fightback, flipping over Webster before tagging in Tyler! Bate dumps Webster into Havoc and Haskins with an Exploder, before going after Webster with an airplane spin, using him like Terry Funk uses ladders.
The ring fills up as a Parade of Moves broke out, largely targeting Dunne, before Bate eats a Michinoku Driver, a roll-up death valley driver and finally the Shadows over Malice, with Dunne breaking up the cover at the last possible moment. Vicki Haskins gets up on the apron to provide a distraction, but Pete Dunne tries to bite her hand… that’s broken up when Mark Haskins charges in, only for Dunne and Bate to fight off everyone else through various means… finishing off by sandwiching Webster with a pair of rebound lariats.
An assisted Tyler Driver/back cracker flattened Flash for a near-fall, but Webster hits back with a hand’s up headbutt and the Eton Rifles as Manchester threatened to turn on him again… another senton follows as Flash hits the Pinball Wizard into a pile outside, before a Strangler on Dunne back inside gets countered into an X-plex. Another Parade of Moves breaks out, with a double Koppo kick from Tyler ending it… but now we have Flash and Vicki on the apron arguing over a barbed wire bat.
Flash got rid of it, but somehow Havoc regains the bat, uses it on Tyler Bate, before the Kiss of Death from Havoc and Haskins laid him out, with Webster taking the easy pin. An unpopular upset as the story of Flash only winning with Havoc and Haskins continued… and with Haskins and Webster part of the Thunderbastard series, I have no doubt that’ll continue throughout the summer. A solid match, but the handicap aspect made this match a little less shinier than it otherwise would have been. ***
After the match, Dunne and Bate stayed behind, only to be interrupted by some Beastie Boys. Christian Jakobi’s in Manchester, mic in hand, and here’s here to deliver his message to Pete Dunne face-to-face… and shrug off Pete’s gesticulation. Remember Alexandra Palace? Well, it seemed that we were going one step further, because ILJA DRAGUNOV IS HERE!
The roof just got blown off the Victoria Warehouse. @UNBESIEGBAR_ZAR wants @PeteDunneYxB at Wembley. https://t.co/TtCiUoSHZE pic.twitter.com/erDudpIYCH
— PROGRESS Wrestling (@ThisIs_Progress) May 20, 2018
Playing the role of Paul Heyman to a T, Jakobi geed up the crowd for the prospect of a Dunne/Dragunov match… except he didn’t want it “in this shithole”, as instead the match is going to happen for the big money at Wembley! There’s something about the dynamic of Jakobi as a representative for Ilja Dragunov that just works. Even if you had just dropped into PROGRESS and weren’t aware of wXw, Jakobi or Dragunov, the whole set-up fits like a glove: Dragunov as a believable, intense character… Jakobi as the “mega agent” of sorts… I can’t wait for this to pay off at Wembley in four months.
Three matches to go – I guess it’s time for the championship-half of the show? But first, a video package for our first title match…
PROGRESS World Championship: Jack Sexsmith vs. Travis Banks (c)
Cue the cynics suggesting that such a big match being here means we’re not getting a title change…
David Starr’d timed his return from the merch table at intermission to lend some support to Sexsmith, while Travis Banks had his own help in the form of TK Cooper. Of course, Sexsmith won this title shot all the way back in December, at that “snow day scramble match” in Sheffield, but he’s been off a lot of the more recent cards for one reason for another.
There’s plenty of history between these two, which is why Sexsmith slapped away a handshake and planted a liplock to Banks as he prepared for a Superman punch… and it’s all Sexsmith in the opening moments as he chops and kicks Banks before Sliced Bread dumped the champion early on. A LGBDT spikes Banks for a near-fall as TK Cooper pulls out the referee – and we’re already into shenanigans! Not to worry, Sexsmith wiped out TK with a BDSM on the outside, before getting caught with a PK from Banks on the apron, as TK’s antics finally paid off.
Banks sparks a chop battle in the crowd, as Banks ends up in the crowd with one fan refusing to move… and promptly gets cannonballed through. Don’t be that guy. MOVE. Sexsmith gets the same treatment, but he moves away as the pair continued to brawl through the crowd, exchanging overhand chops before a leg lariat from Sexsmith is caught with Banks turning it into a powerbomb onto the ring steps.
They finally return to the ring as the crowd gets on Banks’ back, while he just chopped away at Sexsmith’s chest as that powerbomb looked to be a step change in the match. Jack’s able to get off a Pearl Neckbreaker as Banks heads outside, but his dive’s stopped as he then cut off a low-pe from Banks with a kick before another Sliced Bread – this time on the apron ended with Jack getting hung up in the ropes.
Banks returns fire with a shotgun dropkick and a springboard stomp, then following in with a diving knee for a couple of near-falls, before duelling pump kicks left both men on the mat. Duelling strikes returned as Sexsmith fires up with forearms and lariats, before he trips up Banks into the corner for some running knees! A suplex gets countered though, and Sexsmith is right back to square one… A Slice of Heaven’s avoided as Sexsmith comes in with the Rainbow Road destroyer, before heading up top once again for the BDSM… that misses, and Banks is right back in with a Slice of Heaven. The Kiwi Krusher’s next for a near-fall, followed up by another, as it was Jack’s turn to kick out at one. I see what they did there!
That was the cue for Banks to take his belt and threaten to leave… but this time he’s stopped by WALTER in the aisle! Eh, I’d had Banks screw a few more matches before we got to this point, but whatever, I’m not booking! Banks returns to the ring and tries for another Kiwi Krusher, but it’s countered with a roll-up for some near-falls, as he looked to turn up the aggression, catching Sexsmith in the ropes before lifting him up for a German superplex… but instead we get another Sliced Bread, with Jack spiking his own head on the way down as he picks up another near-fall!
The crowd started to believe, as he flew off the top with another BDSM that connected flush, but again Banks is kicking out… so Sexsmith goes for the crossface! Banks easily gets to the ropes through, and after Sexsmith catches him up top with a gamengiri, it looked like we were getting a superplex… except Banks countered with an avalanche Kiwi Krusher! Another one followed for a near-fall as Jack still had something left in him… so Banks goes to the Lion’s Clutch, wrenching away until Jack faded away as the referee waved off the match. A bit of a quick stoppage, but this was a decent enough match for what it was. ***½
Splitting this out from the match report itself… placing Jack’s title shot at the start of the second half, and away from the main event, was a massive issue for me. When there had been critics taking shots at the poor build-up to this, with Sexsmith’s only singles action since earning his title shot being wins over Joe Coffey and Joey Axl, it was hardly anything indicative of a threatening challenger… and while the crowd had oodles of goodwill for him, the build-up reflected in the crowd’s response throughout. At no point did you believe Jack was going to win, or that this was anything more than another chapter in his story of “fitting in with PROGRESS” rather than a climax. The loss absolutely won’t hurt him, as witnessed by the crowd’s response to him afterwards, but among some parts of the crowd this felt like was more of a throwaway match than it really should have been.
PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Joseph Conners vs. Doug Williams vs. Rob Lynch vs. Rampage Brown
So, with WALTER vacating the Atlas title so he could have another run at Travis Banks’ title, we had a four-way to crown a new champion. Featuring Joseph “I’ve put on more than a stone since I was on 205 Live” Conners.
PROGRESS gonna troll! Either way, the successor to WALTER was hardly going to be someone anywhere near as dominant…
Conners scarpers to the outside early, where Doug Williams inadvertently followed as we quickly went through the revolving door stuff early on, as Conners quickly gets surrounded by the other three for a game of pinball. An Exploder sent Conners to the outside as the crowd cheered on Williams, ahead of a three-way series as commentary pointed out that Williams had lost to Lynch and Rampage on previous shows.
Conners tries again, but he gets wiped out with a huge slam as he was clearly in to be the small body to get chucked around, as the match descended into something resembling a melee with nobody being able to maintain a clear advantage for a while. Lynch’s moonsault press off the middle rope would have gotten a pin, but Williams breaks it up as this isn’t an elimination match. Williams gets back into it with an Indian deathlock to Conners, combining a Northern Lights to Rampage at the same time for a near-fall. Another Exploder drops Lynch, but he’s caught on the top rope as this turned into a Tower of Doom into Conners. A spear from Lynch is avoided as Conners nearly rolls him up, before he was met with a front suplex and a knee from the former London Riot, only for Conners to return with a sunset flip powerbomb.
Meanwhile, Doug gets spiked with an apron piledriver by Rampage, taking an awful landing as he looked to be down and out. Conners capitalises on a disbelieving Rampage with some elbows, but the first Atlas champion is back with clotheslines and a uranage for a near-fall, with Lynch breaking it up as the crowd seemingly fell silent because of Williams. Rampage and Lynch jockey for position as an O’Connor roll’s broken up by a slingshot DDT from Conners, who then followed up with a tornado bulldog as he tried to snatch some pinning attempts.
A Samoan drop from Rampage stops Conners as we get a near-fall, before Conners tried to steal a pin from Lynch’s spear… but Williams breaks it up and gets another DDT as Conners kept being a pain. Rampage tries to piledrive Conners, only for Lynch to break it up and send Rampage to the outside with a back body drop… those two end up outside as they battle it out, as Conners crotches Williams as he’d tried to go up top.
Conners drags Williams off the top rope, but his search for an O’Connor roll backfires as Doug slips out and nails the Chaos Theory for the win out of nowhere! I liked the surprise win, and the sudden rain of streamers gave us a feel good moment for the show. ***
Throughout the match, commentary kept pointing out Doug’s mobility issues – which is fine to say when in the same vein as “wrestler X has a heavily taped up knee, go for the knee”… but when it goes from being an injury to almost a disability, you’re tiptoeing on that red line that plenty of wrestlers fall into when they call their opponents “old” and then fail to beat them. After months of losses, Williams getting a win out of nowhere is a good story, especially if the “retirement tour” is the way they’re going – whether overtly or otherwise – but it may be an idea to not point out the arm/shoulder issues for the time being?
A fantastic video followed for the main event, focusing on Jinny’s bid to unseat Toni Storm as she was in the final day before hitting the one-year mark as champion.
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Jinny vs. Toni Storm (c)
For the first time since the middle day of last year’s Super Strong Style 16, PROGRESS main event with a women’s match as the long rivalry between Jinny and Toni Storm comes to a head.
You’ve got to go all the way back to ENDVR 12 in September 2015 for their first match, and after coming up short in several number one contender’s matches (and after being sidelined with injury), Jinny finally gets her crack. Albeit without Charlie Morgan’s presence, per the Super Strong Style 16 stipulations…
We don’t go flying into this match, as they have a more measured approach, with a tie-up and an eventual break, where Jinny took the opportunity to head to the outside in a bid to get under Toni’s skin. Toni’s in no rush to follow her out either, mind you, but she’s distracted by Chakara as Jinny returns to the ring to attack her from behind… only for Toni to shrug it off and take Jinny back outside as a dive is stopped by trips from Nina Samuels and Chakara. Jinny does the dive, flying out with a tope as referee Marc Parry doesn’t send Jinny’s troops to the back… which is just as well as Toni dove into them as the fight continued in the crowd.
Jinny clears the crowd, but she gets Brookes’d into the crowd, as do the rest of her House of Couture, as Storm rushes in with a hip attack as they were buried in the crowd. Some chops from Storm keep Jinny in the crowd, and there’s yet more interference as Chakara and Nina use lipstick to draw on Storm as we had a nice throwback to Jinny’s early days. Storm headbutts away the pair of them eventually as Marc Parry had threatened to call the match off due to Jinny’s apparent injury, but she gets up and heads outside… into a headbutt as the pair fought up towards the entrance way, where a Strong Zero is eventually delivered, sending Jinny crashing head-first onto the raised stage. Back in the ring, more headbutts from Storm looked to force a separation, but a top rope ‘rana and a Shibata-ish dropkick in the corner slowly gets Jinny into the game.
The Jushin Liger-esque seated surfboard follows as she tried to get a submission out of the champion, but Jinny decides to kick away at Toni, which allowed the champion to inch towards the rope… which Nina Samuels tries to pull away, before Jinny let go of the hold so she could curb stomp the champion instead. Another throwback to the Jinny of old followed as Chakara throws in scissors, which was used to cut Toni’s hair as the referee’s again distracted… Paz, get a grip!
Finally Storm snaps free with a German suplex, taking Jinny into the corner for a hip attack, then another German suplex, but distractions again play a part as a gamengiri catches Storm on the top rope. Jinny head up for some right hands and another ‘rana, but Toni blocks it, only to get caught in the middle rope for the Makeover – the X-factor out of the ropes – spiking Toni for a near-fall.
The shenanigans continues as Toni accidentally laid out the referee, then wipes out Jinny with an Acid Rainmaker and a Style Clash… but there’s no ref as instead the crowd chanted along for the visual pin… which gets broken up by Nina Samuels. They tease a belt shot, but Nina clocks Chakara by mistake, before another Strong Zero draws another visual pin as Joel Allen finally gets to the ring to make a two-count.
Chakara’s back in with the belt as I’m getting fed up with the shenanigans… she gets a Strong Zero, before Jinny rolled up Toni… and we have a new champion! Well, as a main event finish, plenty will have words to say, but the initially strong chorus of boos certainly showed something. For my taste, there was far too much interference, to the point where it had turned into a joke… and certainly not something that befit a main event for a major show. It perhaps wasn’t the coronation that many expected Jinny to have as champion, but that may follow with a strong title reign? **¼
Post-match, Toni took the mic and told the crowd she wasn’t going anywhere as “that belt is mine” to close the show…
PROGRESS’ big show at Victoria Warehouse was a mixed bag – we had the pay-off for two long-term storylines, first in Jack Sexsmith’s quest for the title (which was unsuccessful) and the culmination of Jinny’s hunt for the women’s title. The only problem was, coming after the run of big shows in New Orleans and Super Strong Style 16, this show was always going to feel like the proverbial “after the Lord Mayor’s show”. That’s not to say this was a bad show – far from it – but it’s a damn relief that there’s no “marquee” shows in the next few months as PROGRESS can now properly build for September’s massive date at Wembley.
- “Chapter 69 – Be Here Now” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.