PROGRESS’ biggest show to date saw almost 5,000 fans fill Wembley Arena – for the largest (and longest?) indy show in England for decades.
*cracks knuckles* let’s get the elephant out of the room first, shall we? Live, this show was LONG, and over-ran to the point where people were leaving before and during the main event in order to get the last trains home. The good news for those is that PROGRESS have made the main event available for free… but as for the rest of the show? There’s a lot to get through… It must be after a big show, because they’ve redone the opening “don’t pirate me, please!” video… or at least, they’ve dubbed in new music.
We open inside Wembley Arena, with a gobsmacked Jim Smallman having a fit as he realises the enormity of the show. Considering they’re filming this on the usual set-up of two DSLRs and a hard camera, this doesn’t look anywhere near as bad I feared. It keeps the PROGRESS “look” without feeling like you’re lost in a cavernous room, although the crowd audio did seem rather muffled – a familiar feeling for anyone who’s tried to record parts of a gig!
Commentary’s handled by Glen Joseph and a rotating panel of co-commentators – Dahlia Black, Matt Richards and Callum Leslie.
Mark Haskins vs. Matt Riddle
Opening the main show was Mark Haskins and Matt Riddle – perhaps a curious choice on some fronts, but you could have argued about the placement of a lot of matches to be fair. Vicky has traded in her barbed wire baseball bat for a board with nails in. Has Abyss lost Janice?
On the card as a “farewell” for Matt Riddle, this was an entertaining mat-based battle that served two masters: the aforementioned farewell, and a way to re-establish Mark Haskins as a threat in the singles division after his prior 12 months that were largely spent in tags than anything else. The early flurries had Riddle focusing on the arm – but a pair of kicks get caught as our brief stand-off ends rather peacefully. Things quickly heat up when Riddle sides outside and gets caught with a tope from Haskins, who proceeded to take him into the guard rails for a pump kick. Kicks on the apron from Riddle looked to be effective, but Haskins caught him with a Dragon screw in the ropes as the momentum swung around once more.
Back in the ring, Haskins forces Riddle to the ropes from an armbar, but Riddle lands an axe kick and a back senton as Haskins was leaning on the ring apron. That didn’t look a nice landing for either guy! Still, Riddle keeps up the momentum with a tiger knee and a bridging German for a near-fall, before he just walloped Haskins with some leaping forearms.
Kicks to the chest are next, but Haskins manages to catch one and roll through Riddle for a death valley driver for a near-fall. The roll-through Sharpshooter’s next, but Riddle rolls through into a Fisherman buster, before a cradle Tombstone spiked Haskins for another two-count. Riddle looked to go up top, but gets caught with a superplex… only to rebound with the powerbomb/Tiger knee combo, before a Bro to Sleep is countered into a Destroyer! Haskins pushes the issue from there, eventually bridging into an armbar, which Riddle powers out of as he wallops Haskins with some more tiger knees, before Haskins caught one and turned it into the pumphandle driver for the win. A really good opening match with Haskins finally being able to leave Wembley with a positive memory. We’ll not talk about TNA… ***¾
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Millie McKenzie vs. Toni Storm vs. Jinny (c)
Millie’s addition to this match came at the last chapter show, when it looked like Toni was perhaps not going to be able to appear after picking up an injury. In the end though, the story came from someone who wasn’t even in the match.
So, after borrowing Matt Riddle’s SPLX flag (well, he’s not gonna need it in NXT, is he?), Millie came out first… then Toni Storm, as the two challengers were on their lonesome against Jinny and her House of Couture. After swatting Millie out of the ring, Jinny went straight for Toni as the two challengers worked on a revolving door-type attack… but not by choice! A spin-out neckbreaker from Millie finally gets rid of Jinny, as the two challengers trade blows. Jinny’s back to try and capitalise on things, throwing Millie outside as her House put the boots. Yeah, it’s the usual “have your stable do your dirty work”, helped by the fact that three-ways are inherently no-DQ.
Somehow Millie returns to spear Toni, but her second spear at Jinny’s countered into a Japanese armdrag. That’s the cue for backup to arrive in the form of Candy Floss and Laura Di Matteo… which led us to all three women trading shots from their knees. Millie’s in with her trademark Germans, including a German duplex to Jinny and Toni for some quick two-counts, before Jinny dumped her opponents into the corner for a Shibata-ish dropkick as she gets some twos.
An Acid Rainmaker from Jinny misses as Toni unleashes with hip attacks, knocking Millie off the apron with one. There’s a Strong Zero on the apron for Millie, which left Jinny free to take out Toni with a dropkick, then a Style Clash… but it’s countered into the Storm Zero neckbreaker slam for a near-fall! A Strong Zero puts down Jinny, but the House of Couture hit the ring… as do Di Matteo and Candy Floss… but Laura lays out Candy with a forearm, before turning on Toni Storm at the end with an Acid Rainmaker as Jinny retained her title… and regained her former PA. As a match this felt rushed, but it was what it was – a means to an end. **¾
There’s a few things that didn’t add up – initially, Laura’s “return to PROGRESS” came at Super Strong Style 16 this year as a mystery partner, someone who “knows how to beat Jinny”. Heck, at Chapter 72, Laura beat Chakara and did the whole “I want your belt” thing, so somewhere there’s been a detour that needs to be explained – unless this is going to be a “bring her down from within” deal.
Before we get there though, Jinny’s got a more pressing challenge to deal with, as Jordynne Grace made her (UK) PROGRESS debut after the match. With the pairing of Jinny and Laura hitting the road, it was left to Nina, Chakara and Charlie to take the beating. In the days that followed, Jinny tweeted to the effect that the House of Couture had been disbanded, which was a real low-key way to end a group that’d run for most of the year. Still, I guess it offers some more immediate challengers before we get to Jordynne?
PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Trent Seven vs. Doug Williams (c)
This was almost surely going to be Doug Williams’ farewell – in what was one of wrestling’s worst kept secrets, and that’s before we even go down the fact that this was announced as a “if Doug loses, he retires” outing… despite the entirety of his Atlas title reign having that same stipulation.
Fortunately Comedy Trent was barely on show here, which meant that this match had a bit more gravitas to it. We started with the pair trading wristlocks early, before Doug tried to keep Trent on the mat… but in Serious Mode, Trent was able to show some of his grappling chops that had been kept under wraps as of late. Yes, we did see Trent badly whiffing on a comedy crossbody, but it was somewhat fortuitous as that move proved to be finish. The one time he hit it… it was enough to retire one of the biggest names of the current generation. Doug rolled back the years as best he could here, but with the short build and the fact that he’d embarked on something of a retirement tour in the weeks before, the result was perhaps not in question. ***
Still, even if you felt this was all telegraphed, the moment of Doug’s retirement was a nice touch, and one that brought a tear to the eyes of many within Britwres as the former Anarchist received his farewell, complete with a standing ovation, a teary-eyed Glen Joseph, and an entire roster on the stage in applause.
A closing of one chapter of Britwres, and the start of another, as Williams’ storied career ended on the biggest stage the indy scene in England had had in decades.
No Disqualification: Paul Robinson vs. Jimmy Havoc
Closing out the first half was the spectacle of the no-disqualification match between Jimmy Havoc and Paul Robinson.
Much like their match three years ago, this was chock-full of weapons, with light tubes, frying pans, chairs and doors coming into play. If you’re a fan of this sort of death match then this’ll certainly be for you. For me… it was one of those matches where after a while, the reactions came from the weapons spots. Especially when you compared to the wild, no-DQ match Havoc had with Ospreay barely a month earlier, it just felt… rather lacking. After Robinson hit a back senton into some light tubes on Havoc, then a curb stomp into some thumb tacks, the end came when Robinson set up some light tubes across chairs – in a throwback to their last match – only to get curb stomped through them before an Acid Rainmaker proved to be the death blow.
That’s not to put down what both men went through (particularly at the end when Robinson was dragging his way back to the locker room, then went to sit down on the stage before leaping up… because there were still drawing pins in the arse of his cheeks), but this was not my cup of tea. On the plus side, it is good to see Paul Robinson back in business, but like a lot of this show, there’s nothing obvious set up for him – and having taken a high profile loss on his first day back, I really don’t know what you can do here. ***¼
After the interval, Jim Smallman announced that 2019’s Super Strong Style would be at Alexandra Palace. That was the cue for Travis Banks to come out and enter himself in the tournament… and since a few people made the same comment, Trav didn’t seem entirely right? Tired and emotional, perhaps…
Thunderbastard for PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Flamita & Bandido (c) vs. Sexy Starr (David Starr & Jack Sexsmith) vs. M&M (Connor Mills & Maverick Mayhew) vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) vs. Anti-Fun Police (Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Federales Santos Jr.) vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs. Calamari Thatch Kings (Chris Brookes & Timothy Thatcher) vs. The 198 (Flash Morgan Webster & Wild Boar)
So, a regular Thunderbastard can get out of control really quickly… make it a tag team outing, and you’re risking a real cluster. Derided by some as a way to pad out cards during a hectic summer, and not helped by injuries, booking changes, and the move to switch the tag titles to a team that weren’t even in the tag series… it’s easy to see why there were some naysayers, but the final chapter of this was executed well.
Sexy Starr opened out with the tag team champions, but Starr got a little grumpy early on after Flamita tried to woo Jack Sexsmith… so he punches out the masked man in a fit of lover’s rage. The champions take over on Sexsmith with some rapid offence, but then we get the countdown as M&M hit the ring, relishing the chance to go flying with some luchadors.
Mayhew looked at ease against Flamita early on, before a satellite DDT nearly put away Starr. Of course, we’ve no tags as the ring was already threatening to fill up six just the three teams in, but it’d get worse before it got better. Aussie Open were next out, with Fletcher charging to the ring to take down M&M with a High Fly Flow-like crossbody, while Davis went straight for the champions with chops and clotheslines. Dunkzilla keeps up the offence with a sit-down splash on Starr, nearly causing our first elimination as Jack Sexsmith makes the save. Jack tries to throw some chops, but they’re comically weak, unless the right hand that took him into the corner as Davis mauled him some more. The Anti-Fun Police were next out, in new gear and music, going straight after the Aussies as a backbreaker/knee drop combo took Fletcher out of the picture.
Santos offered a hug to his “Mexican brethren”, but he just gets taken down with an enziguiri as the tag champs shot him to the floor. Another team comes out, with the Grizzled Young Veterans taking an age to come in through the crowd, while Gibson cut his traditional promo. M&M managed to stop the promo short, with Drake taking a sliding rolling elbow, but we have our first elimination as a Ticket to Mayhem put away M&M… as the next pairing of Brookes & Thatcher appeared. Eh, you couldn’t wait for the crowd to not have their attention diverted, eh?
Brookes and Thatcher tie up the Grizzled Young Veterans in submissions as Brookes and his latest tag team partner cleared house, but there’s no more eliminations as the 198 came out last – meaning we had 14 bodies flying around that ring. Wild Boar’s cannonball to Thatcher in the corner, then a Shadows Over Malice senton bomb barely gets a cover on Thatcher as the ring remained full. Santos catches Webster for an assisted springboard lungblower from Dunne… but then Timothy Thatcher comes in and slaps the life out of Santos. Again.
A Gojira clutch, a slingshot cutter and a butterfly suplex nearly put away Dunne, as Santos revived himself and broke it up, but it’s not long before we’re back to a full ring. There’s a sweet standing Phoenix splash from Bandido to Gibson for a near-fall, as we entered the flashy, spotlight-grabbing portion of the contest, with DDTs and dives becoming the order of the day. The Climax – a double-stomp assisted Product Placement – barely gets a one-count on the tag team champions as everyone’s breaking stuff up… but nobody’s there to save Sexsmith as he’s spiked with a Fire Thunder Driver from Boar, and we’re down another team.
More dives follow, with Brookes, Drake, Gibson, Fletcher and, erm, SANTOS taking to the skies?! The crowd’s pop for Santos just teeing up for his dive was immense, but he was outdone by a massive assisted back body drop to the floor from Flamita, before Bandido finished it off with a moonsault/fallaway slam, sending himself and Dunne to the pile below. Santos is back with duelling Deep Sixes to the tag champions, before Webster almost ate a Big Ending… he counters it into a Strangler, which Dunne broke with a back cracker as another Parade of Moves broke out, ending with a Trapper Keeper as the Anti-Fun Police were knocked out.
Brookes & Thatcher come in and go all CCK on Mark Davis… but Kyle Fletcher prevents a slap of doom before Brookes ate a pull-up piledriver… and Chris Brookes’ bid to regain his tag team titles proved to be fruitless. We get a ref bump as Wild Boar’s sent into Chris Roberts, which means that nobody sees Boar hitting Bandido with Arabella… leading to the pin as Webster eliminated the tag team champions. So we’re guaranteed new title holders, with the crowd instantly chanting for Aussie Open.
Mark Davis helps dump Webster with a Fidget Spinner… and that’s the 198 out. Aussie Open vs. Grizzled Young Veterans is effectively our final match for the championships, but a Fidget Spinner to Gibson didn’t get the job done… and prompted fears that the mouthy Scouser (and friend) would be leaving with the gold. In the end though, after Gibson saved Drake from a double-team sit-out spinebuster, Kyle Fletcher’s left isolated with Mark Davis taking a heavy spill into the ring steps. A Helter Skelter from Gibson, and the Organ Crusher 450 splash from Drake can’t put Kyle away though, as the crowd started to believe again. Especially when Dunkzilla’s back to help take out Gibson with a double-team Go To Sleep, before an elevated Fidget Spinner to Drake led to the finish – and new tag team champions! A loud pop greeted that finish, as the “serial underachievers” came up trumps. The only negative, if I can dig for one, is that the “rumble” style of this meant that very few people got a chance to shine until we were down to the final two or three teams, but in the end a fun match and up until this point, perhaps the match of the night. ****
Ilja Dragunov vs. Pete Dunne
Technically Ilja Dragunov’s PROGRESS debut, the benefit of hindsight perhaps dictated that Ilja perhaps should have had at least one outing on British soil, if only to give those fans who watch nothing but PROGRESS a chance to see what he’s capable of.
So, with Ilja’s in-ring debut taking place here, with more new music, we received what could only be described as palpable silence that gave way as the crowd got into him. Being presented not as “the best in Europe” but rather as a “foreign invader” with Christian Michael Jakobi as his mouthpiece, Dragunov had a rather hostile reaction – but the lack of familiarity, along with Pete Dunne’s reported injury meant that the match took a while to click.
We did start out hot as Dunne and Dragunov fired into each other, but it was Dunne who drew first blood with a clothesline. Dragunov hits a massive dive early, after a back senton had taken Dunne to the outside, but that domain kinda played into Dunne’s wheelhouse as he used the ring steps for stomping onto Dragunov’s arms. Still, Ilja hit back with a suplex off the ring steps to the floor – which may as well have been off the apron! Back in the ring, Dragunov kept the upper hand while the crowd chose to compare CMJ to Paul Heyman, before Dunne just blasted Dragunov into the corner with a single forearm. A missile dropkick to the knee flips Ilja, who quickly falls into a knee bar, but there’s a rope break – then a distraction – as Ilja tried to take over once more… but Dunne holds on after a superplex and quickly follows in with an X-Plex.
Dragunov keeps up with a lariat though, then a Chernobyl Bomb for a near-fall, before another back senton sees Dragunov land in a cross armbreaker from Dunne. There’s a quick escape, but Dunne goes back to Dragunov’s digits briefly as the match went a little more back-and-forth. A snap German suplex and a Bitter End gets a near-fall for Dunne, as we’re meant to be shocked that the Bitter End only got a two-count. From there, we’ve some stomps to Ilja’s chest and face… then Ilja returns the favour with some Bryan Danielson-like elbows to the neck… which prompts Dunne to remove his gumshield as we finally got some duelling chants.
Headbutts from Ilja target the shoulder, before the clonking headbutts started to effect both men, as they crashed back down to the mat. They sit up and exchange palm strikes, which led to Dunne biting away on Ilja’s fingers. That prompts Jakobi onto the apron as he lays out Dunne with his WWE UK title belt… leaving Dunne in the corner for a Coast to Coast dropkick that somehow only got a spent Dragunov a near-fall. Jakobi’s still on the apron as he yells abuse at Dunne, which led to him getting his comeuppance as Dunne grabs… then snaps the fingers, only to get dropped with a snap Saito suplex from Dragunov! There’s another Coast to Coast, but Dunne swats it away with a forearm before a Better End tombstone gets… a very near-fall?!
Dragunov’s back up and catches Dunne in the corner, bringing him down with the Burning Hammer and Sickle (cheers Alan4L!), before setting up for a Torpedo Moscau… clunking Dunne into the ropes! Another one looks to follow, but Dunne sidesteps it and counters back with a triangle armbar, snapping some fingers until Ilja was forced to tap.
Coupled with the result, and you had more than a fair few fans who were left nonplussed, with the feeling that as long as that WWE UK title is around him, Pete Dunne’s presence in all but the biggest of matches leads to the bouts becoming a foregone conclusion. Is this a case of feeling like you know too much? Perhaps, but when you look at track records, it’s hard not to draw your own correlations without so much as “reading dirt sheets”. ***½
Tables, Ladders & Chairs: Eddie Dennis vs. Mark Andrews
Eddie Dennis and Mark Andrews in a TLC match for a shot at the PROGRESS title. That stipulation felt rather extraneous, given that this was the first match in their feud, and let’s be honest… there’s not been any matches where tables, ladders or even chairs had played a part in their feud, which led to some rather dismissive tones that this blood feud was turned into “I hate you… I’m gonna climb a ladder”.
Maybe that angered the “booking Gods”, as what ended up happening was at best, mildly unfortunate, and at worst, infuriating. While we started with brawling and a dive, the weaponry quickly came into play as the Welsh pair used chairs on each other before Mark Andrews went for a table. Uh-oh. Eddie went for a ladder, but he was taller than the damn thing, which meant that the ladder was only good for a weapon rather than for climbing.
Who blew the budget on those step ladders?! Mark tries to climb one of them, which was almost comical, but he was able to hit a ‘rana as Eddie went to the outside, and was teasing going through a table. Instead, Eddie ends up taking a Stundog Millionaire on the apron, sending him bouncing off a table. It would become the trend as the Japanese tables. German tables. PROGRESS tables. Whatever you want to call them, they did not break, despite Eddie and Mark throwing themselves and each other onto them.
A snap powerbomb just sees Andrews bounce off the table, as the legs gave way rather than the wood… and another powerbomb sees Mark bounce again. All we got was bouncing and sickening thuds as the hot feud turned into a farce, with the crowd cheering ironically for every such attempt. Instead, Eddie pulls out a HUGE ladder from under the ring for later, before setting up a chair in the ropes… which of course he takes courtesy of headscissors.
Next up, Eddie teases a superplex through a table, before Andrews shoved him down for a Code Red that barely budged the table… but definitely ripped up the canvas. Andrews climbs the ladder… but gets shoved off onto a smaller one, as Eddie decides to drop down and continue the match as sections of the crowd groaned. Especially when Mark looked to evoke the spirit of Jeff Hardy as he tried to senton bomb Eddie through a table. Off of one of those near 20ft ladders. Bounce. Again, the legs gave way as Mark skidded off Eddie and took the landing on his backside.
The crowd groan again as Mark sets up another table in the ring, before using a chair to leave Eddie laid across a table. Eddie pops up though and catches Mark on the ladder, looking to bring him down with a Next Stop Driver… and finally the table bends enough for people to consider it “broken”! All that’s left is for Eddie to scale the ladder and retrieve the contract, and he’s now in line for a PROGRESS title shot! Playing Devil’s advocate, you could argue that after the first two or three table snafus, they perhaps should have ditched the tables rather than keep on plugging away and risk this being a mockery – but by the end, you had to feel bad for them as the story they wanted to tell… just wouldn’t be told. ***
PROGRESS World Championship: Tyler Bate vs. WALTER (c)
Live, with the estimated end time of the show being given as 8.30pm, it was looking improbable that things would get wrapped up by then… particularly since the TLC match didn’t get out of the ring until around 8.25pm, which presented problems for many of those who’d travelled in from around the UK. A small, but noticeable number of fans left during the main event… which was really good, but a match that I wanted to watch with non-tired eyes.
So, let’s hit play and watch this, after not playing the “down a shot every time Tyler says big strong boi” game. Tyler’s out in a very Daisuke Sekimoto-like white robe, while WALTER was played to the ring by a pair of violinists. Classy entrance for a classy champion. Even if all you could hear was someone scream “SHINSUKE NAKAMURA”.
Both men had folks in their corner, as WALTER had Timothy Thatcher by his side, while Tyler was accompanied by the rest of British Strong Style.
After the obligatory staredown, we started with WALTER throwing Bate with ease from a simple headlock. Tyler was the early favourite with the crowd, but he really struggled to get into gear as WALTER easily lifts him onto the apron from a gutwrench. Bate manages to rock WALTER with a dropkick, as commentary pretty much tells us that the prelude to the “big strong boi” really was a “Conor McGregor knock-off” routine.
Another headlock keeps Tyler on the mat, as WALTER again made the most of the side difference. Bate tries to hit back with flying shoulder tackles, before WALTER’s bid a receipt saw him leap into a bodyslam as we got the Andre slam! Tyler stays on WALTER like a terrier, using some Junkyard Dog like headbutts before an attempt at a diving European uppercut was met with a chop in mid-air.
WALTER begins to rough-up Tyler after that, going for a surfboard stretch with some boots to the back of the head. A quick reversal takes WALTER into the ropes, where Bate teases a deadlift German suplex… only to get chopped. Thanks for coming! A STF keeps Bate grounded, as WALTER seemed to be having fun in disposing of his latest challenger. Tyler tries to fight back with chops, but WALTER just lifts him up and chokes him across the top turnbuckle, sending him sailing to the floor once more. Bate again tries to fight back, taking WALTER outside for a tope, but he’s met with another chop before a back suplex drops him on the apron. Somehow, Bate’s able to hit a suplex on the outside, before he connected with a hands-free plancha!
WALTER’s rolled back inside, and this turns into a slugfest as Tyler unloads with right hands, before ducking a reply… and catching WALTER in an airplane spin! A running shooting star press is good for a near-fall, before Tyler looks to chain together some rebound lariats, only to be clotheslined himself as going to the well once too often almost led to his downfall. A brainbuster keeps the flow going for a near-fall from WALTER, but Bate’s got more feats of strength to show off, as he pulls WALTER out of the corner into a torture rack attempt. He loses that and quickly takes a shotgun dropkick, then a powerbomb as the champion pressed the issue, following up with a series of chops as he clung onto Tyler’s wrist. Bate escapes and goes back to some kicks, before catching WALTER with bop and bang… only to get caught with a palm strike. He shrugs that off and deadlifts WALTER into a German suplex, but it’s still not enough!
More palm strikes from Bate leave WALTER in a heap on the mat, but again he’s back with a wrenching STF, using a cravat instead of a crossface for extra pain. WALTER cranks it up a little, almost getting a nose bleed as he heads up top for a big splash as Bate still wouldn’t stay down, as he still had fight left in him. A mounted rear naked choke looked to squeeze out what was left of WALTER’s spirit, but WALTER climbs the ropes and falls backwards to break free.
WALTER keeps up with the high risk stuff, swapping headbutts on the top rope before swatting Tyler down to the mat. The Austrian’s going back up top though, and gets met with a dropkick as Tyler manages to pull off… a spinning torture rack?! Jesus wept, that’s impressive… but Bate falls out of the ring with dizziness, before recovering and hitting a Tyler Driver for another two-count! The follow-up continues with a Spiral Tap, but Bate misses, gets caught in a Gojira clutch, and has WALTER take his back… but somehow Tyler stands up and falls to his back to break it! Not to worry, WALTER’s right back with the hold. Bate tries to flip over out of the corner, but it’s not enough, as WALTER kicks out, boots him in the head, then reapplies the Gojira as the crowd roared with Tyler firing back up… only to get dumped with a sit-out tombstone as WALTER ended things just like that.
As much as I am indifferent to the whole “big strong boi” tag line, it’s undeniable that Tyler Bate’s strength is impressive. Whether it was displayed through airplane spins, spinning torture racks, or hurking up a 300+ pound Austrian for a Tyler Driver. It’s all stuff that regular sized folks struggle with, so for a 21 year old like Tyler to be doing it with relative ease is mind boggling. That said… I’ve found it a struggle as of late to form any sort of connection with the character, meaning I was more into the “wow, that is strong” and the “ow, those chops really DO ring around the arena” moments. In spite of that, this was a suitably epic main event for Wembley – one that showed how far Tyler Bate had come… but still fell short of the big one. ****¼
If “starting from the bottom” was 300 people in Islington, PROGRESS really are here now – filling their set-up of Wembley Arena with a quoted crowd of 4,750, outdrawing New Japan’s latest show in the United States that happened on the same day. Even in making the save for the New Japan booking interference, not many matches on this card delivered a feeling of being special. Perhaps if Tyler Bate hadn’t been ruled out of Super Strong Style 16 through injury, and won it (as seemed to be the plan) the build for the main event here would have made it seem more special than “just a match”.
Aside from the hardcore fans, there were quite a few watching from afar observing that, save for the venue, this lineup could well have been almost any chapter show. Add in a show that seemed to resolve storylines but generated very little in terms of new stuff… you had a show that dangerously could serve as a jumping off point for fans who may be falling out of love. Having been to every PROGRESS London show in the last two years… I’m on that list.
This isn’t some sort of melodramatic “oh, I hate PROGRESS” or “I’m done with this group forever!” sort of statement, but being unable to make it to the next few Camden shows has kind of made the decision for me. Will the “next volume” of PROGRESS be enough to tempt me back into being a ticket-buying fan? As much as the past few months of turbulence may have contributed into pushing me away, I have confidence that things will indeed come back around. How quickly though, remains to be seen…