A rather understated show was on offer as PROGRESS made their debut on the south coast, with Bournemouth seeing the opening half of a weekender.

Away from London, this seems to be the new model for PROGRESS – regular “weekenders” that cover two towns in as many days. That’s nice… but also makes those second shows awkward as fans will inadvertently get spoilers from the first night by going to the second. C’est la vie! It’s a new building for PROGRESS, which means we get to do the “how old are you gag?” to a youngster, and the rest. I remember when these bits didn’t feel patterned all the time… but at least a new town means we’ve got a lot of first timers here. And it also means that somehow, I’m reminded that Jacamo is a thing…

Glen Joseph is on commentary, alongside a returning Callum Leslie who’s one of several folks returning after a lengthy spell away.

Angelico vs. DJ Z
Soundalike Bangarang starts us off with this SSS16 qualifier – but DJ Z’s airhorn is presumably royalty free as he manages to keep that.

They started off on the mat, with DJ Z trying to out-grapple Angelico, rolling him into a deathlock STF variant, before the tempo was raised as a tope laid out Angelico in the front row. A superkick keeps Angelico on the outside as he tried a lap of honour, before DJ Z scored a sliding crossbody into Angelico on a chair.

Back inside, DJ Z airhorns his way into a knee from Angelico… which gets a celebratory airhorn as I guess the button stuck. A swinging uranage facebuster gets Angelico a near-fall, before the pair swapped low dropkicks for a spell. DJ Z uses the top rope to rebound his way into almost an Asai DDT on Angelico for a near-fall, before he was taken up top by Angelico… whose attempt at a ‘rana was shoved off (twice) as DJ Z went flying instead with the ZDT off the top for the win. This was fine, but never broke outside the range of the “Gentleman’s three” – DJ Z has had better matches, and I dare whatever he does at Super Strong Style 16 will overshadow this with ease. ***

Referee Joel comes out and poses. The eventual PROGRESS Bodybuilding Federation may do better than Vince’s efforts in the 90s.

Ligero vs. Trent Seven
This was originally meant to be Trent vs. Jody Fleisch, but an ongoing family emergency meant that Ligero was back on the cards.

Apparently this was a first-time-ever meeting, and we start with Trent taking Ligero into the corner – giving a rather unfortunate view of the Union Jack that was already barely clinging onto Ligero’s trunks. I can’t tell if that’s him just preparing for a “full fat” NXT appearance… Ligero responds by keeping Trent on the mat, as commentary used this match as a backdrop for Trent’s upcoming title unifier with WALTER. A dropkick has Trent back down, but he’s able to use his size advantage to force his way in with chops before he grabbed Ligero by the horns to pull him into a DDT.

A legdrop from Seven’s good for a near-fall, before he trapped Ligero in a brief Figure Four, which ended when Ligero rolled into the ropes. Ligero responds by tripping Trent and kicking something out of his mouth, before he worked into a slingshot stunner from the apron, eventually getting a two-count out of a jack-knife cover. Trent traps Ligero on the top rope with a chop, before a ripcord lariat and a sit-out side slam nearly got him the win. From there, Trent heads up top, missing with a corkscrew senton as Ligero tried to capitalise with a superkick and an enziguiri, before a second lariat waffled Ligero. Yet still, the masked man kicks out from a piledriver, and manages to get something out of his second wind as a powerbomb and a crossbody off the top drew a near-fall.

Ligero’s springboard’s caught as Trent goes for a death valley driver… instead he has to make do with a horn-assisted Dragon suplex before the Burning Hammer gets the win. Again, this was alright, but with Trent on a collision course for WALTER in May, nobody bought Ligero as being the guy to derail him. ***¼

Millie McKenzie vs. Martina
In the build-up to Super Strong Style 16 weekend, PROGRESS are holding some qualifiers to set-up a four-way for the women’s title. Perhaps tellingly, champion Jordynne Grace isn’t announced, despite being champion… but the winner of this match would end up joining Nina Samuels in that four-way.

During the intros, they cracked the joke about Millie McKenzie being one of Martina’s kids, so of course Martina offered to raise her pocket money if she let her win. Sadly, it’s a rib as Millie rolls up Martina a few times, as we get a scrapping mother and daughter, including some spanking. Not like that. Martina gets tricked into some endless rope running, saved by Millie offering her some Kronenbourg to get her going again. Except Millie just catches her with some German suplexes as Martina was about to Can Up, eventually getting McKenzie a near-fall. An Octopus stretch follows, but Martina’s back with a double-hand chop and a knee to the face as she tried to edge ahead.

A brainbuster dropped Millie for a near-fall, as did a Seshbreaker before Millie fought back… and ran into a headbutt. Martina goes for a swinging side slam, but has to make do with an enziguiri, before Millie countered a Seshbreaker with a spear… right as Jinny’s music hit. Just because. Millie gets distracted, and almost loses to a schoolboy from Martina, who nails a German suplex of her own not moments later, before another spear from Millie got the win. Again, another match that was fine, but would it kill to have someone to cheer AND someone to boo in the same bout? **¾

Post-match, Jinny instantly swarms on Martina and Millie with some stomps. I’d like to think it was to maintain a good guy/bad guy dynamic, but the first three matches so far were all babyface, so all I can do is go “eh” as commentary suggested Jinny was bitter about losing her chance to be in the four-way.

Austin Theory vs. Jordan Devlin
Yep, Theory is still doing the Poundland David Starr routine, throwing out words as nicknames. I mean, what the hell is “The Epitome” as a nickname meant to be?! Still, Austin had some sweet early 00s-sounding nu metal, which fits his whole look.

Anyway, this was a qualifier for Super Strong Style 16, with Theory making his UK debut as EVOLVE champion. Someone appreciated it, anyway. With a clear babyface and heel dynamic, the atmosphere was markedly better for this match, with the crowd being pro-Devlin. They liked what they saw when Devlin edges ahead with the Air Jordan – standing uranage and moonsault combo – before a back elbow sent Theory back down to the mat. A dropkick takes Devlin outside as Theory began to use strikes to put the Irishman at bay.

Theory gets a one count out of a brainbuster, having taken too long to mug for the cameras… and it’s not long before he wrecks Devlin with a clothesline for a near-fall. A standing moonsault from Theory ends when he lands in Jordan’s knees for a near-fall, before a slingshot cutter… took Theory outside as he avoided being pinned. After rolling Theory back inside, a 450 splash followed for a two-count, as the pair began to trade forearms – a situation that put Theory ahead… only for him to run into a Spanish Fly for a near-fall. Theory’s back with a spinning rack bomb for a near-fall, but Devlin kicked out just in the nick of time, before he was caught with Ataxia as Theory countered out of a pull-up Saito suplex.

Some more elbows from Theory left Devlin in a heap, but Jordan’s back with some boxing body blows, only to get caught with a rolling Blockbuster before he countered Ataxia into a package piledriver for the win. This was an enjoyable match, which would have taken a step up had more of the crowd been familiar with Theory behind the generic heel act. Theory’s ready – just the character isn’t. ***½

El Phantasmo vs. Travis Banks
ELP’s getting the “too sweets” from the crowd, which is impressive given that the ELP/Bullet Club video only dropped hours before the show.

Banks was out with his re-formed South Pacific Power Trip… now with added NIWA! Even if his name wasn’t on the t-shirts… Banks jumps Phantasmo before the bell, but the Canadian’s back with a dropkick and some ground and pound. ELP heads into the ropes early on for a hand-walk senton across the ring, before some rope walking led to a double-jump ‘rana and a clothesline that took Banks to the outside.

A switcheroo leads to Banks going for a tope… but he gets caught by his running buddies, who carried him away as ELP teased a dive of his own. ELP gets his own back by twisting the nipples of TK and NIWA, which opened the door for Banks to score a PK off the apron as the count continued. Back in the ring, Banks keeps ELP grounded with a leaping elbow, only for Phantasmo to go flippy, backflipping over Banks before he picked up some two-counts with a springboard crossbody and a Quebrada. A springboard stomp from Banks in the corner keeps the match even as the crowd started to chant ELP’s initials to the old Elite chant… wrong promotion, folks!

A superkick from ELP knocks Banks silly, as does a whirlibird neckbreaker… but it’s still not enough. Another moonsault from ELP sees him land in the feet of Banks, who rushes back in to try and finish him with a clothesline and a Kiwi Krusher for a near-fall… and when Phantasmo tried to come back, he’s got to deal with TK, who grabbed his foot on the top rope. Not to worry, Phantasmo brushes him off and hits a ropewalk into an Asai moonsault to the floor, complete with the swish landing that saw ELP put his foot through someone’s chair! Back in the ring, Banks thought he’d rolled away from a big splash, but somehow ELP made the distance as TK Cooper puts Banks’ foot on the rope to keep the match alive… and that’s the cue for ELP to go after him again, this time scoring with a tope con giro over the ref.

Back inside, an inside cradle from Banks nearly snatches the win, before Banks got sent into the corner… that’s the cue for NIWA to come in and hit a Project Ciampa on ELP, before a Slice of Heaven got the win for Banks. Well, he needed a lot of help from his sidekicks, but Travis Banks got the win in a match where ELP went from being “hey that guy from the Bullet Club video” to someone the crowd desperately wanted to get the win. Hopefully he’ll not take as long to be brought back after this weekend… ***½

For some reason, a member of ring crew got in Banks’ face after the match, which just led to the Kiwis demolishing the ring crew like they’d gotten possessed by the spirit of Minoru Suzuki.

The 198 (Flash Morgan Webster & Wild Boar) vs. Anti-Fun Police (Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Federales Santos Jr.)
The 198 were back for the first time since October – and we get Flash’s slowed down WWE theme here – while the Anti-Fun Police made their return after a similarly-long stretch away.

The referee does a bad job of the “two in, two out” stuff early, which meant that Santos and Dunne could apprehend Webster in the opening minutes. For… reasons? We then see Santos freak out because there’s a wild animal in the ring… so he pulls out a “rope” to try and lasso the Wild Boar. It went as well as you’d expect. The comedy also. Still, Santos and Dunne worked well to keep Boar down, as Santos was having to spam bodyslams to Boar… then to Webster… before he stopped himself from slamming his own man. That “accident” meant that the 198 had a way back into the match, with Boar throwing Webster onto Santos’ back as they built up to a near-fall.

Some biting from Boar has Santos in the ropes, but he’s able to fight back with elbows before a swinging Flatliner dumped Boar on the mat. Both men tag out as Dunne raced into the 198, spearing Webster before a 999 caught Boar in the corner en route to an Asai DDT that dumped Webster with the ol’ “accidental DDT”. The Anti-Fun Police look for the finish, only for Boar to intervene… but he can’t stop Webster from getting superkicked in mid-air as he went for a springboard senton. Webster’s back though with a reverse ‘rana to Santos, before Santos takes a powerbomb out of the corner as the crowd barely broke out of a murmur. A wheelbarrow powerbomb from Boar drops Dunne onto Santos for a near-fall, but the Po-Po manages to make a comeback with the assisted Big Ending on Boar, only for Santos to get a near-fall from a pumphandle slam.

Dunne looks for a springboard lungblower on Boar, but Webster makes a save as the tide changes, with Flash headbutting Santos out of the ring before he followed him outside with a Pinball Wizard senton. Back in the ring, Dunne’s on his own as the 198 race into a finish, with Flash’s bicycle knees feeding Dunne into a Trapper Keeper from Boar for the win. Well, this was a match, I guess. Nothing wrong with it, but with the 198 having been out of the picture, it felt like the casuals were hard pressed to know whether to cheer or boo them. So in the end, they got barely anything. ***

After the match, Webster mouthed to the camera “where’s our title shot?” – this was their first match back in PROGRESS, having lost last time out in.. a three-way for the tag titles.

Do Not Resuscitate (Chuck Mambo, Spike Trivet & William Eaver) vs. Eddie Dennis, Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins
So, either the DNR music here was overdubbed, or the audio mix came in too hot vs. the live crowd, as we could once again barely hear the crowd. Or Eaver’s street preacher gimmick. Still, there’s one guy in the front row who was chomping at the bit to get at Mambo and Eaver, so I guess it works for him.

Havoc gets the Sabu entrance, as the lights go out… then come back on as he swung an axe at them in the ring, in a callback to Havoc’s return last month. He dives on them as the match started as a brawl that referee Marc Parry never really had control of as team NXT UK/ROH/AEW were taking the DNR crew to the proverbial woodshed. A tope from Mambo’s caught as Eddie dumps him on the apron with a swinging side slam… before Eddie clotheslined Mambo’s bandana clean off his head. Chuck finally hits a dive, with a springboard double sledge to Eddie on the floor as the bell finally rung. The bell going barely changed the pattern, as Havoc catches Eaver with a satellite DDT out of the corner, before Haskins kept a similar pace going against Spike Trivet, tripping and kicking him to the mat.

The arrival of Chuck Mambo offered some brief respite, but Spike’s taken back into a Sharpshooter as Eddie and Jimmy continued to keep the coast clear on the outside. Things happen that we barely see in the background, while Spike nearly pins Haskins with a Hat Rack Crack… remember K-Kwik? Haskins gets cornered as Spike begins to rain down elbows on him… but Haskins just absorbs them and fires up, only to get taken down as Trivet tried to choke away on him. Spike grabs his bottle of bubbly next, taking a swig before spraying Dennis and Havoc on the apron, prompting them to run in and distract the referee as Eaver slammed something at Haskins’ arm.

That seemed to draw in Vicky Haskins to slap them all, but she gets ejected for that as the match ground to a halt with Mark eventually heading to the back to get his arm checked out. So that left “team PROGRESS” with the numerical disadvantage, which didn’t seem to matter as Jimmy Havoc was happily putting the boots to Trivet in the ring, before Spike ducked a Rainmaker and tagged out. Mambo flies in with a Meteora as the crowd again seemed to wind down into generic background murmurs, waking up as Eddie Dennis got the tag and blasted into Chuck with forearms and chops. Eaver gets some too, before clotheslines dropped the former Sweet Jesus, as Eddie moved into his fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo.

Spike tries for a flying lungblower, but while Eddie catches him a superkick from Mambo takes him down as DNR again found the upper hand. We’re back to the murmuring as the evil trio had Eddie on the mat, with Spike using a neck crank before Mambo came back to try and make it more aggressive, whipping Eddie hard into the corner before taking his back in a rear naked choke. Havoc tries to break that up, but he’s quickly escorted away by the referee as Eddie had to fight back on his own, taking Mambo up for a stalling superplex. With nobody in the corner for Mambo to tag out to, Eddie Dennis manages to get the tag… with Jimmy Havoc instantly coming in with a staple gun. Marc Parry disarms him, but just gets clobbered as Jimmy stapled Mambo, Eaver and Trivet for fun, before stapling Paz’s arse for the hell of it. A double stomp to Eaver’s next, but the numbers game briefly played a part as Havoc just death valley drivers everyone.

Havoc and Eaver disappear into the crowd as Eddie’s left on his own against Mambo and Trivet… and while Eddie manages to send Chuck sailing with a forearm, he still had Spike to deal with… which he did when he threw Spike into Mambo outside, before crashing into the pair of them with a tope con giro. Conveniently, that was the vue for Jimmy and William to return as they appeared on a balcony, with Eaver quickly being thrown over the edge before Havoc punched him into a fall. A balcony dive in a new building eh? It got a reaction at least, before Jimmy joined them with a crossbody into the mass of bodies underneath as the lights… went purple? The Undertaker’s joining them?!

With the lights going back up, we saw Mambo and Eddie brawling on the stage, only for Chuck to land a tombstone. Havoc back with a double stomp off the top to Trivet, before Spike countered an Acid Rainmaker with a low blow and a Birthright… as we still had no ref. Did Joel go home already?! With no ref, Spike commandeers the staple gun and gets some payback on Havoc, before the Haskins staggered back through the curtain. Mark PK’s Spike on the floor, then heads back into the ring for a dive. There’s another double stomp to Spike, this time from Haskins, only for Trivet to spit at a furious Haskins… who just punches him out. Stomps to the gut led to a Sharpshooter, and finally out comes Joel Allen. Except Mambo intercepts him, so he doesn’t see Eaver clocking Haskins with a turnbuckle iron, as Trivet gets the win. Well, that got some boos from the crowd, but it sure as heck didn’t feel like a big win for DNR. As a match, it felt like the classic “car crash” main event that PROGRESS used to do, but whether it was a result of poor audio mixing or the crowd not caring, it just didn’t seem to get the desired reaction. ***

We’re nowhere near “the rot setting in”, but this felt like the first PROGRESS show in a stupidly long time that I could honestly say was not worth watching. In the past, when promotions like ROH and EVOLVE have gone double-headers, the first night of that pair has always been a hard sell – and that pattern sadly continued here. Sure, there was no lack of effort from the wrestlers, but precious little seemed to click on this show. No return date was announced, in keeping with their new policy on non-London shows, and unless you were already a PROGRESS Ultra (hey, do they still use that term), I can’t see this show having won over undecided fans. PROGRESS headed up to Birmingham on the next night, as the build to Super Strong Style 16 continues…