Tables! Ladders! Chairs! Oh, and the PROGRESS tag team titles, as the last show before Super Strong Style 16 saw a lot of furniture come into play.

It’s a “lesser of two evils” thing, with PROGRESS choosing not to run over WrestleMania weekend (something about hotel prices… which I’m sure some will be able to poo-poo given how many shows were running). Still, I’m also not sure it was a good idea to drop this show right in the middle of the weekend, with so many alternatives… so here we are. Delayed! This VOD is almost four hours long. For a six-match show. How? Why? It’s a six match show for heaven’s sake…

We started with a call-out for the late Kris Travis, who’d passed away three years ago. They show off the Ballroom’s balcony extension, which eventually will have standing room on three sides of the upper level… I’d compare it to the Turbinenhalle 1. in Oberhausen, but that’ll just make some people mad.

Our opening segment is a talkie: Do Not Resuscitate aren’t happy. The crowd’s boos are deafening, which is a good sign. Chuck Mambo’s got a good, bitter promo about how he was left off of shows and bought drinks by fans who’d cheer for him but not give a toss about their careers. None of DNR are in Super Strong Style 16, but they’ll be at the shows to wrestle. You know, just in case? They challenge Mark Andrews, Mark Haskins, Jimmy Havoc and Eddie Dennis – all of whom get mocked by their corporate nicknames. Eddie’s here, albeit injured, to address his “different relationship” with Mambo away from PROGRESS, breaking that fourth wall as he revealed how Mambo was checking in on him after his injury at Pro Wrestling Chaos. He even names his replacement for that match: the over-enunciation that led to the appearance of Ligero, who cleared house all by himself. I get that it’s hard, but I really could do without the bleed-over between NXT UK and PROGRESS. Especially the nicknames.

Finally, we have action. Glen Joseph and Matt Richards are back on commentary.

David Starr vs. Connor Mills
Winner gets into Super Strong Style 16 and this marked Mills’ first appearance at PROGRESS since Wembley (which like a lot of the crowd had forgotten who he was… but the audio did sound weird during his entrance. You could see people reacting, but not hear it). Mills started out brightly in this one, matching Starr and nearly upsetting him early with a Millshot, but he got a little too carried away as he dove into a Cherry Mint DDT before eating a Han Stansen for a near-fall. More Han Stansens led to Starr teasing a Trapped Arm Bob Fossil piledriver on the apron, but Mills kicks away before an exchange of strikes led to him rolling into an over-the-knee powerbomb, then the Bob Fossil for the win. I doubt anyone in the room gave Mills much of a chance, but this was a perfectly fine outing for Starr, who may well have ulterior motives for wanting to win SSS16… look at who’s champion. ***

Kasey Owens vs. Nina Samuels
This is beyond a parody now, isn’t it?

The winner gets into the four-way at Super Strong Style 16 for the PROGRESS Women’s title – a strap that’s been painfully MIA in the UK this year. The crowd were awfully quiet for the start of this, barely making much noise as Nina spilled awkwardly to the outside, where she got thrown into the post. Owens wasn’t really targeting any part of Samuels, but it seemed to be Nina’s midsection that was taking the brunt of it. Samuels makes a comeback with knees to the back and an eventual butterfly backbreaker for a near-fall. Kasey tries a hanging armbar in the ropes but she’s shoved to the outside before a slingshot tornillo nearly won the match.

Kasey came back with the Killing Joke running knee for a near-fall, before a spin-out torture rack led to another two-count… only for Nina to catch a crossbody and turn it into the Prima Donna GTS for the win. PROGRESS badly need to reboot their women’s division and get it out of the second match on the card. It’s created a stereotype that these matches mean nothing (because if they did, they’d not always be second), and the lack of reactions here just showed it. **¼

CCK (Chris Brookes & Jonathan Gresham) vs. Latin American Exchange (Ortiz & Santana)
This was the culmination of the trilogy that started in New York last summer, continued to Manchester a few months later… and finally wound up in PROGRESS’ home.

It was nicknames ahoy from the off, as we started slowly – perhaps disappointingly so for a match that was so hyped. I was almost having flashbacks to the CCK/Aussie Open disappointment at Rev Pro while Glen was parroting “Funky Monkey” as often as he could, seemingly with an aversion to saying “Ortiz”. Did Tito upset him that much? There’s flashes of a good match in among all the posedowns and shtick, and of course the ref gets involved because Joel ain’t no shrinking violet. The ref doing a forward and a back roll getting the pop of the show so far says all you need to know about 2019 PROGRESS.

We get a nice series of monkey flips and roll-ups as Gresham and Santana looked for an advantage, but it was Ortiz who nearly won it with his falling headbutt onto Gresham. A switcheroo has CCK on top, after a cheeky wave from Gresham, as Ortiz found himself isolated for a spell. With the referee not giving a toss, Gresham uses the staple gun before Ortiz took a kick-assisted Praying Mantis Bomb for a near-fall, as it was Ortiz’s turn to be isolated for an extended spell while the crowd watched on, almost begging something to happen. They finally got their wish as Santana booted Gresham ahead of a Hat Rack Crack and a tope, only for Gresham to lift Santana outside into a superkick from Brookes.

LAX combine to slingshot Gresham into a superkick, then a powerbomb and a frog splash as they finally pushed play on having the match we know they could have. The story throughout the match reappeared as Ortiz’s knee buckled under him, which led to him getting dived on a lot outside and inside the ring by Brookes and Gresham, but Santana breaks up a cover from a frog splash to keep the match alive. A sorta-shotgun dropkick takes Brookes into the corner for a step-up cannonball, before he’s cracked with a superkick cutter for a near-fall… because Gresham grabs the ref’s arm to stop him from finishing the count. A dive from Ortiz has the ref distracted as Lykos comes in for the baking tray shot, but Santana avoids it as LAX batter Brookes on the way to a hiptoss facebuster… with Lykos pulling out the ref.

Yeah, we’re deep into shenanigans with stopped counts and other referee based stuff. Gresham uses the Lykos tray as the wolf was ejected, just as CCK hit a jawdropping wheelbarrow roll through into a cutter as CCK began another offensive, with Gresham trapping Ortiz’s worn-down knees with a figure four… making it worse as he rolled Ortiz out of the ring, smashing his knees onto the floor as he proceeded to drag Ortiz into the crowd. Gresham lets go of the hold as the referee continued to count… and Ortiz couldn’t beat the count as CCK won by count-out. Cue collective groans at that as once again in Britwres, a much-vaunted rematch ended flatly. Irritatingly, there were flashes of a really good match sprinkled among this match, but for my taste, there was way too much time killing shtick that broke up the flow. ***¼

Post-match, Santana took the mic and challenged CCK to a rematch with Lykos. Does that mean Konnan or Homicide for their side then?

TK Cooper vs. Angelico
There was no Travis Banks on show here, and Fraser Thomas joins the commentary teams for… reasons.

Angelico looked to be comfortable in the early going, but NIWA distracts him into a Benny Hill chase that led to TK booting his own man. Keystone Cops. Back in the ring, TK was able to get the upper hand, albeit with a little help from NIWA on the outside. It’s not long before they bumble into each other again, but TK fortunately seems to be able to withstand this as he caught Angelico with a corkscrew legdrop in the ropes. Angelico looked to outwrestle TK with submissions, but TK has the ref distracted as NIWA hits a lumbar check before a Phoenix Splash got TK the win. Well, that didn’t feel like much of a match, and I’m not a fan of how NIWA’s almost as useful as a chocolate teapot… but it’s still early days for Travis Banks’ reformed goons. **½

Joel poses. The ref’s more over than some of the talent…

Lucky Kid vs. Tristan Archer
Considering Lucky Kid just won 16 Carat Gold, you’d have to think he’s a massive favourite to quality for SSS16. The music sounds oddly dubbed over, especially since the crowd suddenly start to make a notable noise and chants as they fade out…

By the way, that Twitter handle is @real_luckykid, since the lower third missed out a Y. Lucky faked out a dive early, before seeing a crossbody get caught and turned into a slam on the outside. He recovers, catching Archer with a 619 on the apron, only to get whipped back into the apron as Archer regained the upper hand. Problem is, coming in as a debutant with little buzz, the crowd didn’t put much credibility into Archer’s offence, seemingly waiting for Lucky’s comeback.

There’s a nice snap German suplex and a low dropkick from Archer as we’re kept waiting for Lucky to get offence in, which he finally did with an overhand chop ahead of the Lion’s Gate crossface. Archer escaped, but got clotheslined to the outside, as Lucky clobbered him with his leg on a tope con giro. A lungblower through the ropes gets Archer back ahead, as does a superplex… but Lucky rolls him through into a sit-out powerbomb and a handspring back elbow. Archer’s pop-up cutter’s good for a near-fall as the momentum swung, as did a buckle bomb and rolling lariat combo, before Lucky made another comeback with an Asai DDT. One 450 splash later, and Lucky quickly takes Archer into the Lion’s Gate for the submission. Another decent outing, but this crowd not knowing Archer really hurt the reactions. ***

For some reason we hear Jim’s disembodied voice before we see him and Frasier Thomas walk to the ring. Frasier’s introduced to us as he’s getting a present: he’s allowed to do an in ring interview with Trent Seven. They ape the WWE style of introducing guests, except people don’t seem to laugh at the joke too much. Anyway, Trent comes out for his comedy hour. They didn’t make a set, so they do admin on air before we finally get the questions. Trent mocks WALTER by saying that the Austrian didn’t respect the Atlas title (erm, remember the disrespect Trent and pals have shown for PROGRESS, only to shrug it off with a “our bad”? Yay for selective memories). Oddly, Trent answers a question about “are you capable of unifying the titles?” with a big rah-rah speech before throwing shade at WALTER for having weekends off. Are they trying to make WALTER the Brock Lesnar of PROGRESS? It’s just I don’t recall them turning WALTER… This was fine, but a single Trent Seven promo would have sufficed as Frasier, God bless him, looked like a spare part throughout.

Tables, Ladders & Chairs for PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) vs. Swords Of Essex (Paul Robinson & Will Ospreay) (c)
Plenty was made of PROGRESS’ history with tables and ladders, so hopefully that got sorted. Everyone’s in jeans for this brawl, which may or may not have been caused by Mark Davis’ gear being delayed in transit from Germany…

This one went 45 minutes long, starting with long duelling chants that just intensified in volume. Now THAT’S the atmosphere I remember from PROGRESS of days gone by.

We finally get going as Glen thankfully tells us that everything’s legal, including tables, ladders and chairs. That’s good, because I have no idea how you’d do TLC if they were illegal. The match spilled outside almost instantly, with Kyle Fletcher getting hurled into the crowd… and Mark Davis wasn’t far behind him as the Swords dropkicked a chair through him, only for Kyle to return with a step-up senton off the top as he almost wiped out the front row. Things get wild when Robinson tries to leap off the back of Ospreay’s back to grab the titles without a ladder, but he’s stopped when Mark Davis just chucks a chair from the floor to knock him down. Yeah, we’re going to the wild stuff early, including a sunset bomb from Ospreay as he had Aussie Open crash into each other.

The Aussies are back quickly with a double-team Go to Sleep before they tried to whip Robinson into the ladder. He ducks it, then goes all Terry Funk as he spun the ladder around… except Aussie Open just wait for him to get tired before they grabbed the ladder and clotheslines him with it. It’d get crazier. A flying forearm into the crowd from Ospreay just signals the start of another brawl in the crowd, as they fought into a section of the crowd by the stage. The cameras struggle to keep track as Ospreay and Robinson set up a table contraption right where there used to be chairs, as they prepared to superplex Davis off the stage and into it. Dunkzilla fought back as Kyle Fletcher just hurls a ladder at Ospreay, before Paul Robinson launched himself off the stage and over the tables into the Aussies.

Things threatened to settle down as we had the obligatory ladder climbing, with Robinson pretty close before he got knocked down. Robinson tries to choke out Davis, but instead gets taken up the ladder for an assisted Aussie Arrow, as Davis began to slug it out with Ospreay at the top of the ladder, trading headbutts as we crossed past the 20 minute mark. Ospreay counters being shoved off the ladder into an OsCutter as the madman started to open his box of tricks, before Mark Davis pulled away the ladder as Ospreay had his hands on the belts… and moved it so Kyle could lands a spear/clothesline to take him down. Thankfully, it wasn’t as nasty-looking as THAT Edge spear off the ladder…

Paul Robinson emerges with a baton, only to get popped up and into a table… which didn’t break. Ominous. Insert James Hetfield riff here.

Aussie Open switch up to chairs, which were more likely to give, before setting up a ladder bridge on the other side of it. This is going to hurt… especially with Robinson not around to make a save, as Davis slapped Ospreay’s chest… only to take a Spanish fly off the ladder before Fletcher took a sunset bomb off the ladder through the chairs. YEEEUCH. They head back up onto the stage area, where the tables were kindly left there since the start of the match. Davis and Fletcher throws chairs towards the champions on the stage as they took way too long setting up stuff, as they instead tried to powerbomb them… only for them to get knocked down and conveniently onto the tables as the Swords hit 450 splashes off the stage. Kyle’s table broke, but Davis’ did not since Robinson seemed to come up short. OW. Robinson’s able to get up though as the champions tried to regain their titles, only for Ospreay to deal with the returning Aussies by choking out Davis with his belt.

Kyle Fletcher puts a stop to it by powerbombing Robinson through a chair, before he and Ospreay slugged it out. A quick exchange with a tonne of counters led to Ospreay taking a Last Ride, only for Robinson to respond with a curb stomp before Kyle could even stand up. Robinson tries to add to it… but rather than take the titles he’s pulled back off the ladder and piledriven through the earlier ladder bridge. Ospreay’s all on his lonesome as he tried to hold back two Aussies. That’s stopped, despite Ospreay’s desperate bid to climb up for the belts, as they set up a table… and dumped him through it with a fidget spinner before they eschewed the Wrestler’s Slow Climb to race up the ladders to regain their titles! Yep, this was long, and perhaps was beginning to outstay its welcome thanks to the constant trips back and forth to the stage – which added a fair bit of downtime. Still, this was a wonderfully violent match as the Aussies blunted the Swords to regain their titles. ****½

I’ll be honest, this show was maddening to watch. PROGRESS built this show around the culmination of two trilogies: one of which massively delivered, the other… did not. As for the rest of the undercard… it was fine, but on the whole, a far cry from the old days. I guess we’re still in the rebuilding stages, huh? It’s weird that the go-home show for SSS16 didn’t give us anything to even tease a tournament winner, which is a side-effect of the field being so loaded with outsiders. Remember when Travis Banks came out at Wembley looking, erm, tired and emotional to announce his entry? On the shows, he’s said nothing since then, and from the basis of this show, you’d think the big ticket shifter was the WALTER/Trent Seven match on night two, and not the tournament itself.

This would end up being Will Ospreay’s final show for PROGRESS, for now at least (yeah, another departure, two years after his last one). You’d have to assume it’s contractual, like last time, so we’ll see how that pans out – but it’ll interesting to see how they use Paul Robinson, and whether his inclusion in SSS16 is the start of a new direction after the latest run in the Swords of Essex proved refreshing.