PROGRESS’ trip to America continued as Chicago played host to a tag title match – and another partner for Chris Brookes.
We’ve got six shows to blast through before Wembley, so we may skimp on details a little… you know the score. Glen Joseph and Dahlia Black are on post-produced commentary as this show comes from the Cicero Stadium in sorta-near-Chicago. If you saw the EVOLVE show that was held here earlier, you’ll be familiar with the layout, although when the mobile camera’s pointing towards the hard camera, the bleachers look bleak. Fortunately that side was closed off – but there’s the curse of mobile cameras mixed with a hard cam!
Mark Andrews vs. Jimmy Havoc
It was pretty clear from the off that Marks’ “WWE music” perhaps wasn’t as instantly recognisable as his old one. It’ll grow.
This was a throwback all the way back to Chapter Ten, when Havoc curtailed Mark Andrews’ PROGRESS title reign after a matter of minutes. There may have been a little bad blood from the history, but for all intents and purposes this was Jimmy Havoc looking to get a step closer to Wembley – with Andrews out of contention. After getting flipped off, Andrews starts out hot, clotheslining Havoc to the outside before getting swept onto the apron. Andrews cowered to avoid a lap of honour poke to the eye, but it doesn’t work… although Andrews did rebound by taking Havoc into the crowd before leaping off the guard rails and into the man who unseated him all those years ago.
Havoc tries to fight back, but crashed into the guard rails, before returning to the ring as he dropkicks Andrews out of a Tree of Woe. Andrews launched a comeback, knee sliding under a clothesline before scoring a head kick, before he wheelbarrowed his way into the Stomp 182 double stomp. Havoc fires back, but he telegraphs an Acid Rainmaker and eats a Stundog Millionaire instead. Second time wasn’t the charm, nor was the third as Andrews lands a reverse ‘rana, before a forearm and an Acid Rainmaker put the Welshman away. A fun sprint of a match, with the victory putting Havoc back on the board for the road to Wembley. ***¼
There’s been a stylistic change on commentary – at least for this show – as they’ve gone back to the “old way” of doing it. That is, not talking during entrances…
TK Cooper vs. Tyler Bate
Much like Jimmy Havoc, Tyler Bate was looking to build up his points for Wembley, as he was down to his final three matches. Meanwhile, I’m cursing those goddamned crash zooms that was set to TK’s music
Early shenanigans see TK threatening to throw Tyler’s towel, before a wristlock’s flipped out of by Bate, who made the crowd happy by whipping TK with a towel. I’m not even going to ask about a DQ. Still, the crowd got on TK for his “awful gear”, and he continued to heel himself as he threatened to whip Tyler… before he just pulled him into the ropes using the towel as a rope. Tyler responds with a punch, catching Cooper unawares ahead of a diving European uppercut, then an Exploder… before he has to try twice for a standing shooting star press. The back-and-forth quickly came to an end as Cooper’s crossbody’s caught and turned into an airplane spin, before a bridging German nearly put TK away.
Cooper replies with a release Tiger suplex that almost led to a bad landing… and again from a take on Kofi Kingston’s old SOS, but Bate’s back with a ‘rana and a tope to the outside. TK’s corkscrew legdrop in the ropes nearly puts away the former WWE UK champ, who replied by hitting Bop/Bang into TK’s Samoan head. That sparked a see-saw series that ends with TK moonsaulting into Tyler’s knees, ahead of a rebound lariat and a Tyler Driver for the emphatic win. Enjoyable stuff and done at a pretty frantic clip too – can’t all PROGRESS shows be at this pace? ***¼
On his way to the back a fan gave Tyler a box of vegan brownies… which is nice.
Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake & Zack Gibson) & Jinny vs. Darby Allin, Jack Sexsmith & Toni Storm
Ahead of the women’s title four-way in Detroit, we’ve got this warm-up… oh, and with Darby Allin thrown in to what was otherwise a mixed preview for the Wembley Thunderbastard.
Zack Gibson’s promo gets the heat it usually does, as he vowed to leave the US with the PROGRESS tag titles in tow. Sexsmith and Drake get us going, with Drake getting caught with atomic drops and a neckbreaker early on, before Darby Allin got the tag in as he and Sexsmith worked well against the former tag champ. Gibson tagged in, but Allin instantly gets on him with a springboard crossbody, then a dropkick to the rear end as Zack was caught in the corner. Drake and Gibson combine to wipe out Darby off the apron with a step-up dropkick, before tags take us to Toni and Jinny, with the latter getting taken out with a big boot.
Running knees into the corner obliterate Jinny, but she’s able to kick out from a suplex as Jack Sexsmith tags in… but he refuses to attack Jinny, who just slaps him before bringing Drake back into the contest. The former tag champs find a groove as they kept Sexsmith and Alin at bay, scoring a slingshot kneedrop/backbreaker on the outside, before Jinny comes in to lay into Allin, as I guess this is more “intergender” than “mixed”. Our scheduled miscommunication starts to rear its head as Drake knocked Jinny off the apron, before Darby Allin flipped out of two German suplexes as Sexsmith returned. Chops from Jack eventually get cut-off, but he’s able to side-step a charge from Drake and take down the former tag champs with some Sliced Bread for a near-fall. Toni and Jinny tag in, with the latter taking a headbutt and a Shining Wizard for a near-fall, before Drake’s bid to interfere earned him some German suplexes.
There’s hip attacks too for Drake, but Gibson comes in to save him from a Strong Zero, as a Parade of Movs broke out, ending with Darby Allin taking a Ticket to Ride like Scott Hall takes a Stunner. Toni and Jinny trade stikes for a spell, with Jinny getting knocked into the corner… but Drake looms on again as the Strong Zero was threatened. Darby and Jack get rid of them with dropkicks and dives… and as a Coffin Drop wiped out everyone, we’re left as Jinny takes the Strong Zero neckbreaker slam for a near-fall, thanks to a timely intervention from Drake.
Allin and Sexsmith looked to go up top, but Darby’s shoved off and into the guard rails, before Sexsmith gets rolled up by Drake – after a helping hand from Jinny and her bracelet which was turned into a makeshift knuckleduster. Another entertaining match, but I’m not so sure I’d have had Sexsmith take the fall when you’ve got an outsider right there. ***
WWE United Kingdom Championship: Flash Morgan Webster vs. Pete Dunne (c)
This match was previously scheduled – but turned into a WWE UK title match, just because. Well, it’s not like either man could get a Three and In point out of it…
The pair scramble at each other early on, with Webster trying to get to the ropes for safety… but Dunne sneaks in a cheapshot as the frantic opening pace continued. Dunne pulls Flash into the old Lasso from El Paso, but loses grip as Flash headed into the ropes. Not to worry, Dunne’s able to get right back in control as he worked the wrist and digits of Webster. Flash finally retaliates with a takedown, but Dunne pulls at his ear to get free… and that eventually earns him a cracking forearm from Webster. Dunne’s quickly back in with a clothesline though, as Flash just couldn’t chain any offence together… and when he’s left in a heap on the floor after an X-plex onto the apron, things sure weren’t looking good.
Dunne throws Webster back into the ring, and Flash heads back out for a tope before returning in for a Brit Pop Drop on Dunne, as Webster started to claw his way into the match. A Special Brew Flip’s good for a near-fall, but you never really got the sense that Webster was going to have a chance, no matter what he threw at Dunne. Even those forearms. A dropkick’s shrugged off as Dunne incites some forearms before blasting Webster into the corner. An enziguiri followed for Webster, who tried to hit back with a German suplex, only for Dunne to flip out and hit a sit-out X-Plex for a near-fall. Dunne comes up short with a double stomp, and that opens the door for Webster as a knee and a Rude Boy moonsault press gave him a chance… but Dunne’s back in with a mounted Kimura, that Webster broke up by turning the whole thing into a DDT.
The Shadows Over Malice senton bomb misses as Webster’s caught in a cross armbreaker, but that’s quickly broken up as we go back-and-forth, until a springboard moonsault from Webster’s just swatted away with a forearm. A triangle armbar forces Webster to scramble into the ropes… but with Dunne unsighting the referee, Webster takes advantage with a rake to the eye, only for Dunne to rebound with a finger snap, and a Bitter End for the near-fall.
Not to worry, the Better End tombstone’s next, but Webster counters into Kurtis Chapman’s Sega Mega Driver, before the Eton Rifle almost caused the upset. The Strangler’s next, but Dunne manages to haul him up into a tombstone, before scoring a Bitter End Brainbuster for the win. I do like how Dunne’s able to transition the Bitter End into other moves given that thing’s been kicked out of for fun, but this was an enjoyable outing between two guys whose careers have – to a point – mirrored each other. I just wish this wasn’t billed as a UK title match, because (over-analytical hat on) there’s virtually no way that belt changes hands on an indy show. Especially in the era of NXT UK shows being a thing. ****
After the match, there’s a nice moment where Pete brings a kid from the crowd for a high five…
Brody King vs. Matt Riddle vs. Elliot Sexton vs. Trent Seven
Matt Riddle has new new music! RIP vaguely Regulate pan-pipe remix. Meanwhile Elliott Sexton goes off on a tangent about some fans who got engaged, but that tails off…
He’s still upset at how Brody King beat him in the Three-and-In thing, and since he doesn’t have enough matches left, his brief Wembley dream is over. Brody and Trent get Elliot in trouble with Matt Riddle, and after they roll outside, the Aussie’s made to pay for whatever he’s meant to have said, as Riddle grabs him in a rear naked choke to start the match. Trent and Brody break up the hold so the match doesn’t end stupidly quick… and of course, Trent’s in so we have our comedy stylings. Missed crossbody, the sandbag spot, all of somebody’s favourites! Trent gets chopped back down to the mat, prompting him to roll outside as the other three lay into each other… at least until Brody flips out with a lucha-style double armdrag. Good God.
King keeps flying with a tope con giro into the pile outside, before Trent dishes out some more chops to wear Brody down to a knee. Brody rebounds by taking Trent into the ropes for a cannonball, before a Bro To Sleep from Riddle nearly ends it… but the pin’s broken up by Sexston who launches Riddle with a crucifix buckle bomb as the revolving door was in full effect.
With everyone on the mat, there’s a mass exchange of chops and slaps, before Sexton’s German suplex gets broken up by a flying Matt Riddle. Trent decides to help out as he and Riddle blasted each other with chops, before he absorbed some kicks… then a ripcord Tiger knee, only for a lariat from Trent to put him back down. More revolving door stuff sees Brody bounce back up from a piledriver and then catch Trent with one of his own, before almost beating Sexton with a Samoan driver. Another piledriver’s uncorked for Sexton… and that’s the win as Brody King gets his second win in a row. A fun four-way, with some of your usual tropes – and even if King isn’t making it to Wembley, I’d not be shocked if he became a regular over on PROGRESS’ UK shows in the not too distant future. ***½
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Bandido & Flamita vs. Chris Brookes & AR Fox (c)
With Jonathan Gresham injured at the hands of the Grizzled Young Veterans… and Kid Lykos also on the shelf, Chris Brookes found his third partner of the tour: in the form of Gresham’s trainer, AR Fox. Their lack of chemistry perhaps would tell against Bandido and Flamita, who’ve started to get more of a presence on the European scene…
Meanwhile, AR Fox’s Skulk got perhaps the biggest pop of anyone here…
A blessed, but blurry image…
We start with Brookes and Flamita, as the latter forces Brookes into the ropes from a simple leg lock. Second time was the charm as Flamita briefly caught Brookes in a double armbar, but he lets go and we end up with a lucha-inspired series that’s too quick to call, before Flamita kips up into the corner, forcing Brookes to call for a time-out. Tags bring in Bandido and Fox… and this should be special. They start out by hitting the ropes, before Fox cartwheels out of a cutter… then shoves away Bandido en route to a stand-off. Brookes returns and starts to throw chops through Bandido… but he fights back, throwing chops before popping up Brookes into a flapjack as the luchadors took over.
There’s a silky smooth-series as Brookes gets held in a Muta lock for a low dropkick, but they take their time in following up, as the door opens again for Brookes, who ends up getting knocked onto the apron, but he catches Flamita in the ring apron for a stomp instead. Things get a little hectic as all four men end up in the ring, but Bandido manages to calm it down with a corkscrew crossbody, before Brookes gets sandwiched in the corner ahead of a dropkick-assisted German suplex. Brookes manages to hit back with a back senton to Flamita, before he got a tag out to Fox who tried to fight off both luchadores at the same time. He’s impressive in doing so, spiking Bandido with a tornado DDT, using Flamita to push off of in the process, before leaping over Bandido in the ropes for a diving dropkick to Flamita on the outside. Fox keeps up with a tope to Bandido, and a massive plancha to Flamita, while Brookes is relatively more tame, landing a slingshot cutter for a near-fall.
The luchadors come back, with a wheelbarrow-assisted moonsault from Flamita almost getting the win as the crowd bemoaned the referee not enforcing tag team rules. Fox fights back with a flying cutter to both Flamita and Bandido. Flamita replies with a standing Spanish Fly, but Fox catches him in a Koji Cutter as he used the momentum in his favour… only for Flamita to powerbomb his way free. Fox looks to keep up on Bandido, but he just eats a Destroyer as Brookes dove in to make a save. Brookes manages to duck a gamengiri as Bandido was wiped out by his partner, before he got wiped out by an over-the-ring post cannonball by Fox… who keeps up with a split-legged German suplex and a 450 Splash to Flamita, coming either side of a Praying Mantis Bomb as the champions came within a hair’s breadth of retaining.
From there, Bandido keeps Fox restrained as Flamita’s Golden Triangle-like moonsault wipes out Brookes on the floor, before an avalanche fallaway slam moonsault from Bandido put Fox away – and gave us our latest set of tag team champions! Bandido and Flamita become the sixteenth tag team champions – and if they last the remainder of the tour as champions, they’ll be going to Wembley as part of the Thunderbastard. As for the match… as spectacular as you’d imagine, but with some eggy moments as they perhaps tried to cram in too much. ***¾
Still, there’s plenty of dollar bills in the ring for Bandido and Flamita. I wonder if the wolf’ll get those…
PROGRESS World Championship: Eddie Dennis vs. WALTER (c)
Well, Eddie can’t quite make it to the main event at Wembley – but if he manages to shock WALTER here he’ll not need to worry about that! It does rather shut up Eddie, who’d been moaning last year that he’d not had a singles title shot…
I do like how Eddie’s not really changed his entrance – but since he’s lost Andrew WK as theme music, he’s just not partying anymore. Then again, if I were facing WALTER, I’d not be in a mood to party either… although he was in the mood to praise the NHS, even if it was a way to remind us he’s now WWE-contracted. Eddie vowed to take the main event away from the likes of Ilja Dragunov and an “over-rated Austrian”, which gets the reaction you’d expect from WALTER.
Cowering in the ropes, Dennis returns to attack WALTER from behind before he scurried to the outside as I presume Eddie’s life began to flash in front of his eyes. WALTER eventually gave chase, but the Benny Hill stuff just led to Eddie’s downfall as WALTER catches him in the ring with a Boston crab… right by the ropes. Lucky Eddie. He again rolls to the outside as he teased walking away with the belt… but Mark Andrews confronted him in the aisle, allowing WALTER to catch up and resume the match. There’s a backdrop suplex onto the apron from WALTER, before he catches Eddie in the ropes for some crossface blows. Eddie rolls outside again, but he’s able to catch another crossface from WALTER and throw him into the guard railing, before attempting to use a chair on WALTER. The referee removes one, but doesn’t see the second one that Eddie throws into the champion’s face, eventually getting just the one-count after rolling WALTER back inside.
Eddie keeps up with a huge Irish whip that sent WALTER into the corner for a two-count, before some knees and a cravat kept the Austrian at bay. WALTER begins to fight back with some forearms, before he damn-near laughed off Eddie’s chops and caught the Welshman with a Gojira clutch. The RINGKAMPF German’s teased, but instead we get the leapfrog and big boot as WALTER continued to show off his agility.
Eddie had plenty left in his locker too though, countering a superplex by slipping out and into a crucifix bomb for a near-fall, but WALTER’s got a suplex and a chop as Eddie was forced to grab the ropes to save his skin. A belt shot’s teased after Eddie crawled into the corner, and he clings onto the belt despite being thrown with a German suplex… and we have another ref bump as Eddie kicked Brandon Tolle low, thinking he was WALTER. A Yakuza kick from WALTER’s next for poor Brandon, before Eddie lands his belt shot… but there’s no official. Regardless, he goes for a Next Stop Driver, which WALTER escaped, before Eddie’s dragged into a Gojira clutch that Eddie quickly taps from.
WALTER lets go, even though there’s nobody to call the match. Eddie hits another low blow as he’s able to haul up WALTER for the Next Stop Driver, just as the ref gets to his senses as he makes a two-count from it all. Going up top, Eddie’s caught with a chop and a superplex from the Austrian, before WALTER picked him up for a short-range lariat for yet another two count, as Eddie almost seemed to invite it on. There’s more chops from WALTER, who then blocks a blatant low blow before powerbombing Eddie for the win. A solid main event, but I’m already worried for this WALTER reign – ref bumps in his two title defences so far is just a coincidence at this stage, but given how previous “good guy” champions have ended up… I’m trying not to read too much! ***½
The penultimate stop on the tour, PROGRESS Chicago stuck to form – a card that was largely good, but unless you’re the sort that wants to watch everything PROGRESS release, there’s nothing here that’s a much-see. This wasn’t a “house show”, but save for the tag title change there’s very little that’ll be brought up in more than a passing mention six months from now.