After six shows in eight days, PROGRESS’ criss-cross tour of the States came to an end – with the Grizzled Young Veterans looking to stop Wembley from getting some lucha action.
We’re at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Livonia… sorta near Detroit. Every seems a little bit tired, which is justified given the insane air miles clocked up over the tour. Glen Joseph and Dahlia Black remain on commentary, and for this show… they’re not even trying! Not only is there zero PROGRESS branding, but they’ve left the WWN canvas on the ring.
Eddie Dennis vs. Tyler Bate
With Eddie losing in Chicago, he’s well and truly out of the Wembley main event… so all he can do here is spoil Tyler Bate’s run.
Eddie bails early as he’s non-plussed by the crowd’s response, but he returns as he took down Tyler with a headlock takedown… only for Tyler to handstand free. Glen brings up comparisons to Conor McGregor with Tyler Bate, which makes me worry if he ever gets a temper… Tyler keeps control with a knuckle-lock, but Eddie escapes and rakes the eyes to get free, only for Tyler to roll out some classics from the Britwres days of yore as he tricks Eddie into a roll-up for a near-fall. A Samoa Joe-like uranage out of the corner drops Bate for just a one-count, but Eddie keeps up on Bate, stomping on him before choking Tyler right in front of the referee.
A cravat follows as Eddie blasts Bate with some knees to the head, only for Tyler to slam himself free as he continued his comeback with an uppercut and a running shooting star press for a near-fall. Eddie’s sent outside for a tope, then quickly returned as a deadlift German suplex drew a near-fall for Tyler, who’s quickly dumped with a crucifix bomb.
Bate kicks out and tries the bop/bang punch, only for Eddie to lay him out with a forearm, then another Severn Bridge buckle bomb, as the pair ended up going back-and-forth for a spell. Eddie back body drops out of a Tyler Driver as a judo-style throw catches Bate unawares, before some back-and-forth pinning attempts drew some more near-falls. Another forearm from Eddie rocks Tyler, but Bate rebounds off the ropes into a lariat before catching Eddie with a Tyler Driver for the win. A decent opener, but a strangely sudden finish given how much Eddie was on top here. Tyler just needs one more win to make it to Wembley… ***
Of course, he’s only got one more chance, at Chapter 75, with commentary calling that the last show before Wembley. I hope that was just a slip of the tongue, given they ran a tour of Germany!
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Natalia Markova vs. Jordynne Grace vs. Toni Storm vs. Jinny (c)
This was a four-way set-up earlier in the tour, and no, Natalia Markova’s “patriotic American” theme still doesn’t fit the character she’s used prominently. Mind you, I’m assuming there’s a not a different one at play here, but we’re not to know that!
Jinny jumps Toni Storm before the bell, and we have a melee to start us off. Eventually Jinny and Markova were sent to the outside, leaving us with Grace and Storm, who happily traded forearms with each other, before Jordynne nailed a swift body slam. Storm ducks a charge into the corner and manages to catch Grace with a headbutt before a German suplex is broken up courtesy of a double stomp from Jinny.
The PROGRESS women’s champion tries to stay on top, and catches Toni with a Japanese armdrag into the corner for a near-fall, before a knee in the corner earned Jinny just a two-count. Grace returns to help reverse a suplex from Jinny, as she and Toni combined to take down the champion, before Markova drags Toni to the outside. Not to worry, Grace keeps up on Jinny, throwing her into the corner before sandwiching her with knees and a sliding forearm, before a Vader Bomb connected… with Markova quickly breaking up the cover. Markova switches it up, catching Grace with a facebuster, then a spinning heel kick in the corner before a low dropkick sends Grace outside.
Jinny returns with forearms for Markova, who randomly decides to dive outside, barely catching Grace. A dive from Jinny is more on-target, as was a low-pe from Storm, who returned to the ring to hit a neckbreaker slam on Jinny to start a Parade of Moves. In the end, Storm catches Markova with a Strong Zero piledriver, but gets thrown into Jordynne Grace on the outside as Jinny went on to steal the pin. Unless you were changing the title, this was about the only result you’d get away with – stealing her top challenger’s pin to retain after a solid match that didn’t fray as much as these kind of matches often threaten to. ***
Ethan Page & Rickey Shane Page vs. British Strong Style (Pete Dunne & Trent Seven)
Given that Ethan and Rickey were being billed as “The Page Bros” (complete with Ethan wearing a DDP t-shirt, which cracked me up), you can probably guess what sort of match this is, especially when we start with Pete Dunne and a shoe.
Easy royalties for Uncle Dall-y there… Dunne takes Rickey into the corner, but RSP has some technical chops about him, as he’s able to reverse a wristlock, then kick away the WWE UK champion as he was having fun early on. There’s more of the same as RSP drags Dunne into the corner, but he can’t quite get a cover from a crucifix as Dunne kicks out before they gesticulate at each other.
Dunne and RSP trade ‘ranas as they broke out some unexpected stuff, before we get tags to Ethan and Trent, which led to the comedy of Trent climbing over the top rope and crotching himself. It’s an easy gag, but it worked, so you can’t complain. What you can complain about is the comedy stuff you couldn’t really hear… wrestling!
Sandbag Trent isn’t far behind, which gives referee Brandon Tolle an excuse for some impromptu weightlifting, before Trent wakes up… and gets speared by RSP. A snapped slam from RSP dumps Trent, who then had Ethan slammed onto him, as the Pages made sure things didn’t turn. There’s a pratfall from Ethan, as RSP returns with a back senton for a near-fall, before Dunne throws in a towel… but it’s not to call off the match. Trent finally fires back out of the opposite corner, before his crossbody actually hits… but he just bounced off of RSP. Hey, it’s something different.
Trent goes all Iron Mike Sharpe next, pulling his trunks up to his nipples before he felled RSP with a cricket chop, as Dunne then tagged in, but he eats a back body drop with a kick on the way down as RSP was easing into a commanding advantage… only to get caught on the top rope as Dunne started biting away at him. Before a superplex brought the pair down to the mat.
Trent’s back with a DDT and a cricket chop to Ethan, who fought back with the Iconoclasm (or as he calls it, the Vanity Search) for a near-fall. An enziguiri from Trent connects, but Ethan responds… and runs into a powerbomb for a near-fall as a lariat from Trent left both men laying. Dunne and Ethan come in, while Trent wipes out RSP with a tope, allowing a Bitter End to get a near-fall… Dunne heads up top as Trent’s back for a Burning Hammer, assisted by a kneedrop, and that’s enough to put away All Ego. This was fine, and fairly light on the comedy, but otherwise a fairly by-the-numbers outing all things considered. **¾
PROGRESS World Championship: Mark Andrews vs. WALTER (c)
Sticking the World title in the middle of the card kinda signals “no title change”, but since WALTER’s making every singles match a title match, it is what it is.
WALTER started by bullying Andrews early, lifting him onto the apron before taking down the Welshman with a Jim Breaks-like arm lift. Mark’s forced to sticking and moving, as he had to avoid a chop… then duck a big boot as he eventually caught the Austrian with a leaping ‘rana out of the corner. A tope’s next, but WALTER catches Mark on the outside before booting him on the floor, and it’s back to business as WALTER elbowed Andrews in the head before trapping him in the ropes with some crossface punches. Things get from bad to worse as WALTER chokes Andrews by standing on him across the top rope, before a crossface forces Andrews to reach for the ropes to get free.
Undeterred, Andrews tries to chop back into it, but he succeeds more with some kicks before WALTER stuffs an Irish whip, only to get met with an enziguiri. The wheelbarrow into the Stomp 182 gets a near-fall for Andrews, before his attempt to springboard in from the apron is rudely stopped in mid-air. WALTER drags Andrews back in with a Gojira clutch, lifting him over the top rope as a release German suplex flipped Mark inside out. WALTER manages to catch Andrews with a big boot, but another Gojira nearly backfires as Andrews rolled out of it… only for his next attempt at a wheelbarrow roll-up to get caught as WALTER turns it into another Gojira. Ow. Andrews does make it into the ropes, but he’s soon obliterated with a clothesline… which he shrugs off as a Code Red nearly put WALTER away.
That Code Red looked to be the cue for Eddie Dennis to appear with a microphone, saying he picked WALTER as Mark’s opponent so he could see his former friend get flattened. The mic cuts out a little, before Mark cut him off with a tope con giro… then returned to the ring to try and finish off WALTER with a shooting star press… only for Eddie to pull out the referee at the count of two. One cheapshot from Eddie follows, as he comes into the ring with the PROGRESS title belt, but he’s quickly dispatched as Andrews again came agonisingly close to winning the match with a ‘rana.
A middle rope 450 splash misses from Andrews though, allowing WALTER to hit back straight away with a shotgun dropkick. Not to worry – a Stundog Millionaire puts down the Austrian, before Mark heads up for another shooting star press… right into the knees, as WALTER nonchalantly picked up Andrews for a brainbuster. That gets a two-count, before another Gojira led to the win. A nice, even outing here, and the best match of the show so far, but I’m not crazy at the run-in at the end – even if it is designed to get to Eddie vs. Mark at Wembley. ***½
Eddie lays into Mark after the match, but WALTER makes the save as he teased a Next Stop Driver – sending Eddie cowering to the back.
Flash Morgan Webster vs. AR Fox vs. Chris Brookes vs. Elliot Sexton vs. Brody King vs. Jack Sexsmith
This was a must-win for Brody King, who came into this with two wins under his belt – a third would make him a rather unlikely participant in the main event at Wembley. Flash Morgan Webster threatens to sit it out, since there’s nothing for him to gain in this… as witnessed by him coming out in street clothes.
There’s nothing that says “STAR!” than “this guy sucks” chants. At least have the crowd learn your name! Anyway, our sort-of five-way begins after Elliot Sexton’s introductory promo, which was needed since this was his first time in Detroit, ended with four superkicks, and the melee is underway!
Brookes and Fox start off, as the former one-day tag champions laid into each other, with Fox taking Brookes down with the Miz-like clothesline in the corner. Brookes replies with a back senton before he went after Jack Sexsmith with chops, only for Jack to reply with some atomic drops and an attempt to stomp on Brookes’ foot. Mind games follow en route to a headlock takedown as Sexsmith takes Brookes to the outside… only to turn around as Brody King stood in his way.
King ragdolls Sexsmith into the corner for a chop, before Sexton returns to resume his rivalry with King, laying him out with a clothesline for a near-fall. Fox cuts them all off with headscissors, clearing the ring for some dives… but Flash trips him from ringside as he tried to put the blame on Fox’s Skulk. Nobody falls for that, as Flash gets thrown into the ring, only for Sexton to take advantage of the distraction – which gave Flash a chance to escape. The revolving door effect keeps going, as King manages to catch Brookes with a Black Hole Slam, with Sexsmith breaking it up to keep the match alive. Jack manages to keep that going with a LGBDT to King, then a tope to Brookes on the outside… but Brody wants in too… only for the top rope to give as he flipped back and fortunately landed on his feet in a scary-as-hell moment. He recovers quickly to hit his tope con giro, before Fox’s plancha adds to the pile, as Chris Brookes just smiles in complete bemusement on the floor.
We see the remains of the top rope as Brookes climbed to the middle strand… and somehow becomes part of the lowest Tower of Doom as Sexton, King and Sexsmith set it off. Fox returns with a Coast to Coast, but Flash comes in to pick up the pieces and steal a bunch of two-counts… before he grabbed Arabella… and was left on his lonesome as the other five combatants wanted to kill him. The helmet’s on, but it’s used to catch out King, as Webster’s turned into a battering ram before a death valley driver led to a near-fall.
Fox returns to Matrix out of a clothesline, but we get a Parade of Superkicks and boots, before AR Fox’s cutter eventually led to a near-fall as he took forever to roll over King. A deadlift death valley driver from Fox plants King, before AR headed up to the middle rope for a 450 splash… which misses as Brody decapitates him with a clothesline. Sexsmith hits the ring for the BDSM, before he’s caught with a Samoan Driver for a near-fall, with Sexton barely breaking up the cover in time.
Sexton’s thrown to the outside, but he clings onto the ropes and twangs them into King’s nether regions, before a gutbuster/back senton combo from Elliott puts down everyone. Chris Brookes looked to finish off Sexton, but Flash rushes in with a Strangler, and Chris is forced to tap quickly. A case of Flash working smart, not hard here… but this match could well have been a disaster after the top rope gave. It was saved somewhat, but it’s clear that a lot of stuff went out of the window when the rope did. **½
They cut out a brief break to fix that top rope – and we’re into our final two matches…
TK Cooper vs. Jimmy Havoc
Cue crash zooms… Feeling tired, Havoc decided to make this a quick one… so he goes under the ring for some chairs, and he has to be talked out of a quick DQ. At the bell, Havoc refuses to fall for the circle game, and sticks true to his word with an early attempt at the Acid Rainmaker, only for TK to hit back with a leg lariat.
Cooper whiffs with a springboard corkscrew legdrop as Havoc rolls away, before TK gets caught with a rolling death valley driver for a near-fall. Another Acid Rainmaker’s called and reversed into a reverse ‘rana, as TK tries to come back, rolling through Havoc into his own Jig ‘n’ tonic belly-to-back piledriver for a near-fall. Havoc retaliates by lifting TK over the top rope and to the floor as we get a spot of brawling around ringside, complete with all your favourite chops, before TK hid under the ring to avoid the eye pokes… but it doesn’t work. There’s a diversion as Havoc goes to the merch stand for an 8×10”, before he pays off the referee so he could lay out TK with chairshots. Okay, that’s funny!
TK kicks out at two from the chairshots, but Jimmy gets some more chairs out and sits down TK for some paper cuts – all while the referee’s counting the bribes. There’s a paper cut to the back of the knee too, as TK was working without boots, but Cooper manages to retaliate with a hiptoss that sent Havoc into the chair. An axe kick almost puts Havoc away, as does a springboard moonsault, before a mule kick and a Rainmaker from TK led to another two-count – and more humiliation for the former PROGRESS champ. Another chair comes into play, but the referee stops TK as he wasn’t bribed… meanwhile the bottom rope’s given up (which makes me think that they just swapped the top and bottom strands around), as Havoc finishes off TK with a low blow and a Rainmaker. Very much by the numbers, but an easy win for Jimmy, who got his bribes back afterwards. Skip. **
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake & Zack Gibson) vs. Bandido & Flamita (c)
They’ve totally removed the bottom rope for the main event, which should mean the ringside cameramen get some awesome shots. We’ve got our hattrick of chyron typos for the tour, saving the best for last as the Grizzles Young Veterans come out – although that’s not too far off a good description for the team as of late. Or maybe there’s just a missing apostrophe and they’re managed by a bear called Grizzle?
The Gibson pre-match promo has him moaning about how Bandido and Flamita “know nothing about tag team wrestling”, before taking shots at the “joke” of a ring. Can’t argue with that one.
Drake and Gibson jump the champions before the bell, but Bandido quickly hits them with a dropkick, only for their early dives to get cut-off. A reply from Drake and Gibson connects though, as their topes take the champs down, before Bandido returns to the ring to take down Drake with a twisting crossbody. Gibson comes in, but gets tripped into the corner for a 619 as Flamita nails a missile dropkick as Bandido tried to keep the pace high.
Drake’s back in as things turned around, with Flamita getting dropkicked off the apron by Drake, who helps out with a flying knee drop as Gibson dropped Bandido in a backbreaker on the outside. Gibson keeps Bandido grounded for a while, before a forearm from Drake put him down for a near-fall as the GYV looked to regain the titles they lost at the start of the tour.
A side headlock from Drake keeps Bandido down, as does a stomp to the head, as the former tag champs enjoyed a long period on top. Bandido tried to throw Drake into Gibson, but he can’t get away quickly enough as Flamita was waiting for a hot tag… but eventually that’s made after Drake whiffs on a Deftones dropkick into the corner. Flamita lives up to his name as he comes in like a house on fire, wiping out Drake and Gibson before the champions land a pair of topes in quick succession, while Bandido elevated Flamita high for a back body drop into the crowd. A twisting body press completes the dives as Bandido landed in the seats.
Back inside, the Muta lock and a low dropkick keeps Gibson down before duelling standing moonsaults force Drake to break up the cover. A dropkick-assisted German suplex again forces Drake to break up the pin, but he’s again caught out as Flamita cracks him with a superkick… before returning fire with a Deftones dropkick. Heck, Drake even goes aerial with a moonsault off the apron to Bandido on the floor while a Ticket to Ride out of the corner gets Gibson a near-fall. Flamita escapes a Doomsday Device as the champions tried to get back into it, but a superkick and a neckbreaker puts Flamita back down as as Parade of Moves briefly broke out. Some quick rope running ends with Flamita catching Drake with a standing Spanish Fly, only for Gibson to pull him into a Shankly Gates… Drake tries the same, but who’s legal? Who knows, and who cares, as Bandido broke it all up by picking up Drake and falling into the other two.
Bandido and Flamita double-team Drake, finishing with a wheelbarrow’d moonsault for a near-fall, before Drake’s monkey flipped into a powerbomb by Bandido… and the spectacular continues as a senton off of Bandido’s shoulders ends with Gibson pulling out the ref. Another forearm from Drake cuts that off as Flamita’s caught in a suplex/cutter, but this time it’s Bandido who pulls out the referee. We’ve a belt shot as Gibson lays out Flamita after his attempt at an O’Connor roll drew a near-fall. Gibson distracts the referee as Drake tries for another belt shot, but Flamita gets his hands up and just hits Drake with a roundhouse kick instead. A flying Ticket to Ride from Gibson sparks another Parade, ending with Bandido’s rebound German suplex before Drake pancaked him with a facebuster.
The four keep on though, with Flamita catching Drake with a muscle buster that turned into a gutbuster. There’s a turnaround as Flamita’s held in place for a legdrop to the back of the head by Drake, while a lungblower from GIbson and a 450 from Drake almost led to a title change… but Flamita kicked out as the crowd began to tire. Another crack at the Doomsday Device ends when Flamita crotches Drake up top, as the move’s turned into an avalanche moonsault/fallaway slam by Bandido, who wipes out Gibson with a Sasuke special on the outside, before Flamita snatched the win with a Phoenix Splash! A really good main event, perhaps hampered by how late it was (and the ring itself)… which held it back. Still, a fine way to cap off an arduous tour! ***½
PROGRESS’ stay in Detroit was a fun one – but a show that threatened to peter out badly as this was perhaps a show too far for the tired crew. To be fair, the show ending close to midnight didn’t help…
All in all, PROGRESS’ noteworthy tour of the US can’t be characterised as anything other than a success in terms of attendances and match quality – a tour that perhaps led to the best run of shows that PROGRESS has had in quite some time. However, I can’t help but feel that, save for the hot potato that the tag titles turned into, there was perhaps too much that, outside of the tour, was of little importance.Decent showings and mini-pushes for the likes of Brody King and Elliot Sexton were okay, but ultimately meaningless if their role with the company is going to be limited to just these US shows.