One day off, and PROGRESS’ jaunt across the north east of America wrapped up with a rather cosy show… and a casual tag team match of the year contender to boot!
Round three of the tour’s in La Boom in New York – the nightclub venue that EVOLVE and SHINE run in – and as ever we’ve got Jim Smallman’s pre-show amble which featured a gag about last year’s show in New York, labelling the crowd there “survivors”.
Eddie Dennis vs. TK Cooper
Well, the entrance videos were dropped about ten seconds into Eddie’s entrance, but picked up just in time for TK’s entrance. TK was a defacto good guy here, not only for him returning to (near enough) the site of the injury that put him on the shelf during last year’s US tour.
I swear, I wrote that before Eddie took the mic… although some of this stuff was like shooting fish in a barrel. It led to TK double-legging Eddie, ahead of an early tease at the leg breaking dive… but Eddie just stared at him and dares him to jump as the crowd wanted TK to “please be careful”. Instead they get a tope. Fair trade!
A second tope’s caught as Eddie turns it into a swinging side slam onto the apron as the Welshman gave and received verbals from the crowd. There’s a cravat as Eddie looked to twist off TK’s neck, before a shot at the head made everyone remember… TK’s Samoan. That Samoan headbutt’s good for a near-fall, but Eddie’s back with a crucifix bomb for a near-fall, before a Next Stop Driver’s escaped as TK drapes Eddie in the ropes for a springboard corkscrew legdrop.
Searching for the win, TK’s axe kick gets him a two-count, so he heads up top for a moonsault… but Eddie shoves the ref into the ropes, sending TK crashing back down to the mat. All that’s left is an easy Next Stop Driver, and Eddie gets the W. An enjoyable opener with the roles here played perfectly – whether TK remains a good guy when he comes back to the UK is another thing entirely though! ***½
Not sure what was going on with the crowd micing here, but Jim almost got drowned out between matches here as the crowd were told that they were getting “more than a house show.”
Natalia Markova vs. Ashley Vox
Winner of this joins Toni Storm and Jordynne Grace in challenging Jinny in Detroit for the PROGRESS Women’s title.
Vox was the heavy crowd favourite going in, but she had to absorb some offence from Markova early on… taking a chop before responding with a shotgun dropkick… and a fish hook. Well, it’s legal if you’re a good guy, I guess. Markova escapes with a bulldog for a near-fall, as she continued to build momentum, leading to a leg lariat in the corner and a running boot for a near-fall. Vox uses a jawbreaker to get herself free, before she worked her way into a cannonball that flattened Markova for a near-fall, as did some headscissors, before a striking battle broke out with the pair trading chops for fun. It was Markova who dropped to her knees first, but she’s right back with a German suplex for a near-fall, only for Vox to hit back with a missile dropkick.
A low bridge from Markova’s just about saved by Vox, who’s forced to sidestep a dive as Markova crashed and burned on her way out. Vox returns the favour, hitting rather more cleanly with a tope clothesline, before returning to the ring with a back senton off the top for a near-fall as the fish hook almost got the win. Markova takes it to the corner to break up the hold, but a low dropkick surprises Vox, as do some Daniel Bryan kicks… There’s a kick to the head from Markova that nearly wins it, but Vox surprises her in the middle of the ring with the fish hook, only for it to end with a rope break. Straight back from there, Markova rushes in with a leaping X-Factor for the win… a rather surprise finish given the speed of the U-turn, but I guess you need two people to boo in that four-way in Detroit. As for the match, it was largely fine, but there was just something about this that didn’t click with me. **¾
Submission Rules: Flash Morgan Webster vs. Mark Haskins
This was a late addition to the card, and a rematch from the opening night of the tour. Vicki Haskins had held Webster’s helmet hostage (oo-er)… but Flash’s attempt to jump start the match ends up with him eating a tope as Mark hadn’t even begun to take his jacket off.
Flash ends up in the guard rails as Haskins launched into him with some kicks before grabbing a chair from under the ring… a chair that Flash uses as he throws it at the former PROGRESS champion to stop a dive. Webster grabs a guillotine in the ropes, which makes his submission attempt invalid, so we get a corkscrew senton off the top as Haskins was sent crashing to the mat. Webster keeps up on Haskins, landing the Special Brew flip and a series of snapmares, seemingly for the hell of it, ahead of the Mr. Perfect neck flip. Flash perhaps took things too casually, but he survives a fightback before trolling Haskins with his own bridging armbar attempt. Despite getting free, Haskins gets laid out with chairshots, before hitting back with a leg lariat as he almost got tied up in that chair again.
Some kicks from Haskins put Webster on the mat as we saw further flashes of aggression, only for Flash to use that against his former tag team partner as he throws a chair into Haskins to stop a kick. Regardless, Haskins manages to hit back, catching Webster in an armbar, then a double-armbar before Webster got a foot to the ropes. Flash manages to counter a death valley driver into a Strangler, but it’s escaped before Haskins throws a left hand at him. Second time was the charm for that roll-through death valley driver, with Webster wiping out the chair on impact, before the bridging armbar followed… but Flash gets to the ropes to keep going. A Sharpshooter quickly follows though, but Haskins has trouble sitting down on it as Flash is able to drag himself towards his helmet, Arabella, which he swings at Haskins to get free. That draws Vicki Haskins into the ring, but she trips Flash as he prepared to take a swing… and she traps Flash in a triangle armbar for good measure as Mark was in the corner.
A powerbomb quickly breaks that up though, before Mark disarms Flash once more, then sinks in the Sharpshooter as Webster had no choice but to tap. This was an improvement on their outing from the opening night of the tour, but I’d hope this wasn’t “it” for this storyline – although it’ll be after Wembley when we get any further blow-off. The submission stipulation worked perfectly here, with Haskins’ trademark aggression playing well. ***¾
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: LAX (Ortiz & Santana) vs. CCK (Chris Brookes & Jonathan Gresham) (c)
Jonathan Gresham was subbing for the injured Kid Lykos in this not-a-Thunderbastard match. Don’t worry, we’d been reassured that the tag team champions would be in the Thunderbastard at Wembley, even if they didn’t take part in the series.
The reaction for LAX (and possibly their over-dub?) was so loud it led to a lot of peaking and clipping – something that was a bit of a motif for this tour. We’ve got a measured start as the New York crowd chant for LAX’s other moniker, with Gresham rolling out of a wristlock, before catching Santana with a springboard ‘rana only to get caught with a low dropkick as the opening barbs had LAX ahead. Gresham and Santana remain level though, with duelling dropkicks forcing a handshake as the Octopus continued to fake out Santana… before distracting the ref so he could catch Santana low.
Brookes tags in to keep up on Santana, with CCK landing a pair of back sentons for a near-fall, before Ortiz came in and turned things around a little. There’s a leg lariat from Ortiz that drops Brookes, before Santana returned to set up for the old Head Cheese backbreaker/legdrop combo. Chris Brookes tries in vain to beg off from some chops, before Jonathan Gresham snuck in to German suplex Santana, before clipping Santana below the belt again. Brookes returns those chops from earlier to Santana for a near-fall, but Gresham has a little less success as he tries to trip up Santana, having to chop the back of the knee in order to fell his foe. The back-and-forth continues as we get a low crowd shot of Santana spiking Gresham with a cutter… and in comes Ortiz to repay those ball shots, en route to an O’Connor roll which somehow turned into a tope after Brookes’ kick-out! A slingshot DDT back into the ring takes down Brookes for a dead man’s splash for another two-count, but Brookes is able to rebound with a back sentin as Gresham again got the tag in.
A missile dropkick from Gresham lays out LAX, and we’ve another blind tag as Brookes returns in with a slingshot cutter to Ortiz, before Gresham’s 450 splash almost ended things. An eye rake from Ortiz slows things down again as a pratfall to Brookes set up for a wheelbarrow cutter from LAX for a near-fall… and Santana’s knee starts to cause problems as Ortiz was effectively left in there one-on-two down. Brookes trips Ortiz to the outside and stomps his head into the apron as Santana got back to his feet… but a kick to the knee compromises him again as Gresham smoothly hits a Quebrada before rolling into an ankle lock, then into a bridging German as a headbutt from Ortiz was needed to break it up. There’s an inch-perfect missile dropkick from Gresham to Santana as CCK kept pushing the issue, but yet again Ortiz makes the save… allowing CCK to keep up their barrage.
Santana eats Yakuza kicks and reverse ‘ranas like they were going out of style, before a Praying Mantis Bomb and a 450 Splash from Gresham… drew a near-fall?! How in the hell…
Santana begins to fight back with palm strikes, before clocking Brookes with an enziguiri… Ortiz returns to help out as a double-team backbreaker put down Gresham for a near-fall, as the tables yet again turned. Gresham’s caught in a hiptoss/flapjack before a powerbomb/big splash flattened him as Brookes has to make another save. Gresham has to do it himself after taking a flying lungblower, then a powerbomb onto the knees as CCK’s newly-won belts looked to be in danger.
The crowd boos something (I assume self-policing?) as Gresham began a fight back, trading bombs with Ortiz before he kipped up into an enziguiri. Ortiz is sent flying to the outside, ahead of a moonsault off the apron, before Chris Brookes tagged in and quickly went after Santana’s knee with an inverted cloverleaf, forcing the submission as Ortiz was held back by Gresham. My GOD. Easily the best tag team match PROGRESS has had this calendar year, as Jonathan Gresham continued to open a lot of eyes among fans in the UK. Going in you could argue it was a little overhyped, but that’ll be a “your mileage will vary” deal. ****½
Post-match, Jim Smallman thanks CCK and LAX, and wished that LAX would return to PROGRESS – be it in the US or in the UK. I hope the latter.
Thunderbastard Tag Team Series: Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake & Zack Gibson) vs. Sexy Starr (David Starr & Jack Sexsmith)
Again, we’re not maintaining the series standings for the sake of our sanity. This was Gibson and Drake’s first match since losing the tag titles in Philadelphia, so I wonder if they’ll still comically bump into each other?
Gibson gets his promo to take aim at CCK and injuries, claiming that the PROGRESS tag titles need them. Fair enough. Sexy Starr came into this with no points in the Thunderbastard series, and it’s Starr and Drake who open us off, rather tentatively as the crowd indulged in some Americanised versions of the “arse face” chants. Sexsmith comes in early for his first taste of wrestling in the US, snapmaring Gibson as the opening spell remained somewhat chaotic.
The former champions quickly found their footing though, dropkicking Starr off the apron as Sexsmith quickly became the focal point of things (as did the wrong melody for a chant… ), with Gibson tearing into him with some ground and pound while Drake used a chinlock to keep Jack down. Sexsmith finally hits back with a suplex, but he can’t quite make the tag out… as Zack Gibson went for Starr, who ended up drawing the referee into things. We’ve another “miscommunication” as the referee doesn’t catch a tag between the former champions, who had Sexsmith surely pinned there, and things don’t improve as Sexsmith had to fight back some more, fighting away from Gibson, Drake and questionable calls before finally getting that hot tag.
Starr’s in with a dropkick to Gibson, then a Violence Party as Zack recoiled in the corner, ahead of a Product Recall to Drake as that barrage of offence… barely gets a near-fall. Sexsmith returns to dropkick Drake out of the ring as Gibson found himself isolated, taking an assisted Blue Thunder Driver for a near-fall. The former champs return with a superkick… but they nearly slip up as Drake’s able to counter a Pretty Pumped… only for Starr to hit a small package on Gibson for a near-fall. Duelling lariats from Starr and Sexsmith put them further ahead, but Gibson escapes a BDSM Product Placement as Sexsmith remained in to take a Boston crab/Shankly Gates combo. A Doomsday Device is blocked by Sexsmith, who managed to go into the corner before the former champs got a second chance – and capitalised for the near-fall. In the end though, it’s another screw-up that helps as Drake and Gibson clatter into each other, although not with the subtlety hammer, before Drake takes a Cherry Mint DDT and a BDSM Product Placement for the win. This was a little ragged in places, and I’m pretty much overdone on the “GYV keep slipping up” spots, but this win finally gets Sexy Starr on the board. ***
What the hell is that Sexy Starr music by the way? Feels like it’s come from a straight-to-Netflix movie…
Mark Andrews vs. Matt Riddle
A first-time meeting here, and it’s the return of Pan Pipe Regulator!
“I’m not really sure what independent wrestling means anymore.” I’ll present that line without comment for those of you who love to overanalyse commentary.
Riddle grabs a headlock as the crowd busts out an old reused Simpsons song for him. All we bro, we bro… oh, and they mangle the Chuck Mambo chant too as he goes for a cross armbar, before Andrews gets caught in the corner with boots and forearms, then an Exploder out of it. Some axe kicks to the lower back keep Andrews down, but he’s able to get his knees up to block a back senton as he launched a comeback with chops… but he has to stage dive under a lariat before taking Riddle down with an enziguiri. Running knees into the corner and a wheelbarrow stomp keep Andrews ahead, getting a two-count out of it, only for Riddle to bounce back with a powerbomb and a Tiger knee for a near-fall.
We’re back to chops as Andrews and Riddle give and receive, but it’s the former who looked to push ahead with a tornado DDT, only for Riddle to reply with an upkick. The Fisherman Buster’s countered out into a Stundog Millionaire, before a Bro to Sleep’s countered into a huge Destroyer by Andrews, only to land in Riddle’s knees as he looked to finish off with a Shooting Star Press. On jelly legs, Riddle keeps Andrews down with a tombstone and another Tiger Knee… and that blasted knee strike puts Andrews down. A hell of a fun sprint, and a match that’s worth going out of your way to see – with the result putting Mark Andrews out of Wembley as he’d effectively run out of matches to get his three not-CHIKARA coins. ****
Eddie Kingston, Brody King & Jimmy Havoc vs. British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate & Trent Seven)
A bit of a random trios main event here, and given who’s involved, I expect comedy.
We start with Dunne and Havoc, as the latter had his digits wrenched away on, but Havoc’s able to reply in kind, as he worked the arm and tried to drag Dunne to the mat for some near-falls. Technical Wizard, Jimmy Havoc?! Both team’s elder statesmen tag in, as we get Seven and Kingston… with a chop battle breaking out. Of course, Trent’s felled like a tree, which leads to the “everyone pick up the sandbagging Trent” spot from Philadelphia.
It led to Trent firing back with chops to all three opponents, before chopping Havoc to accidentally DDT his own opponents. Trent keeps up with an elevated back senton, but then tags out as Brody King came in to face Tyler Bate. Think of it as Scrappy Doo against a bigger, more tattooed dog… The ring fills up as we get a Parade of Stuff, before it continues to break down on the outside, with Trent Seven repeatedly chopping the ring post while Pete Dunne chokes Eddie Kingston with a costume from cosplay Asuka. We “settle down” as Tyler Bate’s caught with a heel hook on the floor as Trent just sits there… meaning it’s Pete Dunne and a shoe that’s needed to fight back. Yeah, there’s a barrage of shoes, and you can guess how this one goes, complete with that subtlety hammer getting broken by Glen Joseph.
After watching this match, I’m going to need to get put in the SHU. It’ll be good for my sole…
Finally back in the ring, Trent’s forced to block some corner charges, but he ends up taking a death valley driver out of the corner for a near-fall. Jimmy Havoc uses the distracted referee to his advantage as Trent gets a little too close to an 8×10” for comfort, before Brody King forced him to fight away some clotheslines… for Trent to get sent into the ropes as a rolling senton to the back drew a near-fall.
Dunne gets the tag in, courtesy of a missed crossbody from Trent, and he’s able to back flip out from a German suplex from King, following up with an X-plex for a near-fall. Kingston is brought in next to try and put his years of experience to use, and it sort of worked as he walloped Dunne… only to fall after taking some shots himself. A shoe-less Tyler Bate’s in, showing you don’t need boots to fly around the ring, but we’re back to the Parade of Stuff, featuring Bate’s rebound lariats barely shifting King, before the airplane spin had rather more of an effect. Trent acts with glee after piledriving Brody King… but the big guy pops up and hits one of his own. Dunne’s back to bite on Brody as that Parade keeps on rolling, starting with a tope/DDT from Havoc wiping out Dunne, and finishing with a plancha from Nate and… oh God. Brody’s gonna dive… tope con giro!
We’re back inside as Tyler eats a piledriver for a near-fall, but the ring fills again for a six-way slug-fest, ending with bop/bangs, flip-offs and finger snaps before the BSS parade ends with a Bitter End from Dunne for a near-fall… with Jimmy Havoc barely breaking up the cover. In the end, Tyler Koppo kicks Havoc and King off the apron, before dishing one more to Kingston, as a Tyler Driver – which properly spiked Kingston a la a Ganso bomb – proved to be enough for the win. Good heavens.
It must be nice to wrestle in these BSS trios matches – while not “a night off”, they invariably descend into comedy. I’m not alone in this, but these matches are utterly frustrating to watch, knowing what these guys are capable of when they’re “on”. Yeah, these are throwaway tags, but not being a purveyor of anything British Strong Style, I could care less when it comes to these comedy tags. Nothing against Pete, Trent or Tyler, who I adore watching… but I prefer their WWE mode to their indy stylings. ***½
Much like the rest of the US tour, PROGRESS Coast to Coast was played out in front of an exceedingly hot – and loud – crowd, which always helps these shows along. The main problem from these shows is just how they dropped on-demand – anything that was being built up had already paid-off by the time these were available to watch, which kills some of the anticipation. That’s what you get for going to a live show!