This past Sunday, PROGRESS returned to their spiritual home of the Garage in Islington, London, for their sixteenth ENDVR “developmental” show. We’ve already given our as-live review of the show, but now it’s up on Demand-Progress.com, let’s see what we missed…
After the (quite frankly) awesome anti-piracy advert, we crash into the Garage and its shiny new white canvas, along with an admittedly-hungover Glen. One word: references!
Hayden Yorke vs. Dillon D’Angelo
Both of these guys were making their PROGRESS debuts, and were so new they both had the default PROGRESS titantron. Hayden Yorke didn’t get much of a response (besides “polite”) for his orchestral music, with his Ric Flair “getting the referee to hold the ropes open” entrance not tipping fans off. Nicknamed “The Better Man”, Yorke seems to have a character much like the early Hunter Hearst Helmsley… and looks like he’s wearing his dad’s suit jacket (either that, or he’s lost weight).
They started out really well with a very squeaky ring (I’d tuned that out live…), as Joseph acknowledges that D’Angelo is making the step up from being a referee in prior shows. Yorke pulled the heel spot of cowering in the ropes before slapping D’Angelo as he came at him, before going into a leapfrog/dropdown sequence. D’Angelo fires back with dropkicks and forearms, before being caught with a running knee as he made his way back into the ring.
A grounded D’Angelo knocked Yorke down with a kick to the head for a near-fall, but Yorke retaliated with a jawbreaker and an Exploder suplex for a two-count of his own. D’Angelo finally slapped back at “The Better Man”, and rocked him with a Pele kick, but Yorke rolled to the outside and locked a dive with a Pele of his own, before scoring the win with an Impaler DDT. For a debut match, this was a really good outing by both men, save for some understandable nerves – with a bit of character development, both of these guys could be something, I feel. **¾
Dahlia Black vs. Polyanna (Special Guest Referee: Jack Sexsmith)
True story – at the merchandise stall before this show, I was given a piece of Jack Sexsmith merch that will probably not be shown around in public…
So, this is the continuation of the Dahlia Black/Pollyanna feud, with Jack Sexsmith being inserted (ahem) as a special guest referee due to his altercation with TK Cooper at chapter 29. Sexsmith swapped shirts with referee “Paz” beforehand, revealing the latter’s tramp stamp tattoo… not good form for an Oxford boy! Speaking of our special ref, he ejected Cooper very early on for getting involved in the match (by kissing Dahlia).
They ran some comedy early on, before going into a “serious” match, with Pollyanna getting the first near-fall with a double stomp on Dahlia, who escaped what I guess’d have been an Alabama slam attempt moments later. Dahlia replied by suplexing Pollyanna into the turnbuckles, before spending too much time lambasting Sexsmith’s refereeing abilities, and getting caught by some chops from Pollyanna.
Dahlia connected twice in a row with the jumping double knee in the corner, before being caught on her third attempt, as Pollyanna turned it into a sit-out powerbomb. That left both women down, and Jack Sexsmith trying not to get too irritated at the “fans count one ahead of the ref” gimmick. The women got to their knees at the count of seven, and resumed trading forearms, before Pollyanna grabbed a two-count from a roaring lariat.
Pollyanna set up Dahlia for a double stomp after draping her across the top turnbuckles – choosing to move up a notch after slipping on the middle ropes for her entrance – but Dahlia caught her and sent her to the mat with a snapmare, before seeing at attempt at doing Polly’s own Pollinator finisher was caught and turned into the Emerald Fusion… only to see TK Cooper return to the ring and kick Jack Sexsmith low as he was making the cover. Storyline-wise, it made sense, given they’re doing one more match, but I’d have preferred a clean finish to this, as this was really enjoyable live, and came across even better on tape. ***½
Atlas Championship Tournament, Block A: Iestyn Rees  vs. T-Bone 
T-Bone, whose black-and-pink gear was in tribute to Kris Travis (as was his KT armbar), came into this match on two-points, courtesy of his win over Big Daddy Walter at Chapter 28 two months’ earlier; this was Rees’ first tournament match (and indeed, PROGRESS debut).
The squeaky ring was back in full force here, thanks to the near-500lbs combined weight of these two (plus the ref), and the action was typically hard hitting as you’d expect from an Atlas match. T-Bone just went too low on a leapfrog, but that didn’t matter as he sent Rees to the outside, where he was met with a plancha… which Rees caught, before using T-Bone as a means for moving the ring a few inches. A couple of Irish whips moved the ring a little closer to where I was sitting, before Rees scored a near-fall with a standing elbow drop.
T-Bone fired back with a penalty kick to the chest, before missing a running knee, as Rees fired back with a delayed Exploder suplex for a near-fall. Rees followed up with cross-face forearms in the ropes, before the referee was forced to pull Rees away as he continued to attack T-Bone. A superkick and a release German suplex got T-Bone back into the match, before they resumed the giving and taking of forearms, before a pair of knees from T-Bone got him another near-fall.
Rees nearly snatched the win with a chokeslam/spinebuster combo, before missing a splash and landing across the top turnbuckle, leaving him prone for some kicks, and eventually a fallaway slam. T-Bone got nothing but knees with a frog splash, but was able to kick out of a spear from Rees, before scoring the win with a roll-up after kneeing his way out of a stalling vertical suplex. That seemed a little odd, but Rees looked good in defeat here. T-Bone now has four points in his block in the Atlas Tournament… ***
30 Minute Iron Match: The Dazzler Team (Darrell Allen & Earl Black Jr.) vs. Sweet Jesus (Chuck Mambo & William Eaver)
This was the first time that PROGRESS had ever done an Iron Man match – and it’s a tag team affair, based on the ongoing feud between the Dazzler Team (“Dazzling” Darrell Allen and “Default” Earl Black Jr.) and Sweet Jesus (“Pastor” William Eaver and “no nickname” Chuck Mambo). Restricted to a thirty-minute time limit here, we had the Sweet Jesus team come out to their usual beachball entrance, with Mambo bringing out a big bag of Sainsburys shopping. Straight from the fruit aisle, to a wrestling ring near you!
That fruit came into play almost immediately, with Mambo eating a couple of bananas as soon as the bell rang, tossing the skin into the ring as the opening three minutes came to a head, and we pretty much had our first fall there, as Earl Black Jr. slipped on the banana peel and was rolled up by Eaver to take the lead. Five stars right there for the literal “slip on a banana peel” finish – good work! [1-0]
Both Mambo and Allen came in next, as the fans chanted for the watermelon, but instead got a pineapple and smashed it into Allen’s face. Instant disqualification, and we’re tied with 25 minutes remaining… and I came home with the pineapple since nobody else wanted it! [1-1]
From there we went into a long wrestling match, with Earl Black Jr. grounding Eaver with a hammerlock, before freeing himself and scoring a near-fall with a crucifix roll-up, and bringing in Mambo for some more action, including “that move they do” – a double hiptoss on Black Jr. Mambo connected with a surfboard that took Black Jr. into his own corner, which allowed Eaver to sneak in a chop, before he was released into a Fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall. The Dazzler team took control, slowing the pace down, and focussing the Pastor for a bunch of two-on-one attacks, but an attempt at the Dazzler Death Drop was thwarted when Eaver escaped, tagging in Mambo for a double dropkick as the match reached its halfway point.
Allen attacked Mambo on the outside, which regained the heel’s advantage, with Allen grounding Mambo in a headlock, as Allen taunted the fans who were booing them by saying that “if Zack Sabre Jr. were doing this, you’d be loving it”. He’s not wrong…More headlocks followed as the Dazzlers worked together, shoving Mambo outside as they tried in vain to win a fall by countout.
As the match entered the final seven minutes, we were still looking for our deciding fall, and the heel heat continued when Black Jr. dropkicked Eaver off the apron, before Mambo low-bridged him out of the ring. With no Pastor to tag in, Mambo opted to hit a flip dive to the floor (and the front row!), wiping out Black, before missing a 450 Splash.
Allen took advantage of the miss and kept pounding on Mambo, who responded with a Allen’s own Razzle Dazzle kick, and finally making the hot tag to Eaver, who dropped Black Jr. with shoulder blocks as the match entered its final stretch. Mambo rose from the dead to hit a cross-body on Eaver’s suplex, forcing a break from Allen, as both teams went for a win, with Black Jr. turning Mambo inside out with a German suplex, before turning into a Clothesline from Heaven.
All four men started trading shots with each other, ending up with everyone on the outside as the match entered it’s last two minutes. Black Jr. inadvertently knee’d Allen in the head, clearing the coast for a tope con hilo from Mambo to the outside, with Eaver following up with a similar dive, only to land straight onto Mambo. The Dazzlers followed that up with a suplex onto the apron, before Allen rolled Black Jr. back in to claim a fall by count-out with seconds remaining. [2-1] William Eaver was able to get back in the ring, but time simply ran out as the Dazzler Team walked away with the win.
Technically, this was a good match, but it struggled with the same issue that plagues all Iron Man matches, in that fans only wake up towards the end of the time period. Granted, the two early falls were a good way to train the fans into thinking that falls could come at any time, but all it seemed to do was leave us with a solid 25-minute with a finish that deflated the Garage crowd. ***
Post-match, the Dazzler Team invited Sweet Jesus back to the ring for a respectful handshake, only to turn on them once more, grabbing chairs from the crowd and laying out Mambo and Eaver with chairshots. Something tells me this feud isn’t over…
Battle Royal for a Super Strong Style 16 Tournament Spot: Freddie King, Alex Cupid, AJ Benjamin, Aiden Iomi, James Best, Hayden Yorke, Dillon D’Angelo, David Francisco, Kyle Ashmore, TK Cooper, Roy Johnson & Jack Sexsmith
The first five here were making their debuts straight out of the ProJo, with default entrance video being used for all of them. I’m never thrilled when WWE does battle royals and restricts full entrances to whom they perceive to be stars, and it was the same when debutants came out here in a pack. At least the on-demand version added in inset promos for the new guys, which was a really good touch. Throwing in Yorke and D’Angelo was a good move too, particularly as they went for each other during the intros, playing off their opening match, whilst Kyle Ashmore’s heel turn at the last show means he gets new music, ditching the ultra-catchy “No Beard, No Good” for something generic.
As for the match, it’s a battle royal, with Sexsmith going immediately for Cooper, as the two went outside, with Cooper dropping Sexsmith with a suplex on the floor and on the apron. Sexsmith sold for most of the match on the floor, as Freddie King was tossed out early on by Roy Johnson, before Aiden Iomi followed, as did James Best, with Johnson doing a one-handed body press to eliminate him. Hayden Yorke tried to take out Johnson next, but had little success, as did Alex Cupid, with the latter being eliminated. AJ Benjamin and David Francisco traded shots, before the Portuguese Francisco hung onto the rope to avoid being eliminated via a back body drop, before sending AJ onto the apron, with the rookie eventually forced out via a pump kick from Francisco.
Dillon D’Angelo gained a measure of revenge for losing in the opening match, tossing out Yorke, before he walked into the lion’s den, being slapped by Ashmore, Francisco, Johnson and Cooper, but the proverbial Daniel Puder fired back, only to be powerbombed onto the knee of Ashmore then tossed over the rope.
Ashmore and Johnson resumed their feud from the last ENDVR show, but Johnson gained the upper hand with a full nelson slam in the middle of the ring, only to be caught in a piggyback sleeperhold by Ashmore, which was turned into the Last Set (Big Ending) and an elimination. Johnson’s Kane-like streak ended when he was eliminated by Cooper and Francisco after interference from Ashmore, as the crowd chanted for Sexsmith’s return.
Francisco thought he’d eliminated Cooper, but he went to celebrate far too quickly, as Jack Sexsmith popped up from the floor and flipped the Portugal native of the top rope where he was laying, and down to the mat. That left us with Cooper and Sexsmith as the final two, with Sexsmith laying out Cooper with atomic drops, before landing a DDT on the New Zealander. Sexsmith went for Mr Cocko, but one punch meant that the protection burst, and Cooper won by punching Sexsmith off the top rope, down to the floor, and claiming the final spot in the Super Strong Style 16 tournament. Not exactly the most popular of results, but it was what it was for a battle royal. **¾
Next-up we had our semi-final angle, where Jinny called out Elizabeth to explain why she was pinned by her own PA at Chapter 29’s “Pick Their Poison” tag match. Jinny set the scene by reminding everyone how she “rescued” Elizabeth from poverty (which the fans replied to with chants of “Tesco’s Finest”), and to be fair, she managed to hold it together despite the numerous catcalls from the crowd. Elizabeth’s appearance got a cheer, but nothing compared to the pop for dropping to her knees and saying “sorry… for letting you treat me the way you did”.
The sheer pop that Elizabeth got for attacking Jinny was unreal – showing exactly what a long-term storyline can do for a character when booked right. Elizabeth is no more, she’s now Laura di Matteo, and PROGRESS fans have a new star!
Now, to cover back on my nitpick from the live report: namely, the usage of the old “Elizabeth” entrance video as she made her exit. Yes, the video faded out as the former Elizabeth left, but unless you knew in advance (or were chastised on social media for it), you’d be hard pressed to have noticed the significance. At the time, I said that doing that fit in with kayfabe, since nobody would have known ahead of time, let alone had a chance to make (or even find, should they have made one) a “Laura di Matteo” video laying around, and I stand by that. Although saying that, the post-produced graphics possibly could have done without referring to Elizabeth’s old Twitter handle. Personally speaking, points for the artistic effort, though I’d be knocking some off for the needless dickery that followed…
Just a thought, after the Jinny angle, we’ve only got one match left. Save for the Atlas tournament match, so far all of the matches have ended with the heels winning… I guess if you wanted to win tonight, you had to be in the group who ignored that PROGRESS credo of “don’t be a dick”!
Chain Match: Paul Robinson vs. “Wild Boar” Mike Hitchman
This was a standard “pinfall-and-submissions” match, rather than a bullrope-style “touch all four corners” match, and this is the culmination of several ENDVR shows where the two had been going at each other.
For once in a chain/strap match, they started of with both guys actually connected to the chain, and they started with Robinson (not-so-affectionately called a chihuahua by the PROGRESS crowd) having his chain yanked, before they used the chain around each others’ necks to choke and use for a snapmare. Hitchman landed a back senton onto Robinson, but didn’t go for a pin, instead opting to unload with forearms and elbows, before Robinson ducked an attempted whip with the chain. Robinson went feral on the Wild Boar, biting him whilst using the chain for a choke, but Hitchman replied with an Exploder suplex after being bloodied by some punches.
The chain was then used to trip up Hitchman, as Robinson jumped back in with his rapid-fire punches, before hanging Hitchman’s wrist over the ropes and using the chain for extra leverage. Hitchman fires back on Robinson as he got distracted by the crowd, but a high knee cut off that comeback.
Robinson then moved onto the first really brutal spot of the match, using the chain to hang Hitchman, whilst tossing in a bunch of kicks to the head. After letting go, Robinson found himself dragged to the outside where he was tossed into a bunch of chairs, and then hurled into the front row twice. A fan handed Hitchman a chair, but he instead placed it into the ring, opting to bite Robinson as a receipt for earlier.
A pop-up flapjack onto the apron came next for Robinson, who was able to power out of a Trapper Keeper (package piledriver), only to take a pop-up powerbomb for a near-fall. Hitchman kept up the pressure, whipping Robinson with a chain, but that didn’t protect him from a low blow and then the chair. Hitchman ducked away from a curb stomp, as he flung Robinson into the corner (then a chair to his head!).
Robinson floored Hitchman with a curb stomp off the second rope, before missing a normal curb stomp, allowing the Wild Boar to drill him with a Trapper Keeper. Hitchman didn’t make the cover, instead choosing to try and finish him off with a frog splash, but all he got was the chair. That miss opened up Robinson to catch Hitchman with a pair of curb stomps onto the chair, and that was all she wrote. A fantastically brutal match, ending with Robinson dripping a wad of spit onto the Boar after the fall. ***¼
All in, this was a fantastic show from PROGRESS, even if this was heavy on heel wins. Unlike my first live show, this was even better on tape than live, with the Pollyanna/Dahlia Black stealing the show live and on-tape in my books. The Garage in Islington is a wonderfully intimate venue for watching shows, and whilst the company has clearly outgrown the venue for their main chapter shows, you can tell that the Garage remains PROGRESS’ spiritual home. No return date has yet been announced, but with next week’s Super Strong Style 16 and the upcoming show in Manchester and Brixton, there are clearly bigger fish to fry.