Eight (relatively) new faces graced the Electric Ballroom as PROGRESS looked to find some new stars ahead of their return to Alexandra Palace.
The show opens with a video package highlighting the eight entrants, with the same kind of shake you expect from WWE cameramen (intentional, I’m sure), before we cut to Jim milking it in the Ballroom. Isn’t it Tyler Durden? We jump 15 minutes before we get to the graps. Glen Joseph and Matt Richards are on commentary…
Natural Progression Series VI – First Round: Veit Müller vs. The OJMO
This may as well have been a proxy for David Starr vs. WALTER at Alexandra Palace, since these guys were selected by them for this tournament. Still, at least OJMO had a good following based on his prior PROGRESS outings (and elsewhere…)
The OJMO came into this as the runaway favourite – for the tournament as well – although he had to deal with his music stopping early because of a low battery. Seriously. Müller was taken down early as OJMO looked to match him at his own game, none of which got called as we had to have our exposition minute. I don’t know how you avoid it, but if your host can’t introduce the show for VOD, then commentary shouldn’t really be the back-up. A shoulder tackle from Müller takes OJMO down, as Veit started to lean into the fact that he was WALTER’s special representative here. Veit elbows OJMO ahead of a clothesline attempt, but some misdirection allowed OJMO to ‘rana Veit outside, where he walked away from a Fosbury flop attempt, only to get punted on the apron.
Back inside, OJMO goes to kick Veit’s leg out of his leg, before a springboard crossbody was caught with ease, leading to OJMO going up top… where he was shoved down to the floor. Müller throws OJMO against the apron before he put the boots to him back in the ring. The crowd look to get behind OJMO, but Veit stays on top of him with another knee lift, before some European uppercuts led to OJMO diving in with a roll-up for a desperation near-fall. OJMO perhaps looks for a single-leg crab too early, as Müller knocked him down before standing on his throat some more. Eventually OJMO hit back with a leaping neckbreaker and some dropkicks, sending Müller staggering around the ring ahead of a missile dropkick that almost got the win. As Veit blocks another half crab, OJMO goes back to a diving knee before his springboard moonsault saw him land in the clutches of a rear naked choke… as a rope break’s swatted away as Veit turns it into a butterfly suplex.
A superkick looked to get OJMO back in it, but he’s caught on the top rope. Headbutts knock Veit down, with OJMO hitting a RINGKAMPF pose ahead of a frog splash for a near-fall… following that up with a single leg crab attempt. Müller pushes away and slaps OJMO as it’s back to the rear naked choke, which almost led to the Bret Hart finish as OJMO flips back in the corner while still in the hold, before OJMO locked in the single leg crab for the submission. It’s a shame Veit missed that chapter show a few months back, because it felt like all he was here was a substitute for WALTER, even down to the moves. Hopefully he’ll be back, because there’s juice in Veit if they’re willing to squeeze. ***
Natural Progression Series VI – First Round: Malik vs. Danny Duggan
The polar opposite of our opener, with barely any juice in this. Malik largely working for Frontline and the London Lucha League, while Danny Duggan – branded by Gene Munny as a “robot” in his hype for this show – had been working for the likes of Falling Starr Wrestling and Battle Pro in recent weeks. Considering Duggan was an IPW tag team champion four years ago, you can see why some struggle to see the “future” part in “future star”…
Still, Duggan and Malik had a brief scuffle before the bell, which looked to get the crowd going. And then, as the saying goes, the bell rang. While the tempo started off high, with the pair locking up and rolling into the ropes, before they pie-faced each other and began to tee off with forearms. Duggan’s straight back up after a big boot, but some more forearms had him reeling before he dumped Malik with a back suplex. Maybe that’s why we don’t hear as much about his time at the New Japan LA Dojo? A snap suplex gets Duggan a near-fall, as he started to edge ahead… but at the expense of anything resembling crowd connections.
Malik lands a shotgun dropkick and a hanging dropkick to help Danny remember Shibata, following in with a diving back elbow that led to a near-fall. European uppercuts earn Duggan a hiptoss knee as Malik lands another diving dropkick for a near-fall, before Malik’s dropkicked off the top rope as Duggan used his strength to haul him up for a superplex attempt… only for Malik to headbutt free. Duggan rolls onto the apron from there as Malik slips off the top rope, recovering to hit a dropkick between the ropes for a near-fall. Commentary dropped in a weird line about how Danny had one of the more memorable matches of 2018, then got forgotten about by PROGRESS fans. Not booking someone will do that. Malik misses a dropkick as Duggan rolls him into a Boston crab, then switches to a crossface as he looked for *any* submission… but up kicks from Malik and another dropkick turn the tide.
Malik looks for another knee, but instead sends Duggan outside to dropkick him in the crowd, before a double sledge off the top took Danny down. A wacky elbow off the top nearly does it for Malik, before they resorted to forearms again to get the crowd into it. An attempted Judas Effect gets blocked, but Malik stays in it ahead of a half nelson suplex, sending Duggan into the corner… before he returned the favour and dumped Malik on his neck again.
A clothesline from Malik stops all that, before he ran into a powerbomb as Duggan executed finisher.exe – a spinning tombstone… only for Malik to kick-out. The fatal exception follows as a sheer drop brainbuster dumped Malik, and that’s it. Perfectly fine wrestling, but a rejig of the line-up might have helped as two ice-cold performers were largely in front of crickets. Then again, judging by commentary, that seemed to be the story they were going for, “why do crowds not connect with someone who’s getting a second chance after a year away, with nothing to fill the intervening period?”. **½
Natural Progression Series VI – First Round: Gene Munny vs. Scotty Davis
Hey, what’s a dog house doing on the stage?
Having been the only person building up this show on social media, Gene Munny got a monstrous reaction… and a legion of fans proclaiming that they bought their ticket to see Gene Munny. My hand’s raised too…Meanwhile, in Scotty Davis, Gene had a rather tough opponent… one that he took so seriously, he took his nipple tape off.
From the off, Davis ragdolled Munny with waistlock takedowns, before he ran into a shoulder tackle from Gene. Flippy lucha stuff gives way to Gator rolls from Scotty, before an overhead kick sent Munny sailing outside, where a series of switcharounds led to Gene crashing in with a slingshot spear! Cue the Fat Morgan Webster imploding senton, before Gene pulled Davis off the top rope and into the buckles.
Clubbering forearms gave way to a nice dropkick from Munny for a near-fall, then a spinebuster, but Davis up just after a one-count. An abdominal stretch has Davis in more trouble, as Gene dips into some mind games before he got pulled into an overhead belly-to-belly that sent him into the corner. Gene gets a boot to the rope to save himself from Davis, but a release Regalplex flips him over for a near-fall. Davis goes for a Quebrada, but it’s caught and turned into a Northern Lights suplex to send Scotty outside… where he’s met with a wild tope into the aisle! A powerbomb – tagged as the Jame Blunt Force Trauma – nearly puts Davis away, before Gene called for the Ainsley Lariat.
A hook kick prevents the Ainsley, but Gene dives in and lands it on the second try for a near-fall. Gene heads up top for a moonsault, but it misses, allowing Davis to come in with some elbows before he flipped into a Supremacy for the win. Well, the Supreme Suplex Machine doesn’t win with as suplex, but the Third Generation of Davis in PROGRESS gets to the semis. Unpopular, yeah, but you’d have to be a damn fool not to book Gene Munny again (and repeatedly) after this showing. ***½
Cue chants of “we want our Munny back”, which seemed to confuse… and we’ve a wacky jump cut. Puns, how do they work?
Natural Progression Series VI – First Round: Dan Moloney vs. Cara Noir
Cara’s entrance was made for a place like the Ballroom, where you can get the lighting spot on. Problem was, the lights were so bright, it damn near killed the white balance! Meanwhile Dan Moloney was miffed at PROGRESS’ latest typo with him, prompting him to demand Jim Smallman spell his name out in the intros. It took two tries.
Shoulder tackles from Cara Noir start us off, as he looked to chip away on Moloney… before figuring that kicks to the leg may have been a better idea. It wasn’t. A leg sweep was though, before some rope running from Cara Noir led to him landing a dropkick after a nice exchange of leapfrogs. Dan heads outside to recompose himself, before he found himself weirded out a little from a Test of Strength, opting to send Cara outside instead. Returning to the ring, Cara’s chopped as Moloney looked to take some more measured shots, but Cara Noir wasn’t too far out of the game as the pair looked to trade back-and-forth forearms. Chops just put Cara Noir in it, as Moloney stick up the middle fingers in defiance, ahead of a headbutt as Moloney responds to those chops in kind.
A TKO dropped Cara for a two-count, but Cara’s right back with a series of Swan Woo shotgun dropkicks, following up with forearms until he took Dan down with a German suplex. They follow that up with a neckbreaker for a near-fall, before Cara tried to hang Moloney in the corner with a choke. Noir takes too long to follow up after letting go, as Moloney popped up with a superplex. Palm strikes wreck Cara Noir ahead of a ripcord Black Hole Slam, but it’s not enough, nor was a powerbomb, before Moloney ran into a Blackout sleeper as Cara wrapped himself around Moloney until the ref stoppage was called. A battle of two strong personalities kinda had the crowd unsure of who to back, but when Cara Noir won, that pop was immense. I’m pretty sure you’ll see Dan back here, if only for the entrance, if not the slugfests he loves to indulge in. ***¼
Weirdly, they leave in Jim’s out-dated plug for Alexandra Palace tickets, before the Second Half Banter saw them do a pose-off, then hold up the show so a fan wearing a Plymouth shirt could be baited for his team losing. Not like we had a time limit on this or anything…
Natural Progression Series VI – Semi-Final: The OJMO vs. Danny Duggan
The difference in reactions was palpable. I mean, if the crowd at least had commentary to play off of, some of us would have at least reacted charitably.
The OJMO tried to win it in a flash with a frog splash, but Duggan barely kicks out as he was left writhing on the mat. A single leg crab looked to follow, but Duggan threw him away then dumped him on the neck with a release German suplex, testing the KT tape that was on the OJMO’s neck going in. From there, Duggan started to be a little rougher, even if the expectations of crowd connection seemed to be one-way, not looking to the crowd for approval, yet somehow being annoyed when it wasn’t forthcoming. Well, apart from the meta “zero one” chants, that were entirely binary in their disdain towards Duggan. Bleep bloop.
A cravat from Duggan’s used to restrain the OJMO, as was a snapmare and a kneedrop, before a full nelson on the mat kept the OJMO down. The OJMO tried his luck with a springboard crossbody, but Duggan kicks out and waffles him with a clothesline as the crowd remained mild. Clubbering shots from Duggan get countered as OJMO lifts him outside, where he’s met with a crashing Fosbury Flop, complete with what could have been an ugly landing.
A springboard moonsault gets OJMO a near-fall as Duggan had suddenly lost his momentum, but another half crab’s pushed away as Duggan tried his luck with a roll-up. A pouncing knee from OJMO has Duggan loopy.exe, before the second knocked him down for a near-fall, as did a frog splash… and now’s the time for OJMO to go to the half crab… but that was the cue for horrendous feedback as William Eaver and his portable speaker got the referee all distracted. Chuck Mambo’s out too, throwing a Do Not Resuscitate flag at the OJMO, but for a third time, the OJMO rejects it. OJMO turns around into a blatant low blow from Duggan, who’d finally loaded something resembling a character as he went for finisher.exe – the spinning tombstone (and no, that’s not his name for it). OJMO kicks out at two, but misses a head kick as Duggan looked for another tombstone, except it’s turned into a Victory Roll for a near-fall. Mambo’s back on the apron as Eaver slides in a 2×4. Oh, how cute – because Hacksaw, geddit?
Duggan cracks the OJMO in the back with it, then slides the plank outside so he could beat the OJMO with his own half crab, all to the overtures of the crowd’s chants of “bullshit”. Well, this ticked the boxes, but man, taking a stone cold guy and turning him in two matches to join a group with an ironic name? That got some laughter live… Extra marks for Glen slow on the uptick given that he didn’t get that Danny had joined DNR until he’d held up the flag… because taking all of the outside interference that was on offer wasn’t enough of a hint, eh? **¾
So, The OJMO being eliminated pulled all of the air out of the Electric Ballroom, as Danny Duggan and his upside down flag walked into the final…
Natural Progression Series VI – Semi-Final: Cara Noir vs. Scotty Davis
The show by this point was threatening to run long, so… let’s cut off the dramatic part of Cara Noir’s intro as he just walks to the ring for his second match. Huh.
The crowd were still deflated from what happened earlier, so Cara and Scotty went right at it, trading kicks before Davis looked to roll him to the mat. They head outside, where Scotty’s met with a suplex as Cara dumped him onto the apron with a brainbuster-like drop, which looked to aggravate the neck he’d injured in the first round. An Irish whip took Davis down in the corner as Glen made himself cackle over PROGRESS missing the boat with not having Cara Noir come in on a horse. Davis manages to haul himself back in with a German suplex, but he spikes himself on the landing, and that neck wasn’t helped when Noir lands a rebound German suplex before diving onto Scotty with a guillotine choke.
After getting free, Davis charged right back in with a Chaos Theory German suplex before he began to pepper Cara with punches and kicks. A Fisherman suplex rolled through into a Fisherman buster for another two-count, only for Cara to go right back to the neck with a Rude Awakening-style neckbreaker, followed up by David Starr’s Blackheart Buster – tagged here as Madame Guillotine – for a near-fall. Noir looks for a package piledriver, but Davis fought out and took things up top, landing an avalanche German suplex… but Cara’s instantly back up for a Swan Woo as the pair looked to finish it. Cara locks in the Blackout sleeperhold, but after getting free an Olympic slam from Davis dumps Cara… who just comes back with another Blackout before he thumps Scotty in the back of the head. Davis escape a package piledriver though, then lands a pair of reverse spin kicks… and a quick Supremacy books him a final against the ‘droid. A fantastic match that actually managed to drag the crowd back into it after they’d been deflated – and I’d have to argue that match made two stars for the price of one. ****
There was such venom in Glen’s voice as he built to the semi-final… add that in with a few live reports of Jim looking very grumpy, and I do wonder… pressure?
Street Fight: Eddie Kingston & Latin American Exchange (Ortiz & Santana) vs. CCK (Chris Brookes & Jonathan Gresham) & Jordynne Grace
Lucky Kid was meant to have been on the CCK side, but travel issues meant that he couldn’t appear… so CCK were a body down, and the jokey announcement of Earl Perkins as a replacement fell a little flat.
So we’ve a jump start as Ortiz and Kingston spilled outside with Brookes… and yeah, this is going to be a mad one. There’s an early Brookesing as I get a close up answer to my stupid Twitter question In the middle of our exposition minute, Gresham gets a Brookesing of his own, which just infuriates me as commentary no-sells it, before Brookes found the back of the room with another Brookesing. Right, you’ve made your point guys.
There’s a goddamn step-up cannonball from Santana as CCK were sat in the front row, but commentary genuinely may have fallen quiet as they can’t see, nor call much here. Brookes is leaking blood after that last chair thing, and he heads to the back (off camera) to get tended to. That means Jonathan Gresham’s on his lonesome against LAX, at least until Brookes wandered back out with a taped-up arm as Kingston returned with a trolley flunder of plunder. Glen, it’s not a shopping cart. You’re in England…
Brookes gets put in the trolley and thrown into the stage, like a reverse Zack Ryder, while LAX began to focus on Gresham some more, using a step-up moonsault on him before Kingston got bonked on the head with a bin lid. Staples come into play as they try to staple Brookes to the ring apron, before Santana does a step-up moonsault to Earl Perkins. For the LOLS. More staples go into Chris Brookes’ face as Kingston tried to make sure he paid Chris that fiver back… then we get the threat of staples to Gresham’s nether regions, until the lights go out as Jordynne Grace rushes out to even up the numbers. Hello casual intergender streetfights… and hello to Chris Brookes looking to separate the happy couple.
Duelling dives from Gresham and Grace took out LAX, while Brookes’ tope con giro kept the insanity up as Matt deadpan declared his love for Aldi. All while the floor of the Ballroom continued to turn into a warzone. Brookes and Kingston brawl towards the bar, veering towards the merch tables as the fans on the balcony gloated about their relative position of safety. Kingston clears off the CCK table and brings it towards ringside, while Gresham continued to do a wrestle, dropping Santana with a delayed Gotch piledriver for a near-fall. Kingston grabs more chairs, throwing them into the ring as he cleared away the front row, while some drawing pins were scattered on the table.
Something happened with Jordynne Grace off camera as they focused on Brookes tomping drawing pins into Kingston’s hand… and now it’s time for Kendos ticks. Ominous. Especially in the hands of Kingston, who cracks Brookes on the head. There’s a response as Brookes caught Kingston on the top rope with a butterfly superplex, before LAX trapped Grace and Brookes in metal bins and whacked them with Kendo sticks. That looked like it had to suck. Especially the two-for-one shot on Brookes. One of the bins is left for Grace to get powerbombed through a la the Shield… putting her through it with so much force a handle popped off. CCK are back with Kendo sticks, before Ortiz and Gresham teed off on each other with forearms, until Gresham broke the Kendo stick on Ortiz’s arm.
Ortiz gets caught in the corner as Gresham used the flattened bin that Grace had gone through, holding it in place for a Coast to Coast from Brookes… who couldn’t avoid a frog splash from Santana as the crowd seemed to be cooling off a little. Some spitting from Kingston led to Kingston pulling a fork out of his boots… Grace snatches it away as she looked to go all Abdullah the Butcher… but the fork’s turned on her and jabbed into Grace’s forehead instead. Santana pulls out another table as Gresham was stuck in the crowd… that table’s propped in the corner as Jordynne Grace gets pulled to her feet, all while Glen pulls out THAT SummerSlam line. Gresham manages to get back to the ring as LAX had designs on putting Jordynne through the table, as Chris Brookes helped his man out rolling him in for a double stunner, before Grace low blowed Kingston on the apron. The powerbomb onto the drawing pin’d table didn’t come off, but Brookes manages to hit a slingshot cutter… sliding off the table to the floor. Oof.
That second table is still in the ring as Gresham ate an Alley Oop and a Batista Bomb, before LAX went back to Grace… only for Gresham to spear her through the table. Anyone still got Gene’s dog house handy? With Gresham and Grace out of action, LAX set up a nasty-looking chair bridge, before a powerbomb/blockbuster saw Brookes bounce awkwardly off it as LAX took the win. This was a war alright, although it did seem to lose the crowd at times, thanks to the brawl going all around the Ballroom – a place that doesn’t exactly have great sightlines for stuff going on outside the ring. This felt like it’d have been a thankless job to edit for the VOD, and while commentary didn’t always mesh with the pictures, they managed to capture the bulk of this scrap. ***½
After the match, Eddie Kingston got the mic as he dropped a few tasty swears and put over Chris Brookes while going over that trope. You know, Brit Wres isn’t dead? We get it. Unless you’ve something to plug… There’s credit for Gresham and Grace too, with Kingston shaking hands and doing his best to get rid of the “women’s wrestling” tag…
Natural Progression Series VI – Final: Scotty Davis vs. Danny Duggan
Well, at least we’ve got a clearly defined good vs. evil dynamic here – while Chuck Mambo did more to mock things than Danny did, wearing the OJMO’s t-shirt. Danny, on the other hand, did a Lykos and had his flag upside down. One job!
Davis is distracted early on as William Eaver confuses him with Tazz, allowing Duggan to go after Davis’ injured neck. I mean, he’s dropped his other two opponents on there today, so, hattrick? Davis manages to fight back, but misses a standing shooting star press as Duggan went outside… and hey, there’s Eaver and Mambo providing a human wall as Scotty’s having to fight against the numbers game.
A neckbreaker to Davis on the outside was followed up by some headbutts, but Davis’ attempt to head up top to mount a comeback got stopped by Mambo leaping onto the apron to provide a distraction. A German suplex from Duggan gives us our head drop as a cravat continued the neck work, as did a clothesline… but Davis manages to get himself an opening, landing a teardrop suplex as the Irishman looked to build up momentum. The pair trade forearms before Davis eventually landed a head kick… then a cross-legged suplex dumped Duggan as Eaver and Mambo provided some more physical interference, as Mambo’s Bad Burrito gutbuster left Davis out. Finisher.exe gets Duggan a near-fall as Davis kicks out from the tombstone… and there’s the cue for the OJMO to run out with a chair to take out Eaver and Mambo to send them packing.
The focus returns to the ring as Davis and Duggan pulled themselves up, but it was Davis who found fresh momentum, teeing off on Duggan with right hands before Danny completed his hattrick, dumping Scotty with a brainbuster for a near-fall. Duggan looked to finish off Scotty off the top rope, but for a second time, Scotty lands an avalanche German suplex, a head kick and a Dragon suplex for a near-fall as Scotty almost won with a suplex for once!
Duggan counters Supremacy into Finisher.exe, hitting a pair of those tombstones for good effect, but Scotty still kicks out! From there, Duggan’s rolled into an Omoplata crossface in the middle of the ring… rolling Danny back in as we got the Chris Benoit/WrestleMania 20 finish as Scotty Davis won the tournament! For a final, this was fine… but it went in way too hard on ticking all the boxes that PROGRESS love to do for their main events. Clearly-defined characters? Check. Distraction? Check. Babyface run-in to even the numbers? Working “known bad” body parts? Check? Double finishers? Yup. Hell, just the general stacking of the odds? Yup. ***¼
Scotty celebrated with the trophy as Jordan Devlin came out to join in… I see why some reckon that was Devlin “overshadowing” the moment, given how prodigious Scotty is, but at least the part of it played out the next day.
Having been there live, it’s hard to shake off things that happened in the Ballroom that didn’t necessarily make tape. The Danny Duggan stuff simply didn’t click live, with the booing being more of a “we don’t like this” rather than a “we hate you” nature. Comparing it to what was presented on commentary, there was at least a nugget of story behind it, but that was a rare example of where the NPS format worked better strung across multiple shows – because people would have had a chance to see the story they were hinting at, and then react. Rather than what we had here where it only made sense after it dropped on VOD.
Mind you, that could have been alleviated had PROGRESS’ build for this been anything more than a bunch of media interviews (I’m sorry, but who’s really reading ALL of those?) and a brief video package that just told you the names of the entrants? When Gene Munny’s building up your tournament more than you are, something’s gone horribly wrong. That being said, the one-day format worked as far as telling stories and making names – but now the onus is on PROGRESS to follow up on that… and it’ll not be measured by who made appearances at Alexandra Palace the next day, but by how big a part of the roster these folks become.
Live, this was a blast – and hopefully represents the early seedlings of a real “new era” of PROGRESS.