PROGRESS’ eventful weekend in America kicked off with this New York show – a card that would be newsworthy for so many reasons.
Going into the show, that “card subject to change” disclaimer had to be activated as Pete Dunne picked up a nasty cut on a show he’d done the prior night elsewhere in New York. That meant that the marquee’d match of Dunne vs. Jack Gallagher was off… still, it’s not like the packed crowd of indeterminate numbers minded, as they gave PROGRESS a rabid welcome, leaving Jim Smallman slackjawed as Glen Joseph tried to sneak through the curtain unnoticed to take video.
Yep, they even got “please come back” chants before a bell had even rung!
They address that Pete Dunne couldn’t wrestle, which draws chants of “fuck you Carter”. Ah, news travels fast! He comes out to the ring though, and you just know in the UK he’d have been given hell for the choice of sockless-loafers. Dunne heels on the crowd by saying that he’d have refused to wrestle for them anyway, before launching into his usual spoiled child thing of saying he owns everything.
At least it’s not the Repo Man!
That’s the cue for Jack Gallagher’s quieter-than-it-ought-to-be music to hit, as the Gentleman hit the ring in some fancy new blue tights to tell off Peter for his choice of language. Gallagher owns Dunne by saying that he couldn’t own WWE because he “didn’t see him at TV last week”. Ouchie. Of course, Gallagher was meant to have wrestled Dunne for the WWE UK title here, but instead he’s got a new opponent… who interrupts him, ehh?
Oh my God, it’s Zack Gibson. As if the ELMCOR Center wasn’t hot enough, here’s some more heat, especially when Gibson called the “dirty Yanks” a parody. I think I can even see heat haze on the camera!
Jack Gallagher vs. Zack Gibson
Gibson’s drenched with sweat just from walking and talking, so I have a feeling this is going to be one of those shiny shows. A headbutt from Gallagher at the bell almost ends it as Glen Joseph joins Lenny Leonard on commentary… and they start on the outside with Gibson eating a knee off the apron!
Gibson stays on the outside, and decides to drop Gallagher’s arm onto the crowd barrier, then into the ringpost as that left arm became the obvious target. Gallagher absorbs punishment, then manages to get off a suplex before booting the Scouser’s head off for a near-fall.
Gibson tries the Shankly Gates, but Gallagher blocks it… then shoves off the Ticket To Ride as the Gentleman headbutts back for a two-count. Something’s made Gibson bleed, as his spit to the Gentleman’s a bloody one, and now he’s going back for the arm, torquing away some more before scooping Jack into a double-knee gutbuster.
Commentary puts over the difference between TV and indy style matches, surmising that Gallagher may not be used to these anymore… just as the pair slug it out like a pair of untrained boxers! Another headbutt left both men down again, but they quickly trade blows again as a clothesline from Gibson sent the sweat flying and Gallagher down!
Jack counters a suplex into a guillotine, then escapes a Helter Skelter before throwing another headbutt… then a corner dropkick to score just a two-count! Gibson rolls to the outside to stop something off the top… before catching a tope from Gallagher and turning it into a Helter Skelter on the floor!
Back in the ring, Gibson followed up with a crushing Ticket to Ride, but Gallagher somehow kicked out at two, before a Shankly Gates was countered into a roll-up. Somehow, Gibson slips in the corner, a la Gerrard, and that leaves him open for another corner dropkick, then a top rope back elbow as Jack gets the win! Bloody hell, that was something spectacular – in trying circumstances, this was a hell of a way to get the show going. ****
The good thing about the hard cam is that – just like the EVOLVE shows earlier in the day – anyone watching in the aisle sticks out like a sore thumb. Hi Tall Don!
My God, I miss the “home” PROGRESS camera crew…
Jinny & Deonna Purazzo vs. Dahlia Black & Dakota Kai
It’s good to see that Jinny is like Zack, in that she can get heat everywhere. Maybe it’s not just the wacky epaulettes on her new ring gear? Dahlia Black’s first match back in PROGRESS got a pretty good reception – it’s like New York was Camden again!
Glen Joseph on commentary put over the friendship between Jinny and Dahlia here, but Dahlia’s having fun here as the pair exchange a bunch of early two-counts, before Dahlia pulled Jinny down into the splits to spark another series of near-falls. Purazzo and Kai came next, swapping armdrags and dropkicks, before some wrecking ball knees and a cannonball from Dahlia led to a two-count.
Purazzo’s isolated for a while as the Kiwis laid into her, but a knee lift from Deonna puts paid to that, as Kai’s left alone to take a bit of a beating from an increasingly-vicious Jinny. A jawbreaker stops that as Dahlia comes back into play, booting Jinny down with ease ahead of a spinning heel kick! All of a sudden though, Jinny targets Dahlia’s healed ankle with a Dragon screw, and that ankle becomes the bullseye.
A forearm knocks down Jinny, who got booed soundly for going after the ankle, and Deonna keeps up on the same leg, following in with a figure four in the middle of the ring. The bad girls follow up with a wishbone leg splitter as Dakota Kai’s left agonisingly too far away from a tag, helpless as Jinny wrapped Dahlia’s leg around the ropes.
Still, Dahlia refused to stay down and started to fight back, throwing a forearm to Jinny, who ended up taking a backbreaker for her troubles! Finally, Dahlia gets the hot tag to Kai, who drills Deonna with a boot in the corner for a near-fall… only for Jinny to lay her out with a kick as we had a conveyor belt of kicks! Team F’N Kick? Yup…
Jinny targets the lower leg with a dropkick that sent Dahlia to the floor, but we get duelling bumps as the camera shows Kai hitting a uranage backbreaker to Purazzo. Dakota tries to follow that up with a big boot in the corner, but she misses… and Purazzo hits a neckbreaker out of the corner and that’s enough for the win! A pretty good match, with the focus expectedly put on Dahlia’s ankle – a motif I’d expect to see in her matches for the time being. ***¼
Timothy Thatcher vs. Donovan Dijak
The winner of this’d get the next shot at the Atlas division title… unless Strangler Davis beats them to it! Thatcher was out with Stokely Hathaway, who was out to do Timmy’s ring announcing as he prepared for a Donovan Dijak who was in the middle of a farewell tour (of sorts).
Thatcher’s deceptively big, and there’s plenty of bulling around and flips – primarily from Dijak – as we sneaked a look at the current Atlas champion in the entryway. A belly-to-belly off the ropes keeps Thatcher involved, but Dijak just picks him up and tosses him away with ease like he was nothing.
Again, Thatcher shrugs that off and goes for Dijak’s shoulder, shoving it into the corner before working over it with strikes and a Kimura attempt, as Dijak was almost left cowering in the turnbuckles. Dijak hits a clothesline to free himself, before throwing some forearms… but an enziguiri from Thatcher ends all that, as Thatcher drives a series of knees into Dijak’s back.
Thatcher’s gutwrench suplex gets a near-fall, and the two go from there into a series of slogging elbows, leading to Dijak dropping Thatcher with a slingshot knees into the corner. A release suplex keeps Timmy down, but he’s able to escape the Feast Your Eyes by grabbing a rear naked choke, taking Don off his game for a brief moment.
A sit-out spinebuster gets Dijak back in for a two-count as the conditions were making everyone glisten, but Dijak strung together some stuff including a cyclone kick and a top rope moonsault for a near-fall. Despite all that, Thatcher never felt too far behind, blocking another Feast Your Eyes before taking a uranage backbreaker. Somehow, Thatcher kicks out and goes straight to a Fujiwara armbar… which is reversed when Dijak stood up and hit Feast Your Eyes on the third attempt.
The count’s barely broken when Thatcher’s leg ended up on the ropes, and now Hathaway gets involved… only to get flipped off as Thatcher escapes the top rope moonsault. A rear naked choke from Thatcher’s turned into a cannonball as Dijak found a novel way to escape, but Timmy rose from the dead and went back to the arm, forcing the submission. This was another really good outing here – Thatcher looked like a killer at times, whilst Dijak impressed as usual. That cannonball escape from a rear naked choke was quite the thing! ****¼
After the match, Hathaway declared that Thatcher won’t be cashing in his title shot in New York… instead, it’ll be over in the UK. Alexandra Palace is the venue… but that drew a little reaction from all but a few. Yes, we saw you J and Megan!
I do like how Thatcher’s version of Symphony No. 9 in PROGRESS is entirely different to WALTER’s…
Oh my God, almost-certain death is up next!
No Disqualification: Joey Janela vs. Jimmy Havoc
Yes, this was everything you expected, and so much more. That no-DQ tag gave them all the leeway they needed… as if they needed it.
After trading knees and pump kicks, Havoc ended up outside and in the path of a tope from the Bad Boy… who had the favour returned before Havoc fought a fan for his bottle of water. The plunder comes into play early with a massive table, but Janela cuts off Havoc and delivers a lap of honour pump kick into a sitting Havoc.
A third one’s stopped as Havoc returns the favour with a leisurely sprint… into a poke to the eye! That’s Jimmy!
Havoc fills the ring with chairs… to throw at Janela, before pulling off a god damned monkey flip. Which Janela nonchalantly lands still sitting in the chair like nothing had happened. I’m done, that’s the last thing in wrestling pulled off… g’night everybody!
— LARIATOOOO!!! (@MrLARIATO) August 31, 2017
Havoc dropkicks Janela out of that chair, as we see the curtain sell-out… and Havoc’s killing Joey with a double stomp to the gut. We then get… a DOOR?! That’s propped up in the corner, but Havoc just bounces off of it! Janela takes a seat and mocks the downed Havoc, which isn’t the wisest thing to do, so Joey sets up a landing area with four opened-up chairs, then proceeds to set up for a superplex…
Instead, Havoc obliterates Janela with an Essex Destroyer off the top ropes through those chairs. Bugger me, this kills any Hardcore match I’ve seen in recent months. Back and forth leads to Janela blocking an Acid Rainmaker, before duelling roaring elbows dropped both men, before another Acid Rainmaker’s blocked and met with rolling death valley drivers, ending with one off the apron, going through that table on the floor.
For some reason they started a count, but both men beat it as Janela catches Havoc in a package piledriver for a near-fall… and now Joey goes outside for… CINDER BLOCKS?! Bugger me. Yeah, I saw clips of a match in Big Japan where the whole ring was covered in these… it wasn’t a nice sight.
Janela covers a part of the ring with four cinder blocks, before the other two were placed on Havoc… but he avoids a double stomp before press slamming Joey onto the blocks on the chair! Havoc turns up the volume by de-shoeing Janela and BITING HIS FEET, before grabbing a baggie,.
Yep. Thumb tacks! Those and a bare-foot Joey don’t go well… as an atomic drop from Havoc planted Janela’s soles into the shiny pins, before a German suplex onto the cinder blocks led to an Acid Rainmaker for the win. Fuck. Ing. Hell. You know how I call Hardcore matches passe? Well, when you have matches with I guess what you’d call “stunts” like this, “hardcore matches” with chairshots and baking sheets just don’t cut it. If you love death matches, this’ll have floated your boat… and I’m not going to forget this anytime soon. ***¾
After interval, PROGRESS announced they’re doing a double-header in New Orleans before WrestleMania next year. They’re spreading! We also got another proposal… which means we’ve got a LOT of weddings to attend!
Mark Andrews vs. Mark Haskins vs. Austin Theory vs. Keith Lee
This was originally meant to be a three-way with Andrews, Haskins and Gibson. They kept it a multi-man match, with a debut for Austin Theory… and the surprise return of Keith Lee, who Jim added to the match during the introductions.
It’s safe to say that Keith’s addition was a welcome one!
Unless you were in the match, as everyone attacked him at the bell, before Lee monster’d up and went after everyone with the double-handed chops. Lee then hurls everyone out of the corner and across the ring with such ease it was effortless as well as limitless.
Theory and Haskins team up to derail Lee, before we had our typical Haskins dive… onto Theory, then Lee, before Andrews’ dropkick stopped the hattrick as the dives continued regardless! A moonsault/dropkick from Andrews leaves Haskins down, as Theory tries to capitalise with a double stomp, then a suplex… but Haskins’ PK wipes out the rookie immediately.
It’s breathless stuff, with rarely any room for pausing… at least until Keith Lee ate a reverse ‘rana, then a triple dropkick as everyone figured out they had to take the big man down. Theory breaks up a bridging cover with a moonsault as the man some affectionately call “Baby Baron” found himself moments later in a Star armbar, before Haskins stacked em up – a camel clutch to Theory, then a Boston crab to Andrews…
Yes, this is so much happening too quickly for me to even type – but far from being a spotty mess, it flowed wonderfully, such as a top rope ‘rana that saw Andrews caught by Lee… before ‘rana’ing Lee down again. We kept going back to Haskins and Andrews – the feud from earlier this year – with Andrews countering a death valley driver into a Stundog Millionaire, before he was caught up top by Theory… and that built to a Tower of Doom!
Lee snatches some two-counts out of that, then worked over Haskins to build up to a moonsault… but he misses as Haskins threw in a Destroyer for the hell of it. A one-handed Theory Driver was attempted, but Haskins counters out into the roll-up Sharpshooter – and there’s your submission! Starting the second half hot, is it? They packed a LOT into this, and whilst there were some moments that threatened to fall apart, they kept it together… and Austin Theory did not look out of place at all here. ***¾
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks) vs. British Strong Style (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) (c)
This was the “cash in” from the tag title shot that PROGRESS granted the South Pacific Power Trip when TK and Dahlia had to go away earlier in the year. Of course, they’re back – so this show being spotlit as a “tease for TK’s return” ended up being his first PROGRESS match back – and sadly, his last for a while, as it’d turn out.
Pete Dunne was out with the tag champs, who opened up with the Triple H water spit… just to troll the hot crowd. In both senses. From the off, Bate’s taken into the corner by Banks, before they see-saw around a sunset flip for a bunch of one-counts. Poor Brandon Tolle, having to try and make those counts!
TK and Trent tag in, and instantly TK plays the circle game in response to Trent’s “too sweet”ing. That earns Seven a punch, and we head outside for dives… once Tyler’d hit TK with bop and bang. Banks’ high-speed tope wipes out the pile as TK goes up top for his corkscrew… and doesn’t get back up. So, we faded to black as the referee and some fans held up the X sign.
It looked as if TK either planted his ankle badly or dislocated it hitting someone on the way down. Either way, the match was stopped as the video picks up with a crew of wrestlers carrying TK to the back. Jim Smallman addressed the crowd as things were sorted out – and to cut the story short, Banks wanted things to continue as a handicap match.
Travis Banks vs. British Strong Style (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven)
Banks gets rid of the champs with a tope at the bell, and we’re down to just Lenny on commentary as Glen Joseph went with TK to the hospital.
It’s pretty much three-on-one for Travis though, as Dunne remained on the outside, watching as Banks threw Trent into the guard railings, before superkicking Tyler in a chair. Eventually they head into the ring as Banks and Seven teed off on each other, but Banks ends up having to make a series of comebacks as every time he’d come close… British Strong Style would find a way to sneak back in.
Dunne takes a nibble out of Banks as the numbers game quickly took hold, with a Hart Attack-style sit-down splash getting the tag champs a two-count. Another fire-back from Banks leads to kicks for Trent and Tyler, before a German suplex sent Bate flying, leading to the Travis Banks cannonball special!
A Coast to Coast dropkick connects, as does the Fisherman’s driver… but Dunne pulls out the referee, and gets ejected for his troubles! That distraction left Bank wide open for a low blow and a Pedigree… but he kicks out at one! A Slice of Heaven drops Seven, and that’s enough for Travis to get the win! In trying circumstances, this was a good a recovery as you’d get, but you could tell that everyone (rightly) was preoccupied with what had happened earlier.
PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Matt Riddle vs. WALTER (c)
WALTER starts by grounding Riddle with a headlock, reapplying it after the Austrian escaped some headscissors before smacking Riddle with his first chop of the match.
The rear naked choke follows, but Riddle switches the German suplex as the rope break was slapped away, before launching into WALTER with forearms in the corner. A massive dropkick from WALTER ends that foray, as the pair go outside for more clubbering. Somehow, the sight of two big lads throwing chops at each other will snap a crowd out of whatever funk they were in…
ALL. THE. GOD. DAMN. CHOPS.
Back in the ring, WALTER picks up Riddle with ease for a series of gutwrench suplex, with the camera close-ups showing WALTER’s beet-red chest. Riddle reverses the third gutwrench and hits one of his own. Then a second… and then a back senton as Riddle collected a two-count.
WALTER catches a Pele kick and turns it into a butterfly suplex for a two-count – with Dijak watching on from the entrance way presumably thankful that he’s avoiding this in the near-ish future. A big boot from WALTER misses and leads to a German suplex… but WALTER pops up and issues a receipt. Which also sees Riddle pop up, because you cannot EVER German suplex Matthew Riddle.
You can boot him to the mat though.
Riddle rebounds with a Fisherman’s buster, then a running PK as a series of hammer fists and stomps had the Austrian looking vulnerable… but still he kicked out. An attempt to go airborne ends badly as WALTER caught Riddle with a butterfly superplex, only to counter a powerbomb with a Bro To Sleep… and then run into a massive lariat from WALTER.
From their knees, both men fight back to their feet with chops, and we’re back to the rousing chop battle that made chests go even redder! A kick from Riddle misses as WALTER counters with a rear naked choke, only for Riddle to escape and return with a triangle choke… that WALTER swiftly powerbombed out of.
That nearly secured a successful defence, but Riddle again kicks out, then catches WALTER with a Pele kick and a Bro To Sleep… then a German. Despite the kick-out, Riddle’s clearly in the ascendency… but his top rope back senton gets nothing but the Austrian’s knees as WALTER slips in a rear naked choke. Another rope break just earns Riddle some kicks, as WALTER stalked him some more, then waffled him with a series of overhand shots… but Riddle hits back with another Bro To Sleep, then a series of bicycle knees.
Riddle tries again for the back senton off the top, this time squishing the champion for a two-count, before slipping into the BroMission as Riddle forced the Austrian to tap! It goes without saying that these two always put on magic when they’re opposing each other in the ring… and today was no exception. Riddle’s now a two-time Atlas champion, and heads into Alexandra Palace next weekend in a three-way against the unseated WALTER and the number-one contender Timothy Thatcher. My. Word. ****½
PROGRESS’ New York debut was a thing of beauty – aside from the overshadowing injury. It was far from what many feared it would be – a throwaway, inconsequential show. Instead, we got one of PROGRESS’ best outings of the year, with a lot of snowflakes for those who like that sort of system. If you don’t… don’t worry, the heat melted them away.
It says a lot for the crowd and all involved that they were able to keep things going in spite of the trying circumstances which had a visible effect on just about everyone. It’s rotten luck for TK, who’d literally only just made his return after the visa issues – and it goes without saying that we wish the speediest of recoveries to the man who owes everyone at least several dead arms.