Can Paul Robinson shock the Britwres world and beat WALTER for the PROGRESS title? That’s on tap in the main event as PROGRESS hit Canada.

Yeah, it’s been a while since PROGRESS ran a show outside the UK – with this year’s reduced schedule a massive change from last year’s Coast to Coast tour of the US, and the Germany weekender. We’re at the Midtown Event Theatre for this live edit of the PROGRESS Toronto show… opening with Jim dragging out the crowd’s “ohhhs”. By his farewell at chapter 100, part of me wants this to be nowhere near as subtle. This was the second half of PROGRESS’ double-header here, with a co-promoted “SMASH vs. PROGRESS” show having been held the prior night.

Like the wXw shows, they’re using the “home” camera crew, which means we’re getting a lot of camera angles that we don’t usually see. Such as a Fire Pro isometric shot of Jim in the ring… The pre-show banter finds a Mountie in the crowd, sadly, sans shock stick. Once Glen Joseph was done clearing his throat, he’s on commentary alongside the ghost of Jim Barnett for this “live edit” of the show.

Jordan Devlin vs. Travis Banks
…and we open up with a match straight out of that there NXT UK… albeit one that was received better on the indies. Jordan Devlin’s the killer import in PROGRESS, which sounds like a lot of shade for the rest of the (imported) stars here.

There’s some Google Maps comedy on commentary as Banks and Devlin looked to work over each other’s arms early on, before a knuckle lock forces Banks to bridge… Devlin sweeps the legs before some back-and-forth sunset flips broke out as we got spammed with the near-falls, ending with a Victory roll from Devlin for a two-count.

After hitting the ropes, Banks kicks out Devlin’s legs ahead of a diving knee for a quick pinning attempt, before he hurled Devlin into the corner for a nasty spill to the outside. Banks followed him outside as Devlin got chopped around the front row, before they returned to the ring. Glen mentions how Travis Banks is alone as TK Cooper and NIWA aren’t in Canada with him, and that the lack of back-up could get to him. Right on cue, Banks misses a Slice of Heaven and got instantly met with Air Jordan for a near-fall.

Sending Banks into the ropes, Devlin keeps up with a back elbow, then a backbreaker before he used a neck crank to keep Banks down. After getting free, Banks switches around, tripping Devlin into the corner as things spilled outside for a PK and a low-pe (complete with the wacky Fire Pro camera angle). Another Slice of Heaven misses as Banks countered a roll-through by Devlin… rolling him through for a stomp for a near-fall. A slingshot cutter from Devlin followed for a two-count for the Irishman, before a roll-through Destroyer got blocked. Banks countered back with a springboard stomp for a near-fall, before he tried to swing at Devlin. Bad idea.

After he threatened to get outboxed, Banks ran in with a Busaiku knee, before Devlin responded with a Spanish Fly. Devlin tries to grab hold of the wrist, in a bid to pull up Banks for a Devlinside, only to get stopped with a headbutt. That barely rocks Devlin, who went for a Devlinside, which got turned into a Destroyer… a headbutt’s Devlin’s response, before the Devlinside lands at the third attempt for a two-count. A top rope moonsault followed, but Devlin rolls out before he ran into a clothesline, then a Kiwi Krusher as Banks had his turn to pick up a near-fall.

Banks goes for another Slice of Heaven, only to be interrupted by a Codebreaker as a package piledriver put the Kiwi away. Excellent stuff for an opener – and this is exactly the example people have in mind when they compare NXT UK to the indies. Without any of the perceived shackles of the “WWE house style”, these two knocked it out of the park. ***¾

Holidead vs. Toni Storm
You can move to a different country, but you can’t move away from the tropes, eh? The women are back in the second match as Holidead returned to PROGRESS following her recent good run in England.

Holidead slithers around Storm at the bell, taking her into the corner as commentary tries to play up that mini run as if Holidead was on a collision course for the title. Things quickly broke down into a battle of forearms, with Storm edging ahead with palm strikes and a pump kick, before some misdirection allowed Toni to land a low dropkick.

Holidead’s taken outside for a lowpe from Storm, before she blocked a second one with a forearm. Storm’s thrown onto the apron next as Holidead looked to make a dent, throwing Toni into the turnbuckles before a backbreaker saw Holidead dig up the back injury that had Toni on the shelf earlier in the year. The ring post’s put to use as Holidead stretches Storm’s back around it, following up with a Dragon screw on the mat.

A Jinny-like seated surfboard’s next as Storm’s back continued to get stretched. After getting free, somehow Toni avoids a big boot but got taken down again by Holidead for a modified single crab, ending when Toni managed to get to the ropes. Holidead begins to trash talk Toni, and that’s the cue for Toni to fight back, curiously only using her right hand before a head kick and a German suplex dumped Holidead.

A second German suplex follows for a one-count as they rolled too far back, but Toni keeps up with the Germans before a diving lariat led to a near-fall. The STF’s next, but they’re too close to the ropes, before a Storm Zero piledriver got countered with a back body drop. Storm tries to counter a Gunnslinger, but she’s caught with a Samoan drop instead, before a headbutt finally took Holidead off her feet.

Toni’s back with a waistlock, but the latest German suplex is elbowed away from as a spinebuster landed for a near-fall. Another Samoan drop followed as Holidead went for a pumphandle slam, but it’s still not enough as Holidead went up top… only to miss with a flying legdrop as Storm quickly put her away with a Storm Zero piledriver. A little WWE-like in terms of the finish, but this was a decent enough match that ended with Toni bowing to the crowd as some took this as a latest farewell… ***

Jim picks out a fan in the crowd who was underage and picked that moment to mention how Jimmy Havoc “fucked my ear… not like that”. The kid refused to lie about his age, and this got uncomfortable really quickly.

Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. The Butcher And The Blade (Andy Williams & Pepper Parks) vs. The Dark Order (Evil Uno & Stu Grayson)
On the surface, this is very much my graps. It’s also probably the only time the Dark Order – formerly the Super Smash Brothers – do a PROGRESS-only show before they become AEW exclusive.

Stu Grayson and Andy Williams start us off clubbering each other, before Grayson landed on his feet to counter a hiptoss. Williams responds by taking Grayson into the corner before he got caught with a dropkick… allowing Kyle Fletcher to blind-tag himself in. A flash roll-up from Kyle stopped Jim in his tracks while telling a story, before Mark Davis came in to pancake and flatten Grayson with a back senton for a near-fall.

There’s a switcharound as Fletcher gets dragged into the corner as Evil Uno tagged in for some back rakes, front rakes, and nipple twists. Uno pokes Kyle in the eye, before the Creepers low bridge him to the outside. Normally, I’d moan about how commentary didn’t know who they were, but a) I can probably guess why commentary doesn’t have time to watch AEW and b) they brought up Loco Mike Mason and the Mexican Eagle, which’ll never not be good for a hideous pop.

Grayson’s back in to choke away on Fletcher, while the referee did a bang up job of restraining Davis as he tried to get in to stop some double-teaming. A slingshot senton from Grayson catches Fletcher, as Kyle continued to get worn down. Fletcher’s superkick gives him an opening, but Uno pulls Davis off the apron as the Dark Order stayed in control. Pepper Pars comes in to break up a pin before he blind-tagged in Uno, who wandered too close to the proverbial sun. That gave the Butcher and the Blade a go at double-teaming, using a combination gutwrench suplex as Kyle again remained on the back foot… but eventually Kyle fought back, landing a crossbody then a suplex as he manages to find his way through to Davis in the corner.

Davis storms in with chops and clotheslines for the Dark Order, before the Butcher and the Blade ate a clothesline. Kyle’s back to dump Grayson with a uranage backbreaker as the former tag champs found a head of steam, with Davis wiping out the Creepers with a tope before Kyle’s step-up senton took out the rest. From there, it’s back to the Aussie Open his with an assisted Aussie Arrow for a near-fall, before a double-team Go To Sleep was blocked.

Tags became a novelty at this point as Williams squashed Uno with a crossbody, before a kip-up overhead kick from Grayson got rid of the Butcher and the Blade. Kyle again finds a way through though, taking Grayson into the corner… before losing him as Grayson hit an over-the-top senton into Davis as Uno took his time heading up top for a senton bomb. Somehow, Kyle kicks out at two before the Dark Order dug out the old Chasing the Dragon for a near-fall.

Things almost went awry as Grayson went for a MX on Williams, but it’s caught and turned into a buckle bomb as a Parade of Moves broke out. Tags bring us to the big men in Williams and Davis, and of course they slug it out. A thunderous lariat from Williams dropped Dunkzilla ahead of a powerbomb and a Cloverleaf… but Fletcher comes in to try and kick it apart. It worked, but it just riled up Williams, who pushed him into Parks for a Stunner as the Butcher and the Blade eased ahead and almost took the win… with Uno breaking up a cover off-camera. Uno eats a suplex onto Parks’ knees for a near-fall as Aussie Open were nowhere to be found, before Fletcher blind-tagged in off of Uno, allowing him to take Williams outside for a double-team Go to Sleep, before an inverted crucifix bomb by Davis almost put away Parks.

Uno tags back in on Parks as things threatened to get scrappy, with Grayson hitting a step-up DDT onto the apron on Fletcher, before a 450 splash almost got the win as Williams dove in just in time. The Dark Order focus on Williams for that, battering him with double-team strikes before they go after Fletcher again, looking for… whatever it was, it didn’t come off as Fletcher instead got help from Davis as a Doomsday Aussie Arrow puts the Butcher and the Blade down… with a Fidget Spinner being the exclamation mark as Pepper Parks ate the three-count. A really frenetic tag match, although that spell in the middle where tags didn’t seem to be enforced will bother a few. ***½

There’s footage of Trent Seven and Eddie Kingston brawling during the interval as the merch tables got a little heated. Without context, and much lighting, this is… odd. Trent suplexes Kingston onto a table, then leapt over him as commentary suddenly appeared… and apparently this was going to be a match? They finally make it to the ringside area, where Trent chops the ring post, because of course he does. Kingston gets the mic and mocks Trent in no uncertain terms… and we finally have a match.

Eddie Kingston vs. Trent Seven
The bell rings as Trent’s stomped and chopped some more, as things looked one-sided…

Trent fires back with chops, suckering Kingston into a DDT for good measure, as commentary got very indie with F-bombs and the like. A sit-out side slam from Trent gets a near-fall, then sent Kingston outside for a low-pe as we were back to the brawling.

Trent whiffs on a tumbleweed back inside, allowing Kingston back in with a big boot, only to miss a leaping enziguiri as he had to take down Trent with a STO. Kingston keeps up with a Saito suplex for a near-fall as both men were forced to pull themselves back to their feet using the ropes. Machine-gun chops await for Trent in the corner, but he just returns the favour before a Kingston lariat dropped Trent for a near-fall. Kingston’s feeling his shoulder, perhaps throwing it out with that lariat, but the chops come back as the pair began to trash-talk each other.

Kingston nearly wins it with a diving backfist, before a Fisherman Buster spiked Trent for another near-fall. Heading outside, Kingston pops his shoulder back in, but gets caught on the top rope as Trent’s back to the chopping ahead of a superplex attempt… which gets blocked. Instead, he’s headbutted to the mat before he popped back to his feet and repositioned Kingston for a piledriver off the middle ropes. Glen Screams. Glen Swears. Trent wins. I’m massively torn on this – the way the match started was just so odd, as a fight turned into a match. It’s very much a “me” thing – the match was fine for the time they had, but I wasn’t a fan of how they got there. ***

After the match, Eddie Kingston got the mic to beg for some ice (which he got) before he put over British Strong Style.

Chris Brookes & Jordynne Grace vs. David Starr & Jody Threat
Ever get the feeling this match was thrown together? When you consider that David Starr’s main eventing at Alexandra Palace in a month… this is certainly a choice.

Starr and Brookes start us off in this battle of God-awful team names, with Starr pulling Brookes into a seated surfboard that quickly ended in the ropes. A quick flurry ended with Brookes tagging out to Grace… so in comes Threat, as the pair raced into each other, ending with a kick to the head from Threat, as Jordynne rolled into the ropes to avoid being pinned. Brookes is back in, but Threat’s in no hurry to tag out as Brookes mentioned “we’re kinda affiliated with someone” so they couldn’t do intergender. Of course, the subtlety-hammer comes in elsewhere as he had to ask Jim Smallman for permission to do intergender. “Just get on with it” is perhaps the best way they could ever have squashed the elephant in the room.

So of course, they take it a step up as Glen “gets on the phone to Uncle Paul to ask for permission”. “Paul” says yes, presumably because nobody here is contracted to WWE… and, well Dave, you’ve found your bit where I get irrationally annoyed, so you can stop reading.

The intergender match starts properly with Threat taking Brooks out of the corner with headscissors before she went hoisted up Brookes for a stalling suplex, landing it for a near-fall. Tags bring in Starr and Grace, as Jim tells us that Jordynne was looking forward to punching him in the face. Glen invokes the Mitchell and Webb snooker commentary act as Jordynne takes down Starr in a Test of Strength, before she powerfully kicked out of a lateral press from Starr.

On the outside, Starr’s taken down as Jordynne slams fans onto him. Chris Brookes gets it too, as she used her tag partner as a human weapon. Back inside though, Starr fired back with a slam, only to get met with a POUNCE after the pair criss-crossed in the ropes. Brookes tags back in to throw some chops, as Grace returned to keep up the beating on the number one contender. Threat’s back on the apron, watching helplessly as Starr got a wet willie. Jordynne apparently looked disgusted, but came in and became an unwilling participant as Starr’s other ear got invaded, prompting Starr to hit back with a Pretty Pumped. Tags bring us back to Grace and Threat, with Jody landing a big spear to fold Grace in half for a near-fall.

Grace elbows out of a Fireman’s carry as she instead threw Threat into the ropes for a spiking Michinoku driver, before a diving elbow in the corner set up for a Vader Bomb… but Threat rolled away and came in with a crossbody to buy her some time. Brookes and Starr tag back in, with Starr pushing through with a Violence Party in the corner. He tries to set up for a dive, but the slingshot cutter delays Starr as he came back in with a Han Stansen to leave both men down.

Starr gets lifted outside as Brookes looked for a dive… he’s caught with a Cherry Mint DDT from Starr, who proceeded to dive into Grace on the outside as Threat’s apparently legal, nearly winning things with a rack bomb. Brookes turns it around with a leaping knee before Threat came back with a springboard Codebreaker, taking Brookes outside for a PK… That’s blocked as things get even more insane with a tope/Doomsday device combo to Threat on the outside, wiping out everyone on the floor. Threat’s taken back inside for some double-teaming as Brookes set up for a Vader Bomb, before his back senton squashes Jody for a near-fall. A Muscle Buster from Grace is next, aided by a superkick from Brookes, but Starr breaks up the cover by shoving Brookes onto the pile.

Starr and Brookes trade chops and forearms as things broke down again, only for Grace to come in with a spinebuster on Starr as the crowd weirdly descended into almost a golf clap. Another slingshot cutter from Brookes is countered into a Product Placement as Starr looked for Han Stansen… only for a lariat from Grace to stop him. Threat tries to charge into Grace, only to get blocked and stopped with a forearm as Jordynne busts out a Jonathan Gresham-like Octopus… Brookes traps Starr in another as Threat was left with no choice but to submit. A hell of a tag, but I’ll be doing my damndest to forget the “uncle Paul” crap at the start. ***½

PROGRESS Unified World Championship: Paul Robinson vs. WALTER (c)
Paul Robinson’s run of form since Super Strong Style 16 earned him this shot – and a match that quite a few people were hoping would lead to a title change, if only for the collective reactions.

There’s an obvious size difference, but Robinson’s relishing it…and WALTER getting down on his knees to take the piss wasn’t going to do him any favours. Especially when Robinson took WALTER outside, looking to make the most of his aggression and speed advantage, as he wheeled away with punches on WALTER… until he got caught in the midsection.

Robinson hits the ring for a dive, only to get caught and booted by WALTER, who began to force an opening for himself. Still, Robinson’s defiant… and those middle fingers just earn him an effortless slam from WALTER, who was starting to get the “you sold out” heckles. WALTER stretches Robinson between the ropes, before he began to bite back, sending WALTER crumbling onto the apron as he took him to the floor with a springboard dropkick. Robinson ups the ante with a moonsault to WALTER on the floor, before a second one ended with WALTER shoving him back into the ring. WALTER grabs Robinson by the throat for a slap, but the follow-up powerbomb’s countered into a DDT, then a Robinson special as we got a near-fall out of that. A curb stomp misses as WALTER… counters a reverse ‘rana into an Alabama slam as the champion began to ragdoll Robinson around.

A low dropkick from Robinson gets him in, until a spear off the middle rope was caught… but WALTER’s powerbomb is countered as Robinson again gets that DDT in. The Robinson special lands, as does a curb stomp, but it’s not enough as Robinson was forced to go to ground in a bid to keep the champion down. He tries to head up top once more, but WALTER press slams him a la Ric Flair as a big splash followed, again for a near-fall, as WALTER stole his idea… and went up top himself.

Robinson stops WALTER with some kicks, eventually flying in with a top rope ‘rana for a near-fall. A shooting star press comes up short as Robinson lands in WALTER’s knees, before a chop drew a near-fall, as WALTER looked to put him to sleep, using a Gojira clutch before he spun Robinson into a powerbomb for the win. A valiant effort from Robinson, but in the end it was fairly light work for WALTER as the (Britwres) world sadly didn’t burn. ***½

After the match, Robinson said sorry – presumably for not winning – as the crowd gave him an unusual ovation as the show ended with Jim thanking the crowd after his final PROGRESS show in North America…

Live, this seemed like it was a hell of a show. Problem was, the VOD made it feel really… un-PROGRESS-y. It all felt like a trip to PROGRESS past – with the ghost of PROGRESS past on commentary as this whole thing felt relaxed and distinctly un-PROGRESS. Whether it was the “commentator is also the ring announcer” double-duty, or the volume of swearing, especially compared to PROGRESS’ usual standards. In short: the in-ring stuff made this show of the better PROGRESS shows of 2019. It’s just a shame it’s the surrounding nudge-nudge, wink-wink stuff that lets it down. That’s not the PROGRESS I fell in love with years ago.