After a reasonably long delay where I have attempted to undertake over projects, I’m back to cover another PROGRESS event. My ability to follow modern PROGRESS is always hampered somewhat by my desire to try and watch the shows chronologically, so this should be the start of a renewed push to watch more PROGRESS and attempt to catch up with the promotion.
The opening match sees two stalwarts of PROGRESS, Darrell Allen and Rampage Brown, square off in a match of size versus speed. Allen, replacing Scurll, initially is able to hold his own, including an early suicide dive to the much bigger man, but as soon as Brown is able to land a big boot on his opponent, we get a prolonged sequence of Allen getting mauled. A short arm clothesline and a falcon arrow leave Allen in some danger, yet he is able to avoid a charge into the corner, with Brown hitting the ringpost for good measure. A baseball slide and a floor rana have Brown rocking, and Allen is even able to turn a powerbomb attempt into another rana. However, with someone the size of Brown against him, one big move would be all that it took, and out of nowhere, Brown landed his piledriver for a three count. I liked the match and the ending, as I do find it realistic when the size disparity is such for the bigger guy to occasionally just win over with brute force. Engaging opening to the show.
We get our first look at Pete Dunne in a PROGRESS ring as he goes up against Robbie X in a Natural Progress Tournament match. Both men are faces, so we get an initial section of parity before X shows his impressive athleticism with a handspring headscissors and a big dropkick. Dunne is always going to have the slight power advantage, and shows it with a pumphandle flatliner, moving on to target the knees after a kneebreaker. This is sound strategy against a man known for his high flying offense, yet it does little to stop him as a missile dropkick is followed with a sitout powerbomb for a near fall. Comically, X gets a ‘red face’ chant due to the exertion turning his skin a bright shade of red, though this doesn’t seem to affect him too much, landing a springboard moonsault to his opponent. Outside of a nifty tombstone counter to the springboard ace crusher, it feels that Dunne doesn’t have enough to beat X, who does eventually land his combo ace crusher/standing shooting star, only getting a two count. The finish feels a little blown, as they repeat the spot after the first time it goes a little awry – a moonsault by X is then turned into a Texas cloverleaf by Dunne for the submission victory. A decent showcase for both men, let down a little by the ending.
I’ve often complained about Eddie Dennis wrestling his size, but against Michael Gilbert, he begins by donning a mask and dubbing himself Eddie Mysterio Jr. Some lucha armdrags and dropkicks follow, though Gilbert is able to escape a 619 attempt. Gilbert feels fairly bland, and his offense when he does get in control is primarily working the leg, though he does remove the Dennis’ mask, hit the Welshman with an ‘accidental’ low blow and ram the leg into the ringpost. The comeback from Dennis starts with an atomic drop and a clothesline, whilst an Exploder suplex gets him a two count. Gilbert makes the mistake of putting the mask back on Dennis, and eats a 61knee for his troubles for another two count. Just as it looks like Dennis has the upperhand, a roll-up is reversed for Gilbert to pick up the victory. A match let down by Gilbert’s lack of character and general apathy of the crowd to his work.
The next match is for the Number One Contendership to the PROGRESS Tag Team Titles, and it features the teams of Project Ego, The London Riots, Swords of Essex and Screw Indy Wrestling. Most notable pre-match is that SIW has Sha Samuels as Mark Haskins’ partner for this number one contender contest. Martin Kirby and James Davis start off in the ring, and the Riots are still Enemy Number Two after their alignment with Jimmy Havoc.The opening segments see both members of Project Ego outwrestle their bulkier opponents much to the enjoyment of the fans. This sequence is fairly repeated by the Swords of Essex and Screw Indy Wrestling, including Ospreay throwing Robinson into a low angle (…a poor throw) huracanrana. Travis ends up being the first big face in peril, as Samuels hits a knee from the outside to halt his offense against a grounded Haskins. Some novel double team offense, a slingshot into a spinebuster an impressive example, allow SIW to keep control of the match, as well as Samuels’ proficiency with a scarf and suspenders choke. Davis is clever enough to tag an unsuspecting Samuels, much to the annoyance of the East Londoner, and Travis continues to receive punishment.
After a brief altercation between Samuels and Davis, with slaps replacing tags, Haskins spits water in the face of Travis before he recieves a chant of ‘Evil Jesus’ in ode to his new, longer hair. Travis is finally able to tag out after a jawbreaker and Kirby gets an early two count off of an enziguiri following a loudly shouted ‘stop!’. All eight men end up in the ring at this point and quickly to the outside, leading to a brilliant spot where Robinson is launched in a double hiptoss over the top rope by Project Ego, who then land stereo dives of their own. Not to be outdone, Ospreay hits a Sky Twister Press to the outside, taking out everyone. We get a ‘signature spam’ sequence, leaving all eight men laying in the ring. The ref has lost complete control by this point. A cheap initial elimination happens as Project Ego and Screw Indy Wrestling are both counted out – a little on the weak side, and clearly booking that is meant to protect rather than put over.
Ospreay almost has his head taken off immediately by Davis for a nearfall and the Riots begin to go to work on their smaller opponent. It takes a handspring pele-style kick to take out both Riots and put himself in a position to make the tag – but Robinson refuses the tag and walks away. The Riots smell blood and they drop Ospreay with the District Line, but he kicks out! Not only does he kick out, but he begins to mount a comeback, hitting a springboard double stunner for a near fall. The numbers game wins out in the end though, as Ospreay is nailed with the pop-up spear and gets pinned. A good multi-man match, even if the middle elimination was a bit on the weak side – the Robinson turn was a good moment, and I look forward to him heeling it up from now on.
Jimmy Havoc, fetching pink chair in his hands, comes out with Ospreay still down on the mat, and proceeds to get the Riots to tie him to the chair. After promising to try and torture Ospreay, Havoc pulls a switchblade and forces the music men to play ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ in order to try and recreate Reservoir Dogs. Just as it looks like he is about to slice an ear, FSU and Pete Dunne hit the ring to clear them off. There seems to be an altercation with the crowd as there is suddenly a lot of security around – just the sort of reaction you might expect a heel to get when he whips out a lethal weapon.
An interesting match post break sees El Ligero going up against Tommy End, finally competing in a match that was signed for Chapter 12. Both men are well liked by the fans and are competent on the mat, so we get a few minutes of ground work at the start, but Ligero’s speedy combination of moves is quickly nullified by a big knee to the gut. It was always likely that End would control the match if he managed to get his strikes going, and he leathers Ligero with two big kicks in the corner. End is methodical, using his size advantage to keep Ligero grounded. A charge into the corner is missed, however, and Ligero hits a kick to the head against the steel post and a crossbody for a two count.
After eating another couple of kicks, Ligero hits a unique wheelbarrow into a facebuster for another two count and the pace is building up nicely enough. Both men begin trading big bombs, with End landing double knees off of the second rope and then wiping out Ligero off of a springboard with a roundhouse kick. A brainbuster gets two, as does a deadlift German suplex, but Ligero is able to hit a cutter off of an End springboard moonsault. A splash off of the top rope should be the end, but Michael Gilbert of all people interrupts, causing a DQ. Ligero doesn’t like the match ending this way, forcing the restart. A couple of quick nearfalls follow, before End locks on a modified Dragon Sleeper for the win. Again, the booking was a bit odd here, as I don’t think the Gilbert interference did anything for the match as a whole, except stop the momentum. To top off a bad night for Ligero, Gilbert returns and takes him out with a guillotine choke. Not a good night for the good guys thus far.
The next match is a potential classic, with Zack Sabre Jr. going up against Prince Devitt on his victory lap of the UK before heading off to join the WWE. Devitt is dressed as the Joker, and when the bell hits, he gets very near fall in the first thirty seconds with the double foot stomp off of the top rope following a dropkick. Though Devitt feels like he has the measure of Sabre Jr. in the early going, Sabre grabs a kick from the outside and uses it to hang the arm on the top rope, a precursor to some always engaging arm work on the mat. Several stomps to the elbow and some digit manipulation have the crowd firmly behind Sabre, and he is able to reverse several Devitt attempts to fight out of his holds, holding onto the arm like a long lost childhood toy.
Brute strength eventually allows Devitt to get out of the hold, and he blasts Sabre with several ludicrously hard chops to the chest, including a running chop to finish off. All the strikes are coming out now, as Sabre shows he is no slouch with a PK to Devitt off of the apron, bringing the crowd into the action with a several stiff shots at ringside. Devitt introduces a chair (not receiving a DQ in the process for some reason), and hits an insane running dropkick to a seated Sabre Jr. which sends him about six rows back. A double foot stomp to the back and an inverted suplex get Devitt a near fall, and both men are soon down following several stiff strikes. Sabre Jr. gets a nearfall of his own off of a half nelson suplex and a PK, turning the kickout into an armbar that needs the ropes to be broken. A mat scuffle sees Sabre Jr. almost lock on the armbar again, as well as Devitt nearly sneak a pinfall in the altercation. Another kickout of the double foot stomp is possibly a little overkill, but Devitt’s finisher at the time was the Bloody Sunday, and he lands it shortly afterwards for the pinfall. An impressive match, just what you would expect from these two.
The main event is a ladder match for the PROGRESS Title, as the champion, Jimmy Havoc, would defend against the man he won the title from, Mark Andrews, in the first every PROGRESS Ladder match. In an unsurprising opening, Havoc attacks Andrews before the bell begins with the PROGRESS staff, but it isn’t long before Andrews is jumping through the ropes to knock Havoc into the front row. The first ladder that is picked from under the ring is a very oddly shaped one, but the men battle over it as best they can, a Havoc powerbomb onto the ladder in the corner the first introduction to the steel. With the match No-DQ of course, other weapons are brought into play early on, a table getting destroyed with a sitout uranage by Andrews. The second ladder they get out is at least one that would allow the men to get the clipboard masquerading as the title.With Andrews distracted by his own attempts to get the belt, Havoc introduces a chair and waffles the Welshman several times with it.
An apron DDT by Andrews blocks an attempted move through a second table, but he is able to move before Andrews can drop him through it with a top rope move. A snap suplex on the unforgiving floor has Havoc back in control, leading to an exchanging of reversals and a powerbomb by Havoc off the apron through the table that left me cringing. Havoc spends time methodically keeping Andrews down, but the challenger is able to land a hiptoss on the chair to allow him to grab a chair or two of his own. A chairshot halts Andrews’ progress, but following a reversal of a powerbomb on the ramp, Andrews nails a running somersault senton through a third table. In another mental spot, Andrews dumps Havoc through two tables with a top rope huracanrana, but the London Riots are down to stop Andrews taking advantage of this opportunity. Unsurprisingly, Pete Dunne and Eddie Dennis hit the ring and end up landing their own dives to ringside to take out Havoc’s cronies.
With Havoc battling with Dennis on the outside, Andrews has a chance to reach for the title, but chooses to launch himself on the five men at ringside from the top of the ladder! As the non-competitors brawl to the back, a fourth table is introduced and left outside, before both men fall off of the ladder following a sickening headbutt. The table does eventually come into play, as Havoc gets knocked backwards off of the top turnbuckle, leaving Andrews free to get the title – only for Paul Robinson to hit the ring and lay him out with several chair shots! Robinson shakes hands with Havoc and continues the beatdown on Andrews, allowing Havoc to retain the title. A fun spot match, with some frankly insane spots.
The show was solid, if unspectacular, in most places. However, the final two matches were both worthwhile watches, and we leave with Jimmy Havoc still champion, much to the chagrin of the fans in attendance. Next up – The PROGRESS World Cup! As always, comment and share your opinions as you see fit, and follow me on Twitter @tvtimelimit. Until next time.