Mark Haskins’ unfortunate injury leaves the PROGRESS Championship vacant, so a one night tournament to crown a new Champion takes place at this Chapter. Three singles and two tag team matches will see the winners go through to a seven-man elimination final in the main event, the winner of which will become PROGRESS Champion.
PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 39
The Graps of Wrath
November 27, 2016
Electric Ballroom, Camden, England
The South Pacific Power Trip def. FSU
A hot start to the show that had the crowd fired up throughout. The high stakes of every match tonight meant that the Ballroom had a little extra buzz in it for the whole show, something I’ve only felt there when a match has truly special importance, such as a well-built title match or the CWC qualifiers. The fact that the whole show felt like that gave a real boost to these undercard matches, as well as the big time ones.
FSU were the perfect act to capitalise on the extra hot crowd, energising them further by going at breakneck pace here, providing the dives and crazy spots, the best of which happened early on with Dennis crucifix bomb-ing Dahlia Black to the outside onto Banks and Cooper. Dahlia clearly has no fear of not looking where she’s landing, having taken a backwards table bump off the apron at the last chapter too.
The teams had very good chemistry with each other, and only had a couple of rough-looking moves within a super-fast match. I’ve underrated FSU this year, perhaps because they haven’t been pushed very much, but they’ve had some very good tag team matches, the crowd are always very receptive to them, and they make their opponents look great too. SPPT were made to look like a fantastically cohesive unit here, especially in the final sequence where all three members got involved, legally or not, and so convincingly wrapped up the win in doing so. FSU certainly don’t look bad by losing, but SPPT look like a team that have mastered their (cheating) game plan. The commentary also put both Cooper and Banks over as dangerous threats to win the Championship in the main event of the show. SPPT have been very well built this year and it’s only a matter of time before they get a Tag Team Championship match. ***½
Pastor William Eaver def. Joe Coffey
Last chapter review, I said that I’m happy that the Eaver/Sebastian story has at least transitioned to being based on something real and relatable; Sebastian’s injury at Brixton, rather than the bullshit ‘secret’. However, the execution of the feud is still poor, and Sebastian’s prominent inclusion on Chapter shows is groan-worthy. He’s supposed to be an annoying pest, The Miz circa 2007, I get it. The trouble is, he’s not very good at it, and he’s not making me want to see him get comeuppance. I just want him to be not on the shows. Some would argue there’s no such thing as the ‘wrong type of heat’, only ‘heat’, and that Sebastian getting booed is a sign that the story is working. From a live perspective though, his reactions feel hollow and insincere when you compare them to the crowd’s response to British Strong Style later in the show. There’s no actual emotion being transmitted to the audience in this feud, and that leaves nothing for us to respond to.
Having to work the match around the Sebastian story, and everyone in the Ballroom knowing that the match wouldn’t finish until he interfered in it, really hurt what Coffey and Eaver were trying to build. Coffey especially felt wasted here; just a week after he won the main event of the biggest BritWres show of the 21st century, seeing him being forced to slum it as a bit-part in the Sebastian story was awkward indeed. All of my excitement about Eaver has been flushed down the drain since he won and lost the PROGRESS Championship. That cut short his upward career trajectory and he’s been floundering ever since, failing to live up to the lofty standards that title has because he never should have won it in the first place. The character has nowhere to go now having technically already been to the top of the mountain, and Sebastian is now clutching his leg, dragging him down to the depths of wrestling despair.
After a few minutes of good action, Sebastian jumped up on the apron (shocker, I know) allowing Eaver to roll up Coffey, grabbing the tights for the three count. I’m happy that they’re potentially turning Eaver here, as he needs something new after his title reign cut the legs out from under him, but hopefully Sebastian is a catalyst for that rather than a permanent fixture of his act. Sebastian told Eaver that he would take his place in the Championship match, unless Eaver wanted to be sued. This. Is. Litigation. *½
One thing to note is that Jim Smallman said that Eaver ‘deserved’ his place in the Championship match, seemingly missing the tight-grabbing. Will Eaver’s cheating going undetected play into the storyline?
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship
British Strong Style (c) def. London Riots
Rob Lynch was wearing a protective face mask due to his broken nose and orbital bone, and much of the match was focussed around BSS grinding Lynch down. The Riots got some momentum going and James Davis attempted a double slam on both guys, but didn’t have enough power to get them both over which was disappointing. After that botch though, the match picked up in a big way and got very dramatic down the stretch, with lots of momentum shifts but neither team being able to score a decisive pinfall. Dunne biting Lynch’s nose after Seven ripped the mask off did the trick though, allowing BSS to hit their powerbomb/bicycle kick combo for the win.
A really good straight up tag team match with no outside story stuff to worry about. Obviously Lynch’s injury came into play, but Dunne is a noted biter and so his rather intimate act with Lynch felt completely in line with Dunne’s character, and means that the Riots can get another shot at BSS with an uninjured Lynch down the line. ***½
Matt Riddle def. Will Ospreay
Matt Riddle is on another plain of existence. People lost their minds when he was announced for this show, and fans were almost speaking in hushed, reverential voices around his merch table pre-show. Then he wrestled, and post-show, he was a god amongst men. Seemingly half the crowd gathered outside the Electric Ballroom, chanting the ‘Bro’ version of Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’. Then Riddle himself joined them and was carried by them through Camden Town, paraded into a nearby pub, only to be barred for presumably being too over. Bear in mind, this was Matt Riddle’s first ever show in the UK. This man is going to be a mega-star.
And of course, the match itself was extraordinary. The first three or four minutes was Riddle dominance. It genuinely felt like Riddle could end the match at any moment, without Ospreay getting in a single move. Riddle has the same kind of dangerous aura that Brock Lesnar has, but packaged with a loveable personality and a sometimes friendly, sometimes frenzied smile. Ospreay finally got some offence in, including a ridiculous Lionsault off of the DJ booth’s steps, straight into a Space Flying Tiger Drop. Just when you started to forget it thanks to Riddle, Ospreay shows that he’s a logic-defying athlete too.
There was so much ridiculous action here and it’s hard to define it all, but all of it was awesome. Riddle messed up taking a reverse rana but covered for it immediately by having an awesome german suplex attempt reversed into Ospreay’s spinning kick. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy as Ospreay went for an OsCutter, got caught, and was pulled into a vicious-looking Bromission, giving Riddle the submission victory. This was two of the very best wrestlers having a classic sprint match. You have to watch this. ****½
Jimmy Havoc def. Marty Scurll
The crowd singing Havoc’s theme song during his entrance was proof of just how frenzied things were at this point in the show. The opening section of this match exactly mirrored the Goldberg/Lesnar Survivor Series match from the week before, and that got a big reaction. Being a surly, otherthinking motherfucker though, I found it awfully derivative; something that just screamed ‘indie’, something which starkly contrasts with everything else PROGRESS does. Riddle and Ospreay doing the exact same ‘opening dominance’ deal the match before but without aping WWE certainly detracted from the spot too.
It was at least a hot start to the match and kept the crowd into the match through to the finish. Havoc seems to still be working off ring rust after nearly a year out injured, and is playing it safer than he did before with some of his bumps and move executions. This is understandable, and Havoc’s greatest asset is his character and charisma anyway, but it means that the greatness of the old Jimmy Havoc still hasn’t shown up since his return yet. His performance was good here, but after so many special matches in his last run, I would feel bad saying that ‘good’ is ‘good enough’ for both him and Scurll here.
Another factor working against them was that this would not end up being the blow-off to their feud; with a No DQ match ahead at Chapter 40, this match ended with an Eddie Guerrero fake weapon shot by Havoc to disqualify Scurll, a fun but ultimately inconclusive ending. Havoc qualified for the Championship match and Scurll was incensed, so the story moves forward, but both guys left stuff on the table here for a better match at the next Chapter. **½
People are very much into him, but Havoc still doesn’t feel fully re-introduced yet and as a consequence doesn’t quite have the same aura of malevolence that he had back in 2014/15. It also doesn’t help that he’s a babyface, and the de facto top babyface at that. In this match and in the main event, he felt dangerously close to being a cutesy Super Cena-esque character fighting ‘against the odds’, and that’s far removed from what Jimmy Havoc should come across as. Havoc’s new status as top face is going through growing pains, and while it’ll obviously take him time to grow into such a different role, it’s something to look out for.
Nixon Newell def. Katey Harvey
As the only match on this show that didn’t have PROGRESS Championship implications, this was always going to feel a little out of place. This was Harvey’s debut for PROGRESS, but she’s been wrestling for a long time in Ireland, way before the BritWres boom. This will be the nicest criticism I’ll ever give, but she’s got far too ‘kind’ of a face to be a heel. Nixon is very much over in PROGRESS despite this being only her third appearance. Her enthusiasm is infectious and her ‘Shiniest Wizard’ moniker has become engrained in my head, so she’s doing a great job as she begins to get more widespread attention from the wrestling world.
Did you notice that Katey had one sleeve on her attire? The crowd certainly did. One vaguely funny joke became the focal point of the match to the point of annoyance, and denied any chance of Katey earning legitimate heat in lieu of extending a gag that was tired the moment it was uttered. At the risk of sounding like Mark Corrigan from Peep Show here, I like fun as much as the next fan, but there’s a threshold that crowd banter can cross that turns them from charming to annoying, and this very much cross that threshold.
So the match was built around a sleeve, and a couple of botches hurt the pace of the match, as it seemed like Newell and Harvey didn’t have the greatest of chemistry together. Some of Harvey’s controlling moves did look really good, such as her standing pendulum hold that looked pretty agonising, but it was all met with ‘sleeve’ jokes, so the impact of them was rather limited. Nixon eventually got an opening and destroyed Harvey with the Shiniest Wizard. Not a bad match, but it felt very inconsequential and the crowd latching onto something as inane as Harvey’s sleeve shows that there wasn’t a lot to get into. *½
PROGRESS Championship 7-man Elimination Match
Pete Dunne def. Jimmy Havoc, Trent Seven, Matt Riddle, Travis Banks, Sebastian and TK Cooper
Scurll wallied Havoc with an umbrella on the stage as Havoc was making his entrance, fanning the flames of their feud ahead of the blowoff match at Chapter 40, and leaving an intriguing dynamic of 5 native heels and the import mega-babyface Riddle, who the entire crowd was behind with the Spandau Ballet ‘Bro’ chant. Riddle began the match by levelling Sebastian with a knee strike, which Sebastian sold terribly by diving out of the way and taking the knee on his back, making it a far less satisfying visual. Sebastian hung around in the match though by rolling out of the ring, and made it difficult to engage with the match properly until he was eliminated, out of fear that he would remain in the match until the end and distract from the actual good wrestling.
What we got instead though was so much better; a proper contest involving some of the very best wrestlers in Britain and the world in Riddle, Seven, Banks and Dunne. After Seven and Banks completely wiped out Riddle and the entire front row with a suicide dives at full steam, TK Cooper hit a crazy flying spinning diving something, and was eliminated by Riddle shortly after. Cooper wasn’t in the match for long, but he looked impressive while he was in. Sebastian then thankfully got eliminated when noted vigilante Jack Sexsmith and then the returning Havoc laid into him, leaving only the great wrestlers remaining for the majority of the match.
Seven and Banks wrestled a sequence that gave me flashbacks to Fight Club Pro’s Infinity tournament final (seriously, go watch that when it’s released), ending with Seven piledriving Banks from the top rope and pinning him. The British Strong Style duo then eliminated Riddle due to THE NUMBERS GAME, leaving BSS with Havoc. Here’s where the match and Havoc’s presentation descended a little bit into ‘Super Cena’ territory, with Havoc fending off BSS with a trusty subtlety hammer. Riddle being more over than Havoc on the day didn’t help matters. Havoc eliminated Seven with two Acid Rainmakers, but a ref bump kept him from winning the championship after a visual pinfall. Another Acid Rainmaker was thwarted by Seven pulling the ref out. Then Tyler Bate, ostensibly to keep Seven out of the match, but then turned and attacked Havoc instead, leaving Dunne to hit a Drop Dead and become the new PROGRESS Champion.
Typing all that out, I can see why Dave Meltzer called this match ‘Russo booking’, because it has all the classic Attitude Era tropes. In the moment though, it worked, as the unfurling of a West Midlands superstable kept the overbooking afloat and the British Strong Style championship celebration had a legitimate feeling of chaos to it, like a smaller-scale nWo formation. PROGRESS leant way too much on the overbooking tropes to protect Havoc and I would have liked to have seen them show some guts and put Dunne over even just a little more cleanly, but the resulting emotional impact can’t be argued with. Dunne, Seven and Bate still feel like threats as the new top heel faction, and I have a lot of faith in them anchoring the PROGRESS main event going into 2017.
A really fun rollercoaster of a match that focussed on the best wrestlers in it and only started ‘telling storiez’ right at the end. PROGRESS is going to be really awesome in 2017 if they have British Strong Style and the South Pacific Power Trip featured as prominently as they were here, it’s just a shame they can’t have Matt Riddle over for every Chapter. ****
Perhaps the best PROGRESS show of the year, the Championship implications of almost every match gave each one an extra energy to them that the crowd was really receptive to. Matt Riddle is already a PROGRESS legend, and the British Strong Style ascension to the top of the promotion came off really well. Just about everyone comes out of this show looking better than when they came in, so mission accomplished after the Haskins injury shook everything up.