This is PROGRESS’ biggest show of the year. As a result it’s also the longest; running a monstrous 217 minutes. Ally Pally is a big echo-ey building that lacks the atmosphere of the Ballroom but does have some tasty acoustics. Especially for booing Chris Roberts.

PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 55: Chase the Sun
September 10, 2017
Ally Pally
London, England

Watch: Demand PROGRESS

Commentary comes from Glen Joseph, Callum Leslie and Matt Richards.

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship Ladder Match
#CCK def. British Strong Style (Bate & Seven)

This was my most anticipated match on the show because PROGRESS rarely go into the world of gimmick matches and in the past they’ve done quite badly at them (SDS vs. Riots springs to mind). However this is the biggest show of the year and Progress want to put their best foot forward.

They had an issue with the tag straps. They debuted #CCK and put the belts straight on them, knowing they would then have to take the belts off #CCK to get them back as challengers here. Which would be fine…if they’d not done the exact same thing with the Atlas title. At least this series of title changes makes more sense. Credit to Trent Seven for using the biggest show of the year to put in a spot where he pulls a pubic hair out of his teeth; Trent knows his audience. Trent also has issues with heights, struggling to climb the tiny PROGRESS ladder despite being barely higher than Chris Brookes.

Naturally it’s not just Seven comedy, there is a load of cool looking high spots like Lykos taking a Dragon Suplex onto a ladder perched on its side. Lykos was carrying a shoulder injury into the match, now he has a neck injury too! Considering he’s injured Lykos takes a stunning number of silly bumps. Tyler looks to be having the most fun; lifting the Terry Funk spinning ladder spot and Trent takes a tremendous bump off the inevitable miscue. The match is a hot opener and an obvious winner with the fans. The spots are clean and crisp, with only the odd minor error.

The creativity is there throughout and the only spot planning makes sense. Like Tyler setting up a ladder to take a bump on, because he’s trying to throw Brookes into it. Tyler gets backdropped off the ladder and Brookes pulls the straps down for CCK to win the belts for a second time. This was fantastic. It didn’t overstay its welcome and the big bumps were all logical. Thumbs up! ****1/4

PROGRESS Women’s Championship
Toni Storm def. Dahlia Black

This match had one of the more interesting builds for me. Toni has been seeing off all-comers but hasn’t beaten Dahlia because she’s been injured and back home in New Zealand. Meanwhile Dahlia had to overcome the biggest heel in the promotion, Jinny, to get this match. The result is a battle of the babyfaces. Toni is increasingly not just Progress’ women’s ace but the ace of independent women’s wrestling; appearing in all the most worthwhile places and looking like every inch the Indie stand-out for women’s pro wrestling. WWE will eventually come calling. It’s a matter of when not if. Dahlia has it all to do, which gives her the sympathy edge.

Dahlia has great personality, as a heel or face, but she is a little behind the upper tier PROGRESS women for in-ring skill. This is notable on a few bumps and sequences where she’s not got the same snap as the more experienced wrestlers. It’ll come in time and she’s improved as a wrestler over the past two years, which is a good sign. The potential is there. However delightful her winning the title here would be, she’s simply not ready for the spot. Instead it’s a good learning experience. Toni, as always, is generous and giving and let’s Dahlia kick out of the Strong Zero, even if her response is to hit a moonsault onto Toni’s knees. Dahlia can’t get another one and Toni hits a pair of Strong Zeroes to retain. Solid enough outing although Dahlia’s limitations, at present, prevented it from being a showstealer. Good performances from both women though. Post match Jinny runs in to take out Dahlia’s injured leg and setting up a genuine feud outside of the PROGRESS women’s title. What a time to be alive! ***1/4

Zack Sabre Jr. def. Marty Scurll

Scurll answers his former partner’s open challenge. Marty hasn’t been seen in Progress since January. He’s been a little busy in ROH, New Japan and being on Steve Austin’s podcast. It’s been a big year for Marty, now part of the Bullet Club stable and regularly hanging out with Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks. There’s a lot of history here and they even tagged together at Unboxing last year in a LDRS nostalgia kick.

The subtlety of lot of their work is lost on the crowd due to the size of the building. Part of the thrill is lost for me for two reasons; 1. I’ve seen this match many times. 2. The possibility of doing something completely outside the box was here and in re-visiting an existing storyline, done everywhere, I can’t help but feel this was missed opportunity. It’s a good match, obviously, as they know each other inside out and are both technically excellent and competent storytellers. Sabre ends up pinning Scurll thanks to Chicken Wing antics. Clean pinfall, good match. They part ways as friends, giving us the possibility of another LDRS run at some point. I’m hoping Zack continues doing open challenges. Marty cuts a post match promo claiming this is his final PROGRESS match for “quite a while”. The logic for having Scurll as the mystery opponent makes more sense given that. A fine farewell.

Death Match
Jimmy Havoc def. Mark Haskins

These two have been frenemies since Super Strong Style with them miscuing and arguing before agreeing to battle it out here. Haskins wants to beat Havoc at his own game, hence the Death Match stipulation. Progress’ VT does a fine job of hyping this up as a big time match, which they’ve been building to for four months. Havoc makes a point of wearing all white: the classic “Havoc Death Match” look. If you wear white it shows the blood better. The match hits all the Havoc highlights; including Haskins stapling a 8×10 to his head and various plunder shots. Jimmy slides under the ring to blade. There’s a lot to be said for blood in wrestling. It makes it more real. This is especially true when it’s hardway. Not that Havoc doesn’t take any shots to the head, far from it. Haskins has a lovely little gag spot where he pulls out a mystery box and it’s got a nerf gun and a plastic dinosaur in it, referencing his son Jack’s hobbies in the Malvern hills.

They make a point of not just doing plunder shots and head up to the stage for a Death Valley Driver off the stage through a table. It’s a proper arena-wide carnage match. I’m worried about Haskins’ in this scenario, given his history of neck injuries. They’re not particularly careful and Havoc doesn’t mess around on the violence, at one point cutting Haskins’ tongue. You can gimmick that mate! Why would you do it legitimately? This is part of the death match mentality that I’ve never understood. Also if they’re mates who had a falling out why would Havoc bring an axe and try to kill Mark with it?

Vicky Haskins plays a big role in the match, cutting Haskins free, telling him not to use a chair and providing him with a replacement weapon! She also belts Chris Roberts with a fantastic slap. The situation feels like a heel turn from Haskins and the crowd certainly respond to it in that way.

The match is big on visuals, like Haskins bathing in thumbtacks or bumps into a mess of barbwire and thumbtacks. It’s disgusting but I appreciate both men’s efforts in self destruction. All in the name of Professional Wrestling. You know a match is fucking nuts when an Acid Rainmaker into tacks isn’t the finish. Unfortunately a follow up Rainmaker, with the bat, looks awful and is the finish. A pity the match didn’t finish a few seconds earlier. Both guys bled for the business here. A bloody Haskins gets a mixed reaction when leaving second. Why would you boo this man? Because his wife helped him out? Bloody single men! ****

PROGRESS Atlas Championship
WALTER def. Timothy Thatcher & Mat Riddle

This has been some strange old booking. If the end game was to have WALTER win here and claim the title then why have him win the belt in Birmingham, lose it out in the US and then reclaim it here? The addition of Thatcher seems solely because he happens to be living in Essen at wXw’s Academy for a few months. Both of them represent Ringkampf, which is bad news for the champ. Not that WALTER gives a single fuck about Thatcher in this match. He’s just another target for those chops. Riddle finds himself in trouble against WALTER here. You know how he’s forever popping up after German suplexes? Not tonight! He does manage to pick WALTER up off the canvas though, which is terrifying. WALTER is the king of murderousness; destroying both opponents with his Super Heavyweight offence. His chops are awesome. It’s like wrestling a bus. Riddle tries to kick at him but WALTER kicks his standing leg away. What possible strategy do you use against WALTER? The stacker German suplex, where Riddle flies across the ring and lands on his head, is a horrifying experience. I saw the GIF of it and was immediately concerned that Riddle had broken his neck. Riddle tries his KO knee, the one that beat Trent Seven, and WALTER completely no sells it. The big venue is exposed for the first time during this match, the sound getting lost in the heavens until a big spot happens and the roar takes over. WALTER is the star of this match. He’s just so good. The power moves are of unparalleled excellence. He comes away as the winner, although notably pinning Riddle and not Thatcher. Big Tim caught in the ropes, looking on helplessly. This was intense. Thatcher didn’t add an awful lot and three-ways aren’t usually as good as straight up matches. WALTER vs. Riddle is always great but the Birmingham match was the pinnacle of this feud. ***3/4

Post match Wolfgang strolls out to make his Progress debut, wanting to challenge WALTER next.

#1 Contendership Scramble
Mark Andrews def. Chief Deputy Dunne, Eddie Dennis, Jack Sexsmith, James Drake, Flash Morgan Webster, Strangler Davis & Zack Gibson

The match is predictably messy with eight participants. The focus is on teams. Grizzled Young Vets succeed in working together. FSU tease dissension before doing the same. Sexsmith brings the antics; double Mr Cockos, facial assaults and kissing Damian. The chaotic nature of the match makes it a non-stop roller-coaster of amusement. Andrews tells Eddie Dennis to take the pin when they double team and that shows how selfless he is. He’s had the title and lots of title shots. He doesn’t *need* another. He gets one though, hitting the SSP on Flash after Webster he eliminated Dennis with Destino. This was fun. Damian hated it. ***1/2

Webster teases turning on Andrews, disappointed his long journey back from injury has seen him come up short. Evil Flash only appears for a moment though and they hug it out. But Eddie Dennis is less happy and he does turn on Andrews, ending FSU in the process. I felt Eddie needed freshening up and this certainly does that. Being full-time allows him time to focus on his character and put together a genuinely big run. Being the less important part of FSU was always going to hamper him. This is a spectacularly evil turn though. The way he knocks a fans drink over afterwards sums it up. What a total bastard.

PROGRESS World Championship
Travis Banks def. Pete Dunne

It takes Pete a while to get to the ring because he has so many finger salutes to slap down. Pete’s title run has been the focal point of PROGRESS’ booking all year long. At 287 days it’s the second longest reign of all time, behind Jimmy Havoc, and PROGRESS run way more shows now than when Havoc was the champion. Pete actually has more successful title defences than Havoc did. This booking and contest would have more of an impact on me if I’d not already seen Travis Banks win Infinity and then take the FCP title off Pete Dunne. The situation here is very storyline heavy with Seven and Bate being ringside for this and Travis having to fight just to have a chance. Pete goes to walk out in the early going, which would be a massive ‘fuck you’ to the company, a continuation of his behaviour towards PROGRESS over the past year. Roberts finally does his job by booting the backup and taking Dunne’s sledgehammer away.

Where the match does work is in the counters and familiarity stuff. Where either man goes after a big spot and a counter arrives at the last possible moment. Like Dunne elbowing Travis out of the air on his tope. Where it doesn’t work is casually going to finishers that don’t finish. Although I must admit I got a chuckle from Travis Banks kicking out of the Pedigree at one. From there we get the goofy overbooking with Pete tapping to the Lion’s Clutch with the ref down and the second rope gives up at the prospect of having to deal with bullshit. Joel Allen replaces Roberts but Moustache Mountain take him out. #CCK make the inevitable save, given their loose association with Banks. Paz runs in as the third referee and Travis manages to eek out the win with the Lion’s Clutch. This was overbooked but everything at least made sense. BSS have been interfering and getting cheap wins the whole of Dunne’s title run. Travis getting the big win saw him overcome all of that, the first man to do so. Travis Banks gets his parents in the ring to celebrate in a lovely moment at Ally Pally. ***3/4

Final Thoughts:

The good news is there’s absolutely nothing bad on this Ally Pally show. Nothing at all. Every match delivered to a decent standard, even the ones I had little to no expectations for. The bad news is that the show tops out with the opener, which is still an excellent match but anyone expecting Ally Pally to deliver a blow-away all-time great PROGRESS card can think again. Like last year’s big show, in Brixton, the big-time feel was probably more important than actual match quality and PROGRESS delivered enough surprises and storyline to make me excited about the product going forward. Whether it’s Dahlia vs. Jinny or Eddie Dennis as a heel there are new exciting things on the horizon for PROGRESS and it’s a company that has ditched their main storyline group in British Strong Style. Everyone lost their titles and Pete Dunne’s body language suggested we may have seen the last of him in PROGRESS with this show.

I feel that Ally Pally has been looming over PROGRESS all summer long, stunting their creativity (especially with the hot shot title changes being re-done). I’m thrilled to be out the other side, into a new chapter for PROGRESS wrestling. The same was true a year ago when we put Scurll’s title run into the history books. If I’m being super optimistic; this did feel like a big-time show. If you can overlook the issues with the booking this summer then we had the culmination of several major storylines here and that can only be a good thing going forward.