We’re in Birmingham at the O2 Academy for the Fourth Shade of Green. Loads of controversy with this show. It happened the same day as the World Cup final and PROGRESS considered running a split show with the World Cup being screened in the middle if England made the final. Well, they didn’t, so it was business as normal. Except for me. I was at home watching the World Cup Final, which was a cracking game and I regret nothing.
Chapter 73: Fourth Shade of Green
July 15, 2018
Watch: Demand PROGRESS
Jim Smallman introduces the show in the ring and new referee Shay Purser. Hosts on commentary are Glen Joseph and Matt Richards.
Mark Andrews def. El Phantasmo
This is an ideal opener. Two flippy guys doing a sub-ten minute routine. Flips occur. There is an argument that doing a bunch of flips without much impact turns wrestling into a gymnastics routine. This is something Mark Andrews is frequently guilty of. Phantasmo at least does comedy flips. Andrews is definitely smooth but sometimes that’s not enough. The best thing about Mandrews is that he can hang with better wrestlers. ELP is the one who drives the creativity of this match but naturally Andrews can’t lose with his Eddie Dennis feud looming. SSP finishes. This didn’t feel like a struggle, rather an exhibition. **3/4
Atlas #1 Contendership
TK Cooper def. Rob Lynch
Lynch has had terrible luck with injuries and his big feud/angle getting derailed by Strangler Davis being a complete cunt. People haven’t forgotten his association with Davis. All of Lynch’s best work was in the London Riots. It’s hard to remove that from your memory. Teeks has legitimately weighed in at 209lbs. Height makes up for a lot. I’m more inclined to believe that over the Fred Yehi Atlas title shot. This is an immediate improvement in the competition stakes. The strikes feel genuine, as do the kick-outs. It’s a little untidy and Big Rob needs some big matches to get him back in the game. It doesn’t help matters for him that he’s still carrying a lot of weight, even though that benefits him when throwing strikes. TK picks up the win as he’s more of a fixture in PROGRESS these days. His overly elaborate celebration sums up his character nicely, although he’s mired in the midcard as Travis’ mate. ***
Danny Jones def. Eddie Dennis
To say Eddie Dennis is salty would be an understatement. He might be the saltiest pro wrestler in the world at the moment. Everything seems to wind him up. It’s years of frustration boiling over. He got upset at Danny Jones for not taking his advice. He’s also salty about having to wrestle for PROGRESS unless he’s wrestling Mark Andrews. So he gets himself disqualified after a few seconds, bashing Danny with the microphone he was still cutting a promo into. This was all angle with Dennis decimating Jones after the match and Mark Andrews running out for the save. The heat on that match is going to be unreal.
Tyler Bate def. Travis Banks
This is a re-match of the SSS16 final in 2017 when Trav emerged as PROGRESS’ standard bearer. This isn’t for Banks’ PROGRESS title. Every time I see Tyler Bate he seems to have added an expensive item of fashionable clothing. He’s wrestling in gold shorts and wearing a gold chain and a gold watch to the ring. Everyone involved in this match is clearly having a great time with pro wrestling right now. Trav and TK are soaking up the whole Big Dog thing while Tyler is making so much money he’s wearing it. Tyler has glowed up. Both guys have added comedy elements to their standard routines, which makes this a very different match from SSS16 last year (a bout I went ****3/4 on). It’s tough to make that comparison as that match was the culmination of a weekend of wrestling and this match isn’t even the main event of a Birmingham show. I usually hate punches in wrestling but I’ll make a few exceptions. KUSHIDA’s is great. I always loved Necro Butcher’s. It has to be important and Tyler Bate has one of my favourite punches in wrestling. Travis in good form too. I’m especially pleased with him scouting the rebound lariat and throwing Slice of Heaven in to block it. If the whole match was that slick and clean it would be a total banger. Sadly it’s not to be. Travis Banks’ character doesn’t allow it. He gets himself deliberately counted out for the loss. This was really good but the finish was so, so flat. ***3/4
British Strong Style (Dunne & Seven) def. Kings of the North
Bonesaw and Damien Corvin didn’t exactly blow people away on their previous mainland UK appearances but their reputation in Ireland is huge. Their last PROGRESS appearance was at Chapter 43 in January 2017. I remember being very excited about British Strong Style working in Birmingham as heels, where I was convinced they’d be seen as conquering heroes returning home. It never happened due to WWE UK. There’s no banter here, instead going straight into the action. KOTN start slowly, which is unfortunate because they really need a match to get them over in the UK. Hunters would be good. This helps them less as BSS are what the crowd want to see and they’re less interested in seeing a competitive match. It works out fine because Pete Dunne doesn’t have bad matches but there is a gulf in popularity. Some of the spots are bit cutesy with too many miscues or similar but the action is relentless. It doesn’t help my opinion of the match that Trent can’t get Bonesaw up for the Burning Hammer finish and they have to re-do it. Fun enough stuff and the standard of wrestling was relatively high but I fail to see what this does for anyone involved. ***1/4
Toni Storm def. Killer Kelly
It’s nice to see Kelly in PROGRESS. She’s worked very hard to be where she is and she’s a delightful person to boot. She’s also familiar with Toni having wrestled her in wXw. Toni was Kelly’s first hurdle as wXw champion and she fell. Toni has held that belt ever since. Kelly looks at Toni Storm as the person she has to beat to prove she’s learned from that defeat. The match is quite basic, relying on strikes and throws, which plays into Kelly’s strengths. The hanging dragon sleeper is a major highlight and I like how Toni doesn’t overwhelm proceedings. She knows that Kelly needs to look like a threat or she’s dead in the water. A contrast to wXw where they could rebuild her after a big loss. Kelly eventually falls to the Strong Zero piledriver but Kelly looked dominant for large spells to compensate. This was solid. ***
Mark Haskins & Flash Morgan Webster def. David Starr & Jack Sexsmith
This is part of the Thunderbastard Tag Team Series but I’ve not labelled it as such for reasons that will become clear later. Something has always felt off about Webster being allied with Havoc & Haskins and that’s the focal point of the storyline. Starr and Sexsmith as a team feels different and makes Starr’s PROGRESS character unique to how he is everywhere else. If you ignore the Thunderbastard series it has to be noted that all four of these gentlemen are very good wrestlers. Sexsmith is definitely trying to move away from his gimmicked shtick and he does a lot of counter wrestling with Webster that’s solid. Haskins domination of Jack is a central point of the match. Haskins is an excellent wrestler but trying to keep him relevant is hard. He’s doing a good job of it himself but there’s only so much you can do in a couple of tag teams. It’s almost making people forget how good he is. The match is nicely put together to feature moments of babyface peril, fiery comebacks and the competitive nature of Haskins and Starr. It might be the best match on the show. Vicky Haskins moves Flash so Starr topes onto concrete. Haskins then picks off Sexsmith with the Sharpshooter. If the crowd had been more into this it could have cracked four stars. ***3/4
Post MatchT tere’s a big storyline switch. Webster at first looks happy that he and Haskins have gone 3-0 in the Thunderbastard series. Flash then cuts an impassioned promo thanks to the love and support of the Haskinses. “Without being a dick I wouldn’t have got here”. Then the turn in the tail; Wild Boar! He wipes out Haskins while Flash holds Vicky in place. It’s the 198! But what does that mean for the Thunderbastard series? Is Boar taking Haskins spot? Should he? It felt like Wembley was going to be the time for Flash to do something about this uneasy association he has with Haskins and Havoc. In a secondary piece of business that will put some needed heat on Flash and there’s a chance of a violent Haskins vs. Webster match in our near future.
No DQ Match
Drew Parker def. Jimmy Havoc
Will Ospreay’s assertion that Jimmy Havoc is a shadow of his former self is what has put Havoc in this position. He’s already lost to Spike Trivet in a high profile match recently and now Parker too. In spite of the losses Havoc has regained some of his mojo and presence of late. Is it the music? Yes. Yes it is. Nobody suffered as much as Havoc when PROGRESS switched to generic entrance music. I like Havoc’s struggle to overcome his personal issues and be a merciless bastard again. I also like Drew’s motivation to beat Havoc so he can take his spot. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Parker has more upside than Havoc ever did. Sure, his promos aren’t as strong but his raw athleticism is on another level. If he can create the mystique around his character that Havoc has he’ll be doing well. I have a few issues with the match structure. Too often it feels like furniture is set up for a later spot and doesn’t make logical sense. They seem to have a checklist of violent things and just go from one to the next. At least there is a degree of escalation but the table spot feels like a total throwaway as there are thumbtacks and set up unused chairs in the ring too. Plus another table set up on the floor. It would be excusable if the execution on the spots was bang on and it’s not. The big spots are fine (both table spots are clean as a whistle) but the thumbtack spots are far less impactful. Apart from the 450 Splash finish. Parker is quickly growing as a performer and he may look back one day on the day he bested Jimmy Havoc but it wasn’t a classic by any means. ***1/2
While Fourth Shade of Green was a fairly consistent show there was nothing that cracked **** and I don’t remember the last time a PROGRESS show did that. The emphasis was more on storylines here (Havoc vs. himself, Flash vs. Haskins, Dennis vs. Andrews, Travis’ continued cowardice). Normally Birmingham cards look weak on paper but end up delivering. This was less about blowaway matches and more about progressing storylines. Seeing as nothing was bad in the ring it accomplished what it set out to do. If there’s one thing PROGRESS need right now it’s to build storylines for Wembley with two of their big matches lost due to New Japan commitments. If they can’t deliver the big names they need to deliver big stories.