We’re in Camden, London at the Electric Ballroom. This show got shifted from the weekend to a Wednesday to accommodate NXT UK tapings. This did not go down well with most fans. In all honesty PROGRESS has become difficult to attend for some people this year and my number of shows has plummeted. The good news is that people are still talking about them as bitching and complaining still counts as being part of the conversation. This show produced at least one buzzworthy result too.
The copyrighted music thing has once again reared its ugly head with the crowd singing Gina G and getting muted. Hosts are Glen Joseph and Matt Richards.
TAG TEAM THUNDERBASTARD SERIES
THE 198 DEF. AUSSIE OPEN
This is a bit confusing as we started out with Webster & Haskins as a team but Flash turned on Haskins and introduced his own tag partner Wild Boar. Bizarrely Flash’s points carried over so despite them never having wrestled before. Apparently, Flash is the guy that signed the contract (this is a weak excuse but I’ll let it go). Mark Davis isn’t happy with his new music so he listens to Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck on his phone instead. Dunkzilla is looking a bit trim here. He’s dropped some weight and he was already intimidating. Meanwhile Fletcher has gained weight, adding muscle. So, both guys have improved their appearance and their in ring has improved too. If anyone is contemplating coming to the UK to train and improve these two guys are a walking example of how to do it right. I’m pleased for Boar too. He’s been good for years and is finally getting a bigger audience. This is an action-packed opener, albeit rarely paying attention to the rules of tag teaming. Trapper Keeper puts Fletcher down and the 198 (now 4-0) are on course to come in last at Wembley. A really mad Mark Haskins runs off the celebrating team and waffles Flash’s helmet (motorbike, not that one) with a barbwire bat. He’s going to smash him up at the ECW Arena! ***1/2
PROGRESS WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
JINNY (C) DEF. MILLIE MCKENZIE
Jinny’s House of Couture stable, who are all here, has been dominating PROGRESS’ women’s division so Millie, Laura DiMatteo and Candyfloss have started to club together with Toni Storm to oppose them. This is Jinny’s second title defence so she’s already defended it more than the Rev Pro title she dropped this year. The crowd spot something familiar about the House of Couture’s pre-match posing and chant “Tesco Spice Girls”. Good work lads. Nina needs to get a ginger wig for that to work properly but it’s so close. Anyway, Posh Spice gets jumped by an angry, fired up Millie. There are some awkward bumps here as they attempt some cool looking moves. The backbreaker off the top from Jinny looks risky. Jinny also takes a head spike where she has to get both hands down to stop herself getting crippled. There’s a nice sequence where all the other Spicies run in and take suplexes from a super fired up Millie. She’s aware she needs to make the interference a null factor. Millie sells a subtle torso injury throughout and taps quickly to an inverted figure four because of it. It may have been too subtle because a lot of the crowd seemed to miss it. Solid little match but it didn’t feel like a big deal. Jinny’s opponents need to be built up more. **3/4
PETE DUNNE DEF. CHRIS RIDGEWAY, EDDIE DENNIS & MARK HASKINS
Eddie is now the only heel in this due to Haskins shift back to babyface thanks to Flash. I’m really not the biggest fan of these multi-man matches but at least everyone is experienced enough to know where they’re supposed to be and when. The match flows quite well but it feels like a bunch of stuff happening one thing after another rather than a coherent storyline. Even with the talent involved. At times the set ups are glaringly obvious too like Dunne jumping off a handily positioned Haskins to get a hold on Dennis, who’s there waiting. There’s another spot that irks me when Haskins repositions himself to let Dunne kick him into the ropes, which flows into another Haskins transition. The best work of the match comes from Eddie Dennis, playing chickenshit opportunist heel throughout until everyone gets sick of it and triple teams him. There’s also an angle-heavy bit where the 198 take out Haskins with Flash being a total jerk and holding Vicky back. The issues continue toward the finish with Ridgeway turning his back on Dunne for no reason at all after they’ve both booted Dennis off the apron. The only reason he turns his back is to set up their next sequence. These matches are hard to put together and much, much harder to execute. Dunne finishes Riddy with a Bitter End variant, which finishes in a Tombstone. When they were doing the basics, you had three excellent technicians and the heel work of Eddie and it was good but there were too many issues for a recommendation. **1/2
TAG TEAM THUNDERBASTARD SERIES – PROGRESS TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (C) DEF. ANTI-FUN POLICE
The music issues are at the forefront here. The Anti-Fun Police music is just a siren. Gibson is still getting nuclear heat but they do a nice spin on it here with Los Federales Santos Jr cutting a Spanish version of the “Liverpool’s number one” promo. AFP are a really fun team and while they’re not as technically sound as any of the lads in the last match they know their roles and stick to them. Los Federales Santos Jr is especially good at this. His character is over so his in-ring is less important but he does try hard and has a move set that suits his character. Dunne throws in some flashier stuff, which is something you don’t often see from him but if they’re basically wrestling as faces it makes sense for him to flip around as the smaller guy. The build of the match allows AFP to get some exciting underdog near falls. The challengers miscue and GYV retain with Ticket to Mayhem on Dunne. This was a well worked tag with everyone playing their role to perfection. You didn’t have three guys out here trying to be badasses. There were layers of character and it worked nicely. ***1/4
PROGRESS ATLAS CHAMPIONSHIP
DOUG WILLIAMS (C) DEF. TK COOPER
Given that Doug has basically said he’ll retire when he loses the Atlas title it would be very underwhelming for that to happen here against a guy whose current gimmick is “Travis Banks’ mate”. I feel for Doug because he’s been put in a big spot here and his body just cannot deliver. He’s spent the past few years contemplating retirement and 24 years is a long time and a lot of miles on the bump clock. Now he’s out here trying to do all the same wacky shit the rest of the roster do and it’s uncomfortable to watch. I love Doug Williams and I was hyped for this angle when it started but it hurts to watch. What’s really worrying is that TK doesn’t know how to be entertaining without the fast-paced action he’s accustomed to delivering. The result is ponderous and disappointing. Even the big home run spots like TK hitting a Spanish Fly (!) are hampered by sluggish setup. The best wrestling in the match is right at the end so at least they finish strong. The counters around the Chaos Theory are excellent and reveal how the match could have gone if they’d found more common ground. The biggest moment in the match is Trent Seven’s post-match appearance to issue a challenge. He’ll be facing Doug at Wembley. Trent’s story about failing to get to Hammerlock for training is fantastic and his storytelling via promos is what helps to make the Wembley match feel special. He’s a great pitch man. **1/4
PROGRESS WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP #1 CONTENDERSHIP
TONI STORM DEF. LAURA DIMATTEO
Laura’s best match was against Toni for the title during Storm’s title run. It’s a little weird that Laura had that great match and then didn’t appear on a Chapter show again for 10 months. It’s hard to build a division within a company when you’ve got so many divisions to balance (world, Atlas, tag and women’s) plus other ongoing feuds that don’t involve belts. I do like the narrative that Laura has improved but Toni is still better. Logically the long-term payoff is that Laura will eventually beat Storm but with WWE calling they may not have time to logically finish the story. The additional trouble is that Toni Storm has grown as a wrestler and looks double tough here compared to the relatively lightweight Laura. The Italian has to find different ways to get into the match and she’s become more comfortable on the ropes and using her speed, plus her submissions. The grounded Octopus has been very successful for her but Toni survives it. Toni does an immaculate job of going from badass former champ to struggling against the array of offence that Laura brings and the selling is super. Laura shows some serious fortitude in kicking out of Strong Zero but another finishes her and we’re back to Jinny vs. Toni. Wembley? ***1/2
PROGRESS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
WALTER DEF. TRAVIS BANKS (C)
At SSS16 WALTER gave up the Atlas title, in a move that could have seen the end of the division, to target PROGRESS World Champion Travis Banks after Trav got himself intentionally counted out. As a result, this match is no count out so Travis cannot run away from the Austrian challenger. Travis has been champion for 318 days, which is the second longest reign in the company’s history behind Jimmy Havoc. WALTER is the only guy who has his own music because he used classical music! A smart choice. I wonder where he got the idea from (clue: Brit Wres Roundtable). Travis’ music is some generic wank that sounds computer generated. PROGRESS should just dub the entrance music. It worked for wXw. WALTER’s MO has been vicious chops and other brutal strikes. Seeing as Trav can’t run away from them here he needs a Plan B and that’s going after WALTER’s arm. It doesn’t work. Plan C is TK Cooper but TK has had no impact on WALTER in their matches and WALTER just puts him to sleep on the floor. Plan D is sneaky cheating and going after the leg. This is where Travis gets the most joy but while the leg kicks allow him to get some distance, and frequent counters, it doesn’t stop WALTER’s upper body power. Plan E materialises after this with Banks hitting and moving. Landing big stomps and dropkicks. This combines with the leg work, attempting to destroy WALTER’s mobility then jab at him. The flaw in the match is a terrible ref bump. Even by bad ref bumps standards it makes no sense. The aim is to make it look like WALTER used a chair, the old Eddie Guerrero standard. That Banks has so many approaches lined up shows his versatility as champion and his capacity to fend off all challengers. If he’d shown this range during his title run he probably wouldn’t have been turned on. Here he’s distracted by Tyler Bate and WALTER is able to finish and win the title! Travis’ reign of terror is over. Very good match, hindered slightly by WALTER being effectively caged by the match structure but a fine display of how to be a sneaky heel champion without being a total coward. This was Travis Banks’ match. He delivered and lost! ****
Not the best of shows from PROGRESS and they’ve been beset by misfortune again this summer. Building to a big show that would have featured Sabre/Travis and Ospreay/Havoc until New Japan’s USA tour put the kibosh on that. There is talent in the UK to slot into big positions but they went with reliable WALTER here and that’s probably the right move. wXw has been the best promotion in Europe over the last two years and their talent are now getting a fair shake of the stick in the UK. It’s a veritable gold mine, as is most of Europe. While the booking might not have worked out as intended there’s one positive that remains. The standard of work is constantly high. The tags on this show were both good as was Storm/DiMatteo and the main, despite a dodgy ref bump angle, delivered.