Saturday, September 2, 2017

PROGRESS: New York City Review

PROGRESS: New York City
August 12th, 2017 | Elmcor Center in New York, New York | Attendance: 1,500

Earlier this year, PROGRESS made their debut in the United States during WrestleMania weekend. They added to that in August by debuting in New York City and Boston. I’ve been excited to see this show since it was announced.

Jim Smallman opened the show in the ring and looked genuinely moved at the crowd. They were a small company started by three friends and here they were selling 1500 tickets in New York City. The fans chanted “We love PROGRESS” and “Please come back” before anything even happened. 

He introduced PROGRESS Champion Pete Dunne, who can’t compete due to injury. Dunne said if he was healthy, he still wouldn’t compete for these fans and called himself the highest paid sports-entertainer in PROGRESS. In his mind, PROGRESS, the WWE and everything is his. Jack Gallagher’s music played to a pop. They were scheduled to meet for the title. Gallagher did a Vince McMahon walk to the ring. I’m not certain, but I think Gallagher wore some of his old tights for this. He told Dunne to mind his “fucking” language. Jack noted that Dunne can’t own WWE, since he didn’t see him at TV last week. He offered a handshake to do this at a time when Pete was healthy, but Pete responded by slapping his hand away.

Jack Gallagher vs. Zack Gibson
Zack Gibson came out and cut a heat-filled promo running down Jack and New York. Jack told him this wasn’t the WWE or 205 Live and headbutted him to start an impromptu match. He got a near fall with that headbutt and things instantly spilled outside. Gibson attacked the arm early and often, controlling the first portion. They exchanged stiff shots, won out by Gibson, who turned Jack inside out. Gallagher responded with another headbutt for a close call. Gibson delivered a brainbuster on the floor outside in a wild spot. Commentary put over how he did it on the floor, rather than the mats. Somehow, that still wasn’t enough. Zack made a mistake, slipping on a spot in the corner. Jack capitalized with a dropkick and diving headbutt to win in 10:43. Intense and hard hitting in a way I didn’t expect. Gallagher held nothing back in returning to PROGRESS and they delivered a strong opener. You got a sense of hatred between them, which I dig. [***½]

Dahlia Black and Dakota Kai vs. Deonna Purrazzo and Jinny
It’s the PROGRESS debut of one my favorite wrestlers, Dakota Kai! It’s Deonna’s debut, too. Commentary called Black and Kai the “South Pacific Power Kick” and I love it. The PROGRESS vets started things, having some awkward exchanges. Deonna and Dakota performed much better in their short stint. Black and Kai worked well together, until Jinny took Black out with a dragon screw on the leg she injured earlier this year. That got a lot of heat. Jinny and Deonna took turns with vicious assaults on the leg. Black avoided an Acid Rainmaker and made the hot tag. Kai came in firing off kicks, before everyone got involved and the action had all four women down. They paired off, leaving Deonna with Kai. Kai missed a corner boot and Deonna beat her with a neckbreaker in 14:07. That was hella fun. Both teams worked great together and the leg work on Black was brutal and sympathetic. Jinny plays the villain so well, while the likable face team made it work even better. [***¼]

Number One Contender’s Match: Donovan Dijak vs. Timothy Thatcher w/ Stokely Hathaway
The winner gets a shot at the Atlas Championship. Thatcher was booed hard as soon his music hit. There’s an added story that if Thatcher wins and WALTER retains later, Ringkampf stablemates would meet for the Atlas Title. It’s a Thatcher match, so there was a fair amount of grappling in the early stages. Dijak held his own and used his length to get to the ropes with relative ease. Thatcher’s game plan of wearing down and tiring out his bigger opponent was smart. When Dijak made his comeback, the pace picked up and the match got better. Dijak nailed Feast Your Eyes, but Thatcher got his foot on the bottom rope. From seemingly out of nowhere, Thatcher locked in the armbar and made Dijak tap at the 12:45 mark. The work was smart. The problem is that Thatcher is just so dull and lackluster in everything he does. Going after the arm the way he did made sense and Dijak sold it well, it was just not too interesting. [**½]

Hathaway got on the mic to announce Thatcher would cash in his title shot at Chapter 55, which already features Dunne vs. Banks for the PROGRESS Title.

No Disqualifications Match: Jimmy Havoc vs. Joey Janela
Janela made his PROGRESS debut here. They attacked each other at the opening bell and things spilled outside. A chair was brought into play, but for the first few minutes, this wasn’t as crazy as you’d expect. That changed as Havoc was powerbombed onto a flimsy looking table. Joey opened four chairs and climbed to the top. Jimmy fought him off and hit a FLIPPING DDT THROUGH THE CHAIRS! Of course, that wasn’t enough. Janela came back with a DVD through a table and a spinning Package Piledriver that still didn’t end it. Janela brought out cinder blocks, because why not? Havoc fought back with a press slam onto the blocks, before biting Janela’s feet (he removed his boots). Havoc spilled out tacks and then atomic dropped Joey onto to them so he landed feet-first. A German on the cinder blocks and Acid Rainmaker was finally the death blow at 14:58. If you don’t take this too seriously, it’s wild fun. Sure, it was unrealistic, but that’s what it was meant to be. Two guys known for this, having that style of match and taking it over the top. [***]

Austin Theory vs. Keith Lee vs. Mark Andrews vs. Mark Haskins
Another PROGRESS debut, this time for Austin Theory. He was announced as a surprise change to the card due to Dunne’s injury. The crowd didn’t care much. However, when they added Lee, the place erupted. The three smaller guys went after Lee, but he just tossed them all around. Especially little Andrews. The pace to this was nuts, with lots of moving parts, dives and non-stop action. The fans came unglued when Andrews hit Lee with a poison rana. Haskins got his highlight by putting Theory and Andrews in a Boston crab/chinlock combo. Lee broke that up, leading to more offensive trading from everyone. We also got what might’ve been the best tower of doom spot ever, because Lee walked a few steps with everyone on top of him before hitting the powerbomb. He’s scary strong. He also wrecked Haskins’ life with a POUNCE. PERIOD. Lee missed a moonsault and Haskins hit a Destroyer. He eventually blocked a backbreaker from Theory and made him tap to a Sharpshooter in 10:00. It was the second time he made Theory tap on this day, beating him at Evolve 91. This was as wild a ten minute sprint as you’ll find. Some insane action and combinations. Not much else to say here. If you love crazy spotfests, this was for you. [***¾]

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: British Strong Style [c] w/ Pete Dunne vs. The South Pacific Power Trip
This was the most anticipated match of the weekend for most. SPPT and BSS have been the two best teams of 2017 and with TK Cooper and Black’s recent return, they finally got their next shot at the titles. Add in Banks’ upcoming PROGRESS Title match with Pete Dunne, leader of BSS, and you’ve got all the makings of a classic. BSS stopped to do the Triple H water spit. Banks and Bate opened things, but the match quickly spilled outside. TK Cooper delivered his trademark corkscrew moonsault and there was clear concern from all the fans in the front row. The referee threw up the “X” and the show faded to black. The match was ruled a no contest, because TK severely messed up his ankle. My friend was there live and said it was reminiscent of Sid’s WCW injury. [NR]

The show returned with wrestlers carrying TK out to loud “TK” chants. Jim Smallman thanked the fans for their support. Travis Banks informed him that he wanted to keep fighting.

British Strong Style w/ Pete Dunne vs. Travis Banks
Banks said this went from being about the titles, to being about family. He came out firing, taking out the champs with a suicide dive. His hot start was cooled by the clear advantage a tag team has in this situation. Bate and Seven tagged in and out, keeping a fresh man in. To add to the disadvantage, Dunne got in cheap shots, too. Banks rallied and hit the Kiwi Krusher on Bate, but Dunne pulled the referee out before the count of three. Referee Brandon Tolle ejected Dunne, but Seven used that time to hit a low blow and Pedigree. BANKS KICK OUT AT ONE! He ducked a lariat and hit the Slice of Heaven on Seven. He dumped Bate outside and got the three in 7:27. They did the best they could considering the situation. The match itself was nothing special, which is typical for handicap matches, but the emotion was there to help it out. Good stuff. Get well soon, TK. [**¾]

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: WALTER [c] vs. Matt Riddle
Riddle retained the Atlas Title over WALTER at Chapter 46 (***¾) and lost it to him at Chapter 51 (****¼). They also both competed in a great four-way earlier in the day for Riddle’s WWN Title (****¼). Their early mat exchanges were very even, so WALTER responded with his arsenal of vicious chops. Like in their previous matches, Riddle was not afraid to answer back with his own. After some brutality outside, they moved back to the ring and started throwing one another around. I’ve seen Riddle deadlift WALTER on multiple occasions and it’s always very impressive. Riddle started busting out all the offense he could, using two Bro to Sleeps and a German, yet he couldn’t keep WALTER down. WALTER got his knees up on a senton and applied a rear naked choke, but Riddle made it to the ropes. Riddle fought back and succeeded on the senton for two. He was stunned for a split second, but pounced with the Bromission. He added chops to WALTER’s chest and won back the title in 15:58. Not quite as great as their second match, but better than the first. They took what worked and played off it. Riddle changed up his game plan a bit, knowing that WALTER had him expertly scouted last time. They weren’t major changes, but just enough to win the title back. The sheer viciousness of their strikes always leaves me in awe. I dig Riddle, but I do wish WALTER got a longer reign. [****]

Overall: 7.5/10. When you watch a PROGRESS show, you’re basically guaranteed quality matches from top to bottom. Everything ranged from solid to great as even the worst match (Thatcher/Dijak) was still pretty good. As usual, there’s also something for everyone. Dijak/Thatcher was technically sound, Havoc/Janela was an insane hardcore match, the four-way was a blast of a spot fest, the women’s match was damn good tag wrestling, Gallagher/Gibson was intense and the main event was an awesome battle. The handicap match had a lot of fire and, though it wasn’t great, was a good way to push forward after the injury. I love PROGRESS.

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