Saturday, March 25, 2017
Following a strong Chapter 44, PROGRESS returned less than a month later with a card that sounded even better. Both the PROGRESS Title and the Tag Team Titles are defended, while big names are lined up and down the card.
As always, Jim Smallman opened things by having fun with the crowd. Maybe it was just me, but the sound was off and I didn’t catch much of what he said.
Obviously, Bate and Seven are well known and held in high regard, but SPPT have quickly become one of my favorite tag teams in all of wrestling. The only title the champs had was Bate’s WWE UK Title. I loved how SPPT showed no intimidation. Cooper slapped Seven defiantly and then took out both champs with a great corkscrew dive. Despite this, it was Cooper who took the heat for a good chunk of the match. Banks’ eventual hot tag ruled. He’s awesome. This was where things got taken to the next level. SPPT fired up after a double German from Seven, leading to an insane exchange of strikes and offense from all four men. The titles nearly changed hands after a Cooper springboard 450 knee drop. The champs got overconfident until Dahlia Black helped her guys turn the tide. Bate and Seven were too much though, winning after a second rope piledriver into the Tyler Driver 97. An awesome way to start the show. Bate and Seven again showed why they’re held in high esteem, while SPPT killed it again too. The best PROGRESS Tag Title match I’ve personally ever seen.
Jimmy Havoc hit the ring with a steel chair. He beat the shit out of Bate and Seven with it, looking to eliminate them ahead of his title match. This was great because it made sense for Havoc and the champions didn’t look weak because of how it was done. One thing I didn’t like was how the cameras showed Bate and Seven leave on their own accord. If the plan was to have them taken out for the main event, I’d have had them get help to the back or not show it at all.
El Ligero came out to an Irish drinking song and seemed to still be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Gibson cut a hateful promo, while Ligero continued to have fun acting drunk. After Zack removed Ligero’s giant St. Patty’s Day head, an El Generico mask was under! That got a pop and led to more fun. We finally got to Ligero’s real mask and an interesting spot where he sat on a fan in a wheelchair’s lap and together they drove his boot into Zack’s face. Ligero picked up a few near falls inside, including one on a great springboard cutter. Just as he was nearing a win, Nathan Cruz appeared on the stage wearing a Ligero mask he stole. The distraction was enough for Gibson to win. Fun match that continued the rivalry it needed to. The crowd was way into it as well.
Sexsmith is certainly popular, but I’m not fully on that train. Drake attacked before the bell, continuing to look like a ruthless bastard. Sexsmith turned it around and took a nasty bump on a somersault to the outside. The story of this saw Drake on the offensive, while Sexsmith drew sympathy and found random hope spots. Sexsmith’s rally saw him Mr. Cocko and a crossface, but Drake survived both. He then hit a forearm and a DDT to put Sexsmith away. Not a bad match, I just couldn’t get into it. I do like what they’re doing with Drake right now though.
Heel Will Ospreay is an interesting sight. He wore jeans and came out aggressively, dropkicking Andrews out of the gate. Similar to the last match, this saw the heel with the advantage thanks to being aggressive and the babyface rallying from behind. However, it worked much better here because Andrews excels in that role, Ospreay is interesting as a heel and they’ve wrestled so much that their chemistry is strong. Andrews fired up after eating a bunch of kicks. The top rope seemed to snap or something at one point from the speed and impact of these guys. Andrews snapped off a great reverse rana and had the balls to hit a top rope dragonrana. I can’t believe he didn’t die. He had the 630 cut off but realized he couldn’t use the top rope for much. He had to dig deep and bust out the Vertebreaker to win. Good stuff here. They worked in some spots they’re familiar with, while also managing to make it different by incorporating Ospreay’s new persona.
Jimmy Havoc returned and beat Ospreay down with a steel chair before hitting the Acid Rainmaker.
Ringkampf consists of Axel Dieter Jr. and WALTER, while Jim and Lee Hunter make up the Hunter Brothers. I’ve never seen the Hunter Brothers before, but Ringkampf are damn good. There were a few “WALTER’s gonna kill you” chants and he kind of did just that. They had an answer for nearly everything the Hunter Brothers tried. Whether it was through good tag team wrestling or WALTER being a beast. Jim Hunter got a mild tag. I say mild because the crowd wasn’t really into them. They got close on a splash but WALTER kicked out hard to show it wasn’t that close. Ringkampf won with a great European uppercut/powerbomb combination and the fans counted along in German. I understood why Ringkampf dominated at times, but it meant the setup was for a hot tag to a team that barely got a reaction. That made that part of the match lackluster. It felt like a showcase for Ringkampf and if that was the intention, it should’ve been shorter.
It’s Webster’s first singles match in PROGRESS since returning from injury. He started hot but Cruz quickly negated that and took it to him. His recent shoulder injury came into play, as he clutched it tightly after being knocked off the top rope. Cruz was content with a countout win but Webster goaded him into a fight outside. It didn’t help much and Cruz continued to attack the shoulder. Webster’s comeback still saw him favor the arm, which was appreciated. In a great moment, Webster nearly had second thoughts about a high risk move, only for it backfire anyway as he took a top rope lung blower for a close near fall. Cruz attempted the Showstolen but Webster countered into the Strangler and made him tap out. I dug the shoulder work here as it looked good and made sense. Props to Flash as he sold well and never forgot about it, while the finish was smart.
Cruz jumped him after the match.
This tournament will determine the first PROGRESS Women’s Champion. Nixon is way over and the crowd sings her theme song. Jinny attacked at the bell before wiping Nixon out with a dive outside. Nixon returned the favor and then some with two suicide dives. They went at it harder than expected with forearms and headbutts. Nixon missed a moonsault but then kicked out at one from a Rainmaker. She also kicked out of a spike X-Factor type move but Jinny had enough. She planted her with Nixon’s own destroyer to win. Many saw this is a bit of an upset. Though Jinny has been around a while, Nixon has been making waves. It makes sense though with the news that she’s WWE bound. Much better than I expected by the way. It was short, but intense as hell with a great atmosphere.
This came about after Havoc beat Dunne via DQ in January and then Havoc earned a shot in a six man tag at the last chapter. Dunne jumped Havoc with a chair during his entrance, which was a nice turnaround from Havoc attacking his buddies earlier. Thought it meant I didn’t get to hear Dunne’s theme, which is a shame. Within minutes, both guys had used chairs and the PROGRESS Title as a weapon. They fought through the crowd and by the bar with an intensity fitting the rivalry. Things got really violent when Dunne stapled Jimmy’s ear. He caught a Jimmy suicide dive into the explex on the apron. It took about eleven minutes for this to get in the ring. Dunne nailed all the little things, from threatening fans to biting barbed wire and letting it hang from his mouth. In other sick moments, Dunne wrapped barbed wire around Havoc’s leg before stomping on it and stapled him in the finger, elbow and side, as well as stapling a streamer to his head. I lost it though when Havoc gave Dunne PAPER CUTS and poured alcohol on them. The barbed wire came into play again when they wrapped it around their hands and traded forearms. Somehow, Dunne kicked out of a Canadian Destroyer into thumbtacks! Jimmy set up the Acid Rainmaker, but Will Ospreay walked to the ring. Havoc fought him off and then hit the Acid Rainmaker, but Dunne got a shoulder up. Havoc was next to kick out of something big, surviving a powerbomb through a table. He hit another Acid Rainmaker, but Ospreay pulled the referee out. That distraction allowed Dunne to hit Havoc with a barbed wire bat and win after the Bitter End. Awesome main event that was the right amount of sick. The paper cut spot had me looking away from the screen, which I rarely do. I loved this, but felt it got a bit overbooked with the Ospreay stuff. Still, a barbaric main event. I love how Dunne has had two fantastic title matches (vs. Sabre late last year) and both were so different.
Will Ospreay told Jimmy Havoc “this has to end” and beat him with the microphone to close the show.
Overall: Another great show from PROGRESS. There’s nothing bad on the card. The women’s match was better than expected with non-stop action for the short runtime and Ospreay/Andrews was another solid chapter in their history. I enjoyed Cruz/Webster and even the matches I gave less than three stars were all solid. The show is bookended by two fantastic and different matches. The show flows nicely, never feels long and almost everyone brings it. PROGRESS continues to be one of the best promotions in the world.