Monday, June 12, 2017
I started following PROGRESS consistently near the end of last year. I missed this tournament, but other than the G1 Climax, it was my most anticipated of 2017. If you missed the way they came up with the brackets, check it out. They took two people who didn’t know a thing about wrestling and used them for it. One guy drew up images of what he thought the competitors looked like based purely off their names and the other guy matched them up. Completely wild and random and I loved it.
The show began with Jim Smallman doing his usual introduction. However, he added a special shout to some victims in the Manchester bombings, which got a standing ovation that made him quite emotional.
I believe this is the PROGRESS debut of Cobb. Cruz quickly noticed he was overmatched, so he tried different tactics. He went up top, but that failed, so he sent Cobb into the ring post and looked for a countout. When that didn’t work, Cobb got to showcase his awesome power for the PROGRESS faithful. Cobb got way over with it, though I’m sure a lot of people have enjoyed him in other promotions, specifically Lucha Underground. It was interesting to see the heel, Cruz, have to make the comeback. Cobb proved to be too much though, and won after a popup German and Tour of the Islands at 9:40. Cruz matches sometimes go too long, but this was given the right amount of time. It was right in Cobb’s wheelhouse and was a solid opener. It did the job of showcasing Cobb.
These guys returned together at Chapter 43 to oppose British Strong Style. Though they’re friends, Haskins went after Webster’s ankle, which is why he was out for most of 2016. It showed how badly Haskins wants another title shot. Each time Webster seemed to get something going, Haskins had an answer. He twisted and stretched Webster in horrible ways, looking like a man possessed at times. Haskins dominated for the most part and rolled Webster into a Sharpshooter, with a deep wrench, to win at 9:19. I loved how this started and the finish. Haskins going after the leg was great and the extra torque on the Sharpshooter was fantastic. However, some of the leg work got lost in the middle and Webster kept using his legs for the bicycle knee. Still, this was good.
Post-match, Webster was pissed about Mark targeting the leg and they argued. They shoved one another before making up.
Both guys losing their themes made me sad. The fans were split as Banks is red-hot and Havoc is a PROGRESS legend. That atmosphere added to things and made the match feel like the most special thing so far. The mat work that started the match quickly transitioned to brawling, with each guy showing they can hang in the wheelhouse of their opponent. Havoc brought out some big offense, including a Destroyer and middle rope rana, looking to keep his spot from the up and comers in PROGRESS. Near the end, they started throwing bombs and it led to an awesome finish. Banks blocked the Acid Rainmaker and just murdered Havoc with nonstop kicks, before advancing with the Kiwi Krusher in 10:34. This ruled. The atmosphere was great, but I loved how they played to their strengths and tested one another. It felt like Havoc was fighting for his spot, while Banks continues to break out.
We got a lot of mat wrestling in the early stages on this one. Sabre’s known as a specialist there, but Starr more than held his own and frustrated Sabre. That led to aggression (a trait we’ve seen a lot lately) from Sabre, as he fired up and worked the arm. Starr sold the arm well as he came back with his own fiery flurry. At one point, Sabre caught him in an awesome jumping triangle choke, only for Starr to power out and counter with a deadlift powerbomb lung blower. Starr also hit an apron DDT and brainbuster on his knee, but Sabre continued to kick out. Sabre locked in Ode to Breaks and added brutal kicks to the head to take home the win at 12:24. I dug this. Sabre viciously went after the arm and Starr sold the hell out of it. His rally attempts were great, as the crowd was firmly behind him. Starr threw everything he could at Sabre, but couldn’t hit the big German, mostly due to the arm. Sabre was just too much for him.
At Old Man Yells at Cloud back in February, these two had a ***½ match. Gibson opened with his typical dick promo, so Sexsmith ran and stomped the fuck out of him. Gibson got to his feet and the bell officially rang. Like Cruz having to fight from behind in the opener, this was a twist on something we typically see. Gibson still turned things around quickly, only for Sexsmith to use the crowd to fire himself up. Sexsmith applied the Crippler Cockface, but it wasn’t enough. It made people wonder if he could continue his dream run. There was a great moment where he nearly got counted out, only for the fans to physically put him back in the ring. Sexsmith managed to pull Gibson into a small package to win at 14:20. The fans eat up everything Sexsmith does, but I’m just not fully sold on him. This was a good match that continued the Sexsmith story and the crowd helped. I preferred their February outing by a hair.
It’s been one week since Bate lost the WWE UK Title in my current MOTY. The crowd started by singing “Personal Jesus” to Eaver. After some back and forth, Tyler mocked the crucifixion (complete with Benoit throat cut taunt), leading to him getting his ass kicked. Eaver nailed a plancha and went for a crucifix bomb, but Tyler slipped free. He went into a flurry of offense, capped with the Tyler Driver ’97 to win in 6:32. A surprisingly dominant effort from Bate. Commentary mentioned he had success elsewhere, but never took off as a singles guy in PROGRESS. That changed here. It was short, sweet and to the point.
I’ve seen Flamita over in Dragon Gate and for those who don’t know, he’s in the conversation for best high flyer in the world. I’d put him behind Ricochet, but ahead of Will Ospreay. Andrews is up there too. There was some unexpected mat work focusing on the legs early, but it didn’t last long. It was a bit out of place, but I understood trying it against an aerial opponent. They built up to the high flying stuff and when they got there, it truly picked up. Andrews landed on his feet on an absurd springboard avalanche Frankensteiner in one wild spot. Flamita got his knees up on an Andrews 450, but then got hit with Stundog Millionaire. Andrews would run into Flam Fly to lose at 13:49 though. Great back and forth action. You could never tell who was going to win, thanks to how evenly this was played.
These two had an awesome match at PROGRESS: Orlando (****¼). The crowd sang for Riddle before the match and kept doing it when Trent tried cutting a promo. Seven brought up his WWE contract and how he’s colleagues with Brock Lesnar, who Riddle wants to retire. Trent called Riddle a pussy and said he couldn’t cut in WWE or UFC. The bell rang and Trent charged into a knee strike that ended it in 0:09! Jim Smallman announced it as Riddle winning via knocking Trent Seven the fuck out! As a match, I can’t rate this, but it was a great way to end the show. It showed that Riddle can win at any time and Seven got what was coming to him.
Overall: A good way to start the tournament. None of the matches are bad and they all deliver something different. The opener was a strong way to introduce Jeff Cobb, while Webster and Haskins had a good match. I was surprised that Bate didn’t get a long match, but that worked out for him. They successfully continued the story of Jack Sexsmith and got Flamita a big upset win. Banks/Havoc and Starr/Sabre were the best things on the show, as was the unexpected awesome moment that was the main event.