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.

Raw History: Episodes #109-111

Raw History
Episode #109
May 1st, 1995 | Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska

According to the opening recap, last week’s Raw featured a record number of viewers. Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler are on commentary.

The Allied Powers vs. George Anderson and Ron Hagan
Before the match, we get informed that Jeff Jarrett was stripped of the Intercontinental thanks to a controversial finish to his match with Bob Holly. They’ll have a rematch for the belt on the weekend. The Bulldog and Luger both get in pretty much all of the offense. Their opponents look like the definition of jobber. Anderson nearly gets in some stuff, but it looks awkward and he just ends up losing to the Bulldog’s powerslam.

Winners: The Allied Powers in 2:41
Fine enough squash match.

Now we get footage of the Jarrett/Holly controversy. Both guys won the match in odd ways. Jarrett had his feet on the ropes, then the match was restarted and Holly won but Jarrett’s foot was on the bottom rope.

Bob Holly vs. Butler Stevens
This dude has two last names. His shirt looks like a garbage bag to be honest. Holly obviously does most of the work here and the crowd seems somewhat into him. He hits the BEST DROPKICK IN THE BIZ before a flying cross body gets the win.

Winner: Bob Holly in 2:53
Not the best squash match. I’m supposed to believe Holly is a threat to a title?

Todd Pettengil brings us the In Your House Report! The 1-2-3 Kid is injured again and out of the PPV. Razor Ramon won’t get a new partner and is instead facing Jarrett and the Roadie in a handicap match. That’s the only new information we’re given.

Mantaur w/ Jim Cornette vs. Sonny Rogers
Why is the Mantaur experiment not over yet? He splashes Rogers quickly and then tosses him around. Rogers surprises me when he gets a rollup though it clearly doesn’t do the job. Mantaur ends up winning with a slam.

Winner: Mantaur in 2:23
Blah. I completely dislike Mantaur.

They show us a vignette that sees Man Mountain Rock in the NYPD Blue universe. Yes, it’s odd.

We’re supposed to get the advertised Sycho Sid/Razor Ramon marquee matchup now. As Razor’s in the ring and his pyro goes off, Sid steps through it long before Goldberg did stuff like that, and attacks Razor. Sid plants him with two powerbombs until Diesel runs out to make the save. Sid really doesn’t like the Kliq huh?

Adam Bomb vs. Dave Sigfrid
We didn’t hear about it during the In Your House Report, but Vince seems to say that Adam Bomb will face Mabel at the Pay-Per-View. This one is all Adam Bomb. He takes it home with a flying clothesline.

Winner: Adam Bomb in 3:41
Too many squash matches tonight. This one dragged a bit.

Time for our second Hunter Hearst-Helmsley vignette. He actually speaks this time. He doesn’t say much, but he’s clearly a smug bastard.

Men on a Mission vs. Bill Duke and Kevin Krueger
Who the hell booked tonight’s show? Krueger does a dropkick that stagger Mabel. He tags his Duke and they try a double dropkick but Mabel just swats them down like flies. This goes on for far too long. After some dull stuff, Mabel wins it with a belly to belly.

Winners: Men on a Mission in 4:37
Seriously, who the hell booked this show? Awful stuff.

Jerry Lawler has been talking trash about Bret Hart all night long. He has a contract for a match with Bret at In Your House, but says that Bret ducked the challenge and accepted the match with Hakushi instead. Vince says that Brer is coming but Lawler says he’s too scared. Once Bret’s theme plays, Lawler pretty much pisses his pants. Bret admits to taking the Hakushi match. Lawler interjects but Bret shouts for him to shut up and says that after he beats Hakushi, he’ll wrestle Lawler too.

Overall: 1.5/10. They’re hyping next week’s show as some sort of “Double Header”, but it will need to be more than that to make up for this atrocity. Nothing but boring squash matches, not really any interesting build for the Pay-Per-View and the one potential match doesn’t end up happening.

Raw History
Episode #110
May 8th, 1995 | Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska

The first ever In Your House is just six days away. Let’s see how the go home show goes. Our same commentary team handles things tonight.

WWF Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett w/ The Roadie vs. Doink w/ Dink
I thought their mini-feud was the last I’d see of this pairing. They even flash us back to it before the bell rings. Doink starts hot so the Roadie gets involved, only to get his hand stepped on. Doink stays in control for the most part and continues to do damage to the Roadie too. Jarrett swings the momentum and starts to work his generic offense through a commercial break. Doink hits a DDT and actually sells some of the leg work. He also hits a powerslam but only gets two. Doink is nearing the win until Roadie gets in a cheap shot behind the official’s back. Jarrett locks in the Figure Four, causing Doink to submit right as Vince said he would never do that.

Winner: Jeff Jarrett in 7:24
This was your typical house show match. There was nothing special about this at all. Ho-hum. At least the work was decent, though uninspired. 

We get our first ever Bodydonnas vignette. Sunny and Skip look into the camera and diss fat people. 

Next, Bam Bam Bigelow speaks in a dark room. He talks about his rough start to 1995, but comes across as a babyface, putting over Lawrence Taylor and Diesel in the process.

Vince McMahon is in the ring and brings out Sycho Sid and Ted Dibiase for an interview. Dibiase admits that it was him who suggested to Shawn Michaels that he get Sid as a bodyguard. That’s the only real news he gives us. Other than that he just claims that Sid will end Diesel and his run as WWF Champion. Then Sid speaks and everything becomes amazing. He talks about a lion from Africa, while stumbling over his words. It’s Sid at his finest. The gist of it all is that he’s going to win Sunday.

Next Monday, newly face turned Bigelow takes on IRS.

Hakushi w/ Shinja vs. Gary Scott
Hakushi dominates Gary Scott and his stupid pants. Scott does get in a cross body for pretty much his only offense. Vince informs us that Hart/Hakushi will open the PPV this Sunday. Hakushi nails an impressive springboard splash, remaining undefeated.

Winner: Hakushi in 2:49
Better than your average squash.

In Your House Report! Diesel cuts a serious promo about Sid. He wants him to bring the fight and says that he’s not scared.

Bart Gunn w/ Billy Gunn vs. WWF Tag Team Champion Owen Hart w/ Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji
The Smoking Gunns get their rematch at the Tag Team Titles at the Pay-Per-View. Owen Hart stalls at the start before exchanging some WRESTLING with Bart. Bart gets in a fair amount of the early stuff. Owen speeds thing sup but runs into a sidewalk slam. Bart gets tripped up by Mr. Fuji, so Owen takes over. He rams Bart’s back into the ring post. Billy, being a complete doofus, is distracting the referee during this. Even so, Owen doesn’t stay in the driver’s seat for long. Bart wants a second rope suplex but Cornette grabs his leg and he falls. Billy then crotches Owen on top to even the score. Bart schoolboys Owen and steals it.

Winner: Bart Gunn in 6:30
A rather disappointing match. Owen Hart was great but Bart never seemed to click in singles matches. Plus, he was a charisma vacuum. 

Footage from WWF Mania airs. Todd Pettengill and Stephanie Waind check out the house you can win at In Your House. Todd is a dick, sitting and standing on the counter. Why would I want to live there?

Jerry Lawler announces that he will bring his mother to the PPV.

Overall: 3.5/10. Better than last week but not by much. The two actual matches were both pretty bad, though I like the Hakushi squash. Also, Sid’s promo was easily the highlight as it was just so damn insane.

In Your House Results
Bret Hart def. Hakushi
Razor Ramon def. Jeff Jarrett and the Roadie
KOTR Qualifier: Mabel def. Adam Bomb
Yokozuna and Owen Hart def. the Smoking Gunns to retain the WWF Tag Team Titles
Jerry Lawler def. Bret Hart
Diesel def. Sycho Sid via disqualification, retaining the WWF Championship

Raw History
Episode #111
May 15th, 1995 | Broome County Arena in Binghamton, New York

IRS and Bigelow get quick promos to open the show. IRS wants Bigelow to pay his taxes. Shocking right? Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler run things and we are live.

WWF Tag Team Champions Owen Hart and Yokozuna w/ Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji vs. Bill Weaver and Nick Barberry
Yokozuna starts for his team and tosses the scrubs around. Cornette gets in some venomous disses shouting at Vince. Owen Hart comes in and does some actual work. As usual, Owen gives the jobbers something, though it isn’t much. Vince brags about Yokozuna being over 600 pounds like it’s a good thing. He hits the uranage for the victory.

Winners: Owen Hart and Yokozuna in 3:06
Your basic squash from the Tag Team Champions.

Still images are shown of the Lawler/Hart stuff from last night. Lawler is giddy about beating Bret.

An odd “WWF Saves the World” commercial runs, featuring aliens. 1995 was a strange time.

Man Mountain Rock vs. “Iron” Mike Sharpe
I’m actually writing this a day after the unfortunate passing of Mike Sharper. Rest in peace. He does his typical loud selling. It’s so great. Looking it up, this is his last ever match on Raw. It ends quickly with the whammy bar submission.

Winner: Man Mountain Rock in 1:25
Too short to really be anything.

They show the house giveaway from the Pay-Per-View last night. They tell us that the guy who won it is a big Shawn Michaels fan, leading to Vince saying that HBK returns next week against King Kong Bundy.

Now we get still images from the Jarrett and Roadie/Razor match, focusing on the debut of Savio Vega. We then hear from Savio, who cuts his promo in Spanish. He fixes it to English for a bit, saying that Razor is his friend, but then goes back to Spanish.

King of the Ring Qualifying Match
Bob Holly vs. Mantaur w/ Jim Cornette

Oh man, we’re coming up on the absolutely dreadful 1995 King of the Ring. The start of this match is totally one-sided. Mantaur just gets in everything. He hits a suplex but Holly continues to kick out of pretty much everything. Maybe it’s because he didn’t fully cover, instead choosing to just lay his hands on Holly. Holly starts making his rally, coring a few near falls. Finally, he gets the flying cross body and scores the three.

Winner: Bob Holly in 5:29
Why is Mantaur still a thing? How did it last so long? Bob Holly was fine as the babyface underdog but this wasn’t very entertaining. *

Vince McMahon is now in the ring to bring out Bob Backlund to make an announcement. Backlund uses a lot of big words as always. He shouts random historic moments but totally butchers all of the dates. I have no idea if he did that on purpose. This is drawn out far longer than it needs to be, just so he can announce that he’s running for president.

Bam Bam Bigelow w/ Diesel vs. IRS w/ Ted Dibiase
This is the debut of Bigelow’s new entrance gear and pyro. Diesel is brought out to be in Bigelow’s corner and he chases Dibiase away. They do some dull work before a commercial break. Returning, Bigelow misses a headbutt, so IRS comes back with shoulder blocks to take him down. The crowd doesn’t seem very into this. None of the stuff being done is interesting at all. That’s most likely because IRS is in control and he’s incredibly boring. He removes the turnbuckle pad, Bigelow charges and IRS moves, so he hits it. IRS tries a pin with his foot on the ropes but Diesel shoves it off. This turns it around for Bigelow, who wins with the diving headbutt.

Winner: Bam Bam Bigelow in 5:12
Someone needs to stop booking IRS. His run has to be coming to an end soon. This was painfully boring. ½*

A Shawn Michaels video package airs, set to his theme song. It turns ugly at the end when King Kong Bundy appears to say Shawn’s return will be short lived.

Overall: 2/10. What the hell happened? 1995 was going pretty well and then they put out these three Raws in a row. This one featured a shit main event, a lame KOTR qualifying match and an overdrawn Bob Backlund promo. Ugh.