Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Following a successful trip to the United States, PROGRESS returned home to the Electric Ballroom for the final show before Alexandria Palace. Chapter 55 is set to be one of, if not the biggest show in company history. This worked as kind of a go-home show for it.
Jim Smallman started the show by thanking the home fans and the US crowds for being great.
Mills has been working PROGRESS’ Freedom Road shows. I feel like he would be PROGRESS’ equivalent to a “young boy”. Strangler was formerly James Davis of the London Riots. He was treated with “Strangler Wanker” chants and his look of coming out with a noose wasn’t one I liked. It barely works for Hangman Page. Connor showed the expected fire from a smaller, young guy. Strangler was aggressive, though not quite enough to really sell him as a legitimate singles heel. Connor used a discus lariat that looked way more impressive than I expected from a guy his size. He missed a 450 splash and was put down with a cobra clutch at 8:32. Connor showed promise, but the match did nothing for Davis. He didn’t look like a real threat and none of what he did clicked.
Flash Morgan Webster came out for a live version of his podcast. He had a potted plant, ala the Ambrose Asylum. His guests were Jimmy Havoc and Mark Haskins, who are scheduled to face off at Chapter 55. Flash said they hadn’t gotten along in a while and both told him to “fuck off”, resulting in Havoc and Haskins hugging it out. They had fun with the segment, as they ordered drinks and talked about the issues. Havoc and Haskins admitted their mistakes and said they were cool. Havoc saying he’s perpetually sad was great. Things got heated when discussing the PROGRESS Title, but they all agreed to work together to take out British Strong Style. Out came Travis Banks to join the lovefest, but wanted to remind them that he would be the next champ. That led to Pete Dunne arriving. Since he and Travis pick each other’s opponents, he wanted Banks/Havoc/Haskins, while Banks wanted the same for Dunne. Smallman got around it by booking a tag team main event pitting Haskins and Havoc against Banks and Dunne. I didn’t hate it, though it really gave this chapter a TV build feel. From the lengthy talking segment to the tag team main event.
The Tag Team Title match for Chapter 55 got split into two singles matches on this show. This really is a build chapter. I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing, by the way. The winner of each match chooses a stipulation for the Tag Title match. This got a “small lads wrestling” chant, which offended Bate. Once things got going, the work was smooth. Bate went after the leg to take away Lykos’ aerial offense. Lykos still managed to bust out a sweet Spanish Fly, while Bate showed off a standing SSP. My favorite exchange was probably the one capped by Lykos hitting a reverse rana and Bate popping up for a deadlift German. Trent Seven came out and nailed Lykos with a cheap lariat behind the referee’s back. Tyler Driver ’97 finished him off at 12:16. This featured some very good back and forth. Bate is excellent and made sure Lykos looked like a real threat. The distraction finish is rather overdone by this point, though.
Post-match, Trent Seven teased them picking Punjabi Prison as the stipulation. He eventually picked a normal, two on two tag match where falls count anywhere…IN THE RING!
The winner faces Toni Storm at Chapter 55. Dahlia charged the ring and they brawled before the bell. There was surprising amounts of intensity and hatred behind each move. Dahlia threw a lot of kicks, only to have it backfire when Jinny caught a few and targeted it. That played off their NYC tag and Dahlia’s leg injury earlier in the year. Everything Jinny did was vicious and fitting of her character. Dahlia was a very good sympathetic babyface, making for a great combo. She mostly sold well, even making sure to only use one leg on a powerbomb spot. Dahlia kicking out of an Acid Rainmaker and Styles Clash was a bit much, though. She rolled Jinny up at 9:53 to win. I’d have loved for Storm to face a heel, but the pop for Dahlia winning was great so they made the right move. The match had a lot to like. Intensity, limb work, selling and a hot crowd. The best Dahlia singles match I’ve ever seen.
Seven started with his usual “I’m a sports-entertainer” promo stuff. He put over his performance in the Barclays Center, which got a “pre-show” chant. He combated it by saying it was recorded for the main event of NXT TV. Brooke shut him up with a knee, nearly repeating Seven’s loss in mere seconds during the Super Strong Style 16. A good chunk of this match took place outside, with brawling through the crowd. A lot of times, that can make a match kind of dull, but these two made it work well. The hard hitting exchanges continued in the ring, but of course, we had to get shenanigans. Tyler Bate came out to cheat, but was caught in the act. Referee Chris Roberts then physically ejected Bate by tossing him over the top rope. “CHRIS ROBERTS HAS JUST WON THE ROYAL RUMBLE!” Kid Lykos snuck in and hit a lung blower/senton combo with Brookes to get the win at 11:17. Good match with plenty of fun moments. Even with the run-in stuff late, this worked. I enjoyed how the tables were turned on BSS.
Chris Brookes announced that #CCK chose a Ladder Match for the stipulation for Chapter 55. It’ll be only the second ever Ladder Match in company history.
FSU are Mark Andrews and Eddie Dennis, while the Grizzled Young Vets are Zack Gibson and James Drake. Drake had quite the push for a good chunk of 2017, but is actually very bland to me. Putting him with Gibson, a mega heat magnet, could do wonders. They worked well together, cutting the ring in half on Andrews. Andrews bumped around for them and drew a good amount of sympathy. He’s a good fit for the face in peril role. Dennis got the eventual hot tag and brought his hard-hitting style to the forefront, while also busting out a somersault to the outside. GYV started hitting tandem offense and making the match more enjoyable. The finishing stretch had some missteps, before Drake and Gibson won with Ticket to Mayhem in 14:26. This was fine, but completely unspectacular and forgettable. They worked solid tag formula, though the heat segment was kind of lifeless. It picked up in the back half.
It’s nice to see Doug Williams again. I enjoyed a fair chunk of his TNA run. He hasn’t been in PROGRESS since way back at Chapter 15. It’s crazy how much better Thatcher is received by the fans in the UK. If you know these two, you know what to expect. They worked the mat like experts. It’s Thatcher’s specialty, while Doug can still do it, he’s slower than in his prime. Thatcher continually had a leg up, with Williams using his veteran knowhow to combat him. It’s a good story, but I feel their styles are too similar at times. Thatcher’s focus was the arm, looking to win with the armbar. He eventually did just that, making Williams submit at 13:50. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like mat wrestling, so this was kind of cool. As I said, they told a good story, but Thatcher usually does well against more energetic wrestlers.
Doug Williams got a standing ovation before leaving.
Ever the dick, Pete Dunne left Travis Banks alone almost immediately. To add to things, he removed Callum Leslie from commentary and kicked him in the nuts, taking his spot. Banks brought fire, knowing he was alone, similar to what he did against British Strong Style in New York City. Havoc and Haskins had their own problems, pulling the other in the way of Travis’ attacks. They still took clear control due to having the man advantage, but their issues continued. Eventually, they came to blows, allowing Banks to level them with kicks. His offensive burst was great and he continued to look like a breakout star of 2017. Banks countered the Acid Rainmaker, which led to Haskins superkicking Havoc. Banks hit Haskins with the Kiwi Krusher and Dunne returned to throw his partner outside. Dunne delivered the Bitter End and stole the win at 14:08. This was mostly storyline, but it was fun getting there. Banks, Havoc and Haskins are all great, so anything they do works. Plus, Dunne played his role perfectly.
After the match, Banks attacked Dunne until the rest of British Strong Style made the save. #CCK ran out to save their buddy. However, it didn’t end there. The fans chanted “Travis, our champion” until the sounds of a woman screaming were heard. Dunne returned from the back with Dahlia Black and a sledgehammer. That allowed Bate and Seven to take out #CCK. Dunne kicked Dahlia in her bad leg and went to the ring. Bate and Seven held Banks in place, while Dunne hit him in the back of the head with a sledgehammer. I thought this was a great angle, that really put over Dunne being a vile heel.
Overall: One of the lesser PROGRESS chapters this year, but it was understandable to an extent. It was clear the focus was on the big Chapter 55 show, and this was used to build that. The main event was not traditional for PROGRESS, but worked to hype the upcoming bigger event. Regardless, the show is still solid. Only the opener is an easy skip. Everything else ranges from pretty good to very good, which is a fine way to spend three hours.