Saturday, March 10, 2018
One thing I’ve noticed about recent PROGRESS shows is that they’ve been getting longer and longer. This one clocks in at just around three hours, which is the best choice. Jim Smallman opened it with his usual brand of comedy with the crowd.
Chief Deputy Dunne has a partner in Los Federales Santos Jr. Fantastic. I’ve never seen him before, but apparently, he’s made a name for himself as a comedy guy around the UK indies. Santos requested that “Senor Smallman” do his introduction in Spanish, but threw a fit when Starr suggested that would be fun. That set the tone for a match ripe with funny moments. To be fair, there was also some romance. You’ll get that if you check out the match. A short heat got worked on Starr, leading to Sexsmith getting a hot tag. The Anti-Fun Police had a cool spot where Dunne sat on Santos’ shoulders and hit the equivalent of a Doomsday Chokeslam. In the end, Sexsmith got the win with a BDSM/Product Placement after 15:03. It went a bit long, but it was a lot of fun. Very good comedy stuff and a blast of a way to open a show. Give me more Santos, please.
Post-match, Sexsmith cut a short promo about his upcoming title shot at Chapter 69. He also issued a challenge to the Tag Team Champions, Jimmy Havoc and Mark Haskins.
At Chapter 63, Morgan aligned herself with Jinny and the House of Couture. Meanwhile, Millie missed out on a title shot at the last chapter because of injury. Millie looked like she would get early control, only to run into a superkick. That put Charlie in charge for a bit. When Millie hit her first suplex, the crowd ate it up. “SUPLEX MILLIE.” Charlie took a rough bump on an apron German. It looked brutal. There was a great shot of Jinny proudly looking on as Charlie had Millie trapped in a submission. It was subtle, but well done. Millie got hot late, but a cheap shot from Jinny stopped her in her tracks. Jinny hit her with her boot, but missed the first time and it was hard to tell that’s what happened. Morgan used an implant DDT to score the win in 9:20. I found to be a solid match, with a weak ending. The House of Couture needs wins, so the result made sense.
To qualify, both guys beat their respective tag partners. Davis had a star making match against WALTER at Chapter 63. Early “please don’t die” chants towards the smaller Mayhew. Davis looked happy to be the aggressor again after taking a beating from WALTER. Davis took to Twitter to say he would “WALTER” Mayhew and he did just that. When Mayhew managed to get in some hope spots, the fans couldn’t help but really get behind him. Davis was too much, though. He won with an INSANE pull-up piledriver at 7:09. That finisher is one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen. One hell of a short match.
Mayhew got a standing ovation before leaving.
Havoc and Haskins won the titles from GYV at Chapter in a decent match. The crowd was against everyone, chanting things like “none of these guys” and “you’re all wankers.” This went on fine for a few minutes until Havoc did a diving double stomp onto his opponents. He messed up his knee and everything stopped. Havoc had to be taken to the back. With the champs gone, Gibson went into promo mode and verbally cut them down. Mark and Vicky came to the stage, where Gibson really tore into him. He called Vicky Mark’s beard, said Mark already walked away from one title reign, and said Marks’s son would grow up to be a bitch. Damn. Haskins hit the ring and threw it back to his babyface days. He showed a lot of fire and had the crowd behind him. The ref was bad at being consistent about the legal man stuff. Havoc returned to the ring, only to get tagged and immediately beaten with Ticket to Mayhem. The whole thing went 18:04. What a weird match. The heel/heel stuff was lackluster, while the Haskins solo run was strong, but the finish fell way flat. Not a fan of the title change, either.
It’s Jonah Rock’s PROGRESS debut. This match happened at PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles last year (***½). Jonah is a BIG BOY. Sabre was a great choice for his first opponent. They know each other and Sabre’s small enough for Jonah to look incredible when throwing him around. Of course, this is Sabre, so he gets his fair share of counters and wacky submission attempts in. Similar to Sabre’s work against Chris Hero, this wasn’t his usual case of being in complete control. The stuff he did felt like it came out of desperation. He knew he was overmatched and in trouble. There was a great moment down the stretch, where Jonah missed a moonsault and ate a PK, only to kick out at one. Shortly after that, Sabre caught him in a heel hook for the submission victory at 16:19. Some may question that finish for a big guy like Jonah, but Sabre’s at a point where tapping to him is in way a bad look. Jonah got to look great in his debut. The fans ate up his offense. They told a tried and true story of power vs. technical skill and it worked great.
What a loaded field. For those unaware, a Thunderbastard match follows Royal Rumble style entrances, but eliminations are via pinfall, submission, and TKO. Brooke and Bate were the first two entrants. Their exchange was fine, but nothing more. The intensity picked up when TK Cooper arrived at #3. His feud with Brookes, over Travis Banks’ affections, led to a big brawl. Trent Seven was fourth. He and Bate worked together for some fun spots. The fun stopped when Eddie Dennis came in at #5. He did his thing for a bit and badly wanted Mark Andrews next. Instead, #6 was Flash Morgan Webster. Obviously, he came in hot. #7 was Pete Dunne, who handed out explexes like it was his job. Eventually, everyone got back into the ring to right as the final entrant, Andrews, hit the ring. Everyone cleared out to set up Dennis/Andrews. However, TK snuck in and rolled up Dennis to eliminate him before they could interact. GREAT tease of that feud. From there, we got a barrage of action, with almost everyone getting time to showcase their stuff. The next elimination came thanks to the brilliance of TK. He hit Bate and Seven with low blows, so their buddy Dunne kicked him low. The referee caught him and DQed the WWE UK Champion. To add to it, TK then rolled up Seven and got rid of him. His run ended when Brookes bested him with a Praying Mantis Driver, leaving it down to Brookes, Bate, Andrews, and Flash. Brookes got hit with a series of moves, ending with an SSP, to get eliminated. We got a sense of Bate’s power, with an airplane spin and big swing at the same time. A Tyler Driver ’97 eliminated Andrews. Flash and Bate, the final two, went into a series of near falls. The final exchange was great and hard hitting. Vicky Haskins came out to distract the referee when Bate got close to a win. Flash got in her face and sent her to the back. He pulled Bate into a pin that earned him the win in 34:28. A great blend of in-ring stuff and storytelling. Flash and TK, who needed it most, came out looking great. Major props to PROGRESS for telling a compelling Dennis/Andrews story without them wrestling yet. Awesome.
Their first two matches in PROGRESS were stellar (****½ and ****¼). Riddle won the first and Banks took the second. Much more of a mixed reaction than usual for the champ. Like their previous matches, this was filled with intensity. Hard strikes and physical offense. When Banks hit an exploder into a bunch of chairs, a hush came over the crowd and Riddle had to get checked on by ringside staff. I liked how they showed their knowledge of one another. Riddle cut off the coast to coast dropkick with a knee, before hitting his own BROAST TO BROAST. The rest of the match played off their history and saw them trade bombs late. As the match progressed, the fans got more and more behind Riddle. They badly wanted a new champion. Riddle came close to unseating Travis with a top rope Tombstone, but he didn’t capitalize in time. He pounced and applied the Bromission, only for Banks to turn it into a fluke pin and retain after 16:06. Probably the worst of their series, but still a banger. The crowd was fascinating and added a lot to this. A great way to close the trilogy, if this was the end.
Riddle was in disbelief. The image of him standing, while the winner struggled on the mat, was perfect. They shook hands and Riddle left. Flash Morgan Webster came out to the stage and motioned for the title. Who was he with? Vicky Haskins. Having her around has been cool, but some explanation to the stuff she does would be nice.
Overall: . As usual, this was another PROGRESS show filed with quality wrestling. The storytelling elements are coming together better than most of 2018. Dennis/Andrews has been fantastically built and things with people like Banks and Webster are getting more interesting. There are no bad matches at all, with a few hitting the great level.