Wednesday, April 4, 2018
It’s time for PROGRESS’ final show before they head to New Orleans for WrestleMania weekend. All the male titles are on the line and the Natural Progression Series continues. Also, I’m happy to report that this show runs just under three hours, which is usually when PROGRESS is at their best.
Jim Smallman ran his usual opening spiel, he thanked the fans for the company’s continued growth, and had some fun banter with a mom in the crowd attending her first wrestling show.
For those who forgot, Lynch was one half of the London Riots. Commentary sold this as a bit of a student vs. teacher matchup. It played that way, with Williams knowing what Lynch was planning and having an answer for it. Lynch used his pure size to take control for a while. Doug responded with his wily veteran knowhow. There was good back and forth throughout this. In the end, Doug missed his diving knee drop, and Lynch cut him in half with the Spear to win in 10:19. Like I said, a hardnosed, even match that worked as a good BIG BOY battle.
Jinny came out with her House of Couture girls. This was one of those multi-person matches where everyone played their characters so well. The House of Couture girls were the heels they needed to be, Martina got in a bunch of her great character work, and Millie was a beast. I’m so ready for her vs. Toni Storm. Jinny straight up calling Martin a bitch after she hit Charlie with a Tombstone was great. Unfortunately, Millie was the one who took the pin. Chakara hit her with her finisher, before Charlie added an elevated DDT to win in 8:54. I’m surprised Martina didn’t eat the pin. Everyone brought their personalities to make for a fun match.
The battle for Travis Banks’ affection. Before any introductions, Brookes jumped out and attacked Cooper. They brought chairs into play for some pretty violent looking spots. TK also grabbed a Banks photo from the merchandise table and stapled it to Brookes’ head. I told you it was about his love. That was just the beginning, though, as Brookes used a hammer to pull on TK’s nostrils and stapled his tongue. The spots just kept growing, from a Spanish Fly off the apron through a table to TK hitting Lykos with a scissors kick onto a chair to a superplex onto tacks. All violent. They kept bringing stuff like that until Brookes made him tap with a modified octopus stretch at 13:51. Brutal match that was just what it needed to be given the rivalry. They raised the stakes with some barbaric spots. It was better than the stuff they did with Travis Banks, for sure.
Rampage was the first ever Atlas Champion. WALTER is a top ten wrestler on the planet. As with most, if not all Atlas Title matches, this was a hard hitting battle between two BIG LADS. Rampage is a pretty big dude, but WALTER made him look tiny. WALTER was in control for the most part because of that. Rampage made a comeback that sent WALTER on his heels and he even slammed the big man. Of course, he couldn’t quite keep up with the chop exchange against the master. The final back and forth was the highlight. WALTER won out and applied the rear naked choke to win in 13:55. As usual, WALTER has a good match. Something about Rampage has never fully clicked with me and that was the case again. Good stuff, but not on the level of some other recent WALTER outings.
This Natural Progression Series has featured a lot of relatively new talent. I like it. This started with some funny dueling, “Let’s Go Danny” chants. Like a lot of matches in this tournament so far, we got an even battle here. Both guys were allowed to play to their strengths. Jones took Duggan to the mat and twisted him around like a pretzel. It was quite entertaining. The match took an interesting turn when Eddie Dennis showed up and cheered on Danny Jones, wanting him to be more vicious. Jones shouted him down, not wanting his help. Everything involving Dennis allowed Duggan to roll Jones up and sneak out the win in 13:30. This got a surprising amount of time and had some interesting exchanges. I thought Jones’ leg work was well done, while Duggan did a solid job selling.
Eddie Dennis hopped in the ring with a microphone. He said that the loss wasn’t his fault or Jones’. It was Danny’s trainer, Mark Andrews. Dennis said that he and Mark got their starts in the Natural Progression Series, but he couldn’t be here for his trainee because he’s too busy working for the WWE in the States. Jones nearly attacked Dennis, but didn’t since he had just come off surgery a few weeks earlier.
Zack Gibson found a new way to get heat, as he interrupted David Starr’s elaborate ring introduction to cut his pre-match promo. Once the match got started, it was quite wild. They weren’t worried about your typical tagging in and out stuff, opting for a more chaotic feel. All the teams were given ample opportunity to show off some of their best offense. Surprisingly, the first team to go was Havoc and Haskins, when Sexy Starr pinned Havoc following the BDSM tandem combo. I like that because, while I like Havoc and Haskins, the babyface team needed to stick around. When Sexy Starr had the champs beat, Havoc pulled out the referee, costing them the titles. Sexy Starr still had their chances, and came close to winning on multiple occasions. However, Starr got hit with the champions’ combination finisher for the finish at 11:31. Sexy Starr was just what the other two teams needed. Their babyface fire was a big time missing ingredient and this was easily the best match involving the other teams. A match packed with action from start to finish.
Interesting dynamic here. Aligning with Vicky makes Flash kind of a heel, while Banks has been getting negative reactions lately. Flash came out with Vicky, but decided to do this alone and sent her away. Banks’ title matches have all been good, but only a handful have been great. The story of this match was that we got a different Travis Banks. He carried himself with more arrogance and was more vicious than usual. He brutalized Flash to some great heat. Flash’s hope spots were good, but I don’t think the crowd was very into them. He kicked out of the Kiwi Krusher, but pretty much everyone does now. Flash came close to winning with a guillotine choke, but Banks broke the hold by sending him into the ref in the corner. TK Cooper ran in and drilled Flash with a Roman Reigns like Spear. Flash came back and fought them off, before hitting Shadows Over Malice. A new ref came out and Flash got the three count at 16:56. He was handed the title and the fans popped. BUT WAIT! The refs converged and talked it over, because Travis’ feet were on the ropes. The bell sounded again and Banks won a series of rollups to retain in another 0:24. I dug Banks’ new attitude and that PROGRESS is completely leaning into the crowd response for him, just like ROH did with Nigel McGuinness ten years ago. The dusty finish stuff is pretty overdone and I think it took away a bit from TK’s involvement. Still, this was very good.
Post-match, Travis Banks got on the microphone and thanked the fans for their continued support of his title chant. He even asked for a, “Travis is our champion” chant. Amazing. Even better, that defense made him the most successful PROGRESS Champion ever, so he said, “PROGRESS is my yard now.” He called himself unbeatable. The symphony hit and the fans ERUPTED as WALTER came out. I am so ready for that match. “You fucked up” chants and Banks hilariously played it like they were chanting it at WALTER. WALTER chopped him and was left standing tall.
Overall: Another good PROGRESS show. With Banks moving more into the heel territory, it feels like the company might finally have a real direction in 2018. There were no stellar matches on this show, but several very good ones (World Title, Atlas Title, Tag Title, No DQ). Nothing is bad and they advanced several storylines.