Sunday, July 29, 2018
With a few days off from the G1 Climax, I’m taking the time to check out the latest chapter of PROGRESS wrestling. Chapter 73 continues things like the Thunderbastard Tag Team Series, Jimmy Havoc’s journey to rediscover himself, and the road to Wembley. However, it does have an interesting card, considering there are no titles on the line.
Jim Small started with one of his signature opening spiels.
It’s the chapter debut for Phantasmo, while Andrews looked for momentum heading into his eventual big showdown with Eddie Dennis. This was more lighthearted than anything relating to Andrews and Dennis. They opened by showcasing their athleticism. Phantasmo hung with Andrews, who is great in that department. There was a fun spot where Andrews broke free of a Phantasmo rope walk, so he completed it with the referee instead. Things kept going at the even playing field level, with Phantasmo showing that he could hang with one of the best from PROGRESS. However, the pace slowed down the stretch, which I didn’t expect given the two involved. Phantasmo had some near falls, but never truly threatened to pull out the big debut win. Andrews hit Stundog Millionaire and the Shooting Star Press to win in 8:46. A good way to start the show. I’m intrigued at seeing more Phantasmo at some point. Back and forth outing that didn’t go overboard with the spots, which is nice for your opener.
The winner gets a shot at Doug Williams’ Atlas Championship. TK continued to push the idea that he’s bulked up to be 205 pounds+. Originally, it was a straight up singles match, but Lynch requested it be turned into a number one contender’s outing because of how he’s struggled since the London Riots split. This Atlas stuff for TK is a strange booking call. Seeing him clearly get overpowered was rather funny. However, he worked a more methodical pace and that doesn’t suit him. His ability to fly and be quick was key to why the South Pacific Power Trip worked so well. I understand changing things up after his injury last year, but this is a bit much. I’d rather he used the speed to stand out within the division. As for the match, it saw TK in control for most of it and that wasn’t too exciting. The crowd barely reacted to anything. TK did pull out a rather impressive avalanche Kiwi Krusher to win in 11:05. I just couldn’t get into this and it was a styles clash that didn’t work.
Before the show, Dennis said he only wanted to wrestle if it was against Mark Andrews. Clearly, that wasn’t happening here. Dennis complained that he got booked against someone who considers him a mentor, which Jones clearly disagreed with. When the bell rang, Dennis clocked Dennis for an instant DQ in 0:03.
Dennis sarcastically congratulated Jones, who slapped him. They brawled and Dennis hit a crucifix bomb into the ring post. Mark Andrews ran out for the save and attacked Dennis, giving us the first bit of these two fighting, despite this being a long feud. Officials separated them while the fans chanted, “Let them fight!”
Since Bate refused to defend his title, he was punished by being on the mid-card. This is a rematch of the Super Strong Style 16 Finals from 2017 (****½), which Banks won. Bate opted for some strange gold shorts as his gear for this one. The roles have reversed since their SS16 match last year. Banks had no problem bailing outside when he found himself in trouble or taking shortcuts. Banks took control after some brawling outside. Bate would find openings to do his “BIG STRONG BOI” things. Those included stiff strikes and suplexes. Some of the exchanges were great, like Banks being ready for Bate’s rebound spot and suckering him into Slice of Heaven. When Banks realized Bate wouldn’t easy to put down, he went to use the title as a weapon. Referee Joel Allen took it from him, leading him to walk into BOP and BANG. Banks escaped outside and Bate went after him. TK got involved, so Bate beat him up and beat the count, but Banks took the easy countout at 15:41. A very good match, but nowhere near a mark on what they’re capable. Maybe they’re saving stuff for the rematch in Boston. Bate looked dumb for not thinking Banks would take the countout when that’s what he’s been all about lately.
Pete Dunne looked to be in the mood to have fun. He was messing with the ring crew before the match. This is the first PROGRESS match for the Kings of the North in about a year. Surprisingly, the babyface BSS attacked before the bell. Still, they remained the crowd favorites. Commentary did a good job putting over how Trent Seven was unsure of what comes next. Dunne has Ilja Dragunov on his schedule, while Bate has another battle with Banks, making Seven kind of the forgotten man. BSS dominated the opening minutes and the Kings looks outmatched. The only way the Kings were able to get anything going was to work together and use tandem offense. The finish saw a bunch of moves get hit and Seven put down Bonesaw with Burning Hammer in 10:16. I’ve never been overly impressed with the Kings, yet this still felt like a disappointment. It wasn’t very competitive and didn’t serve much purpose with the tag team scene being dominated by the Thunderbastard stuff.
The PROGRESS debut of Killer Kelly. It’s odd to see a women’s match that doesn’t involve the House of Couture. There’s history, as Toni took Kelly’s wXw Women’s Title at the start of the year. Toni is known for hitting hard, yet Kelly was hitting her back just as hard. It was a good way to show that Kelly belonged in the division. They did a good combination of blending those big strikes with solid mat work and exchanges that played off how well they knew each other. Kelly’s highlight came with a sick looking hanging dragon sleeper from the top rope. It looked brutal. She added a Shibata style dropkick and straightjacket German for a near fall. Toni survived, won a chop battle, and hit Strong Zero to get back on the winning track after 9:58. My favorite match of the night. I love Toni and she continues to deliver. Kelly looked great in her debut and gained a lot here, showing she could hang. Toni was the perfect opponent for her thanks to their past. Great exchanges, an invested crowd, and good action.
Haskins and Webster are 2-0, while this was the first series match for Sexy Starr, consisting of Jack Sexsmith and David Starr. Sexy Starr worked well together, though their penchant for playing to the crowd cost them a few times. For example, what should’ve been stereo dives got interrupted because they wasted time setting it up for a crowd reaction. It’s a good contrast to former babyfaces Haskins and Webster, who don’t care about that anymore and are doing well because of it. Sexsmith played the face in peril, which made sense because he’s better in the sympathetic role than Starr. To go hand in hand, Starr was great as the hot tag guy and the fans ate up everything he did. The 198 weathered the storm and Sexsmith eventually became the legal man again. Starr took a nasty spill on a missed dive when Vicky pulled her husband out of the way. Sexsmith fought valiantly, but had to tap to a Haskins Sharpshooter at 12:49. Most of this series has been good and this was another one. The Haskins/Webster team is really growing on me, especially after I was worried about them since I wanted Havoc/Haskins originally.
Post-match, Webster got on the microphone and kind of put Haskins over as a mentor figure. He said Mark and Vicky gave him the support he needed to wear gold for the first time at Wembley. He hugged Vicky and Mark, after taking Vicky’s barbed wire bat away. Wild Boar hit the ring, returning for to PROGRESS for the first time in years. He attacked Mark while Flash held Vicky back. Flash and Boar left together and Flash said his best friend, brother, and mentor was Boar, not Mark, who he would win gold with at Wembley. Apparently, Boar is now replacing Mark in the Thunderbastard Series. I’m not sure what to make of this. I was excited for Haskins/Havoc and was just getting into Haskins/Flash, only for this to happen. Strange.
The big Havoc/Ospreay Death Match has been postponed due to some contract issues, but the Havoc storyline pushes forward. He’s searching for the old Havoc. The one who was a king of Death Matches. Since the big Alexandra Palace win over Mark Haskins last year, Havoc has gone 0-5 in No DQ matches. Parker cut a promo before the match to say he didn’t want “James.” He wanted Jimmy FUCKING Havoc. The story of the match was Parker trying to both earn his stripes and bring out the best in Jimmy. They used cheese graters, chairs, staple guns, and more. Parker mimicked some of what Havoc did, since he idolizes him. He would do that while also giving Jimmy openings to get back on track as a Death Match guy. They racked up the wild spots as the match neared its conclusion, before Parker curb stomped Havoc into thumbtacks and add a 450 splash to win in 12:20. I enjoyed the story they told while throwing out some big spots.
After the match, Parker said he didn’t want James and yet James showed up. He called Havoc an embarrassment and slapped him, before positioning himself for a shot with the axe on the ropes. Paul Robinson ran in and stopped Havoc from doing it. Robinson is head of security. Ring crew members came out and Havoc hit some of them before leaving in frustration.
Overall: Possibly the worst PROGRESS Chapter of the year and still, not a bad show. Cooper/Lynch was a drag and I didn’t think too highly of the British Strong Style tag. However, everything else clocked in with at least three stars and the show was ultimately an easy watch, especially since it’s less than three hours. While PROGRESS has been consistently good this year, they haven’t come close to their 2017 highs and with questions heading into Wembley, it may not turn around soon.