While Matt Riddle and Will Ospreay set the world talking with likely the year’s best sub 10 minute match, at PROGRESS Wrestling’s Chapter 39 – the big story for fans of the promotion, was the unlikely crowing of a new PROGRESS Champion – in a one night tournament of sorts, with the winners of preliminary matches on the show culminating in a 7-way match for Mark Haskins vacant title.
With an assist from Trent Seven and a turning Tyler Bate, one the country’s brightest stars, Pete Dunne, took his unexpected place at the top of PROGRESS Wrestling and in a promo following the show, released on the company’s Youtube Channel he would go to explain how he and British Strong Style, now a three person act with Seven and Bate, were in control of all the top titles in PROGRESS. In an allusion to the news stories doing the rounds about WWE contracts being offered to UK-based independent talent, Dunne said that the only thing the title was good for was to lean on when I sign a contract. Tyler Bate, who himself was originally turned on by British Strong Style before joining them to help Dunne win the belt, was granted Dunne’s half of the PROGRESS Tag Shields – with the explanation being that “business deal” had been done, and that this was the grand plan of Seven and Dunne all along. Whether that was true or was revisionist (or a significantly sped up story arc) the claim by British Strong Style was that those shields were now “stepping stones to Florida, or Tokyo” and setting in motion a new British Strong Style led era in PROGRESS Wrestling.
That new era would begin in Sheffield at the O2 Academy, where PROGRESS, following an unfortunate misunderstanding with their usual O2 Ritz venue in Manchester (a double-booking with 90’s indie act “Ash” no less) were making their debut. Sheffield had been on the list of potential expansion cities on a PROGRESS fan survey for 2017 (Birmingham was given that nod) however it’s never a sure thing when a company like PROGRESS journeys to a new venue. So much of PROGRESS’ personality, culture and feel is wrapped up in the atmospheric Electric Ballroom in Camden, and PROGRESS had only just started to get comfortable in Manchester, beginning to sell-out the Ritz shows in advance, which were also beginning to get a feel and atmosphere of their own.
The rabid and tribal nature of PROGRESS and it’s fan base, with the self-styling of “PROGRESS Ultras” has been criticised in some circles (a granted negative being the unfortunate stuff directed at Dave Meltzer for his mild critique of the last show) but an overwhelming positive is their unabashed loyalty to the promotion and their willingness to travel. The Sheffield venue, while smaller than the company’s usual homes in Manchester and London, sold out quickly, with a boisterous packed crowd of both new fans, and the usual suspects treating the occasion like a football team’s away day, making full use of the venue’s standing and balcony facilities. With a stacked card, starting with the announcement of a huge exhibition match in Adam Cole and Will Ospreay and ending with a big Marty Scurll and Jimmy Havoc grudge match and the announcement of Pete Dunne’s first defence as champion, against PROGRESS stalwart Zack Sabre Jnr – if this was PROGRESS’ only venture to Sheffield, it had all the ingredients to be a strong and memorable one.
The London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) defeated The New Nation (Jason Prime & Alexander Henry)
In a promotion generally filled with a lot of polished “workrate” types, the London Riots offer something completely different as the everyman team, coming out in t-shirts with cricket bats, looking like two lads who run a Painter Decorator firm on their weekend off, looking for a scrap. They’re rightly beloved by the PROGRESS fanbase, even if their matches can be a mixed (but hard-hitting) bag. This match was on the lower end of the scale, with them pitted against the New Nation in their second appearance in PROGRESS. The main purpose of the match appeared to be re-establishing the Riots after recent losses, here with new gear and a new remix version of their theme Diesel Power by the Prodigy. New Nation looked just okay here, but their reputation from Tidal Wrestling where they do most of their work, indicates there’s more to come from them. Much of the match was spent with New Nation on top, with fans getting on the back of Henry for looking like a larger version of Sami Zayn. Riots got the victory, pinning Henry after a slightly mistimed Slingshot/Spear finish.
Natural Progression Series: Toni Storm defeated Bea Priestley
This was the return of Storm to the promotion following a tour with Stardom in Japan. It was the first appearance of Priestley on a PROGRESS show proper, and she looked good here working as the heel. This was a solid back and forth match, with notable spots from Priestley being a gross-out spot where she takes her chewing gum out and places it in the mouth of her opponent, before returning it to her mouth – and a spot where she performed the “Cheeky Nandos Kick” of her boyfriend Will Ospreay. This kick led to the finish, where Storm reversed an attempted Powerbomb, hitting a Codebreaker and then Alabama Jam for the win, advancing in the National Progression Series.
Atlas Challenge Match: Rampage Brown defeated Dave Mastiff
This was the hardest hitting “comedy” match you’ll ever see. With Christmas around the corner, Mastiff came out to a huge reaction dressed in full suit as “Banter Claus” complete with “Elf Ligero” and Wizard’s “I wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” playing. This continued a brewing story of dissension within the Origin stable, with Mastiff and Ligero’s antics making them more and more of a babyface act – with Nathan Cruz playing Grinch, attempting to get Mastiff to take things seriously and stop circling the ring having fans sit in his lap. This can be streamed in all it’s glory on Progress’ facebook page and was a decent heavyweight encounter once it got started, almost breaking the ring with a huge buckle bump in the corner from Rampage at one point. The finish was Mastiff missing a Cannonball in the corner, with Rampage hitting his big Piledriver for the win.
Jimmy Havoc defeated Marty Scurll
With stiff competition to come later, all told this was likely the best match of the night, although it was hard one to keep track of in person with the action spilling right across the venue. Havoc on his entrance revealed an Axe hidden under his jacket, which security attempted to take from him, allowing Scurll to attack with his Umbrella. The action included Havoc hitting a dive off of the stage, as well as spots with chairs provided by the fans and a Stapler used by Havoc. Scurll hit both a Powerbomb onto the chairs and a nasty looking Front Suplex onto upstanding chairs for near falls. Havoc responded with an Acid-Rain Maker for a near fall of his own, before scattering Drawing Pins across the ring, that he attempted to drop Scurll onto, somewhat missing with a backdrop, before picking him up a second time and hitting a DVD onto the Pins for a near fall. The carnage ended with Havoc pinning Scurll after one more Acid-Rainmaker, in what felt like a likely blow off of the feud for now, as Havoc moves on to unfinished business with British Strong Style as the number one contender.
It will be interesting to see what Scurll’s schedule looks like in the new year now he has signed with Ring Of Honor, with him being clapped here after the match by the fans as if he was a departing hero, before grabbing the mic and saying I’d like to say you’re the greatest fans in the world before correcting himself with “That’s what I’d like to say. What I really think is you’re a bunch of cunts.
FSU (Mark Andrews and Eddie Dennis) defeated The Origin (Nathan Cruz and El Ligero)
If Mastiff coming out as Santa was daft, this took things to another level, with Mastiff accompanying Ligero and Cruz to the ring with a Beer Helmet and taking a tub of Celebrations sweets from a Progress fan in the crowd. Mastiff involved himself in the match throughout, joining in a Chicken fight with FSU, with Ligero on his shoulders and Andrews on the shoulders of Dennis. They did a full chain wrestling exchange in that position, complete with shoulder blocks and rope running, before Mastiff lost his balance and was rolled up by Ligero – with the referee mock counting three. Cruz continued to lose patience with his stable mates with miscommunication occurring between him and Ligero, as Ligero attempted to use the aforementioned tub of Celebrations as a weapon, emptying them into the ring much like the Drawing Pins had been in the previous match. This led to a rollup on Ligero by Dennis for the victory. After the match, Cruz threw the Celebrations at Mastiff and stormed off. Ligero and Mastiff spent the post-match handing sweets out to fans.
Whether this was a full face turn for Ligero and Mastiff, or just a temporary example of Christmas cheer, is unclear, but this was a lot of fun live. Those “Banter Claus” and “Elf Ligero” t-shirts are going to sell big numbers.
Adam Cole defeated Will Ospreay
This was really good. Completely different from your usual sprint style high spot Ospreay match and more of a traditional heel/face dynamic with Cole in control leading to a big comeback from Ospreay. Cole initially came out to a babyface response from the fans, but managed to turn himself at least somewhat heel by slowing things down with stalling and mimicking Ospreay by lying on the top turnbuckle and mocking him doing forward rolls in the ring. Ospreay’s comeback included a Reverse Hurricanrana and his Space Flying Tiger Drop, before Cole regained control with his Brainbuster to the Knee for a Nearfall. Ospreay hit his Cheeky Nandos Kick before a reverse 450 splash for a near fall, with Cole responding with yet another Brainbuster on the knee for a kick out.
Ospreay’s current story in Progress is a losing streak and they played that up with him refusing to be beaten despite being hit with multiple superkicks, culminating in him being caught going for a Handspring against the ropes with another Superkick and a third Brainbuster onto the knee for the Cole win. Ospreay was dejected once again after the match, bringing what seemed to be a conclusion to Ospreay’s rotten 2016 in the win/loss department in PROGRESS. It will be interesting to see whether they have plans for him to get one big win before the year is out at the mystery show “Unboxing-Live!” on Friday 30th December.
PROGRESS World Title: Pete Dunne defeated Zack Sabre
Being in the unique position of being a newly crowned Champion who came in with a less than stellar singles record in Progress (1 win and 3 losses), Pete Dunne needed a strong win here in his first title defence. Enter Zack Sabre Jnr, one of Progress’s biggest star babyfaces who due to his schedule, is used here these days as a special attraction to great effect.
This was a very long technical style match clocking in at 31 minutes in front of a tired crowd, which won’t be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of ZSJ’s style, and of Pete Dunne’s technical work in his own right, there was a lot to appreciate. Dunne was accompanied by Tyler Bate, whom was thrown out early, leaving the two men to have a relatively clean pure match (save for Bate’s multiple biting spots). ZSJ worked over the leg, with Dunne attempting to do the same, but being out worked by ZSJ. One particularly clever spot was Dunne while attempting a Bow and Arrow Lock, being caught in an Ankle Lock by ZSJ simultaneously. ZSJ took control for the majority of the half hour, with Dunne having near falls in response with a Double Stomp off the top and a Powerbomb. It was ZSJ however, with the more believable near falls hitting multiple Penalty Kicks for long two counts. The finish came with a Dunne countering a Triangle Hold by ZSJ into his Drop Dead finish for a clean win, and a great first scalp for Pete Dunne as Champion.
Any suggestion the fans making the trip for a potential one-off in Sheffield were going to get a B-Show, was thwarted as soon as this card was announced, and it, and the fans in attendance to their credit, delivered. The lively, sold out crowd provided a great atmosphere in a lovely little venue, making a solid argument for Progress to at least keep Sheffield in their thoughts if they were to consider a change to their 2017 schedule.
Three very good matches and the fun segments with The Origin in particular, as well as a noteworthy potential blow off to Scurll and Havoc, make this show an easy recommend for when it appears on Demand PROGRESS later this week.
Progress’ next show is Chapter 41: Unboxing Live at the Electric Ballroom, which is a surprise show in the style of Mystery Vortex with no matches announced ahead of time.
Find me on Twitter and Instagram @83nn0
My previous Reviews, as well as my Blog about my experiences training to wrestle, can be found here http://83nn0.wordpress.com