By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Quick results (bolded = worth checking out):
Chris Brookes, Tyler Bate, Mark Davis and James Drake defeated Trent Seven, ‘Lykos’, Kyle Fletcher and Zack Gibson
Jack Sexsmith defeated Joe Coffey
Millie McKenzie won a six-way scramble involving Candyfloss, Charli Evans, Chakara, Charlie Morgan and Sierra Loxton
Jimmy Havoc and Mark Haskins defeated Clint Margera and Drew Parker in a ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ match
Rampage Brown defeated Flash Morgan Webster
Travis Banks defended his PROGRESS World Title with victory over Will Ospreay
Pete Dunne defended his WWE United Kingdom Championship against Jack Gallagher
Just before the turn of the New Year, PROGRESS have its second ever ‘Unboxing’ show, playing off the trend for people to reveal new purchases on YouTube and turning it into a concept for a wrestling show: no matches had been booked at time of bell and everything was revealed on the night. A fun concept indeed and one that allows the promotion to mess around with wrestlers in a way a normal chapter might not quite allow them to.
The opening match was proof positive of this as what looked like it might be a four way match between British Strong Style, CCK (with an inflatable Lykos), Aussie Open and the Grizzled Young Vets actually turned into an elimination match with Trent Seven and Tyler Bate as captains. By the end of the picking process, which saw Seven wind up Zack Gibson for not ending up in WWE and James Drake get picked last behind the aforementioned Lykos, we ended up with Seven, Gibson, Kyle Fletcher and Lykos taking on Bate, Chris Brookes, Mark Davis and Drake. With the PROGRESS tag team champions not wanting anything to do with the match, it was poetic that all six other men team up on Gibson and Drake, leaving them in a double pin that saw both men take the first elimination slot.
Several dives saw the match kick into overdrive, with ‘Lykos’ being thrown off of the balcony by Brookes after some dissension in the ranks of CCK. Bate tried to use this to his advantage, but a Tyler Driver 97 set-up on Lykos led to Fletcher rolling Bate up for the three count. We had a touching moment on the top of the ramp as the members of BSS had a hug to show there were no hard feelings. Fletcher is the next to be eliminated, though there is some confusion over a kickout on a Praying Mantis Bomb by Brookes. To make double sure, Brookes locks on an Octopus Hold and forces the submission.
The charmed life of ‘Lykos’ in this match comes to an end next as Davis drops him with the Close Your Eyes and Count To Fuck, but Davis’ night is over soon after with a Seven Styles Lariat by Seven leaving it Seven versus Brookes to see who wins. It is a good touch to have members of BSS and CCK in the final two due to their ongoing feud across the year and it is Brookes who comes out on top. Seven lands the Seven Styles Lariat, but in going for a piledriver to really hammer home the victory, is caught in Death By Roll-up for a big win for Brookes in a really exciting and fun opening match.
A real mismatch on paper follows as Jack Sexsmith meets Joe Coffey as the fans do an admirable job of humming the tune to ‘Iron Man’ for the big Scot. The match is fought in a respectful fashion with a handshake at the start, but it isn’t long until Coffey is imposing his will with power offense such as a double underhook swing into a butterfly suplex. A uranage on the apron has Sexsmith in some bother, but he always has the capacity to steal a win, almost getting the three in a small package reversal to halt a suplex attempt.
After a wheelbarrow suplex facebuster by Coffey, Sexsmith fires up, lands a superkick and goes for Mr Cocko. I’ve always wondered how long this gimmick could last and Sexsmith throws the condom away as if he doesn’t need it anymore. JS fires up and superkick ends up with Mr Cocko, but JS gets rid of him – possibly for good? A Shiranui and an LGBDT earn Sexsmith two counts either side of a Coffey onslaught that includes two splashes and a catch German suplex. However, it is Sexsmith who scores the big victory with the Crippler Cockface. A fun meshing of styles with Sexsmith a natural underdog. He crowds off a huge victory with an emotional promo in the ring, thanking fans for getting him through a tough year.
Candyfloss is a wrestler I’ve only just been introduced to from a recent Riptide even, and she is in the next contest against Charlie Morgan, Chakara, Sierra Loxton, Charli Evans and Millie McKenzie, all women I’ve never seen wrestle before. From the fan response, Chakara seems to be the only one that is clearly a heel, with everyone else getting a lot of love from the audience. The ultimate heel move starts the match as Chakara piefaces Candyfloss rather than eat her sugary treats. Jinny is also on commentary to add to the number of the Women’s division involved in the contest. As it is a six-way scramble match, the opening exchanges sees various couplings up for the odd move before swapping onto the next woman. Candyfloss gets some concerted time with Chakara in the ring to earn the first nearfall after a dropkick in the corner, whilst also targeting the arm with a cross armbreaker. This instigates a five-way submission, with Morgan choosing to hit a superkick on Loxton rather than join in the fun.
A strawberry lace fuelled suicide dive by Candyfloss leads to further aerial moves as Evans and McKenzie take to the sky first, followed by a springboard moonsault by Morgan. Back in the ring, McKenzie takes it upon herself to throw pretty much everyone on their heads with German suplexes, only to take a spear from Loxton. Now it is Loxton’s turn to showcase what she offers, landing multiple hip attacks in the corner to anyone sorry enough to be caught there in the first place. The only problem is that the finish does feel like it comes a bit out of nowhere, but I guess a scramble match has the propensity to do that – McKenzie drops Morgan with a cutter and swinging neckbreaker for the victory. A good showcase for the Women’s division in PROGRESS.
The next contest is a Twelve Days of Christmas match, which apparently is a No-Disqualification match with twelve gifts that can used and abused by the participants. Jimmy Havoc and Mark Haskins are out first, with noted hardcore worker Clint Margera getting a big reaction from the crowd as he comes down to the ring next. His partner in crime for the evening is Drew Parker, who gets an even bigger reaction. Things are about to get violent and bloody, with the cover on the ring already having been removed between the two matches.
Haskins and Havoc’s gifts from Jim Smallman are smellies; Margera and Parker were given kendo sticks and put them to good use as the match begins. An early Christmas present that finds its way into the match is a stapler, though Parker ends up with two staples into his forehead as Havoc blocks Parker’s initial attempt to introduce the metal to his opponent. A cardboard ‘voucher’ and a squeeze of lemon on the hands have Margera and Parker writhing in agony on the mat. Havoc’s voucher is given to the ring crew in order to buy him some tables as well.
Havoc and Haskins decide that Parker and Margera aren’t enough and begin to assault the referee, tying up his hands and Haskins landing a superkick at ringside. This distraction allows Parker and Margera to land tope con hilos as the match continues to spill around the ring. The next big weapon to find its way into the match is a HD TV and Havoc’s head ends up cracking the screen after a Margera reversal. Even worse is to come as Parker unwraps a box of Lego and Margera launches Haskins with a powerbomb into the barbed wire tree. Multiple Death Valley drivers on the television should be enough, but Margera and Parker only now realise that the referee is otherwise engaged.
The Lego comes into play as Haskins and Havoc hit the Kiss of Death on Margera, whilst pins are added to the concoction as Haskins and Havoc hit multiple Death Valley driver variations on Parker, yet somehow he kicks out at two. Soon after, Havoc misses a second rope senton into the Lego/pins and Haskins is put through a chair with a falcon arrow by Margera. With tables now at ringside, Havoc uses another Death Valley driver variant on Margera off of the apron, yet the table slides from under them rather than breaks. That does allow Haskins and Havoc to hit an Acid Rainmaker/barbed wire baseball combination for the win in a match that was an experience for all involved and all who saw it. Insane.
After a break to put the ring back in some semblance of shape, Flash Morgan Webster is out to the ring for the next match against Rampage Brown, with Brown earning perhaps the biggest reception of the night so far. This is another match that looks like a bit of a mismatch on paper, but big man vs small man matches are usually fun. Webster tries initially to show that he can match power with Brown if he needs to, but unsurprisingly switches to his more agile offense when that doesn’t work, sending Brown to ringside with a huracanrana takedown. This just pisses Brown off, who drops Webster with a vicious powerslam, with a nip-up back to his feet to show he isn’t just a one-dimensional big man.
Brown destroys Webster with slams and suplexes as the commentary team dwell on Webster’s struggles over the course of the year to gain any real momentum. The fans serenade Brown with a Twelve Days of Christmas variant that replaces every gift with Rampage’s name, which works for me. Webster can’t get going at all until a spinning DDT finally puts Brown on the canvas and allows Webster to hit a suicide dive into a DDT on the floor! The Rude Boy springboard moonsault gets Webster a two count, but a failed backslide attempt sees Brown land a powerbomb and a lariat for a two of his own. Webster comes close the Pinball Wizard and Angel’s Wings, and himself kicks out of a superbomb, but has no such luck with a piledriver. A match that somewhat got swallowed up by the crowd’s love for Brown. Webster does a post-match promo that says he will take some time away as he is all too often the nearly man in the promotion, which might not be a bad choice as he could do with coming back fresh.
Another huge surprise is Travis Banks’ opponent for the PROGRESS Title as Will Ospreay makes his return to the promotion amidst some grandiose introductions for both men from Smallman. An early sequence with a huracanrana takeover by Ospreay dumps Banks on his head but he seems none the worse for it. The two men trade snapmares and vicious kicks to the back as they try and prove who the toughest is, with Banks eventually coming out on top and reddening Ospreay’s chest with several chops.
Ospreay has his opportunity to showcase his aerial offense with a 619 over the top rope and a standing corkscrew senton for a two count, only for Banks to land a suicide dive as he also takes to the air. Not to be outdone, Ospreay then lands a beautifully executed Space Flying Tiger Drop. A double stomp to the back almost turns Ospreay inside out and a Coast to Coast dropkick is the closest Banks has come yet to win. A raft of reversals ends with Ospreay landing a standing Spanish fly to leave both men down on the canvas. Banks walks through several Ospreay forearms to land one of his own, but a reverse rana almost leaves the champion open to an Os Cutter, a move that he blocks to land a spinning Argentine powerbomb for two.
After a standing shooting star press and a missed twisting senton off the top, Ospreay finds himself in the Lion’s Clutch submission, choosing to scale the turnbuckles and jump backward off the top rope to break the hold in a frankly bonkers decision. A battle over the Rainmaker sees Ospreay eventually nail it and hit a Decapitator elbow for two, whilst a counter of the Os Cutter into a Kiwi Krusher isn’t enough for Banks either. Ospreay does land the Os Cutter, but Banks escapes the ring to save the title. A shooting star press attempt sees Ospreay land in a cutter by Banks, followed by the Lion’s Clutch for the submission win. A really good match, if a little bit overkill in terms of spots and trading moves. That is their bread and butter though, so they gave what you expect of them pretty much. TK Cooper makes his return post-match and though he is not cleared to wrestle, he asks about facing Banks for the PROGRESS Title at some point in 2018.
There needed to be a big surprise to supersede the PROGRESS Title match as the main event and it is – Jack Gallagher arrives to take on Pete Dunne in another return to the promotion. The roof almost comes off the building as Gallagher makes his way to the ring and once more when Smallman announces the match as being for the WWE United Kingdom Championship. Dunne offers his hand as the match starts; Gallagher greets him with a slap to the face. It’s on.
Dunne tries to work the fingers, Gallagher aims a stomp on the elbow – this is rugged from the very first bell. Each submission attempt has a kick, stomp or punch to add that extra oomph to the manoeuvre. In a move that seems out of character, Gallagher takes the fight to the ringside area, landing a crossbody on a seated Dunne. A moustache tweak and a jumping body attack onto another set of chairs see Dunne gain instant revenge. The fight ends up at the top of the ramp with a Dunne forearm sending Gallagher through the curtain! The match finds its way back into the ring and some stiff forearms allow Gallagher to grab a two count.
A belly to belly superplex as Gallagher took too long on the top allows Dunne to take over, with a running enziguri that sounded like a gunshot to follow. Another huge forearm halts a brief Gallagher comeback, with a double foot stomp off the top and a sitout powerbomb earning Dunne a two count. An attempt at the Bitter End fails, but Dunne fights his way out of the resulting guillotine choke. Moments later in a quite amazing spot, Dunne catches Gallagher’s running dropkick and turns it into a powerbomb! A trip allows Gallagher to get a pinning combination, but his decision to use the ropes for leverage forces the ref to break it up and the crowd to boo Gallagher’s actions. Gallagher tries to use the Bulldog choke several times to force the submission, but Dunne has enough to fight his way out of it. One Bitter End isn’t enough, but a pumphandle tombstone sees Dunne finish off Gallagher in style. A good match, but one that suffered a little from what felt like a burnt out crowd after Ospreay versus Banks.
A really good show on the whole, with the right mix of surprises, returns and action. Not every match hit it out of the park, but as a closing chapter for another year in PROGRESS goes, it did a lot of things very right.