By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Quick Results (bold for best matches)
The Grizzled Young Veterans defeated Moustache Mountain to retain the PROGRESS World Tag Team Titles
Chris Ridgeway beat Drew Parker
Charli Evans and Millie McKenzie defeated Nina Samuels and Bea Priestley
Pete Dunne retained his WWE United Kingdom Championship by defeating Joseph Conners
Will Ospreay beat Adam Brooks
Jimmy Havoc and Marks Haskins defeated Aussie Open
Travis Banks defended his PROGESS World Championship in a victory over Chris Brookes
With Unboxing 2 somewhat of an outlier in the world of PROGRESS, this is arguably my first proper canon show for a long time. With three big title matches on the card and a main event of Travis Banks versus Chris Brookes, it looks very good on paper. How did things pan out? Let’s have a look.
The opening segment is given over to furthering the Mark Andrews and Eddie Dennis feud, with Andrews saying he hasn’t been cleared to wrestle due to a hyperextended elbow. Dennis comes down to the ring to call him a coward, before running down a number of different times Andrews wasn’t there for him. Dennis is trying to provoke Andrews, but he leaves without coming to blows, with Dennis standing around to warn Jim Smallman that this will continue to happen until he gets what he wants.
The PROGRESS Tag Team Title Match is up first as the Grizzled Young Veterans defend against Moustache Mountain. After a lot of messing around pre-match that involves a phonecall from ‘Triple H’ that offers Trent Seven a spot in the rumble and ends with Seven telling the Game to ‘stay cerebral’, alongside them milking Zack Gibson’s heat for ages, the early going also sees Mountain having a lot of fun against the champions. Messing around with a top wristlock escape by Bate; reversals of attempts to hit a Wassup headbutt sending Drake into Gibson’s crotch; duelling airplane spins that see Seven collapse after his squat – the boys from Moustache Mountain have all the early going.
Even when the champions take control of Seven, it doesn’t last long as Seven sends Drake to the outside and avoids an attack by Gibson to make the tag. Bate’s standing shooting star gets a two count, whilst a mistimed superkick sees Drake kick Gibson into a back suplex/powerbomb combination for another nearfall. A pinfall after a Burning Hammer by Seven is only broken up by Drake pushing Bate into Seven at two. With all four men blasting each other with strikes in the middle of the ring, it takes a belt shot from Drake (with the referee distracted) and the reversal of a Bate small package (which itself blocked a Helter Skelter attempt) for the champions to retain. A good way to start the show with the Veterans playing excellent straight men to Mountain’s silliness, yet coming out on top as has become the norm.
An open challenge follows as Chris Ridgeway heads to the ring to take on anyone who is willing to accept due to Mark Andrews’ injury. His opponent, coming back after his debut at Unboxing 2, is Drew Parker. This seems set up for Parker to get several bells beaten out of him due to his ability to absorb pain, and the opening exchanges have Ridgeway coming out on top of some grappling, though Parker shows his own aerial ability with a second rope dropkick off of the apron and a tope con giro to the outside.
Ridgeway does get his chance to show off his resilience and submissions, shrugging off some Parker strikes and using a modified STF, a Fujiwara armbar and some added joint manipulation. ‘Smash Mouth’ isn’t having it all his own way though, as Parker has some hope spots, including a missed shining wizard turned into a spinkick to the back of the head. Ridgeway almost forces the submission after reversing an attempted suplex after a superplex into a choke, but Parker nearly turns it into a pin by shifting the leverage for two. A combination that ends with a PK gets Ridgeway a two count, yet it is Parker who picks up the surprise win after a 450 splash moments later. A match that picked up towards the end, and a surprising finish. Ridgeway is decent, but tough, tattooed strikers are a bit too common – I’ll need to see more to be convinced.
Women’s Tag action follows as the team of Charli Evans and Millie McKenzie meet Bea Priestley and Nina Samuels. McKenzie in particular is a huge fan favourite and gets a rousing reception from the crowd. Evans’ first offensive move, a running boot into the corner, wipes out both Priestley and Samuels and puts the face team in control from the opening bell, with Priestley in particular getting lit up with kicks. It takes Priestley grabbing a leg from the outside to distract Evans long enough for Samuels to land a tiltawhirl backbreaker and halt their opponent’s momentum.
Priestley in particular targets Evans’ injured left arm with strikes and kicks, whilst Samuels uses an arm trap cravat to tweak the shoulder further. Evans manages to hit a spinebuster on Priestley and kicks Samuels away to tease a tag, but Priestley pulls McKenzie out of the corner. A double crossbody by Evans allows her to finally make the tag, which leads to McKenzie absolutely destroying both Samuels and Priestley with German suplexes. McKenzie and Evans fly to the outside to take out their opponents and some conveniently placed security, but Priestley takes back control with a double foot stomp to the back of the head of McKenzie. As the match breaks down, Samuels is caught on the second rope by McKenzie, who dumps her with an overhead belly to belly suplex before finishing her with the Coventry Destroyer. A good match that continues to showcase McKenzie in particular, who they are clearly very high on.
It is WWE UK Championship time as Pete Dunne, oddly enough, plays de facto babyface as hometown boy against Joseph Conners. Tempers are frayed as his entrance sees Dunne chuck his jacket at Conners, whilst Conners whacks Dunne with a chair to the back as Smallman is introducing the champion. An intense beatdown is halted with a Dunne headbutt, but this leads to brawling at ringside and Conners taking a couple of trips into the chairs. Dunne lands a stomp onto the chest before both men trade back suplexes onto the apron and Dunne takes his own flight into the chairs. The bumps both men are taking are brutal – Conners lands hard on a back body drop; Dunne hits the floor on a tiltawhirl suplex. Finally, the match returns to the ring.
The decision by Conners to grab a microphone and berate Dunne is a mistake as he gets hit with two step up enziguris and an X-Plex into an armbar. Conners manages to reverse the Bitter End into a DDT, but a slingshot-style DDT into the ring from the apron only gains him a one count, whilst a top rope tackle moments later is met with a Dunne forearm to the face. He does use a low blow and a pedigree in a psychological attack on Dunne, but only picks up two. Conners is struggling to find ways to put Dunne away and this causes his downfall. Dunne knocks a suicide dive by Conners out of mid-air (and a spectator takes a spill off of a chair), before landing a tombstone at ringside and the Bitter End in the middle of the ring for the three count. An intense brawl which meandered at points, though never a match that it felt Conners could win.
The Australian contingent continues to surge to UK shores as Adam Brooks makes his debut for PROGRESS. Unfortunately, he is against Will Ospreay, so he is a huge underdog. What Brooks shows early on is that he can match Ospreay for speed and aerial ability, both men pinballing around the ring with ease. Brooks even mocks one of Ospreay’s taunts, though that just leads to him getting taken out with a suicide dive. Things fire up quickly: Brooks lands a flatliner onto a chair at ringside; Ospreay sends him with an overhead belly to belly suplex into the chairs and some security guards. The overhead belly to belly is used shortly afterwards, but it is Brooks this time as he sends Ospreay into the turnbuckle.
Brooks has a certain level of arrogance, with his mocking the ‘Ospreay’ taunt followed by a hangman DDT and the tease of a knee to the head that instead ends up being a side headlock. We get some standard Ospreay spots, like the Cheeky Nandos, but Brooks avoids a Space Flying Tiger Drop and lands a spinning moonsault over the top of his own. Each man is pinballing around the ring, mixing up vicious strikes and even more vicious bumps, including Ospreay doing a 360 bump on a dropkick into the corner.
The growing disrespect from Brooks hits new heights with the Australian spitting in Ospreay’s face, before using the ref to crotch the fan favourite, landing a huracanrana off the top rope, a spinning DDT, a flip into a Canadian Destroyer on the apron (Loose Ledge Driver) and a swanton bomb – somehow, this isn’t enough as Ospreay kicks out at two. A low blow almost allows Brooks to win with a small package, whilst the Australian kicks his way out of a Decapitator elbow and an inverted 450. It is the Os Cutter that eventually does end the contest.
It feels redundant to suggest overkill during an Ospreay match as you know what you are getting into when you turn on a match of his, but the amount of kickouts of legitimate finishes feels regressive. Still, there are many people who will have loved that match so different strokes. Brooks’ character work was probably the best part about it outside of the ‘wow’ factor of some of the spots.
The semi-main event sees Aussie Open taking on Mark Haskins and Jimmy Havoc, a team that have been on a tear in recent months. Haskins and Fletcher do an ‘indy opening sequence’, ending up with both going for dropkicks. A dropkick to the knee allows Fletcher to tag out to Davis; Haskins’ decision to chop him an immediate mistake as he nails both of the heels with monster strikes across the chest. It takes an illegal knee from Havoc and a snap suplex on the ringside floor to halt Fletcher (including injuring a leg) and put the match in the hands of the heels, especially as they pitch Davis into the chairs to allow a double team onslaught on Fletcher to go unimpeded.
It is this ability to isolate Fletcher that is the theme of the match, as after some double teaming, Fletcher escapes the corner, makes the tag and Davis steamrollers both Havocs and Haskins. Davis just takes complete control, showing his amazing power with a one armed powerbomb on Havoc and a spinning slam on Haskins for a two count. Fletcher gets in on the act with a double foot stomp to the back of Haskins, whilst Davis catches Havoc and lands a spinning back suplex. A step up Fletcher dive to the outside leads to an assisted cutter that grabs Open a two count, but again, it is the isolation of Fletcher that costs the Australians as a Teabag Driver (apparently) almost ends the match.
Considering Fletcher has been presented as the weaker link, it becomes Davis’ decision making the costs them the match. After an Aussie Arrow and the Fidget Spinner, a Davis suicide dive hits nothing, and leaves Fletcher isolated again, victim to an Acid Rainmaker/kick combination for the three count. A good match which used the relative strengths of Aussie Open in the best way.
Chris Brookes is accompanied by real Kid Lykos for this PROGRESS World Title Match against Travis Banks, rather than the blow-up version that ‘wrestled’ at Unboxing 2. A Tope Con Hilo by Brookes and two suicide dives by Banks sets the tone early on, with Brookes using the ring apron to halt a sunset bomb to the outside and stamping on Banks’ face in the process. Brawling around the ring includes a Calamari Clutch by Brookes, whilst he again uses the apron to disable Banks and target him with strikes. The commentary focuses on Brookes’ unique offense, with a stamp to a Banks arm wrapped around the ringpost continues to showcase the different ways he can hurt someone.
A wet willy attempt by Brookes fails, but he blocks an attempted cannonball by the champion with a boot, leading to a sequence of reversals and no-sells that ends with Brookes landing a brainbuster. The match heads back to ringside, with Banks landing a Slice of Heaven off of the apron before a fireman’s carry throw takes out the first two rows of chairs. A Kiwi Crusher and Lion’s Clutch are used by Brookes; Banks returns the favour with the Calamari Clutch, Brookes breaking the hold by grabbing the ropes and a tumble taking both men to the ringside floor to tease a double countout.
Banks eventually locks in his own Lion’s Clutch, but the long legs of Brookes allow him to grab the ropes. Brookes dupes Banks by tapping, allowing an attempt at Death By Roll-up that gets him a nearfall. A kick to Roberts gets ironic cheers from the crowd, though it means Brookes gets the visual pin off of a praying mantis bomb. Brookes grabs the PROGRESS Title and removes his CCK wristband (…which takes a while), before we get a Roddy Piper/Bret Hart moment as the crowd implores Brookes not to cheat. It looks like he chooses not to, but Lykos slides a baking tray in as it looks like Banks is building up momentum, which Brookes uses. Another praying mantis bomb gets two, but it takes TK Cooper coming to the ring to drag Roberts out to halt any chance of a win with the Calamari Clutch. This allows Banks to hit the Slice of Heaven, a Kiwi Krusher (for two) and the Lion’s Clutch for three.
The ending was fun, the match was good – again, it didn’t help that Brookes didn’t feel like he was ever likely to pick up the victory. That is a problem with the overall show, as it never felt like anything truly significant was likely to happen in terms of title changes. The Grizzled Young Veterans are excellent tag team champions; Banks does a good job as the guy at the top, but PROGRESS need to begin to build feasible challengers to their gold. TK Cooper seems to be the next guy to take on Banks considering altercations at the last two Chapters that are designed to sow the seeds of dissension, but whether Cooper is the guy to win the gold remains to be seen.