Progress: New York City
August 12 2017
We’re in Queens at the Elmcor Center. Or as Progress have Anglicised it to the “Elmcor Centre”. You teach them Yanks how to spell J-Breezy!
The reaction when Jim Smallman comes out to do his introductions is insane. It’s one of the loudest things I’ve ever heard. The building looks so hot and Jim is pouring sweat and he’s just there to talk. “It’s hotter than the fucking sun”. He opens the show by bringing out the injured Pete Dunne, unable to compete thanks to the infamous “Darius Carter Incident” the night before. The crowd initially pop at delight but then realise they’re supposed to boo heels and do so. Technically this ‘is’ the New York Territory so a pro-WWE guy could be perceived as a babyface.
“Even if I wasn’t injured I wouldn’t be wrestling for you fucking idiots anyway”. Pete blows his trumpet until Jack Gallagher, of WWE 205 Live fame, shows up. “First off, mind your fucking language”. Jack has a lovely time, mocking Peter and taking the piss out of WWE in general. Pete leaves and Jack is interrupted by Zack Gibson, harking back to their historic feud in Futureshock. Gibson gets the same nuclear heat in New York that he gets in the UK, which is nice. Everyone hates Liverpool fans. The whole “ssshhhh”/”booooo” thing is pure pantomime but it’s perfect.
“This audience is a parody of the great British crowd”. Zack shooting from the hip!
Jack Gallagher vs. Zack Gibson
This match is always good. They had a match in Futureshock a few years ago I had pegged at ****1/2. I doubt they’ll be able to hit that level inside an oven. Gallagher shows plenty of fire here, clearly happy to be unleashed again. He’s raw here. There’s no umbrella, no funny business. While he’s capable of all that he’s more fun in a raw form. Gibson gets his lip busted and he spits blood into Jack’s face. That’s the intensity level they have. It’s beautiful. They live up to their history and beat the shit out of each other, sweating buckets in the process. It’s fantastic and the perfect opener because it’s impossible not to get into it. Gallagher eats the Helter Skelter on the floor. There are several logical finishing points before the match ends. The false finishes get the crowd even more fired up and Gibson gets in his ‘slip’ on the ropes for Gallagher to finish with the corner dropkick and a diving headbutt.
Final Rating: ****
Jinny & Deonna Purazzo vs. Dahlia Black & Dakota Kai
Dahlia gets a pop so big that it even puts a smile on Jinny’s face. There’s something about making it by fighting each other that unifies the spirits of wrestlers. Dahlia and Dakota have a link too – they’re both Kiwis. Dahlia and Jinny do some nice stuff based on familiarity. They’ve spent more time teaming than opposing each other but they have that knowledge of each other’s abilities and move sets so it works. Dahlia is out to showcase herself and works her socks off. She’s got rough edges but she’s a star in the making. Same with Jinny. Her bumps have improved but her timing is a little bit off. She makes up for that with masses of heat and going after Dahlia’s bad leg. Both Purazzo and Kai are good wrestlers and do their part but it’s Jinny’s merciless assaults on the injured Dahlia that provides the emotional core. The Progress women may be less capable in the technical stakes but when it comes to storytelling they’re way ahead. Having the story on Dahlia allows Dakota to become a fiery hot tag, which works wonders. Despite this Dahlia, injured leg and all, hits a killer dropkick on Jinny with the Knightsbridge fashionista taking an amazing bump from it. Dakota misses her running corner kick and Purazzo flattens her with a neckbreaker for the pin. This was all about Jinny-Dahlia to set up their match at the next chapter show. The Americans, fans and wrestlers, allowing a colourful backdrop to make it more important.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Atlas #1 Contender’s Match
Timothy Thatcher vs. Donovan Dijak
Timmy has Stokely Hathaway in his corner; a rare managerial appearance in Progress, a company not known for employing managers. Thatcher is definitely heel in the USA, which is not the case in the UK where he’s associated with Ringkampf. These are two big boys, doing Big Lad things. Only with added flipz. Dijak is a ridiculous human being. Thatcher, as per usual, looks less at home in his native country than in Europe where he seems to become a different wrestler. The atmosphere, which was electric for two matches, falls off somewhat. This is entirely natural in a building where it’s unbearably hot. The heat is murderous, with sweat pouring off both wrestlers but Dijak doesn’t care! He’s out there hitting moonsaults and flipz like it’s a chilly 12C in there. Dijak’s ridiculousness is met by stoic Tim and professional wrestling holds. He works the arm throughout and submits Dijak with a Fujiwara armbar to advance to Alexandra Palace and at Atlas title shot. This was a healthy dose of Big Lads Wrestling.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Joey Janela vs. Jimmy Havoc
This is Janela’s Progress debut. I doubt Progress would fly him over to the UK. Havoc’s entrance is met by a huge response from the New Yorkers, showing how his star power translates to International markets. Janela is the local boy so he’s also got a following.
The match leans toward comedy, with Janela doing a spot where he remains seated in a chair while he’s monkey flipped in it.
The match has a lot of plunder such as chairs and tables and whatnot. It allows them to goof around without busting their asses in the heat of Queens. The match is extremely silly, beyond the obvious silliness of the monkey flip spot. They do a Canadian Destroyer off the top, through set up chairs, for a near fall. That’s…excessive. Part of my issue with silly spots is that they need to escalate. If you’re doing something that batshit mental you need something even more mental as your finish. They certainly try with a DVD off an apron through a table and cinder blocks. I don’t get cinder blocks. The spots with them look really painful but they don’t look good. Not like a splintering table. Jimmy ups the ante by biting Janela’s feet and introducing thumbtacks. There is a wonderful shot of the cameraman shaking his head at it. Janela goes feet first into the tacks, takes a German suplex onto a cinder block and the Acid Rainmaker finishes. What on earth was that? Madness at every turn.
Final Rating: Fucking nuts.
Post Match: Jim Smallman announces Progress will be in New Orleans over ‘Mania weekend and running two shows. This leads to another proposal at ringside! People getting engaged at Progress shows is the norm now.
Mark Andrews vs. Mark Haskins vs. Austin Theory vs. Keith Lee
Mark Andrews has it cracked – record your own entrance music and then you can use it everywhere! Theory and Lee were surprise additions to the show. Austin still looks like a tiny Baron Corbin. Keith, being an able big lad, throws around all the little chaps to allow the crowd to bask in his glory. The pacing is tremendous, especially considering the roasting temperature of the venue. They go balls to the wall with a flood of spots, one after another. Andrews takes the cake, and the piss, with a reverse rana on Keith Lee. Theory, the least well known, has improved since I last saw him over ‘Mania weekend. His timing is good and he looks like he belongs in this company.
Haskins and Andrews whip through spots and counters. Their match is underrated. They had a blinder for OTT earlier in the year. The other two add depth and variety around it. Keith Lee’s unique skill set allows them to do some really cool stuff. Haskins gets the win by hitting a Canadian Destroyer on Keith Lee and then countering Theory’s finisher into the Sharpshooter for the submission. This was lots of fun.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Progress Tag Team Championship
British Strong Style (c) vs. South Pacific Power Trip
SPPT are over, thanks to their performances in America over ‘Mania weekend (where they stole several shows) and also due to strong runs for both guys in Progress itself. Tyler’s heel act has gotten progressively better since his turn. He’s genuinely annoying here. Pete Dunne is cornering the champs. You can tell it’s not in the UK because no one has taken the piss out of Pete for his style choices this evening (loafers, no socks, slacks, no belt and a hideous looking blue checked shirt done up to the top bottom with no tie). Maybe his sense of fashion get stopped at border control. The fans unfortunately create a ‘duelling chants’ environment. The match is shaping up nicely until the injury suffered by TK Cooper. After flipping to the floor he wrecked his ankle, ending up in hospital and missing BOLA.
The match continues as Travis demands to take on the tag champs 2 on 1. Glen Joseph departs the commentary booth at this point leaving American Lenny Leonard to fly solo. This results in him calling Travis Banks “Travis Cooper”. Also the crowd struggle to get invested with TK gone. This is unfortunate. There is so much talent involved here and it could have been an absolute showstealer. Instead BSS run lots of heat and Pete Dunne stays out here to ensure Travis never gets anywhere near the belts. Including pulling the ref out when Travis has the match won. Travis promptly no sells a Pedigree and hits the Slice of Heaven to win the tag titles by himself. Or he would if the match had been announced on the re-start as for the tag belts, which it wasn’t. Or something.
Final Rating: **1/2
Progress Atlas Championship
WALTER (c) vs. Matt Riddle
WALTER won the strap in Birmingham in a fantastic match. They’ve been having good matches all year but that Camden match was the peak. So far. Despite it being 100F in the building WALTER still wears his coat to the ring. Passing out for fashion sets him apart! These two have wrestled each other quite a lot so they work off previous spots and switch them up. This includes WALTER’s arm-slapping to break a rope break being countered by Riddle into a German suplex. WALTER chops so hard. He may be the hardest chop in wrestling. His are like Marufuji’s only he’s much heavier so there’s more behind them. Riddle’s response is to chop WALTER so hard he bleeds from the chest. It’s a brutal contest, taking place in an oven in front of an emotionally tired crowd. The striking in this match is insane. When they start unloading speedy back and forth stuff it’s so intense. The heat diminishes both men’s performance ever so slightly, taking it a peg down on the Camden match but it’s still a belter. The history between the two has seen both guys rack up wins. It’s created an atmosphere at every match where it could go either way. This isn’t 50-50 booking, it’s an intense rivalry. WALTER hooks the Gojira Clutch but Riddle wants it more. He slips out and gets the Bromission for the win and to reclaim his Atlas belt.
Final Rating: ****1/4
This show will likely be remembered for TK Cooper’s horrific ankle injury. One that will sideline him for quite some time. That match could potentially have stolen the show. Instead the honours went to Riddle-WALTER, another great match in their series of great matches. They are all starting to bleed together a little bit so if I was Progress/wXw I’d either keep them apart for a while or team them up. Create some reasoning for another match that can happen down the line. As phenomenal as their matches have been it feels like a logical jumping off point for now.